Applauding Brunei

Sultan of Brunei

Now that the government of Brunei has fully implemented sharia law in regard to gays and adulterers – meaning that those found guilty of these violations of Islam will henceforth be stoned to death – politicians, celebrities, and commentators around the world have been unhesitant in their expressions of outrage. People like Ellen Degeneres, George Clooney, and Elton John have called for boycotts of the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Dorchester in London, the Plaza Athenee in Paris, and other the posh hostelries that the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, owns in the U.S. and Europe; Deutsche Bank has banned its employees from staying at the hotels, and the Financial Times and other firms have cancelled events scheduled to take place in them. Ads for holidays in Brunei have been pulled from London buses; Virgin Australia terminated a deal with Royal Brunei Airlines, the state-owned carrier, as has at least one major travel agency; Western universities that have awarded honorary degrees to the Sultan (who also serves as his nation’s prime minister, defense minister, finance minister, and foreign minister) have said that they are reviewing those honors.

Interior, Dorchester Hotel

Yet this fury over the Sultan’s action is not universal. Residents of Brunei interviewed by the Agence France-Presse gave it a thumbs-up. “I’m proud, because implementing the law feels like it solidifies the Islamic identity of Brunei,” said Muhammad Antoni, a 27-year-old worker. Haziah Zainal, a 36-year-old civil servant, said that famous people calling for boycotts should mind their own business. “These actions seem ignorant,” said Zainal, “as they have not even been here to experience what it’s like.” While everyone is focusing on Brunei, homosexuality is a capital offense in at least ten other Muslim countries, although in Yemen the punishment is applicable only to married men and in Qatar only to married Muslims. One of the countries in question is Saudi Arabia, but this has not prevented companies like Uber, Lyft, Twitter, and Snapchat from accepting Saudi investment or universities like MIT, funded by Saudi money. Polls have shown that close to half of Muslims in Britain would like to see sharia law introduced in that country, but when UKIP head Gerard Batten said on LBC the other day that many British Muslims do indeed hold anti-democratic views, his interviewer called this a grotesque exaggeration and branded Batten a far-right bigot for even suggesting such a thing.

Daniel Haqiqatjou

Among those celebrating Brunei’s tough new laws was Daniel Haqiqatjou, a Harvard-educated American Muslim who, in a March 30 article, praised the Sultan for “implementing hudud [punishments dictated by sharia law] to crack down on sodomites and fornicators!” Haqiqatjou explained his enthusiasm as follows: “Allah created human beings in a certain way. Our bodies and minds are created in a certain way and only certain types of relationships allow human beings to flourish in this world and the next, while other types of behaviors lead to destruction and widespread suffering.” Taking note of the organized effort to persuade people not to stay at Brunei-owned hotels, Haqiqatjou wrote: “I think Muslims need to counteract any boycott by making Brunei their next vacation destination spot. Maybe some of these expensive spiritual tourism tours…can make Brunei the next go-to site, maybe attend a caning or two so Western Muslims can experience first hand what implementing hudud actually means.” If Haqiqatjou were some rara avis, of course, his views wouldn’t be worth heeding. The alarming fact, however, is that his number is legion.

Whitewashing gay murder: Jonathan Brown

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Jonathan A.C. Brown

We’ve heard Jonathan A.C. Brown, a convert to Islam and professor at Georgetown University, defend Islamic slavery and Islamic child marriage. What does he have to say about homosexuality? This is a tough one: for an American academic in the twenty-first century, openly opposing homosexuality is simply not tenable. But for a Muslim, it is the only view that is acceptable by God.

In one talk, he approached the subject this way: unlike their Christian counterparts, he insisted, Muslim scholars don’t see same-sex attraction as “unnatural.” In fact, they don’t judge attractions at all. No, they just judge actions – they rule on what people do, not what they feel. And, yes, under Islam “a specific act is wrong.” Which act? Why, the “act of Lut.” (Christians know him as Lot.) In other words, sexual intercourse between males. Under Islam, he acknowledged, that’s a “sin.” But he was quick to add that Muslim judges, out of the goodness of their hearts, strive to “err in mercy” rather than to “err in severity.” Which is to say that they strive to let offenders off in cases of insufficient evidence – strive to grasp onto whatever “ambiguities” they can find. “It’s almost like don’t ask, don’t tell,” he said. If you can keep it behind closed doors, you’ll probably get away with it. Of course, this claim is sheer nonsense, and by making it Brown is dropping down the memory hole countless amply documented cases of young men being hanged or stoned or thrown from the roofs of buildings for the crime of homosexuality.

