Dinesh D’Souza has written a spectacularly wrongheaded and potentially immensely damaging new book, The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, in which he argues essentially that the jihadists hate us because we are immoral. It is, of course, already getting lavish attention from those who, out of political correctness and fear, as well as a miscalculation of the most effective ways to deal with the problem we face, have steadily ignored the jihad ideology and its influence among those who are waging war against the U.S. and its allies.
D’Souza showed up in a National Review Q & A with Kathryn Lopez yesterday, wherein he breezily discounted the possibility that they hate us because of imperatives arising from within the Islamic religion.
Lopez: On Islam: It has been argued that the Koran itself is violent. That moderate Muslims, in fact, have to distance themselves from more than Osama bin Laden. Is it possible that you are part of the not-understanding-the-threat-we-face problem by suggesting that line of examination be shut down?
D’Souza: I’m not urging that any line of inquiry be “shut down.”
It’s ironic that this question would even have been asked and answered, since, with the notable and noble exception of the articles of Andrew McCarthy, this line of inquiry has effectively been shut down at National Review. For reasons I do not know, after my 2005 skirmish with Rich Lowry over J. L. Menezes’ book on Muhammad, NR has tended to shy away from considering the possibility that there might be something within Islam that fuels jihad terror — Lowry, if I understand him correctly, thinks (as does D’Souza — see below) that to do so alienates moderates. This is ironic, however, because by declining, at least so far, to enter into this discussion they cut the ground out from under those moderates, by pretending that nothing in Islam actually needs reform.
I’d like to invite Kathryn Lopez and NR to take D’Souza’s words to heart and not shut down this line of inquiry. I’d be happy to debate D’Souza in the pages of National Review or at NRO on whether or not there is something about Islam that fuels today’s jihad violence, and whether our immorality is the paramount cause of jihad. I contend that, pace D’Souza, that we could be the most moral people on earth and the jihad would continue nevertheless. The Qur’an (9:29) directs Muslims to fight Jews and Christians, not just immoral Jews and Christians. What has changed in the last 25 years is the material ability of Muslims to pursue the jihad imperative.
After all, Egyptian jihad theorist Sayyid Qutb was enraged by the immorality of the dancing at a church social in Colorado in the late 1940s; how immoral do you think that dancing really was, compared to today’s standards? Yet despite its relative innocuousness, it still enraged him. He would not have been pacified by anything short of full Islamic separation of the sexes, and the covering of women. In other words, he would not have been satisfied by anything short of our islamization.
I’m saying it’s foolish to blame Islam when Islam has been around for 1,300 years and Islamic terrorism has been a problem for the past 25 years.
I expect in this D’Souza is dating the beginning of Islamic terrorism to the Khomeini revolution in Iran in 1979. This suggests that he does not regard the relentless jihad against Israel as “Islamic terrorism”; that he doesn’t regard the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood, the direct forerunner of Hamas and Al-Qaeda, in Egypt in 1928 as having anything to do with “Islamic terrorism”; and that he either doesn’t know or care that the ideology held by Osama bin Laden and other jihad terrorists today is identical to that held by jihad armies of the past, which overwhelmed and islamized the Middle East, North Africa, Persia, and significant portions of Europe and Asia.
So is it even reasonable to blame Mohammad or the Koran? I realize that you can fish out this passage or that passage and make it sound like the Muslims want to convert or kill everybody. But that would be like taking passages out of the Old Testament to make Moses sound like Hitler.
Would it really? The question here is who is doing the fishing. D’Souza refers to Osama’s communiques — what about all the Qur’an quotes in them? Here‘s the one from November 24, 2002. Lots of Qur’an in it. As I have pointed out many, many times, jihadists quote Qur’an and Hadith copiously, and portray themselves as the exponents of “pure Islam.” It is not “Islamophobes” who are “fish[ing] out this passage or that passage,” it is the jihadists. Are we to avoid examining this phenomenon and discussing its implications because of fear of “blam[ing] blame Mohammad or the Koran”? Would it not be more prudent to explore it and try to formulate positive ways to deal with it?
After all, there is no body of Jews corresponding to the Islamic jihadists, quoting the Old Testament to justify Hitlerian genocide. And that’s why D’Souza’s analogy fails utterly.
And also, Muslims don’t want to “convert or kill everybody.” That is a false oversimplification. Muhammad commanded Muslims to convert or subjugate or kill everybody. And that explains much of what D’Souza brings up next:
Besides, you have to look at what the Islamic empires actually did. There were Christians and Jews who lived under the various Muslim dynasties, from the Abbasid to the Ottoman. In fact, Jews were much safer in the Ottoman empire than in just about any of the Christian kingdoms, such as that of Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain.
In fact, Jews as dhimmis were in Ottoman domains subjugated as dhimmis. D’Souza’s contention that “Jews were much safer in the Ottoman empire than in just about any of the Christian kingdoms” is flatly false. That’s why 17 million Jews were in Europe at the dawn of the twentieth century, and only one million in Islamic lands.
So we have to be careful about simply describing a religion of one billion people as “violent.” This would be tactically imprudent even if it were true, but it is not true, so why repeat a canard that has the terrible effect of driving the traditional Muslims into the radical camp?
Although this idea is taken for granted by most analysts, no one has ever yet explained to me why describing Islam as containing elements that incite to violence will make otherwise peaceful Muslims become violent or begin to condone religious violence. Why wouldn’t it lead them to begin much more active reform efforts? D’Souza thinks talking about the elements of Islam that give rise to violence is “tactically imprudent”; I think his avoiding doing so is tactically disastrous. He wants to foster the growth of an Islam that accepts the idea of Muslims coexisting peacefully as equals with non-Muslims by ignoring the elements of Islam that make this increasingly difficult in the modern world. Yet while D’Souza is calling upon us to ignore these elements of Islam, jihad terrorists are not ignoring them. They continue to use them to recruit and motivate terrorists. Thus in reality the only viable way to encourage moderate Muslims is to help them confront and reject these elements of Islam, so as to forestall such recruitment.
So how about it, Ms. Lopez? Mr. D’Souza? I am up for a debate anytime you’re ready.