(Third in a series.)
al-Qaeda Wants and the first essay in this series, The
Mirage of Moderate Islam, I have described Islam as a warlike and
bloody religion subject to periodic fits of violent fundamentalist
revival. I have analyzed the roots of Islamic terror in the Koranic
duty of jihad, and elucidated Osama bin Laden’s goal as nothing less
than the destruction of the West and the establishment of a global
I have further explained why it is difficult for anyone living
within the Islamic worldview to reject or argue against these goals.
Jihadism — the belief that Muslims have not merely the right
but the duty to smite the infidel and propagate the Faith by
force — proceeds direct from the Koran and is accepted as a core
religious duty by almost all Muslims.
These are simple truths, readily discernable from reading the words
of the Koran, the study of even an outline of Islamic history, and the
propaganda of Osama bin Laden himself. Yet they are truths that
almost no one in the West is speaking in public, in plain language.
In this essay, I will examine the reasons Americans are not yet
ideologically prepared to fight the war against terror as it must be
fought if we are to win.
First, the U.S. government is telling a Big Lie for diplomatic
reasons. It is trying to sell the idea that Islam is a `religion of
peace’, with al-Qaeda representing only a small fringe of extremists.
Part of this is in order not to be seen attacking the religion of our
Arab allies in the Middle East.
But domestic politics is an even more important motive for this Big
Lie. U.S. policymakers in the know may well fear that if they
described the relationship between terrorism and Islamic doctrine
accurately, the current broad consensus on war policy might collapse
under a hailstorm of accusations of bigotry, prejudice, and
intolerance by the bien pensants who run the national media
and academe. In a political climate where directing extra scrutiny at
young male Middle Eastern air travellers is attacked as unacceptable
`racial profiling’, this fear would be well-grounded.
Second, the academy has failed us. Americans are almost
universally ignorant of Islamic doctrine and history. Most of the few
who have some knowledge of the area cannot connect that knowledge to
current events. The Islamic-studies and Middle Eastern history
establishment completely, utterly failed to anticipate al-Qaeda’s
revival of jihadism, ignored or rationalized the decade of
anti-American terrorist acts that led up to 9/11, and is presently
incapable of supplying any significant analytical help to defeating
The exact anatomy of this failure is well described in Martin
Kramer’s Ivory Towers On
Sand. One background problem was a Marxist-influenced tendency to
see political change as all-important and dismiss religious fervor as
a spent force. Another was a reluctance to confront or discuss the
continuing phenomenon of terrorism at all except through the lens of
`post-colonial theory’ that excused it as a legitimate tactic of the
Palestinian or anti-imperialist struggle. Yet a third was the
postmodern belief that objective truth is impossible. In effect, the
Marxist/multiculturalist/postmodernist preoccupations of the
Islamic-studies establishment rendered it incapable of seeing,
thinking, or passing judgment. Confronted by the smoking hole where
the World Trade Center used to be and Osama bin-Laden’s gloating
videos, the academics had no way of connecting their theoretical
abstractions to the brutal facts and nothing to say. Nine months
later, they still doesn’t.
Americans outside of universities have few grounds for smugness,
however. While most of the rest of us have not had our critical
faculties rotted out by Marxism, multiculturalism and postmodernism in
their explicit forms, a lower-grade version of the same infections has
done much to damage our capacity to understand the threat of jihadism.
Americans have always had the odd parochial habit of assuming that,
down deep underneath, everyone is basically like us — sharing
our historically peculiar mix of pragmatism and idealism; valuing
honesty and fair dealing; tolerant, materialistic, freedom-loving,
open-minded, tempting to value comfort and success over ideology. We
reflexively believe that everyone can be reasoned with essentially in
our own terms. Most Americans don’t understand fanaticism and violent
evil. We have a tendency to be `fair’ by assuming that in any dispute
there must be some right and some wrong on both sides. It’s telling
that we use `extreme’ as a political pejorative.
Since at least the end of World War II, this parochialism has
become so acute that it has almost blinded us to serious threats.
While more of the left-liberals who shilled for the Soviets and Mao
Zedong and Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot during the Cold War were closet
Communists than is yet publicly admitted, a good many were honest
dupes who simply couldn’t believe that Communists were actually
motivated by the sinister craziness of hard Marxism, and therefore
assumed that America must somehow be at fault. Conservatives
apologizing for unsavory pro-American strongmen mostly weren’t closet
fascists, either; a good many of them had obvious trouble seeing
caudillos as more than cigar-chomping CEOs running a particularly
tough business, and never mind the gold braid and funny hats.
