Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Serge Trifkovic, a former BBC commentator and US NEWS and World Report reporter. His last book was The Sword of the Prophet. The sequel, Defeating Jihad, will be published by Regina Orthodox Press in April. Read his commentaries on ChroniclesMagazine.org.
Glazov: Mr. Trifkovic, welcome to Frontpage Magazine.
Trifkovic: Thank you.
Glazov: Before we get to your book, let’s talk about the Abdul Rahman case for a moment. He has just been released and is now in Italy. What do you think the key significance of this case is?
Trifkovic: This became a cause cÃ©lÃ¨bre only because of the presence of American troops in Afghanistan: having Rahman killed for apostasy under their noses would have made too explicit a debacle of the already farcical neocon phantasy known as “democratizing the greater Middle East.”
No, when Christians are routinely mistreated and killed by our other trusted friends and allies of the United States in the region – notably Pakistan, Egypt, and even the “secular” Turkey – you don’t hear about it, there are no vigils, no protests, no offers of asylum. In Pakistan, murders, endemic discrimination, and constant harassment of Christians – who are mainly poor and account for a mere one percent of the population – is persistent. Any dispute with a Muslim – most commonly over land – can become a religious issue. Christians are routinely accused of “blasphemy against Islam,” an offense that carries the death penalty as Pakistan has some of the strictest blasphemy laws in the Muslim world. Charges of blasphemy can be made on the flimsiest of evidence – even one man’s word against another – and since it is invariably a Muslim’s word against that of a Christian, the outcome is preordained.
In Egypt, supposedly a friend of the United States and the second largest recipient of the U.S. taxpayers’ largesse, not a single murderer was convicted following the January 2000 massacre of 21 Coptic Christians in the village of Al-Kosheh, and smaller-scale massacres continue unabated.
The murder of a Catholic priest in Trabzon, on Turkey’s Black Sea coast, last February was a classic case of jihadism. Father Andrea Santoro was shot twice at point-blank range in his church by a youth who shouted Allahu akbar (Allah is great!) before quitting the scene.
This event should remind us that Turkey is a profoundly un-European country, steeped in an ethos deeply hostile to Western ways. As late as 1955, Istanbul’s Christians suffered the worst race riot in Europe since Kristallnacht. And just look at the phenomenal success last year of the Valley of the Wolves, Iraq – the most expensive Turkish film ever made. It opens with a real life event: in July 2003 U.S. Marines raided Turkish Special Forces headquarters in the Iraqi city of Sulimaniyah, mistaking them for guerrillas. Washington later apologized but the movie makes the incident look like a deliberate American ploy. The subsequent fictional plot has Americans attacking a mosque during evening prayers. They murder dozens of innocents at a wedding (including a little boy), and allow a Jewish doctor to remove vital organs from Abu Ghraib inmates, so that they can be sold in New York – and Tel Aviv!
But back to your question. An excellent source is “The New Persecuted: Inquiries into Anti-Christian Intolerance in the New Century of Martyrs” by Antonio Socci. Socci provides evidence that in the past century some 50 million Christians have been killed primarily or exclusively for the reason of their faith; an average of 160,000 Christians have been killed every year since 1990, the vast majority by Muslims in the Third World: East Timor, Sudan, Mauritania, Nigeria.. Socci laments the fact that “this global persecution of Christianity is still in progress but in most cases is ignored by the mass media and Christians in the West.”
There are two parallel processes overlooked in the current Middle Eastern crisis: the apparently terminal decline of the Christian remnant in the Middle East after 14 centuries of precarious dhimmitude, and the remarkable indifference of the post-Christian, latently Christophobic Western elite class to its impending demise.
Under the British Mandate, Palestine officially was a Christian country, with Bethlehem having a population that was 90 percent Christian. Today they are literally disappearing. Among over three million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, under 50,000 Christians remain. By the year 2020 there will be no living church in the land of Christ. Perhaps Mr. Rahman’s case should throw some light on that melancholy fact.
Glazov: Ok, let’s move on to your book. You make the point that the Islamist threat to the West is greater than ever. Can you explain? And this means we are losing the terror war, no?
Trifkovic: Losing, absolutely, without a doubt. After Stalingrad Germany was doomed, after Moscow Napoleon was finished, and after Gettysburg the Confederacy could no longer hope to turn the tide. No such turning point has been reached in the misnamed Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). We need a comprehensive strategy of defense not merely against a small jihadist elite but against an inherently aggressive, demographically vibrant, and ideologically rigid Islamic movement – and please, no more “Islamist” red herrings! – a movement that has global proportions and world-historical significance. As an ideology and a blueprint for radical political action, it is a phenomenon that cannot be compared in dynamism, energy, and potential consequences with any other creed or idea in today’s world. It demands a sustained, bold response that has failed to materialize so far. We are losing the war because our elite class does not allow the enemy to be defined. The squeamishness of European and American bien-pensants alike in naming the enemy is but one sign of a shared malaise that hampers a coherent effort.
