The enemy is not jihad
(See the discussion
below on why liblerals cannot see Islam as it is.)
The other day a friend said that describing our enemy as “jihadists” or “jihadism” is inaccurate, because our enemy is really Islam. I said that jihadism is a good phrase, since it means belief in jihad, which, properly understood, really applies to all seriously believing Muslims, yet sounds less alarming and extreme than just saying “Islam” because it doesn’t necessarily apply to every single Muslim. The term is both truthful and flexible, in that it could be used to mean only Muslims who actively wage jihad, or, more broadly, Muslims who actively or passively support jihad, which Muslims are commanded to do.
But I realize that the word jihadism, while not incorrect, is not adequate. That thought was triggered by the following passage from David Selbourne’s useful, if uneven and badly written, article in the Times of London, “Can the West defeat the Islamist threat? Here are ten reasons why not.” Selbourne wrote:
Islam is not even a religion in the conventional sense of the term. It is a transnational political and ethical movement that believes that it holds the solution to mankind’s problems. It therefore holds that it is in mankind’s own interests to be subdued under Islam’s rule. Such belief therefore makes an absurdity of the project to “democratise” Muslim nations in the West’s interests, an inversion that Islam cannot accept and, in its own terms, rightly so. It renders naive, too, the distinction between the military and political wings of Islamic movements; and makes Donald Rumsfeld’s assertion in June 2005 that the insurgents in Iraq “don’t have vision, they’re losers” merely foolish.
Islam, as Selbourne points out, is a social and political order which claims it is superior and must rule humanity. That rule, known as sharia law, was laid down in final form in the ninth century and includes dhimmitude for Christians and Jews, subordination of women, and death to converts from Islam. Wherever Muslims grow in number and have the political freedom to express themselves, the assertion of the Islamic mindset, and the demand for sharia, grow more insistent and domineering.
What this means is that the difference between a terrorist and a “peaceful,” “law-abiding” Muslim does not ultimately matter. Both are members of a religious/political/social movement that seeks complete power in this world. All parts of the Muslim community, including inactive or indifferent Muslims, feed and are a part of that growing power. There is no authoritative voice in Islam that opposes either jihad or the Islamic-law agenda. As someone has said, where are the fatwas against terrorism?
A couple of years ago I wrote an article about “the centrality of jihad in Islam.” The other week Diana West spoke of the “the centrality of sharia in Islam.” West’s formulation gets closer to the truth than mine, since jihad, while it has a central and sacred place in Islam, is not the object of Islam. The object of Islam is the imposition of Islamic sharia law over the whole earth.
For years critics including myself have been saying that the phrase “war on terror” is silly, since you don’t wage war against a technique. But now I realize that the same criticism applies to the description of our enemy as jihadism, since jihad is also a technique. Jihad is not the enemy. Jihad is the method by which the enemy seeks to subjugate us.
* * *
So, then, who is our enemy, and what is the nature and purpose of the war that we need to wage against him? Of course, I personally have been saying for years that our enemy is, simply, Islam. But here I want to proceed carefully and build up a common language that all of us can agree on despite our differences.
Diana West’s August 25 article (previously discussed by me here) has several phrases that may be helpful in defining this war. All the words in quotes are West’s.
Our adversaries are “proponents of Shariah.” The basis of the war is our “definitive judgment against the [Shariah] laws promulgated by Islam.” The war is a “cultural and military” confrontation “occurring between the Free World and the Shariah World.” The war is primarily “defensive.” Its purpose is “[to prevent] the export of Shariah and [of] terrorism to advance Shariah … to prevent the Islamization of American law and liberty.”
I think the above offers the rudiments of a solid ground for speaking of the war in a way that is accurate, internally consistent, and defensible. Such language to describe our situation is what is needed more than anything else. The conceptual and verbal incoherence of the president and his supporters is one of our greatest liabilities in the so-called war we have been waging up to this point.
Also, as seen in the preceding discussion, I tentatively suggest that we use the word adversary instead of enemy. This is because most of the people we are talking about are not soldiers or terrorists actively seeking to harm us physically and destroy our country, but civilian carriers of a hostile religious ideology. Indeed, many of them are not consciously seeking to harm us at all, and may even tell themselves and us that they are good Americans and good Westerners. Nevertheless, as long as they remain Muslims, it remains the case that in any stand-off between the West and Islam they will strongly tend to be on the other side, as we have seen over and over again. Further, even if they don’t regard themselves as aligned with jihadism and terrorism, their very presence here adds numbers and strength to the Muslim community which inevitably weakens the majority culture and empowers the sharia agenda and the jihad that carries it out.
