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WASHINGTON – Though most Muslims are tolerant and peace-loving, Islam itself is not a religion of tolerance, a former Muslim asserted.
Well-known activist and author Ayaan Hirsi Ali made the argument Monday at the National Press Club as security guards stood in the back of the ballroom. An outspoken critic of Islam, Hirsi Ali has been living under a fatwa, a religious ruling or in this case an order to kill, for years.
The Somali native addressed the question “Is Islam a Religion of Tolerance?” to highlight the political dimension of the widely practiced faith.
“I’m frustrated with the continuous belief and, I think, self-delusion that Islam is only a religion,” she said. “Islam is more than a religion. It does have a spiritual dimension ... but there is another dimension to Islam – a political dimension.”
In general terms, religious tolerance is understood to be the willingness to recognize and respect the beliefs and practices of others, she noted. But there are different levels of tolerance, she added.
“For instance, if you oppose smoking you may think of yourself as tolerant of smokers but it’s different when you allow a smoker in your house ... to smoke,” the now atheist pointed out.
The Prophet Muhammad defined the state of peace and tolerance as a moment when the entire world submits to Allah and embraces Islam, said Hirsi Ali, who fled from her Muslim family and an arranged marriage in her early twenties and sought asylum in the Netherlands.
“That word ‘peace,’ ‘tolerant’ is not defined in Islam as you define it in the West,” she clarified. “It doesn’t mean ceasefire or compromise. That’s temporary.
In Islam, the way to achieve peace is through settlement, jihad, and the institution of sharia (Islamic law), she explained.
And before the state of universal Islamization, “it is the duty of every Muslim male to wage war” – not just by carrying weapons but by preaching and persuading, she added.
“The proposition that Islam is tolerant is not only fallacious but it’s also dangerous,” Hirsi Ali underscored.
Citing four main sources of Islamic jurisprudence, including the Quran and the Hadith, the former Muslim said she found explicit commands to conquer and guidelines of how to go about that. The sources also describe in detail how Muhammad, who carried out over 60 military campaigns, defeated his enemies. She also found war tactics, the concept of deception, legislation on crime prevention, punishment of behavior such as the hanging of apostates and the stoning of adulterers, and laws governing family matters such as divorce and marriage.
While U.S. policymakers focus their attention on armed militias such as Al-Qaeda and Hamas, other groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and nongovernmental organizations – which have “postponed” violence and chosen a method of preaching, settling and slowly infiltrating – are being overlooked, she noted.
“The idea that Islam is [of] peace, tolerant and compatible with Western political theory and values, I think, seems to be useful more as a strategy and not as a pursuit of the truth,” she maintained.
That strategy, she explained, is as follows: Given the fact that there are over a billion Muslims in the world, that the world is globalizing at a fast pace, and that America is a model empire (that doesn’t wipe out enemies), we (the U.S.) should practice self-restraint and use political skills, diplomacy and tools of persuasion until we’re able to get around the conflict.
“The hope is we will be able to pacify Islam.”
Nothing, she said, angers Muslim elites more than the criticism of Islam. Unlike with other faith groups, Muslims do not appreciate the questioning of the moral perfection of the Quran and Muhammad.
Though an atheist, Hirsi Ali has advocated for the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. Clarifying her position on Monday, she said she supported “opening up the competition.”
“[Muslims] want to have complete monopoly on Muslim immigrants who first came to the U.S. not to spread Islam, not to settle or infiltrate but to lead normal, peaceful lives,” she said. “For them to incorporate all the diverse ethnic groups, they need to get ... to them fast and convince them of sharia agenda.”
“What we can do is open up competition,” she continued. “In a country like the United States, you are free to peddle your political theory or philosophy. We are going to go to those same communities and educate them on other competing ...philosophies and challenge [the] principles of Islam. You can start that competition as a Christian, as a humanist, as a feminist.”
Hirsi Ali is open to Christians converting Muslims because Christianity has “evolved from absolutism to tolerance, to compassion, to peace,” she said.
She has found that most people do not want to be an atheist.
“I’m only acknowledging that the Christian God has gone through the reformation, has gone through enlightenment,” she added. “In general, things have evolved to the point where I think that the Christian religion, especially as it is practiced in the West, is much more attractive and far less dangerous than the Islamic God. [KH: not true, God has always been the same God.]
“Given the fact that this is almost a losing battle because we are not taking them (Muslims) on ... and given the fact that there are very moderate Christians who offer that combination of a spiritual satisfaction with modernity and the respect and sacredness of life, liberty and human rights, I think it would be wrong and neglectful not to involve Christians to go after that demography of 1.57 billion Muslims who today, I think, many of them are seeking a concept of God and are now only getting Allah.”
Hirsi Ali’s appearance comes just weeks after she participated in a debate on whether Islam is a religion of peace at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Her latest book, Nomad: From Islam to America – A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations, was released this year.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – The mood was light Tuesday evening – thanks to leg-swinging praise music – when Lausanne III participants wrestled with the difficult topics of reconciliation in the Middle East, HIV/AIDS, and human trafficking.
Speakers gave hopeful messages of how God is moving and bringing hope despite addressing some of the darkest and seemingly most hopeless situations in the world today.
The Middle East, which has become almost synonymous with violence and Islam, is experiencing an unprecedented level of Muslims becoming followers of Jesus Christ, said Sam Yeghnazar, founder of Iran-focused Elam Ministries. There were only about 500 Iranian Christians from a Muslim background at the time of Lausanne I in 1974, he said. But over the past 30 years, more Muslims have come to Christ than in the past 1,300 years.
“Iran today is a closed land with countless open hearts,” said Yeghnazar. “It is the most open nation to the Gospel in the entire world. Tens of thousands of Iranians are turning to Christ.”
“Betrayed by the government, disillusioned with the religion, depressed by the prospects of the future, Iranians when they come to know the Lord Jesus Christ are completely transformed,” he said. “They proclaim Christ in the marketplace. Entire families, men and women, are coming to Christ.”
Two weeks ago, two of Yeghnazar’s people were imprisoned and within a week they brought six people to Christ, he shared.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Christian Salim (last name withheld for security reasons), spoke about hope for true peace in the Middle East through Christ. By understanding Jesus’ death on the cross, Palestinian Christians “shy away from the poison of hatred” and are compelled to explain to the world about peace and justice.
“Anchoring our identity in the messiah, we can open our hearts to angry Muslim neighbors and to fearful Jewish soldiers behind check points,” said Salim. “[There is] a divine one who can change stone hearts to flesh.”
The theme for Tuesday at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa, was reconciliation. Each day, the program focuses on a theme that determines what plenary speakers will present and what small dialogue groups will discuss. Themes for the conference include truth, world faiths, priorities, and integrity.
In addition to addressing reconciliation in the Middle East, Tuesday evening’s plenary session also spotlighted the global issues of human trafficking and HIV/AIDS.
A moving video was shown of a young Cambodian woman (her face was not shown due to the sensitivity of the subject) who was rescued from a brothel in Thailand. At the young age of 16, she was tricked into working as a sex slave. She was drugged, beaten and raped for four-and-a-half years, at times forced to have sex with as many as ten men in one day. But she and other girls at her brothel were rescued and taken to a World Vision trauma recovery center for women and children who are victims of sexual abuse. There she has received counseling, vocational training, health care and has begun her spiritual journey to know Jesus Christ.
Tuesday’s program concluded with the inspiring stories of two Christians living with HIV. Christo Greyling, a South African who now lives in the Netherlands, and Princess Kasune Zulu of Zambia, shared about their journey of finding out that they are HIV positive. Their inspiring yet challenging stories demonstrated how a disease meant to destroy a person can be used for God’s glory.
“Many times when we hear of HIV or AIDS we think of people who are already dying, but in many cases there are people like me who are healthy, who have so much to offer,” said Zulu. “We as a Church are called to be the hope for those who feel hopeless.”
The HIV/AIDS advocates challenged the global church to be at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS battle and to show unconditional love and reconciliation to people with HIV/AIDS who are in desperate need of comfort and hope.
More than 4,000 Christian leaders representing over 190 nations have gathered for Lausanne III, also known as Cape Town 2010. The purpose of the Lausanne Congresses is to bring the global body of Christ together to discuss how to best evangelize the world. The Congress also will discuss global problems facing the Church, including secularization, Islam, HIV/AIDS, prosperity gospel, and environmental concerns, among other topics. The conference program will conclude Sunday.
Shhhhhhh, we’re told. Don’t protest the Ground Zero mosque. Don’t burn a Koran. It’ll imperil the troops. It’ll inflame tensions. The “Muslim world” will “explode” if it does not get its way, warns sharia-peddling imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Pardon my national security-threatening impudence, but when is the “Muslim world” not ready to “explode”?
At the risk of provoking the ever-volatile Religion of Perpetual Outrage, let us count the little-noticed and forgotten ways.
Just a few months ago in Kashmir, faithful Muslims rioted over what they thought was a mosque depicted on underwear sold by street vendors. The mob shut down businesses and clashed with police over the blasphemous skivvies. But it turned out there was no need for Allah’s avengers to get their holy knickers in a bunch. The alleged mosque was actually a building resembling London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. A Kashmiri law enforcement official later concluded the protests were “premeditated and organized to vitiate the atmosphere.”
Indeed, art and graphics have an uncanny way of vitiating the Muslim world’s atmosphere. In 1994, Muslims threatened German supermodel Claudia Schiffer with death after she wore a Karl Lagerfeld-designed dress printed with a saying from the Koran. In 1997, outraged Muslims forced Nike to recall 800,000 shoes because they claimed the company’s “Air” logo looked like the Arabic script for “Allah.” In 1998, another conflagration spread over Unilever’s ice cream logo — which Muslims claimed looked like “Allah” if read upside-down and backward (can’t recall what they said it resembled if you viewed it with 3D glasses).
Even more explosively, in 2002, an al-Qaida-linked jihadist cell plotted to blow up Bologna, Italy’s Church of San Petronio because it displayed a 15th century fresco depicting Mohammed being tormented in the ninth circle of Hell. For years, Muslims had demanded that the art come down. Counterterrorism officials in Europe caught the would-be bombers on tape scouting out the church and exclaiming, “May Allah bring it all down. It will all come down.”
That same year, Nigerian Muslims stabbed, bludgeoned or burned to death 200 people in protest of the Miss World beauty pageant — which they considered an affront to Allah. Contest organizers fled out of fear of inflaming further destruction. When Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel joked that Mohammed would have approved of the pageant and that “in all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them,” her newspaper rushed to print three retractions and apologies in a row. It didn’t stop Muslim vigilantes from torching the newspaper’s offices. A fatwa was issued on Daniel’s life by a Nigerian official in the sharia-ruled state of Zamfara, who declared that “the blood of Isioma Daniel can be shed. It is abiding on all Muslims wherever they are to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty.” Daniel fled to Norway.
In 2005, British Muslims got all hot and bothered over a Burger King ice cream cone container whose swirly-texted label resembled, you guessed it, the Arabic script for “Allah.” The restaurant chain yanked the product in a panic and prostrated itself before the Muslim world. But the fast-food dessert had already become a handy radical Islamic recruiting tool. Rashad Akhtar, a young British Muslim, told Harper’s Magazine how the ice cream caper had inspired him: “Even though it means nothing to some people and may mean nothing to some Muslims in this country, this is my jihad. I’m not going to rest until I find the person who is responsible. I’m going to bring this country down.”
In 2007, Muslims combusted again in Sudan after an infidel elementary school teacher innocently named a classroom teddy bear “Mohammed.” Protesters chanted, “Kill her, kill her by firing squad!” and “No tolerance — execution!” She was arrested, jailed and faced 40 lashes for blasphemy before being freed after eight days. Not wanting to cause further inflammation, the teacher rushed to apologize: “I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone, and I am sorry if I caused any distress.”
And who could forget the global Danish cartoon riots of 2006 (instigated by imams who toured Egypt stoking hysteria with faked anti-Islam comic strips)? From Afghanistan to Egypt to Lebanon to Libya, Pakistan, Turkey and in between, hundreds died under the pretext of protecting Mohammed from Western slight, and brave journalists who stood up to the madness were threatened with beheading. It wasn’t really about the cartoons at all, of course. Little-remembered is the fact that Muslim bullies were attempting to pressure Denmark over the International Atomic Energy Agency’s decision to report Iran to the UN Security Council for continuing with its nuclear research program. The chairmanship of the council was passing to Denmark at the time. Yes, it was just another in a long line of manufactured Muslim explosions that were, to borrow a useful phrase, “premeditated and organized to vitiate the atmosphere.”
When everything from sneakers to stuffed animals to comics to frescos to beauty queens to fast-food packaging to undies serves as dry tinder for Allah’s avengers, it’s a grand farce to feign concern about the recruitment effect of a few burnt Korans in the hands of a two-bit attention-seeker in Florida. The eternal flame of Muslim outrage was lit a long, long time ago.
by Marvin Olasky
This year Sept. 11 came right in the middle of Ramadan, the month of daylight fasting for Muslims. Booked to fly out of New York’s JFK airport on the seventh anniversary of the tragedy, I could expect a business-as-usual tone, and why not: War in Iraq and economy troubles at home have drastically affected some of us, but many Americans have had seven fat years since the shock of 9/11.
With memories of horror fading, the Empire State Building—thanks to Islamic terrorists it moved up from third to first place in the list of Gotham’s tallest buildings—is scheduled at the end of this month to light up green to honor Islam: Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, begins in North America on the evening of Sept. 30.
The ESB’s light-up is ironic but not evil. It merely means that Americans don’t tend to be imprisoned in the past, as many in the Middle East are. Many Muslim Shiites still stoke their anger about a dispute in 680 a.d. that led to the death of the man they claim was Islam’s rightful leader. America’s mediocre national memory can be an advantage when we keep no record of wrongs, but we need to understand those who do.
To many Muslims 9/11 was part of the yo-yo story line of the past 14 centuries. Their perspective begins with Islam’s seventh-century advance in western Asia and northern Africa. Then came a Christian (using the word loosely) counterattack via the Crusades and in Spain. Centuries later came a Muslim counterattack through Constantinople and all the way to the walls of Vienna.
Meanwhile, Muslims were picking up eastern adherents in lands now called Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and Christians began a flanking movement through voyages of exploration and imperialism. Competition continued into the 20th century, when Christians garnered adherents in the Americas and Africa—but Allah gave Muslims an edge by giving them lots of oil (after Americans first made it into something of importance).
“Christians” have now counterattacked in Iraq and Afghanistan, but may have overextended in the process. In America we expect wars to end quickly, and a “Hundred Year War” sounds slightly ridiculous—but what about a 1,400-year war? Seven years without another Islamic terrorist attack in the United States? That’s like a day in the eye of radical Islam.
The Bible is not like the Quran. Sure, several Old Testament passages call for killing those in the path of conquest, but those are descriptive historical accounts related to the conquest of Canaan over 3,000 years ago, not open-ended prescriptions for current conduct. The Quran, though, has over 100 prescriptive statements like Sura (chapter) 3:151, “We shall put terror into the hearts of unbelievers”; or 9:123, “Fight the unbelievers who are near to you”; or 47:4, “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks.”
The good news is that the Quran has nearly 100 references to Jesus (“Isa” in Arabic). If Muslims go beyond the Quran to find out more about Isa, and if patient and respectful Christians have the opportunity to teach about Him, the world will change. Sura 5:51 says, “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for friends.” Therein lies a key difference in understanding history: Christians should take Muslims for friends. Christians should have neither a centuries-old memory for wrongs nor a designation of some people as enemies, because God can change them into friends.
That’s why our chief foreign policy objective for the Middle East should not be democracy but liberty, particularly the liberty to talk about Isa and show Muslims where they can read much more about Him. We need to understand Muslim views of history and not fall into them, as we do when we start talking about inevitable clashes of civilizations.
The real clash is within each individual, and that makes our current conflict not a World War IV but something more like World War I, a tragic war that could have been avoided had arrogance not been in the saddle, riding mankind. We need to pray that God will somehow break through to teach more Muslims the gospel of grace—and that He’ll school more Christians to live by that gospel.
In church yesterday, as you celebrated Easter, did you notice anything—or anyone—unusual?
In churches all over the world, there were millions of people celebrating the resurrection of Christ, who were not there just a few years ago—because they were worshipping in a mosque instead.
It is thrilling evidence that God is doing a mighty work among Muslims.
According to the website Islam Watch, in Russia, some two million ethnic Muslims converted to Christianity last year. Ten thousand French Muslims converted, as did 35,000 Turkish Muslims. In India, approximately 10,000 people abandoned Islam for Christianity.
In his book Epicenter, author Joel Rosenberg details amazing stories of Muslims converting to Christianity. In Algeria, the birthplace of St. Augustine, more than 80,000 Muslims have turned to Christ in recent years. This, despite the stiff opposition from Islamic clerics who have passed laws banning evangelism.
In Morocco, newspaper articles openly worry that 25,000 to 40,000 Muslims have become followers of Christ in recent years.
The stories are even more amazing in the heart of the Middle East. In 1996, the Egyptian Bible Society sold just 3,000 video copies of the JESUS film. In the year 2000, they sold an incredible 600,000 copies.
In Sudan, as many as five million Muslims have accepted Christ since the early 1990s, despite horrific persecution of Christians by the Sudanese government. What is behind the mass conversions? According to a Sudanese evangelical leader, “People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead.”
In Iraq, “More than 5,000 Muslim converts to Christianity have been identified since the end of major combat operations,” says Islam Watch. And just a few days ago, the first-ever Roman Catholic church was consecrated in Qatar, a Sunni Muslim state where the Wahhabi brand of Islam is practiced. This was the first time Christians in Qatar have been allowed to practice their faith openly. Ten thousand people attended the opening mass.
These conversions have not escaped the notice of Islamic leaders. In 2001, Sheikh Ahmad Al Qatanni, a leading Saudi cleric, delivered the disturbing news on Al-Jazeera: Every day, he said, “16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity . . . every year, that is six million Muslims becoming Christians . . . A tragedy has happened.” It is possible the sheikh was inflating his numbers to incite a reaction against Christianity. But clearly, something is happening.
How thrilling to learn that so many Muslims have been set free from the chains of their sins—just as you and I have—by the power of Christ’s blood! We must pray for these new brothers and sisters; many are being violently persecuted for their new-found faith.
These millions of conversions give us one more reason to rejoice this Easter season. Yes, we may be in a great clash of civilizations; battling Islamo-fascists who threaten to kill us. And the future may at times look bleak. But never despair: God is on His throne, bringing people into His kingdom from the very heart of Islam.
The Western church’s growing tendency to blur theological differences and not uphold the absolute truth is contributing to the threat of radical Islam to the Western world, said a highly respected expert on Islam.
Patrick Sookhdeo, the director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, said churches are moving away from central doctrines that teach about separation and instead conforming to secular society’s ideology of inclusion.
“When faced with the uniqueness of Christ we become inclusive. He loves everybody so we talk about love, and hell and damnation goes out the window,” said Sookhdeo. “It becomes too embarrassing. So our church has conformed itself according to society.”
Sookhdeo – a former Muslim and advisor to British, American and NATO military officials on jihadist ideology – recently spoke to 1,500 people at Focus on the Family (FOTF)’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., about the threat of radical Islam to the Western world. The event was broadcasted in two parts by FOTF this week, the last part of which aired on Wednesday.
Christians are afraid to admit that only believers in Jesus Christ will be saved and others – Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists – are lost, because that would be arrogance in a society dominated by secular humanist ideology, Sookhdeo argued.
“If the U.S. church goes the way of Europe and embraces liberalism in its theology then it will embrace liberalism in its life,” said the British Anglican canon. “And if it embraces liberalism in its life then the church will die and not only will the church die, but society around it will also die.”
“What worries me is this,” he added. “I say this to churches in Britain. I can’t say it of the U.S. Is the Lord taking His candlestick from Britain and from Europe? Is the Lord saying: ‘I’m going to vomit you out of my mouth, because your sickness is beyond cure? You are so taken with other gods, you have prostituted yourself enough. I’m finished with you.’ It is a question and a question we must address, not just in Europe but here also.”
Islam is one of these gods which Christians are embracing, said Sookhdeo.
The Islam expert acknowledged in the beginning of the program that Muslims are diverse and emphasized that there is “chaos within Islam” where its own members kill one another.
Some Muslims live peacefully among Westerners while others like Al-Qaeda want to “blow us up to bits.” While some Muslims say our religion is one of peace, the Koran has been used throughout history to justify violence.
“How do we compute, not just the hundreds, not thousands, but the tens of thousands who are dying within a religion that claims to be unified and claims to be a religion of peace?” Sookhdeo asked.
Muslim extremism is not a single movement but multiplicity of movements with different motives – some ethnic while others purely religious – but all united by faith against the West, he explained.
The method of attack is also diverse with some choosing to enter the Western system of government to change it to their agenda, and others using money, the “petrodollar,” to buy media outlets such as television and newspapers to shape the way people think.
Sookhdeo noted that the top 200 U.S. companies are sharia (Islamic law) complied. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has tried to influence the American education system by donating tens of millions of dollars to top U.S. universities.
“Others use violence, but there is not a single approach but a multiplicity that we need to discern,” said the expert.
He noted that Muslim extremists don’t distinguish between Christians in the West and those in the Middle East and that they are seen as “being one of the same thing.”
“We are in a spiritual battle…it is not just the great powers lining up all the technologies, but we understand and interpret the world in an altogether different ways,” Sookhdeo said. “If there is a solution, it’s a spiritual solution, a Christian solution.”
The much-sought-after Islam expert concluded with hope saying that for the first time in history, there are more Muslims than ever before who are becoming Christians.
“There is a movement across the Muslim world and no country is left out … where there are not now people being saved,” he said encouragingly to a room of applause. “We are not in a position of defeat actually; the church is growing at a fair pace within the Islamic world. We have to thank God for that.”
Sookhdeo – who is also the director of the Barnabas Fund which works with the persecuted church – repeatedly urged Christians in the West to remember the persecuted church and to pray, support and lobby the government on her behalf. But he also called on Americans to learn from the persecuted church.
“There is considerable disillusionment within the Muslim world and I think violence which we see … is producing an inner hunger within many Muslims for reality,” Sookhdeo said. “The danger is at the very time we should be holding fast to our faith and onto our foundation and sharing those, the temptation is to weaken our position, to weaken it, and embrace the other.”
“So I want to say if we are going to fight this battle and fight it spiritually then we have to look at our own spiritual lives – our dedication to the Lord, our theological, our moral and spiritual and then move into prayer where we can deal with Satan … Of course I believe in love. But I think in our serious condition we need a new generation of prayer warriors with the prophets of God.”
COMMENT by a reader:
One really doesn’t have to look much further than understanding Arab culture to recognize that the premise presented here is 100% correct.
In Arab culture, it is a sign of weakness or inferiority if one backs downs, compromises or capitulates. As such, the culture demands that the stronger party should dominate the weaker party. What’s more, the weaker party should expect it and accept it as Allah’s will.
Accordingly, peace accords do not work - they are a sign of compromise. Moral relativism - the same. Pluralism - the same.
Interesting side note regarding any treaty made with Muslim/Arab cultures - according to their understanding of their Koran, it is perfectly acceptable to sign a treaty with “infidels” even as a ruse. It is further expected that the Muslim/Arab parties to the treaty would then break the treaty for several reasons:
1. They believe that it is the will of Allah that weaker parties be made subordinate.
2. The simple signing of the treaty signaled a weakness or compromise on the part of the infidel.
3. Agreements with infidels are not to be honored and lying to them in order to subjugate them is acceptable so long as it furthers the cause of Islam.
Al-Maqdesi & Solomon
Much is being stated regarding the boycott of Denmark because of a cartoon drawing allegedly depicting the prophet of Islam.
The crisis began last September 2005 when Jylland Posten, a Danish Newspaper, published cartoon drawings one of which depicted Muhammad as a terrorist. Subsequently these very cartoons appeared in a Norwegian daily, too.
Soon there were demonstrations of protest by Muslims in Denmark and number of Islamic countries against the publishing of the cartoons.
However, last week there began a series of reactions in Arab and Islamic countries protesting against the publishing of Danish drawings. For example, on 30 January 2006, a number of armed Palestinian stormed the offices of the European Union in Gaza demanding an apology from Denmark and Norway.
Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Denmark and Libya followed likewise. The Libyan foreign ministry issued a communiqué stating that Libya had decided to take economical measures against Copenhagen as protest for the failure of Danish authorities to take any measures against the Newspaper Jylland-Posten.
The Syrian foreign office issued a strong worded statement denouncing this prolonged offence against both Arab and Islamic communities. The statement added that Syria calls upon the Danish government to take the necessary steps to punish the culprits and to see that such offences are not repeated in the future.
In Jordan the Danish ambassador was summoned by Abdallah Al-Khatib, Minister of foreign Affairs to express Jordan’s protest. While the Egyptian Parliament called upon its government to withdraw its ambassadors from Denmark and Norway.
While the Hezbollah in Lebanon described the drawings as a grave offence to Islam.
Along the same line significant number of Kuwaiti religious scholars called upon the members of the Kuwaiti parliament to see how to put an end to such offences against the feelings of Muslims.
The Arab foreign ministers denounced the Danish government for its refusal to take any action against the newspaper, expressing their disappointment with the European Human Rights organizations that have in their view failed to take a firm pro-Islamic position in this case.
On the other hand, hundreds of Kuwaitis demonstrated in front of the Danish consular offices demanding an apology from the Danish government to apologise to all the Muslims, calling to stop the insult to their Prophet and the Islamic religion as well as encouraging the people of Kuwait to boycott all Danish products.
In Yemen the protestors demanded the boycott of both Norwegian and Danish products until such time they apologise for the publishing these offensive pictures of their prophet.
While in United Emirates Muhammad Bin Nakhyara A’zahiri the Minister of Justice, Islamic affairs and endowments criticised the drawings depicting the prophet as an immoderation and excess of all acceptable intellectual norms and in no way it could be regarded as freedom of expression as stated by the Danish authorities.
Almost everywhere in the Gulf businesses have withdrawn Danish products from their stores and major outlets in Saudi displayed notices stating ‘we do not sell Danish products.’
People all over the Arab World wrote messages encouraging each other to boycott Danish goods.
Why such a severely escalated reaction by Arab and Islamic countries to some cartoon drawings? Despite the regret and apology expressed by the Newspaper.
Logic must be challenged with logic, and reason must never be allowed to be silenced by the sword and violence of corporate punishment, a boycott of products of a country or a withdrawal of ambassadors and the burning of flags..
This kind of suppression of freedom of expression has no place in the free Western society.
What is ridiculous yet disappointing, those zealots for Islam think that they would punish the West by imposing a policy of corporate humiliation and starvation in order to demand respect for Islam gagging all and every voice of opposition.
Our question to those who are demanding the boycott of Danish and Western goods is – what if the West were to cut them off from supplying their products, aid, security and protection, both medical and technical expertise, deny educating their children, and cut off their protection security!
Why this bias to what has happened in Denmark and the refusal to see or hear what the mass media in the Arab and Islamic world has and continues to publish and broadcast in offensive and insulting lingo and the undermining of the rights of Jews, Christians and their religious beliefs? Shouldn’t justice and injustice be the same for all?
Do we understand by this reaction and peppery response of the Arabs and Muslims towards the cartoon artist that anything that might offend or vilify a certain religious group would be punitive!
If the true reason behind the rage and the reaction of the Muslims is their concern for equal respect of all religions and its icons, then shouldn’t the Jews and the Christians be entitled for the same reasons to be enraged and file an international law suit against the Qur’an for its incitement against the Jews and the Christians, and their humiliation propagated by it?
