The Italian magazine Polizia e Democrazia interviewed me for their August/September 2008 issue, in which they describe me as “un neocon americano che ha raggiunto una notevole notorietÃ con i suoi libri (sette) e un sito estremamente combattivo aggiornato quotidianamente.” That is, “an American neocon who has gained remarkable notoriety with his books (seven) and an extremely combative website updated daily.”
Neocon. Extremely combative. You get the idea. Here is the English text of their questions as I received them, and the answers I sent them. This was an email interview, so bear in mind as you read it that all the questions were sent to me beforehand in the order in which I answered them — none were formulated in response to anything I answered. So the question about whether my gay or feminist friends ever suggest I build bridges was not talking about Chesler or Bawer, but about the hypothetical gays and feminists appalled by my work that the interviewer had in mind.
In your website you say you are from the muslim world and that you were impressed by your own grandparents tales. Could you tell more?
My grandparents were exiles from the Ottoman Empire. They used to describe their life there in glowingly positive terms. My grandmother spoke of the beauty of the muezzin’s call to prayer when she heard it in the early morning. These stories fascinated me and awakened a hunger in me to know more about that part of the world.
How this childhood memory impact your actual work?
It led to my study of the region in general and ultimately to my study of Islam.
If you can say, what is actually your faith, if you have one?
I am a Melkite Greek Catholic.
Have you ever thought in the past that the jihad/Islamic problem was going to become so important? Were there in the past some warning signs even you didn’t read?
In 1979, during the Iranian hostage crisis at the US Embassy in Tehran, I was a freshman in college. This was the first indication I had that the inchoate political forces (as I understood then) that had led to my grandparents” exile may have had something to do with the dominant religion of the region as well. It appeared to me then that this problem was very large and was going to grow. But I did not at that time fully grasp the import of this “warning sign” or others that occurred in those years.
Were you, in the past, interested by other kinds of religious fundamentalisms?
I was and remain interested in religions in general.
You speak a lot about “moral equivalence”. Could you better describe what you mean by that?
I do not believe that the teachings of all religions are equal in their capacity to inspire violence — or in their capacity to inspire anything else, for that matter. Yet it is a common claim that the problem we face is one of “fundamentalism” in general, not of the Islamic jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism in particular. Yet where is the Christian Al-Qaeda? The Christian 9/11 hijackers? The Christian preachers exhorting their followers to murder? That is what I mean by moral equivalence. It saps our will to face the real challenge and diverts our attention to problems of far less importance and scope.
Can you drive a distinction between groups and individuals who says every religion can be right-wing and totalitarian but do nothing against it and those ones who actually denounce and fight against all kinds of religious extremisms?
I don’t believe, as I just stated, that all “religious extremisms” are equal in their capacity to incite their adherents to violence and mayhem. There have been over 11,000 violent attacks worldwide committed in the name of Islam and jihad since 9/11. How many violent attacks have been committed by other “religious extremists”?
What are your personal opinion about antiabortion terrorists or about Hindu extremists?
I oppose them, and observe that they are useful in promoting moral equivalence arguments that distract people from the reality of the global jihad. The disparity is particularly glaring in connection with the murders of abortion doctors, when one puts the handful of these murders and the universal condemnation of them by Christian leaders against the thousands of jihad attacks and the vague and loophole-ridden condemnations of terrorism (not jihad or Islamic supremacism) by Islamic leaders, and claims that both are examples of equivalent “religious extremisms.”
Do you support the separation of religion from politics and if so do you support it only when Islam is involved or in any case?
It depends on what you mean by the separation of religion from politics. If you mean the banishment of all religious principles per se from the public debate, I do not support that when it comes to any religion. In a pluralistic republic religious people should have as much right as anyone else to put forward their views in the public square. If, however, you mean that the state should not establish a particular religion, I very strongly support the principle of non-establishment of religion as enunciated by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the particular case of Islam, there is no traditional sacred/secular distinction, and a denial of the proposition that government should be organized along anything but religious lines. This is a threat to the principle of non-establishment of religion, which I believe has been uniquely valuable in enabling people of differing views to live in harmony with one another without trying to establish hegemony over one another or do violence to the other’s way of life. It should be recognized as such.
