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Islam & the West: 27th DDP convention, Denver

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Sunday, August 2, 2009 - 11:00 - 11:45

 The Western civilization faces an old existential enemy. He has attempted outright conquest twice in history, first from North Africa, across the Straits of Gibraltar and the Iberian Peninsula into France, where it was checked by Charles Marter at Tours; and later, from Asia Minor across the Balkans all the way to the gates of Vienna. The enemy was checked there in 1683 – it was a very close thing – and appeared to be moribund for the better part of the ensuing three centuries. Now he is back with a vengeance. He is an aggressive, demographically vibrant and ideologically rigid foe, and he sees us – all of us, and our kin and offspring – as future converts, slaves, or corpses. He is a disaster for which we need to be prepared. The enemy is not “Islamism,” or “Islamofascism,” let alone some amorphous “radicalism.” It is Islam itself, and Jihad as its key manifestation. Its contemporary upsurge, as an ideology and as a blueprint for political action, cannot be compared in dynamism, readiness for violence, and the magnitude of potential consequences with any other creed or dogma since early Bolshevism. That upsurge has global proportions and world-historical significance.

The challenge demands a bold Western response that has been absent so far. Just take that worn-out term, “the war on terrorism”: war on what? The squeamishness of Europeans and Americans alike in naming the enemy, and opting to single out of his methods instead, is but one sign of a deep malaise that hampers resistance. Had World War II been waged against the Blitzkrieg, rather than Nazism, the Thousand-Year Reich would still have 925 years to go. Or, more depressingly, look at President Obama’s speech in Cairo last March – but I’ll come to it later.

 The problem of Islam can and should be diagnosed by its signs, its symptoms, and its dogma, rather than on the basis of an a priori judgment. That answer needs to be honest: the survival of our culture and civilization is at stake. It demands a look at what Muslims – orthodox, mainstream Muslims – actually think and believe. Let us therefore start with the remarkable career of Muhammad, who was both the prophet of the new religion, 14 centuries ago, and the creator of political ideology, legal code, and radical social program associated with it.
 Almost 14 centuries after his death Muhammad remains, to all true Muslims, the inviolable paragon of goodness, which is reflected in the prevalence of his name throughout the Muslim world. Understanding him is the key to the Muslim world outlook. Of his life we are informed from the Muslim sources: the Kuran and the hadith, or his recorded sayings and acts. Those sources provide an account that may not be historically accurate. It is nevertheless essential because it is regarded as true by all true Muslims and provides the basis for the Islamic law.
 Muhammad was born in the city of Mecca in or around AD 570, in the region of Hijaz, on the western edge of the great desert that covers most of today’s Saudi Arabia. Mecca had been a place of pagan pilgrimage focused on the temple of Kaaba (“cube”) that sheltered a revered black stone. The dominant deity was the moon-god whose title was al-ilah – “the chief among all gods” – shortened by frequency of usage to Allah. Mecca was halfway between Yemen and Syria, which enabled it to develop as an important trading center connecting the caravans from India and Persia with those from the West. Muhammad’s tribe included many successful merchants, but his family was poor. Orphaned at an early age, he grew up on the social margins of a society in which power and money were the defining currency of one’s standing. Muhammad’s later bitterness towards his native city and its social and spiritual structure reflected the sense of powerlessness felt by a resentful and marginalized young man.
 Starting in 610, at increasingly frequent intervals until his death, Muhammad received “revelations,” or verbal messages that he believed came directly from Allah. Some of them he and his early followers kept in memory and sometimes they were written down. Around 650 AD they were collected and written in the Kuran, the sacred scriptures of Islam, and eventually codified in the form that has endured till today. Muslims believe the Kuran is the eternal, final and perfect divine revelation, written in the very words of Allah himself.