Brown actually was invited to write about homosexuality for Variety, the Hollywood trade paper. After same-sex marriage became the law of the land in 2015, Variety published a special issue on the subject, containing dozens of articles and interviews. Brown was their Muslim authority. His contribution was a masterpiece of evasion, which danced around the topic at length before concluding with the following paragraph:

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Islamic tolerance for homosexuality

The issue of gay marriage in America is a tough one for Muslims. On one hand, it’s nigh impossible to construct an argument by which sexual contact between men, let alone anal sex, is considered permissible in God’s eyes. On the other hand, attempts to ban the Shariah in the U.S. threaten Muslims’ ability to have their own marriage contracts. Like gays, they want to be able to define marriage free from majoritarian cultural biases. So many Muslims are willing to support the rights of other Americans to shape marriage according to their particular beliefs. Muslims expect their beliefs and relationships to be respected in return.

As one reader commented: “That last paragraph made little sense. Are Muslims against homosexuality or are they not?” Another knew the answer: “Nice snow job.” A third asked: “Why is Variety running muslim [sic] propaganda?” And a fourth spelled out the facts: “The intellectual dishonesty of this article is just staggering. Why is this Muslim cleric [sic] not openly explaining that homosexuality is punishable by death according to the respective scholars of all sects in Islam?”

Why, you might ask, hasn’t anybody who knows the truth about Islam publicly taken on Jonathan Brown’s claptrap? Actually, somebody has. Or has tried to. We’ll wind up with that story tomorrow.

Sally Kohn teaches you about sharia

The tweet appeared on August 16:

Hey @realDonaldTrump, many *progressive Muslims* — the ones we should support in ideological fight against extremism — believe in Sharia!!

Sally Kohn headshot-studio lighting.
Sally Kohn

The purpose of this tweet was clear. Trump had publicly criticized sharia; Sally Kohn was out to defend it. Yes, the Jewish lesbian CNN commentator was speaking up for a legal system that subordinates women to men, subjects Jews to Muslims, permits men to beat (and even kill) their wives and daughters, punishes rape victims, orders the execution of gays, and much else.

One of her Twitter followers asked: “@sallykohn would you like to live under Sharia law? Please. I’m waiting….” Kohn replied: “Well since NONE of the 40 Muslim majority nations in the UN have instituted ‘sharia law’ where exactly do you mean?”

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Trump on the stump

On the contrary, there’s an entire Wikipedia page about the application of sharia law in today’s Muslim countries. In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, and Mauritania, “sharia applies in full.” In several other countries, including most of the Maghreb, Levant, and east Africa, “sharia applies in personal status issues (such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody).”

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Sharia in the Muslim world. Green: no sharia. Yellow: marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody, etc., governed by sharia. Purple: sharia applies in full. Orange: regional variations

Another Twitter follower asked Kohn: “When exactly did you become an expert in Islam @sallykohn?” Kohn replied: “Uh, I’m not. But I’ve taken time to understand what sharia really is – not just swallow right wing fear mongering.” In response to another challenge, Kohn insisted: “You do realize there are gay feminist Muslims who BELIEVE IN SHARIA?!????? Really.” She also tweeted a photo of two men kissing at a gay event and commented: “FYI these Muslims celebrating gay pride ALSO believe in sharia.”

sally7Now, it may be that Kohn has been at the receiving end of a whole lot of taqiyya – in other words, Islamically sanctioned lying. There are, indeed, innocuous aspects of sharia, and when Muslims who wish to mislead ignorant left-wing infidels go about “explaining” sharia to them, they focus exclusively on those aspects, omitting all the ugly stuff. So maybe Kohn was just breathtakingly misinformed. Or else she knew better and was just plain lying. In either case, given the massive human-rights violations that have occurred around the world in recent years owing to sharia law, Kohn’s effort to whitewash it, whether out of ignorance or deceit, was inexcusable. Naturally, some of Kohn’s followers tried to correct her misperceptions (or misrepresentations):

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Some of Kohn’s fellow admirers of sharia

@sallykohn As a lesbian, you would be put to death under Sharia. Why would you support such an ideology.

