Today, the taboo against telling the truth about our Islamic crisis, just like the Islamic crisis itself, is far worse because it has been institutionalized, deeply rooted, selected for, and otherwise set in the postmodern equivalent of stone.
After Orlando, after Trump's response, unique in the annals of national politics for its discussion of protecting the nation from mass Muslim immigration, and after the predictable anger directed at Trump (not the Orlando jihadist and this latest cycle of Islamic conquest that spat him out), I thought it might be interesting to look back not at the beginning, of course, but at a beginning. The first post-9/11 Western counterattack -- on the West.
Let Berlusconi’s remarks stand and someone might declare that Shakespeare amounts to more than Alice Walker, or that Ancient Greece surpasses Tolmec culture. The next thing you know, the Multicultural World Order has toppled. Naturally, Berlusconi apologized, and no world leader has made the same “blunder” since. Which is why what we’re hearing out there-- despite the catchiness of Samuel Huntington’s buzz phrase--is not “the Clash of Civilizations” at all. After all, “clash” conjures up the vibrating smash of brass cymbals. There can be no “clash” when one cymbal has muffled itself (the West) even as it tries to mute the “sound”—the attributes--of the other (Islam). What comes across, then, is a lot of shooshing.
Sometimes, it sounds like Condoleezza Rice. “We in America know the benevolence that is at the heart of Islam,” the Secretary of State declared in 2005, addressing assembled Muslim dignitaries at the annual Ramadan dinner at the State Department. The Secretary of State’s annual Ramadan dinner, by the way, is not to be confused with the president’s annual Ramadan dinner, although it’s easy to get them mixed up. The legacy of 9/11 has left us with: an open-ended war abroad; the introduction of homeland hyper-insecurity; and the open-ended introduction of Ramadan celebrations all over official Washington. Which is worth a question or two on its own, beginning with: “Why”? Why has it become the post-9/11 function of the United States government to celebrate Ramadan? The term “Muslim outreach” comes to mind, but, as the Judeo-Christian culture hit by Islamikazes on 9/11, haven’t we got it exactly backward? That is, wouldn’t Muslims better outreach themselves if the Saudi Embassy, for example, celebrated Christmas and Hanukah?
But I digress. “We in America know the benevolence that is at the heart of Islam,” Ms. Rice said. Really? Is that what we know? Is that what history tells us? Is that what current events tell us? Ms. Rice’s speechifying, which included a personal riff on Ramadan as being a time “characterized by sacrifice and abiding faith, by prayer and self-reflection and by compassion and profound joy,” made a wicked contrast to real-live Ramadan ‘05 headlines. Not the big ones about Scooter and Judy (remember them?); or bird flu; or Charles and Camilla; or even the substantial ones about a new Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito.
I’m thinking of the Muslim suicide bombing in Hadera that killed six Israelis that same Ramadan month and the Hitlerian promise of Iran’s Muslim president that “the stain of disgrace”—Israel—will be “purged from the center of the Islamic world.” I’m thinking of the weeks of Muslim rioting in Paris, and the news that a 7/7 London suicide bomber was buried in Pakistan (his exploded remains, anyway) at the shrine of an Islamic saint. In New Delhi, Muslims were suspected of killing 60 in three powerful blasts, while actor Omar Sharif received a death threat on a website linked to Al Qaeda for playing St. Peter in an Italian television movie. And I have never forgotten the three Christian girls who were beheaded in Indonesia en route to their Christian high school. Their killers, believed to be Muslims, carried off one of the severed heads to a newly built church, where they left it.
I could go on about the magazine editor in liberated Afghanistan, himself a Muslim, who, just about the time Ms. Rice was tucking in to her Ramadan meal, had been sentenced to two years in jail for “blasphemy”-- that is, criticizing sharia, or Islamic law. Then there’s Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper in Denmark that, as of October, 2005, had already received bomb threats, became a potential terror target on an Al Qaeda Internet list, sparked street violence in Denmark and Kashmir, and drew protests from 11 Muslim ambassadors, the OIC, the Council of Europe and the United Nations human rights commissioner for having published 12 cartoons of Mohammed. (Cartoon Rage 2006 would come later.) Depictions of the Islamic prophet may be a no-no under Islamic law, but redoubtable Denmark and its free (non-apologizing) newspaper was trying to demonstrate that it was not under Islamic law.