Another consideration is that if we describe as enemies this great mass of a billion Muslims, which obviously includes vast numbers of non-terrorists and people who are not apparently dangerous in any way, that will make it easier for liberals to say that we are hatefully demonizing Muslims and secretly lusting to kill them all, as Ralph Peters said last week, with the backing and applause of a Wall Street Journal columnist. Many people who might otherwise be on our side will shy away from us if we call all Muslims enemies, and not just the terrorists and the active jihadists. But if we call this variegated group by the umbrella term adversaries, we will objectively be on more solid ground, and it will be harder for liberals and shaky conservatives to dismiss us as haters.
- end of initial entry -
KPA, from Canada, thinks we should just call our enemies Muslims. She writes:
My objection to using the term Jihadists instead of Muslims to describe this enemy is corroborated by how Muslims in Canada are behaving.
Every Muslim is a jihadist, because ultimately, he wants all peoples and countries to be Muslim.
The Canadian first generation Muslims were very quiet for a couple of decades. Meantime, they were having children, inculcating them with Islam, entering politics, businesses, educational institutions and even the armed and police forces in good, law-abiding, “Canadian” fashion.
But, all this was silent and stealthy preparation for the next generation. Insisting on “human rights” and “anti-discriminatory” laws. Demanding Muslim holidays be celebrated. Changing the language and communications systems. Even dress-codes. It appears peaceful, but is actually a violent act of trying to usurp a country at its structures.
Their children are avowed Muslims, despite having grown up in a Western country. They will watch MTV, listen to their iPods, discuss TV sitcoms like any young Canadian, but their adherence and loyalty is 100% to their family and community.
Thus their parents were building the base for a take-over!
This emboldened, younger, quasi-unassimilated—by choice—generation is now participating in more openly violent methods of jihad, as witnessed by the recent arrests.
Thus all Muslims are jihadists. And all jihad is violent (overt or covert) by nature. There are no subsets here. [LA asks: is there such a thing as covert violence?]
And it is clearer to call a Muslim a Muslim (a spade a spade) rather than a jihadist. People assume the worst of the latter and the best of the former. Better to change that frame of mind, keep the vocabulary we’re used to, while elucidating the Muslim’s deathly danger.
Ron K. writes:
If you need a single word to delineate the enemy, don’t use “jihad” or “sharia” or “Islam” or “Muslim”—try “Mohammed”.
As Serge Trifkovic put it, their whole enterprise rises or falls with Mohammed. Not just whether it works or fails, but whether it’s good or evil.
The Mussulman declares two things. First, “There is no god but God…”, which comes right off our own tablets, then “…and Mohammed is his Prophet.”
But Moe declared war on the world, so by affirming the second, his adherent is doing the same.
About the Canadian lady’s statement, “ Every Muslim is a jihadist, because ultimately, he wants all peoples and countries to be Muslim.” This is easily Christianized: “Every Christian is a _______, because ultimately, he wants all peoples and countries to be Chrisitan.” But what fills the Christian’s blank? All I can think of is “evangelist”.
Christianity is just as universalist as Islam. As is Baha’i. Buddhism, while not explicitly universalist, has become nearly as universal. But all these are innately peaceful, and their adherents find it difficult to use their faiths to justify bloodshed.
On the other hand, Sikhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, and Old Testament Judaism are all quite bloody. But those faiths are nationalist, not universalist, so their violence is primarily defensive.
Islam is both universalist and violent. That’s the crux.
A comment replying to a Bert Prelutsky article
at TownHall. I don’t think the commenter is precisely correct on all his points (a Muslim is not commanded to have four wives for example), but the main thrust of his logic seems correct.
catattack writes: Monday, September, 11, 2006 2:10 AM
No such thing as a Muslim American
Have you ever thought—Can a devout Muslim be an American patriot and a loyal citizen? Is Muslim American really an oxymoron? Consider this:
Theologically, no. Because his allegiance is to Allah.
Religiously, no. Because no other religion is accepted by his Allah Except Islam (Quran, 2:256)
Scripturally, no. Because his allegiance is to the five pillars of Islam and the Quran (Koran).
Geographically, no. Because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.
Socially, no. Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.
Politically, no. Because he must submit to the mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and destruction of America, the Great Satan.
Domestically, no, because he is instructed to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34).
Intellectually, no, because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.
Philosophically, no, because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.
Spiritually, no, because when we declare “one nation under God,” the Christian’s God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as Heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in the Quran’s 99 excellent Names.
Therefore after much study and deliberation…perhaps we should be very Suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country.
They obviously cannot be both “good” Muslims and good Americans. Call it what you wish…it’s still the truth.
The more who understand this, the better it will be for Our country and Our future.
Randall Parker writes:
Here are three questions to address:
1) What is the nature of our enemy?
