Spreading a Romantic View of Islam

The following op-ed by Alexandra Irene Larsen is a startling change from the usual fare served up by the Norwegian MSM. It takes a hard look at the radical Left’s love affair with radical Islam, accurately describing the academic currents that have carried today’s fashionable opinions into cultural prominence.

Our Norwegian correspondent The Observer, who translated the piece, includes this introductory note:

This is a refreshingly candid and honest criticism of Norwegian social sciences, where empirical data has been replaced by radical ideological theory. Your readers may remember that Mattias Gardell, who is mentioned in this op-ed, appeared as an ‘expert’ witness in the Breivik trial along with (among others) Lars Gule, a former wannabe terrorist who was caught with 750 grams of plastic explosives hidden in his backpack at the airport in Beirut in 1977, which he had intended to use to blow up a target inside Israel.

By the way: Gule is a research fellow at the University College in Oslo, which does strengthen the claims made by Larsen in this op-ed.

The criteria for becoming a professor or lecturer in Norway or Sweden: a background from a radical and violent political organization, or a strong desire to blow up innocent civilians…

Both Gardell and Gule fit the bill.

The translated op-ed from yesterday’s VG:

Researchers romanticize Islam

Middle Eastern studies are dominated by former leftists who have worldviews romanticizing totalitarian Islamism.

By Alexandra Irene Larsen, fellow at the University of Agder, Department of Religion, Philosophy and History

Fear of addressing issues

These researchers have embraced a method of interpreting Islamism and the Middle East in which Third World romanticism and anti-Americanism is used to absolve political extremism and label any form of criticism as “Islamophobia”.

Many of the prejudices that characterize Middle Eastern studies are a direct legacy from Edward Said and his angry book Orientalism from 1978. With his strong support of the Palestinians, Said was incapable of keeping his political and professional work separate. No truths existed; only “narratives”. Facts were reduced to whatever people wanted them to be. One was not supposed to criticize “the other”, and was expected to deconstruct and confront one’s own culture, while others cultures and traditions were to be endorsed and preserved.

This has resulted in a fear of addressing non-Western totalitarian, anti-democratic and repressive undercurrents.

Liberation Movements

The influence of Said coincided with two other processes. One was the radicalization of the social sciences in the wake of the youth rebellion. The second was the abandonment by many leftists of the activist movement and their return to the universities in the 1980s. They brought with them the left’s post-colonial guilt complex and anti-racism and channeled these into courses like Middle Eastern studies, minority studies and anthropology.

These studies were now meant to serve socialism and the interests of the working class and oppose Western imperialism.

Militant groups in the developing world were not classified as extremists but rather as liberation movements and their use of violence and repression was accepted or at least seen as an understandable response to Western oppression. This is how it became fashionable to defend non-Western extremism, Islamism included, in academia.

Ideologically colored picture

The strongest exponent of Said’s teachings in Scandinavia is probably Mattias Gardell, a Swedish theologian with a background from the revolutionary movement Anti-Fascist Action. His book Islamophobia (2010) has gained popularity and has even made it into the curriculum of Islamic studies at the University of Tromsø [city in northern Norway]. And just like Said, Gardell has a clear political agenda. He skims the surface looking for unconnected quotes that coincide with his worldview and he presents these as the essence of Western academia and its public responsibility.

Bjørn Olav Utvik, a professor at the University of Oslo and a former member of AKP-ml (The Workers’ Communist Party — Marxist-Leninists) has helped shape the discipline in Norway with a left-wing political bias.

Utvik has distinguished himself by embellishing events taking place during the Arab Spring. He claims that Islamism modernizes societies, promotes education and encourages political activity, leads to economic development and creates more individual freedom — while in reality it does the exact opposite. He claims that Islamic values differ very little from secular values, which says a whole lot about the ideologically colored picture that Utvik is trying to paint.

Spreads romanticized views

Utvik believes that Sharia law is non-racist and “more broad-minded” than what Christian Europe used to be. Perhaps that’s why he isn’t too concerned about the Islamization of Egypt under the rule of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Utvik has on numerous occasions argued that the Brotherhood is the equivalent of a Christian conservative revival movement. Meanwhile religious minorities in Egypt are displaced, the legal system is under pressure, sharia law is being praised and Morsi is steering towards an outright dictatorship.

These ideas have been spread to new generations of students and researchers who themselves don’t have a left-wing political background.

Rather than confronting the discipline’s ideological roots, scientists such as Oddbjørn Leirvik, Knut Aukrust, Knut Vikør and others contribute to spread a romantic view of Islamism. “Islamophobia” has replaced “Orientalism” as the shameful blemish of Western academia. And just as with Orientalism, the prosecutors have little empirical data on the prevalence of Islamophobia: it is omnipresent.

The threat is being downplayed

This is not merely a Norwegian or Scandinavian phenomenon. In his book Ivory Towers on Sand, the author Martin Kramer alleges that U.S. Middle Eastern researchers behave just like Utvik and Gardell. As Islamism was met with mounting suspicion in the West, the researchers in Middle Eastern studies came up with the idea of placing the various Islamist groups in the same category as other “democratizing” movements.