Liberal Muslim intellectuals focused on religious reform have been executed under Shari’a regimes. But whatevs. [sic]

Meanwhile, others served up some well-deserved mockery:

Apparently @sallykohn thinks Sharia is a progressive and forward thinking ideology. Great hire there, @CNN

I’m convinced now @sallykohn doesn’t believe what she tweets at this point because it’s so ridiculous.

burakHow did Kohn respond to those who tried to set her straight about Islamic law? By employing a familiar left-wing dodge. She switched the topic from sharia to right-wing American homophobia:  

All the right wingers freaking out about how all Muslims supposedly oppose LGBT rights have an underdeveloped sense of irony.

No, Ms. Kohn: you have an underdeveloped knowledge of history, geography, international affairs, and much else. As for Islam, whether you’re as appallingly ignorant of it as you seem to be, or are simply, like many others on the left, dedicated to covering up the horrific truth about it – and, in effect, spitting on the corpses of all the gays, Jews, women, and others who have been murdered in its name – isn’t entirely clear. But one thing’s for sure: you’re a rising star in the constellation of contemporary useful stooges.  

The staggering ignorance of Sally Kohn

We’ve been talking this week about Sally Kohn, a grassroots community organizer turned CNN commentator who, as we’ve seen, could use a little less ideology and a little more historical perspective – plus (not to be too cruel about it) the kind of general knowledge that you need to get at least one or two $100 questions right on Jeopardy.

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Sally Kohn

Yesterday we mentioned an article Kohn recently wrote after her first-ever visit to the Netherlands. As we noted, she interviewed Tofik Dibi, whom she identified as “one of the country’s leading Muslim political figures.” She quoted Dibi as telling her that Dutch tolerance is a myth, a lie, an illusion, and that he spends every day in the Netherlands feeling as if he’s the object of suspicion just because of his religion.

As it turns out, Kohn left out a few tiny details about Dibi. For one thing, he’s apparently a Muslim only by heritage. He wasn’t brought up in a religious home. His parents divorced when he was a child. He attended a Catholic school, not a madrass. As a young man, he joined the Green Party, which gave him such a great welcome that, within a very short time, his name was placed near the very top of its list of parliamentary candidates, essentially guaranteeing his election. In 2007, at age 26, he entered parliament, where he remained until 2012.

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Dibi in parliament

During those years in parliament, Dibi was considered a major Dutch politician – and a major leader of the Dutch Muslim community. Last year, however, after leaving politics, he wrote a memoir in which he came out as gay, explaining that he hadn’t come out earlier because he knew that Dutch Muslims would never have considered a gay man to be a legitimate Muslim leader.

In short, Dibi, who skyrocketed to political power thanks to the support of non-Muslim Dutch politicians and voters, has little apparent reason to complain about Dutch “Islamophobia.” What he has suffered from, beyond question, is Islamic hostility toward gay people.

sally11Now, there’s no way of knowing whether he told Kohn any of this during their conversation. But the simple fact is that every major detail of his political career is publicly available information. We can only assume either that Kohn didn’t take the trouble to look up even the most basic facts about her interviewee, or that she chose to edit the story of his career – and, perhaps, trim his personal testimony – in such a manner as to ensure that it fitted her narrative. For the unfortunate reality is that Kohn, like so many useful gay stooges on today’s left, prefers not to acknowledge the brutal reality of Islamic gay-hatred – although she’s perfectly happy, of course, to proffer the ugly lie of Dutch “Islamophobia.”

How did Kohn conclude her Amsterdam piece? “In the United States,” she wrote, “I’d come to think of tolerance as a linear progression….Here in Amsterdam, things were spun around. Or maybe just round. Openly gay politicians were rabidly anti-Muslim.…Amsterdam was neither enlightened nor close-minded but constantly shifting, not progressing along a line but simultaneously occupying multiple points on a circle. Like a wheel of cheese. Or maybe spokes on a bike. Constantly turning.”