You say you want to protect the judeo-christian civilisation. May I assume you don’t like so much secular states or you just think secularism is not strong enough?
I like secular states, i.e., ones in which there is no governmental establishment of religion, very much. This idea in itself is a product of Judeo-Christian principles going back to Jesus” saying “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.” It is no accident that this principle did not take root in the Islamic world except under Western influence. I have written that Westerners, even atheists and secularists, need to regain an awareness of their being the children and heirs of a civilization — a Judeo-Christian civilization — that has value and is worth defending and preserving. In contrast, if by “secularism” you mean the thoroughgoing relativism and cultural self-hatred that pervades so much of the West today, then yes, certainly, I do not believe it has the slightest chance of standing up to the Islamic supremacist challenge.
Many people and among them many politicians, expecially catholics and evangelicals are re-descovering their faith identity now. Do you think it’s genuine gesture or just another way of mixing religion with politics, a sort of “my identity against your identity”. Wouldn’t it be better if religion was just an intimate personal thing?
It is impossible to generalize without knowing to which politicians you are referring. In any case, the main obstacle, albeit still generally unrecognized, to religion being “just an intimate personal thing” is not Western identity politics but the Islamic supremacist ideology.
What do you think about the French strict secular laws? At least you can admit the islamist problem there is less strong than in Holland or in the Uk.
I don’t think that would be an accurate admission at all, given the simmering violence of French “youths.” France’s strict secular laws have done nothing to end that violence — although the failure of France to deal adequately with this problem actually has nothing to do with French secularism as such.
Do you believe that human rights are universal?
From the comments on your websites you accuse women’s and gay rights supporters of being busy with “petty causes”. Why equal pay at work, child care, reproductive freedom or civil unions should be petty causes? And, once again, wouldn’t be more positive to incite these movements to broaden their agenda without giving up the domestic issues?
Since that is not language that I use and I don’t recall saying it, I just did a search at my websites for the phrase “petty causes.” It does not, in fact, appear in anything I have written.
Do you have feminist friends?
Gay and lesbian friends?
If so what do they think about your work?
They are uniformly supportive. Allow me to refer you to the work of my friend and pioneering feminist Phyllis Chesler. In her book The Death of Feminism she offers a harrowing personal narrative and a unique feminist perspective on women and Islam. She and I cowrote a monograph last year, The Violent Oppression of Women In Islam. I was also deeply honored to count as my friend the great Oriana Fallaci, who was a feminist in the truest and best sense. For a gay perspective on Islamic jihad supremacism, I can recommend the work of Bruce Bawer, especially his maginificent book While Europe Slept. I do not know him well, but he and I have been in friendly contact over the last few years after meeting at a conference in The Hague, and I am a great admirer of his work.
Do they ever suggest you to build bridges?
Feminists and gays who oppose resistance to Islamic jihad supremacism do not realize how much it will victimize them.
Do you support reproductive freedom for women? I mean, after all in almost all Islamic countries abortion is illegal or severely limited, pre and post natal care is not well funded, contraception is not widely known and maternal health is poor.
What I find very strange about this issue is that the same people (Vatican, evangelical groups) that denounce Islamic extremism ally themselves with Islamic states at the Un conferences just to keep abortion illegal. Is this issue so important for them that they forget everything and lie with the enemy?
What is your opinion about all this?
I oppose abortion, but I believe that the survival of free societies is at stake, and have not hesitated to ally with those who support it in defense against the global jihad and Islamic supremacism. The groups that ally with Islamic countries to defeat abortion initiatives may be entering into similar alliances with those with whom they disagree on other issues. In any case, Western abortion advocates are whistling in the dark if they think they will be able to convince large numbers of Muslims to get abortions if Islamic authorities forbid it.
