Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Doublespeak Unveiled

Muslim “moderates” are true to spirit of Islam

by Bruce S. Thornton

Private Papers

As stalwart as the Bush administration has been in the current conflict with Islamic jihadists, judging from the op-ed in last Saturday’s New York Times by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend, it still entertains dangerous illusions about the enemy we are facing.

Hadley and Townsend reprise the narrative the administration has used all along in making sense of our adversary. Those wishing to destroy us are enemies of freedom who espouse a totalitarian ideology akin to fascism and communism. As such, they are driven by a diseased passion for domination that will brook no dissent nor allow for ideals such as tolerance and human rights. And they gain traction from “conditions of despair and feelings of resentment where freedom is denied.” Thus America must promote democratic freedom and prosperity to remove those conditions, for “people everywhere prefer freedom to slavery and will embrace it whenever they can, because freedom is the wish of every human being.” Finally, since these terrorists are enemies of Islam as well, we must support those Muslims who “are speaking the truth about their proud religion and history, and seizing it back from those who would hijack it for evil ends.”

The key to this mistaken interpretation is the short shrift given to the power of spiritual needs — an omission surprising given how religious the media keeps telling us this administration is. That ignoring of spiritual reality is what makes the analogy with fascism and communism false. Both of those ideologies were anti-Christian: fascism was a species of debased Romantic neo-paganism, and communism was blatantly atheist. As such, both ran counter to the powerful Judeo-Christian forces that shaped European and Russian civilization, and so could not satisfy for long the spiritual yearnings of the people, yearnings denied their traditional expressions. Thus these ideologies were doomed because they denied not just political freedom, but the powerful human need for religious expression and spiritual experience.

The jihadist enemy, on the other hand, is operating on principles and values squarely in the tradition of Islam, and thus unlike fascism and communism is expressing a spiritual need and an orthodox religious mandate: to fulfill by force the will of Allah that all the world be subject to Islam and an Islamic state, the caliphate, ruled by sharia, Islamic religious law. Those conquered infidels who refuse to convert are reduced to dhimmi, subordinated and humiliated peoples whose restricted rights, diminished lives, and circumscribed behavior testify to the superiority of their Muslim overlords and their divine right to oppress the infidel and exploit him economically. This dynamic of jihad and dhimmitude has been extensively documented by Bat Ye’or and other scholars, and is apparent on every page of Islamic jurisprudence, theology, and history from the eighth century to today.

Those who, like Hadley and Townsend, suggest otherwise are contradicting not just that history but also the beliefs and sentiments of millions of contemporary Muslims, who understand clearly what their own religion teaches and how it should be practiced. How else do we make sense of the continued widespread support for homicide bombings and Al Qaeda visible in poll after poll of Muslims worldwide? Even so-called “moderates” and Westernized Muslims can’t help letting slip their true beliefs even as they try to spin the latest terrorist murder. Dr. Azzam Tamimi, a senior member of the Muslim Association of Britain and a Hamas member who is frequently featured on the BBC, has made clear his support for Palestinian Arab murder of Israelis, his belief that Islamic religious law (sharia) should not be compromised to coexist with liberal democracy, his admiration of the Taliban, and his desire to see Israel destroyed.

Inayat Bunglawla, another “moderate” spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, has been all over CNN since the bombings in London. In a recent BBC4 interview, this is how he “condemned” homicide bombings: “Let me make clear then, once and for all, we condemn the killing of all innocent people wherever they are, human lives everywhere are of equal value, whether they are British, American, Iraqi, or Palestinian. Jewish lives are not worth more than Palestinian lives, all are worth equal, and it’s been quite nauseating over the past week to see how Israel and its highly-placed supporters in the media have been trying to make political capital out of last week’s atrocities against Londoners. It is shameful on them and shameful upon those who are trying to help Israel improving its PR image after the brutalities it commits against the Palestinian people.”