The see-no-evil tendency in American folk psychology created
fertile ground for the rather less benign dogmas of multiculturalism
(“all cultures present ways of living that are equally morally valid”)
and postmodernism (“there is no objective truth”). Originally
constructed by Marxists (and one ex-Fascist) as part of a program to
ideologically disarm the West against the radical evil of Communism,
these dogmas have both outlived their original ends and seeped into
American pop culture. Their effect is that many of us can no longer
bring ourselves to think of any political movement, religion, or
culture as radically evil unless it is safely part of history (and,
for political correctness, was run by dead white European males when
it was alive and kicking).
This was a relatively harmless form of self-delusion between 1992
and 2001, the decade of self-indulgence bracketed by the fall of the
Soviet Empire and 9/11. No longer. We are at war. Western
civilization is under attack by a foe that revels in the wholesale
slaughter of civilians, one that proudly announces its intention to
bring a second Holocaust of fire and blood down upon us all.
If our civilization is to survive, we will need to recover the
moral judgment needed to recognize radical evil, the language in which
to condemn it, and the determination to act.
In a perverse way, al-Qaeda has made this easy. They have murdered
thousands in a single attack on one of our heart cities, they have
attempted to unleash biological weapons on us, and have actively
planned to detonate nuclear/radiological weapons in our population
centers. Those who cannot recognize even this as radical evil
— those who persist in arguing that the 9/11 attack was somehow
justified by something United Fruit did in Guatemala or the Israelis
did in Lebanon — are rapidly dealing themselves out of the game
of deciding how we shall respond.
Having recognized al-Qaeda’s behavior as radically evil, we must
next recognize that its motivating ideology is evil, too. And the
first step there is recognizing that Islam’s apologists are
systematically lying to us about what they believe and intend.
Outside of a few fringe groups like the Dauri
Bohras and a tiny minority of intellectual reformers who generally
dare not speak their ideas in their own home countries, there is
simply no constituency in Islam prepared to recognize Western concepts
of peace, tolerance, and pluralism.
We will not be prepared to win the war against Islamic terror until
we understand the following things:
- Islam is a religion of war and conversion by the sword, not peace.
- The primary threat of terrorism comes from Arabs and
middle-easterners between the ages of fifteen and forty, and we must summon
the will to profile accordingly.
- We are dealing with religious fanaticism rather than rational grievances
against America or the West.
- Our enemies cannot be reasoned with or appeased anywhere
short of surrender and submission to shari’a law.
- Apologists for mainstream Islam are systematically
lying to us about Islamic doctrine in order to shield terrorists who
they know are acting in strict accordance with that doctrine.
The hardest challenge for Americans is to grasp is the fact that
the evil of the 9/11 hijackings, the destruction of the World Trade
Center, and the threat of al-Qaeda weapons of mass destruction set off
in American cities is not simply the evil of al-Qaeda. It is in fact
the Koranically-correct expression of the tendency of Islam (Sunni
fundamentalism) which is has been pre-eminent through most of Islamic
history and now encompasses over 90% of the worlds Muslims.
We need to face the fact that we are confronting not just a
barbaric and evil group of men, but a barbaric and evil religion. To
protect ourselves, we must either force the complete reform of Islam
(purging it of jihadism and its tendency towards periodic
fundamentalist outbreaks) or destroy its hold over its followers.
This is a problem for Americans; first, because we have been taught
that we that we must not be intolerant of other peoples’ religions;
and second, because fully grasping the nature of the danger Islamic
poses to Western civilization requires thinking uncomfortable
thoughts about the dominant Christian religion of our own culture.
The reader is at this point invited to learn more about the
developing alliance between Islamic and Christian fundamentalisms.
Then, to learn all about Kissing Hank’s Ass.
Before 9/11, “Kissing Hank’s Ass” was an edgy joke. Today it
demonstrates why ending the threat of religiously-motivated terror will
require us to confront and destroy the fundamentalist/jihadist impulse
not merely in Islam, but also in Christianity and all other
eschatological monotheisms where it finds a natural home.
Christianity, like Islam (and unlike almost all of the other
religions of the world) has violent intolerance of other religions and
the impulse to conversion by the sword wired into its doctrinal DNA.
Most Americans have trouble believing the Koran means what it says
about the duty of jihad because for most Christians, the parallel
Christian duty to smite the infidel is a historical dead letter. But
counterparts of al-Qaeda such as the Christian
Identity Movement exist in the West, imbued with all of
al-Qaeda’s rage. Christian fundamentalists express the same
hatred of modernity and determination to jam the world back into
a medieval mold that motivates Osama bin Laden.
To win the war on terror, we must understand jihadism and clearly
distinguish it from ethical self-defense. We must be prepared not
merely to counter fanaticism not merely by killing the fanatical in
self-defense, but also by discrediting the doctrines and habits of
thought that make fanatics in the first place — whether they occur in
the other guy’s religion or our own. Islam has declared itself the
immediate adversary of modernity — but more than one world religion
will have to go under the knife before our children can sleep in
(To be continued…)