Bin Laden’s network may have been damaged and disrupted since 2001 and his cause may in many places be in the hands of self-starters and amateurs, but he could never have dreamed that the world, almost five years after 9-11, would look so favorable to his objectives. A new strategy is needed to make it less so. It can never be “won” in the sense of eliminating the phenomenon of terrorism altogether, but it can be successfully pursued to the point where the Western world can be made significantly safer by adopting measures – predominantly defensive measures – that would reduce the danger to as near zero as possible. The victory will come not by conquering Mecca for America, but by disengaging America from Mecca (energy independence is a must!) and by excluding Mecca from America with a new immigration policy, soberly defined and rigorously enforced. The risk can, and must, be managed wisely, resolutely, and permanently.
Glazov: You show that there is simply no other way around it: Muslim immigration and a Muslim presence in a country is directly connected to that country being the target of terror. Can you talk about this a bit? And what is the solution?
Trifkovic: “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles,” says Sun Tzu. Once we get to know the jihadist enemy, his core beliefs, his role models, his track-record, his mindset, his modus operandi, and his intentions, we’ll also know his weaknesses, which are many, above all his inability to develop a prosperous economy, or a functional family, or a harmonious society. But the main problem is with those among us who have the power to make policy and shape opinions, and who will reject our diagnosis. Having absorbed postmodernist assumptions, certain only of uncertainty, devoid of any serious faith except that in their own infallibility, members of our own elite class treat the jihadist mindset as a pathology that can and should be treated by treating causes external to Islam itself.
The result is a plethora of proposed “cures” that are as likely to succeed in making us safe from terrorism as snake oil is likely to cure leukemia. Abroad, we are told, we need to address political and economic grievances of the impoverished masses, we need to spread democracy and free markets in the Muslim world, we need to invest more in public diplomacy. At home we need more tolerance, greater inclusiveness, less profiling, and a more determined outreach to the minorities that feel marginalized and threatened by the war on terror. The predictable failure of such cures leads to ever more pathological self-scrutiny and morbid self-doubt. This vicious circle is untenable and must be broken.
Let me start with the emotionally charged issue of constitutional rights versus national security. Last December the controversy on phone tapping was presented by the mass media to the nation through the inflammatory headline, “Bush authorized spying on Americans.” The unwillingness of the mainstream media to disclose the exact identity of the NSA eavesdropping subjects was reminiscent of its refusal to disclose the religious identity of tens of thousands of rioters who wreaked havoc in dozens of French suburbs last November. In both cases the mainstream media were guilty of misconstruing reality for reasons rooted in their ideological prejudices and political preferences.
Within America, glossing over the surveillance targets’ identity has two objectives. First of all, it presented President Bush as an out-of-control autocrat-in-the-making whose hoods may be eavesdropping on any one of us at any time. Secondly, it also implied that a Muslim who has become a naturalized American citizen is so thoroughly and irrevocably “American,” that no hyphenated designation or qualifier is called for.
Abroad, concealing the rioters’ identity fits in with the liberal world view that reject the notion that importing Muslim immigrants may be in any way disadvantageous for the host country. Having reduced religion, politics and art to “narratives” and “metaphors” which merely reflect prejudices based on the distribution of power, the elite class saw the rioters’ shout of “Allahu akbar!” as a mere idiosyncrasy that would be cured if the French state gave those “youths” more jobs, more dark-skinned TV anchors, and, of course, lots of “affirmative action” in employment and education.
The legal and constitutional dilemma, such as whether it should spy on “Americans” at home or not and whether a court warrant is needed or not, is worthy of debate in principle. It is both false and unnecessary under the circumstances. Radical solutions are needed for radical challenges, and they do exist. If and when all persons engaged in Islamic activism are excluded from America, there will be no need for such intrusive domestic surveillance. We don’t need any legislation to protect CAIR’s clients’ privacy, we need the law that will treat any naturalized citizen’s or resident alien’s known or suspected adherence to an Islamic world outlook as excludable – on political, rather than “religious” grounds.