Here is a classic example of so-called “moderate” double-talk. Notice how Jews are left out of the list of “human lives” that have “equal value.” Notice how the statement “Jewish lives are not worth more than Palestinian lives” is not followed by the logical corollary, “Palestinian lives are not worth more than Jewish lives.” And finally, notice the usual hysterical smokescreen of alleged Israeli “brutalities” to shift the focus away from Muslim murder of innocents by concentrating on its supposed causes.

In fact, the obsession with the Palestinians is the smoking gun that reveals the jihadist sentiments of double-talking “moderates.” Consider how many British Muslims, supposedly opposed to homicide bombings, praised Hamas founder Sheikh Yassim, who engineered the murder of over 500 Israelis in furtherance of his organization’s long-term goal to destroy Israel. After the Israeli Defense Forces killed him, a memorial service was held in London, an event attended by “moderates” like Muslim Council Secretary General Sir Iqbal Sacranie, who called Yassim a “renowned Islamic scholar,” an estimation shared by Inayat Bunglawala. Think about the implications: respected, Westernized “moderate” Muslims praise a terrorist murderer as an “Islamic scholar,” and we are supposed to believe that “fanatics” have “hijacked” and “distorted” Islam?

Or consider Dr. Yusuf Karadawi, a British Muslim theologian the mayor of London has praised as a “moderate.” Of course, on cue he will recite the usual  “condemnations” of terrorism, but always with his fingers crossed. Once more, Israel is the key to discerning the true beliefs of the “moderate.” Dr. Karadawi has stated that there are no civilians in Israel, that using children as homicide bombers is acceptable, and that the terrorists in Iraq murdering Americans, Brits, and Iraqis are “valiant.” The Muslim Council of Britain has described this apologist for murder as a “distinguished Muslim scholar, a voice of reason and understanding.”

The “moderates’” praise of those who murder Jews and want to destroy Israel is not surprising once the proper context of jihad is restored. The return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland has always been the key to understanding the modern jihad and its favorite tactic, the terrorist murder of innocents, which began long before Israel even existed. No event more testified to the weakness of Islam than the creation of Israel, for unlike the other nations crafted by England and France after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, Israel is a nation of former dhimmi, a people once conquered by Islamic armies and forced in every aspect of their daily lives to show their humiliation and subordination to Islam and Muslims. And the Jews who created Israel were Western to boot, their nation one embodying Western political principles and ideals antithetical to Islamic religious law. Thus Israel stands as a double affront to the Islamic world-view: a once conquered, debased people throwing off the shackles of dhimmitude and outstripping by every indicator of success and well-being the Islamic nations surrounding them, not to mention three times defeating larger Arab armies in battle. If Israel survives, what then of the Islamic religious world-view that sees the House of Islam as the divinely sanctioned ruler of the world?

Thus the modern jihad that seeks to reverse the contraction of the House of Islam and so fulfill the mandate of Allah must begin with Israel, and it is in that struggle between Jew and Arab that the battle-lines of jihad are most clear. And that’s why the “moderate” spokesmen for Islam in the West cannot let go of the Palestinian obsession: not because fellow Muslims are suffering, for many more Muslims have been killed by fellow Muslims in Jordan, in Sudan, and in Syria than the Israelis have killed while trying to defend themselves. No, the smokescreen of “Palestinian national aspirations” conceals the true fight: the jihad against the West, the civilization that for centuries trembled in fear at Muslim armies, and the spiritually debased peoples whom Allah has destined for conquest and subordination to the House of Islam.

As long as leaders in the West continue to confuse the true nature of the struggle, we will be at a disadvantage. The counter to a spiritual motive is not a material good, for man does not live by bread alone. Democracy, economic opportunity, an open society — all these were enjoyed by the London murderers, and they killed their fellow citizens anyway. Somehow we must find a way of articulating the spiritual good for which we fight, and stop reducing all causes to material or psychological ones. For centuries Christianity provided the spiritual goods and motivation needed to fight back against jihad and eventually reverse its momentum. With Christianity weakened into another life-style choice, particularly in Europe, what can take its place to steel us for doing what must be done to stop the slow death of the West by appeasement, indifference, and demography?

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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