Jihad Is Knocking: Another Episode in the War between Christendom and Islam

by Bruce S. Thornton

Private Papers

The slaughter in London is another grisly wake-up call that likely will go as unheeded as earlier ones. Already the standard narrative is being trotted out: evildoers created by what the New York Times predictably called the “root causes of terrorism”: autocracy, or economic stagnation, or Palestinian suffering, or globalization’s dislocations, or Western historical sins, or the war in Iraq (the cause will depend on the political prejudices of the pundit) have “hijacked” Islam and distorted its peaceful message. And now they are using Islam to justify murder in order to further their own ambitions or dysfunctional psychic needs. Given this explanation, so the story goes, we must be careful not to demonize all Muslims and assure them that we respect their religion and culture. The tale is then wrapped up with fierce threats against the terrorists and protestations of admiration for Islam.

Believing this delusion requires that one ignores fourteen centuries of Islamic jihad against the West, a war of conquest and colonization ratified by centuries of Islamic theology and jurisprudence. Indeed, what we call Islamic radicals are in fact Islamic traditionalists; it is the so-called “moderates” — those wanting to compromise Islam so it can coexist with Western ideas such as secular government, separation of church and state, and human rights — who are the radicals and innovators. The terrorists are simply fulfilling the traditional and orthodox command of their religion to battle the infidels who resist the revelation of Mohammed and the global socio-political order mandated by Islam.

Listen to one of the most respected and influential of Muslim clerics, Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, on the legitimacy of jihad: “It has been determined by Islamic law that the blood and property of people of Dar Al-Harb [the Domain of Disbelief where the battle for the domination of Islam should be waged] is not protected. Because they fight against and are hostile towards the Muslims, they annulled the protection of his blood and his property.” (See Andrew Bostom:).This interpretation is entirely consistent with fourteen centuries of Islamic theology and jurisprudence, which in turn is based on the Koran’s injunction to “slay them [infidels] wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter . . . . Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.” And this jihad is to continue “until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.”

Islam’s divinely sanctioned entitlement to global domination explains the symbolic value of the London attacks: one day after London was chosen to host the 2012 Olympics, and right in the middle of the G8 summit in Scotland. For both the Olympics and the G8 represent a global order that rivals Islam, one based on Western ideals and institutions, a social and political order in which Islam has no exalted position but is simply one religion among many. And, we should add, a global order whose notions of individual rights and secular government are incompatible with Islamic law.

So much is obvious — facts of the historical record. Yet listen to a respected historian in a conservative magazine: “Muslim holy wars (“jihads”), as taught in the Koran, were first and foremost a personal inner struggle for moral purity” and only secondarily a war against infidels. So all those Muslim armies that conquered the Christian Near East, North Africa, Egypt, Spain, Sicily, the Balkans, all that plunder, slaughter, rape, enslavement, kidnapping, and destruction were only the “secondary” jihad. How could such blindness to the obvious, masquerading as sophisticated “tolerance,” not arouse contempt in the minds of our adversaries? They tell us over and over that they are waging jihad in order to establish the global hegemony of Islam, and we tell ourselves that these Muslims don’t understand their own religion. Millions and millions of Muslims all over the world cheer for the jihadists and support them materially and psychologically, millions idolize bin Laden and celebrate the murder of Westerners, but we tell ourselves that they are a minority of confused souls whose minds have been addled by poverty or autocracy or anger over the Palestinians.

In any conflict it’s a good idea to take seriously the motives the enemy professes and not rationalize or explain them away in terms of your own cultural assumptions. The murderers we call terrorists are traditional jihadists, as much as were the first Islamic armies that swept away the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman civilizations of the Mediterranean. They are not going to be bought off with votes, a free press, more cable channels, Wal-Mart, or any other material good that to us constitutes the good life. They are fighting for a spiritual cause, the establishment of Islam as a global order in fulfillment of the will of Allah, and the reduction of all those who will not become Muslims to dhimmi, inferiors who acknowledge the superiority of Islam and the rightness of their subjection to it.

The next few weeks will show whether the British have advanced as far down the road of dhimmitude as have the Spaniards, who responded to the murder of their citizens not with the force and resistance their ancestors showed for seven centuries, but with fear and appeasement. As for us, we’d better discard our illusions that the jihadists, as Thomas Freidman put it, are “a cancer within the [Islamic] body politic” and accept instead that jihad just may be a vital organ. Then maybe we can see this war for what it is: one more episode in the long struggle between what used to be called Christendom and a religion of aggressive conquest and colonization.

©2005 Victor Davis Hanson

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