The first rule of Jihad Club is that there’s no talking about it. For the second rule, see the first rule. The culture of silence and terrorism denial is sometimes well meaning. Since the Bush days, experts on Islam have warned that the best way to defeat Islamic terrorists is to undermine their claim to fighting on behalf of Islam by refusing to call them Islamic. The sheer brilliance of this strategy was only partly undermined by its origins in Saudi Arabia, the country sponsoring Islamic terrorists, and by the fact that recruiting primarily takes place in media and channels completely immune to the voluntary speech codes adopted by the A.P. stylebook.
The average Al Qaeda recruit is utterly unaffected by whether the White House press secretary calls the group Islamic, Islamist or terrorist or militant. He similarly does not care whether Nidal Hasan’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood is called an act of terror or workplace violence. Such concerns exist only in the bubble of experts who offer shortcuts to fighting terrorism that don’t actually involve killing terrorists.
Muslims are more likely to see Al Qaeda as Islamic because it kills Americans, regardless of what the official representatives of the Americans call that killing. The reasons for this are to be found in the militant roots and practice of their religion. And the Americans who get to die, but do not get a vote on how their deaths will be described, know that Al Qaeda is a Muslim terrorist group. Only in the realm of the expert bubble is it thought that changing words can change how favorably Muslims will view the killers of Americans and how Americans will identify or misidentify their killers.
Largely though the denial is not well meaning. To the left, Muslim terrorism runs the gamut from being a distraction to a call for reforming American foreign policy. After Obama won two elections, the liberal has trouble figuring out what more reforms need to be passed and complains that all this terrorism is a distraction from truly important issues like Global Warming and school budgets, while the avowed leftist goes Full Greenwald and rants about drone holocausts in Pakistan.
After the Arab Spring, the withdrawal from Iraq and the coming withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Obama deftly maneuvering into a pro-Hamas position on Israel; it’s hard to see what else America can or should do to appease the Jihad. The left will always have its checklist, but even Obama knows that no matter what he says or does, the drones will have to keep flying because it decreases the chances of a major terrorist attack that will force the country into taking a much more aggressive posture against Islamic terrorism.
The new low-intensity conflict is big on things we don’t talk about. We don’t talk about the drones and we don’t talk about the terrorists we are fighting. Instead we talk about how great Islam is.
Talking about how great Islam is and not talking about terrorism is an old hobby for America. We’ve been at it since September 11 and no matter how many interfaith meetings have been held and how often we talk about how much we have in common, the bombs still keeping showing up.
All the projects for Muslim self-esteem, from world tours of Muslim Hip-Hop groups to NASA being turned into a Muslim self-esteem laboratory, seem like bad refugees from failed 70s solutions to crime. All that’s left is to hold midnight basketball events across the Middle East and call for prison reform and we might as well be back in the worst days of the liberal war for crime. The problem is not that Muslim terrorists don’t love themselves enough… it’s that they love themselves too much.
Islamism is not caused by poor self-esteem, but by a lack of humility. Americans are often told that they are not good enough to tell the rest of the world what to do. But Islamists are never told that at all. Instead they are told by their own religious leaders that their way is superior and ought to be imposed on everyone and they are told by our leaders that their way is superior but should only be imposed on everyone after a democratic election.
It’s not too shocking that the Islamists decide to impose their way, with or without elections. If the A.P. or CNN truly wanted to push back against Islamist violence, instead of censoring the Islamic part in the vain hope that their followers might not then identify the Muslim Brotherhood or the Islamic Jihad with Islam, they would challenge their premises by telling the truth about Islamism and Islam.
Instead the official dialogue sanction by the media and the government is to praise Islam and Islamic law while disavowing forcible attempts at imposing them on the unwilling through violence. And that’s a weak intellectual strategy.
If Islam really means peace, freedom and justice, as the Islamists and the talking heads both agree, then why not impose it by force? The left celebrates progressive terrorists like Angela Davis because it agrees with their ends, even if it occasionally quibbles over their means. If Bill Ayers was virtuous for wanting peace, freedom and justice, at the cost of a few million dead, names to be delivered later, why aren’t Osama and Morsi equally virtuous for wanting the same thing with an Arabic accent?
The left claimed that the Weather Underground were the new American revolutionaries. Islamists routinely tell American audiences that their terrorists are freedom fighters, just like George Washington. And if Islam really is the best way of life there is and if those living under it enjoy a superior standard of freedom and justice; then aren’t they?
The government-media consensus assumes that the best way to defeat Islamist terrorists is to praise their ends and condemn their means. This moral confusion led to the Arab Spring in which Islamist terrorists ran for office, disavowed violence, at least until after the election, and took over countries to begin a program of imposing Islamic rule. And the government-media complex is still struggling to figure out why all of that is wrong. It can’t find a way of articulating why Islamic rule is wrong without criticizing Islam. And without criticizing Islam, there is no reason to criticize Islamic rule.