It’s been a decade or so that Islam is all the time in the media. Whetever in a positive or negative light everyone is obsessed by islam. Why so?
Because there are violent Islamic supremacist movements dedicated to the subjugation of non-Muslims as inferiors all over the globe, from Indonesia across Asia and into Africa (particularly Nigeria), and of course Europe.
Religion and cultural journalists also write about it all the time. One can ask if there is anything else worth of importance. Why what a muslim girl says is considered more important or newsworthy than, for example, a Mennonite girl or a Lutheran lady?
Because there are no armed Mennonite or Lutheran groups around the world dedicated to the subjugation of non-Mennonites or non-Lutherans under the rule of Mennonite or Lutheran law.
Don’t you think that this importance of the so-called Islamic world has been shaped, at least in part, by western media?
No. In fact, the mainstream Western media has done everything it could to downplay or ignore altogether the Islamic element of jihad violence.
Speaking about the Islamic world, do you really think this is a sort of monolithe?
No, and I have never claimed otherwise.
Moderate muslims. Once again I would say the press is to blame. Journalists and experts talk all the time about moderate muslims but no one has ever come up with a definition of sort. Why?
Because all the orthodox sects of Islam and schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. What, then, is a moderate? Someone who is not waging jihad at the moment? A jihadist who is practicing Muhammad’s dictum “war is deceit” and trying to lull infidels into thinking there is no jihad threat? A lax or nominal Muslim who doesn’t care to wage jihad? An ignorant Muslim who doesn’t know about jihad? A genuinely reformist Muslim who rejects the violent and supremacist elements of traditional Islam? Most journalists and experts use the term “moderate Muslim” imprecisely and without definition because they don’t even know enough about Islam to ask the proper questions of these “moderates” or even to know what they should expect from them?
Personally I like more progressive muslims. It’s not simply a matter of words. In my own experiences with them as a journalist they really are genuine and concrete.
What do you think about them?
You”d have to give me a specific example of whom you have in mind.
In the forum of your website left-leaning people and progressives are attacked all the time. While it’s true many progressive are now inconsistent some actually are. So why throwing the baby with the water?
I have stated many times that the anti-jihad resistance is not a liberal or conservative, Right/Left issue, but a matter of civilizational survival. However, the leftist/jihadist alliance we see in many places, and the general “progressive” refusal to see any problem beyond “American imperialism” has been noted.
Even in politics democrats are depicted as bad guys far more often than republicans.
Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosy and Edwards, for example, have a perfect record on Israel. What’s so wrong with them?
None of the people have mentioned have demonstrated any awareness of the larger jihad threat.
Speaking about politics I assume you like McCain.
You assume wrong.
Did you like Clinton?
And why not Obama. If he was so dangerous for Israel would ever have he been at Aipac? Many jewish who consider Israel important support him.
I don’t think Obama has any greater awareness of the global jihad threat than McCain (or Clinton).
Besides that what would be the good running mate for both of them? [This interview took place before the running mates were chosen.]
I don’t have any interest in this, and have no answer for it. Neither party in the U.S. has shown that as an entity it has any understanding of the global jihad, or any comprehensive plan to deal with it. No candidate does either.
Let’s talk about the Middle East. Why the Islamic religious factor is so rarely taken into consideration by experts and diplomats? And why what is a low-level conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is considered the most pressing issue in the world?
I suspect that most experts and diplomats don’t take the Islamic religious factor into account because they don’t understand the nature of religious appeal in general, and so they underestimate its power in the Islamic world. The importance of the Palestinian issue in world politics is a tribute to the massive propaganda effort the Palestinian Arabs and the Islamic world has undertaken with immense focus and intensity since the 1960s.
Why people who really suffer such as darfuri people and indigenous tribes all over the world receive so little attention? How Palestinians have become “the victims” who deserve all the attention and support?
