The overlooked aspect of Osama’s latest video. From FrontPage (news links in the original):
“I invite you to embrace Islam,” says Osama bin Laden in his latest videotape. Most analysts take this as pious window-dressing and focus on what they believe to be the more substantive points of his message: his comments on the war in Iraq, his critique of capitalism, the similarity of much of what he says to Democratic Party talking points, and the like. But in fact the invitation to Islam is the heart, and the most revealing aspect, of bin Laden’s entire statement.
The chief reason for this, of course, is because in traditional Islamic law, the invitation to Islam must precede an attack on non-Muslims. The Islamic prophet Muhammad makes this clear, directing Muslims to issue this invitation first, and if the unbelievers refuse, to invite them to enter the Islamic social order as second-class dhimmis, and if they refuse both, to go to war with them:
Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them….If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya [the poll tax on non-Muslims]. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim 4294)
Is, then, a major attack imminent? There are numerous indications of that — suggesting that one of the primary audiences, at least for this part of Osama’s message, is the Islamic world. If such an attack comes, Osama has by means of this videotape attempted to forestall criticism by Muslims, and has laid claim to Islamic legitimacy for Al-Qaeda’s actions.
But there is also a still wider significance to Osama’s invitation to Islam. He offers in this videotape a cultural critique of the Judeo-Christian West. This critique doesn’t focus on the exportation of its immoral pop culture, which some think is the primary, if not sole, grievance of the Islamic world against the West; Osama doesn’t mention that at all here. Rather, he concentrates on its religion: “You believe with absolute certainty that you believe in Allah, and you are full of conviction of this belief, so much that you have written this belief of yours on your dollar. But the truth is that you are mistaken in this belief of yours.”
Why? He lists two reasons: “you associate others with Him in your beliefs and separate state from religion.” Both of these criticisms focus on Christianity: Islam regards the divinity of Christ as an unacceptable and polytheistic association of a partner with God, and rejects the sacred/secular distinction that is ultimately derived from Christ’s directive to “render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Bin Laden charges the West with “manifest polytheism,” criticizing its making laws “in contradiction to [Allah’s] Law and methodology.” This is an integral part of his invitation to Islam: since Islam is a political and social system as well as a religious faith, to accept it is not merely to change one’s religious affiliation: it would fundamentally alter the nature of Western society.
The call to implement Islamic Sharia law in its fullness as an antidote to the ills of society is resonating throughout the Islamic world, with severe challenges to relatively secular regimes being mounted recently in Malaysia, Turkey, and Pakistan. Jihadists base their appeal in the Islamic world on the purity of their Islam, and on the proposition that obedience to Allah brings worldly success, as Osama says: “And our holding firm to this magnificent Book is the secret of our strength and winning of the war against you despite the fewness of our numbers and materiel.”
Six years after 9/11, and a year and a half after Donald Rumsfeld observed that “We need to find ways to win the ideological battle as well,” the jihadists” ideological challenge is not being answered adequately. Osama’s challenge to Christianity and advocacy of Sharia is an opportunity for Western leaders to stress the aspects of Judeo-Christian civilization that Sharia law denies: notably the equality of dignity of men and women and the freedom of conscience. But no Western leader will do this, because it would contradict the multiculturalist dogma that no civilization or culture has any virtues that any others do not possess. The centrality of the jihadists” cultural challenge to the West, and Western unwillingness to respond to this challenge, is a chief theme of my book Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t, but it is getting little attention elsewhere; even conservative media figures are hesitant to discuss the cultural conflict. The ideological challenge that the jihadists are making to the West remains the single most misunderstood aspect of the war on terror. As Osama invites us once again to accept Islam, probably very few Americans would be able to articulate why they wouldn’t want to accept the invitation, and yet talk of Sharia and how it contradicts basic Western understandings of human rights remain taboo.
As Al-Qaeda attempts to follow up on Osama’s invitation, and Europe becomes increasingly riven by strife between Muslims and non-Muslims, it will become clearer why we ignore this aspect of the jihadist challenge at our own peril.