“We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.” — Barack Obama, in a statement a few days after the 9/11/2001 attacks, quoted by Michele Malkin here
I think that paragraph deserves a little rewriting. And I would like to track much of its language, to recycle it even — thrift, thrift, all you Horatios! — so that instead of being about the murderers, and about the possible sources, as Obama saw it, of what he also saw as their mental disarray, having nothing to do with Islam, it becomes instead a paragraph about some of the Infidel victims or potential victims of the carriers of that ideology, the Total Belief-System of Islam. We know, after all, we who have taken the time to study, what is actually in, and not what is dreamily and vaguely told us is in, the Qur’an, the Hadith, the Sira. We can read. And we can read hundreds of Western scholars who studied and wrote about Islam, especially before the Great Inhibition set in, and Muslims and non-Muslim apologists for Islam, often backed by Arab money, took over most of the teaching about Islam and the Middle East all over the academic archipelago.
And even better than Joseph Schacht or Henri Lammens or Snouck Hurgronje or Edmond Fagnan or Ignaz Goldziher, has been the testimony of those born into and raised up within Islam — people who not only know the texts and tenets, but have seen the effect of those texts and tenets on real people, Muslims among whom they lived. In fact, among them they themselves were to be counted, until, in the free West, they began to think, and to compare, and to contrast, and to study both Islam and the free societies of the West. These are our most valuable witnesses — Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ali Sina, Ibn Warraq, and many others — for they, the most morally and intellectually advanced people born into Islam, have now, in our free but imperiled West, truthfully conveyed to us what this ideology is all about and how it works on the minds of men.
Barack Obama, back in late September 2001, completely ignored Islam itself. He found the roots for Muslim terrorism not in Islam but in “a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.” He did this because he did not and does not know the contents of Islamic texts, and the tenets and attitudes that naturally arise from them. He did not ask himself then — has he done so since? — why it is that of all the impoverished and despairing peoples of this world, only Muslims seem to behave this way. Surely there is plenty of suffering among the poor Hindus in rural or urban India, or among Andean Indians, or the poor in Brazilian favelas, or in sub-Saharan Africa. But while there may be individual crime and violence, there is no ideology that inculcates the need for, and holds out the greatest of rewards for, violence toward vast numbers of people — people who are remote in space, people who, far from being responsible for any of that “poverty” and “despair,” have often gone out of their way to lavish aid on so many Muslims.
What Obama does not wish to consider is what so many do not wish to think about: could it not be that the very “poverty” and “despair” of Muslims is a result of the belief-system to which they adhere? Could that belief-system lead to the despotisms and inshallah-fatalism that discourages intelligent remedial action? Does it instead supply the universal and permanent explanation and scapegoat, the Infidel, the same Infidel with whom, Muslims are taught, they are in a permanent state of war (though not always of open warfare)?
What Obama could not, and apparently cannot, allow himself to do is to investigate the nature of Islam, to find out what it teaches about Believers and Infidels. I can help out a bit. I can tell him, right now, right here, that Islam is based on a clear division of the universe between Believers and Infidels. The former owe their allegiance, their sole allegiance, to fellow members of the Umma, and to Islam itself. They all have a duty to engage in the “struggle” or Jihad to promote Islam, to remove all barriers or obstacles to the spread, and then to the certain dominance, of Islam. This need not be pursued only, or mainly, through the instrument of qitaal, or combat — the main instrument available in Muhammad’s day. Nor need it necessarily require individual participation in acts of violence, though many who do not so participate nonetheless offer financial and moral support, and do not denounce the use of violence –either qitaal in the conventional sense, or those acts which we Infidels have no trouble identifying as terrorism and that many Muslims regard simply as another form of qitaal, one justified by the conventional military superiority of the Infidel enemy. Obama knows as little about Islam as McCain does, or Bush. He has failed to notice, much less to name, the other more effective and currently more dangerous, weapons of Jihad: the Money Weapon, Da’wa, and demographic conquest.
Eventually, however, reality will have to break in. Will it be after more squanderings of men, money, materiel, as in Iraq, but this time possibly in Afghanistan? Will it be after a year, or two, or three, go by, without any understanding of how much more effective and less costly it would be to simply identify, and then to exploit, the pre-existing fissures — sectarian, ethnic, and economic — within the Camp of Islam?
Now, to get back to Obama’s paragraph, and a little editing job.
Again, here’s what Obama wrote in late September 2001, prompted by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon:
We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.
