Latest update: August 13th, 2012
The hearings convened by Representative Pete King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, to examine the recruitment of American Muslims as jihadist terrorists revealed all the pathologies of multicultural grievance politics that for decades now have compromised our response to Islamic jihad.
The need for the hearings is obvious, given the problem of homegrown jihadists that Obama administration officials like Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano have publicly discussed without any of the hysterics that have attended King’s hearings. But facts seldom inhibit grievance-politics mongers, whose power and prestige derive from incessantly replaying the melodrama of white racism, xenophobia, and other “irrational fears,” as Eugene Robinson put it in the Washington Post.
The charge that King’s hearings are “McCarthyite” is so trite that it means nothing. And those hurling the charge forget that there were in fact communists infiltrating U.S. government agencies, just as today there are in fact American Muslims plotting terrorist attacks.
Then there was Representative Keith Ellison, driven to tears by the story of Muhammad Salman Hamdania, who died trying to rescue people on 9/11. But “some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith,” Ellison said. “Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers only because he was Muslim.”
But as Matthew Shaffer has pointed out at National Review Online, little evidence of such “false rumors” exist apart from one story in The New York Post. But that brief speculation went nowhere, and Hamdania was mentioned by name in the Patriot Act as an example of a loyal American Muslim and received numerous other posthumous honors from the media and government.
Another weapon used by apologists for jihad, specious moral equivalency, was also brandished during the hearings. Representative Bennie Thompson called for the investigations of “anti-government” and “white supremacist” groups, even though the number of attacks and murders perpetrated by such groups is minuscule compared to jihadist attacks, 17,000 of which have been documented since 9/11.
Of course, the “anti-government” reference is a subtle dig at small-government Republicans and Tea Party members, who are continually, and falsely, linked to violence by liberals. Likewise conjuring the “white supremacist” bogey, Representative Al Greene wanted the committee to investigate the moribund Ku Klux Klan and its alleged links to Christianity, which is sort of like demanding an investigation into zeppelin crashes.
These claims that there are other terrorist organizations as dangerous as Islamic jihadist outfits are nothing other than rhetorical misdirection. They are based on the false moral equivalency that claims religious-inspired violence can be found in every confession, and so the Islamic jihadists are merely “extremists” who have “hijacked” a peaceful religion.
This assertion, made by many conservatives and Republicans as well, is the big lie perpetuated by the apologists and propagandists for Islamist violence. Typical is Georgetown University’s John Esposito, who has written, “Terrorists can attempt to hijack Islam and the doctrine of jihad, but that is no more legitimate than Christian and Jewish extremists committing their acts of terrorism in their own unholy wars in the name of Christianity and Judaism.”
Apart from the fact that one can count on one hand Christian and Jewish “acts of terrorism” committed explicitly to advance a spiritual aim, Esposito’s claim rests on a duplicitous definition of jihad as, to quote John Brennan, Obama’s assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, the imperative “to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal.”
Moreover, nowhere in the Bible is there a timeless, theological imperative to wage war against those of another faith. The violence sanctioned in the Old Testament is “descriptive, not prescriptive,” as Raymond Ibrahim writesin The Middle East Quarterly. It reflects history, not theology. Nor can one find in the New Testament a single verse that summons the faithful to wage war against unbelievers.
But Islam does have a theology of violence attested in numerous scriptures from the Koran, as well as in the collection of Muhammad’s deeds and sayings called the Hadith, and in fourteen centuries of Islamic jurisprudence and theology. This injunction to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush,” as one Koranic verse has it, clearly does not refer to some Dale Carnegie-like course of self-improvement, or to a mere spiritual struggle.
One of Shiite Islam’s most revered figures, the Ayatollah Khomeini, certainly didn’t see it that way: “Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all!”
So too Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brothers that many now believe are “reformers” struggling for liberal democratic freedom in Egypt: “Fighting the unbelievers involves all possible efforts that are necessary to dismantle the power of the enemies of Islam including beating them, plundering their wealth, destroying their places of worship, and smashing their idols.”
This continuous tradition of violent jihad explains the jihadist imperative expressed by Muhammad in his farewell address in 642: “I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘There is no god but Allah.'” This traditional injunction was repeated by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, when he said, “Until the cry ‘There is no God but God’ resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle.” It was repeated by bin Laden in 2001: “I was ordered to fight the people until they say there is no god but Allah, and his prophet Muhammad.” And it was quoted in a power-point presentation delivered at Walter Reed Hospital by the Fort Hood jihadist Nidal Malik Hassan.
Ignoring this clear, continuous tradition of violence against the enemies of Islam has been our most dangerous failure in confronting a passionately committed enemy eager for our destruction. And the danger represented by jihadist Muslims here in America who possess English fluency and U.S. passports is too real to be ignored out of fear of being charged with the thought-crime of “Islamophobia,” or of inciting grievance-politics smears and libels like “racism” or “intolerance.”
According to the Arab proverb, “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.” Representative King should be encouraged to continue these hearings and ignore the howls of his ideologically driven critics.
Bruce S. Thornton is chair of the Humanities Department at California State University;the author of several books including “Searching for Joaquin: Myth and History in California”;and culture critic for Victor Davis Hanson’s Private Papers website, where this article originally appeared.
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