Could his majesty, the King of Saudi, clearly state to the Westerners generally and Danes particularly, both required to respect Islam, who is it that sura 1:7 is referring to “on whom Allah has bestowed his wrath and those who have gone astray”.
Aren’t they the Jews and the Christians?!
Would the Muslims kindly inform the West and the Westerners who are required to respect Islam? Who is it that is being referred to in sura 7:176, “his similitude is that of a dog, if you attack him he lolls out his tongue or if you leave him alone he still lolls out his tongue that is the similitude of whose who reject our signs”?
Isn’t this a corporate reference to the Jews?
And then few verses further 7:179, states “many are the jinns and men we have made for Hell, they have hearts they understand not, eyes wherewith they see not, and ears wherewith they hear not. They are like Cattle nay more misguided for they are heedless.”
Again all Islamic expositors and their manuals say that it is the Jews that are being referred to here.
Not only as dogs, cattle but now donkeys as per sura 62:5 “the similitude of those who were charged with the Mosaic Law but who subsequently failed in those (obligations) is that of a donkey which carries huge tomes. Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the sings of Allah. And Allah guides not people who do wrong.”
“As if they were affrighted asses”, sura 74:50
“those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine” sura 5:60, godless and iniquitous as per Sura 2:59, 5:25,47; unjust and transgressors, Sura 5:45; hypocrites, 63:8; apostates, 9:30, 4:155, 171; polytheists 9:28,30. And they are the ones who corrupted and tampered with the Scriptures, 2:75ff, 4:46, and 3:78; worshipped their leaders as gods, sura 9:31; spread corruption on earth, 5:33,64.
How can respect of the other - meaning the non-Muslims - be achieved when the Qur’an depicts them with most humiliating terms?
Is it out of respect that the Qur’an describes the non-Muslims as profane; sura 9:28 “O ye who believe, truly the pagans (non Muslims) are profane so let them not after this year of theirs approach the sacred Mosque.” Thus Mecca remains exclusively an Islamic city, non-Muslims barred.
The Qur’an declares the Christians have been declared as apostates for their belief in the divinity of Christ by the Qur’an. So, based on this, would it be appropriate for the USA to confiscate and censor all the Islamic books and arrest whosoever of the Muslims reiterates that? If the USA were to require Muslims to delete or abstain from publishing the verses of the Qur’an that declares Christians to be apostates, what would be the reaction of Muslims?
How would they describe the USA?
As stated above, the Qur’an declares the Jews to be monkeys and swine and that they worship Ezra … so would it be appropriate for the Jewish State to arrest Muslims with the charge of incitement of racial and religious hate and forbid them publishing and distributing Islamic books or the Qur’anic verses that despise the majority in the Jewish State?
How can the Muslims demand from others to respect Islam and their beliefs and their religious icons while the Qur’an commands the humiliation and the killing of non-Muslims for simply not embracing Islam as their religion, Sura 9:29?
The publishing of cartoon drawings has been regarded and taken as an affront to Islam, how would they describe the Qur’anic injunctions that incite Muslims towards hate and murdering the other, i.e. the non-Muslims?
Can his royal Majesty, the king of Saudi Arabia, state to Westerners generally and to the Danes particularly of whom it is required to respect Islam that all Muslims are required and commanded by Allah in the Qur’an to hate all the Jews and the Christians of the World?
“O ye who believe do not take the Jews and the Christians as your friends … 5:51
Who are these Jews and Christians that the Qur’an forbids the Muslims taking them as friends? Were they the Jews and the Christians of the time of the Prophet? Or are they the Jews and the Christians of every age and every generation past, present and the future?
If the application of this injunction was limited only to the time of Muhammad; then does that mean it is no longer effective and applicable for our time and generation?
But if it is effective now and today would that not mean it is to be seen as a direct incitement of hate towards the Jews and Christians?
Could it be then that because of this verse as a basic and fundamental factor the result is a very poor relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims?
Don’t the Muslims know the continued petitioning of Allah daily and especially on Fridays, a cursing that is pronounced from the pulpits of Mosques on the Jews and the Christians:
O Allah may you make the apostates against each other and the polytheists against their likes and bring out the Unitarians from them safely, with their spoils, O Lord of Worlds, O Allah. May their women be widowed, may their children be orphaned, may their blood freeze in their veins, may their food be stuck in their inner testines. O Allah, destroy them make their miseries strong among them, O Allah grant us victory over them, O Allah send your punishment on them, bring division in the midst of their union, scattering them, disseminating their numbers. O Allah, grant us victory over them. O Allah may their snares be slaughtered and be scuttled within themselves. O Allah show us your power. O Mighty One and the Vanquisher, O Allah show us in them a dark day as in the day of A’ad and Thamud. O Allah, quake the earth under their feet, O Allah empower venomous creatures over them and send hail storms over them as you did over A’ad and Thamud and deliver them as captives in the hands of your believing slaves and humiliate the polytheists and, O Allah, lift up the banner of Islam …
Why is it right and legal for Muslims to criticise, denounce, slander and vilify all other religions in any way they choose, particularly the Jews and Christians? However, if one were to respond by examining Islam critically the Muslims would consider that an abuse and vilification of Islam and would demand an apology, and even after the apology is given there will be no guarantee that the culprit would live.
Can it really be that critique of others is a virtue, an allowed action, halal and even obligatory for the Muslims but a vice and forbidden or haram for a non-Muslim?
Why don’t we look more closely into what led to these cartoon drawings...?
Art, as we know, is a subjective perspective of what one perceives from one’s point of view: What the cartoonist saw was the butchering of innocent people according to the Shari’ah, torture and assassinations by human bombs, car booms. Suicide missions whose victims were and continue to be innocent men, women and helpless children. Indiscriminate killing, no distinction between military and civilian, old or young, man or woman, including babies, chopped heads, burnt bodies, human flesh fragmented, screaming children, wailing women, and all this in the name of Islam and the victory for Muslims.
We ask those who desire to punish the West by boycotting its products who is truly responsible for the marred image of Islam, not only in the West but worldwide? Aren’t they those who kill and maim in cold blood, aren’t they the followers of Islam?
Who was responsible for the bombing of New York, Madrid, London, Riyadh and Cairo, … and the list can go on and on.
One wonders, who is the real culprit who imparted this image of Islam? Is it the Danish cartoon artist or the Muslim Mujahedeen?
After all this, do the Muslims still have the audacity to demand from others – the non-Muslims – to respect Muslims and Islam?
What justification and right do they have to object and demonstrate and demand that this is not freedom but an offence and vilification of Islamic sanctities?
LAST MONTH, Islamic radicals threatened to kill actor and Muslim convert Omar Sharif. Sharif had recently played St. Peter in an Italian TV film and spoke highly of the role, saying that he “seemed to hear voices” during filming and that “it will be difficult for me to play other roles from now on.” Although Sharif’s comments seem innocuous, they prompted a death threat. According to the Adnkronos International news agency, a message on a web forum which has been used by al Qaeda in the past linked to another website that threatened Sharif’s life. The website containing the threat said, “Omar Sharif has stated that he has embraced the crusader idolatry. He is a crusader who is offending Islam and Muslims and receiving applause from the Italian people. I give you this advice, brothers, you must kill him.”
This incident is relatively minor in the grand scheme of the war against radical Islam, but telling. It provides another glimpse into the Islamists’ single-minded fanaticism and their willingness to punish any type of ideological non-conformity.
THE THREAT AGAINST Sharif largely fell below the media’s radar. Indeed, aside from a few high profile examples—such as the fatwa directed at Salman Rushdie after he published The Satanic Verses and last year’s slaying of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh—the mainstream media has given little coverage to the widespread Islamist assault against free speech.
While the public has not forgotten the Rushdie fatwa, our collective memory of the incident’s seriousness has faded. In
fact, a number of physical attacks connected with the fatwa occurred in the West. The Wikipedia entry on Salman Rushdie explains:
At the University of California at Berkeley, bookstores carrying [The Satanic Verses] were firebombed. . . . Muslim communities throughout the world held public rallies in which copies of the book were burned. In 1991, Rushdie’s Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, was stabbed and killed in Tokyo, and his Italian translator was beaten and stabbed in Milan. In 1993, Rushdie’s Norwegian publisher William Nygaard was shot and severely injured in an attack outside his house in Oslo. Thirty-seven guests died when their hotel in Sivas, Turkey was burnt down by locals protesting against Aziz Nesin, Rushdie’s Turkish translator.
The van Gogh murder further extended this battle against free speech. Shortly before his death, van Gogh directed a film called Submission, which was designed to dramatize the mistreatment of women born into Muslim families. In response, Islamic radical Mohammed Bouyeri murdered van Gogh on November 2, 2004, shooting him six times before slitting van Gogh’s throat with a kitchen knife and then using the knife to impale a five-page note to his chest.
While the Rushdie and van Gogh incidents are the two most prominent attacks on critics of Islam in the last two decades, they are only part of a broader trend. The note that Bouyeri gruesomely tacked to Theo van Gogh’s chest also threatened Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch MP from a Somali Muslim background. By that time, however, death threats were old hat to Hirsi Ali. She has said in an interview that she was living underground just weeks before her 2003 election to the Dutch parliament because of comments she had made in a televised debate.
According to Hirsi Ali, she was provoked during that debate and ended up blurting out, “It’s my religion, and my culture, and I can call it backward if I want.” But the real problem, insofar as the radical Muslims who threatened Hirsi Ali were concerned, wasn’t her criticism of Islam, but her admission that she had left the faith. Many Muslims believe that apostasy from Islam is punishable by death, and the threats that Hirsi Ali received drove her into hiding.
A little over two months after van Gogh’s murder, Islamic extremists struck again in the Netherlands. In January 2005, the Moroccan-Dutch painter Rachid Ben Ali was forced into hiding after one of his shows featured satirical work critical of Islamic militants’ violence. The combination of this and the van Gogh murder caused even the New York Times to ask, “Can angry young Muslims dictate what is and is not acceptable in the traditionally open-minded world of Dutch arts? In the last few weeks, it appears the answer has been yes.”
Sadly, the paper also reported that in response to this effort to impose an agenda by brute force, “[a] few people have quietly asked if self-censorship might be acceptable to keep the social peace.”
MOVING BEYOND THE NETHERLANDS, many others living in the West have been threatened for speech that allegedly offends Islam. In 2001, author Khalid Durán produced a book called Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews for the American Jewish Committee. Shortly before the book’s publication, the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued two press releases insulting Durán and demanding that his book be withheld until a group of CAIR-approved academics could review it “for stereotypical or inaccurate content.”
Daniel Pipes reported that a number of Islamic publications followed CAIR’s lead by attacking Durán’s book, with the charges against the volume escalating with each retelling. Thus, Cairo’s Al-Wafd condemned Durán for “spread[ing] anti-Muslim propaganda” and for his “distortions of Islamic concepts.” By early June 2001, ‘Abd al-Mun’im Abu Zant, a powerful Islamist leader in Jordan, declared that Durán “should be regarded as an apostate” and called for a fatwa that “religiously condones Durán’s death.” (CAIR, incidentally, did not condemn Abu Zant for seeking this fatwa. Instead, it brazenly criticized the American Jewish Committee for publicizing Abu Zant’s remarks.)
Both the Rushdie affair and the threats against Durán show how technology has indeed made the world smaller: They are examples of Middle Eastern Muslims attempting to stifle the speech of those who live in the West. The internet has hastened such efforts. In late January, I uncovered a password-protected Arabic-language website, Barsomyat.com, that was frequented by Middle Eastern Muslims, predominantly Egyptians. The purpose of Barsomyat.com was to systematically track Christians who were active in religious debates against Muslims on the internet chat service PalTalk. Barsomyat featured pictures of these Christians (some of which were obviously obtained by hacking into the Christians’ computers) along with death threats and attempts to track down the subjects’ physical addresses. Even Barsomyat.com’s banner showed the website’s intentions toward Christians, as it pictured a sheep—obviously intended to represent Christianity—getting its throat slit.
NOT SURPRISINGLY, THE ISLAMIST attack on free speech is even more successful outside of the West. There are numerous examples of people in the Middle East and elsewhere being silenced or seriously threatened because of allegedly offensive speech. In 2002, for example, the governor of Nigeria’s Zamfara state issued a fatwa calling for the death of journalist Isioma Daniel after she suggested that, had Prophet Muhammad been alive, he may have wanted to marry one of the beauty queens at the 2002 Miss World pageant. After Daniel’s article, riots by Muslim youths left more than 100 dead and 500 injured, and the pageant’s organizers were forced to move it out of Nigeria. Daniel appears to be living in hiding to this day.
Another example is Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, who had a fatwa issued against her in 1993 after the publication of her novel Lajja (Shame), which depicted the persecution of Bangladesh’s Hindu minority. The Hindustan Times recently reported that Nasreen “had to leave the country overnight to save her life and his been on [the] run since then.”
UNFORTUNATELY, WE IN THE WEST haven’t always been vigilant about standing behind speech rights. Too often, when Islamists threaten free expression, some Westerners clamor to make excuses for them. In 1997, for example, Salman Rushdie and novelist John le Carré had a high-profile feud in the letters section of the Guardian. In the course of the feud, le Carré said that Rushdie bore the responsibility for the bounty on his head because “there is no law in life or nature that says that great religions may be insulted with impunity.”
Beyond the apologists, Western legal systems are often confused about the intersection of free expression and religion. Religious vilification laws, for example, are counterproductive because they signal that the slander of a religion can be punishable by law.
Standing up for free speech in the face of religious fanaticism should be automatic for anybody who understands the classical liberal principles upon which Western society was built. Unfortunately, it seems that many Westerners either fail to understand these principles, or else fail to grasp the reality of the threat. Ultimately, it is Salman Rushdie’s response to John le Carré that encapsulates the consequences of not recognizing the current Islamist attack on free speech: “John le Carré is right to say that free speech isn’t an absolute. We have the freedoms we fight for, and we lose those we don’t defend.”
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a Washington, D.C.-based counterterrorism consultant and attorney. Raphael Satter provided research assistance for this article.
Since 1995, no one in France has had access to more secret intelligence about a coming racial earthquake and the tsunami it would trigger than Dominique de Villepin.
After serving as chief of staff to President Chirac for seven years, Mr. de Villepin became foreign minister in 2002, interior minister in 2004 and prime minister in 2005. He is in line to succeed Mr. Chirac in the presidency itself in 2007.
In all his high-ranking posts, Mr. de Villepin read warnings from the DST, the French FBI, and Renseignements Generaux (RG), an intelligence service that monitors public opinion, about deteriorating conditions and rising anger in Muslim slums of major cities.
Former French intelligence chiefs, like their opposite numbers in other European Union countries, complain, albeit off the record, their political masters adopted the ungainly posture of the proverbial ostrich — and then expressed surprise when they got kicked in the most obvious place.
France’s internal intelligence agencies reported in the last two years that 40% of the imams in France’s 1,000 principal mosques had no religious training and downloaded material from pro-al Qaeda Web sites for their Friday sermons. The fiery harangues were designed to attract young jobless Muslims to the mosques — and extremist causes many imams espoused.
The tinder had long been in place. All it required was the match that was struck Oct. 27 when two Muslim gang teenagers, running from what they believed was a police chase, stumbled into a power substation and triggered their own electrocution.
Satellite dishes protrude from almost all apartments in the cankerous Muslim housing projects. The Qatar-based Al Jazeera reaches ‘hoods in Europe’s Muslim and sub-Saharan African suburbs. For the last two years youngsters have been proselytized via the Internet to become jihadis for the Iraqi insurgency. They use the Internet to locate mosques in Syria and Jordan where they can find shelter on the way to Iraq, as well as places to report for training and combat assignments.
There are more than 4,000 pro-al Qaeda Web sites, most of them online since September 11, 2001. Some European Muslim jihadis, bearing European passports, have returned from Iraq with new guerrilla and bomb-making skills.
The French government has deliberately downplayed, even denied, any connection between nationwide riots and torching of automobiles, schools, and even churches and the jihadi phenomenon. Jean-Louis Debre, speaker of the National Assembly and mayor of Evreux, called the unrest “a true episode of urban guerrilla” warfare.
A curfew and a state of emergency restored a semblance of calm after some 9,000 vehicles were torched from the Channel to the Mediterranean, but few believed it was more than a momentary truce. French philosopher Jean Baudrillard told a U.S. interviewer, “It will get worse and worse and worse.”
Much as the authorities try to avoid lending credibility to Islamist influences, the cops on the beat say Islamist beliefs coupled with desperation over a hopeless future are a major motivating factor. The young Muslims scoff at their parents for accepting menial jobs and belong to criminal gangs with a religious identity to feed their drug habits and steal mobile phones. And since Oct. 27, they tell each other their neighborhoods are Baghdad in France.
Gang leaders can also see that the left in France — socialists, communists, Greens and intellectual elites — sympathizes with them and blames tough Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who called them “racaille” (or riff-raff, not the widely quoted “scum”). Le Monde, France’s leading liberal publication, said “the stupidity of teenagers” was “an answer to the provocations of Sarkozy.”
The left ignores riots to emphasize “police harassment” and refers to drug trafficking as a “parallel economy.” Lawless zones, says philosopher Jean-Francois Mattei, become “sensitive neighborhoods.”
L’Humanite, the communist newspaper, wrote, “Sarkozy’s arrogance evidently knows no limits,” explaining, “after having deliberately lit the fuse, he happily surveys the damage.”
Michael Radu, co-chairman of the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, says, “For many years, in the Paris region, Islamist ideology has tried to take advantage of unemployment and unrest. ... Now, youths crying ‘God is great’ rampage and demand that areas where Muslims form a majority be reorganized on the basis of the millet [religious community] system of the Ottoman Empire, with each millet enjoying the right to organize its life in accordance with its religious beliefs.
“In parts of France,” says Mr. Radu, “a de facto millet system is already in place, with women compelled to wear the hijab and men to grow beards; alcohol and pork products forbidden; ‘places of sin’ such as movie theaters closed down; and local administration seized.”
Suddenly “big brothers” — devout bearded men from the mosques in long, traditional robes — place themselves between the authorities and the rioters in Clichy-sous-Bois, calling for order in the name of Allah. This is not coming through in print or electronic reporting from France. Muslims are 10% of France’s 60 million, but they are between 60% and 80% of major cities’ prison populations.
Similar developments in other European Union countries are not a matter of if but when, say their security service chiefs. Tragically for the Continent, EU’s Eurocrats, in a fit of political correctness, are in deep denial about “Islamist terrorism.”
Already forgotten is a European Commission report on a “crisis of identity” among young European Muslims whose radicalization is “a modern kind of dictatorship,” where the Internet, universities and mosques are recruitment tools.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.
As if in answer to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s call for an international conference on Islamic extremism Wednesday, another round of bombs have terrorized London. Though few appear to have been injured, no thanks to the terrorists, we cannot let the severity of terrorist acts dictate the appropriate response. International conferences might not be the answer, but Mr. Blair is right to call on the Muslim communities in the West to confront their own radicals.
Indeed, the rise of European — and to a lesser extent American — Islamofascism seems to discredit the argument that democracy is a deterrent to terrorism. If Muslims in democratic societies are inherently less radicalized than the fundamentalist or dictatorial regimes in the Muslim world, then why is Europe seething with radical Muslims? Why, for instance, are British Muslims bombing their own capital? To understand why, we must revisit a central component of the Bush Doctrine, which focuses on eradicating international terrorism.
Our efforts to take democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan would be in vain if not for the support of the native Muslim populations. The United States could have provided the structure for January’s elections in Iraq, for example, but it couldn’t have forced Iraqis to the polls. Similarly, the Bush administration hopes that once democracy takes hold in the Middle East, it will spread throughout the region. But the United States cannot force Arab or North African Muslims to embrace freedom and denounce terrorism.
Fortunately, recent political reforms — such as the elections in Iraq and pro-democracy movements in Iran, Lebanon and elsewhere — suggest that the theory is working, maybe. A recent Pew poll finds that support for suicide bombings in Lebanon has dropped from 73% in the summer of 2002 to 39% today. Though the trends aren’t all positive, it’s reasonable to believe that four years after September 11 the Arab world is beginning to show tentative instincts for positive change. Whether that continues, however, will depend on the commitment and courage of Arab Muslims.
Which brings us back to the central question: As young Muslims in the Arab world take up the call for reform, why have their counterparts in Europe regressed to hatred? The reasons are several and not at all simple, but one key reason lies within the organizations that claim to represent Muslims in the West. When terrorists strike a Western target, for example, the response from Muslim groups usually follows a standard script. First, they condemn the terror as a departure from true Islam; then, invariably they worry of a “backlash” against moderate Muslims by angry Westerners. Then, nothing. In the relative calm between attacks, these organizations, typically the U.S.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, have perfected the politics of victimhood. For all their bluster that bin Ladenism is a departure from the Koran, they seem relatively unconcerned about removing its taint from their ranks.
In one positive development, the case of the London bombers has caused Iqbal Sacranic, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, to ask: “The [Muslim] community across the country condemns such [terrorist] activities, but beyond that what have we been doing?”
A good question. Forstarters, Mr. Sacranic can begin by denouncing fellow Muslims like Hani Sibai, director of London’s Al-Magreze Center for Historical Studies, who said on July 8 that the London bombings were “a great victory for [al Qaeda]. It rubbed the noses of the world’s eight most powerful countries in the mud.” This is according to the translation of an Al-Jazeera television interview by the Middle East Media Research Institute. It’s no surprise that not a single Muslim organization in the West has criticized this Islamic scholar, who lives in London.
Nor have Muslim organizations been particularly concerned about “moderate” Qatar-based imam Sheik Yusuf al Qaradawi, whose visit to London next month has become a national controversy. Should the Muslim Council of Britain host a man who calls regularly for the destruction of the “usurper Jews, the vile crusaders [i.e., Christians] and infidels”? What about condemning Omar Bakri Mohammed, whom London Mayor Ken Livingstone calls “a leading progressive Muslim”, a man who blames Londoners for the July 7 attacks? It would be no small victory for moderate Islam if Mr. Sacranic supported a decision by the British government to disinvite Mr. al Qaradawi, as well as to denounce “progressives” like Mr. Bakri Mohammed.
Instead, Muslim leaders have allowed radicals to thrive in their communities, preaching hate and galvanizing the younger generations to murderous acts. That’s either because the leaders of these mosques and organizations at heart feel that way themselves or — and we hope this is the explanation — they are intimidated by these radical elements. As Iraqis, Lebanese and Iranians have shown, intimidation can be overcome, but first it requires leadership — a leadership that is sorely lacking in today’s Muslim communities in the West.
From the July 25, 2005 issue: There may be more to fear from a mosque in Leeds than a madrassa in the Middle East.
THE JULY SUICIDE BOMBINGS IN London—some or all of whose perpetrators were Muslims born and reared in Britain—are likely to produce in the United Kingdom the same intellectual reflection on Muslim identity in Europe that is already underway in nearby countries. The French began this reflection in earnest ten years ago, after bomb-happy, lycée-educated, French-born Islamic holy warriors terrorized France. The Spanish began it after their own train bombings in March 2004, and the Dutch after the brutal slaying of the film director Theo van Gogh by a Muslim militant in November 2004. Quite likely the British will reach the same conclusion the French already have, to wit: Islamic terrorism on European soil has its roots in the Middle East. “British Islam”—the behavior and spiritual practice of Muslims in the United Kingdom—it will be said, is by and large a progressive force standing against pernicious and retrograde ideas emanating from the Middle East. There are big problems of acculturation at home in mother England, all will confess, but the holy-warrior mentality is imported.
This view, however, may turn out to be dead wrong. What was once unquestionably an import has gone native, mutated, and grown. Some of what the Europeans are now confronting—and for the United States this is very bad news—is probably a locally generated Islamic militancy that is as retrograde and virulent as anything encountered in the Middle East. “European Islam” appears to be an increasingly radicalizing force intellectually and in practice. The much-anticipated Muslim moderates of Europe—the folks French scholar Gilles Kepel believes will produce “extraordinary progress in civilization,” a new “Andalusia” (the classical Arabic word for Moorish Spain) that will save us from Osama bin Laden’s jihad—have so far not developed with the same gusto as the Muslim activists who have dominated too many mosques in “Londonistan” and elsewhere in Europe. Moderates surely represent the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe, but like their post-Christian European counterparts, they usually express their moderation in detachment from religious affairs.
Though Europeans often fail to see it, the secularization of the Muslims living in their midst has been, by and large, a great success. It explains why Muslim activists gain so much attention, be they arch-conservatives, like the devotees of the Tabligh movement in Britain and on the continent who espouse segregation in Europe, or “progressives,” like the Switzerland-based intellectual Tariq Ramadan, who refuses forthrightly to declare the Muslim Holy Law null and void as a political testament for Muslims in a European democracy. The moderates have abandoned the field. They have become European. The militants, who perhaps should be seen as deviants from a largely successful process of secularization, are the only ones left ardently praying.
For organizations like al Qaeda, this may mean that the future will be decisively European. From its earliest days, al Qaeda viewed Europe as an important launching platform for attacks against the United States and its interests. Now, Western counterterrorist forces, which have traditionally tried to track Middle Eastern missionaries in Europe, would be well advised to start searching for radical European Muslim missionaries in the Middle East and elsewhere. Some Europeans—and they are mostly French—have seen the future. Always ahead of his time, the French scholar Olivier Roy has written:
When we consider the [Islamic] movements that embrace violence, we can see that they are not expressions of an outburst in the West of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict in the Middle East. Most of the young Muslims radicalize in the West: They are “born-again Muslims.” It’s here that they are Islamicized. Almost all separate from their families and many have marriages with non-Muslims. Their dispute with the world isn’t imported from the Middle East: It is truly modern, aimed against American imperialism, capitalism, etc. In other words, they occupy the same space that the proletarian left had thirty years ago, that Action Directe had twenty years ago. . . . They exist in a militant reality abandoned by the extreme left, where the young live only to destroy the system. . . . [This radicalization] isn’t at all the consequence of a “clash of civilizations,” that is to say, the importation of intellectual frameworks coming from the Middle East. This militant evolution is happening, in situ, on our territory. It partakes henceforth of the internal history of the West.
Roy may overstate the autonomy of Islamic radicalism in Europe from the militancy in the Middle East; he surely diminishes too much the religious ingredient in the emerging radical Muslim European identity. But my own visits to numerous radical mosques in Western Europe since 9/11 suggest that he is more right than wrong about the Europeanization of Islamic militancy. The Saudis may pay for the mosques and the visiting Saudi and Jordanian imams, but the believers are often having very European conversations in European languages. In France, Belgium, or Holland, sitting with young male believers can feel like a time-warp, a return to the European left of the 1970s and early 1980s. Europe’s radical-mosque practitioners can appear, mutatis mutandis, like a Muslim version of the hard-core intellectuals and laborers behind the aggrieved but proud Scottish National party in its salad days. These young men are often Sunni versions of the Iranian radicals who gathered around the jumbled, deeply contradictory, religious left-wing ideas of Ali Shariati, one of the intellectual fathers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s “red-mullah” revolution of 1979, and the French-educated ex-Communist Jalal Al-e Ahmad, who became in the 1960s perhaps the most famous theoretician of Muslim alienation in the Western world.
