Robert Fulford September 11, 2010 – 8:41 am
Nine years ago this morning, the Islamist wing of the Muslim religion, a gigantic and merciless force, declared war on the West.
Islamists don’t believe in the principles of the West and plan to banish them from the Earth. The war, they claim, will continue until they win.
Well-financed, they show every sign of expanding into every corner of the planet. Most of the world’s Muslims dislike them but can’t stop them.
Those who live in the democracies of the West don’t believe the stated intentions of the Islamists. Mistakenly, we treat their existence as an oddity of history, a temporary eruption that will soon fade and shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with our lives.
Many of us worry more about the rights of the Islamists than about preserving our own traditions. We set up human rights councils to protect Islamists from words they might find offensive.
The West now lacks the conviction our way of life needs and deserves defending. Is modern Western society, four or five centuries in the making, a unique collective achievement? Or is it simply one way of organizing society, neither better nor worse than others?
The attack by Islamists should have encouraged us to confront this question. Instead, we have done our best to avoid thinking about it.
It’s become clear free speech and free inquiry are among the chief targets of the Islamists. They have developed the term Islamophobia as a stick to shame their critics into silence. At the same time, Islamists and their sympathizers have devoted themselves to finding reasons to be enraged. In this pursuit what they call Islamophobia is their rhetorical ally.
In 2005, after a Danish newspaper with a circulation of 120,000 published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, rabble-rousers in Syria, Lebanon and Iran stirred up furious protests. These led to mob violence. Police began shooting and some estimates place the resulting fatalities at 100 — in most cases fellow Muslims.
These killings inaugurated a new form of intimidation and censorship. Around the world many editors who would otherwise have published the cartoons decided against it, lest they inspire more demagogues to inflame more crazed gangs and thereby lead to more deaths.
It is as if Islamists were saying to the world: Don’t offend us or we’ll kill a lot of our people.
Because an idiot Christian pastor with a minuscule church in Gainesville, Fla., threatened to burn copies of the Koran, Muslims announced they would riot again.
Evangelical leaders, having failed to persuade the firebug pastor to desist, asked Muslims not to take his plans too seriously. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, argued no one should imagine one obscure minister, with a congregation numbered in the dozens, was speaking for 300 million Americans.
Anderson, poor fool, seemed unaware Islamists, trying to incite mindless violence for political gain, have no interest in accuracy or a sense of proportion. So protests began in Afghanistan; about the time the pastor was announcing he would suspend his bonfire, the first death was reported.
Something similar, on a larger scale, happened this week in the controversy over the 11-storey Islamic centre and mosque that may be built near the 9/11 site in New York.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is responsible for the building, moved the issue to a more ominous level when he said on television on Wednesday night the results will be dire if the controversy causes the centre to be located elsewhere.
“The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack,” Rauf predicted.
He said it would threaten U.S. troops and otherwise undermine U.S. security.
“This crisis could become much bigger than the Danish cartoon crisis,” he warned.
About two-thirds of Americans, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll, oppose building a mosque near Ground Zero. Rauf believes fear of violence should change the public’s attitude.
No one argues he is an Islamist, but he’s clearly playing Islamist violence as a political card.
It feels like a test case. If that threat silences opposition this time, the number of future uses of the same strategy is infinite. Rauf says his goal is to build a bridge among faiths but in this case his strategy sounds more like coercion:
“National security now hinges on how we negotiate this,” he said.
Burning books in Gainesville is ugly and mean-spirited but no more than that; Rauf is trying something more serious, eliminating free discussion by threatening violence.
In the climate that was created by 9/11 the fear of Islamophobia has created another threat, more serious in the long run: It inhibits the serious discussion of Islam.
Of all the great religions, Islam is unique in believing it should not be analyzed or criticized. The key point is the divine nature of the Koran. Because Muslims believe it is unalterably holy, any discussion of it is an affront.
In this sense Islam remains medieval. In 15th-century Europe, before Martin Luther, criticism of the Gospels and the Christian church was forbidden. In the year 2010 Islam still maintains that principle.
The Koran has never been scrutinized in the way the Bible has been studied since the 17th century. Ibn Warraq, a brilliant, Muslim-raised scholar whose books bring standard scholarly principles to the Koran, finds it necessary to travel with security guards.
Why should both practitioners and scholars not argue about Islam with the same frankness we bring to other world religions? Islamist violence subverts free speech and threatens to eliminate it altogether.
For the same reason, the possibility of separating religion from politics rarely gets even cursory discussion in the Islamic world.
Much in our life has changed since 9/11, as a visit to any airport in the world will demonstrate. But in the timorous way we think about Islam, far too much remains just as it was when we saw planes fly into the Twin Towers.
Click to view image: 'Iran'
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