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Violent Jihadists: The Contemporary Left’s Freedom Riders?

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Posted on May 17 2011 7:59 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

Last night I watched an incredibly moving documentary about the early civil rights movement in America in 1961. The film is based on Raymond Arsenault’s book about the many hundreds of young volunteers who faced savage beatings and possible death as they rode buses in an attempt to end Jim Crow racial segregation laws and practices. Directly by Stanley Nelson, the film shows us the extraordinary dignity and determination of the “freedom riders” whose courage inspired and guided even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

These young people were mainly African-Americans, but they were also white, and both male and female. They dressed conservatively and were trained not to fight back—not even when they were being beaten by racist mobs wielding baseball bats, lead pipes, sharp instruments, deadly fists, and hearts filled with hate. Buses were surrounded by mobs of 200 men. One bus was blown up. Bus drivers refused to drive the buses. Southern governors and police officers refused to protect the “freedom riders” or to stop the would-be lynch mobs. Ku Klux Klan members in full regalia literally marched over their bleeding faces. Journalists and photographers were attacked. The “freedom riders” were arrested.

Finally, President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had to send in federal marshals. They also requested that the Interstate Commerce Commission end the “white only” and “colored only” facilities for interstate travelers.

I felt absolutely connected to this struggle. I felt indebted to these valiant Americans. I am sure others of my generation felt likewise. As I watched the non-violent riders—their transcendent purity, dignity, courage—I realized that many leftists of my generation have now assumed that Arabs, Muslim jihadists, and “Palestinians” are somehow the same as these brave, young Americans.

They are not. Arabs are not using non-violent tactics to achieve their reactionary goals. They are violent in every way. Their goals are not to obtain rights for their people but rather to return them to the 7th century and to destroy both the Jewish and Christian presence in Muslim-majority countries.

I don’t know how to convey this insight to my generation of leftists. They do not read conservative websites. They view me as a “traitor” for having abandoned them by evolving to a deeper and greater understanding of reality. If you know any leftists, please ask them to read this piece.

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