The Shiite parallel is also pertinent since it elucidates the motives of Sunni believers who see murder as a martyr’s expression of devotion to God. The thousands of Iranians who gleefully went to their deaths in suicidal missions against the Iraqis in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war did so in part, as the Franco-Iranian scholar Farhad Khosrakhavar has written, because the “liberty to die as a martyr served to maintain the phantasm of revolutionary possibilities.” Death is both the ultimate expression of a very Western idea of individual freedom and self-creation and a very Islamic conception of self-abnegation before God’s will. Talk to young radical Muslims in Europe—young men who in all probability have no desire whatsoever to kill themselves or others for any cause—and you can often nevertheless find an appreciation of the idea of martyrdom almost identical to the Iranian death-wish of yesteryear. In the last three centuries, Europe has given birth and nourishment to most of mankind’s most radical causes. It shouldn’t be that surprising to imagine that Europe could nurture Islamic militancy on its own soil.
In Europe as elsewhere, Westernization is the key to the growth and virulence of hard-core Islamic radicalism. The most frightening, certainly the most effective, adherents of bin Ladenism are those who are culturally and intellectually most like us. The process of Westernization liberates a Muslim from the customary sanctions and loyalties that normally corralled the dark side of the human soul. Respect for one’s father, an appreciation for the human need to have fun, a toleration of eccentricity and naughty personal behavior, the love of art and folk music—all are characteristics of traditional mainstream Muslim society wiped away by the arrival of modernity and the simultaneous spread of sterile, esthetically empty, angry, Saudi-financed Wahhabi thought. In this sense, bin Ladenism is the Muslim equivalent of Western totalitarianism. This cleaning of the slate, this break with the past, is probably more profound in the Muslim enclaves in Europe—what Gilles Kepel called les banlieues de l’Islam—than it is in the urban sprawl of Cairo, where traditional mores, though under siege and badly battered by modernity, nevertheless retain considerable force. Cairo gave us Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s great intellectual; it’s not unreasonable to fear that London or Paris or Berlin will give us his successor.
This view understandably receives a poor reception in Europe. Most intellectuals and politicians would prefer to see Islamic terrorism in Europe as a by-product of accumulated foreign grievances. There are the aftershocks of the second Algerian civil war—the guerre à outrance that started in 1991 between the Islamists and the election-aborting military regime—and especially the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, which most in the European intelligentsia have viewed as the spur to Islamic radicalism and the cause of the bad blood between the Arabs and the West. The American war against Saddam Hussein in 1990-91 exacerbated the division between Islamic militants in Europe, who for the most part opposed an infidel “invasion” of Iraq, and European governments, which (often tepidly) backed the American-led ejection of Saddam from Kuwait. This view reappeared in Western Europe with the Second Gulf war against Saddam in 2003. European domestic peace was thus increasingly held hostage by American foreign policy, especially America’s wars and its unwillingness to force Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. Talk to European counterterrorist officials and they go apoplectic enumerating the ways America, notably the Bush administration, has made their work more difficult.
Although some of the reasons put forth by Europeans to explain their Muslim problems are undoubtedly valid, a wise U.S. counterterrorist policy would downplay the external causes of Islamic activism in Europe. We should prepare for the worst-case scenario and assume that European society itself will continue to generate the most lethal holy warriors. In doing so, American officials should be skeptical of their own ability to identify through profiling which Muslim Europeans might engage in terrorism against the United States. Stamps in passports indicating travel to Middle Eastern countries can’t tell you much, since holy-warrior pilgrimages are not required to fortify jihadist spirits and networks. Living in London, Leeds, or Manchester can be more than enough.
This means, of course, that the Bush administration ought to preempt fate and suspend the visa-waiver program established in 1986 for Western Europeans. It is true that consular officers were a poor frontline defense before 9/11 against Muslim extremists trying to enter the United States. But the United States would be safer with some screening mechanism, however imperfect, before Europeans arrive at our borders. The transatlantic crowd in Washington—the bedrock of America’s foreign-policy establishment—might rise in high dudgeon at the damage this could do to U.S.-European relations. The State Department’s European and consular-affairs bureaus might add that they no longer have the staff to handle the enormous number of applicants. Ignore them. American-European relations were just fine when we required all Europeans to obtain visas before crossing our borders. Consular officers are among the most overworked personnel in the U.S. government. So draft poorly utilized personnel from the Department of Homeland Security until the consular corps at the State Department can grow sufficiently. Issuing visas to Europeans would be an annoying inconvenience for all; it would not, however, be an insult. Given the damage one small cell of suicidally inclined radical Muslim Europeans could do in the New York City or Washington metro or on Amtrak’s wide-open trains, it’s not too much to ask.
THERE IS GOOD NEWS from Europe, however. By now, Great Britain and the United States should have been struck repeatedly by cells of Europeanized Muslims. The training and education required for such attacks is minimal. It is difficult not to conclude that we have avoided this calamity because al Qaeda and its allied extremist groups have so far been somewhat lame in recruiting militants in Europe, even though the pool of possible recruits, given the enormous social and economic problems within its Muslim communities, ought to be fairly large. One catastrophic hit (the London attacks don’t qualify) is certainly enough to skewer our entire perspective on what constitutes successful recruitment operations. Nevertheless it is astonishing how poorly al Qaeda and its friends have done in Europe. We have the war in Iraq, which according to most terrorist experts, Republican realists, Democratic senators, and just about every European expert on Islam has been a boon to jihadist recruitment worldwide. We also have the supposed boon to the Islamists from our ignominy at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, plus the very evident friendship between President Bush and the villain of all villains, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. And yet the attack on London’s transportation system is the best that the holy warriors can do to punish the Anglo-American infidels for their sins in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere?
And what isn’t happening in Europe isn’t happening either in Iraq. If the Bush administration weren’t so rhetorically maladroit, it might point out that the Islamist holy war against us in Iraq is going rather poorly. Jihadist suicide bombers have inflicted significant losses upon us and especially upon the Iraqi people, but again what is striking about the Iraq campaign, as about jihadist recruitment efforts in Western Europe, is how few holy warriors have come calling. Historically, Afghanistan was a sideshow, while Mesopotamia is at the center of both Arab and Muslim history. In the fundamentalist imagination, the former Soviet Union was a distinctly smaller devil than insidious America, which has been central to Islamist ideology since the collapse of Britain as a world power. Diehard “Arab Afghans” in the Soviet-Afghan war could regularly complain about how weak support was for the mujahedeen in Muslim, and especially Arab, lands.
Yet if one compares the number of Muslim volunteers who went to fight the Soviets (and let us assume that no more than 10,000 went, most of them after 1984, even though many analysts think the number of “Arab Afghans” was much higher) with the highest figures one hears for foreign holy warriors in Iraq (one to two hundred entering Iraq each month), the result is astonishing, and for would-be jihadists depressing. Traveling to Iraq from anywhere in the Arab world is easy. Language isn’t a problem. Iraqi Sunni Arab fundamentalist groups are much better plugged into the larger Arab Sunni world than were their Afghan Islamist counterparts in the 1980s. The Syrian government, and probably others in the region, would love to help all comers. We should have seen by now thousands of holy warriors coming to Iraq. Suicide bombers have clouded our accounting by magnifying the individual commitment of each jihadist and the damage he can do.
We can only guess why Iraq has been so much less of a draw than Afghanistan. A reasonable guess, however, is that the Muslim, and especially Arab, world doesn’t have its heart in this fight. Although Sunni Arabs rarely rose to denounce Saddam Hussein’s slaughtering of Arab Shiites and Kurds, they knew full well the horrors of his rule. Although many are loath to say so publicly, they know the American invasion of Iraq and George W. Bush’s rhetoric in favor of democracy have shaken the established order in the Arab world, and they are content to see it so. This is probably as true for Arab Sunni fundamentalists as it is for Arab liberals. Both, in their own ways, want to overturn the status quo. Emotions about Iraq, and the rise of democracy within its borders and beyond, are too complicated and conflicted to produce any broadly popular and effective global jihad against the Americans.
There is no satisfying, expeditious answer to Europe’s Muslim problems. If Olivier Roy is right—European Islam, for better and for worse, is now independent of the Middle East—then democracy could come to Muslims’ ancestral homelands even as a virulent form of Islamic militancy persisted for years in Western Europe. But the intellectual and family ties with the Middle East are probably still sufficient to ensure that if the Middle East changes for the better, the ripples will quickly reach Europe. The democratic discussion in the Middle East, which is often broadcast through media headquartered in Europe, is becoming ever more vibrant and powerful. If Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt begins to give way to democracy, it’s a very good bet that the discussion in every single mosque in Western Europe will be about the popular triumph and the democratic experiment beginning in the Arab world’s most important country.
Amid all the ensuing political and religious debates and arguments, in the expectant hope that other dictators would fall, al Qaeda and its allied groups might find it even harder to attract recruits who would incinerate themselves for a revolutionary ideal increasingly at odds with reality. If the Bush administration wants to help Europe, it should back as forcefully as possible the rapid expansion of democracy in the Middle East. It would be a delightful irony if the more progressive political and religious debates among the Middle East’s Muslims saved their brethren in the intellectually backward lands of the European Union.
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.
As an editor at the National Post, I often rely on three letters to protect my columnists from human-rights tribunals: I-S-M — these being the difference between spelling Islam and Islamism.
The former is a religion — like Christianity or Judaism. The latter is an ideology, which seeks to impose an intolerant fundamentalist version of Islam on all Muslims, and spread the faith throughout the world. Declaring Islamism a menace isn’t controversial. Declaring Islam a menace is considered hate speech.
Geert Wilders’ refusal to deploy those three letters is the reason that the 47-year-old Dutch politician travels with bodyguards, and cannot sleep in the same house two nights in a row. For Mr. Wilders, the problem plaguing Western societies is Islam, full stop. Terrorism, tyranny, the subjugation of women — these are not perversions of Islam, as he sees it, but rather its very essence.
“The word ‘Islamism’ suggests that there is a moderate Islam and a non-moderate Islam,” he told me during an interview in Toronto on Sunday. “And I believe that this is a distinction that doesn’t exist. It’s like the Prime Minister of Turkey [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, said ‘There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam, and that’s it.’ This is the Islam of the Koran.”
“Now, you can certainly make a distinction among the people,” he adds. “There are moderate Muslims — who are the majority in our Western societies — and non-moderate Muslims.”
“But Islam itself has only one form. The totalitarian ideology contained in the Koran has no room for moderation. If you really look at what the Koran says, in fact, you could argue that ‘moderate’ Muslims are not Muslims at all. It tells us that if you do not act on even one verse, then you are an apostate.”
Unlike most critics of Islam, who tend to shy away from the explosive subject of Mohammed himself, Mr. Wilders forthrightly describes the Muslim Prophet as a dictator, a pedophile and a warmonger. “If you study the life of Mohammed himself,” Mr.Wilders told me, “you can see that he was a worse terrorist than Osama bin Laden ever was.”
It is an understatement to call Mr. Wilders a divisive figure in the Netherlands. On the one hand, he is the leader of the PVV, the country’s third most popular political party — which currently is propping up the ruling minority government. And Mr. Wilders has been declared “politician of the year” by a popular Dutch radio station, and come in second in a variety of other mainstream polls.
On the other hand, the Muslim Council of Britain has called him “an open and relentless preacher of hate.” For a time, Mr. Wilders was even banned from entering the U.K. A popular Dutch rapper wrote a song about killing Mr. Wilders (“This is no joke. Last night I dreamed I chopped your head off.”)
Before meeting Mr. Wilders on Sunday, I knew him mostly from his most inflammatory slogans — such as his comparison of the Koran to Mein Kampf — which his detractors fling around as proof of his narrow-minded bigotry.
Yet the real Geert Wilders speaks softly and thoughtfully. It turns out that he’s travelled to dozens of Muslim nations. He knows more about the Islamic faith and what it means to ordinary people than do most of Islam’s most ardent Western defenders.
Nor do I believe that Mr. Wilders is a bigot — a least, not in the sense that the word usually is understood.
“I don’t hate Muslims. I hate their book and their ideology,” is what he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in 2008. Mr. Wilders sees Islam as akin to communism or fascism, a cage that traps its suffering adherents in a hateful, phobic frame of mind.
Mr. Wilders describes Muslim as victims of bad ideas, in other words. In this way, his attitude is entirely different from classic anti-Semites and racists, who treat Jews and blacks as debased on the level of biology.
Of course, in the modern, politically correct Western tradition, hatred expressed toward a religion typically is held on the same level of human-rights opprobrium as hatred expressed toward a race or an ethnicity. But Islam is not really a religion at all, as Mr. Wilders sees it, but rather a retrograde political ideology with religious trappings.
He notes that while other religions draw a distinction between God and Ceasar, between the secular and the spiritual, Islam demands submission in every aspect of human existence, both through the wording of the Koran itself and the Shariah law that has developed in its shadow. The faith also supplies a justification for aggressive war; vilifies non-believers; and pronounces death upon its enemies. In short, Mr. Wilders argues, it has all the ingredient of what students of 20th century history would recognize as a fully formed totalitarian ideology.
“I see Islam as 95% ideology, 5% religion — the 5% being the temples and the imams,” he tells me. “If you would strip the Koran of all the negative, hateful, anti-Semitic material, you would wind up with a tiny [booklet].”
It’s easy to see why many Europeans casually jump to the conclusion that Mr. Wilders is a hatemonger. He wants to halt non-Western immigration to the Netherlands until existing immigrants can be integrated, and he wants to deport any foreigner who commits a crime — the same sort of policies as those advocated by genuine xenophobes.
But even so, his insistence on the proper distinction between faith and ideology is an idea that deserves to be taken seriously. For it invites the question: If we permit, and even encourage, the excoriation of totalitarian cults created by modern dictators, why do we stigmatize, and even criminalize, such excoriation in the case of arguably similar notions attributed to a 7th-century Bedouin taking what is claimed to be divine dictation?
It’s a good question. And as far as I know, Geert Wilders is the only Western politician taking it seriously.
Islamic fundamentalism is being allowed to flourish at universities, endangering national security, MPs and peers say.
Islamic fundamentalism is being allowed to flourish at universities, endangering national security, MPs and peers said yesterday.
Academics are turning a blind eye to radicals because they do not want to spy on students, a report claimed.
Despite “damning evidence” of a serious problem, little progress had been made in tackling the unsustainable situation, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Homeland Security said.
They urged the Government to tackle the issue on campuses with “utmost urgency”.
Such extremism “endangers our security at home and has international implications that are serious enough to threaten our alliance relationships”, said the group, which includes the former home secretary Lord Reid.
Secret files obtained by The Daily Telegraph and WikiLeaks disclosed this week that at least 35 terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay were indoctrinated by extremists in Britain.
The leaked documents, written by senior US military commanders, illustrated how Britain effectively became a crucible of terrorism over the course of two decades.
The parliamentary group was set up two years ago to carry out research into homeland security issues.
Its inaugural report comes after a separate inquiry by the umbrella organisation for universities earlier this year said animal rights extremists posed a greater problem than Islamist radicals.
Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said it could do very little about extremism on campus. Instead it issued new guidance on the importance of freedom of speech. Their report followed the attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a former student at University College London, to blow himself up using a bomb in his underpants as a flight came in to land at Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009.
Abdulmutallab, an engineering student, was the Islamic Society president from 2006 to 2007.
The parliamentarians’ report said Britain’s homeland security strategy failed to address in sufficient detail how to tackle the threat of extremism at universities, how to strengthen businesses’ ability to deal with a terrorist attack and how to ensure security over the internet.
The report said some universities and colleges had become sites where extremist religion and radicalism could flourish “beyond the sight of academics”.
They also noted that there was a “reluctance to co-operate with the police on the part of some universities that did not want to be seen to be ‘spying’ on their students”.
The MPs and peers said universities presented a “unique challenge”. However, “in some cases [they] evidently struggle to establish the correct balance between academic freedoms and university authorities’ responsibilities as part of ensuring homeland security.”
In the report, entitled Keeping Britain Safe, the MPs and peers said the problem of universities as places of radicalisation required “urgent and sustained attention by the new Government”.
Several witnesses had flagged up “serious problems” evident in universities and the issue was of “grave concern.” The problems they cited included examples of extremist preachers being invited on to campuses.
Abdulmutallab was only one in a long line of university students to become involved in terrorism.
A recent survey found that 31 per cent of those convicted of terrorist-related offences had attended university and 10 per cent were still students when they were arrested. Two of the July 7 bombers had been students.
Think tanks have highlighted a succession of extremist speakers invited to deliver lectures unopposed at university Islamic societies, including UCL.
Westminster University recently elected students with links to the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir as president and vice-president of the student union.
The report also raised “significant concerns” over unregulated foreign funding of universities. It said that, in many cases, the funding had a political purpose and could have direct effects upon the institutional structure, curriculum, appointments and the schedule of events.
The London School of Economics was among the controversial recipients of foreign aid, accepting a donation of £1.5 million from a trust controlled by Col Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif.
The report quoted one witness, Prof Anthony Glees, of Buckingham University, who said Arab and other foreign governments had ploughed £240 million into Islamic studies courses at universities over the past 10 years.
The report said the role of businesses in preparing for emergencies such as terrorist attacks was “highly problematic”.
The Government’s new counter-terrorism strategy will aim to “prevent the import and dissemination of extremist written material and speech which promotes hatred” on campus, the report said.
“These are welcome initiatives which must be implemented forcefully,” the MPs added. “This complex subject requires further attention. It has been an obvious and neglected problem for too long and must be tackled as a matter of utmost urgency.”
The report also found that the processes behind the National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) were “deeply unsatisfactory”.
“Too much was done in too little time, consultations were not extensive enough and it presents a lost opportunity for a sophisticated debate about internal and external defence,” it said.
Bernard Jenkin, the group’s chairman, said: “The NSS and SDSR are not a satisfactory basis for the UK’s homeland security strategy for the next five years.”
Followers of one of the fastest-growing radical Muslim terror groups are being told to steal, embezzle and seize property – especially from Americans – in order to finance their jihad.
While Muslim teaching generally forbids theft, the new edition of Inspire magazine — launched by the group behind the air cargo printer bombs in October, the underwear bomb plot in December 2009 and the most recent pre-Christmas alert — is now telling followers that such crimes are justifiable, especially if the U.S. government and U.S. citizens are targets.
In the fourth edition of the magazine, launched by Al Qaeda in Yemen in July, American-born radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki encourages his disciples to fund more attacks through crime. The Middle East Media Research Institute provided Fox News with its copy of the magazine.
“In an attempt to deal with the cash-shortage jihadist groups are facing, Al-Awlaki gives religious justification to any actions used by jihadists to obtain money. In the article, titled ‘The Ruling on Dispossessing the Disbelievers’ Wealth in Dar Al-Harb,’ he deals with the issue by ruling that Western countries are considered Dar Al-Harb, i.e. the territory of war, countries on which the rules of war apply,” says an analysis from media research group.
“Since this is the case, Al-Awlaki says Muslims living in the West are not bound by any laws or contracts that prohibit them to harm their countries of residence.”
Intelligence analysts are also keying in on the magazine’s emphasis on the recruitment of women as suicide bombers. One analyst who gathers intelligence from publicly available sources told Fox News that the online magazine dovetails with a new Web video where the al-Awlaki’s lectures are used to voice over still pictures of women preparing for battle.
“The video glorifies the role of Muslim women in battle. Each frame of the lecture is accompanied by women. Each section has a photo of women preparing for battle, carrying arms, as part of terrorist groups,” said the analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It is definitely a recruiting film for women willing to sacrifice themselves.”
The video ends with a still photo of the Russian “Black Widow” who blew herself in the Moscow subway March 2010.
Analysts also note that the leading articles in the latest edition of the magazine are all written by Americans. In addition to al-Awlaki, there is Samir Khan. U.S. officials believe the North Carolina native is behind the look and layout of the magazine. There is also a piece by Adam Gadahn. The California native is a longtime mouthpiece for the Al Qaeda senior leadership in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
In the magazine, Al Qaeda in Yemen once again takes credit for last year’s attempted cargo bombing. The magazine’s tone is disrespectful when it asks under a picture of a frowning President Obama, “Lemme guess, you’re UPS’d?” — a reference to one the cargo companies where a printer bomb was planted.
Both devices were intercepted before they could be detonated, but British authorities said at least one device was timed to blow up over the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.
Superman had his Bizarro World. You and I now have Islamerica. Where up is down, left is right, hot is cold, and the First Amendment is getting a thorough scrubbing and security check. After all, freedom of speech is just so old. It was written so many years ago. We really do need to rethink that. After all, people’s feelings are at stake.
In Islamerica, you have freedom of speech so long as what you say does not offend Muslims. Take Derek Fenton, the New Jersey transit worker, who burned a few pages of the Koran on Saturday, September 11. He chose to do so in front of the proposed Ground Zero mosque site in New York. Police quickly escorted him away, presumably for fear his actions would send already rambunctious protesters into a rabid frothing frenzy. On Monday, Fenton went to his New Jersey state job and received his pink slip. He was fired. For weekend behavior in another state.
Derek Fenton became a casualty of the new Islamerican rethinking of the First Amendment. Fenton lost his job for distasteful behavior on his weekend. According to the New Jersey officials, he violated their employee code of ethics. First, who knew the state of New Jersey had a code of ethics? Second, does that code of ethics provide a list of things that state workers cannot do on their own free time during a weekend? Could Mr. Fenton wear open-toed shoes that reveal his foot fungus? Could he sacrifice a goat in his front yard as a religious act? Exactly, what can a New Jersey state employee do to express himself and how can one worship without losing his job? I imagine he can burn an American flag (an act protected by the Supreme Court) and burn a Bible (an act protected by Christians who have grown accustomed to tolerating those who disagree). Just not a Koran.
Shortly after Mr. Fenton found his pink slip, Seattle Weekly announced that Molly Norris no longer existed. Molly is the political cartoonist who was outraged at the censoring of South Park by Comedy Central (an act which also gave us Faisal Shahzad and his failed attempt at blowing up Times Square). As an expression of her disgust, Molly drew a cartoon of several items all claiming to be Mohammed and facetiously suggested an “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” Others took her idea literally and created a Facebook page to do just that. Result? Anwar al-Awlaki has posted a statement to his followers that arson and assassination are the legitimate forms of retaliation against Ms. Norris.
Thus, Seattle Weekly announced that Molly has entered something akin to the witness protection program. At the FBI’s urging, her identity has been wiped clean. She has relocated to a new town, with a new name and a new job. There is no more Molly Norris.
The kicker? Molly herself is footing the bill for all this. Do not offend Muslims or you will pay a high price with your wallet, your job, and even your life. Intimidation works pretty well. “Like us or we will kill you” is often an effective strategy. Just ask the Mafia.
Meanwhile, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Laurie Cardoza-Moore has been leading protests against the proposed construction of a 50,000 square foot mosque. She has received multiple death threats. She has turned those threats left on her cell phone over to to law enforcement. As far as we can determine, FBI protection appears nowhere to be found.
However, Cami Ayash, the organizing leader of the Murfreesboro mosque, has asked for and received FBI protection at taxpayer expense. Although a piece of construction equipment at the construction site was torched, Ms. Ayash and her colleagues appear to have received a grand total of zero death threats. They did report hearing some gunshots in the distance, a sound I hear nearly every weekend where I live in the South. Her fears were enough for federal agents to rally to her side at public expense. Apparently, what matters is not real threats so much as perceiving that they may exist.
Ms. Ayash’s protection and that of her fellow worshipers is a result of Attorney General Eric Holder’s aggressive initiative to marshal federal resources to protect Muslims. Holder has stated that position on multiple occasions. After President Obama’s Cairo speech, Holder said, “The President’s pledge for a new beginning between the United States and the Muslim community takes root here in the Justice Department where we are committed to using criminal and civil rights laws to protect Muslim Americans. A top priority of this Justice Department is a return to robust civil rights enforcement...”
Mr. Holder’s “robust civil rights enforcement” appears to apply to abortion clinic operators (of whom one has been killed in the last decade) but not to pro-life demonstrators (of whom one has been killed in the last decade). “Robust civil rights enforcement” also applies to Muslims who receive any pushback against their plans and to Muslims who are offended by the free expression of others.
“Robust civil rights enforcement” does not appear to apply to anyone who says or does anything that ruffles the feathers of Muslims. You can lose your job, and Mr. Holder’s people will not defend your right to free expression. You can receive global death threats, and Mr. Holder’s team will assist you as long as you are willing to pay for it. You can receive death threats from mosque proponents, and Mr. Holder’s team might, must might, take your call when you complain.
However, should you be Muslim, receive no death threats, but still fear something (real or imagined), Mr. Holder’s justice will be on your doorstep at your beck and call. At no cost to you.
One can only draw the obvious conclusion. We are scared of Muslims. America is intimidated by Islam. We tremble and quake at the men who live in caves and scheme with their medieval minds. We worry that our actions may cause them some perceived slight that results in their choosing to riot and to kill each other. So we lay down our freedoms and relinquish our rights in the vain Sally Field-esque hope that somehow they will “like” us. We lay down those rights without even a battle.
When did America become cowardly? For two centuries or more, America has stood for human rights. Now those human rights and freedoms apply only to a select few whose sensitivities will determine the rights that the rest of us enjoy. We have been the moral beacon of the world. Now we are scared, even in our own country, so much so that we are even editing and trimming the beloved First Amendment. Say whatever you like, just as long as it does not offend Muslims.
Welcome to Islamerica.
The head of the world’s largest evangelical body said Friday that he welcomed the unanimous condemnation of one church’s plan to burn copies of the Quran but challenged world leaders and the media to do the same for radical actions committed against Christians.
“Speaking out strongly against the proposed burning of Korans was the right thing to do and we warmly welcome the unanimous condemnation from politicians, religious leaders and the global media in this case,” expressed Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance.
“As we consider the outcry against this one small, obscure group, we now plead that the world’s leaders and media demonstrate the same kind of outspoken condemnation when radical actions on an equal or larger scale are committed against Christians.”
Over the past several weeks, media and leaders around the world have brought attention to the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., which had scheduled a “Burn a Quran Day” for Saturday’s anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
President Obama exhorted the church’s pastor to “listen to those better angels” and call off his plan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the plan as “disrespectful, disgraceful.” And the United Nations said such an act would be “abhorrent.”
“On behalf of the United Nations and the whole international community present in Afghanistan, I would like to express in the strongest possible terms our concern and indeed outrage at the announcement by a small religious group abroad of their intention to burn copies of the holy book of the Quran,” Staffan de Mistura, head of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement issued in Kabul.
“If such an abhorrent act were to be implemented, it would only contribute to fueling the arguments of those who are indeed against peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan,” he added.
Notably, however, while the Gainesville church has called of Saturday’s burning (without ruling out future burnings), the violent onslaught by anti-West, anti-Christian Muslims is not expected to abate.
As Christian leaders have noted, some radicals and ill-informed individuals overseas don’t need such an act to provoke them.
“Every day, Christians in Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, and elsewhere in the Islamic world face oppression and persecution brought about without the assistance of Quran-burning clergymen,” noted Faith McDonnell, religious liberty director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
“The list of violent acts committed against Christians in recent years goes on and on,” added Tunnicliffe, noting that attacks on Christians are not perpetrated by Muslims alone.
In India, for example, radical Hindus waged a campaign of sustained violence against Christians in 2008 that left at least 70 people dead, more than 4,000 homes burnt down, at least 149 churches destroyed, and some 54,000 Christians homeless.
That same year, the deputy mayor of the central Israeli town of Or Yehuda incited hundreds of people to burn hundreds of copies of the New Testament.
And in recent years, churches in Sri Lanka have been burned to the ground, pastors have been assassinated, and radical Buddhist politicians have called for a new law that would significantly restrict the activities of local churches.