All Americans – real Americans, that is, and not those who falsely take the oath of citizenship but continue to preach jihad and Sharia – will be spared the worry about Mr. Bush listening in to their phone conversations if Islamic activism is treated as grounds for the loss of acquired U.S. citizenship and deportation. The citizenship of any naturalized American who preaches jihad, inequality of “infidels” and women, the establishment of the Shari’a law etc., should be revoked, and that person promptly deported to the country of origin.
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; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law. and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.” But for a Muslim to declare all of the above in good faith, and especially that he accepts the US Constitution 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 with “the Constitution and laws of the United States of America”; 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. America is 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 dissimulation that was inaugurated by Muhammad to help destabilize and undermine non-Muslim communities almost ripe for a touch of Jihad. Or else because he is not devout enough and confused, but in that case there is the ever-present danger that at some point he will rediscover his roots, with many predictably unpleasant consequences for the rest of us.
Let me add that the aversion to “profiling” is a symptom, minor but telling, of the elite class pathology. Law-enforcers in other parts of the world pay no heed to the dictates of “sensitivity” and anti-discriminationism. Arabs profile other Arabs, Indians profile Pakistanis, Japanese profile Chinese, and everyone profiles Africans. Israel profiles everyone entering and exiting all the time, and makes no qualms about it. One percent of Muslims living in the United States were responsible for over 90 percent of terrorist offences and serious threats in the country since 9-11. A young Muslim man is literally millions of times more likely to carry out a terrorist attack in the United States than an Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, or a Buddhist. Or for that matter a Lebanese Christian. Membership of a group is a valid pointer in assuming and judging unobserved behavioral characteristics of an individual, especially in the absence of specific information about that individual’s background. To suggest otherwise is neither moral nor sane.
And finally, a person’s Islamic faith and outlook 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. For as long as practicing Muslims are able to get security clearances, terrorist organizations will continue trying to insinuate their supporters into the hiring pools of American security agencies. Any presence of practicing Muslims in any such institution presents an inherent risk to its integrity and undermines its morale.
New immigration legislation is badly needed. Islamic activism should be treated as the grounds for the exclusion or deportation of any alien, regardless of his status or ties in the United States. Useful precedents exist. Keeping out and facilitating the expulsion of politically undesirable foreigners has been at the heart of this country’s immigration legislation since 1903 when Congress barred the admission of anarchists in response to President McKinley’s assassination. “Ideological” grounds for deportation were on the statute books until 1990, when they were unwisely 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. Those who preach Jihad and Sharia can and should be treated in exactly the same manner.
Glazov: Give us a little more of your blueprint for victory.
Trifkovic: It is essential, let me repeat, to define and understand the enemy. Are Muslim terrorists – the only variety that seriously threatens the United States and the Western world – true or false to the tenets of their faith? The answer has to be based on Islam’s history and dogma, not on any a priori judgment by those who presume to know the answer or, worse still, have ulterior motives for lying about Islam – e.g. Western converts to Islam who conceal their new names and their true loyalties. That straightjacket has to be discarded, and the public educated about the sacred texts of Islam, its record of interaction with other societies, and the personality of its founder, Muhammad. Such education will open the way to understanding the motives, ambitions and methods of terrorists. We need to know if terrorism is an aberration of Islam’s alleged peace and tolerance, or a predictable consequence of the ideology of Jihad.
The second task is to survey the defenses. Both in America and in Europe the elite class deems such questions about the nature of Islam – illegitimate. On both sides of the ocean there also exists an elite consensus that de facto open immigration, multiculturalism, and the existence of a large Muslim diaspora within the Western world are to be treated as a fixed given and should not be scrutinized in any anti-terrorist debate. That imposed elite consensus, in my view, is morbid, ideological in nature, flawed in logic, dogmatic in application, and disastrous in results. It needs to be tested against evidence, not against the alleged norms of acceptable public discourse imposed by those who either do not know Islam, or else do not want us to know the truth about it.
An effective defense against terrorism demands a re-think of our foreign and military policies. Would American soldiers make America safer by patrolling the border with Mexico rather than the streets of Falluja? What are the costs and benefits of supporting the jihadist side in the Caucasus and the Balkans? Even more important is the issue of grand strategy. Pursuing the path of “benevolent global hegemony” is certain to take America the same way as Athens after Pericles and the USSR after Brzhnev. Above all, operational effectiveness must no longer be confused with strategy itself.