2) Why do we fail to conceptualize and label them in ways to make us deal with them effectively?
3) What are the most effective ways to refer to our enemies in order to win public support for necessary defensive measures.
Your latest essay makes great points on the third question and you’ve previously (and quite effectively) addressed the first question. Here’s my quick stab on the second question:
We are battling both specific people and ideas. In that respect our battle is similar to our battle against Communism in the Cold War. What made the Cold War intellectually easier in some respects was that a sizable portion of the American public and American opinion leaders were willing to label Communism as thoroughly evil and with no redeeming qualities.
What leaves our media and political leaders unable to label our Muslims enemy accurately? The first reason I can see is the modern liberal definition of religious freedom. Islam’s advantage in the current battle is that in too many quarters all religious beliefs are widely seen as deserving greater protections than non-religious beliefs.
To use the Left’s terminology: Are we going to “privilege” religious belief even when a religion rejects the concept of individual rights from which we derive the individual right of religious belief in the first place?
Another problem we face in the current battle against Muslim terrorists comes from a secular dogma of liberal universalism. In a nutshell, liberals (including neoconservative liberals) are very reluctant to admit that any culture or religious or ethnicity has beliefs that are so incompatible with liberalism that liberalism can’t lay claim to representing the universal aspirations of all people.
I suspect the latter problem is the bigger reason why our intellectuals shrink using useful descriptive terminology to refer to our enemies.
I think both your points are correct. Let me attempt to restate them in order to clarify them for myself. To wage a real war against something, liberals must see it as irredeemably bad. But liberals cannot see the irredeemable badness of Islam, for two reasons. First, they see Islam as a religion, and all religions are good and deserve protections. They fail to see that Islam is a religious / social / political / military program with a template of tyranny that is applied automatically to every land that Islam dominates. Persuading people that Islam is an all-encompassing political and social program for society and not just a religion a key goal for us.
Second, they can’t admit the existence of something so large and so incompatible with liberalism, because that would mean the end of liberalism.
You know how I’m always criticizing intellectuals for promotng various Western-centric theories of Islam instead of looking at Islam in itself? That’s why they do it. For them to say, e.g., that Islam has this weird rule that non-Muslims must convert, or be dhimmis, or die, is to admit that Islam has these very peculiar and particular features that have absolutely nothing to do with anything in our world and are not reducible to a Western ideology or some familiar social pathology. So the reason they keep looking at it through Western filters is not merely to be comfortable with it or because “that’s what they know.” It’s to maintain the idea of Islam as something that is ultimately fixable by liberalism, assimilable to liberalism, or defeatable by liberalism. Poverty. Backwardness. Lack of development. Intolerance. Fascism. Women’s inequality. Alienation. Insufficient assimilation. Insufficient social adjustment. Humiliation. Envy. Sexual frustration. Disappointment. The existence of these various problems and evils is not only compatible with liberalism, liberalism is chock full of solutions for them, and can expand and enhance itself in coping with an Islam defined in such terms. But liberalism has absolutely no solution for “convert/pay jizya/or die.” This (and lots more about Islam) is so utterly Other that liberals simply cannot afford to admit its existence. And so ilberals fail to see Islam as it really is, and thus fail to see the irredeemable badness of Islam, and so never reach the point of determining to fight it.
And, of course, avoiding coming to that point is what it’s all about. I have said that because liberalism is unable to meet the challenge of Islam, we are now in the apocalypse of liberalism. The various Western-centric and liberal-friendly theories of Islam can be seen as liberalism’s way of avoiding facing Islam as it really is, and so staving off its own apocalypse. The moment liberalism admits Islam’s irredeemable badness and the need to fight it, liberalism goes out of existence.
Sam B. writes:
Ron K. speaks of religions that are bloody and included Judaism. This may have been true once. in its early beginnings. But for thousands of years, Judaism, even if not a religion that stresses love (in contrast to Christianity) still adhered to such precepts as “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” precepts later incorporated into Christianity.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 10, 2006 08:30 PM | Send
Many of the universal values of Judaism were passed on to early Christianity, which universalized these exponentially—the millions and millions of converts to Christianity—all flowing from the “mother faith.”
Matthew Arnold’s essay “Hebraism and Hellenism” attempted to demonstrate that Western Civilization itself, was built on two pillars—the Hebraic and the Hellenic. For him Christianity was actually an expression of the moralism of Hebraism—as Nietzsche [and Hitler, but for less noble reasons] saw. Hebraism was built on faith and morality; Hellenism, on reason—“sweetness and light.”
I would urge Ron to check the Wikipedia article on the Jews and Judaism. It’s one of the best I’ve run across on the subject, with many links.