The Darfuris are victims of jihad — a jihad by “authentic” Arab Muslims against black African cultural Muslims. The victims of jihad have no advocates — the UN is in the hip pocket of the OIC, and the West doesn’t want to antagonize the Islamic world further by saying anything about Islam or acting on behalf of its victims, even if they themselves are Muslims. The Palestinian Arabs, on the other hand, are the focus of a vast and immense, decades-long propaganda effort that has been undertaken by jihadists to further the cause of Islamic jihad.
Is the Pro-Israel movement becoming effective? Or sometimes it’s over suspicious and paranoid?
I don’t think it has been very effective in recent years, but would not accuse it of over-suspicion and paranoia. It is facing an extremely sophisticated, well-heeled, and little-understood opponent.
Palestinians have the support of the entire Islamic world and number matters. Same goes with the jihadist activities or Islamic movements. One can say: “It’s the numbers, stupid!” What can be done to block or make less dangerous a way of thinking that has so many followers?
First: expose it. Show Westerners what is happening. What to do then will follow from that.
You got a lot of e-mails from muslims themselves. Aside from the hate-filled ones and the supporting ones, what the others say?
Hate-filled on the one hand and supportive on the other covers it fairly well.
Did you ever get hate mail from non-muslims?
Have you ever experienced dangerous situations?
Is your safety protected?
Usually I have a guard or two with me when I speak.
How is affecting your personal and family life?
I do not speak about my personal and family life in public.
And, above all, is it worth it?
Of course. It isn’t as if I am not going to die if I don’t do this. Have you ever heard of the adage, “Give me liberty or give me death”? Have you ever heard that the signers of the American Declaration of Independence pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to their cause? Have you ever heard that Dr. Martin Luther King stated that if you have nothing for which you are willing to die, you have no reason to live?
How, according your experiences, are the ways of reacting to the islamist problem of atheists and agnostics, of conservative Christians, of progressive Christians, jewish and believers of other faiths. Do you see a similar reaction from each distinct group?
Atheists and agnostics generally tend to think it is a generalized problem of fundamentalism, and are indifferent to it or think it can all be solved by adjustments of U.S. foreign policy. That goes also for progressive Christians and liberal Jews.
Conservative Christians and Jews, with some notable exceptions, generally have a greater awareness of the threat.
Speaking about policy makers in Europe. Why they are so obsessed in accommodating radical muslims demands? Sometimes they go even further than islamists themselves. Is it a state of mind or what?
They see the writing on the wall. They know what group will have electoral majorities before too long.
Going at the foreign policy level, Islamic states can dictate the law because of oil and oil is an issue rarely mentioned by anti-islamists activists. Why?
I mention it all the time. We have to get free of it. There should have been a Manhattan Project to find alternative energy sources begun years ago.
Do you support the spread of renewable energies? Recently Israel is going in that direction. Good for the environment and good for our safety. Wouldn”it be perfect?
I am in favor of anything that would free the West from dependence upon oil.
Aside from fighting against Islamists, are there other issues dear to you? Which ones?
No other issue is as important to me, and I don’t spend any time working on any other issue.
Could you describe your typical day?
What are the things in which you find solace?
I like music very much, although I no longer play.
What is the opinion you have of Italy, according to news reports you get?
The situation there is dire, as it is all over Europe, but not as bad as it is in northern Europe.
What are the states that give you the most hope in the western world and the ones that make you despair? Choose the best and the worst from the Islamic world too.
It would be oversimplifying to the point of inaccuracy to provide any such continuum for either the West or the Islamic world. There are currents that are encouraging and discouraging all over — for example, in Turkey secularism is gravely threatened, but there has also been a significant demonstration of support for it.
Are police forces answering correctly to islamists? Is there a difference between police officers who are on duty and see the real things and the upper police establishment? Do you see trends? What would you suggest?
In general law enforcement officials do not recognize this problem and are learning from appeasers and stealth jihadists. The officers on duty in general have a better awareness than do their superiors. The trend in this, if anything, is toward even more political correctness and unwillingness to face the reality of the problem. I would suggest that law enforcement officials gain the courage to face reality, however politically incorrect it may be — and fire all their advisers on this issue, replacing them with people who actually know what is going on and will tell them.