Last but by no means least, the impact of ongoing Muslim migratory influx onto the developed world, and the consequences of the existence of a multi-million Muslim diaspora in Western Europe and North America, are inseparable from the coherent long-term defense strategy. That strategy must entail denying actual and potential terrorists the foothold inside the Dar al-Harb! Controlling the borders is only the first step. The application of clearly defined criteria related to terrorism in deciding who will be admitted into the country, and in determining who should be allowed to stay from among those who are already here, is essential. Carefully evaluating the ideological profile of all prospective visitors to America, and systematically re-examining the behavior of all resident aliens and checking the bona-fides of naturalized citizens, is an essential ingredient of a serious anti-terrorist strategy. To that end, Islamic activism needs to be treated as an excludable, eminently political, rather than “religious” activity.
The victory in the war on terrorism ultimately has to be won in the domain of morals and culture. It can be won only by an America – and Britain, and France, and Italy. – that has regained its awareness of its moral, spiritual, and civilizational roots. If that happens, the renewed impulse to defend those lands and to procreate will come, too. While the likelihood of such belated recovery remains in doubt, it it is not impossible. Miracles do happen, and therefore they will happen.
Glazov: Many Muslims I talk to often tell me that their Prophet was a man of “peace.” As you demonstrate once again in your new book, he so clearly was not. Tell us briefly how he wasn’t. And do the Muslims that I speak with not read the Koran? Or do they have a different concept of “peace”?
Trifkovic: Those Muslims you talk to seem to have adopted the dialectical forma mentis of Stalin’s apologists who’d have told you that his winter war against Finland was “defensive” and the Gulag was justified, or exaggerated, or both. Yes, the problem is that Muhammad remains, to all true Muslims, the inviolable paragon of goodness, and imitatio Muhammadi is reflected in the prevalence of his name throughout the Muslim world. Understanding him is the key to the Muslim world outlook.
The truth is grim, and for that reason the entire debate about those Danish cartoons last winter was flawed. The real problem is this: a figure as disturbing as the founder of Islam should not be gently made fun of – the cartoons were quite innocuous – at least not until his remarkable career has been given a vigorous public treatment in the Western world. The trouble with those cartoons was not that they offended fervent Muslims – that sort are offended by our very existence – but that by their placid humor they humanized a man with a hugely problematic legacy, and thereby offended the memory of untold millions of victims of Jihad through the ages.
Ahmed Akkari, spokesman of the Muslim organizations in Denmark, said that Muslims all over the world want the “truth” about their prophet known to the rest of the world. OK, fine: let us look at Muhammad as “he really was in history,” relying solely on orthodox Islamic sources, the Kuran and the hadith. Those sources provide an account of uncertain historical accuracy, but that account is regarded as true by all true Muslims and it provides the scriptural basis for the Muslim faith and the Islamic law. It tells us that he violated the sacred pagan month of Rajab, when no Arab was permitted to raise arms in battle by staging pirate raids on caravans from Mecca. In 624, at Badr, he killed forty Meccans in battle and executed prisoners, with Allah’s approval: “instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, Smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger tips of them.” (8:12) After Badr, to quote Ayatollah Khomeini, “Islam grew with blood.”
Muhammad used the prospect of booty and ransom to recruit followers. This motive was so important that it merited a whole sura in the Kuran; but one fifth of everything was Muhammad’s! Once the loot was divided it was time to relax: “Now enjoy what ye have won. as lawful and good.” As for the fallen, a tangible, X-rated paradise filled with virgins “untouched by man” and “fresh” pre-pubescent boys awaited the “martyrs” immediately. The simple preacher eventually 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 prisoners was divinely condoned by Allah. (8:68) Fresh revelations described the unbelievers as “the worst animals” (8:55) and “the vilest of creatures” (98:6) undeserving of mercy. The enemies’ heads were to be cut off. (47:4) Killing, enslaving and robbing them was divinely sanctioned and mandated.
When Muhammad returned from Badr to Medina in triumph, he proceeded to settle scores with his detractors – and resorted to murder. He killed Abu Afak, an elderly Jew who dared question Muhammad’s methods, and Asma bint Marwan, a poetess who had mocked him in verse, followed by another poet, Kab Ashraf. They were guilty of verbal insults, providing the Islamic view of the freedom of speech that is valid to this day.
Muhammad next told his followers to “kill any Jew you can lay your hands on.” When six of his henchmen murdered an elderly Jew by the name of Abu Rafi in his sleep, they argued whose weapon had actually ended the victim’s life. The prophet decided that the owner of the sword that still had traces of food on it was entitled to the credit: Abu Rafi had just eaten his dinner before falling asleep, and the fatal slash went through his stomach. The “Prophet’s” attack against the Jewish tribe of Banu-‘l-Mustaliq came next. His followers kidnapped 500 of their women, and the night after the battle they staged an orgy of rape. His pogroms culminated in the attack the last Jewish tribe in Medina, Banu Qurayzah. Up to 900 men were decapitated in a ditch, in front of their women and children. Allah praised Muhammad for the way “he struck terror into their hearts.” (33:25) The women were subsequently raped. Muhammad chose as his concubine one Raihana Bint Amr, whose father and husband were both slaughtered before her eyes only hours earlier.