 Three years after the first supposed revelation Muhammad decided to go public. His initial message was simple, focused on the submission to Allah, on the Day of Judgment when all will be brought to life, on the subsequent delights of paradise for the virtuous and torments of hell for the sinners. In the early days his revelations were delivered in the tone of warnings and appeals, rather than threats. Yet the leaders of the Meccan establishment sneered at the audacity of a common man with no natural claim to authority or prestige. His attack on the divinity of old idols also implied denial to his tribe of the respect and profits derived from the guardianship of the temple of the Kaaba. The initial humorous contempt for Muhammad’s claims to prophethood soon turned to indignation. He became an outcast.
 Muhammad was bitterly offended by the rejection, as is evident in the first “revelation” openly violent in tone. It was directed against two of his early detractors, his uncle Abu Lahab and aunt Umm Jamil: “He shall be burnt in a flaming fire, and his wife, laden with faggots, shall have a rope of fiber around her neck!” Muhammad’s bitterness was thus echoed by Allah himself.
 Muhammad’s fortunes improved in June 622, when Arab tribesmen from the settlement of Yathrib, 200 miles north of Mecca, offered him refuge and protection. In his escape from Mecca Muhammad was joined by a small group of seventy followers who were all intensely loyal to him personally. This was the hijra, and Muhammad’s arrival in Yathrib on in September 24, 622, marked the beginning of the history of Islam. Yathrib became the city of the prophet, Medinnet el Nebi, shortened to Medina. Significantly, just prior to leaving for Medina, Muhammad received first revelations allowing him to fight the Meccans and spill their blood.
 It took Muhammad three years and a lot of bloodleetting to become absolute ruler of Medina. It all started when he sent his destitute and restless followers to raid Meccan caravans passing Medina on their way to Syria. An early raid took place in the sacred pagan month of Rajab, when no Arab was permitted to raise arms. The scandal of the violation was conveniently preempted by a revelation from Allah, however, confirming that the attack enjoyed divine sanction. From that moment on, the morality rooted in pre-Islamic custom and natural human sensibility was to be regularly abrogated by Allah in favor of what happened to be advantageous to Muhammad.
 From that moment, Allah was routinely invoked as the authority even in support of the prophet’s daily personal needs. Nowhere was this more obvious than when it came to his exaggerated sensuality. Muhammad came up with a Kuranic verse approving his nightly trysts with an attractive Egyptian slave girl, to which his wives reacted with jealous rage.[1] Furthermore, Allah’s revelation also enabled Muhammad to take his daughter-in-law Zainab as a wife as soon as he started lusting after her.[2] Let me add that, contrary to his regulations for others, he had at least fifteen wives. The youngest was Aisha, who was seven years old when Muhammad – 44 years her senior – married her.  Two years later, when he was 53 and she 9 years old, he consummated the marriage.
 In 624, at Badr, his men killed forty Meccans in a single raid.  Divine justification for murdering one’s own kinsmen was duly granted in Kuran’s sura (chapter) 3, verses 123-125. Allah’s messages, conveyed by Muhammad, grew accordingly more bellicose: “I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, Smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger tips of them.”[3] The “messenger,” on the other hand, gloated in the spectacle of his slain fellow-tribesmen and relatives, and ordered execution of several prisoners who had offended him back in Mecca. From that moment on, to quote Ayatollah Khomeini, “Islam grew with blood.” At Badr the preacher of Mecca finally morphed into a vengeful warlord who jubilantly exclaimed that the spectacle of severed enemy heads pleased him better than “the choicest camel in Arabia.” Killing of prisoners was also divinely condoned.[4] Fresh revelations described the unbelievers as “the worst animals”[5] and “the vilest of creatures”[6] undeserving of mercy. Muhammad returned to Medina in triumph, and proceeded to settle scores with his detractors there, including local Jews. The fruits are summarized in a chillingly euphemistic account by a modern Muslim scholar: “the final result of the struggle was the disappearance of the Jewish communities from Arabia proper.[7]
 This disappearance was as spontaneous as the Final Solution. It was the result of ethnic cleansing and genocide, culminating in the attack the last Jewish tribe in Medina, Banu Qurayzah. Accused of treachery, up to 900 of its men were decapitated in front of their women and children. “Truly the judgment of Allah was pronounced on high” was Muhammad’s gloating comment, and Allah responded by praising Muhammad for the way “he struck terror into their hearts.[8] The women were subsequently divided among the killers  and raped; Muhammad chose as his concubine one Raihana Bint Amr, whose father and husband were both slaughtered before her eyes some hours earlier.
