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Europe's Wahhabi Lobby

This column was written by Stephen Schwartz.
I should have known something would be out of kilter. At the end of September, the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), an international body made up of 55 nations – including such dictatorships as nearby Belarus – called for a day-long roundtable in the lovely and spiritual city of Warsaw. The topic was "Intolerance and Discrimination Against Muslims." Aside from OSCE diplomats, staff, and two representatives of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, the participants consisted of some 25 representatives of Muslim NGOs as well as European and North American human rights monitors.

I should have known something was amiss because I have witnessed much OSCE mischief since going to postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo in the late 1990s. And don't forget that OSCE was the international organization with the nerve to propose that it "observe" the most recent U.S. presidential election for presumptive irregularities. But it has an especially bad record in the Balkans, as has been pointed out in The Weekly Standard.

The OSCE is, to put it bluntly, political correctness personified. Its agenda for combating intolerance and discrimination includes everyone from prostitutes to victims of schoolyard bullying. But it was obvious that the status of Islam in Europe, which has lately involved bloodshed in several countries, is viewed by OSCEcrats as an intractable challenge. The do-gooders had no apparent choice but to relegate the roundtable on Muslims to a place outside the regular agenda of a weeklong "human dimension" assembly in Warsaw, and to hold the Muslim gathering in the basement of a hotel.

Reliable sources reported that the OSCE's Warsaw conference on Islam came as a trade-off for a conference on anti-Semitism held in Córdoba, Spain, earlier this year. It was soon made clear that the event would serve as little more than a platform for ranters and cranks from such countries as Britain and Denmark who were there to defend radical Islam. It turns out that proponents of Islamist extremism over there are even more aggressive, defiant, and confrontational than their American counterparts.

Thus, a religious functionary from Britain, Imam Dr. Abduljalil Sajid of the grandly (and, it appears, falsely) titled Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony, used up much of the morning's discussion with loud denunciations of Tony Blair for his alleged assault on civil rights in the wake of "7/7." Before that this religious leader, when asked which school of Islamic law, or madhdhab, he followed, said, "I shoot all madhdhabs."

Imam Sajid regaled the audience with the many times he had confronted Blair, insisting to the British prime minister that Islam and terrorism are completely unconnected from one another. He also offered up a diatribe against internment at Guantanamo. In the minds of many Muslims at the event, it seemed, the London bombings and the attacks that preceded them, as well as the radical ideology that inspired them, are irrelevant; the only thing that matters is to push back against the legal response of the British, U.S., and other European authorities.

The phrase "the Fight Against Extremism" was included on the agenda of the meeting, but not one word was said about it until the very end, when Turkish diplomat Omur Orhun let his voice sink to a near-whisper. He affirmed, in closing the deliberations, that the problem of extremism would eventually have to be taken up, "because that is what brought us all here." But to listen to many of the other participants one might have thought fear of Muslims among non-Muslims in Europe was a purely gratuitous expression of bias, or, as Nuzhat Jafri of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women put it, a product of "U.S. foreign policy decisions."

When I pointed out to her that Saudi-financed Wahhabi terrorists have struck Turkey, a country that opposed U.S. policy in Iraq, as well as Morocco and Indonesia, which have nothing to do with Washington's policies, Ms. Jafri limited herself to the admission that additional "root causes" exist; these she left undescribed.

Others were less restrained. Scandinavian countries seem to have experienced a particular incapacity to exclude Muslim extremists from their territories. Bashy Quraishy, a man who disclaims being religious, averring that he is not a practicing Muslim, seems to have adopted the defense of radical Islam as a career move, and is a self-proclaimed functionary of the "Federation of Ethnic Minority Organizations in Denmark." Although he admits his irreligion and distance from Islam, Quraishy has no compunctions about presenting himself as an expert on it.

Quraishy did his best to hog the proceedings. While Imam Sajid asserted the lack of any link between Islam and terror, Quraishy demanded that global media be prevented from even suggesting such a thing. His printed handouts, piled up on a side table, were hallucinatory in tone. To him, "America Under Attack" — a CNN caption after September 11, 2001 — was offensively prejudiced. In addition, Quraishy's handouts insisted, "there was no proof, no one took responsibility, and not one particular country or group was singled out" for blame in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. There was nothing more than "finger pointing" at Islam.

Quraishy also recycled the late Jude Wanniski's attacks on Richard Perle as the evil controller of "uncritical and nationalistic journalism and intentional use of anti-Islam terminology as a tool of propaganda." Quraishy reproduced the clichés employed by al Qaeda and its supporters: the "Crusades are back," and Saddam in Iraq was nothing but a "tiny dictator." Quraishy's pamphlets even asserted that "fundamentalist," "ghetto," and "ethnic gangs" are hate terms and should not be used in any media.

The rest of the palaver was less fervid, but equally absurd. Canadian Muslims complained about the effect of the U.S. Patriot Act on their country. As the afternoon wore on, phrases such as "so-called terrorists" were increasingly heard. Brit Mohammed Aziz, of Faithwise, declared that members of his community are "first responsible to God . . . then to the umma," or global Islam, and only lastly to the country in which they live.

All of this came about three months after the horror in London. The meeting ended with nothing more than an agreement to hold more meetings. The OSCE it seems, like much of Europe, has few answers for the challenge of radical Islam — aside from their pieties about discrimination.


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