“Christians have reacted to these attacks with an attitude of non-violence but should their peaceful response mean that the rest of the world feels no need to cry out,” posed Tunnicliffe. “Are actions only deemed wrong when there is a good chance that the victims, or those connected to them, will react in violence?”
For IRD’s McDonnell, the “greatest tragedy” in the Quran burning frenzy is greater risk it posed Christians in Muslim-dominated areas.
While American Christian leaders this week flocked to defend American Muslims from physical threats, persecuted Christians find themselves precariously at risk due to the offenses of one tiny church, she noted.
“Just as we do not hold all Muslims responsible for the September 11 attacks, Muslims should not hold Christian minorities responsible for the actions of one tiny Florida church,” McDonnell pointed out.
With the controversy over Dove World Outreach expected to subside in the coming days, Tunnicliffe said it will be interesting to see how the world responds to the violent acts committed against Christians in the future.
“Will leaders react with the same kind of justifiable outrage as they have against the proposed burning of the Qur’an? If so, will they have the courage to speak up, not only out of some concern for reciprocity or a fear of repercussions, but simply because it is the right thing to do?” WEA’s leader posed.
Notably, while much attention was placed on Dove World Outreach in the months leading up to Saturday’s 9/11 anniversary, a similar stunt in 2008 went largely unnoticed. But organizing that burning was the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kan., an almost universally condemned group of fundamentalists who also protest at military funerals.
Though Dove World Outreach is non-denominational, it could be considered by some to be on the “fringe” of the evangelical church. For this reason, among others, the WEA felt it had a responsibility to intervene.
Aside from the possible ties to evangelicalism, Tunncliffe said the WEA spoke out clearly against the proposed burning because “it was simply the right thing to do.”
It also wanted to prevent the almost-certain violence by radicals that would result from such an act as was witnessed during the Danish cartoon crisis in 2005. At least 150 people were killed around the world and thousands injured over the publication of cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
Muslims condemn the depiction of any of its prophets, from Adam to Moses to Jesus [KH: really?] to Muhammad.
I have no doubt U.S. General David Petareus’ assessment is correct: If Pastor Terry Jones of the inaptly named Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Fla., goes ahead with his plan to burn Korans this Saturday, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it will “endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort” against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
And it won’t just increase the likelihood of American troops being attacked. The book burning will increase the risk for all NATO troops in Afghanistan, including our Canadian soldiers.
So, yes, I wish Pastor Jones would cancel his stunt, but mostly because it is a silly, juvenile thing to do.
Yet who are we kidding? In the absence of the Koran-burning, the Taliban and other assorted Muslim extremists will find other insults — real or imagined — to fan their propaganda flames and fuel their anti-Western hatred. It is foolhardy to think we are dealing with a rational foe who, in the absence of any direct provocation by us, would leave us alone in peace.
Long before 9/11 — in August, 1996 — Osama bin Laden declared a holy war against America for what he called its occupation of Saudi Arabia. For five years, al-Qaeda saw itself at war with the West before we even realized the battle had been engaged.
Of course, it’s possible to provoke someone into war with you through unconscious acts of aggression. But anyone as bellicose as Muslim extremists will find an excuse to hate us — or make one up — even in the absence of any aggression on our part.
The Danish Muhammad cartoon controversy in 2005-06 is a case in point.
There was little wrong with the original 12 cartoons to Western eyes; we see cartoons of our leaders and idols on a daily basis that are as bad or worse. And we shouldn’t have to curtail our beliefs and cultural practices just because people half a world away with only a sketchy understanding of our culture go into violent fits of rage.
On top of that, Muslim extremists poured gasoline on the fire for their own ends by adding blasphemous images of the Muslim prophet—one, for example, showed Muhammad having sex with a dog — and claiming these bogus portrayals were part of the original content.
No matter what the truth is, there will be those in the Muslim world who will seek to find offence, or will manufacture it where no offence is intended. When Gen. Petraeus says of Pastor Jones’ planned desecration that “it is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems,” he is probably correct. But he is also beside the point.
Also in 2005, there were deadly riots across the Muslim world over a Newsweek report that Korans had been flushed down the toilet at the detentioncampat Guantanamo Bay. The report later turned out to be untrue. The Pentagon found seven instances in which “Korans had been improperly handled,” but no instances in which one had been torn or flushed.
Even if there had been real desecrations, the violent overreaction would have been uncalled for. The Koran is a holy book, but it is only a book, just as Bibles are only books. The words and thought inside it are what is sacred and they cannot be defiled by a non-believer’s malice.
But why are these outrages always just one-way streets?
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, on Aug. 25, a cartoon on Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV in Gaza and the West Bank aired cartoons showing Jews transforming into apes (who are seen as vile and unclean), and claiming that the transformation was sanctioned by the Koran.
This past Sunday, the Times of London carried a story about the Iranian government paying a bounty of $1,000 a head for U.S. soldiers killed by the Taliban. And along the Persian Gulf last month, there were reports of prosecutors urging foreigners on trial to convert to Islam so the courts would show them leniency.
Where are the Western apologists of radical Islam when these outrages against the West are being perpetrated? Why is it only Western slights to Islam that trouble them?
Both sides need to let such provocations by extremists slide. But seldom are calls for balance seen.
‘Peaceful’ Muslims following Quran’s dictate to establish ‘global Islamic state’
As the son of a Hamas co-founder who became a Christian, a spy for Israel and a consultant to the Holy Land Foundation terror-finance trial, Mosab Hassan Yousef offers a rare perspective on the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood – at once the spawn of nearly every major Islamic terrorist group and of “mainstream” operatives in the U.S. such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Yousef, who recently was granted asylum in the U.S. after the Department of Homeland Security tried to deport him, told WND in a telephone interview Americans must understand that the ultimate goal of the highly influential Brotherhood is not terrorism but to establish a global Islamic state over the entire world.
“If they can establish this in a peaceful manner, that’s fine,” he said. “But they are required by the Quran to establish this global Islamic state on the rubble of every civilization, every constitution, every government.”
The Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas in 2008 – the largest terror-finance case in U.S. history – presented evidence of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “100-year plan” to gradually destroy the U.S. and Western civilization from within “so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
“This is not a doctrine of some freak Muslim,” Yousef observed. “It’s the doctrine, the requirement, of the god of Islam himself and his prophet, whom they praise every day.”
One of the Brotherhood’s prime strategies to help achieve its ultimate aim is to spin off groups such as the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, that attempt to give Islam a positive face, he pointed out.
CAIR, casting itself as a human rights organization, has often been called on by government and media to represent Muslims in the U.S. But it’s origin as a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas is now widely documented, including in the WND Books best-selling expose “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America”
CAIR and some of its leaders were confirmed by the Justice Department as unindicted co-conspirators in the trial of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation, which was convicted of helping fund Hamas. An FBI letter to lawmakers in April 2009 explained the bureau suspended all formal contacts with CAIR because of evidence the group was founded as a front in the U.S. for Hamas. Among numerous government relationships, CAIR leaders had regular meetings with top FBI brass on security issues and helped lead FBI Muslim “sensitivity training” sessions.
At the Holy Land Foundation trial, the FBI presented a transcript from a wiretap of a 1993 meeting in Philadelphia in which Hamas supporters sought to establish Muslim organizations in the U.S. “whose Islamic hue is not very conspicuous.” CAIR was soon founded by two Palestinian participants in the Philadelphia meeting, Omar Ahmad and Nihad Awad.
Wiretaps revealed Ahmad argued for using Muslims as an “entry point” to “pressure Congress and the decision makers in America” to change U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. One FBI official quoted in “Muslim Mafia” says CAIR and the other Muslim Brotherhood front groups differ from al-Qaida only in their methods.
“The only difference between the guys in the suits and the guys with the AK-47s is timing and tactics,” the official explained.
CAIR, meanwhile – which has more than a dozen former and current leaders with known associations with violent jihad – is trying to keep alive a lawsuit against WND and two investigators behind “Muslim Mafia.”
While CAIR repeatedly has denied it receives foreign support, the covert operation that produced “Muslim Mafia” obtained video footage that captured CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper boasting of his ability to bring in a half million dollars of “overseas money,” including from Saudi Arabia.
Money continues to flow in the other direction, as well, Yousef said.
He noted the FBI documented that the Holy Land Foundation sent $12.4 million from the U.S. to Hamas committees. But based on his 10 years of experience as a spy for the Israeli internal security service Shin Bet, he believes many times that amount has been smuggled to Hamas in cash.
As an example, Yousef cited the case of a Palestinian terror operative he met in prison who was arrested transporting $100,000 after Shin Bet provided information to law enforcement authorities.
“I guarantee you that there still people who collect money in mosques that go directly to Hamas in cash,” Yousef said. “And this is a problem that the government doesn’t have control over. Obama doesn’t have control over this money.”
‘Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood’
Hamas itself was formed in 1987 as part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy to advance the movement by spinning off new organizations, Yousef said.
“If they have a confrontation with Israel as the Muslim Brotherhood, they are going to pay a very high price,” he explained. “So they choose people like my father, from the Muslim Brotherhood originally, and they ask them to establish an independent movement that shares the same exact doctrine.”
As WND reported, Yousef worked alongside his father, Sheik Hassan Yousef, in the West Bank city of al-Ghaniya near Ramallah while secretly embracing Christian faith and serving as a Shin Bet spy. Since publicly declaring his faith in August 2008, he has been condemned by an al-Qaida-affiliated group and disowned by his family.
“Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood,” Yousef said. “It’s the same organization.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in the 1920s in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Turkish empire, considers itself an instrument of the charge Muslims have been given since Islam’s founding 1,400 years ago – to make the Quran and Allah’s authority supreme over the entire world.
Along with CAIR, prominent U.S. organizations launched by Muslim Brotherhood leaders include the Muslim Students Association, North American Islamic Trust, the Islamic Society of North America, the American Muslim Council, the Muslim American Society and the International Institute of Islamic Thought.
“Before we start to listen to their lies,” Yousef said, “we have to ask ourselves all the time, what is the goal of the Muslim Brotherhood? Ask them, ‘What do you want?’”
He said the Muslim Brotherhood “will keep the hope and the ultimate goal very clear in the eyes of every Muslim who belongs to the organization that one day [we will] establish an Islamic state and establish Shariah law.”
In unusually candid moments, CAIR leaders have expressed that aim.
CAIR founder Ahmad was reported telling a Muslim group in the San Francisco Bay area that Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant and that the Quran should become the highest authority in America and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth. CAIR spokesman Hooper indicated in a 1993 interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune he wants to see the U.S. become a Muslim country “through education.”
The West, Yousef said, has fallen for the “lie” that there are two types of Islam, radical and moderate. While there may be individual Muslims who are radical or moderate, Islam itself is not moderate, he contends.
“Let’s learn what Islam says about itself,” Yousef said. “Forget about what the Muslim Brotherhood, what al-Qaida, what Hezbollah – what even Americans or Westerners say about Islam. Let’s study and see what Islam says about itself, then we will understand why we have this problem.”
‘Buying the lie’
American foreign policy, especially under President Obama, he said, has “bought the lie of Muslim groups who are trying to make Islam look good in the eyes of Westerners.”
Because of that approach, he said, Muslim leaders such as Feisal Abdul Rauf have developed “the courage to come forward with a very aggressive symbol” of Islamic authority, the proposed Islamic center and mosque near the site of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks.
“If it was any other American president, we wouldn’t have this aggressive step,” Yousef contended.
He noted the State Department has designated Rauf an ambassador to the Muslim world despite the imam’s unwillingness to condemn Hamas as a terrorist group.
“Of course, he cannot condemn Hamas, because he knows that Hamas is an organization that is doing the will of Allah,” Yousef said. “How can he condemn an organization that serves the same god that he worships every day five times?”
Yousef pointed out Rauf has claimed Obama based his highly publicized Cairo speech to the Muslim world last year on a chapter from the Arabic version of Rauf’s book, “A Call to Prayer From the World Trade Center: Islamic Dawah in the Heart of America Post-9/11.”
Obama asserted in the speech that violent extremists have exploited tensions between Muslims and the West, insisting Islam was not part of the problem but part of promoting peace.
‘This is the red line’
Defenders of the proposed Ground Zero mosque cite American Muslims’ First Amendment freedoms to practice their religion.
But Yousef makes a distinction between Islam and other religions, arguing Islam is a subversive system that threatens America’s very existence.
“Even if it’s a religion, and 1.5 billion people around the world believe in it, this doesn’t mean that they are right; and this doesn’t mean that we compromise with them,” he said. “We tell them, ‘You’re accepted, but guess what? This is the red line: We don’t compromise with your god. We don’t compromise with your belief system.’”
Yousef reasoned that he certainly would not be allowed to create a religion in which he demanded that his followers kill everyone who doesn’t embrace his beliefs.
“Will I be able to register this religion here and build my symbols for this religion in this country?” he asked. “I will go to jail for that – and all my followers as well.”
‘A matter of life and death’
No one in the Middle East has the courage or the power to confront Islam, he said, but transformation can start in the most powerful country in the world.
“Instead of giving Islam credit, this is the country where we can start to fight – not against Muslims, against the bad teachings of Islam.”
Americans can begin, he said, by “understanding the real nature of Islam.”
“I am telling you, this is not a matter of politics,” he said. “It’s a matter of life and death. It’s a matter of hundreds of millions who have been killed because of this deadly ideology of Islam that has been here 1,400 years.”
“This is the time” to speak out, he said, “especially here in America. This is the time to stand firm and strong against this crazy, big system.”
Yousef said that while some may want to “scare people about Islam” for some kind of financial or personal profit, he is speaking out because of his concern for America and as “a person who loves my people.”
“I cannot wait for them to be liberated,” he said of his fellow Palestinians and Muslims worldwide. “And when I see the example of liberty and freedom in this country, I want this to go to my people.”
If America leads the way in confronting Islam, change can come, he said.
“But if the country of liberty and freedom welcomes a radical and violent belief that wants to destroy everything, we won’t be able to defeat them,” he said.
“This is why we need to work all together. This is not for America only. This is for the world. This is for the future of humanity.”
Egyptian Muslim leaders are caught in a storm of controversy after a human rights group confronted them about a fatwa (Islamic edict) that stated the building of a church is “a sin against God.”
Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the highest official of religious law in Egypt, and the justice minister have issued an investigation of the jurists who issued the fatwa, according to Assyrian International News Agency.
The controversy began when the president of the Egyptian Union Human Rights Organization, Dr. Naguib Gabraeel, asked the Fatwa Council about a statement found in a textbook at Cairo University on inheritance and execution of wills.
Students, both Muslims and Christians, were taught “it is forbidden for a person to donate money for what would lead to sin, such as donating in his will money towards build[ing] a church, a nightclub, a gambling casino, towards promoting the alcohol industry or for building a barn for rearing pigs, cats or dogs.”
Gabraeel asked the council what the sharia (Islamic law) position on the statement found in the textbook is. He asked if it is forbidden for a Muslim to donate money to build a church or a monk’s quarters even if it is in the name of God and Christianity, which is recognized by the country’s constitution. The Egyptian constitution claims to respect religious freedom. He also noted that wealthy Coptic Christian businessmen have donated towards the building of mosques.
The council replied by affirming the law found in the textbook and issuing a fatwa on it.
Included in the fatwa is an explanation on why it is a “sin” to build a church. According to the fatwa, Christians believe salvation is achieved through belief in Jesus as Lord while Muslims don’t. Muslims believe that Issa [Jesus in Arabic] “is a slave of Allah and His Messenger, and that Allah is one.”
The Islamic edict said God did not have a son and that Christianity deviated from absolute monotheism. Therefore, a Muslim is forbidden to donate funds towards a building that does not worship Allah alone.
The author of the textbook, Mohammed el-Maghrabbi, said it is sinful for even a Christian to devote money in his will towards building a church because it would be considered in Islam as separation from God.
In other words, it is illegal for even non-Muslims to offer money in their will towards building a church or synagogue.
The fatwa has upset many people, especially Coptic Christians, for categorizing churches with nightclubs, casinos, alcohol, and places to raise animals considered unclean by Islam.
After receiving the shocking response by the council, Gabraeel and a delegation from his human rights group visited the Grand Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi of the famous Al-Azhar University, a chief Sunni Islamic learning center in the world.
Tantawi contradicted the council and said “sharia does not prevent Muslims from donating to the building of a church, as it is his free money.” He also went on to say sharia law does not interfere with other faiths “because religion, faith and what a person believes in is a relationship between him and his God.”
Immediately after Tantawi’s statements were publicized, there was a backlash from the Muslim community and he revoked his statements less than 24 hours after the visit by the human rights delegation. Tantawi claimed the delegation had misunderstood him, even though everything he said was recorded and sent to media outlets and uploaded on Coptic advocacy web sites.
Egyptian Christians see the controversy as explicitly revealing how religious authorities and the government truly feel about the building of churches. In Egypt, Christians are not allowed to construct or fix churches unless they receive a permit from governors. But usually authorities make excuses and circumvent giving a direct answer to requests for building permits. At the end, however, nearly all requests for permits in Egypt are denied.
In contrast, there are no such building permits necessary for the construction or fixing of mosques.
In a noteworthy display of unity, France’s National Assembly voted 335-1 for its long-promised bill to ban the niqab – or any face-covering veil – indicating an unequivocal determination to force social integration amongst fundamentalist Muslims. It was clearly no accident that the bill was passed on Bastille Day, which celebrates the ideals of liberty and equality for all.
Even though there are presently only about 2000 veiled women in France, the numbers are not the issue. It’s what the veil represents: a conception of women as the private property of their male relatives and a flouting of democracy’s commitment to equality of all citizens. Whether worn willingly or not, the veil prohibits normal social interaction and integration.
France was the natural bellwether in the anti-veil movement, because of that nation’s huge Muslim population of more than five million, about 10% of the population. If a critical mass of French Muslims radicalize, the political implications are rather dire. Not many years from now, the Muslim vote will make or break whatever government is in power.
Other European countries have read the writing on their walls, and are, by and large, supportive of France’s leadership on this issue. Majorities polled in Germany, Britain and Spain agree with the ban.
There’s wide divergence of opinion in North America on the issue. A Pew research poll shows that only 28% of Americans support a ban on face cover. In Canada 75% do, while in Quebec a whopping 95% support it. Indeed, only Quebec has seized the nettle on the face-cover file. Bill 94, a much softer version of the French law, would ban face cover in those working for and receiving services in the public sector.
France’s ban is not a done deal. “The European Court of Human Rights might declare the law unconstitutional. In that case it will a big victory for the fundamentalists,” according to Patrick Weill, a senior research fellow at the French National Research Center, who served on a 2003 French commission on secularism.
France is doing the right thing. The niqab is not an isolated phenomenon. It is the visible sign of a complex role-playing system in which the woman is enmeshed from birth. The niqab represents honour/shame culture in its most misogynistic form. The niqab is worn as protection, paradoxically enough: protection from any interaction whatsoever with a strange male. Why does the woman need such protection? Because the slightest interaction with a male, even if it is not her fault, can result in her being punished for having stained her family’s “honour.”
We know what the most extreme punishment is. All western countries have seen a rise in the number of honour killings in their midst. Honour killings are but the tip of a malignant iceberg. The iceberg is a conspiratorial system of control over women’s behaviour in the service of family “honour.” Allowing the niqab is to abandon these women who have no idea what the meaning of a human right is, let alone the freedom to exercise it. It is knowingly to acquiesce in the perpetuation of an anti-democratic system in our midst.
Kudos to France for making this strong statement. Let us hope Quebec does not “go wobbly” in response to vocal bleeding hearts, and let us hope above all that the European Court of Human Rights recognizes that there is no inherent right to declare yourself or anyone else under your control a non-person.
Toronto — At the continent’s largest Islamic conference, the disclaimers in the Journey of Faith program, given out to the thousands of attendees, highlights the difficulty of portraying the modern face of an old religion.
Organizers, it says, “are not responsible for materials or opinions expressing views contrary to Canadian and international laws.”
Likewise, “promotion of any materials deemed illegal by Canadian federal and provincial laws is strictly prohibited,” and those caught doing so are on their own.
The warnings suggest that not everyone who might come here is in complete agreement with the conference theme of peaceful coexistence.
“Whatever lifestyle you chose in this country is your choice,” said Said Rageah, conference chairman, in an interview.
“Whether you chose to wear the burka or walk the street in a bikini, it is your choice,” he said, adding he fled repression in Somalia to seek freedom in Canada, where he is raising his six Canadian-born children.
“I’m telling the Canadian public that we can both coexist, both live together in peace.
“We’re not radicalizing anyone, and we are not abandoning Islam. We are here to correct, not to corrupt.”
The conference, which opened on Friday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, is billed as North America’s largest Islamic gathering with an expected attendance of 10,000.
It has already grabbed headlines over apparently incongruent views.
Dr. Zakir Naik, a 44-year-old Indian televangelist scheduled to deliver the keynote address on Sunday, was recently barred from entering Britain after highlights of past speeches drew attention to disparaging remarks about women, gays, Jews and non-Muslims and apparent support for Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader.
Mr. Rageah says it is a case of cutting and pasting excerpts of past speeches to portray an inaccurate picture.
Because of the British ban, Dr. Naik and his entire production crew with Peace TV are not travelling to Canada, on suggestions he would receive similar treatment by the Canadian government. He has cancelled the trip “due to the uncertainty of his admission to Canada.”
“Last year he came to speak and he had a visa for five years,” said Mr. Rageah. There were no problems, he said. “If a person like that is so dangerous then why was he given a five-year visa?”
Dr. Naik will still be heard on Sunday, but via a live video feed.
on Friday, the 2,000 early registered attendees heard beautifully rhythmic recitations of the Koran in Arabic, lectures on forgiveness and the importance of following the message of the Koran.
An ethnically diverse crowd of men and women, almost all of whom wore hijabs or face-covering niqabs, sat in different sections of the huge hall, where seating for several thousand was set up.
The first speaker, Abdulkadir Ali Cambe, from Britain, drew upon a story in the Koran for his message, saying: “We must be kind to our brothers and sisters in Islam. We must be kind to our brothers and sisters in humanity.”
Canadian-born Yahya Abu Sumayyah, who converted to Islam after reading the autobiography of American radical Malcolm X, implored Muslims to not compromise their religion for the sake of the pleasure, money or love.
[KH: a former member of the Dutch parliament]
If there is a person on Earth more hated by Islamists than Salman Rushdie and Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, then it must be Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In her first book, Infidel, the Somalian-born Muslim-turned-atheist described Islam as a vicious tribal creed that turns men into brutes and women into slaves. (Apostasy, it should be pointed out, is punishable by death under shariah — which explains the two burly bodyguards who greeted me when I arrived to interview her yesterday at a Toronto hotel.)
In the newly released Nomad, Ms. Ali echoes similar arguments, but this time with a larger cast of characters. Whole chapters are dedicated to the dirty laundry of her father, half-sister, mother, brother, nephew, cousins and grandmother. Appalling tales of cruelty and neglect abound, with Ms. Ali being targeted for special abuse — especially by her own parents. As a result, Nomad reads at times like a Mommie Dearest for the post-9/11 age.
The Muslim men in the world Ms. Ali describes are joyless, obsessed with clan honour and the sexual purity/ exploitation of their female relatives. The women’s stories, meanwhile, are unremittingly pathetic. Ms. Ali’s maternal grandmother supplied her husband with nine children. But only one of them was male; and so her life spiralled into jealousy and bitterness when a new wife came along and quickly produced a trio of boys.
Ms. Ali’s mother was abandoned (along with her three co-wives) by her polygamist husband, and spent her last years alone, hauling wood for camel herders.
Most pathetic of all is Ms. Ali’s half-sister Sahra, whom the author remembers as a sprightly eight-year-old when they were childhood playmates, but who has grown up into a grubby, no-future model of Islamist piety and long black robes.
Consumed by their own powerlessness, these women inevitably retreat into madness or child-like fatalism. “Whatever the next day brought was Allah’s choice, and [my father’s third wife] saw no point in defying events, her husband, or her God,” Ms. Ali writes. “Every sentence ended with Inshallah, ‘God willing.’ That was her method of survival.”
Even when they move to Europe (typically as refugees), many of the Muslims who populate her book do their best to keep intact their ancient codes of behaviour. Typically, they cluster in ghettos, where many (including Ms. Ali’s own late father) live as welfare bums, even as they denounce the infidel society paying the bills.
“This is why Western societies cannot afford to be welfare states and remain immigration countries,” Ms. Ali tells me in our interview. “It’s a recipe for social tension between the people who pay taxes and the people who take and don’t give back. The problem is that members of these communities exhibit [loyalty to] ‘bloodline’ instead of loyalty to the state.”
The world Ms. Ali depicts is cruel and profoundly unattractive. But there is something captivating and noble about her refusal to indulge in the usual sentimental immigrant-memoir reveries — the ones is which mother and daughter bond over the kitchen stove, learning gentle, timeless, saffron-scented life lessons. It takes a brutally candid author such as Ms. Ali to recognize that many immigrant mothers don’t have any lessons to teach because they are products of broken cultures that have nothing to offer. What kind of romantic homage can be paid to sisterly solidarity when it was Ms. Ali’s own grandmother who insisted — over the father’s objections — that the author’s genitals be mutilated according to local tradition?
What Ms. Ali wants for Muslim immigrants to Western nations isn’t a multicultural reconciliation of old-world traditions with new-world realities, but rather a wholesale rejection of the former in favour of the latter.
“By creating the illusions that one can hold on to tribal norms and at the same time become a successful citizen, the proponents of multiculturalism lock subsequent generations born in the West into a no-man’s land of moral values,” she writes. “What comes packaged in a compassionate language of acceptance is really a cruel form of racism.”
But this is hard, Ms. Ali acknowledges. As a result of her own freethinking ways, she is estranged from her homeland, her faith, even her family. (During her parents’ declining years, she couldn’t even summon the will to phone them: They would simply lecture her angrily about the fire that awaited infidels like her in the afterlife.) Now living in America, land of equality and freedom, she admits to feeling somewhat lonely and rootless — a state of ennui that helps her understand why her pious half-sister remains mired in a Muslim ghetto: “Sahra has the beautiful certainties of belonging [while] I suffer the loneliness of gratifying my individualism.”
“Westerners are so individualized,” she tells me (meaning it as a compliment). “Moderate Christianity allows you to be an individual and yet become part of something larger. It allows you to reconcile your mind with science, leisure and recreation, things that are very hard to reconcile with Islam.”
Somehow, the suggestion that the world’s Muslims should not only abandon Muhammad, but also embrace Jesus, seems even more fearlessly apostate than rejecting religion altogether — not just in regards the opinion of Islamists, but also that of their hyper-secular enemies.
“This is the one part of the book that [my friend] Christopher Hitchens didn’t like when he read [the draft],” she tells me. “But I insisted on leaving it in.”
That goes without saying. If murderous Islamists haven’t been able to shut this woman up, what chance do atheists have?
GENEVA — Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on minarets on Sunday, barring construction of the iconic mosque towers in a surprise vote that put Switzerland at the forefront of a European backlash against a growing Muslim population.
Muslim groups in Switzerland and abroad condemned the vote as biased and anti-Islamic. Business groups said the decision hurt Switzerland’s international standing and could damage relations with Muslim nations and wealthy investors who bank, travel and shop there.
“The Swiss have failed to give a clear signal for diversity, freedom of religion and human rights,” said Omar Al-Rawi, integration representative of the Islamic Denomination in Austria, which said its reaction was “grief and deep disappointment.”