Criticizing terror as a means while approving of its ends leads to absurdity. Condemn a bombing carried out by Islamists and their defenders point you to American drones, to Israeli planes, to Hiroshima and the American Revolution. A violent act cannot be critiqued in isolation. Ideology is the context for acts of violence. It is what distinguishes the Battle of Britain from the bombing of Dresden. It is what distinguished the American ICBMs from the Soviet ICBMs.
Condemn terrorists for being cowardly and up pops a Bill Maher to argue that the September 11 hijackers were actually courageous for committing suicide while killing thousands of people. We are the real cowards for bombing terrorists from thousands of feet in the air, he will tell you. Talk about terrorists killing innocent people, and a Glenn Greenwald will pop up to read you the, mostly, fictitious civilian casualty counts from drone strikes on terrorists.
All this can be argued ad naseum and the argument can eventually be won, but it misses the bigger story which is the ideological context of the violence. Arguing over tactics only takes you so far because the tactics express the ideology.
Suicide bombing is not strategically effective. It is bad strategy, but good terror. Suicide bombing sends a message that the killers transcend materialism and that they care nothing for their lives. Like the Japanese Kamikazes, this is largely a pose, a selectively manufactured propaganda effort, but it emerges out of a religious worldview that began with Mohammed’s original conquests and the notions of martyrdom that rewarded the raiders who would die before ever getting their hands on loot and women in the real world, with materially spiritual versions of those same pleasures in paradise.
The calculated murder of civilians similarly arises from how Islam views non-Muslims. The use of women and children as human shields must be seen in the Islamic context in which their lives are viewed as having less value than those of a Muslim man. And the entire conflict, in the Islamic context, is not over American foreign policy, a notion that is as alien to the Islamic worldview of an eternal conflict between the Dar-al-Islam and the Dar-al-Harb as chivalry, but a continuation of a divine mission to conquer and subjugate the world under the rule of Islam.
Talking about Islamic terror without talking about Islam is as futile as talking about Nazi Germany only in terms of the outcome of WW1. While that defeat and the subsequent territorial humiliation were obvious factors, the insistence of the media and the experts in talking about the Nazi Party only in terms of British and French foreign policy and refusing to understand that its members really did believe in racial superiority and a program of conquest helped contribute to a disastrous world war and the deaths of millions. Similarly pretending that Islamism is a reaction to foreign policy, instead of a campaign of theocracy and conquest, has already caused countless deaths and will cause countless more.
Islamic terror without Islam is a strategy. It leads to talk of a War on Terror and to counterclaims that one cannot fight a strategy. Strategies can indeed be a fought, but the best way to fight them is to understand that they do not exist in a vacuum. We are not at war with a strategy, but with those who employ it because it aligns with their religio-political goals. And pretending otherwise in the vain hope of convincing a region where terror is almost as old as the sand that Islam is not compatible with terrorism, because the Saudi tyrants who fund most of the terrorism have told us that denial is a winning strategy, is as criminally foolish as anything that the leaders of free Europe did in the 1930s.
Censoring Islamic terrorism or Islamism, exchanging terrorists for militants, or any of the other Orwellian linguistic gimmicks that the experts are preoccupied with will not stop the next dozen recruits from joining Al Qaeda. Nor is it a particularly successful way of convincing Americans that the people shouting Allah Akbar and shooting at them are not Muslims, but, as Nidal Hasan was labeled, perpetrators of workplace violence.
Euphemisms impress experts who, like the administrators of Oceania, believe that language transforms human experience. In reality language is reshaped by human experience. That is why euphemisms invariably revert in common usage to meaning the thing that they are trying not to be. The only people fooled by word games are the ones who turn them out for a living and the people who pay good money to attend the seminars at which the next word game is presented as a revelation that will transform the way we do everything.
If the media would truly like to take a shot at dissuading Muslims in America from joining Al Qaeda, then instead of playing childish word games that depend on the assumption that their audience won’t know that Al Qaeda is Islamist if they don’t call it that, it should challenge the underlying assumption of Islamism that the Islamic way of life is better than the American way of life. And even a brief look at sexism, racism and injustice in the Muslim world is enough to do that.
If Islamic law is better then why are the people who live in countries run by it so unhappy? If Islam really protects the rights of all, then why are minority populations so repressed that they begin to vanish entirely when Islamic law is implemented? If Islamic law is intolerant of corruption and injustice then why is the Muslim world, including countries under heavy varieties of Islamic law, so notoriously corrupt?
To understand Islamic terrorism, we must recognize that it is an expression of an ideology that uses violence and terror as the means of rule. That is true even when a group such as the Muslim Brotherhood officially disavows its violent past and runs in democratic elections. In other words, to understand Islamic terror… we must understand Islam.
American denial of the Islamic nature of Islamic terrorism is not a propaganda victory, but an ignorant pursuit of ignorance that refuses to deal with the problem and instead takes refuge in advocating the ends of Islamic terror while refusing to acknowledge that the ends are also the means. The Islamic system is built on terror and oppression. Its ends are terror and oppression and so its means are terror and oppression. To advocate the ends of terror is to also advocate their means.
Originally published at Sultan Knish, under the title, “Talking About Terrorism.”
About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.
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