Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer discusses some prevailing winds in today’s FrontPage:
Holland and France have rejected the EU Constitution, and word is getting out that the main reason they did was out of concern for the growing Muslim presence in those countries, which threatens to remake those societies into Islamic states before this century is out “” and which the proposed Constitution did nothing to address. But the European votes have given PC establishment analysts just another pretext to claim that today”s global jihad is really all our fault. James Carroll opined recently in the Boston Globe that “among the factors leading to the French and Dutch rejections of the European constitution last week, none looms more ominously than the nightmare of antagonism between “˜the West” and Islam. Many Europeans fear a rising tide of green, both within the continent and from outside it. Where once communists threatened, now Muslims do. A new wall is being built.”
Carroll is not original in this. This was a much-retailed thesis as long ago as 1999, when Abdus Sattar Ghazali, a Pakistani journalist who has served as Assistant Editor for the Pakistani daily Dawn and editor-in-chief of Kuwait TV”s English News, wrote that “the demise of the Cold War involving the USA and the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s left military strategists in the West searching for a new enemy.” Ghazali saw it as part of a conscious and long-range strategy: “To borrow [from] Richard Conder, author of the Munchurian [sic] Candidate: “˜Now that the communists have been put to sleep, we are going to have to invent another terrible threat.” Former US Secretary of Defence, McNamara, in his 1989 testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, stated that defense spending could safely be cut in half over five years. For the Pentagon it was a simple choice: either find new enemies or cut defense spending. Topping the list of potential bogeymen were the Yellow Peril, the alleged threat to US economic security emanating from the East Asia, and the so-called Green Peril (green representing Islam). The Pentagon selected “˜Islamic fundamentalism” and “˜rogue states” as the new bogeymen.”
When Ghazali wrote that in 1999, a year had passed since the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. It had been five years since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Other notorious incidents of Islamic terror were even farther back in the past: the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, the hijacking of TWA flight 847 and the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985, the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, and so on. Ghazali conceded that radical Islam “has not been invented by Western politicians” “” in the face of all the facts, how could he not? But he adds that even though politicians didn’t invent it, radical Islam “is being used by them.” Used for what? Ghazali concludes that “instead of reducing the military apparatus in the West to a symbolic vestige or getting rid of it altogether and thinking about “˜security” completely afresh, new threats are being invented to serve the old purpose. This is our main problem, not an Islamic fundamentalist threat which, in any case, could only be dealt with by political and economic means.”
Carroll sees this trumped-up war heating up today: “Given escalations of the war in Iraq together with widely reported instances of Koran-denigration by US interrogators, such trends in Europe make the global war on terror seem expressly a war against Islam. The “˜clash of civilizations” seems closer at hand than ever.”
Notice how 9/11 doesn’t enter into this calculus. For Carroll it is as if the war in Iraq and “˜instances of Koran-denigration” were just acts of unprovoked aggression by the West. Then he schoolmarmishly tells us that in order “to make sense of this dangerous condition, it can help to recall some of the forgotten or misremembered history that prepared for it, from the remote origins of the conflict to its manifestations in the not so distant past.” When did this dangerous and unprovoked demonization of Muslims begin? Why, with the Crusades, of course.
“As the story is usually told in Europe and America,” Carroll tells us, “the problem began when a jihad-driven army of “˜infidel” Saracens, having brutalized Christians in the “˜Holy Land,” threatened “˜Christendom” itself with conquests right into the heart of present-day France. Charles Martel is the hero of primal European romances because he defeated the Muslim army near Tours in 733. But for Martel, Edward Gibbon wrote, “˜the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford.– Carroll’s words here connote fable: “as the story is usually told in Europe and America”¦” He seems to be trying to get away with suggesting it didn’t really happen this way, although he doesn’t come out and say that. And why not? Because the historical record shows that it did happen that way. But Carroll downplays the idea that “across subsequent centuries, in the European memory, Islam posed the great threat to the emerging Christian order.” In fact, he says, “Lombards, Normans, Vikings, forces from the Slavic east, and violent contests among Christians themselves all wreaked havoc in Europe, even in Martel’s time.”
Lombards, Normans, Vikings, threats to the emerging Christian order? In fact, all were already Christian or soon Christianized. The jihad threat was perceived as greater because it was greater: it would have entailed the utter destruction of Christian society, or, as Carroll puts it with sneer quotes, “˜Christendom,” and its replacement with Sharia. The Lombards, Normans, and Vikings never threatened to do anything remotely approaching that. The Islamic threat may have been “one among many” militarily, but not culturally or religiously.