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A part of Amsterdam that Kohn apparently didn’t visit

We submit that the only spinning was going on inside Ms. Kohn’s head. A bit of unsolicited advice for Ms. Kohn: first, close your left-wing ideological prayer book and open your mind to the facts, whether you like them or not. Read up on Islamic history, theology, and law. Face up to the harsh reality of jihad, going back to the very founding of the faith and the Islamic attempts over the centuries to conquer Europe. Learn about the ways in which the current wave of Islamic immigration has replicated those efforts – and has transformed Europe in ways that threaten the very liberalism for which you claim to stand. Struggle to understand that if “very liberal” and openly gay Dutch people are exercised over Islam, it’s precisely because they’ve lived at close quarters with it long enough to know that it is, at its very roots, the very opposite of liberal, especially when it comes to gays.

Which brings us, at last, to the August tweet with which we kicked off this week. We’ll look at it tomorrow.

Silly Sally

sally9Longtime left-wing activist Sally Kohn, now a CNN commentator, is married to a woman named Sarah Hansen. It should be no surprise to anyone familiar with Kohn’s politically and culturally claustrophobic personal history that Hansen, too, is a left-wing activist who for several years was head of something called the Environmental Grantmakers Association and that these two gals met (what could be more romantic?) at the 2003 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Together they have one child, a daughter who would today be about seven or eight years old. In February of last year, that child was the subject, or pretext, of an op-ed published by Kohn in the Washington Post. 

sally-kohn-familyIts headline: “I’m gay. And I want my kid to be gay, too.”

Yes, the headline was deliberately provocative. And just plain silly. In the piece itself, Kohn reassured readers that she’d never actually try to force gayness on her daughter. “[N]o matter what,” she maintained, “I’d want my child to be herself.” Immediately after making this claim, she offered the following example: “If I lived in, say, North Carolina, with an adopted son from Morocco, I’d like to think I would encourage him to be Muslim, if that’s what he chose. I’d do this even though his life would probably be easier if he didn’t.”

Stop and roll that around in your mind for a minute or two. Not that Kohn seems to have done so. No, it doesn’t appear to have occurred to her that if she had a son who became a devout Muslim, it might well be her life, and her spouse’s – not his – that would be made considerably more difficult, if not downright endangered, by that development. It’s hardly a public secret – although Kohn seems blissfully ignorant of it – that most young men who decide to convert to Islam, or to begin to take their Islamic faith more seriously, tend to pursue courses of study that, shall we say, inculcate in them attitudes toward homosexuality, toward Jews, and toward independent-minded women that would not make a mother like Sally Kohn feel exceedingly comfortable.

sharia5aThis brings us back to Kohn’s piece about Amsterdam, which we mentioned yesterday. You’ll recall that it came as news to her that Amsterdam is located in the Netherlands. Obviously she knew zilch about the Dutch. So who best to lecture us about them? In her piece, entitled “Is Amsterdam Really as Tolerant as it Seems?”, she started off by telling us that during her visit to Amsterdam, the Dutch kept telling her how tolerant they are. And yet – gasp! – a “very liberal and enlightened” person with whom she had coffee ended up “verbally bashing Muslims.”

Kohn was, needless to say, shocked.

Since she doesn’t quote her interlocutor, it’s not clear what Kohn means by “verbally bashing Muslims.” One strongly suspects that rather than “bashing Muslims” as individuals, her “very liberal” acquaintance was offering honest criticism of Islam as an ideology, a culture, a phenomenon.

islamnethNow, you might think that someone in Kohn’s position would know enough about recent European developments to at least not be shocked by the spectacle of a “very liberal” Dutch person criticizing Islam. As we’ve seen, however, Kohn can’t be counted on to be up on anything outside her own extremely narrow sphere of contemporary political commentary and ideological analysis within a U.S. context.

But you might at least expect that she’d have enough intellectual curiosity to want to understand why a “very liberal” Dutch person would have a problem with Islam. Alas, no. Kohn doesn’t think that way. Indeed, the more one reads her and listens to her, the more one suspects that, strictly speaking, she doesn’t do much thinking at all.

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Tofik Dibi

How did she respond, then, to the trauma of hearing a “very liberal” Dutch person criticize Islam? She reached out to Tofik Dibi, whom she described as “one of the country’s leading Muslim political figures.” Dibi gave her an earful. He told her that Dutch tolerance is “an illusion. Or a delusion. The Netherlands is not actually that tolerant.” He charged the Dutch with having become more “Islamophobic” since 9/11 and the 2004 butchery of journalist Theo van Gogh on an Amsterdam street by a Dutch-born jihadist. “Tofik,” Kohn wrote, “described feeling like a dark cloud of suspicion was always hovering above his head.”