Condoleezza Rice isn’t either. But her soft-soap “benevolence” routine sounds more like supplication than statecraft, particularly in the context of a standard stump speech she delivers comparing the Iraqi and U.S. constitutions--with the “miracle at Philadelphia” coming up way short. “We should note that unlike in our Constitutional Convention, the Iraqis have not made a compromise as bad as the one that made my ancestors three-fifths of a man,” she has said. Yes, in 1787, slaves were indeed counted as a fractional person in pre-abolition censuses that determined how many representatives a state would send to the House of Representatives. (Slaveholders, not slavery opponents, wanted a slave to count as one person to augment that state’s political power.) But it is the miracle of that 18th-century document that it contained the blueprint for abolition. By contrast, the 2005 Iraqi Constitution (also the 2003 Palestinian Authority constitution and the 2004 Afghanistan constitution) contains provisions for a sharia state under which all men are not created equal, and freedom of conscience is denied.
Failing to acknowledge the distinction, Ms. Rice engages in cultural equivalence, the Mush of Civilizations which Berlusconi reverted to so quickly back in 2001: We’re not that great; they’re not that bad; we’re pretty bad; they’re pretty great. There is a point to all this: Cultural equivalence, the universal mantra of the multicultural world, effectively pre-empts cultural confrontation. There can be no cultural confrontation—no culture clash—if we are all, roughly, the same; if we are all, roughly, no better than the other; and particularly if we (the West) are roughly worse. Such a doctrine is the geopolitical expression of PC, and it is informed by the same drive, the same terminal tolerance, to do whatever it takes to supress those nasty catcalls of “racism” and “meanspiritedness.” But to what end?
A few years back, just after the 2002 arrests of the so-called DC Snipers, John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo, I was listening to a talk-radio discussion of the case when a listener called in with a request: Would the media please refrain from identifying John Muhammed as “John Muhammed”? Identifying Muhammed as “Muhammed”—the surname the serial killer took when he converted to Islam—might reflect badly on Islam, which, as the caller explained, is a religion of peace, not violence, and whose prophet, of course, also happened to be named Muhammed. And no, this wasn’t a put-on. The caller sounded only sincere, and the hosts treated him accordingly. While they gurgled over the ramifications of the Mohammed mix-up, I realized that what was most disturbing about this “logic”—the urge to repress a truth that undercuts a belief--was not its absurd extremism, but rather its mind-numbing prevalence. The caller may have taken things to its satirical limit, but we’re just as likely to hear the same willful line of supression from a newspaper of record, or a head of state setting national policy. There is too much that is considered unmentionable—too much that reflects badly on Islam, not to mention its prophet, Mohammed. If, for example, our leaders spoke up about the primacy of jihad (holy war) as a uniquely Islamic institution established by Mohammed that has almost continuously convulsed large parts of the world in violence for 13 centuries, how could they also call Islam a “religion of peace”? If our leaders broke the historic silence on the massive tragedy of non-Muslim peoples—dhimmis--subjugated by Islam according to Mohammed’s example across those same 13 centuries, how could they also tell us that Islam is “one of the world’s three great religions”? Quite simply they couldn’t. So, in the name of cultural equivalence that avoids cultural confrontation, the Mush of Civilizations, they keep their silence—the same sort of silence that the radio-listener, in his absurdist way, hoped to impose on the talk-radio hosts.
Similar shooshing, for example, characterized the coverage and anaylsis of the 2005 riots in France. In fact, you might say such shooshing was the coverage and analysis of the 2005 riots in France. It was the Berlusconi Brouhaha in reverse: Where the Italian prime minister was muzzled as the lone voice extolling the virtues of the West (good) next to the lack thereof in Islam (bad), the Muslim riots were trumpeted across the board as being about the evils of the West (bad), and having nothing to do with Islam (good). According to an insta-consensus that emerged from Left to Right, the fault was to all one side: France. No question about it—please, no question about it. The rioters were non-accountable victims, practically by-standers, whose Muslim identity was officially ignored and journalistically renounced, even as heterodox reports surfaced from time to time. One such report came from Amir Taheri, writing in the New York Post.
