This morning I am in the Belly of the Beast, the Capital of the Great Satan, for a day-long symposium hosted by the America’s Truth Forum, “The Underlying Roots of Terrorism: Terrorism’s Threat to World Peace and National Security.” Security is very high, and with good reason: speakers include…Walid Phares, David Horowitz, Paul Williams, and Brigitte Gabriel. I have had the honor and pleasure of meeting many Jihad Watch readers, including Catherine, the squirrel hunter and spider killer who has often posted here, TES, and others.
Unfortunately, however, the proceedings got off on an exceptionally sour note last night when Richard Miniter, author of Losing bin Laden and Shadow War, demonstrated once again that he doesn’t have the first foggiest idea what Islam or the global jihad are all about. Miniter challenged the crowd head-on, saying at the outset of his speech that many of those listening would not like him in four or five minutes. And he was right — at least in terms of this listener’s agreement with his assertions.
To say that the war on terror had anything to do with Islam, he asserted, was to agree with Osama bin Laden and to foreclose any possibility of cultivating allies among Muslims. He said that there were no more than 50,000 or so Salafis worldwide, and that we are at war with them, not with the billion-plus Muslims in the world. We should take note, he said, of a Yemeni program that used the Qur’an to turn mujahedin into lambs.
There were, in fact, so many false assumptions and erroneous assertions in his twenty-minute address that I don’t have time to unpack them all here. But I am writing this because Miniter’s is an influential voice, and his perspective is still mainstream. And because his kind of thinking has led the U.S. into numerous policy blind alleys — witness the Abdul Rahman case in Afghanistan, which happened because the wonks at State were (and are) insufficiently concerned about the Sharia provision in the Afghan Constitution.
The Yemeni program, as you can see from the link above, was a sham. The “rehabilitated” terrorists told the judge what he wanted to hear, got their early release, and went back to the jihad. To agree with Osama bin Laden that Islam is at the core of the global conflict today is not to endorse his jihad, but merely to recognize why his appeal has such power in the Islamic world today. Nor is recognizing the role of the Islamic jihad ideology in inciting violence today tantamount to writing off peaceful Muslims and foreclosing on any alliances with them. Rather, it focuses the hard questions we need to ask them in order to make sure that their moderation is genuine and not feigned. This is being done virtually nowhere in the world today. No one seems to care whether or not a Muslim holds to the overall goals of Osama bin Laden — to institute Sharia in the Muslim world and ultimately over the non-Muslim world as well — as long as the Muslim in question doesn’t pursue that goal by violent means. Yet the many non-violent, sub-radar, subversive ways in which this goal is being advanced today are ultimately much more important than the violent ones. And it is being advanced by a much larger group than Miniter’s 50,000 violent Salafis.
If Miniter and those who agree with them don’t want to get their intellectual pockets picked, and end up being made into useful idiots of the jihad, they need to make sure that the moderates they are so avid to work with don’t share those goals. They need to ask them: do you believe in the indefinite peaceful coexistence of Muslims and non-Muslims as equals? Do you accept Western constitutional pluralism? Would you like to see Sharia someday adopted in the West? They need to examine the actions of these moderates to make sure that the answers given weren’t deceptive.
There is so much deception among self-proclaimed moderates, and it is only abetted by wishful thinking, fuzzy thinking, and half-truths. To ignore the problem within Islam is only to allow it to grow and metastasize. How can we prevail over a challenge we won’t confront?
It was disappointing to see dhimmi self-deception even in a conference devoted to speaking realistically about terror issues, but ultimately, given the fog that envelops us, it is not surprising. Anyway, I will be speaking to these issues when my turn comes at the symposium this morning. And reporting back here when time permits.