The referendum by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party labeled minarets as symbols of rising Muslim political power that could one day transform Switzerland into an Islamic nation. The initiative was approved 57.5 to 42.5% by some 2.67 million voters. Only four of the 26 cantons or states opposed the initiative, granting the double approval that makes it part of the Swiss constitution.
Muslims comprise about 6% of Switzerland’s 7.5 million people. Many are refugees from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and about one in 10 actively practices their religion, the government says.
The country’s four standing minarets, which won’t be affected by the ban, do not traditionally broadcast the call to prayer outside their own buildings.
The sponsors of the initiative provoked complaints of bias from local officials and human-rights group with campaign posters that showed minarets rising like missiles from the Swiss flag next to a fully veiled woman. Backers said the growing Muslim population was straining the country “because Muslims don’t just practice religion.”
“The minaret is a sign of political power and demand, comparable with whole-body covering by the burqa, tolerance of forced marriage and genital mutilation of girls,” the sponsors said. They noted that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has compared mosques to Islam’s military barracks and called “the minarets our bayonets.”
Anxieties about growing Muslim minorities have rippled across Europe in recent years, leading to legal changes in some countries. There have been French moves to ban the full-length body covering known as the burqa. Some German states have introduced bans on head scarves for Muslim women teaching in public schools. Mosques and minaret construction projects in Sweden, France, Italy, Austria, Greece, Germany and Slovenia have been met by protests.
But the Swiss ban in minarets, sponsored by the country’s largest political party, was one of the most extreme reactions.
“It’s a sad day for freedom of religion,” said Mohammed Shafiq, the chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a British youth organization. “A constitutional amendment that’s targeted towards one religious community is discriminatory and abhorrent.”
He said he was concerned the decision could have reverberations in other European countries.
Amnesty International said the vote violated freedom of religion and would probably be overturned by the Swiss supreme court or the European Court of Human Rights.
The seven-member Cabinet that heads the Swiss government had spoken out strongly against the initiative but the government said it accepted the vote and would impose an immediate ban on minaret construction.
It said that “Muslims in Switzerland are able to practice their religion alone or in community with others, and live according to their beliefs just as before.” It took the unusual step of issuing its press release in Arabic as well as German, French, Italian and English.
Sunday’s results stood in stark contrast to opinion polls, last taken 10 days ago, that showed 37% supporting the proposal. Experts said before the vote that they feared Swiss had pretended during the polling that they opposed the ban because they didn’t want to appear intolerant.
“The sponsors of the ban have achieved something everyone wanted to prevent, and that is to influence and change the relations to Muslims and their social integration in a negative way,” said Taner Hatipoglu, president of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Zurich. “Muslims indeed will not feel safe anymore.”
The People’s Party has campaigned mainly unsuccessfully in previous years against immigrants with campaign posters showing white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag and another with brown hands grabbing eagerly for Swiss passports.
Geneva’s main mosque was vandalized Thursday when someone threw a pot of pink paint at the entrance. Earlier this month, a vehicle with a loudspeaker drove through the area imitating a muezzin’s call to prayer, and vandals damaged a mosaic when they threw cobblestones at the building.
The Jamba Erabia Madrasa on the outskirts of Islamabad cannot be seen from the main road. A gas station hides the small dirt road leading to the still-under-repair three-story building. The front green metal gate, made in a typical Islamic fashion, leads to a long white hallway, where carved white seats each face a faucet to wash feet and hands. The main courtyard and mosque were built in 1979 with private money from locals and influential Pakistanis from outside the area. The madrasa gets all its money from private donors, which makes it very hard to trace, as Saudis are known to have poured millions into Pakistan.
About 30 young men from the age of 13 to 20 attend, sent by their parents for a 2-3 year training program. It is organized around a rigorous schedule that begins at 4 in the morning and only ends when the students go to bed at 11 at night. Their time is organized around five daily prayers and the memorization of the Quran. The memorization dictates how good a Muslim these children will become.
One of these children, Abdul Manaam, a Pashtun from the remote North West Frontier Province, was sent by his parents to Jamba Erabia to escape the war-torn province, where resurgent Taliban adherents are waging war with Pakistani forces as well as U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The 8-year-old boy does not speak Urdu, the language of Pakistan, nor Arabic, the language of the Quran, and understands very little about the Pakistani madrasa culture that is likely to shape his future.
In 2002 the Pakistani government, as the key U.S. ally in the region following al-Qaeda’s attack on the United States, vowed to reform madrasas, where over 1.5 million mostly poor children are provided free religious education, boarding, and lodging. But Jamba Erabia is testimony to the failed reform effort.
Madrasas not only in the north but in central areas like Punjab, where recent attacks against Christians took place, are growing while public government-funded education in Pakistan is in decline. That trend is a concern in the face of expanding insurgency by Pakistani-based Taliban and al-Qaeda linked groups—offering little instruction beyond Quran memorization and developing militant sympathies.
More than one billion Muslims mark the start of Ramadan on Friday - their holiest month of the year, devoted to prayer, fasting and charity.
But for a small minority, it is also regarded as an auspicious time to escalate violence in the name of jihad.
As a result, experts expect a surge in terrorism attacks during Ramadan, when most Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset in a spiritual exercise that teaches discipline, self-restraint and generosity.
This week, in the run-up to Ramadan, hundreds of Muslims were murdered in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Yemen and Somalia.
Seven massive car bombs exploded in Iraq on Wednesday, killing 96 people and injuring 536; yesterday four suicide bombers attacked police posts in Chechnya, just days after a bomb outside a police station in neighbouring Ingushetia killed 25 people and injured 160. Fierce fighting also exploded in Somalia on Friday, killing 22 people, as Islamist rebels launched a Ramadan offensive against African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu.
“The month of Ramadan has a special status as the month of religious spirituality and devotion. However, in Muslim tradition it is also perceived as a month of jihad, a month in which Allah grants military victories to his believers,” says a report by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
“It was during Ramadan that Muslims triumphed in many battles throughout the history of jihad for the sake of Allah — among them the battle of Badr in 624, the conquest of Mecca in 630 and of Andalusia in 711, the battle of Al-Zallaqa (in Andalusia) in 1086, the battle of Ein Jalut in 1260, as well as the 1973 [Yom Kippur War with Israel].”
“Given the historic religious and military significance of Ramadan, Islamist groups, as well as some mainstream Arab organizations, escalate incitement to terrorism during this period,” it adds.
In the past, radical Islamists escalated conflicts in Algeria, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia and Iraq during Ramadan.
On Saturday, Islamist websites are filled with rumours of a new Ramadan message from Osama bin Laden. In the past, al-Qaeda called for Ramadan terror campaigns “to come closer to Allah through the blood of infidels.”
This week, Maulana Noor Muhammad, a spokesman for the Pakistani religious organization Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, told the Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Dunya the Prophet Muhammad regularly undertook battles during Ramadan.
“In such pious times, participate in jihad and continue the support to the mujahideen,” he said. “Nowadays, infidel forces want to destroy Islam and the Koranic orders. The fight [against the infidels] is not the responsibility of Taliban and Arab mujahedeen alone; rather it is the responsibility of the entire Ummah [Muslim world].”
In a similar vein, Muslim Khan, a spokesman for the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, warned his group is preparing a Ramadan offensive.
“The Taliban will intensify attacks,” he said. “It won’t be long until they gain control of entire Swat Valley. We have a large number of suicide bombers and now is the time to use them.”
Last year, 10 days before Ramadan ended, terrorists demolished the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in a suicide bombing that killed 40 people.
Potential terror attacks are widespread. Police in Saudi Arabia say they broke-up an al-Qaeda cell and arrested 43 Saudis and one foreigner. They seized explosives, machineguns and bomb detonators.
Police in neighbouring Kuwait have also arrested six suspected terrorists, who they say planned to attack Camp Arifjan, home to 15,000 U.S. troops.
Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minister, says security forces are on the alert for another terror attack by the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba. He said he has “credible information of ongoing plans of terrorist groups in Pakistan to carry out fresh attacks.” Nine months ago, Pakistani gunmen staged a commando-style raid on Mumbai that killed 166 people.
Many Muslims reject radical Islamists and condemn using Ramadan to justify violence.
“Ramadan is about returning to the fountain of truth and drinking from it as deeply as possible,” Muqtedar Khan, director of Islamic studies at the University of Delaware, writes. “Unfortunately, for some Muslims, murder and mayhem rather than prayer and fasting have become a way to celebrate Ramadan.”
“One cannot imagine to what extent the minds and the hearts of these people have become poisoned, that in the month of Ramadan, when even frowning is undesirable, they chose to murder and maim indiscriminately,” he said.
This week, Bangladesh announced it is launching a public awareness campaign during Ramadan to counter calls for violent jihad.
“Teachers of schools, colleges and madrasas and Imams of mosques will campaign against militancy at their respective workplaces across the country,” said Shamsul Haque Tuku, state minister for home affairs.
Police in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim state, will also monitor religious sermons during Ramadan to discourage militancy.
“Police will follow, monitor, record, and if there are any that relate to provocative efforts we will certainly take action,” police spokesman Nanan Soekarna said.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. The prophets of secularization were absolutely certain that religious belief would recede in the modern age. As they saw the new age coming, they were confident that religious belief - or at least any strong form of belief - would burn away like the morning mist as modernity took shape.
As Peter L. Berger explained in “Secularization Falsified” [First Things, February 2008]: “Ever since the Enlightenment, intellectuals of every stripe have believed that the inevitable consequence of modernity is the decline of religion. The reason was supposed to be the progress of science and its concomitant rationality, replacing the irrationality and superstition of religion.”
But the new age did not turn out to be so secular after all. Berger comments:
It has been more than a century since Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God. The prophecy was widely accepted as referring to an alleged fact about increasing disbelief in religion, both by those who rejoiced in it and those who deplored it. As the twentieth century proceeded, however, the alleged fact became increasingly dubious. And it is very dubious indeed as a description of our point in time at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Religion has not been declining. On the contrary, in much of the world there has been a veritable explosion of religious faith.
Peter Berger is one of the most authoritative voices in modern sociology. He understands better than most that the prophets of secularization were too hasty in writing religion off as a major force in the world. Looking back at the very figures who helped shape the modern world, he comments, “Not to put too fine a point on it, they were mistaken.”
In his own way, Stephen Prothero makes the same point. In a recent column in The Wall Street Journal, Prothero argues that one cannot understand the current crisis of piracy off the coast of Somalia without understanding the religious roots of this resurgence.
Prothero serves as chairman of the Department of Religion at Boston University (where Professor Berger also taught for many years). He is also author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - And Doesn’t. When it comes to religious literacy, a bit of knowledge would serve the foreign policy elites, the military, and the media when it comes to the revival of piracy.
As Prothero explains in “Muhammad of the High Seas:”
The late spate of piracy off the coast of Somalia has been analyzed so far almost entirely in political and economic terms: Somalia is lawless and impoverished, so Somali men are taking world trade for a ride. Religion comes up in this analysis only in terms of fears about potential ties between Somali pirates and Islamist groups such as al Qaeda and al Shabab.
But according to Boston University’s World Religion Database, the Somali population is 99% Muslim, and the last time the U.S. was menaced by piracy, in the late 18th century, the so-called Barbary pirates of north Africa also operated out of Muslim havens. For those who know something about Muhammad and the origins of Islam <http://christianpost.com/topics/Islam> , more than coincidence is at work: Religion, it turns out, should be factored into the piracy problem.
“Factored into” the problem might be an understatement. Prothero is careful to put the issue of Islam and piracy into its historical context. As Muhammad and his followers left Mecca for Medina in the early seventh century, they needed income. As Prothero explains, “Muhammad turned to the longstanding Arabian practice of the ghazu, or bounty raid.” Muhammad’s raids were on land, but the practice of sea-based piracy by Muslims follows the same logic.
Prothero makes that logic very clear:
All this might be of purely antiquarian concern except for the fact that Muslims today regard Muhammad not only as God’s final prophet but also as the human being par excellence. The Hadith, an Islamic scripture second in authority only to the Quran, records thousands of instances of Muhammad’s beliefs and actions, so Muslims can follow his example on matters as detailed as the cut of his beard. If Christians ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” Muslims ask, “What Would Muhammad Do?”
Islam is a worldview, and many of its most central presuppositions run counter to Western ideals. At the same time, Western intellectual elites seem still committed to the basic idea of secularization and the irrelevance of religious belief. At the popular level, most Americans wouldn’t know the difference between the Barbary pirates and a Disney movie.
All this does not necessarily point to any specific policy proposal or military response. It does, however, remind us that beliefs really do matter. Just ask those shipping crews looking warily across the Gulf of Aden.
by Cliff May
In Europe, free speech may end with neither a bang nor a whimper – but with a lawyerly assist.
It was three years ago this month that the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published twelve editorial cartoons satirizing Islamist terrorism. Some Muslim organizations objected. Protests were organized. Danish embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran were set ablaze. Dozens of people were killed. The cartoonists and their editors received death threats from such characters as Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza.
Kurt Westergaard is the artist who drew the most iconic and controversial cartoon: He depicted Mohammed with his turban turned into a bomb, its fuse lit. His message was clear: Here is how Mohammed appears to those who learn about Islam from suicide bombers. Westergaard is neither apologetic nor regretful. But he has said as clearly as he can that his drawing was aimed “at fanatic Islamist terrorists — a small part of Islam.”
Westergaard has required police protection ever since. Last year he had to leave his home after Danish intelligence learned of a “concrete” assassination plot. Earlier this year, he also was forced to leave the hotel in which he had been staying because he posed “too much of a security risk” to other guests and staff.
And then, in June, a “prosecutor general” in Jordan – a Muslim nation usually described as moderate – issued a subpoena demanding Westergaard face a lawsuit in an Amman courtroom.
The 73-year-old cartoonist does not plan to submit. He said that although it ought to be obvious that “my problem is with terrorists not Muslims,” people are free to interpret his work as they wish. “Disagreement is very important and if we disagree,” he told a reporter, “it does not mean that we have to sue each other and kill each other.”
Apparently, it is not only Islamists who find that logic unpersuasive. The English language Daily Jordan Times reports that attorney Osama Bitar, an attorney affiliated with the lawsuit (on behalf of the “Messenger of Allah Unites Us” campaign – such an inspiring name!) has been in contact with French attorneys who “have expressed their support for the campaign and its lawsuit against Westergaard.”
“The lawyers are studying the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the cartoonist in accordance with French and international law such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said Bitar. He added that the French attorneys also are considering contacting colleagues in other European countries to file separate lawsuits against Westergaard.
Bitar enthused: “The idea of European lawyers joining us in the campaign and supporting our efforts is tremendous. We are defending Islam in a civilized way and are trying to hold those responsible for the caricatures accountable according to the law.”
Additional legal assistance may be on the way. The United Nations General Assembly is considering a resolution sponsored by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The ostensible purpose of “Combating Defamation of Religion” – yet another inspiring name! – is to stamp out “incitement to religious hatred, against Islam and Muslims in particular.” As for other religions, rest assured this resolution will guarantee them as much protection and respect as Christianity, Judaism, Baha’i, and Hinduism now receive in Saudi Arabia, Iran or any of the other sponsoring nations.
While General Assembly resolutions do not actually have the force of law, they provide diplomatic cover for tyrants eager to muzzle critics, and they are routinely cited by leftist “human rights” groups and journalists as though they were international law.
Felice Gaer, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal body, says it’s clear that the OIC countries are attempting to “mainstream” prohibitions on any speech that could be considered critical of Islam.
“They are turning freedom of expression into restriction of expression,” she said.
And the European Center for Law and Justice has filed a brief with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights warning that such resolutions “are in direct violation of international law concerning the rights to freedom of religion and expression.” The brief argues that the resolution is incompatible with any serious conception of free speech, that it substitutes instead “a subjective criterion that considers whether the religion or its believers feel offended by the speech.”
It’s encouraging to know that some Europeans are concerned. It will be instructive to see what they do when it becomes clear – as I’ll bet you a Euro it will – that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – won’t lift a finger.
[KH: proof of encouraging violence]
McLEAN, Va. — Textbooks at a private Islamic school in northern Virginia teach students that it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam, according to a federal investigation released Wednesday.
Other passages in the school’s textbooks state that “the Jews conspired against Islam and its people” and that Muslims are permitted to take the lives and property of those deemed “polytheists.”
The passages were found in selected textbooks used during the 2007-08 school year by the Islamic Saudi Academy, which teaches 900 students in grades K-12 at two campuses in Alexandria and Fairfax and receives much of its funding from the Saudi government.
The academy has come under scrutiny from critics who allege that it fosters an intolerant brand of Islam similar to that taught in the conservative Saudi kingdom. In the review, the panel recommended that the school make all of its textbooks available to the State Department so changes can be made before the next school year.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a panel formed by Congress, last year recommended that the school be closed amid concerns that it promotes violence and too closely mimics the conservative Saudi educational system.
The commission made its recommendation last year to close the school even though it had not reviewed the textbooks. Now that some have been reviewed, “we feel more confident that the potential problems we flagged before really are there,” said the commission’s spokeswoman, Judith Ingram.
School officials have long denied that the academy fosters intolerance. It has acknowledged thatliph, the Arabic language and the Sunni creed, and that Muslims have grown weak because of foreign influence and internal divisions.
The commission’s findings issued come a month after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to extend the academy’s lease for its main campus, which sits on county property.
The county conducted its own study of the textbooks last year at the request of Supervisor Gerald Hyland, whose district encompasses the academy.
Hyland and the county never released results of what they had found, but Hyland said in approving the lease that he is comfortable with the school’s teachings, though he did so with a qualification.
“I would be less than frank if I didn’t tell you that the curriculum does contain references to the Quran, which, if taken out of context and read literally, would cause come concern,” Hyland said at the meeting at which the lease was extended.
By Diana West
It is late August 1939. American columnist Augusta “Gusto” Nash, played by the incomparable Claudette Colbert in the 1940 movie “Arise, My Love,” is sitting in a French railway car taking her from Paris (and love interest Ray Milland) to her next assignment: Adolph Hitler’s Berlin. Not surprisingly, she is boning up for her new post in the Nazi capital by reading “Mein Kampf.” Turning the pages, she looks increasingly disgusted, finally becoming incensed to the point where she slams the book shut and tosses it out the window.
The audience doesn’t learn precisely what that final straw was, but given the book’s notorious anti-Semitism, racism and militaristic plans for world domination, it’s not hard to imagine. Which makes me wonder: What if, in a 21st-century update of the movie, a columnist were filmed en route to Riyadh reading the Koran? Given the book’s notorious anti-Semitism (not to mention anti-Christianism), Islamic supremacism and jihadist exhortations for world domination, what if a postmodern-day Western-reared correspondent were depicted becoming agitated to the point of throwing the Koran out the window?
Not very easy to imagine this scenario coming to a multiplex near you. At least not without bomb threats, bombast and boycotts from the world of Islam (not to mention assorted yelps and cries from the stateside sensitivity police).
But it’s a setup worth considering — quietly, privately, in that shrinking mental domain still free from speech controls (for now, anyway) — if only as a bit of a culture check on a real-live news story that came out of Iraq this week when a U.S. sniper was discovered to have used a Koran for target practice in the former insurgent stronghold of Radwaniyah.
And what is the point of comparison here between movie fiction and recent fact? Namely, the contrasting reactions to these two manifestations of contempt for anti-liberty ideologies. Americans in 1940 widely shared Gusto Nash’s loathing for Hitler’s totalitarian message. In 2008, the superiors of the soldier in question, right on up the chain of command to commander-in-chief George W. Bush, only express their respect for, and, in a very frightening way, submission to the Koran despite its totalitarian message — and even at the expense of the soldier’s Constitutional rights.
The fact is, assuming this Koran belonged to the soldier, there is nothing illegal about shooting it or throwing it away. Impolitic, perhaps; but snipers — trained rather specifically in this conflict to kill jihadists, who are, above all, inspired by the violent exhortations contained within the Koran — are not diplomats.
But neither are generals. Missing a teachable moment — “Turn the other cheek?” “Nuts!” “The soldier fired on an inanimate object that urges jihad; he didn’t self-detonate in a teeming marketplace to advance jihad” — Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond chose to abase himself before the local Sunni tribe. “In a most humble manner, I look into your eyes today and I say ‘Please forgive me and my soldiers,’” he said. Then he called his sniper’s actions “nothing more than criminal behavior.”
The general was dead wrong — unless, that is, he was talking about criminal behavior under Sharia, or Islamic law, which isn’t, or certainly shouldn’t be, the guiding light of the U.S. military. But, alas, this is what increasingly appears to be the case. For example, in presenting a new Koran to this gathering of local Sunnis who were very likely insurgents not so long ago, another American officer kissed the Islamic book. Last time I looked, kissing Korans wasn’t a Yankee custom — unless dhimmitude now counts as one.
Let’s play around some more with the story. Imagine if, during the Allied occupation of post-Nazi Germany, a GI had been discovered using “Mein Kampf” for target practice. Would Gen. George S. Patton have kissed a new copy of the Nazi bible as he presented it to a cadre of former Nazis? In the words of Ol’ Blood and Guts — oh, wait; this is a family newspaper. Let’s just put it this way: Not likely. Difference is, of course, the anti-Semitism and imperialistic supremacism contained within “Mein Kampf” were recognized and treated as an existential threat to the rest of the Western world. In the so-called war on terror, however, our primary strategy is directed at masking or ignoring the overall anti-infidelism and imperialistic supremacism contained within the Koran.
And — in spite of the actions of the occasional “criminal” soldier — that’s one front where we’re certainly winning.
By Tony Blankley
Perhaps the greatest secular gift to the world by Judeo-Christian civilization is its seminal concept of the individual, which it raises above the tribe or the collective. In Genesis, we are told that man is made in the image of God. Deuteronomy tells us that “each human by his own sin is to be judged” and “do not punish children for the sins of their fathers.” And of course, the biblical life and teachings of Jesus reflect the deep importance of the individual. Thus was planted in the soil of the West our uniquely heightened respect for the individual.
It is impossible to imagine Western civilization — and particularly America — without the existence in our culture of the instinctive respect for the individual to offset the more general human instinct to be subordinated in the tribe or the group.
Conversely, there is no more dangerous incubus inserted into a Western nation than hostility or indifference to the inherent value and rights of the individual.
But radicalized Islam places little value on the individual, while holding up for supreme value the interests of the group, particularly their view of the group called Islam. And it is this aggressive, assertive insistence by radicalized Muslims in the West to subordinate our inherent rights to their collective demands that slowly and more or less quietly is forcing Westerners to take sides in the radicals’ demands. The resolution of this developing conflict — if not managed by the elites in Western countries on behalf of indigenous Western rights — inevitably will result in unnecessary violence.
A recent example of such intimidation was reported in The Washington Times Monday: Muneer Fareed, head of the Islamic Society of North America, is “demanding” that Sen. John McCain stop using the word “Islamic” to describe terrorists who are radical Islamists. He insists that McCain (and all others) just call Islamic terrorists “criminals.” “That is more acceptable to the Muslim community,” Fareed said. McCain, being as tough as nails, has said he has no intention of submitting to Fareed’s demand and will continue to use “Islamic” to describe Islamic terrorists. But it will be interesting to see what the two Democratic candidates for president choose to do about this demand.
Meanwhile, in Canada, Mark Steyn awaits trial before the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal for the crime of committing hate speech by writing a book and a magazine article that warned against the dangers of Islam overwhelming Europe (No. 1 best-seller in Canada; New York Times best-seller in the United States).
These charges were precipitated by demands for Steyn’s prosecution by a band of students, who publicly marched to announce their demands. They claimed that as Muslims, they should have the chance to offer a rebuttal when people like Steyn talk about issues that relate directly to Muslims. “When people feel insulted, they should have recourse,” Khaled Mouammar, president of the Canadian Arab Federation, said. Amazingly, the culturally feeble, intimidated Canadian officials promptly filed the criminal charges.
Similarly, a few months ago, the increasing British Muslim demands for Shariah law were answered in the positive by the archbishop of Canterbury. If the British government ever succumbs to that outrageous demand, not only will Muslim women lose their individual rights but also, pursuant to honor killing, principals could be murdered legally by their fathers, husbands or brothers. Already, non-Muslim British are being banned from public swimming pools during time reserved for Muslims. (No other group can reserve such times.)
Forty years ago last weekend, British classicist and politician Enoch Powell warned that if immigrants bringing alien values and customs into Britain are allowed to continue their immigration, a sense of alarm and resentment would develop in the indigenous British population. He was ejected from British politics for giving that warning.
But this week, the BBC published a poll taken precisely to measure public attitudes 40 years after Powell’s famous warning (and after 40 years of the British ruling class ignoring the growing danger). 70% think there is high tension between the races; 63% expect those tensions to result in violence between the races in Britain; and 60% think there are too many “immigrants” in Britain.
In a similar poll taken for the Davos World Economic Forum, stunning numbers of Europeans fear a “threat” from Muslims with whom they “interact”: 79% of Danes, 67% of Italians, 68% of Spaniards, 65% of Swedes and 59% of Belgians.
In my book “The West’s Last Chance,” published in 2005, I warned that the European people would not be passive in the face of their culture being undercut. Unlike others who wrote on the subject, I did not think Europeans would fail to defend their nations and their cultures. I warned that broad European street violence could be avoided only if their governments took the threat seriously.
These disturbing polls from BBC and Davos should constitute another undeniable warning to the gutless, defeatist European leaders. Take action to protect your people and their cherished Western values, or the people will take matters into their own hands. And for us in America, impending European unrest should be seen as a cautionary tale.
Muslims converting to Christianity is a thorny issue almost anywhere in the world, but recently U.K. media attention has focused in on the persecution of former Muslims not in foreign land but in its own backyard.
Former Muslims who convert to Christianity are threatened with disownment and violence at the hands of their own family members – much like in parts of the Middle East. But the difference is these families don’t reside in a theocratic society, but in a western country that upholds religious freedom – including the right to convert to another faith.
BBC, U.K.’s leading news network, featured several stories and programs in recent months devoted to the issue of persecution of Christian converts from Islam. In its latest feature on Monday, it highlighted real cases of England-based Muslims who convert to Christianity and the consequences that follow.
Sophia (not her real name) is from a Pakistani background but lives in east London. Her family has put extreme pressure on her to return to Islam since she converted to Christianity.
“They kept saying, ‘The punishment is death, do you know the punishment is death?” she recalled to BBC.
She ended up running away from home, but her mother found her and showed up at her baptism.
“I got up to get baptized, that’s when my mother got up, ran to the front and tried to pull me out of the water,” Sophia said.
“My brother was really angry. He reacted and phoned me on my mobile and just said, ‘I’m coming down to burn that church,’” she remembered.
Another U.K. convert case is Ziya Meral, who was disowned by his parents when they found out about his conversion.
“They said ‘go away, you’re not our son,’” Meral said. “They told people I died in an accident rather than having the shame of their son leaving Islam.”
Meral’s case is slightly different from Sophia because he was born and raised in Turey. His family still remains there. He went to England to study at a university and later became a follower of Jesus Christ.
He had planned to gently break the news to his parents, but instead they found out when they saw him on national news being described as “an evil missionary” intent on “brainwashing” Turkish children. The wild story was based on a clip of Meral eating at a Christian summer camp right before heading back to Turkey.
For converts such as Sophia and Meral, there is widespread belief by Muslims around the world that they should be punished by death.
A poll conducted by the Policy Exchange last year suggested that over a third of young British Muslims believe that the death penalty should be used for apostasy.
But several highly respected Muslim scholars are saying that the Quran does not say apostates must be punished by death. Rather, the teaching is from hadiths, or recorded traditions and sayings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
Usama Hassan, a Cambridge-educated scientist and an imam, contends that classical scholars were wrong in how they interpreted the Quran. He firmly denounces those who advocate the death penalty.