 The prospect of war booty and ransom was also divinely sanctioned. The issue was so big to his followers that it merited a separate sura in the Kuran (8th) called The Loot. Every man was allowed to retain the plunder of those whom he had slain; the rest went into a common stock of which one fifth was Muhammad’s, as condoned by Allah.[9] But once the loot was divided, it was time to relax: “Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good.”[10] Allah promiseth you much booty that ye will capture.”[11] As for the fallen, a tangible, sensual paradise awaits immediately.[12]
 In the process of solidifying his power Muhammad also resorted to individual murders. On some 20 precisely known occasions he instigated the crime. All along, Allah’s messages concerning the infidel grew ever harsher: “Take him and fetter him and expose him to hell fire.”[13] They “will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off.”[14] In this world for the captured infidel “We have prepared chains, yokes and a blazing fire.”[15] In the hereafter things get even worse: “garments of fire will be cut out for them, boiling fluid will be poured down their heads. Their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted.”[16]
 Many of Muhammad’s actions and words, as immortalized in the Kuran and recorded in the Traditions, are abhorrent and criminal by the standards of our time. But even in the context of the 7th century Arabia they were so dubious that Muhammad had to resort to revelations as a means of suppressing the prevalent moral code. Attacking caravans in the holy month, taking up arms against his own kinsmen, slaughtering prisoners, reserving a lion’s share of the booty, murdering people, violating treaties, and indulging with considerable abandon one’s sensual passions, was fundamentally at odds with the moral standards of his own Arab contemporaries. Only the ultimate authority could sanction it, and Allah duly obliged.
 The result is an explicitly nominalistic system of ethics. Nothing we do, say or think is good or bad as such in Islam, nothing is right or wrong without specific reference to the revealed will of Allah, or the words or acts of his prophet. To take but one example, for a man of 53 to have sexual intercourse with a nine-year-old girl is the right and proper thing to do by definition, if it was done by “the Prophet.”
 Muhammad’s practice and encouragement of bloodshed are unique in the history of religions. Murder, pillage, and rape have pressed on his followers a deep belief in the value of bloodshed as opening the gates of Paradise and prompted countless Muslim governors, caliphs, and viziers, to refer to Muhammad’s example to justify their mass killings, looting, and destruction. Allah’s order to “kill the unbelievers wherever you find them” is an injunction clear and powerful. The lives of the conquered Jews and Christians could be spared only if they pay a tribute to the Muslims: “[17] Fight those who do not profess the true faith till they pay the jiziya (poll tax) with the hand of humility.”
 Islam sees the world as an open-ended conflict between the Land of Peace (Dar al-Islam) and the Land of War (Dar al-Harb), which must be conquered by jihad. The doctrine of jihad was Muhammad’s most significant single contribution to the world history. It defined Islam in its earliest days, it has defined the relations between Islam and other religions and cultures ever since, and it continues to define the mindset of Islam today.
 The view of modern Islamic activists, that “Islam must rule the world and until Islam does rule the world we will continue to sacrifice our lives,”[18] has been solidly rooted in traditional Islam ever since the early divine sanction of violence that came to Muhammad in Medina: “O Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight,” the Kuran orders, and promises that twenty Muslims, “patient and persevering,” would vanquish two hundred unbelievers,[19] “and slay them wherever ye catch them.”[20] The end of the fight is possible only when “there prevail justice and faith in Allah” – literally everywhere.[21] Only after the universal Islamic Empire is established, the notion of an “inner” jihad—that of one’s personal fight against his ego and sinful desires—may be invoked, once the external, real jihad “in the path of Allah” was over.
 Mind you, all violent jihad is “defensive” jihad as far as Islam is concerned. Since no political system or material power is allowed to put hindrances in the way of preaching Islam, any such “hindrance” constitutes an act of aggression, and Islam has no recourse but to remove it by force.