But what does this mean? It’s true. The attackers did have a “fundamental absence of empathy” toward those they attacked. They regarded them as fit objects for murder — these men and women (and even a few children) working away in an office building. The Muslim terrorists did exhibit an “inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others.” And not only they, but millions of other Muslims, especially in the Middle East, responded to the glad news of the mass-murders of Infidels with wildly honking horns, and hilarity, and dancing in the streets, and handing out bonbons, and inviting people home for special feasts. All of that occurred in Cairo (see Frank “Help Me, I”m A Muslim” Gardner’s report in the BBC, and all over the “Palestinian”-occupied territories, and in Riyadh and Jiddah, and indeed even in Beirut — see the report by an eyewitness in The Wall Street Journal). It happened everywhere in the Muslim Middle East, that is, except in Iran, among a few hundred Iranians who, sufficiently alienated by the Islamic Republic and by Islam, publicly displayed sympathy for the Americans.
Let’s rework that paragraph so that it is about us, the still-uncomprehending Infidels, rather than about them, the Muslims who are engaged in Jihad, using whatever instruments are available and prove effective. Here is an alternative speech Barack Obama could deliver:
We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence on the part of Infidels to imagine what it must be like to grow up within the closed world of Islam, in a civilization of one book, unius libri, which teaches or inculcates the idea that you are not to have any empathy with Infidels, but to regard them with permanent hostility. You are never to connect with the humanity and suffering of others — which is why, for example, Muslims everywhere are hailing as a hero Samir Kuntar, who killed four Israelis, one of them a four-year-old girl whose head he smashed in. Kuntar was taken, alive, and kept alive and well, by the Israelis, who have just traded him for the bodies of two Israelis taken alive by Hizballah, and then murdered. We in the Western world have lavished every sort of aid, tried to extend every sort of understanding, made for too long every sort of excuse, for all kinds of samir-kuntar-like behavior. We in the advanced Western world have made a cult of tolerance, a cult of understanding, a cult of indifference to the evil inflicted by others — as in southern Sudan, or southern Thailand, or in Pakistan or Bangladesh — even where the victims of Islamic supremacism, and violence made legitimate, even mandated, by Islam, have not been white or Western, but have been black, brown, yellow Christians, Hindus, Buddhists.
No, violence is not unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. But we cannot ignore, either, the immutable texts of a particular belief-system, even one that we too easily, too reductively, call, and then endow with the respect we think is due, a “religion.” For Islam is not only, not even mainly, a “religion.” It is also a politics. It is also a geopolitics. The Bush Administration singularly failed to understand that, and out of that failure, other failures came. It chose, further, not only not to examine and understand the ideology of Islam, but chose to identify only one of the instruments of Jihad — terrorism — and to focus exclusively on that, by declaring a “war on terrorism.” This confused us, the American people, and it confused the Administration itself. It still does not understand either the doctrine, or the goals, or the instruments, of Jihad. Perhaps because of my own history, what I have taken to calling my “improbable” background, I have been able to be less inhibited, less solicitous of the supposed easy hurt that can be inflicted, so we are told, if we dare to examine and hold up for inspection, much less to act upon whatever threat we come to realize naturally results from, the texts and tenets of Islam. I suffer no such inhibitions.
I understand that ideologies vary; some are good, some less good. Some are in the business of recommending certain behaviors and of discouraging others; other ideologies, more unyielding, do not recommend or discourage but, rather, command and prohibit. And some ideologies offer a model, as we Christians are offered the model of Jesus. We may seldom match, in our own behavior, that model, but the model stands shining before us. Others may be presented, in other faiths, or other belief-systems, with other models. What did Buddha do in this or that circumstance? And what did Confucius say? And there may be yet another kind of model, such as Muhammad, a warrior whose acts and words, offer a model of behavior quite different from that offered by the life of Jesus. Some beliefs do not inculcate permanent hostility toward others; others, on the other hand, may be based on the very idea of a permanent division between the adherents of that faith, and all others, and on the need to subdue the entire world, so that that particular faith everywhere dominates, and adherents of that faith rule, everywhere.
I am not going to allow a diseased sympathy, a dreamy bomfoggery, a misplaced and unexamined belief that “we all want the same things” or, in another variant, “all religions stand for the same things,” to get in the way of an intelligent analysis of the dangers we have passed, and that we are passing, and that are to come. I will not be tied to sentimentalism. I have a responsibility to inform myself, and then to help instruct others, and that comes with the larger responsibility, the first duty of any democratic government, which is to protect the lives and wellbeing of its citizens.
Oh, something like that.