"With cries of 'God is great,' bands of youths armed with whatever they could get hold of went on a rampage and forced the police to flee…. Within hours, the original cause of the incidents was forgotten and the issue jelled around a demand by the representatives of the rioters that the French police leave the 'occupied territories.'… Some are even calling for the areas where Muslims form a majority of the population to be reorganized on the basis of the 'millet' system of the Ottoman Empire: each religious community (millet) would enjoy the right to organize its social, cultural and educational life in accordance with its religious beliefs. In parts of France, a de facto millet system is already in place…. 'All we demand is to be left alone,' said Mouloud Dahmani, one of the local 'emirs' engaged in negotiations to persuade the French to withdraw the police and allow a committee of sheiks, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood, to negotiate an end to the hostilities."
Such bombshells sent not even a ripple across the calm and glassy narrative of an impervious elite. And when they did (as when French intellectual Alain Finkielkraut noted the Muslim identity of the rioters in a newspaper interview), they were repressed (he publicly recanted) and smoothed over. Here, as in the Berlusconi incident, Islam was taken neatly and completely off the hook. “Clash” was thus squelched, and a kind of PC peace and quiet—silence--returned to the international arena. To invoke the terminology of the death of the grownup, the international arena was pacified.
This word is apt because in this de facto conspiracy of omission there is more than an element of soothing, calming fantasy; there is a load of political pabulum that fills, or tries to, the gaping void opened by the simply question, Why? Why did these riots occur? Here, said the intelligentsia, suck on this: Like the terrorism that engraved the blood-drenched anniversaries of 9/11, 3/11, and 7/7 into collective memory, and transformed Amman, Amsterdam, Baghdad, Bali, Beslan, Davao, Hadera, Haifa, Jakarta, Jerusalem, Nairobi, New Dehli, Sharm al-Sheik, Tel Aviv, and Tunisia into hallowed outposts of mass murder, the rioting that convulsed France had nothing to do with Islam.
Shhhh, shh: There’s nothing here that one or two billion Euros won’t take care of. So what if 12 French churches were destroyed and/or desecrated during the rioting? So what if French intelligence has determined that 40 percent of French “imams” not only have no religious training but download their homilies from pro-Al Qaeda websites?So what if Jacques Chirac, president of the French Republic, had to deploy more than 2,000 police to secure his route down the Champs Elysees for an Armistice Day ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe as though Paris were not the heart of La Republique, but a war zone? So what? Thank goodness none of it had anything to do with Islam and its non-assimilable legions in Europe.
That was the narrative from the start. It was Our Story, the subtext, the thread to which we cling. The problem driving “youths” to incinerate lines of parked buses or immolate the occasional grand-mere on crutches was French racism, neglect, a failure to integrate—or, better, a failure to be integrated due to French racist neglect. Don’t forget the snobbery of French waiters and don’t forget George W. Bush. Well before the riot’s last French fires were kindled, let alone cooled, the Washington Post editorial page, for example, said—no, it insisted: “Islamic ideology and leaders have played no part in the disturbances and many of those who are participating are not Muslim.” From the New York Times to the National Review, writers ruled out the role of religion. Writing in the New York Times, French Islamic expert Olivier Roy ruled Islam out with equally categorical and doctrinal confidence.
How did they know? Yes, the thugs we saw depicted through the smoke of burning civilization weren’t dressed for the part by Central Casting--either in the beards and robes of the mosque, or the mask and scimitar of the jihad. They looked like urban punks, “riffraff,” as French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkosy called them before diving under the covers with the rest of the Gallic government. They were, we heard, unemployed toughs and secular criminals, devoted not to Allah so much as to what you might call, loosely and very grimly, French “culture”—French pop culture, that is.
Writing in the Weekly Standard some weeks before the riots broke out, Olivier Guitta offered a shocking insight into one expression of that culture—rap music as we in the US have never quite heard it, even at its “cop-killing” worst. As Guitta explained, some of the most successful bands in France are made up “mostly of French citizens of Arab or African descent”—like our pals in the French projects, or “cites.” But where so-called gangsta rap, American style, glorifies senseless violence and sexual bestiality, Muslim rap, French style, fuses that same violence and sexuality to attack the State.
Guitta translated some choice examples. There is the rap band Sniper (nice), which, not incidentally, was unsuccessfully sued in 2004 by Nicolas Sarkosy for violence and incitement in the song “La France.” Sniper sings: “We’re all hot for a mission to exterminate the government and the fascists. … France is a b---- and we’ve been betrayed … We f--- France, we don’t care about the Republic and freedom of speech. We should change the laws so we can see Arabs and Blacks in power in the Elysee Palace. Things have to explode.”