 The Kuranic “Verse of the Sword” which states the above so eloquently (9:5), abrogates 124 earlier verses – the ones that are quoted most regularly by Islam's apologists to prove its tolerance and benevolence. Yes, abrogates: Allah reserves the right to substitute earlier revelations with new ones.[22] Tactical ceasefires are possible, but never the war’s abandonment short of the unbelievers’ submission. This is the real meaning of Jihad. That meaning has not changed since Muhammad: “Those who believe fight in the cause of God.”[23] The conquered peoples were “protected” only if they submitted to Islamic domination, paid poll tax—jizya—and land tax—haraj—to their masters. The resulting inequality of rights in all domains between Muslims and dhimmis steadily eroded the latter by attrition and conversion
 The apologists assert that Muslims are called by the Kuran to strive for peace, but the “peace” that is called upon believers to implement is predicated upon the global victory of jihad. Only when the entire world is a Dar al-Islam will it become Dar al-Salaam, the House of Peace. This is the same definition of “peace” as that used by Stalin: it is attainable only after the defeat of “imperialism” and the triumph of the vanguard of the proletariat in the whole world.[24]
 With his Cairo speech (20) last March, President Obama has turned himself into the apologist-in-chief. “As the Holy [sic!] Koran tells us, Be conscious of God and speak always the truth,” he told his audience. It was a remarkable performance: not a single significant statement he made on the nature of Islam, or on America’s relationship with the Muslim world, or on the terrorist threat, complied with the quoted command of the prophet of Islam. None were true…
 Obama’s claim that “Islam has always been a part of America’s story… and since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States” is ridiculous, of course, but can be dismissed as relatively harmless rubbish. By contrast, his assertion that “throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality” is outrageous. It was merely compounded by his claim that Koran teaches “that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.”
 This was a brazen distortion of chapter 5, verse 32, which states that “if anyone slew a person—unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land [emphasis added]—it would be as if he slew the whole people.” Immediately thereafter follows a list of horrid torments for those who create “mischief,” including death by crucifixion. That loophole embraces all those who resist the establishment of the Muslim rule or who disobey the sharia once it is established.
 Obama’s claims about Islam’s alleged compatibility with democracy reflect his failure to grasp that the liberal-democratic model of governance is not feasible outside of the framework of ideas that sustain it. These ideas, in the case of the West, are rooted back into the history of the polis of Greece, the Scriptures, the Enlightenment, the notion of liberty, of individual responsibility resulting from the existence of individual free will, of collective creativity embodied in the rendering of classical symphonies and the launching of space missions. The reason traditionally Christian societies have been able to develop democratic institutions while traditionally Muslim ones have not is the concept of governmental legitimacy, which accepts the possibility of two realms: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In Islam there is no such distinction. It condemns as rebellion against Allah’s supremacy the submission to any other form of law other than Shari’a. It is noteworthy that the term “democracy” did not have an equivalent in any Muslim language until a century ago. Its fundamental principle, equality, is equally absent from the Muslim vocabulary.
 It is not the jihadists who are “distorting” Islam; the apologists and appeasers of Obama’s ilk are. Islam, in Muhammad’s revelations, traditions and their codification, threatens the rest of us. It is the religion of war and intolerance. Until the petrodollars support a comprehensive and explicit Koranic revisionism capable of growing popular roots, we should seek ways to defend ourselves by disengaging from the world of Islam, physically and figuratively, by learning to keep our distance from the affairs of the Muslim world and by keeping the Muslim world away from “the world of war” that it seeks to conquer or destroy. It is a fair-minded, morally sound, and eminently achievable strategy.