But Carroll is sure that those dastardly European Christians, in their quest to demonize “The Other,” imagined it all: the Islamic threat “was defined as transcendent only with the later Crusades, when Latin Christian armies set out to rescue that “˜Holy Land” and roll back Islamic conquests. The crusading impulse presumed a demonizing of Saracens that was justified neither by the threat they actually posed nor by their treatment of Christians in Palestine.” So now we have it: Martel was fighting a phantom army. Gibbon was being hysterical. But what if Martel had lost at Tours? Where would the jihad armies have stopped? How much of Europe would they have had to occupy and subjugate for Carroll to acknowledge that the threat from them was genuine?
And as for the treatment of Christians in Palestine in the decades just before the First Crusade, I discuss it at some length in my forthcoming book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (coming August 8 from Regnery). What was life like for the Christians in Palestine in the years leading up to the Crusades? Let’s see: In 1004, the sixth Fatimid Caliph, Abu “˜Ali al-Mansur al-Hakim (985-1021) turned violently against the faith of his Christian mother and uncles (two of whom were Patriarchs) and ordered the destruction of churches, the burning of crosses, and the seizure of church property. He moved against the Jews with similar ferocity. Over the next ten years thirty thousand churches were destroyed, and untold numbers of Christians converted to Islam simply to save their lives. In 1009, al-Hakim commanded that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem be destroyed, along with several other churches (including the Church of the Resurrection). The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, rebuilt by the Byzantines in the seventh century after the Persians burned an earlier version, marks the traditional site of Christ’s burial. Al-Hakim piled on other humiliating decrees, culminating in the order that Christians and Jews accept Islam or leave his dominions.
He ultimately relaxed these decrees, and in 1027 the Byzantines were allowed to rebuild the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Nevertheless, Christians were in a precarious position and pilgrims remained under threat. In 1056, the Muslims expelled three hundred Christians from Jerusalem and forbade European Christians from entering the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. When the Seljuk Turks swept down from Central Asia, they enforced a new Islamic rigor, making life difficult for both native Christians and pilgrims (whose pilgrimages they blocked). After they crushed the Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071 and took the Byzantine Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes prisoner, all of Asia Minor was open to them “” and their advance was virtually unstoppable. In 1076, they conquered Syria; in 1077, Jerusalem. The Seljuk Emir Atsiz bin Uwaq promised not to harm the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but once his men had entered the city, they murdered 3,000 people. But I guess Carroll would say they all committed suicide.
Carroll’s coup de grace is meant to fill his readers with foreboding about the contemporary situation: “Europe’s initiating “˜holy war” with Islam”¦was based on flawed intelligence, propaganda, and threat exaggeration.” If Carroll had filmed Ridley Scott’s recent dhimmi Crusades flop, Kingdom of Heaven, he would have cast George W. Bush as the evil Crusader Guy of Lusignan. He ascribes “the political fanaticism that has lately seized the Arab Islamic religious imagination (exemplified in Osama bin Laden)” to “a defensive fending off of assault from “˜the West” than in anything intrinsic to Islam.” Yet acceptance of his thesis here depends on the reader’s ignorance of the 450 years of jihadist aggression that preceded the Crusades and obliterated the Christian cultures of the Middle East and North Africa — and which today”s jihadists consider to be the direct antecedent of their own efforts. Against what were the initial conquerors of Syria, Egypt, Constantinople, Spain and all the rest defending? What is the significance of the fact that today”s jihad terrorists hold to the same ideological and religious imperatives? You won’t get the answers from James Carroll.
Carroll concludes that “this conflict has its origins more in “˜the West” than in the House of Islam. The image of Muslims as prone to violence by virtue of their religion was mainly constructed across centuries by Europeans seeking to bolster their own purposes, a habit of politicized paranoia that is masterfully continued by freaked-out leaders of post-9/11 America.” I doubt if Carroll has read a page of the Qur’an, or knows that Qur’anic verses such as 9:5 and 9:29 and many others are not just isolated, ignored religious texts, but have become the basis for an elaborate legal superstructure mandating warfare against unbelievers and endorsed by all the major schools of Sunni jurisprudence.
Carroll’s ignorance and distortions are in service of his larger project of casting Western defenders against the jihadist threat as the real enemy in this present conflict. If there weren’t so many people in government who believe as he does, he would be beneath notice. In Holland and France there are significant numbers that seem to know better, but the elites are going to take a long time to catch up.