What Kohn omitted to tell the reader about Dibi was that he’s hardly a typical “Muslim political figure.” Meaning what? Tune in tomorrow.

Marinated in ideology: Sally Kohn

sally4She’s one of America’s most prominent commentators, and in late August she lit the Twitterverse on fire with what at least one website called “the dumbest tweet ever.” The tweet in question was directed at Donald Trump, and it slammed him for criticizing sharia law. Yes, she actually defended sharia law – a system of jurisprudence under which she, a Jewish lesbian, would be subject to the death penalty for any number of reasons.

kohnnnnThis was, to be sure, scarcely the first time Sally Kohn, now age 39, revealed her colossal ignorance of something that she, as a regular pundit on CNN, should know more about. But we’ll get around to those episodes – and, of course, to the sharia fracas itself – in good time.

First, let’s look at who this woman is – and where she came from.

Kohn’s climb up the media ladder has been swift. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she studied psychology at George Washington University, then got a joint Master of Public Administration and JD at NYU. During her student years she was also (in turn) an intern at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD), a “Vaid Fellow” (named for radical lesbian activist Urvashi Vaid) at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), an intern (briefly) at the Legal Aid Society, and director (again briefly) of something called the Third Wave Foundation, which she apparently founded herself (and of which we haven’t been able to find any trace on the Internet).

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Kohn on Fox News

Kohn went on to work at the Ford Foundation, the Center for Community Change (a “progressive community organizing group”), and the Movement Vision Lab (which, according to its website, “makes the world safe for radical ideas”). At these jobs, according to her own LinkedIn page, Kohn spent her time building “the capacity of grassroots organizations…to articulate their ideas and build creative strategies to advance their agendas,” leading “a grassroots think tank to articulate and enliven a bold, progressive vision,” and the like.

Five years ago she entered the public eye as a political commentator for Fox News and a contributor to the Daily Beast. Two years ago she moved from Fox to CNN. Meanwhile she’s become a sought-after speaker at colleges and elsewhere and (apparently) a successful “media and public speaking consultant.” As her website brags, the gay newsmagazine The Advocate has called her “the 35th most influential LGBT person in the media.” Mediaite named her “one of the 100 most influential pundits on television,” and in 2014 she made its list of the “Top 9 Rising Stars of Cable News.”

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Kohn on CNN

She is, indeed, a star – and, yes, a remarkably influential one. Which raises a couple of questions. First, what qualifies her to occupy such a powerful position? Second, what is the nature of the views she spouts to her ever-widening audience?

In addressing the first question, what one notices, upon looking through her résumé, is that her experience has been almost entirely with hands-on social activism. She’s never pursued a remotely serious study of, well, anything, other than law. (Do we really want to count undergraduate psychology?) She’s certainly never seriously studied any kind of history – cultural history, political history, social history, whatever. She’s clearly innocent of economics. She’s never been a reporter. She’s never clerked for a judge. Perhaps most important, until she went into the pundit business, she never held anything remotely resembling a real job in a profit-making enterprise.

In short, she doesn’t have an especially clear idea of how the real world works.

sally8No, whatever special wisdom she may have to offer is derived almost exclusively from years and years of living in a small, claustrophobic bubble of left-wing activism – years, that is, of being entirely devoted to the building of “creative strategies,” the advancing of dynamic agendas, and the articulating of “bold, progressive vision[s]” on behalf of various community groups, victim groups, interest groups, and the like.

kkkkkkAdmittedly, there are certain skills and certain kinds of knowledge that one can develop as a result of being wholly immersed in such activities. But we’re not talking here about the sort of background that’s designed to deepen an individual’s historical knowledge or enrich her cultural perspective. On the contrary, it seems fair to say that Kohn has spent her adult life doing one thing: marinating in ideology – and learning, above all, how best to package it, promote it, and market it. As far as we can tell, she’s involved herself in absolutely nothing – zilch, zero, nada – that might have had the effect of (horrors!) challenging her ideology. For a dyed-in-the-wool ideologue like Kohn, a fact that causes one to re-examine one’s ideology isn’t something to mull over, take into account, and learn from; it’s something to ignore, reject, repel, conceal, distort. 

As for the nature of her views – well, tune in tomorrow. There’s lots more to come.