THE BOOK BUSINESS [Rich Lowry ]
Some folks have e-mailed in asking about a book brouhaha going on in some parts of the blogosphere involving us. Here is what happened: A National Review Book Service e-mail blast for the book “The Life And Religion of Mohammed” by Rev. J.L Menezes was sent out a couple of weeks ago to the magazine’s (opted-in) e-mail list. The ad copy in the e-mail, which invoked “the dark mind of Mohammed” among other things, was written by author Robert Spencer. But it went out under the name of a member of NR’s publishing staff, who should have, but didn’t review it. The book service is a joint project with a publisher who has been responsible for what books to feature in this service and how best to publicize them.
So, National Review didn’t sit down and say, “Hey, let’s have a public fight over Mohammed and aggressively market books about him,” then reverse course. In contrast, Robert Spencer and some others on the right feel very strongly that it is important to discredit Mohammed and Islam as such in order to win the war on terror. That’s certainly their prerogative, but it is not the tack NR has taken, even as we have vigorously attacked Islamic terrorism and supported the war against it. CAIR has been agitating for us to apologize for weeks, but we obviously aren’t going to apologize for a position that isn’t our own. We are, of course, more than happy to defend our own actual positions against CAIR, or any other noxious grievance group.
Fair enough, except that Lowry has me wrong. I do not in the least “feel very strongly that it is important to discredit Mohammed and Islam as such in order to win the war on terror,” and in writing this sentence Lowry betrays a rather severe misunderstanding of the nature of my work and that of others.
So, to clarify: I am not in the least interested in discrediting Muhammad and Islam as an end in itself. Nor do I think that such a discrediting would be of much use in anti-terror efforts. The importance of critical examination of Muhammad and Islam comes from the fact that jihad terrorists around the world — from Osama bin Laden to Omar Bakri in England and Abu Bakar Bashir in Indonesia and everywhere in between — invoke Muhammad and Islam to explain their goals and justify their actions, as well as to win recruits among Muslims. When they do that, it becomes important for non-Muslims, and in particular those in government and law enforcement positions, to know how they do it, so that such efforts to invigorate and expand the jihadist ranks can be effectively countered. In that case, a refusal to acknowledge these unpleasant elements of Islam becomes a hindrance to anti-terror and human rights efforts.
To wit: I would never have thought it a matter of importance to non-Muslims that Muhammad took a 9-year-old bride at the age of 52 (see Sahih Bukhari, vol. 5, bk. 58, no. 236) were it not for the fact that child marriage is rampant in the Islamic world, and that that is a public health and human rights issue. To combat it effectively, there must be an honest appraisal by Muslims of the influence of Muhammad’s example here, and a forthright willingness to stand up and say that his example in this must not be followed today. Whether or not there is any hope that Muslims will actually do that in any significant group is another question, but if it is not done, it is certain that the problem will continue.
Another example with immediate relevance to the war on terror is the Qur’an’s “Verse of the Sword” (9:5), which includes the command to “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them,” and for which Osama bin Laden praised Allah in a sermon broadcast on Al-Jazeera in 2003: “Praise be to Allah who revealed the verse of the Sword to his servant and messenger [the Prophet Muhammad], in order to establish truth and abolish falsehood.”
In the face of that use of the Qur’an and Islam by terrorists — of which I could give thousands of examples — it becomes imperative to know what the Qur’an, as well as Islamic tradition and law, actually say about warfare against unbelievers. For we cannot mount an effective resistance against a threat we do not know or wish to acknowledge. If Lowry or others at NR are expecting the Vast Majority of Peaceful Muslims to have their back in the war on terror and fight with them against the Tiny Minority of Extremists, they may be unpleasantly surprised. But they won’t even know that without a thorough investigation of the Islamic sources, such as the books they dropped and my own books actually provide. This is not about “discrediting Muhammad and Islam” for its own sake, but about knowing how jihadists think, how they gain recruits, and what their overall plans are. And if you think it is not important to know that about your enemy in a war, you have just told me that you are resigned to being defeated.
Misapprehension in this area can lead to immense miscalculations. Recently Powell and Rice both opined that tsunami relief would show Muslims that Americans aren’t all that bad. That statement in itself shows ignorance of the teachings of Islam about unbelievers, and ignorance of the history of the region, and how jihadist preachers used similar disasters to stir up hatred of the unbelievers, even as those unbelievers were helping them. It was not wrong for them to give the aid, but it was wrong for them to expect anything as a result. This is a relatively innocuous example; many more sinister ones can be drawn from the Wilsonian adventure in Iraq.
Also, by removing the books, NR has tacitly acknowledged that CAIR was right: all they were was anti-Muslim hate speech. That seems to be established also by Lowry’s Corner post above. This is extremely important — and disastrous — because, as I show in my article, everything with which CAIR took issue can be readily established from Islamic sources. That suggests that CAIR is trying to keep Americans from knowing unpleasant truths about Islam, which will also keep them from guarding themselves effectively from Muslims who are acting upon those unpleasant directives. It also gives CAIR a victory in their efforts to silence all criticism of Islam as “hate speech” — and again, it looks as if Lowry obliged them because he agrees that any examination of the Islamic roots of jihad violence is out of bounds in anti-terror efforts.
Yet right now, somewhere in the world, someone is explaining from the Qur’an and Sunnah why Muslims must wage jihad against unbelievers. But let’s not think about that. Let’s just roll over and go back to sleep.