This is not a call for “political correctness.” Concerns about large enclaves of minimally assimilated immigrants in Europe, or about the effects of a massive influx of migrants, are not bigoted. It is not bigoted to ask whether cultural accommodations for immigrants from countries with deeply patriarchal social norms and strong prohibitions on homosexuality can undermine women’s equality and gay rights in the West. It is certainly not bigoted to look into the connection between extremist beliefs and terrorism.
In a way, Islamism denial and the Islamic panic form a vicious cycle. The more public officials and the media downplay facts related to Islamist radicalism (as in the Obama administration’s bumbling response to the Orlando shooting), the more some people will be open to conspiracy theories about jihadist attacks being swept under the rug. The more tensions between Islamic and Western norms are papered over, the more some will see “creeping sharia” in innocuous accommodations as ritual foot baths on college campuses, or fall for canards about British water parks requiring “Islamically appropriate” modest attire.
But it works the other way, too. The more “anti-jihadists” conflate Islamism with all Islam and bash ordinary Muslims, the more they boost fears of “Islamophobia”—giving an excuse to those who would soft-pedal criticism of radical Islam.
The conversation on Islamic reformation is happening—enough to make a skeptic like Ali sound hopeful in our interview last year. Supposed progressives who whitewash or make excuses for radical Islam stand in the way of this conversation. So do supposed anti-Islamists who insist violent militancy is the only real Islam.