“I believe the classical law of apostasy in Islam is wrong and based on a misunderstanding of the original sources, because the Quran and Hadith don’t actually talk about a death penalty for apostasy,” Hassan argues.
Last year, Egypt’s top religious advisor, the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, also said Muslims are free to change their religion and should not be given worldly punishment because it “is a matter between an individual and God,” according to Agence France-Presse.
Former Muslim turned Christian leader, Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo of the Barnabas Fund, said he is “delighted” to see the British media zoom in on the issue of conversion from Islam and the persecution of former Muslims.
“As a convert from Islam myself, part of my life’s work has been to seek to see this most cruel of laws removed from Islam, and to see that Christians like myself are given freedom to choose and believe without facing persecution and possibly death,” Sookhdeo wrote in a Barnabas e-mail newsletter Monday.
“It is good to hear imams like Usama Hassan stating clearly that he believes the classical law of apostasy in Islam is wrong and denouncing those who advocate the death penalty,” said Sookhdeo, who is also the director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity. “Finally the world is waking up to this outrage and injustice. The secular media is to be congratulated for taking up the issue.”
The Islam expert – who advises British, American, and NATO military officials on jihadist ideology – called on Christians to pray that there will be real progress in religious freedom for former Muslims in the world.
By Raymond Ibrahim
Though he is little known in the West, Coptic priest Zakaria Botros — named Islam’s “Public Enemy #1” by the Arabic newspaper, al-Insan al-Jadid — has been making waves in the Islamic world. Along with fellow missionaries — mostly Muslim converts — he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (i.e., “Life TV”). There, he addresses controversial topics of theological significance — free from the censorship imposed by Islamic authorities or self-imposed through fear of the zealous mobs who fulminated against the infamous cartoons of Mohammed. Botros’s excurses on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition have become a thorn in the side of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East.
Botros is an unusual figure onscreen: robed, with a huge cross around his neck, he sits with both the Koran and the Bible in easy reach. Egypt’s Copts — members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East — have in many respects come to personify the demeaning Islamic institution of “dhimmitude” (which demands submissiveness from non-Muslims, in accordance with Koran 9:29). But the fiery Botros does not submit, and minces no words. He has famously made of Islam “ten demands,” whose radical nature he uses to highlight Islam’s own radical demands on non-Muslims.
The result? Mass conversions to Christianity — if clandestine ones. The very public conversion of high-profile Italian journalist Magdi Allam — who was baptized by Pope Benedict in Rome on Saturday — is only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, Islamic cleric Ahmad al-Qatani stated on al-Jazeera TV a while back that some six million Muslims convert to Christianity annually, many of them persuaded by Botros’s public ministry. More recently, al-Jazeera noted Life TV’s “unprecedented evangelical raid” on the Muslim world. Several factors account for the Botros phenomenon.
First, the new media — particularly satellite TV and the Internet (the main conduits for Life TV) — have made it possible for questions about Islam to be made public without fear of reprisal. It is unprecedented to hear Muslims from around the Islamic world — even from Saudi Arabia, where imported Bibles are confiscated and burned — call into the show to argue with Botros and his colleagues, and sometimes, to accept Christ.
Secondly, Botros’s broadcasts are in Arabic — the language of some 200 million people, most of them Muslim. While several Western writers have published persuasive critiques of Islam, their arguments go largely unnoticed in the Islamic world. Botros’s mastery of classical Arabic not only allows him to reach a broader audience, it enables him to delve deeply into the voluminous Arabic literature — much of it untapped by Western writers who rely on translations — and so report to the average Muslim on the discrepancies and affronts to moral common sense found within this vast corpus.
A third reason for Botros’s success is that his polemical technique has proven irrefutable. Each of his episodes has a theme — from the pressing to the esoteric — often expressed as a question (e.g., “Is jihad an obligation for all Muslims?”; “Are women inferior to men in Islam?”; “Did Mohammed say that adulterous female monkeys should be stoned?” “Is drinking the urine of prophets salutary according to sharia?”). To answer the question, Botros meticulously quotes — always careful to give sources and reference numbers — from authoritative Islamic texts on the subject, starting from the Koran; then from the canonical sayings of the prophet — the Hadith; and finally from the words of prominent Muslim theologians past and present — the illustrious ulema.
Typically, Botros’s presentation of the Islamic material is sufficiently detailed that the controversial topic is shown to be an airtight aspect of Islam. Yet, however convincing his proofs, Botros does not flatly conclude that, say, universal jihad or female inferiority are basic tenets of Islam. He treats the question as still open — and humbly invites the ulema, the revered articulators of sharia law, to respond and show the error in his methodology. He does demand, however, that their response be based on “al-dalil we al-burhan,” — “evidence and proof,” one of his frequent refrains — not shout-downs or sophistry.
More often than not, the response from the ulema is deafening silence — which has only made Botros and Life TV more enticing to Muslim viewers. The ulema who have publicly addressed Botros’s conclusions often find themselves forced to agree with him — which has led to some amusing (and embarrassing) moments on live Arabic TV.
Botros spent three years bringing to broad public attention a scandalous — and authentic — hadith stating that women should “breastfeed” strange men with whom they must spend any amount of time. A leading hadith scholar, Abd al-Muhdi, was confronted with this issue on the live talk show of popular Arabic host Hala Sirhan. Opting to be truthful, al-Muhdi confirmed that going through the motions of breastfeeding adult males is, according to sharia, a legitimate way of making married women “forbidden” to the men with whom they are forced into contact — the logic being that, by being “breastfed,” the men become like “sons” to the women and therefore can no longer have sexual designs on them.
To make matters worse, Ezzat Atiyya, head of the Hadith department at al-Azhar University — Sunni Islam’s most authoritative institution — went so far as to issue a fatwa legitimatizing “Rida’ al-Kibir” (sharia’s term for “breastfeeding the adult”), which prompted such outrage in the Islamic world that it was subsequently recanted.
Botros played the key role in exposing this obscure and embarrassing issue and forcing the ulema to respond. Another guest on Hala Sirhan’s show, Abd al-Fatah, slyly indicated that the entire controversy was instigated by Botros: “I know you all [fellow panelists] watch that channel and that priest and that none of you [pointing at Abd al-Muhdi] can ever respond to him, since he always documents his sources!”
Incapable of rebutting Botros, the only strategy left to the ulema (aside from a rumored $5-million bounty on his head) is to ignore him. When his name is brought up, they dismiss him as a troublemaking liar who is backed by — who else? — international “Jewry.” They could easily refute his points, they insist, but will not deign to do so. That strategy may satisfy some Muslims, but others are demanding straightforward responses from the ulema.
The most dramatic example of this occurred on another famous show on the international station, Iqra. The host, Basma — a conservative Muslim woman in full hijab — asked two prominent ulema, including Sheikh Gamal Qutb, one-time grand mufti of al-Azhar University, to explain the legality of the Koranic verse (4:24) that permits men to freely copulate with captive women. She repeatedly asked: “According to sharia, is slave-sex still applicable?” The two ulema would give no clear answer — dissembling here, going off on tangents there. Basma remained adamant: Muslim youth were confused, and needed a response, since “there is a certain channel and a certain man who has discussed this issue over twenty times and has received no response from you.”
The flustered Sheikh Qutb roared, “low-life people like that must be totally ignored!” and stormed off the set. He later returned, but refused to admit that Islam indeed permits sex-slaves, spending his time attacking Botros instead. When Basma said “90% of Muslims, including myself, do not understand the issue of concubinage in Islam and are having a hard time swallowing it,” the sheikh responded, “You don’t need to understand.” As for Muslims who watch and are influenced by Botros, he barked, “Too bad for them! If my son is sick and chooses to visit a mechanic, not a doctor — that’s his problem!”
But the ultimate reason for Botros’s success is that — unlike his Western counterparts who criticize Islam from a political standpoint — his primary interest is the salvation of souls. He often begins and concludes his programs by stating that he loves all Muslims as fellow humans and wants to steer them away from falsehood to Truth. To that end, he doesn’t just expose troubling aspects of Islam. Before concluding every program, he quotes pertinent biblical verses and invites all his viewers to come to Christ.
Botros’s motive is not to incite the West against Islam, promote “Israeli interests,” or “demonize” Muslims, but to draw Muslims away from the dead legalism of sharia to the spirituality of Christianity. Many Western critics fail to appreciate that, to disempower radical Islam, something theocentric and spiritually satisfying — not secularism, democracy, capitalism, materialism, feminism, etc. — must be offered in its place. The truths of one religion can only be challenged and supplanted by the truths of another. And so Father Zakaria Botros has been fighting fire with fire.
BAGHDAD: After almost five years of war, many young Iraqis, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.
In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.
“I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara Sami, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don’t deserve to be rulers.”
Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad, said: “The religion men are liars. Young people don’t believe them. Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore.”
The shift in Iraq runs counter to trends of rising religiousness among young people across much of the Middle East, where religion has replaced nationalism as a unifying ideology. While religious extremists are admired by a number of young people in other parts of the Arab world, Iraq offers a test case of what could happen when extremist theories are applied.
Fingers caught smoking were broken. Long hair was cut and force-fed to its owner. In that laboratory, disillusionment with Islamic leaders took hold.
It is far from clear whether the shift means a wholesale turn away from religion. A tremendous piety still predominates in the private lives of young Iraqis, and religious leaders, despite the increased skepticism, still wield tremendous power. Measuring religiousness furthermore, is a tricky business in Iraq, where access to cities and towns that are far from Baghdad is limited.
But a shift seems to be registering, at least anecdotally, in the choices some young Iraqis are making. Professors reported difficulty recruiting graduate students for religion classes. Attendance at weekly prayers appears to be down, even in areas where the violence has largely subsided, according to worshipers and imams in Baghdad and Falluja. In two visits to the weekly prayer session in Baghdad of the followers of Moktada al-Sadr last autumn, vastly smaller crowds attended than had in 2004 or 2005.
Such patterns, if lasting, could lead to a weakening of the political power of religious leaders in Iraq. In a nod to those changing tastes, political parties are scrubbing overt references to religion.
“In the beginning, they gave their eyes and minds to the clerics, they trusted them,” said Abu Mahmoud, a moderate Sunni cleric in Baghdad, who now works deprogramming religious extremists in American detention. “It’s painful to admit, but it’s changed. People have lost too much. They say to the clerics and the parties: You cost us this.”
“When they behead someone, they say ‘Allah Akbar,’ they read Koranic verse,” said a moderate Shiite sheik from Baghdad. “The young people, they think that is Islam. So Islam is a failure, not only in the students’ minds, but also in the community.”
A professor at Baghdad University’s School of Law, who would identify herself only as Bushra, said of her students: “They have changed their views about religion. They started to hate religious men. They make jokes about them because they feel disgusted by them.”
That was not always the case. Saddam Hussein encouraged religion in Iraqi society in his later years, building Sunni mosques and injecting more religion into the public school curriculum, but always made sure it served his authoritarian needs. Shiites, considered to be an alternate political force and a threat to Hussein’s power, were kept under close watch. Young Shiites who worshiped were seen as political subversives and risked attracting the attention of the police.
For that reason, the American invasion was sweetest to the Shiites, who for the first time were able to worship freely. They soon became a potent political force, as religious political leaders appealed to their shared and painful past and their respect for the Shiite religious hierarchy.
“After 2003, you couldn’t put your foot into the husseiniya, it was so crowded with worshipers,” said Sayeed Sabah, a Shiite religious leader from Baghdad, referring to a Shiite place of prayer.
Religion had moved abruptly into the Shiite public space, but often in ways that made educated, religious Iraqis uncomfortable. Militias were offering Koran courses. Titles came cheaply. In Abu Mahmoud’s neighborhood, a butcher with no knowledge of Islam became the leader of a mosque.
A moderate Shiite cleric, Sheik Qasim, recalled watching in amazement as a former student, who never earned more than mediocre marks, whizzed by stalled traffic in a long convoy of sport utility vehicles in central Baghdad. He had become a religious leader.
“I thought I would get out of the car, grab him and slap him!” said the sheik. “These people don’t deserve their positions.”
An official for the Ministry of Education in Baghdad, a secular Shiite, described the newfound faith like this: “It was like they wanted to put on a new, stylish outfit.”
Religious Sunnis, for their part, also experienced a heady swell in mosque attendance, but soon became the hosts for groups of religious extremists, foreign and Iraqi, who were preparing to fight the United States.
Zane Muhammad, a gangly 19-year-old with an earnest face, watched with curiosity as the first Islamists in his Baghdad neighborhood came to barbershops, tea parlors, and carpentry stores before taking over the mosques. They were neither uneducated nor poor, he said, though they focused on those who were. Then, one morning while waiting for a bus to school, Muhammad watched a man walk up to a neighbor, a college professor whose sect Muhammad did not know, shoot him at point-blank range three times and walk back to his car as calmly “as if he was leaving a grocery store.”
“Nobody is thinking,” Muhammad said in an interview in October. “We use our minds just to know what to eat. This is something I am very sad about. We hear things and just believe them.”
By 2006, even those who had initially taken part in the violence were growing weary. Haidar, a grade school dropout, was proud to tell his family he was following a Shiite cleric in a fight against American soldiers in the summer of 2004. Two years later, however, he found himself in the company of gangsters.
Young militia members were abusing drugs. Gift mopeds had become gift guns. In three years, he saw five killings, mostly of Sunnis, including that of a Sunni cabdriver shot for his car.
It was just as bad, if not worse, for young Sunnis. Rubbed raw by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, they found themselves stranded in neighborhoods that were governed by seventh-century rules. During interviews with a dozen Sunni teenage boys in a Baghdad detention facility on several sticky days in September, several expressed relief at being in jail, so they could wear shorts, a form of dress they would have been punished for in their neighborhoods.
Some Iraqis argue that religious-based politics was much more about identity than faith. When Shiites voted for religious parties in large numbers in an election in 2005, it was more an effort to show their numbers, than a victory of the religious over the secular.
“It was a fight to prove our existence,” said a young Shiite journalist from Sadr City. “We were embracing our existence, not religion.”
The war dragged on, and young people from both sects became more broadly involved. Criminals had begun using teenagers and younger boys to carry out killings. The number of juveniles in American detention was up more than sevenfold in November from April, and Iraq’s main prison for youth, in Baghdad, has triple the prewar population.
But while younger people were taking a more active role in the violence, their motivation was less likely than adults to be religion-driven. Of the 900 juvenile detainees in American custody in November fewer than 10% claimed to be fighting a holy war, according to the American military. About one-third of adults said they were.
A worker in the American detention system said that by her estimate, only about a third of the adult detainee population, which is overwhelmingly Sunni, prayed.
“As a group, they are not religious,” said Major General Douglas Stone, the head of detainee operations for the military. “When we ask if they are doing it for jihad, the answer is no.”
Muath, a slender, 19-year-old Sunni with distant eyes and hollow cheeks, is typical. He was selling mobile phone credits and plastic flowers, struggling to keep his mother and five young siblings afloat, when a recruiter, a man in his 30s, a regular customer, offered him cash in western Baghdad last spring to be part of an insurgent group, whose motivations were a mix of money and sectarian interests. Muath, the only wage earner, agreed. Suddenly his family could afford to eat meat again, he said in an interview in September.
Indeed, at least part of the religious violence in Baghdad had money at its heart. An officer at the Kadhamiya detention center, where Muath was being held this autumn, said recordings of beheadings fetch much higher prices than those of shooting executions in the CD markets, which explains why even nonreligious kidnappers will behead hostages.
When Muath was arrested last year, the police found two hostages, Shiite brothers, in a safe house that Muath revealed. Photographs showed the men looking wide-eyed into the camera; dark welts covered their bodies.
Violent struggle against the United States was easy to romanticize at a distance.
“I used to love Osama Bin Laden,” proclaimed a 24-year-old Iraqi college student. She was referring to how she felt before the war took hold in her native Baghdad. The Sept. 11, 2001, strike at American supremacy was satisfying, and the deaths, abstract.
Now, the student recites the familiar complaints: Her college has segregated the security checks; guards told her to stop wearing a revealing skirt; she covers her head for safety.
“Now I hate Islam,” she said, sitting in her family’s unadorned living room in central Baghdad. “Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army are spreading hatred. People are being killed for nothing.”
Parents have taken new precautions to keep their children out of trouble. Abu Tahsin, a Shiite from northern Baghdad, said that when his extended family built a Shiite mosque, they purposely did not register it with the religious authorities, even though it would have brought privileges, because they did not want to become entangled with any of the main religious Shiite groups that control Baghdad.
In Falluja, a Sunni city west of Baghdad that had been overrun by Al Qaeda, Sheik Khalid al-Mahamedie, a moderate cleric, said that fathers now came with their sons to mosques to meet the instructors of Koran courses. Families used to worry most about their daughters in adolescence, but now, the sheik said, they worry more about their sons.
“Before, parents warned their sons not to smoke or drink,” said Muhammad Ali al-Jumaili, a Falluja father with a 20-year-old son. “Now all their energy is concentrated on not letting them be involved with terrorism.”
Recruiters are relentless, and, as it turns out, clever, peddling things their young targets need. Stone describes it as a sales pitch a pimp gives to a prospective prostitute. American military officers at the American detention center said it was the Al Qaeda detainees who were best prepared for group sessions and asked the most questions.
A Qaeda recruiter approached Zane Muhammad, on a college campus with the offer of English lessons. Though lessons had been a personal ambition of Muhammad’s for months, once he knew what the man was after, he politely avoided him.”When you talk with them, you find them very modern, very smart,” said Muhammad, a nonreligious Shiite, who recalled feigning disdain for his own sect to avoid suspicion.
The population they focused on was poor and uneducated. About 60% of the American adult detainee population is illiterate and is unable to even read the Koran that religious recruiters are preaching.
That leads to strange twists. One young detainee, a client of Abu Mahmoud’s, was convinced he had to kill his parents when he was released, because they were married in an insufficiently Islamic way.
There is a new favorite game in the lively household of the Baghdad journalist. When they see a man with a turban on television, they crack jokes. In one of them, people are warned not to give their cellphone numbers to a religious man.
“If he knows the number, he’ll steal the phone’s credit,” the journalist said. “The sheiks are making a society of nonbelievers.”
S. Michael Craven
Last week I briefly summarized the differences between the Christian and Islamic worldview and their corresponding effects in society and culture. Suffice it to say that the Muslim response to my commentary was less than “agreeable.”
A more cordial Muslim reader from Turkey wrote:
No doubt, the Arabs and the Muslims in general are not living up to their religion and are suffering for it but your comparisons are self-serving to prove that only Christianity is responsible for Western progress. …The Mongol invasion, the colonial exploitation after the decline and defeat of the Ottoman Empire brought the Muslim world to its present state. Islam encourages literacy, frugality and the acquisition of knowledge from any source. Civilizations fall into decline and it was the Islamic culture that preserved knowledge when Europe was in the Dark Ages. Advances in science, mathematics, philosophy, sociology were characteristics of Islamic Civilization before it became stagnant for a number of reasons other than Islam.
This response reveals a number of increasingly popular myths that have resulted from a deliberate process by modern Muslims to “Islamize knowledge” in order to enlarge and elevate the place of Islam in history. Examples of this include claims that Muslims led the fields of science and medicine during the Middle Ages; Muslims founded the first hospitals; Muslim explorers reached America before Columbus, the Crusades were an unprovoked European assault on the peace-loving Muslims of the Holy Land, etc.
These themes are now being introduced into America’s public schools by means of various curriculums, including some, published by the Council on Islamic Education in conjunction with dawa, the Muslim doctrine of introducing “non-Muslims to accept the truth of Islam.” One website, DawaNet.com reminds Muslims that “Schools are fertile grounds where the seeds of Islam can be sowed inside the hearts of non-Muslim students.”
You may recall that following 9/11, schools in California began requiring students to attend classes on Islam in which they were subjected to Islamized representations of Islam. Course work required students to learn the tenets of Islam, study the important figures of the faith, and adopt a Muslim name, Additionally, students memorized verses in the Qur’an, were taught to pray “in the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful” concluding with the chant, “Praise to Allah, Lord of Creation.”
So how does the response from my Turkish reader reveal this “Islamized knowledge?”
First, the victimization assumed in the phrase “the colonial exploitation after the decline and defeat of the Ottoman Empire brought the Muslim world to its present state” is the basis for much of the Islamic world’s animosity toward the West. This is essentially the jihadist argument that Western “oppression” is the cause of all that ails the Islamic world. For the Muslim, this is certainly more palatable than the idea that Islam itself may be a false and therefore inadequate interpretation of reality or worldview.
To say that Western expansion is the reason for the Islamic world’s failures is to admit the inadequacy of the Islamic worldview. Dynamic and productive cultures are never overcome by less dynamic, less creative and less productive cultures. Islamic culture achieved the peak of its productivity and expansion after 750 AD and was already in decline by the middle of the 13th century—a decline from which it has never recovered. Conversely, Christian Europe had already experienced the 12th century Renaissance, which would be followed by the Italian Renaissance of the 14th-17th centuries, the 16th century Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment and so on.
All of these movements propelled Western civilization forward in many positive ways and the Christian ideological influence was a persistent reality despite what modern historical revisionists claim. Suffice it to say, the so-called “oppression” of the Islamic world by the West would be better described as a natural succession. The Western world simply passed the Islamic world by due to its inability to modernize.
In the past, the statement, “Islam encourages … the acquisition of knowledge from any source” might have been true however this has also been the limitation of Islamic science.
While it is true that the Islamic world experienced some level of success in the areas of mathematics and science; this was due largely to the recovery and preservation of Classical Greek thought by Muslim scholars. However the Muslim approach to Greek learning was that it was something to be known rather than pursued and thus they were unable to progress Classical thought any further. It simply stopped where Greek learning ended.
The Greek approach to science, for example, was stagnated by empiricism, i.e. the mere observation of natural phenomenon. The weakness in Greek thought was the absence of theory, which went beyond observation to ask “why” the phenomenon occur and “what” are the causes. What little theory did exist was non-empirical. For example, Aristotle taught that the speed at which objects fall to earth is proportionate to their weight—that a stone twice as heavy will fall twice as fast.
However, Aristotle never actually tested his “theory” by tossing two stones off a nearby cliff! If he had he would have quickly proved his theory wrong. This was the fatal flaw in Greek learning and being that Islamic science continued in the same approach; it was the limitation to Islamic science. So, while the Islamic world may “encourage the acquisition of knowledge from any source;” it is apparently unable to generate new knowledge.
It is the theoretical element of Western science that enabled its preeminence and this unique facet owes its existence to the Christian worldview. Why? Christianity produced faith in human reason to explore and understand an orderly universe that was created by a rational God. It was this fact that facilitated the Western eclipse of Islamic science.
With all due respect, the sooner Muslims awaken to the shortcomings of the Islamic interpretation of reality and stop blaming the West for its apparent failure, the sooner it will open the door to real and lasting progress as well as the Truth.
by Lee Harris
The English-speaking peoples are justifiably proud of their tradition of free speech. When Thomas Macaulay reviewed the achievements of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, he observed that the victorious English Whigs had shown how “the authority of law and the security of property” could be reconciled with “a liberty of discussion and of individual action never before known.”
Since Macaulay’s day, many of the other nations of the world have also figured out how to reconcile liberty of discussion with the general welfare, until a point has been reached where we in the West have completely forgotten what a remarkable achievement our ancestors bequeathed to us. Even a devout Whig like Macaulay, writing midway between us and the Glorious Revolution, recalled a time when unrestricted liberty of discussion could not be made compatible with domestic tranquility. Today, on the other hand, most of us have lost any awareness of the painful fact that, under certain conditions, a society might be forced to make a tragic choice between two incompatible goods, namely, free speech and the public welfare. Yet the events of the last several years should have awakened us from our dogmatic slumber, for when it comes to speaking of Islam, there is troubling evidence that our cherished liberty of discussion may not be compatible with security of life and limb, not to mention the security of property.
It is only by keeping these sobering facts in mind that we can hope to put into perspective the strange drama unfolding in Canada—a drama that contains elements that might have been borrowed from the theater of the absurd, making it uncertain whether we are dealing with a surreal farce or an all too real tragedy.
On January 11, 2008, in a small drab government office in Alberta, a hearing was held to investigate a complaint brought against Ezra Levant, a Canadian publisher, author, and libertarian activist. The case, in truth, had its origins two years earlier in Denmark, where the daily news-paper Jyllands-Posten commissioned and published a set of cartoons lampooning the prophet known to Muslims as Muhammad. As most of us remember, after a delay of several months, and with an assist from a road-show to the Middle East organized by unhappy Danish imams, the so-called Danish cartoons set off havoc in various corners of the Muslim world, leaving a death toll of around 100 people, many of whom were shot by police in their attempt to quell the riots. In the aftermath, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that the cartoon controversy was the worst international crisis for his country since World War II, when Denmark was invaded by the Nazis.
Ezra Levant had nothing to do with the original cartoon debacle. His magazine, the now defunct Western Standard, decided to reprint the cartoons in order to let its readers see and judge the drawings for themselves. When the cartoons appeared on February 14, 2006, there were no riots, deaths, or international crises. But, not long afterwards, Levant found himself in hot water. Syed Soharwardy, representing the self-proclaimed Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, filed a complaint with the Calgary police, alleging that Levant was inciting hatred against him—a crime in Canada. These criminal charges, according to the Calgary police, are still under investigation. In addition, Soharwardy lodged a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizen Commission.
In a related case, four Muslim law students affiliated with the Canadian Islamic Congress have filed complaints against author Mark Steyn for publishing an excerpt from his bestselling book, America Alone, in the Canadian newsweekly Maclean’s. These complaints, filed in December 2007, will be heard by the British Columbian Human Rights Tribunal and by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
There has been remarkably little interest shown in these cases by the American media, usually so alert to perceived violations of the right to free speech, and it is perhaps too easy to speculate why the editorial boards of our leading newspapers and magazines have not gotten up in arms over these attacks on their Canadian colleagues. Could it be that they are not as keen on defending our right to speak ill of Islam as they are to defend our right to speak ill of virtually everything else? On the other hand, the Canadian cases have caught the attention of the blogosphere, especially but not exclusively among those to the right of center. After Levant made the videotape of his appearance before the Alberta Human Rights Commission available on YouTube, it was inundated with viewers, most of them enthusiastically sympathetic with his defiant response to the order to appear before the commission. There is also a Free Mark Steyn! website dedicated to information about his pending case and to defending other “Canadians from the thought police and ‘human rights’ commissars.”
So what are we really dealing with here? A grave threat to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of free speech, as some seem to think, or a cautionary tale of bureaucratic folly in a nanny state running amok?
Before the commencement of his hearing, Levant read a statement in which he refused to recognize that the commission had the authority to summon him before it to answer questions relating to Soharwardy’s complaint. Levant vehemently asserts that he, like everyone else, has the unconditional right to engage in speech that is offensive and unreasonable. The defiant and pugnacious attitude that Levant took has been widely echoed by his supporters, and there has been a uniform tendency to lump the various Canadian tribunals and commissions together under the heading of kangaroo courts, intent on violating what Levant, in his opening remarks, called his “inalienable” right to freedom of expression, further sanctioned, in his words, by “the 800-year tradition” of English common law on the subject.
