Radical Islam and Radical Chic

Radical Islam seems to be losing its radical chic, judging by two stories in the news lately. One story is set in the swankest spot in Beverly Hills, the other deep in the even more treacherous jungles of Nigeria, but both illustrate what it takes to at long last rile the modern world.
The brouhaha in Beverly Hills concerns the famously opulent Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, which is an arm of the Brunei government, which is run by the absolute authority of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who recently imposed sharia in the country. Sharia is the Islamic code of law proscribed by the Koran and Hadith, and although the interpretations vary from country to country it is always a harsh system by contemporary western standards, with the Brunei version featuring fines and jail times for failing to attend Friday prayer services, flogging and the severing of limbs for property crimes, and death by stoning for such crimes as adultery and homosexuality. Those final provisions proved especially offensive to the sensibilities of Hollywood show folk, who have now vowed to boycott the hotel until Brunei changes it laws or the property has a new owner.
We consider it unlikely that the Sultan of Brunei will abandon his apparently ardent faith to curry favor with the infidel celebrities of Tinseltown, but he might be forced to sell the hotel. The hotel’s value derives largely from its reputation as a gathering place for the beautiful people, and they seem genuinely determined to stay away. Famed talk show comedienne and lesbian Ellen DeGeneres, who is is as famous for being a lesbian as she is for being a talk show comedienne, has announced she won’t be back “until this is resolved.” Kim Kardashian, who is famous for some reason or another that we cannot discern, has cancelled a planned wedding reception, although she’ll probably have plenty of others there if new owners are found. Former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno even compared the Sultan to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, which is about brutal an insult as a Los Angeleno can muster these days. Such unfavorable publicity is bad for business, and although it won’t do much for the unfortunate folks in Brunei who are late for the call to prayer or shoplift a candy bar or engage in homosexual activities it will no doubt have a soothing effect on the consciences of America’s entertainers.
Radical Islam has been gaining an even more uncool reputation far away in Nigeria, where the Boko Haram terrorist organization has kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls. Boko Haram has been murdering thousands of Christians and other varieties of infidels for many years without arousing the outrage of any well-intentioned westerners, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and various high-minded do-gooder groups even resisted its inclusion on the official list of designated terror organizations until recently, but the kidnappings have so outraged the bien pensant that even Clinton is now sending out indignant “tweets.” First Lady Michelle Obama summed up the disapproval in her Mother’s Day address to the nation, in which she neglected to name the kidnappers or their religious ideology or even their intention to sell the girls into slavery but instead dwelled on the fact that the girls were being denied an education. “And what happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident,” the First Lady explained, leaving one to wonder if the same sort of thing might be happening right here in America if any more of those Tea Party types with their War on Women get elected to Congress. Her husband has helpfully provided the use of drones and other military assistance in getting the girls released, so her outrage might prove more effective than mere “tweeting,” but it remains to be seen if the Islamic world at large will embrace feminism.
We wish these newly outraged activists well in their efforts, and welcome them to the ongoing struggle against radical Islam, but we’d like to see them broaden their perspective. The treatment of women and homosexuals throughout most of the Muslim world is appalling, and warrants the western world’s condemnation and fierce resistance, but surely the intolerance of Christianity and Judaism and free speech and representative democracy also deserve mention in the casus belli. The modern liberal is ill-placed to condemn assaults on Christianity and Judaism and free speech and representative democracy, and finds it more useful in domestic politics to focus on homosexuality and women’s rights, but now is not the time to jettison the old values. The newly outraged find themselves in a clash of civilizations, and reluctantly on the side of the one they’ve been hoping to undermine, and it can only be defended on the basis of all its virtues and not just its latest enthusiasms.

— Bud Norman