Allah’s messages concerning “the infidel” subsequently grew ever harsher: “Take him and fetter him and expose him to hell fire.” (69:30-37) They “will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off.” (5:33-34) In this world, for the captured infidel “We have prepared chains, yokes and a blazing fire.” (76:4) In the hereafter things get even worse: “garments of fire will be cut out for them, boiling fluid will be poured down their heads. Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted. And for them are hooked rods of iron.” (22:19-22) One single Kuranic verse, “the Verse of the Sword,” (9:5) Islamic scholars agree, abrogates 124 earlier verses – the ones that are quoted most regularly by Islam’s apologists to prove its tolerance and benevolence.
Muhammad’s progression from a marginalized outsider to a master of life and death produced a transformation of his personality in the decade preceding his death in 633 AD. Allah was invoked as the authority supporting the prophet’s daily political objectives and his personal needs. Nowhere was this more obvious than when it came to his exaggerated sensuality. He came up with a Kuranic verse approving his nightly trysts with an Egyptian slave girl and admonishing his jealous wives for their objections to the practice. (66:1-3) Allah’s revelation also enabled Muhammad to take his daughter-in-law Zainab as a wife when he lusted after her. (36:37)
Glazov: You discuss how Muhammad married Aisha when she was seven and still playing with dolls and that he had sex with her when she was nine. Can you kindly explain to me what Muslims think about this in their thinking of their Prophet? Every time I try to raise this issue with devout Muslims there is a lot of double-talk and a lot of anger directed at me. I never get anywhere on this issue. Can you give us your wisdom on this?
Trifkovic: There is no “wisdom,” there is common decency and natural morality. Yes, Muslims need to be pressed on the rape of Aisha, and on the murders, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. On the whole, many commands of the Kuran and Muhammad’s actions and words recorded in the Traditions are morally abhorrent and criminal not only by the standards of our time, but even in the context of 7th century Arabia! They were often considered repugnant by Muhammad’s contemporaries. He had to resort to “revelations” as a means of justifying his actions and suppressing the prevalent moral code of his own society. Attacking caravans in the holy month, taking up arms against one’s kinsmen, slaughtering prisoners, reserving a lion’s share of the booty, murdering people without provocation, violating treaties, and indulging one’s sensual passions, was also at odds with the moral standards of his Arab contemporaries. Only the ultimate authority could sanction it, and Allah duly obliged him.
On the whole, Muhammad’s practice and constant encouragement of bloodshed are unique in the history of religions. Allah’s order to “kill the unbelievers wherever you find them” is an injunction both unambiguous and powerful. The word “genocide” was not even coined when Muhammad conveyed Allah’s alleged dictum, “When we decide to destroy a population. then we destroy them utterly.” (17:16-17) Disobedient people “we utterly destroyed.” (21:11) That 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, is the most important bequest of Muhammad to history. The end of Jihad is possible only when “there prevail justice and faith in Allah” everywhere. (2:193) Muhammad thus postulated the fundamental illegitimacy of the existence of a non-Muslim world. Muslims could contemplate tactical ceasefires, but never jihad’s complete abandonment short of the unbelievers’ abject submission.
On its own admission Islam stands or falls with the person of Muhammad, a deeply flawed man by the standards of his own society, as well as those of the Old and New Testaments, both of which he acknowledged as divine revelation; and even by the new law, of which he claimed to be the divinely appointed medium and custodian. The problem of Islam, and the problem of the rest of the world with Islam, is not the remarkable career of Muhammad per se, undoubtedly a “great man” in terms of his impact on human history. It is the religion’s claim that the words and acts of its prophet provide the universally valid standard of morality as such, for all time and all men. Our judgment on Muhammad rests on evidence of his followers and faithful admirers. Even on such evidence, the verdict of the civilized world goes against the “prophet.” That verdict, once it is passed – and it will be passed – will make the gentle mockery of Muhammad in those cartoons appear as inappropriate as it would be inappropriate today to lampoon Hitler for his out-of-wedlock liaison with Ewa Braun, or for his inability to control flatulence.
FP: Mr. Trifkovic, thank you for joining us today.
Trifkovic: Thank you Jamie.