Macaulay would have been quite surprised to learn that from the 12th century onward there were no restrictions on speech under English common law. As a Whig, Macaulay might have reminded Levant that it took the Whig revolution to secure anything like the kind of liberty of discussion that we take for granted. During the reign of James I, Macaulay might have noted, there was a heated controversy over the degree to which members of the House of Commons could freely speak their minds during a session of Parliament, and even those members of the House who pushed to protect their own right of free speech recognized that there were obvious limits beyond which it would be improper to go. No member of the House of Commons could urge the overthrow of the monarchy, for instance, or make speeches that endangered the general welfare.
In 17th-century England, no one doubted that it was often in the public interest to curb men’s tongues. During the reign of Charles I, for example, the archbishop of Canterbury William Laud decided to hand down a ruling that forbade ministers to discuss the sublime mysteries associated with Calvin’s doctrine of predestination. They could not preach it, nor could they preach against it. They could not mention it at all. This was clearly an infringement on the right of free speech, but for Laud it was an infringement that was amply justified in the interests of domestic tranquility and social harmony. For Laud, what was at stake was not so much the promotion of his own theological opinions as the suppression of the furor theologicus that had caused so much devastation in England and throughout Europe in the aftermath of the Reformation. What Laud wanted to achieve was not the victory of his own narrow theological opinions, but the eradication of all theological divisiveness, along with the rancor and the violence that came with it. His goal was to bring about uniformity of religious opinion and practice by weaning the English population away from violent disputations over inherently unsolvable mysteries.
If Macaulay represented the Whig approach to liberty of discussion, Laud could be said to represent the Tory approach. For Macaulay, free speech was the foundation of mankind’s “intellectual improvement,” so that any state that interfered with the free expression of ideas had impeded the growth of knowledge and the ethical uplift of the race. In addition, for the Whig, free speech was the ultimate bulwark against governmental or ecclesiastical despotism. For the Tory, on the other hand, the state not only had a legitimate right to interfere with free speech under certain conditions, it had a duty to interfere. If liberty of discussion threatened to incite men to violence, or caused them to take the law in their own hands, then the state, representing the general welfare and not merely its own selfish interests, had to curb this so-called liberty. Liberty yes, license, no. When preaching sermons about predestination becomes tantamount to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, then such sermons must cease.
It is easy, looking back, to take a smug attitude toward the men of those times, and to preen ourselves on how much farther we have advanced in the recognition of the importance of basic human rights than our ancestors. But what we forget is that we are the heirs of a profound cultural transformation that made free speech less dangerous to the social order than it was in previous centuries. We were all brought up in a world in which it was safe to speak our minds—safe both for us, and for the other members of our community. There was a tacit compact by which we all agreed to play by the same set of rules. I could say pretty much whatever I wanted to say, provided I allowed you the same liberty. Furthermore, I agreed that I would not become too upset if you offended me, provided you agreed that you would not become too upset if I offended you. Of course, most of us would watch what we said, in the interest of not causing others too much offense, but we would not fly off the handle if now and then someone went too far over the line. We might grumble and complain; we might even decide not to speak with the person who offended us, but we would not stab the offender to death, or behead him, or riot in the streets in protest against him, or burn down buildings to indicate to the world the fury of our resentment.
Levant, and other defenders of the classical Whig position, do not seem to realize that this tacit social compact is presently breaking down in the very nations that prided themselves the most on having achieved it. Today, because of Islam, the furor theologicus that we in the West thought we had put behind us is reemerging and can flare up in any part of the world. A cartoon or a film documentary that Muslims find offensive can set off a chain of reactions that lead to riots, bloodshed, the murder of innocents, and international crises. To continue to maintain, in the light of these troubling facts, that the state has no business watching what its citizens say is to indulge in a wistful anachronism. Even the most dedicated libertarian must surely realize that at some point the other members of his society may not be willing to pay the social costs of his freedom of expression. One may of course wish for a society to stand firmly behind those who have the courage to speak their minds; but it is simply naive to expect the general population to support them beyond a certain point. The question is, How close are we to that point?
Let us consider several well-known examples.
First, let us go back to the publication of the original cartoons in the Danish magazine. It is highly likely that the Danish government would never have heard about these cartoons if they had lampooned Zoroaster, the Buddha, Moses, or Jesus of Nazareth. Caricatures of these revered figures might have offended certain readers, causing them to write angry letters to the editor, or even to cancel their subscriptions; but nothing would have happened to make the Danish government weigh in the balance the individual right of free expression versus the general welfare of their nation. On the other hand, if the fallout of the Danish cartoons was indeed the worst thing to happen to Denmark since the Nazi invasion, then what patriotic Dane could be happy to see his country embroiled in an international uproar because of an editorial decision at a newspaper?
Second, consider the well-known case of Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh. His protest film about the oppression of women in Islam outraged Muslim sensibility in Holland and led a lone fanatic to stab van Gogh to death in the streets of Amsterdam. The Dutch, who had achieved their celebrated tolerance after enduring the worst form of the furor theologicus, were stunned by this violation of the tacit compact by which they had managed to balance the desire for freedom of expression with the desire for social harmony. The effect of van Gogh’s murder was chilling, since it revealed the breakdown of a fragile civil ecology that permitted the strong-minded and stubborn Dutch to live at peace with one another despite their differences.
The consequences of this breakdown were also evident in the Dutch treatment of the brave Somali-born woman who had conceived and scripted the offensive film. Van Gogh’s murderer had pinned a death threat against Ayaan Hirsi Ali to his victim’s chest, declaring to the world that she was a target of possible attack. For obvious reasons, the neighbors who lived in Hirsi Ali’s apartment building were disturbed to think that they were living next to someone who might become the object of a terrorist attack, possibly in the form of a bombing. By speaking out courageously against radical Islam, Hirsi Ali not only put herself at risk, but, as her neighbors saw it, she had also (quite inadvertently) put them at risk. But why should her neighbors be forced to live under the same death threats that Hirsi Ali had received? They had said nothing controversial themselves, and deeply resented the idea that they might be called upon to pay the price for a courage that they had never dreamed of displaying.
Those of us who have the luxury of living risk-free can easily ridicule the paranoia of Hirsi Ali’s Dutch neighbors. But their feelings were no doubt akin to those of a group of hostages held by masked men with guns, who suddenly discover that they have a hero in their midst, intent on speaking his mind to the gunmen who are holding them. The other hostages might momentarily admire the hero, but they will probably also wish that he keep his heroism to himself, since by speaking his mind he is exposing his fellow hostages to the danger of getting shot.
In the case of Hirsi Ali, her neighbors were satisfied when she moved out of the apartment block, and the Dutch government was eventually satisfied when Hirsi Ali moved out of their country. But suppose she had not moved. Then what? Might not the day have arrived when her neighbors asked the government to protect them by gagging her? If the person who is exercising his freedom of speech is endangering the lives of other people in his society, how long will it be before an appeal is made to quiet him by whatever means are available? Indeed, how long can such a state of affairs go on before it has an intimidating effect even on those who are by no means lacking in the courage to risk their own necks?
For example, when Pope Benedict XVI gave his Regensburg Address in 2006, there was also a Muslim backlash, less lethal than that of the Danish cartoons, but still more than enough to create serious ethical reservations in the mind of anyone of stature who undertakes to make a public criticism of Islam. If certain words can literally kill, then morally responsible men and women will naturally be hesitant to say them aloud, leading to a self-censorship that can make timorous those who are not -otherwise short on courage.
In the bloody aftermath of the Regensburg Address, many journalists in the West assailed the pope for “causing” the mayhem and held him personally responsible for the death of a Catholic nun murdered in Somalia by Muslim fanatics. This attack on the pope was certainly unjustified, and yet, if we are completely honest with ourselves, we must recognize that there is a hard unpleasant kernel of truth in it. If criticism of Islam sets off riots and leads to the death of innocent people, then those who are prepared to make these criticisms must also be prepared to face the moral hazard they are running by doing so.
Fortunately, in the case of the Western Standard, there were no riots or deaths. It is true that Levant appears to have offended at least one Muslim, namely, the man who has filed the complaints against him. But Soharwardy did not stab Levant to death, or blow him up—and, to quote Gilbert and Sullivan, this is “greatly to his credit.” Soharwardy may not be an Englishman, like the able seaman of the Pinafore, but at least he is behaving like one, vigorously availing himself of the law and its loopholes in order to get his way, and thereby avoiding the violence that so often accompanies expression of Muslim anger in other parts of the world. Canadian law has made the mere expression of hatred a crime, unlike American law, which must consider whether hateful speech is likely to lead to the actual physical harm of the person who is its object; and who can really fault Soharwardy for thus taking advantage of opportunities placed in his way? Levant may well object to Canadian law on this matter, and he may even be right to argue that the Alberta Human Rights Commission has exceeded its mandate by taking his case under consideration. But that is not Soharwardy’s fault.
Levant appears to recognize the inherent absurdity of the situation when he compares his “interrogation” to a story by Franz Kafka. And if you watch the video on YouTube, you can see what he means. While Levant defiantly defends his ancient and inalienable rights, as if he were pleading before the Star Chamber, a lone bureaucratic inquisitor, Shirlene McGovern, sits across the table from him. Drab as the room itself, she is silent under Levant’s ferociously indignant tongue-lashing. Every now and then McGovern squirms uncomfortably, raising her eyebrows at some of Levant’s more extravagant claims, no doubt wishing that she could get her government paycheck without this kind of ordeal. Obviously, she is someone who, as the phrase goes, is just trying to do her job, and has no desire to abridge anyone’s freedom of speech. Indeed, when Levant finishes castigating the commission that she represents, McGovern responds by saying, as any good Canadian might, “You’re entitled to your opinion, that’s for sure.” And she obviously meant it.
McGovern has been condemned as the mindless functionary of the nanny state at its worst. But before we jump on this inviting bandwagon, let us at least try to give Nanny her due. If speaking of Islam runs genuine risks of inciting violence, we cannot just pretend that it isn’t so. We can be indignant about this and declaim loudly against it—but what good does such an approach really do? If criticizing Islam promotes bloodshed, then criticizing even more hardly seems like an attractive solution. On the other hand, let us look at the possible upside to the nanny approach.
Let offended Muslims file complaints to their heart’s content. Make outraged imams fill out tedious forms. Require self-appointed mullahs, representing imaginary counsels and committees, to provide documentation of their grievances. Encourage them to vent through the intrinsically stifling bureaucratic channels provided by panels like the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Show them, nanny-like, that you care about their injured feelings. Patiently and silently listen to their indignant complaints, and let them, ideally, get it all out of their systems. Humoring, let us remember, is not appeasement, but often a clever way to coax troublesome children of all ages into behaving like civilized human beings. Every good nanny knows as much. So perhaps there is something that the rest of the world can learn from the Canadian nanny’s book of tricks. If it is a book of tricks...
For here’s the rub. If the Canadian government were using its “kangaroo courts” as a deliberate ploy to siphon off Muslim rage or to guide it into proper bureaucratic (and happily nonviolent) channels, then we could perhaps admire it for its prudence and cunning. But suppose these commissions and tribunals are not a cunning charade, designed to hoodwink ill-tempered Muslims into becoming good litigious Anglo-Saxons? What if the Canadian government actually thought that it could help matters by cracking down on writers like Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn, by fining them or by throwing them into prison, silencing those who have the courage to speak of Islam, while encouraging Muslim immigrants to feel that they can manipulate weak-kneed governments into stifling any criticism of their religion and culture? Obviously this naive approach would backfire disastrously, and would end by endangering the very domestic tranquility that it was trying to preserve.
Of one thing we can have no doubt: Short of a firing squad, there is nothing that the Canadian government can do that will have any effect on what Ezra Levant or Mark Steyn will say and write in the future. You couldn’t have picked worse people to try to cow. But unfortunately, it is the nature of the nanny state to bring up citizens who have been trained not to rock the boat. Under a nanny regime, the good citizen is one who is reluctant to speak his mind merely out of fear of what other people might think. For people already this cowed, even the threat of a minor bureaucratic hassle would be a powerful argument for keeping one’s mouth shut, and for standing by while our hard-won liberty of discussion is steadily eroded. Canada still has uncowable men like Levant and Steyn; but where will such men come from a generation hence?
Even worse, the threat of ongoing legal action, carried out in a number of different Canadian provinces, might be more than enough to keep less well-known writers and smaller news outlets from exposing themselves to the risk of legal costs that a magazine like Maclean’s can afford to take. When faced with the threat of an endless hassle, draining away limited personal resources, many writers will simply take the safer course of not saying anything offensive about Islam. But since it is difficult to say in advance what will be offensive to men like Soharwardy, the safest course will be to say nothing at all. In short, gagging Canadians may not take a generation. It may work in a matter of a few months.
And is it just Canada that we are talking about? After all, if enough Muslims continue to react with violence to criticism of their religion and culture, all the other nations of the West will eventually be forced to make a tragic choice between two of our highest values. Either we must clamp down on critics of Islam, mandating a uniform code of political correctness, or else we must let the critics say what they wish, regardless of the consequences, and in full knowledge that these consequences may include the death of innocents. This is not a choice that the West has had to face since the end of our own furor theologicus several centuries ago, but, like it or not, it is the choice that we are facing again today.
GAZA: In the Katib Wilayat mosque one recent Friday, the imam was discussing the wiliness of the Jew.
“Jews are a people who cannot be trusted,” Imam Yousif al-Zahar of Hamas told the faithful. “They have been traitors to all agreements. Go back to history. Their fate is their vanishing. Look what they are doing to us.”
At Al Omari mosque, the imam cursed the Jews and the “Crusaders,” or Christians, and the Danes, for reprinting cartoons of Muhammad. He referred to Jews as “the brothers of apes and pigs.”
The Hamas television station, Al Aksa, is harsher. It praises suicide bombing and holy war until Palestine is free of Jewish control. Its videos praise fighters and rocket-launching teams; its broadcasts insult the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for talking to Israel and the United States; its children’s programs praise “martyrdom,” teach the perfidy of the Jews and the need to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, meaning any part of the state of Israel.
Such incitement against Israel and Jews was supposed to be banned under the 1993 Oslo accords and the 2003 “road map” to peace. While the Palestinian Authority under Fatah has made significant, if imperfect, efforts to end incitement, Hamas, no party to those agreements, feels no such restraint.
Since Hamas routed Fatah and took over Gaza last June, sermons and media preaching violence and hatred have become more pervasive, extreme and sophisticated, on the model of Hezbollah in Lebanon and its Al Manar television. Designed to indoctrinate the young to its brand of radical Islam, the programs of Al Aksa television and radio, including key Friday sermons, are an indication of how far from reconciliation Israelis and many Palestinians are.
Hamas’s grip on Gaza matters, but what may matter more in the long run is its control over propaganda and education there. No matter what Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agree, there is concern here that the attitudes being instilled will make a sustainable peace extremely difficult.
“If you take a sample on Friday, you’re bound to hear incitement against the Jews in the prayers and the imam’s sermon,” said Mkhaimer Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University here. “He uses verses from the Koran to say how the Jews were the enemies of the prophet and didn’t keep their promises to the prophet 1,400 years ago.”
Abusada is a Muslim and political independent. “You have young people and everyone has to listen to the imam whether you believe him or not. By saying the same thing over and over, you find a lot of people believing it, especially when he cites the Koran or hadith,” the sayings of the prophet.
Radwan Abu Ayyash, deputy minister of culture in Ramallah, ran the Palestinian Broadcasting Company until 2005. Hamas “uses religious language to motivate simple people for political as well as religious goals,” he said. “People don’t distinguish between the two.” He said he finds a lot of what Al Aksa broadcasts “disgusting and unprofessional.”
Every Palestinian thinks the situation in Gaza is ugly, he said. “But what is not fine is to build up children with a culture of hatred, of closed minds, a culture of sickness. I don’t think they always know what they are creating. People use one weapon, language, without realizing that they also use it against themselves.”
Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli group, said Hamas takes its view of Jews from what it considers the roots of Islam, then tries to make the present match the past.
For example, in a column in the weekly Al Risalah, Sheik Yunus al-Astal, a Hamas legislator and imam, discussed a Koranic verse suggesting that “suffering by fire is the Jews’ destiny in this world and the next.”
“The reason for the punishment of burning is that it is fitting retribution for what they have done,” Astal wrote on March 13. “But the urgent question is, is it possible that they will have the punishment of burning in this world, before the great punishment” of hell? Many religious leaders believe so, he said, adding: “Therefore we are sure that the Holocaust is still to come upon the Jews.”
Some Hamas videos, like one in March 2007, promote the participation of children in “resistance,” showing them training in uniform, holding rifles. Recent shows displayed Abbas kissing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel under the slogan: “Palestine doesn’t return with kisses, it returns with martyrs.”
Another children’s program, “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” has become infamous for its puppet characters - a kind of Mickey Mouse, a bee and a rabbit - who speak, like Assud the rabbit, of conquering the Jews to the young hostess, Saraa Barhoum, 11.
“We will liberate Al Aksa mosque from the Zionists’ filth,” Assud said recently. “We will liberate Jaffa and Acre,” cities now in Israel proper. “We will liberate the whole homeland.”
The mouse, Farfour, was murdered by an Israeli interrogator and replaced by Nahoul, the bee, who died “a martyr’s death” from lack of health care because of Gaza’s closed borders. He has been supplanted by Assud, the rabbit who vows “to get rid of the Jews, Allah willing.”
Still, there are numerous Palestinians in Gaza - in the hothouse atmosphere of an overcrowded, isolated territory where martyr posters and anger at Israel are widespread among Fatah, too - who are deeply upset about the hold Hamas has on their mosques and on what their children watch.
While the Palestinian Authority of Fatah also causes some concern - its textbooks, for example, rarely recognize the state of Israel - Yigal Carmon, who runs Middle East Media Research Institute, said that Hamas and its media use “the kind of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish language you don’t really hear any more from the Palestinian Authority, which hasn’t talked like that in a long time.”
Abu Saleh, who asked that his full name not be used because of his critical views, is worried about his children. His eldest son, 13, likes to watch Al Aksa, especially the nationalist songs and military videos.
“I talk to them about Hamas, but to be honest it’s scary and you have to watch it over time,” he said. “When kids are 17 or 18, you don’t know what happens. They get enraged and can attach themselves to radical groups.”
Muhammad did a temporary hudna, or truce, with the Jews 1,400 years ago, so Hamas allows the idea. But no one in Hamas says they would make a peace treaty with Israel or permanently relinquish any part of Mandate Palestine.
“They talk of hudna, not of peace or reconciliation with Israel,” Abusada said. “They believe over time they will be strong enough to liberate all historic Palestine.”
Saraa, the host of “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” is the niece of Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman. Some of the language used against other Arabs upsets him, Barhoum said, but he insisted that Israel is illegitimate.
“No one can deny that all this was Palestinian land and Jews occupied the land,” he said firmly. “Therefore the Hamas charter is based on what Israel has committed against our people and our understanding of Israel and its practices.”
The Hamas charter is a deeply anti-Semitic document and cites the famous forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as truth. But “our battle is not with Jews as Jews,” Barhoum said, “but those who came and occupied us and killed us.” After all, he said, “the Jews who recognized the evil of the occupation stayed outside and refused to come to Palestine as occupiers. The Jews who came, came to occupy and to kill.”
Mark Regev, Olmert’s spokesman, called on “Arab leaders who are moderate and believe in peace to speak out more strongly against extremist elements.”
He called the “incitement to hatred and violence standard Hamas operating procedure,” adding: “In Hamas education and broadcasting they turn the suicide bomber who murders the innocent into a positive role model, and they portray Jews in the most negative terms, that too often reminds us of language used in Europe in the first half of the 20th century.”
The “serious question,” he said, “is what ethos are they promoting?”
Hazim el-Sharawi, 30, the original host of the Farfour character on Hamas television, and known as “Uncle Hazim,” has no doubts. It was his idea to have Farfour killed by an Israeli interrogator, he said. “We wanted to send a message through this character that would fit the reality of Palestinian life.”
Israel is the source, he insisted. “A child sees his neighbors killed, or blown up on the beach, and how do I explain this to a child that already knows? The occupation is the reason, it creates the reality. I just organize the information for him.”
The point is simple, he said: “We want to connect the child to Palestine, to his country, so you know that your original city is Jaffa, your capital is Jerusalem, and that the Jews took your land and closed your borders and are killing your friends and family.”
S. Michael Craven
Recently, the Arab League reported that “nearly one-third of Arabs are illiterate, including half of Arab women.” The report also points out that “it’s not just the older generation: Three quarters of the 100 million illiterate people in 21 Arab countries are between the ages of 15 and 45.”
By contrast, 99% of Americans 15 years and older are literate, according to the latest government figures. Western nations have for centuries had the most literate populations and literacy rates in the US have been among the highest in the world going back as far as the 1600s when it was estimated that “the literacy rate for men in Massachusetts and Connecticut was somewhere between 89 and 95%…” And for “women in those colonies it is estimated to have run as high as 62% in the years 1681 – 1697.” (Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985)
Where Christianity spreads, literacy inevitably follows. A Ugandan university study published in 2007 reveals that while “Arab Muslims were the first to introduce written information (texts) in Uganda, they did not make any effort to teach reading and writing… Literacy in the Roman alphabet was introduced into Uganda by Christian missionaries in the late 19th century.” The report goes on to add that within contemporary Ugandan culture, “Christianity provides the impetus for local literacy practices…”
Another study by the Organization of the Islamic Conference on the status of scientific research in its 57 member states reveals a similar shortcoming in the area of scientific accomplishment.
Of the more than 11.5 million scientific papers published worldwide each year; Muslim countries contribute just 2.5%. There are more than 1.5 billion Muslims living across the Islamic world — about a quarter of the world’s population — and yet they have generated barely more than one percent of the world’s scientific literature and produced only two scientific Nobel Prize winners.
The Islamic approach to healthcare is still largely based on the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. These sayings, in which Muhammad gave his opinions on medical practices, formed the basis for a distinctive and inadequate medical system from the ninth century onward.
There are simply no scientific innovations emerging out of the Islamic world: no space program, no hi-tech developments, no medical breakthroughs—nothing! Islam cannot provide an adequate basis for science because Islam does not embrace the notion that the universe runs along fundamental principles or laws laid down at creation. Allah—unlike the God of Scripture who is both personal and rational—is impersonal and his intrusion upon the world is arbitrary.
In Christianity, God acts upon nature and the world in ways consistent with His special (Scripture) and natural (creation) revelation. In other words, the God of Scripture is a God of order who created according to laws that are universal and thus men could discern these laws and by theorizing based on these fixed laws, gain a greater understanding of creation. This served as the basis of Western science and its preeminence.
Economically, the Islamic world fares no better. In fact, the Gross Domestic product (GDP) of all Arab countries combined stood at just $1.2 trillion in 2005 – less than that of Spain. This pales in comparison to the U.S. GDP of more than $13 trillion! Unemployment among Arab nations, which hovers around 15%, is the highest in the world. The source of what little wealth the Arab world does generate is primarily due to oil, which without Western intervention would have remained an unrealized natural resource.
In the Christian West, it was the biblical principles of personal responsibility, thrift and reinvestment of profits that gave rise to free-market capitalism. This coupled with a moral vision that led people to restrain their material consumption while vigorously seeking wealth, produced the most productive economies in all of human history.
On the matter of justice, this hardly bears examination as Islamic justice is nearly an oxymoron. There is no presumption of innocence and the burden of proof does not rest with the state. This is a culture in which a woman who is the victim of rape will likely find herself executed or whipped and fathers can murder their children for associating with infidels—so called “honor killings.” Of the 48 countries with a full or near Muslim majority, none has yet evolved a stable, democratic political system.
Hisham Sharabi, the noted Palestinian-born scholar of Georgetown University writes that the Arab world is for the most part “a culturally and politically desolate and oppressive place in which to live and to work . . . a difficult place in which to struggle to build a decent and humane society.” Clearly the Islamic worldview fails to correspond with reality at every point, producing less than adequate results in every standard by which we measure personal, social, and economic well-being.
Conversely, Christianity is more than mere religion; it is the true interpretation of reality in which individuals and societies alike fare better in every category when they live consistent with biblical truth. Rodney Stark points out in his insightful book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, “While other religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth.” This emphasis on “reason and logic” naturally flows from a rational God who has revealed Himself through both the written word and an orderly creation. These combine to provide a rational theology that through reason men are able to apprehend and apply to every aspect of life and culture producing humane and successful societies.
So, why does this matter? Because for one, roughly one-fifth of the world’s population suffers under the oppressive yoke of Islam and two, there are many who are determined to spread Islam at any cost until the entire world comes under its destructive control.
For American Christians, the response is simple. The Lord in His providence has brought somewhere between 6 and 10 million (exact numbers are unavailable) Muslims to our shores. Thus the Muslim is now our neighbor and we are to love our neighbors. This means we endeavor to create real and meaningful relationships with those Muslims the Lord has very intentionally brought into our lives for it is ultimately the love of Christ that will overcome the tyranny of Islam.
Tarek Fatah and Farzana Hassan, National Post
The tragic death of a Mississauga, Ont., teenage girl — allegedly at the hands of her own traditionally minded Muslim father — has sent shock waves across the world. Canadians are justified in raising concerns as to whether this is a sign of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in their own backyard.
Aqsa Parvez, a sprightly 16-year-old, beloved of her friends and peers at Applewood Heights Secondary School, was only trying to be herself, was only wishing for a normal adolescence amid Canada’s rich cultural mosaic. Her father has now been charged with murder, and his son with obstruction, while a young life has been snuffed out — likely in the name of honour and Islam.
Radical Muslim men consider themselves ultimately responsible for the conduct of the womenfolk. This outlook is rooted in a medieval ethos that treats women as nonpersons, unable to decide for themselves what they should wear, where they must go and what they must accomplish in life. If their conduct is seen as contravening this austere religious outlook, they are invariably subjected to abuse.
The hijab in particular has become a thorny issue among Muslim families. It has been elevated as a sort of “sixth pillar of Islam” among militant sects. Young teenage girls are often lectured over the virtues of the hijab by their family members. Once they hit puberty, compliance is deemed a non-negotiable religious requirement.
Yet none of this is actually mandated by the Koran. The Koran, while speaking generally of modesty in dress and demeanour, falls short of specifying the details of that modesty. Scripture also makes allowances for non-compliance of religious edicts if the environment is not conducive to their observance.
The Koran exhorts compassion upon parents, caretakers and guardians of young girls. Yet some families instead exhibit a strict conformity to doctrine and dogma, which in turn leads to violence, bigotry and intolerance of alternative understandings of faith.
There is much discussion in Canadian society about the religious freedoms of those who choose to wear the hijab. We hear relatively little about the oppression of young girls who make the opposite choice. Seldom is their oppression from within their own community, or even their own family, cast as a human rights issue.
If convicted, Aqsa’s father and brother must be handed the strictest penalty available under the law. As for the imams and clergy of Canada’s mosques, who constantly berate young women for not wearing the hijab or snub them for “violating Islam,” they need to reflect on the consequences of their sermons.
Consider, as an example, the Montreal mosque that recently posted on its Web site a warning to the effect that if young girls took off their hijab, they could end up getting raped and having “illegitimate children.” Other proffered risks included “Stresses, insecurity and suspicion in the minds of husbands” and “instigating young people to deviate towards the path of lust.”
As if the threat of rape and the fear of illegitimate children were not enough, these pre-teen girls were told that if they took off their hijab, they would cease to be Muslims: “By removing your hijab, you have destroyed your faith. Islam means submission to Allah in all our actions.” Little wonder then, that Canadian girls walk away from sports tournaments rather than remove their hijabs.
Muslims need to stand up to this sort of emotional and religious blackmail by imams who spread the competing agendas of Saudi Arabia and Iran into Canada. Young Aqsa Pervez’s death cannot be reversed. But in her memory, we can at least challenge those whose message leads to rage and madness.