As long as they wanted something other than the existing order, they were labeled “reformers”, and should be accepted and supported.

Thus the threat of the rise of radical Islam is downplayed and almost ridiculed — so it is constructed by the media, experts and bureaucrats who are prejudiced towards Muslims.

Empirical data before myths

The researchers on Islam are guilty of exactly the same thing that they themselves used to accuse other Western intellectuals of: namely, constructing a story using selective facts, unfounded generalizations and tendentious language to serve a particular political purpose. By actively beautifying reality the discipline has engineered a type of social research that doesn’t convince with its rationality, but rather with its rhetoric.

This is a derailment of the Western academic spirit, with potentially dangerous consequences in the face of an emerging totalitarian Islamism.

It is therefore about time for the discipline to open up, go back to the sources, focus on empirical data rather than myths and become more tolerant of criticism.

16 thoughts on “Spreading a Romantic View of Islam

  1. Professor Said’s co-option of University attitudes has had a negative impact on the still developing brain of young adults. A generation of higher educated students are now adults who have internalized Said’s anti-neo-colonial bias. Obama is a prime example of a man committed to reparation for theoretical neo-colonial sins.
    Saids premise that western norms should not be transposed on non-western societies is contributing to the willful disregard for practices of Muslims that infringe on many in Muslim territory. His fallacy is once again revealed when Frenchmen have moral fortitude to liberate northern Mali. Long ago it was the British who enforced anti-slavery regulations & yet non-western societies where slavery still exists today.

  2. Islamism = Islam + Communism

    Dictator and tyrant Enver Hoxha proved that it’s possible to combine them.

    In doing so, he created a uniquely poverty striken land — much poorer than anywhere else in Europe. His was an extremely draconian rule.

    Noteably, Arafat was coined by Moscow’s First Directorate of the KGB — before he was released upon the World with the aegis of the PLO — itself a creation of the KGB.

    In all of its fanaticism, the PLO never found time to turn eastwards, towards the vast underclass of Soviet resident Muslims. Amazing, no?

    It’s not given enough ink: Islamists like OBL spend more time spouting Communist dogma and Hard Leftist tripe than they do from the Koran. Since these screeds are ill published in the West, even avid followers of the phenomenon are unaware of just how KGB imprinting still codes their minds.

    That’s ironic: now Putin’s Russia wishes it could turn the switch off.


    Decades ago, Star Trek the original series, postulated a Doomsday Machine: a cornucopia of destruction which has passed from Andromeda to the Milkyway galaxy.

    As an un-reprogrammable robot — it was carrying on its original doomsday proceedure long after any of the principals died — millions of years, in fact.

    This is what has happened to the Soviet KGB’s Active Measures: they’re still running on autopilot — in the mind, collective.

    Those currently troubled are blithely unaware that they’re infected with an ‘emotional virus’ set loose as the Biggest Longest Con.

    Guilt of the Other Fellows — the Big Blaming — it’s as old as man unkind.


    At root, this impulse springs from sibling rivalry. When a first born child loses mom’s exclusivity — there is true rage — upon the usurper. The new diminished era has a locus: it’s due to the ‘other.’ Somehow, the ‘other’ is pulling mom’s time and resources away from the older child.

    The inchoate notion that ‘hidden factors’ can cause resource withdrawal and an unjust denial of mother’s attention — her love — pops forth in adulthood with every manner of ‘other (bad) guy’ rationalizations.

    Rather than couch this angst in petty cries — it is transformed into a life long crusade — against illusory, invented foes to fit the times and the need.

    And the need is for a fuzzy foe that can last a lifetime. For, actual resolution of such a rage must bring the aflicted psyche to its end. That’s not heroic, is it?

    Leftism is an ode to infantile rage.

    Hence, it’s persistence in a time of hyper-neoteny.

    • Excellent analyses. The connection to infantile anger is a compelling contention.

      Very few people, especially those under 40, understand that they have internalized a ludicrously unhinged worldview propagandised in the 60′s by the KGB. Astonishing when you think about it: the Westerners who dominate the academy, the media, the public sector and NGOs in the 2010′s view the world through a prism created almost half a century ago by the apparatus of an utterly failed and universally-rejected ideology. Even Antonio Gramsci would be stunned.

      Edward Said has done more, poisoning the minds of two generations of university students worldwide, to damage the cultural and politic fabric of the West than all the fancy French philosophers, Sartre, Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, put together. Yet he is still widely regarded as a respectable thinker and his absurdly over whine “Orientalism”, which struck me, apart from being tedious, badly written and repetitive, as nothing more than an extended tract of self-pity of an Arab who felt uncomfortable as an outsider in the US, is still on the curriculum. The supreme irony is that the West gave him a marvellous lifestyle and freedoms that exist in no Arab country.

    • Said’s “absurdly over-rated whine”.