Well, of course, things did. But not, our elites reflexively instructed us, because of Islamic attitudes toward a non-Islamic country, but because of establishment attitudes toward a downtrodden minority. Integration, we heard, or the lack thereof, was the problem, so integration was also the answer. But how will France—or “FranSSe,” as rapper Mr. R has titled this song—integrate this? “France is a bitch, don’t forget to f--- her to exhaustion. You have to treat her like a whore, man! … France is one of the b------ who gave birth to you … I am not at home and I don’t give a d---, and besides the state can go f--- itself. I pee on Napoleon and General de Gaulle … F------ cops, sons of whores ….” It went on, lashing out in a similarly poisonous vein. Not that this stopped Fnac, the largest chain of French music stores, from praising the popular Mr. R as “a revelation.”
And so he and his rap brethren are. But a revelation of what--urban barbarism or ghetto jihad? Or some new, cultural permutation of both? Such pressing, pertinent questions went unasked and ignored, just as Muslim rap imagery went unexamined and unmentioned. But the vicious contempt in these lyrics, the exhortation to humiliation, the vindictive rape imagery: These are the motifs, at least, of brutal conquest, patterns and expressions familiar to students of Islamic jihad for having repeated themselves over the centuries as non-Muslim lands—Dar al Harb (Land of War)--were conquered and subjugated as Dar al Islam (Land of Islam). Was that what was going on in France? Without doubt, such music prefigures a state of war, although no one but the rioters were listening.
More important, no one but the rioters wanted to listen. Who in the West wants to fight clash when you can eat mush? In psychology, they call this act of mental digging-in “denial.” It’s familiar to anyone who didn’t want to stop believing in Santa Claus even after the gross illogic of the proposition--chimneys, reindeer, ho-ho--became all too clear. Better to keep your eyes closed and believe; better to wear ear plugs and hear what you want: The moderates are coming, the moderates are coming. Similarly, in Paris, they shut their eyes and ears to the smoke and sound of jihad, and woke up, if not to Muslim moderates, then to a peacable solution: “Mea culpa.” Far less stressful than “J’accuse,” the “mea culpa” solution is part of the Western basis of cultural equivalence. “J’accuse” rings the gong of “clash,” shifting blame to the Muslim community (and demanding confrontational French action). But “mea culpa” allows France to assume responsibility and write a check. What, the French might ask, are Euros for? Better to pacify. Better to be pacified. It isn’t grownup, but it’s survival.
Only it’s not. What gets by in a sheltered childhood doesn’t work in the real world. Take Berlusconi again. The enraged heir to Ancient Rome defending his civiliation against barbarians in 2001, briefly, became the self-effacing host of Italy’s first official fast-breaking Ramadan dinner for Muslim diplomats in 2005. “Italy,” he began in a speech guaranteed to mollify every Euro-Arab colleague who ever attacked him, “has a long tradition of fruitful exchanges with Islam….” All the rhetoric of superiority was gone, along with all the pride in human rights and liberty.
Inclusively, he went on from there.
Our country has always been, is now, and will always be open to all forms of spirituality and respectful of all cultures and all religions. …In particular, it is important that Italians learn to understand better the foundations of the Islamic religion because, after the tragedy of 11 September, it must be clear to everyone that terrorists who kill do not have anything to do with it [Islam]…
After the defeat of the totalitarianisms of the 20th century, the new great enemy for many suffering peoples is terrorism, which wants to lure us into the trap of the 'clash of civilisations'. This pitfall must be avoided: we must make sure that a new "Iron Curtain" does not divide the West and the Muslim world. …
For this reason, we stress the importance of dialogue between our civilisations, that for all our differences, we are united by the same values of humanity. (Italics added.)
Once upon a time, Berlusconi articulated the Clash of Civilizations—the distinction between the West (liberty and human rights) and Islam (the lack thereof). Now, he gums the Mush of Civilizations, which, not incidentally, echoes the canned declarations of every successful beauty pageant contestant: For all our differences, we are united by the same values of humanity. The Italian leader is by no means alone in this; indeed, he speaks off the same page as every other world leader, up to and including George W. Bush. It is easy to tell which worldview, Clash or Mush, is politically correct; but which of them is just plain correct? And which offers a strategy for the survival of the world that is Western? ...
Make the West Great Again.