 SPECIFIC STEPS – A step in the right direction – the one that will not be taken by THIS administration, of course – would be to initiate changes in immigration legislation to include clauses that would exclude Islamic activists before they come here, and to have them deported if they are already infiltrated into the country. This demand needs to be made attractive to a wide cross-section of the electorate regardless of political and ideological preferences. Therefore it should be focused on the Islamic activists’ threat to the neoliberal values themselves, in view of the fact that Islam practices:  
·        Discrimination against other religions, outlooks (inc. atheism) and lifestyles;
·        Discrimination and violence against women (esp. wives and “disobedient” daughters);
·        Discrimination and violence against homosexuals;
·        Threats of violence in any form and for whatever alleged “offense” or “insult” (e.g. drawing cartoons, making documentaries, writing books);
·        Apology or justification for all of the above.
 This definition of Islamic activism would be a major step in the direction of denying actual or potential jihadists a foothold in the U.S. The broad model is provided by the old 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA, the McCarran-Walter Act), mandating the exclusion or deportation of any alien who engaged or had purpose to engage in activities prejudicial to the public interest or subversive to national security. "Ideological" grounds for deportation were on the US statute books until 1990, when they were repealed by Congress. After the Russian revolution foreign communists were singled out for deportation. One night alone in January of 1920, more than 2,500 "alien radicals" were seized in thirty-three cities across the country and deported to their countries of origin.
 Next, we need laws that will treat any naturalized citizen’s or legally resident alien’s Islamic activism as excludable – on political, rather than "religious" grounds. In the United States a foreigner who becomes naturalized has to declare, on oath, "that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Now, for a Muslim to declare all of the above in good faith, and especially that he accepts an “infidel,” i.e. non-Muslim document or law as the source of his highest loyalty, is an act of apostasy par excellence, punishable by death under the Islamic law.
 The sharia, to a Muslim, is not an addition to the "secular" legal code with which it coexists; it is the only true code, the only basis of obligation. To be legitimate, all political power therefore must rest exclusively with those who enjoy Allah’s authority on the basis of his revealed will – and for as long as they remain infidel, both Europe and America are illegitimate. So how can a self-avowedly devout Muslim take the oath, and expect the rest of us to believe that it was done in good faith? Because he is practicing taqiyya, the art of elaborate lying to infidels, or else because he is not devout – but in that case there is the ever-present danger that at some point he will rediscover his roots.
 Those who preach or promote jihad and advocate the introduction of sharia can and should be treated in exactly the same manner that adherents of other totalitarian ideologies had been treated in the free world during the Cold War. It will be a long and hard struggle to open the eyes of legislators and legal regulators that Islam itself is a radical, revolutionary ideology, inherently seditious and inimical to Western values and institutions, but it can be done. Other necessary measures would then follow: 
1.                  Seek zero porosity of the borders. Preventing illegal immigration is a desirable objective per se; in the context of stopping terrorists it is mandatory. No anti-jihadist strategy is possible without complete physical control of borders. This is an issue on which a majority of the electorate of each and every Western country will agree – much to the chagrin of the liberal elites. All illegal immigration is a major security threat that can and should be subject to the letter of the law, and not to the suicidal dictates of the “human rights” lobby.
 2.                  Demand mandatory cooperation of state agencies at all levels in identifying, registering and apprehending illegal immigrants and in assisting in their deportation – starting with those from nations and groups at risk for terrorism. It is a curious phenomenon in most Western countries that at various levels of state administration (e.g. welfare officers and social workers) and law enforcement (e.g. police forces in major cities) we encounter varying levels of tolerance, and even encouragement, of illegal immigrants’ continued presence in the community. Again, this demand would be politically popular.
 3.                  Discard the irrational ban on “profiling.” Not all Muslims are terrorists, of course, but all transnational terrorist networks that threaten Western countries’ national security and way of life are composed of Muslims. It is time to accept that “profiling” based on a person’s appearance, origin, and apparent or suspected beliefs is an essential tool of trade of law enforcement and war on terrorism. Just ask the Israelis, the Chinese, or Arabs themselves!
 4.                  Subject the work of Islamic centers to legal limitations and security supervision. All over the Western world, Islamic centers have provided platforms for exhortations to the faithful to support causes and to engage in acts that are morally reprehensible, legally punishable, and detrimental to the host country’s national security. They have provided shelter to the outlaws, and offered recruitment to the leaders. 