      Said was a monumental ingrate who couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Before heading to the States to complete high school at a private boarding school (and then pursue a BA at Princeton and an MA and PhD at Harvard: the poor suffering lad), he received an elite education at St Georges (Anglican) School for Boys in Jerusalem and Victoria College Alexandria: both institutions founded and run by the English to give local boys an education otherwise unobtainable in those cities. Bizarrely, Said made much of the fact that the instruction in both schools was given in English by English teachers and is bitter about this citing it as cultural hegemony and imperial oppression, blah, blah, blah. What did he expect those schools to teach in?

      Rather than be grateful such institutions existed and he was privileged enough to have parents who were inclined to and could afford to send him there, he was eternally resentful of the excellent schooling he received – hundreds of thousands of his contemporaries would have been delighted to have spent just one year in such school (I know, I had in-laws who grew up in Alexandria & Cairo where the European communities of Greeks, Jews, Armenians struggled to get their children into VC or, in Cairo, the St Georges School for Boys) – without which he could never have had the glittering career he had in academe. And he blames the English for it, rather than his American citizen father for sending him there. It never seems to have occurred to Said to blame his father (or himself for not demanding to be schooled somewhere else). Possibly because in truth Said is grateful to him; he just preferred a public career of complaining because there was more mileage in doing so than being quietly thankful the West did so much for him.

    • Ex-KGB Yuri Bezmenov’s lectures are must-see in this regard:


      The dupes were plentiful and the useful idiots highly receptive. I would argue that we live in a world constructed half a century ago by Soviet propagandists. Obama is the perfect example. His worldview was devised by clever agents in Moscow decades ago, a reality with which he is blissfully unfamiliar.

      The seeds of Soviet propaganda, sprinkled across the world, have yielded impressive harvests. How is that Scandinavian peoples, once among the proudest and most feared anywhere, have chosen to freely import Islamic warriors intent on conquest?

      Had these KGB agents been hired by Coke or Pepsi, left-wing mothers would be filling their babies’ bottles with the stuff (to the extent they have babies).

  3. Both Leftism and Islam are inverted ideologies, so on the surface they might be
    partly drawn together into alliances. But in the long term, as they get more intimate, even the Left will surely pull away from barbaric Islam. It depends on how much the Left hate society.

  4. Maybe my reading comprehension is poor, but what I read from that was that a Norweigian academic is writing like a watered down Takuan Seiyo! Is it too early to say that bit by bit, the tide is turning?

  5. Norwegian academia are aficionados that have recently discovered they are allowed to play in a major league by means of a compulsive islamophilia and stretching marxism to parody. It would be sobering for them to experience some reality bites. Academics with inferiority complex when unchecked spell disaster for a nation. To tackle these feral creatures must be a priority. Remember that K. Marx was just a disenchanted prof.

  6. It has come to the attention of many that “Islamic studies”, “Middle Eastern studies” and other disciplines associated with all things Islam have been co-opted by Saudi literature for decades. The textbooks have to be “approved”, scrutinized and censored by the religious police before being published.

    The above op-ed piece is just a reminder of that legacy of deceit.

    As for the Left and its constant association with lost causes (remember all those students in the 60s who supported hard-line Communism?), its a sign that their own values have been watered down through the twin anti-objective bayonets of multi-culturalism and post-colonial guilt. These two trends in the west are what Islamists use to accuse their critics of the faux-hatred of “Islamophobia”.

    Its high time that academics and their Leftist supporters take a good long objective look at what Islam represents and how Islamic governments treat their own citizens, let alone minorities living within their borders. For their actions and laws demonstrate how the core ideology of Islam works in practice.

  7. The Radical Left and Islam.
    It seems hard on the surface to understand why the far-left loves Islam. Surely it is they that will be amongst its first victims when Islam acquires dominance in the West. Both ideologies are though fanatical, tyrannical, and desire the suppression of free-thought. I expect that the far-left will be among the first to convert completely to Islam. Both groups are also willing to employ terror to achieve their ends. You cannot expect political, religious or any other form of belief to be objective, the facts will always be bent to fit the particular faith’s version of reality.
    Since the end of WWII left-wing-internationalism has dominated Western politics, the Nazi excesses made right-wing-nationalism taboo. Despite the evidence of countless despicable terrorist atrocities in the name of Islam, that expose the true face of Islam, the Left continue to praise, defend and justify this murderous religious ideology, and to downplay the dangers posed by it.
    This leftist willingness to praise, endorse and fight to preserve and protect virtually any culture other than their own particular highly civilised and developed culture defies reason. Any that praise Western culture and its achievements are routinely labeled fascist or racist. We have every reason to be proud of the culture, our culture, that the Left so despise. That Islam is anti-democratic and repressive is ignored and a romantic version of it constructed. The myth of a moderate Islam is widely accepted by those infected with post-colonial white guilt. Applying the principle of equality to cultures is untenable; Islam and liberal democracy are not equal, or if they are equal then they are opposite and incompatible. Applying a principle of equality to everything is wishful thinking, in practice giving rights to minorities can deny the majority its natural rights. Such as wanting to be English in an English land amongst people with whom you share a common descent, language and history, or denying a native population of its basic human right to own its own country by giving it away to all-comers.
    It is those that are not islamophobic that are in error, anyone not afraid of Islam is willfully ignorant or easily duped.

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