— Tarek Fatah is author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, to be published by Wiley & Sons in March, 2008. Farzana Hassan is author of Islam, Women, and the Challenges of Today. Both are members of the Muslim Canadian Congress.
Bernard Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton University, is one of today’s most influential experts on the Middle East. In the May 16, 2007 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Professor Lewis explains that the Islamic Jihadists and the West read history very differently.
The fact that Muslims and the West read the history of epochs like the crusades differently is hardly news. But Professor Lewis is looking at a far more recent historical development, and his argument is both haunting and fascinating. As he explains, the Jihadists wanted to launch a battle against their two great enemies — the Soviet Union and the West. In effect, they adopted a two-stage strategy. As they see it, the first stage was stunningly successful.
From his article:
For a long time, the main enemy was seen, with some plausibility, as being the West, and some Muslims were, naturally enough, willing to accept what help they could get against that enemy. This explains the widespread support in the Arab countries and in some other places first for the Third Reich and, after its collapse, for the Soviet Union. These were the main enemies of the West, and therefore natural allies.
Now the situation had changed. The more immediate, more dangerous enemy was the Soviet Union, already ruling a number of Muslim countries, and daily increasing its influence and presence in others. It was therefore natural to seek and accept American help. As Osama bin Laden explained, in this final phase of the millennial struggle, the world of the unbelievers was divided between two superpowers. The first task was to deal with the more deadly and more dangerous of the two, the Soviet Union. After that, dealing with the pampered and degenerate Americans would be easy.
We in the Western world see the defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union as a Western, more specifically an American, victory in the Cold War. For Osama bin Laden and his followers, it was a Muslim victory in a jihad, and, given the circumstances, this perception does not lack plausibility.
Professor Lewis explains that the Jihadists truly believe that their efforts toppled the Soviet Union. Furthermore, he warns that the Jihadists see the West as a far weaker enemy than the Soviets. Thus, these radicals see the West as poised for collapse. All that is needed is the unrelenting push of jihad.
Professor Lewis explains:
Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two—to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.
More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences—both for Islam and for America—will be deep, wide and lasting.
Westerners (especially Americans) are prone to think that other peoples and groups think basically as we think. Professor Lewis knows better. He understands that a different reading of the past leads to a different understanding of the present — and different plans for the future.
As for the basic weakness of the West — are the Jihadists right? As Professor Lewis concedes, “If they are right, the consequences—both for Islam and for America—will be deep, wide and lasting.”
By Michael Ledeen
It’s notable, I think, that religion — not so long ago pronounced irrelevant by most everyone in proper society — now dominates the global debate. Even a Communist like Hugo Chavez used religious terms to denounce W., perhaps because he is now in a tag team with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who speaks for a theocracy. But despite the fundamental importance of religion, most of our sages and scribblers are poorly equipped to deal with it, as you can see from the awkward coverage of the pope’s speech at Regensberg. It was, as you’d expect from a pope, a religious text, but the religious content was rarely reported, aside from Benedict’s remarks about Islam — themselves a part of a broader religious message aimed primarily at Europeans. A big part of his message was that Greek philosophical thought is central to Roman Catholicism, and that Catholicism evolved in Europe, in the constant interplay between faith and reason. It’s almost impossible to find that in the discussion.
The stuff about Islam was predictably discussed in the usual context of political correctness, according to which it is always wrong to criticize another person’s beliefs, and very wrong to criticize the beliefs of a foreign “culture.” They seemed unable to comprehend that, in ultimate issues, this sort of total tolerance doesn’t work. And the pretense that violently conflicting views of the world can be smoothed over in pleasant conversation only has the effect of intensifying the conflicts. We have arrived at the present unhappy situation not so much because we challenged those with different worldview, but because we ceased to assert our own values and advance our world view. In my graduate-student days, I met a fine New York editor by the name of Howard Fertig. Howard edited the books written by my boss, the great historian George L. Mosse, and from time to time I got to have lunch with him in Manhattan, usually at a long-gone German restaurant, Luchow’s. At one of these lunches Howard shook his head sadly — we’re talking 1963 or 64 — and pronounced the death of America. Why? Because, he said, we had adopted the view that everyone is entitled to one hang-up. Yes, so-and-so was a child molester, but hey, that’s his hang-up. This attitude used to be applied to great artists and writers, like Ezra Pound, whose hang-up was the embrace of fascism.
The combination of this crackpot toleration with a general contempt for religion made it difficult for us to comprehend the nature of the current war. Everyone from W. on down has been at great pains to assure us and themselves that we have no basic conflict with Islam, that our battle is with some lunatics who say falsely that they speak in the name of Islam. So we feel quite uncomfortable when the pope — quite deliberately — poses a question about Islam itself: Is it capable of responding to reason, or is it, as he put it, completely transcendent, beyond the reach of man, and hence unchallengeable by man under any circumstances?
It’s a big question, not easily reduced to newspeak like “did the pope anticipate the reaction?” Or “did the pope go too far?” That sort of banter is embarrassingly silly. Of course the pope anticipated the reaction, he’s one of the smartest and most learned men in the world, and he’s spent a lot of time studying Islam. He wanted to draw a line. He is not prepared to extend total, blind toleration to people who use violence in the name of faith, and he’s challenging the Muslims to answer the real questions. That quotation he chose — the one that asks, Is there anything positive that has emerged from the expansion of the domain of Islam? — wasn’t generated at random. He picked it quite wittingly. Of course he knows that, for several centuries, Islam conserved the wisdom of the West, the same “Greek” wisdom he invoked as the indispensable partner of Christian faith. He’s defying the Muslims to admit that, because he knows that the jihadis don’t want to hear about it, and that an open debate about it may undermine the sway of so many dogmatic mosques, schools, TV stations, and Internet sites.
And a surprising number of Europeans understood it, and responded positively. Did you notice that the former archbishop of Canterbury weighed in with a statement even tougher than anything the pope said? Lord Carey said that our problem was not with a minority of Muslims but with Islam itself, whereas the pope left the question open, and called for dialogue. Even the famously wimpy Spanish President Zapatero had words of support, an amazing spectacle for a man who has delighted in flaunting his laicism and challenging numerous Catholic doctrines.
But I’m afraid that we’re not engaging this debate, because our leaders are afraid to do so, and poorly equipped to participate. Our educational system has long since banished religion from its texts, and an amazing number of Americans are intellectually unprepared for a discussion in which religion is the central organizing principle. I learned from a teacher at one of the best private high schools in this area that it was virtually impossible for him to teach the Reformation properly, since the major metaphors came from the Book of Daniel, and virtually none of his students was familiar with the text.
Ignorance of things religious is terribly damaging for other reasons as well, not least of all because it prevents us from understanding the nature of our most dangerous enemies. Michael Rubin wrote a fine piece in the Wall Street Journal the other day, listing some of the lies produced by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and noting that there was actually a provision in sharia that made such lying to infidels completely acceptable and on occasion admirable. Yet the Europeans, who preen themselves on their cultural superiority, continue to be gulled by the Iranians, and W. has now completely swallowed the notion that if the Iranians ignore one ultimatum, we must not act, but simply set a new deadline. Down this path lies ruin. Yet the self-proclaimed “realists” always color themselves “surprised” when the Iranians do it.
In their latest attempt at realistic appeasement, the Council on Foreign Relations hosted President Ahmadinejad, obviously hoping to begin that “dialogue” so dear to their hearts. But, at least according to the New York Times, it didn’t go well at all. “He is a master of counterpunch, deception, circumlocution,” Brent Scowcroft said, shaking his head. Robert Blackwill emerged from the conversation wondering how the United States would ever be able to negotiate with this Iranian government...”If this man represents the prevailing government opinion in Tehran, we are heading for a massive confrontation with Iran,” he said.
As usual, the most surprising thing about the likes of Scowcroft and Blackwill is that they are surprised. But then, these are the folks who gave us the debacle of the first Bush presidency — the desperate attempt to prevent the fall of the Soviet empire, the last-minute rescue of Saddam, etc. Let’s hope they don’t convince the second President Bush to follow in their tiny footsteps.
— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - Europe’s Muslims have remained largely silent in the face of terrorist attacks that have killed 254 people in Madrid, London and Amsterdam. Europeans want to know why.
Why have so few of them publicly condemned the train and bus bombings in Madrid and London? Why have so few spoken out against the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, killed because his work was considered an insult to Islam?
Talk to Europe’s mainstream Muslims privately, however, and it turns out they have a lot to say.
Seek them out in the neighborhoods where they live and work — in the outdoor markets and butcher shops that sell halal meat, in the book stores that display literature on Islam and the West, in the boutiques that promote Islamic dress codes, in the Turkish restaurants and smoky Tunisian teahouses, in their schools and youth clubs — and they denounce, the vast majority unequivocally, attacks against civilians in both Europe and the United States.
“Van Gogh was a crazy man, but no one has the right to kill anyone who says bad things about the Quran,” said Mohammed Azahaf, a 23-year-old student who runs a youth center in Amsterdam. “If you kill one, it’s like killing the whole of mankind,” he said, quoting a line from the Muslim holy book.
Why, then, the public silence?
For some of the more than five dozen Muslims interviewed for this story in Amsterdam, Paris and London, it’s a sense of shame, or even guilt, that innocents have been killed in the name of Islam; they say those feelings make them seek to be “invisible.” For those lucky enough to have jobs, there is little time to protest or even write letters to newspapers. For others, there is fear of being branded anti-Islam in their communities.
Dutch Muslim rapper Yassine SB wrote a song about his anger over Van Gogh’s murder but scrapped plans to perform it out of fear of being ostracized by the Islamic community. He also turned down requests by a popular Amsterdam radio station to sing a song against terrorism.
“If you sing that, it’s like you choose the Dutch, not Muslims,” said Yassine SB — the initials stand for his surname Sahsah Bahida — who is popular among Dutch North African youths like himself for his songs against racism.
“People will say ‘you are a traitor,’” said the 20-year-old musician.
In the Netherlands, Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali — who wrote the script for Van Gogh’s movie “Submission” — went into hiding after receiving death threats for her condemnations of Islam. And in the United States, Syrian-born psychologist Wafa Sultan’s calls for Islamic reform also earned her death threats.
But there is another reason for the silence — one that for many overrides all others.
Why, many Muslims ask, should they have to speak out against, or apologize for, actions of radicals who do not represent them — people they do not even regard as true Muslims?
Many find the very idea of being asked or expected to denounce such acts “extremely offensive and insulting,” said Khurshid Drabu, a senior member of the Muslim Council of Britain.
“I’m British,” said Tuhina Ahmed, 24, a British-born Muslim in London whose family came from Gujarat in India. “I could have been blown up as well.” Why, she asked, should she have to make a public statement to prove her objection to terrorism?
To many, the pressure to denounce acts of terror smacks of President Bush’s warning that ‘you are either with us or against us.’
“People and politicians say where are the Muslim people, why aren’t they on the streets defending themselves? They say we should go into the streets and condemn what happened so they see us as good Muslims,” said Karima Ramani, a 20-year-old Dutch born to an Algerian father and Moroccan mother. “I don’t feel it’s my duty. I’m not responsible for the death of Van Gogh.”
Many European observers of Islamic communities agree.
“If they protest as a group of Muslims against these terrorist attacks, they take on an extra responsibility which is not theirs. So I can fully understand their reasons,” said Ruud Peters, professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Amsterdam.
Yet the Internet is filled with blogs — mostly from Westerners but also by some Muslims — asking why Muslims are not expressing revulsion at the attacks. They see the silence as giving the terrorists strength.
“Isn’t silence, justification, fear and hesitation in condemning terrorism, a factor in the encouragement of these individuals to appear on numerous platforms and satellite channels and claim that they represent a religion in the absence of active influential groups and institutions?” asked a blog entry by Ahmed Al-Rabei, a Kuwaiti journalist who works for London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Isn’t it a tragic crime to label the millions of European Muslims as guilty because of the rhetoric of a few professional lunatics, while the rest remain silent and wallow in self-pity? We have to admit that Islam has been hijacked particularly in European countries.”
Muslim leaders say they and other Muslims have marched in a number of anti-terrorism rallies in Europe — the largest was held on the first anniversary of Madrid’s 2004 bombings — and Muslims can’t be expected to pour into the streets every day. They also say they have condemned the attacks in the media.
Surveys indicate a small but significant chunk of Europe’s Muslim population supports the terrorists.
In a poll of British Muslims after the July 2005 suicide attacks on London’s transport system, 6% thought the bombings were justified. Another 24% condemned the attacks but had some sympathy with the bombers’ grievances.
Many Europeans blame the Continent’s Muslim leadership, which they accuse of making ambiguous and qualified condemnations that give the impression they are making excuses for the bombers: grievances over the war in Iraq or the West’s support for Israel.
“It’s the leaders who are most responsible,” said Rory Miller, senior lecturer of Mediterranean studies at King’s College, London.
Europe’s Muslims, who originate from 57 countries, differ in culture, language and even the strain of Islam they follow. They came at different periods and for different reasons. Some were born here and consider themselves as much French or British as they are Muslim.
Condemnations by most of the Muslims interviewed for this article had no strings attached.
Azahaf, 23, was among the thousands who marched in Amsterdam against Van Gogh’s killing. “I demonstrated not for Van Gogh but for freedom to talk, to say what you want,” he said.
Olivier Roy, a respected French scholar of Islam, says Muslim silence is a “classical psychology of immigrants” — wanting to be “normal” and become mainstream. “For them, integration means to be recognized as citizens. They don’t want to be recognized for their specificity.”
Sue Vogel, a psychologist who practices in Muslim-populated Bedford, in central England, said that after last year’s bombings in London there was a great sense of guilt among some of her Muslim patients. “I had to do a lot of work to convince them that I saw them as people, rather than as Muslims,” she said.
Lamia Hamdoun, 33, a teacher at a boys’ school, emigrated to England from Tunisia 12 years ago. Last year’s London bombings were so overwhelming for her, she says, that she prefers to remain invisible.
“When these incidents happen, I’m always scared. ... I shrink,” said Hamdoun, who lives in a tiny apartment in north London with her Egyptian husband, Mohammed, and 9-month old-son, Sammy — whose name was chosen because it’s common both in the Muslim world and the West.
She said she fears that her husband may be arrested in a police sweep just because of his looks or name. “I wish we could change his name so people don’t know.
“I just don’t want to think about it, I want to just get on with my life, deal with my personal problems. It’s something I can’t deal with.”
Many of Europe’s best-integrated Muslims say their lives are so far removed from those of the radicals that it simply has never occurred to them to protest.
Alia Kdeih, 50, came to Paris in 1977, at the height of a civil war in her native Lebanon. She got her degree from the Sorbonne, married a Lebanese and presents a cultural program on the Arabic service of French government-owned Radio Monte Carlo. Her elegant Western-decorated apartment in a middle-class Paris neighborhood has only a few flavors of Lebanon.
Kdeih said she will not go into the streets to condemn the attacks even though she’s appalled by them — pointing out that her identity is not defined by Islam.
“It’s not something I want to stress,” she said. “I don’t feel responsible for what happened even if they are Muslims.”
HERE AT THE GREAT UMAYYAD MOSQUE two 10-year-old neighborhood boys have split the Muslim world between themselves. “The Shia side of the mosque is Jafaar’s,” says Munzer. “And the Sunni side is Munzer’s,” Jafaar says.
Among other things, this masterpiece of early Islamic architecture is a kind of museum of Middle Eastern monotheism. The head of John the Baptist is said to reside in one shrine and the head of Hussein is in another, a small room thronged by Shiites where the language of mourning is typically Farsi. This is Jafaar’s side.
Munzer’s portion may be said to encompass all the rest, for this building is a monument to the Umayyad empire, the Sunni Arab empire, consolidated upon the death of Hussein, the son of Ali and grandson of the prophet Muhammad. Ali had lost his caliphate to Mu’awiya, the governor of Syria, whose own son Yazid defeated Hussein at Kerbala. In the almost 1,400 years since this victory which cleaved the Muslim world in two—Sunni and Shiite—Jafaar and Munzar’s mutual respect and affection has not always been the rule.
THE IRAQ WAR, especially Zarqawi’s bloody campaign against Shiites, has revealed the extraordinary depths of sectarian resentment in the Middle East, and yet it’s probably a mistake to see this as the only issue that divides the region. Otherwise it would be impossible to understand, for instance, why Shiite Iran supports a Sunni Islamist outfit such as Palestinian Hamas. Or, similarly, why Syria is siding with Tehran against its Arab brethren in Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere in the Gulf.
“The Arabs are traitors,” says Mustafa, a 23-year-old Sunni Arab cabdriver. We are stuck in a traffic jam and I am his captive American audience. He is referring to all the Sunni Arab leaders and their peoples, except the Syrians and the Palestinians. “All the rest deal with Israel or they signed peace treaties with Israel,” he says. “The only men in the Middle East worth anything are our President Bashar, Hassan Nasrallah, and Ahmadinejad. The Arab leaders combined aren’t worth the shoes of these three brothers.”
For Mustafa, like many Syrians and Arabs around the region right now, sectarian identity means little next to ideological consanguinity. Arab rulers, such as King Abdullah of Jordan and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, are frank about their fear of Shiite power, but ordinary Arabs are tuning out this status quo Sunni leadership. The combination of Hamas and Hezbollah taking on Israel and Ahmadinejad’s rhetorical attacks on the Jewish state, suggests that there’s revolution in the air and activist politics will define the regional climate.
OVER THE COURSE OF ARAB HISTORY, Sunni and Shia Islam have come to acquire somewhat essential, fixed identities, at least in comparison to each other. Sunnis believe Shiites act in a certain way and believe certain things; Shiites do likewise. And yet it was not always so.
For a great while after the death of Hussein, the Sunni-Shiite split was political, not doctrinal. “Sunni” and “Shiite” were more like two different banners under which leaders rallied political support.
Perhaps it is useful to think of “Sunni” and “Shiite” in the same way, as designations for two different tribes, sometimes competing for power and at other times joining up to take on a third tribe, such as Israel, or the United States. So for this particular moment, perhaps the “Shiites” are those (be they Sunni, Alawite, or whatever—as well as Shiite) who line up behind Nasrallah, Iran, and Bashar’s Alawite regime. And the “Sunnis” are those (Sunni leadership and others) who do not think it wise to set the region in flames at present.
Middle Eastern identity is not just multiple, it is also often flexible, even those aspects of it that seem most grounded in Islamic history. For instance, the sayings of the prophet Muhammad constitute a large portion of the foundations of Sunni Islam, and yet some of these hadith didn’t come from the prophet at all. Rather, many were invented hundreds of years after Muhammad’s death to support one faction or another vying for power. And now in Damascus the Iranians are busy building a narrative to support their own political ambitions.
“Obviously Iran and Syria have strengthened their relations over the last nine months,” says Andrew Tabler, Damascus-based researcher and a fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs. “And their ideological correspondence has come along with suitable iconography. So, before the Syria-Iran defense pact was about to be signed in mid-June, we started seeing these posters with Bashar, Nasrallah, and Ahmadinejad. You used to have to go to the Bekaa Valley or the south suburbs of Beirut to see posters of Iranian leaders. Now we get them in the middle of an Arab capital.”
Thus the Iranians have started to invest heavily in what some are calling the Shiitization of Syria, a country with a roughly 70% Sunni majority. “There are reports of entire villages becoming Shia,” says Tabler. “And we know for sure that they’re fixing up Shia shrines and building Shia mosques, even in majority Sunni towns.”
If, as Michael Rubin wrote, there is a growing Sunni-Israel alliance in the region, perhaps that’s because the Iranians seek to erase them both from the history books.
Lee Smith, a Hudson Institute visiting fellow based in Beirut, is writing a book on Arab culture.
By The Editors
Yes, the pope blundered. In discussing the relationship between reason, violence, and Islam, Benedict XVI referred to a Byzantine emperor’s comments on the subjects from around 1391. The pope noted that the emperor had raised the question of compulsion in religion “somewhat brusquely,” with these words: “Show me just what Mohammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Benedict then expanded on why the emperor rightly believed this command “unreasonable” and “incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.”
The pope did not endorse the emperor’s view that everything distinctive to Islam is “evil and inhuman.” His principal error was in failing to say explicitly that he was not endorsing it. We take it that he wasn’t, both because he subsequently said so and because the official teaching of his church, which he had a hand in drafting, is more philo-Islamic. (Nor were the offending words necessary to his argument.) His secondary error was in implying that Mohammad had said that there should be no compulsion in religion only because Islam was, at the time he said it, weak. It had actually solidified its position by then. But these were pretty minor mistakes. The pope’s thesis concerning Islam — that it has a troubled relationship with reason and with peace and religious freedom — is obviously true. It has been amply demonstrated by the reaction to his speech, which has included the murder of a nun, calls for his own death, and the firebombing of churches.
We should not pretend that what is going on in the Muslim street is an exercise in textual exegesis. The New York Times takes just this otherworldly approach in its rebuke of Benedict. It presents the pope as a sower of interreligious “discord” who “needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology.” (That tinny noise you just heard was the sound of editorial verb inflation.) “For many Muslims,” the Times explains, “holy war — jihad — is a spiritual struggle, and not a call to violence. And they denounce its perversion by extremists, who use jihad to justify murder and terrorism.” Well, as long as it’s just a fringe, then. Clearly the pope is the real aggressor here. About some things, American liberals are evidently more pious than the pope.
We are sure that many Muslims do reject violence in the name of their religion. But their denunciations of it do not seem to be very thick on the ground. Perhaps they should be louder. As for the pope, he has apologized exactly as much as he should have.
In November, as hoodlums set ablaze the poorest suburbs of Paris and other French cities, government officials and commentators argued over the nature of the riots.
The fact that most of the rioters were Muslims led many to see the events as part of a jihad waged by European Islamists against their own continent, lumping them with the bombings in Madrid and London or the assassination of Theo van Gogh. Others observed that most of the rioters — looking like anything but Islamists — were merely voicing their complaints over unemployment and discrimination, and that therefore the events were caused by socioeconomic factors only, similar to more recent violent protests around French universities. So, was the wave of anti-establishment violence purely criminal or was it part of a religiously motivated confrontation?
The answer is neither and both. While segregation and economic deprivation did play a key role in inflaming the rioters, the fact that the cry of “Allahu akbar” accompanied the nightly throw of Molotov cocktails is symbolic. Europe today is witnessing the growth of a disturbing new subculture that mixes violent urban behaviors, nihilism and Islamic fundamentalism. Many young, often European-born, Muslims feel a disturbingly intense sense of detachment from, if not sheer hatred for, their host societies and embrace various antagonistic messages. While some turn to Salafism, others adopt an indefinite blend of countercultures, ranging from hip-hop to Islamic fundamentalism. As a French official recently told me, many youngsters from the Muslim-majority ghettoes of France “dress like rappers, smoke marijuana and drink alcohol, yet they watch jihadi videos and have pictures of [Osama] bin Laden on the display of their expensive cell phones.” Any individual that attacks mainstream society becomes a hero, be it Abu Musab Zarqawi or the late American rapper Tupac Shakur.
While the phenomenon affects only a minority of European Muslims, its dimensions and repercussions are still more than noteworthy. The French witnessed another headline-making example of this violent hybrid subculture in February, when a gang of mostly Muslim youngsters kidnapped, tortured and killed a young Parisian Jew, Ilan Halimi. The perpetrators have been described by authorities as a ragtag gang of petty criminals with no involvement with Islamic fundamentalism. Yet, they enjoyed re-enacting on Mr. Halimi some of the barbarities they had seen in jihadi videos and recited Koranic verses in phone calls with Mr. Halimi’s parents.
In London, city officials are worried about the growth of an extremely violent gang, commonly known as the Muslim Boys. Operating in the southern areas of the British capital, the gang is composed of several hundred members and is active in criminal activities ranging from robberies to drug trafficking. The members of the gang are mostly British-born black youngsters originally from the Caribbean or Africa who converted to Islam in British penitentiaries and use their newfound faith as a bonding element.
Their interpretation of Islam is completely perverted. The gang members do not respect the most basic tenets of Islam, and their appearance and slang more closely resemble that of American urban culture than that of practicing Muslims. Tellingly, a gang member admitted to a reporter from the Evening Standard: “I pray twice a day: before I do crime and after. I ask Allah for a blessing when I’m out on the streets. Afterwards, I apologize to Allah for what I done [sic].” The gang is also involved in “forced conversions,” compelling young black youth at gunpoint to convert to Islam and join them. Two years ago they executed a 24-year-old, Adrian Marriott, for refusing to convert.
Mainstream British Muslim leaders have distanced themselves from the Muslim Boys, describing them as “criminals masquerading as Muslims.” But “pure” Islamic fundamentalists would also challenge the motivations behind the religious character of the gang, as their conversion seems to be dictated more by the desire to work against mainstream society than the desire to express a sincere devotion to Islam.
Moreover, episodes of Muslim violence against native Europeans can be seen with an increasing frequency in most large cities throughout Europe. A recent Swedish study analyzed the reasons behind the surge in muggings of native Swedish teenagers perpetrated by their peers of immigrant descent in the cities of Malmo and Stockholm (another Swedish study revealed that nine out of 10 muggings are perpetrated by Muslims). Most of the interviewees admitted that their attacks were generally not motivated by money, but rather, by their desire to humiliate Swedes. One teenager tellingly said, “When we are in the city and robbing we are waging a war, waging a war against the Swedes.”
Given this level of disaffection with mainstream society affecting large numbers of European Muslims, it should surprise no one that the strongly anti-Western message of radical Islam finds fertile ground with this group. Very few European Muslims embrace Islamist ideology completely and even fewer take the further step of becoming terrorists. Yet, a larger number express a discomforting sympathy for its message, creating a serious challenge to the social cohesion of the continent.
Lorenzo Vidino is a senior terrorism analyst at the Investigative Project and author of “Al Qaeda in Europe: The New Battleground of International Jihad.”
More evidence that Europe is becoming “Eurabia” every day.
News out of London today that a London cop who is Muslim has been allowed to opt out of certain duties because he is a Muslim.
What duties? Things having to do with pigs, or some other sacrilege related to his religion? No, he is being allowed to refuse duty guarding the Israeli Embassy.
Now, there are some things one has to do if one has chosen a career as a police officer. A cop must enforce the law whether or not he or she believes in the law. Cops in this country are required to turn the key on the jailhouse door and let loose people they know are guilty because a judge has ordered it, or because they realize they cannot prove the charge.
Of course, there are cops who run roughshod over the law. We like to catch them and take their badge and gun.
But this is official policy now in London. A Muslim cop does not have to protect the Israeli Embassy. By extension, a Muslim cop would not have to interfere with someone robbing — or killing — a Jew.
The Muslim cop claims he objects to fulfilling his duty on “moral grounds.”
What if a British citizen refused to pay the taxes which are used to pay that cop on moral grounds? Think the Brit taxpayer would get a judge to say that’s OK? Probably not.
The way a secular society of laws works is that things like this don’t happen. A cop is a cop. Not a Catholic cop for Catholic Laws, not a Jewish cop for Jewish laws, and not a Muslim cop for Muslim laws.
Britain has gone far down the “Eurabia” road. Canada has even flirted with allowing Sharia law zones to be set up for separate Muslim justice. Entire countries can make mistakes just like individuals and that’s what we have here. Britain is making a mistake.
It’s none of our business except as an example. Someday, somewhere in America someone is going to suggest that a Sharia law area should be carved out for Muslims.
No now. No then. No forever.
Supplemental Articles in a separate file (click here to read)