 5.                   Treat affiliation with Islamic activism as grounds for denial or revoking of any level of security clearance. Such affiliation is incompatible with the requirements of personal commitment, patriotic loyalty and unquestionable reliability that are essential in the military, law enforcement, intelligence services, and other related branches of government (e.g. immigration control, airport security). Presence of practicing Muslims in any of these institutions presents an inherent risk to its integrity and undermines morale.
 Acceptance of these proposals would represent a new start in devising long-term defense. The proposed measures recognize that we are in a war of ideas and religion, whether we want that or not and however much we hate the fact. They reflect the seriousness of the struggle. This war is being fought, on the Islamic side, with the deep condition that the West is on its last legs. The success of its demographic onslaught on Europe enhances the image of “a candy store with the busted lock,” and that view is reinforced by the evidence from history that a civilization that loses the urge for self-perpetuation is indeed in peril.
 CONCLUSION – Islam has created jihad and remains defined by jihad. It is the only major religion with a developed doctrine, theology, and legal system of mandatory violence against non-believers. This fact also makes Islam the very first political ideology that adopted terrorism as a systemic tool of policy, not as a mere expedient. Unlike Judaism and Christianity, Islam is devoid of any reasoned principle of justice or moderation. Islam creates among its adherents the paradigm of a permanent cosmic war. Antagonism towards the demonized “infidel” is rooted in the conviction that Islam is not only the true faith but the only faith with any truth.
 Antagonism towards non-Muslim persons, religions, societies and cultures, is not shared by all Muslims, but it is an attitude mandated to all true Muslims. Jihad turned Islam into a quasi-religious ideology of cultural and political imperialism that knows no natural limits to itself. The fruits of Islam’s denial of natural morality are as predictable as they are grim, for the Muslims no less than for their victims: both are enslaved, brutalized, and de-humanized. As Bernard Lewis has noted, the all-pervasive lack of freedom is the hallmark of the Muslim world.
 The summary I’ve given this morning is of course sketchy. It is nevertheless truer and more honest than the politicized pap, fed by the media and all too many politicians, according to which we are the main culprits for all that went wrong between the West and the rest over the centuries, while a noble, tolerant Islamic world had been wantonly victimized.
 Rediscovering who we are is the essential prerequisite for defense. The victory in the struggle against jihad ultimately has to be won in the domain of morals and culture. It can be won only by an America (and Britain, and France…) that has regained its awareness of its moral, spiritual, and civilizational identity. In Europe, I fear, the outcome right now is uncertain. At the root of the Western domestic malaise is the notion that countries do not belong to the people who have inhabited them for generations and made them what they are , but to whoever happens to be within their boundaries at any given moment – regardless of his culture, attitude, or intentions. We must reject the self-destructive claim that the resulting random melange of mutually disconnected multitudes is actually a blessing that somehow enriches and elevates an otherwise arid and monotonous society.
 We should not succumb to the myth that the game is up, that Dar al Islam is the end of the road for all of us. We are endowed with feelings and reason, with the awareness of who we are and the pride in our civilizational patrimony. The struggle against Jihad is just and natural and good, even if the outcome is uncertain – just as the knowledge each of us has of his mortality does not stop us from holding on to life, and beauty, and truth.

[1] Kuran, Chapter 66 Verses 1-3 (66:1-3)
[2] 36:37
[3] Ibid, 8:12
[4] 8:68
[5] 8:55
[6] 98:6
[7] W.N. Arafat, “New light on the story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, (1976), pp. 100-107.
[8] 33:25
[9] 8:41
[10] 8:69
[11] 48:20-21
[12] Hadith, Buhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 46
[13] 69:30-37
[14] 5: 33-34
[15] 76:4
[16] 22: 19-22
[17] 9:29
[18] Al-Badr spokesman Mustaq Aksari, CNN, September 19,2001
[19] 8:65
[20] 2:191
[21] 2:193
[22] 2:106
[23] 4:76
[24] As per Ayatollah Khomeini, “those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world: all the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation.”