Other notable leftist sympathizers with radical Islam include George Galloway, (former Labor member of the British Parliament), Naomi Klein, and the late Edward Said. Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash are distinguished by their shared scorn for Ayaan Hirshi Ali, the Somali-born critic of Islam and former member of the Dutch parliament, who has been subject to numerous death threats. By contrast, they both think well of Tariq Ramadan, the well known Western spokesman of Islamist causes who pretends to be a moderate when addressing Western academic audiences. In his Murder in Amsterdam, Buruma postulated a moral equivalence between alleged Dutch racism and Muslim fundamentalism.
As to the recent responses to the potential rise in power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institute in an op-ed advised “Don’t Fear Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood” and Shadi Hamid (also of Brookings) wrote that “Westerners should not lose sleep over the Brotherhood’s inclusion… A pragmatic organization at its core.” 
While not even the most bitterly alienated American leftists can easily glorify or fully justify the traditional, repressive and less than fully rational aspects of Islamic political culture (including Sharia law), a number of similarities may be found between their attitudes toward communist systems and those toward radical, political Islam. The appreciation of anti-Americanism and a broader anti-Westernism are not the only similarities. Many Western leftists and especially intellectuals among them have found the collectivism of both communist systems and of Islam appealing given their yearning for community and their rejection of capitalistic competitiveness, as well as their apprehensions about social isolation in Western capitalist societies. They also find attractive the apparent sense of purpose permeating both communist and Islamic societies and movements. The most alienated among American and other Western intellectuals are also drawn to the fundamentalist Islamic rejection of modernity: they too reject many aspects of modernity, namely popular culture, consumerism, moral relativism and assorted social pathologies such as crime, alcoholism and drug addiction.
Authenticity, the unity of word and deed (or theory and practice), is also highly prized by leftist Western intellectuals and their followers and they find a great deal of it among militant Islamic radicals. Indisputably, suicide bombers act out their beliefs, they unite theory and practice, as communist revolutionaries used to a long time ago.
Nonetheless, Western leftist views of the relationship between theory and practice are not consistent, neither as regards communist systems of the past nor the religious-fundamentalist Islamic movements of the present. During the Cold War, leftist peace activists, as well as numerous academic specialists, used to argue that the Soviet Union was not a serious threat because its policies (including those flagrantly aggressive) were largely defensive and not motivated by ideology (by Marxism-Leninism). The West could “do business” with the Soviet Union (and other communist systems) because it no longer pursued a militant, messianic, expansionist policy and because theory ceased to matter, as Soviet leaders became increasingly pragmatic. They further suggested that peaceful coexistence was possible provided the West make a serious attempt to understand the grievances and insecurities of communist leaders – a view strikingly similar to current exhortations to engage Islamic movements and their leaders in a dialogue.
There is a further, striking similarity between the past dismissal of ideology as a force in the conduct of communist systems and the current denials that Islamic religious values and beliefs play a part in Islamic violence although suicide bombers regularly affirm their unshakeable belief in the generous other-wordly rewards that await them. They are confident that putting to death a sufficient number of American, British, Israeli, Indonesian, Iraqi or Spanish infidels – men, women, children and the old, will usher in a better world.
As in the old days, the Left insists that a better, non-judgmental approach will mollify Islamic extremists and radicals – as was hoped to be the case in regard to Communist leaders and ideologues. They believe that adopting conciliatory attitudes and policies will lead to peace, goodwill and rational discourse. It is difficult for critics of the United States and Western values to attribute irrationality to the enemies of their countries and social systems.
Ready attribution of moral equivalence is another similarity between attitudes toward communist systems and radical Islam. As may be recalled, during the Cold War, and especially following the 1960s, it was widely held by leftist intellectuals in the United States (and elsewhere) that there was little to choose between American or Soviet imperialism, between the two corrupt and oppressive super powers. More recently, American and Israeli policies have been equated with, and held responsible for, the violence of Islamic terrorists, who, in this perspective, had no choice but to engage in their campaigns of destruction and violence to draw attention to their grievances.
In the final analysis, it is difficult to quantify the similarities between the two sets of attitudes and misperceptions discussed above. The leftist support for communist systems and ideologies probably greatly exceeded present day sympathy for radical Islam in the same circles. Communist systems – their ideology, slogans, and promises – were easier to idealize than present day Islamic fanaticism, dogmatic rigidity and murderous intolerance. What has been similar is the misperception and wishful misjudgment of both political entities because they meet certain needs and allowed leftist intellectuals to project upon them attributes they valued and could not find in their own society. Most importantly, they have been seen in a favorable light because they shared the hostility toward Western societies and traditions which has animated many leftist intellectuals for several generations.
Paul Hollander is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. He is the author or editor of fourteen books, including Political Pilgrims.
. John Tierney: “Social Scientist Sees Bias Within,” New York Times, February 8, 2011.
 Simon Romero: “In Venezuela, an American Has the President’s Ear,” New York Times, February 5, 2011]
 Tom Wolfe proposed that indignation was an essential quality of the intellectual “that elevated him to a plateau of moral superiority.” [“In the Land of the Rococo Marxists,” Hooking Up, New York, 2000, p.117.]
 Of course some Third World countries have also been communist and therefore all the more appealing, i.e. Cuba, China (under Mao), Vietnam, Nicaragua and others.
 Falk quoted in New York Times, February 19, 1979.
 Http:/www. DiscovertheNewtworks.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=781
 Wesley Young: “The Philosopher and the Ayatollah,” Boston Globe, June 12, 2005. See also James Miller: The Passion of Michel Foucault, Cambridge, MA 2000.
 Hitchens in Slate, September 7, 2004.
 Zachary Hughes in CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting) , July 20, 2006.
 Finkelstein: “Islamophobia and Holocaust Denial” see his ”official website” December 1, 2007.
 DiscovertheNetworks.Org cited, indid=861; see also George Packer on Lynne Stewart in New York Times Magazine, September 22, 2002.
 Quoted in David Flynn: “Brookings and the Brotherhood” Frontpage, February 19, 2011.
Pages: 1 2