The Year of the Islamists

by Lee Habeeb & Mike Leven

Why we are all Israel now

The first month of the year is behind us, and so is the season for predictions. But if there’s one thing we can be sure of as this year unfolds, it’s this: 2016 will be the year of the Islamists.

It doesn’t take a Las Vegas handicapper to know it. The State Department’s annual report on terrorism revealed that the number of people killed by terror attacks rose by 80 percent, to nearly 33,000, in 2014. Things weren’t any better in 2015.

This will be the year of the Islamists because they’re facing no competing force. No opponents with the will to fight them — or their ideas. And it’s not just the people of Middle East and Africa who will suffer in this year of the Islamists. It will be Europeans and Americans.

It happened late last year in San Bernardino. And the month before in Paris. And earlier the year before in Paris, when Islamic radicals targeted the creatives at Charlie Hebdo and the patrons and workers at a nearby kosher deli.

These weren’t spectacular mass murders of the 9/11 variety, but they were, in some ways, worse — because they were carried out by lone Islamist wolves, part of a loose network of international killers who report to no one.

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The western world is on edge because these monsters know no allegiance to anything but their brand of Islam. And because these monsters are willing to commit their crimes up close and personal, not by flying planes into buildings but by turning the most ordinary pleasures of life — eating at a restaurant, attending a concert, celebrating an office Christmas party — into macabre nightmares. These monsters want to steal the life from our lives before taking their own.

No country understands these threats better than Israel. Last year was a gruesome one for its people, as Islamists took their attacks to an unrivaled level of grotesqueness, choosing as their weapon of choice the knife. They are stabbing innocent Israelis to death. One by one. Cut by merciless cut.

They are stabbing innocent Israelis to death. One by one. Cut by merciless cut.

“Two Israeli Jews fatally stabbed by Palestinians in Jerusalem,” read a New York Times headline reporting on the latest in a rash of recent stabbings. It happened in December of 2015 near the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem, which contains important Christian, Jewish, and Muslim holy sites. A third Israeli civilian was killed accidentally by police fire. One of the stabbing victims was a 45-year-old father of seven.

Palestinian officials and human-rights groups wasted little time in accusing Israeli security forces of using excessive force against Palestinian assailants, and less time in blaming the Israeli government itself as the real cause of unrest in the area. But these claims are losing their moral power.

Just days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press asked the chief editor of Charlie Hebdo, Gerard Biard, what role the cartoonists might have played in their own deaths. It was a roundabout question, but Todd got a direct answer.

“We must stop conflating the murderers and the victims,” Biard said.

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Todd then explained NBC’s decision not to show the cover of the magazine. Biard fired back at the NBCs of the world. “When you refuse to publish this cartoon, when you blur it out, you blur out democracy, secularism, freedom of conscience, and you insult citizenship.”

While America’s leading journalists and intellectuals were cowering before Islamists, President Obama tried his best to straddle the moral fence, denouncing the acts of terror but also indirectly blaming the people of Europe for the attacks. “Europe must do more to better integrate its Muslim communities,” President Obama lectured France in the wake of its grief.  Poverty and racism were integrated into the media narrative by the usual suspects, but those claims, too, fell flat.

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After 9/11, a small group of anti-American leftists denounced the attacks and made the simultaneous claim that we had brought the attacks on ourselves — that, as President Obama’s pastor in Chicago cried out from the pulpit not long after that massacre, “the chickens had come home to roost.”

But no one — not even Pastor Jeremiah Wright — can claim that the San Bernardino attacks were a by-product of America’s foreign policy. Critics of American power can’t blame the attacks of Islamist lone wolves at restaurants and theaters in France last year, and the Charlie Hebdo massacre the year before, on France’s foreign or domestic policies.

The problem is Islam itself. And not just the Islamists.

Take the story of Raif Badawi, the 31-year-old Saudi Arabian writer and creator of secularist website Free Saudi Liberals, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam. Badawi received his first set of lashes after Friday prayers outside a mosque in Jeddah. A YouTube video captured the beating, which was watched by a crowd of several hundred who clapped, whistled, and shouted “Allah Akbar” when the flogging ended.

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Take what happened in Niger days after the Charlie Hebdo murders. Nearly a dozen people were killed in protests against the cartoons. Police were forced to fire tear gas at angry Muslim crowds setting fire to churches and looting shops. Mobs attacked a police station and set police cars on fire.

Take what’s happening on TV in the Middle East. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported on the rise of TV preachers in Egypt and elsewhere in the region, and on one popular TV sheik in particular, Khaled Abdullah. His brand of Islam is one that spews hate toward women, Christians, Jews, gays, and Americans. One paragraph caught my eye:

The Salafi TV preachers advocate restrictive views on women, railing against female protesters and even advising audiences of what they see as the Islamically correct way for a husband to beat his wife.

And then there was this:

Even so, many viewers of TV preachers are women. In the most conservative Egyptian households, women rarely leave their homes and account for nearly two-thirds of television viewers.

And take Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who told a story about her early life in Mogadishu in a column she wrote in 2010. She recalled being lectured by her grandmother about how to be a proper Muslim girl. When the six-year-old asked her grandmother why such strict rules didn’t apply to her brother, she got an earful. “Mahad is a man! Your misfortune is that you were born with a split between your legs. And now, we the family must cope with that reality!”

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Then came the worst part of the lesson. Ali’s grandmother pointed to a piece of sheep fat on the ground. It was covered with ants and flies. “You’re like that piece of sheep fat in the sun,” she told her granddaughter. “If you transgress, I warn you men will be no more merciful to you than those flies and ants are to that piece of fat.”

You don’t hear enough about the fact that far too that Muslims in the world are being forced to choose between modern and medieval versions of their own religion.

There’s a deep problem within Islam, and it’s not just the Islamists. In a recent Pew Research survey of the Muslim populations of nine majority-Muslim countries, an average of 57 percent have an unfavorable view of al-Qaeda. Thirteen percent had a favorable view. And 30 percent were on the fence.

That’s a problem.

In England and Spain, one in four Muslims believe suicide bombings are sometimes justified. One in three believe the same in France. And slightly more than one in ten believe it in the United States, reported Josh Gelernter on this website. “According to a poll conducted by a Georgetown Islamic Studies professor and a Gallup pollster, more than one in three Muslims worldwide believe that the 9/11 attacks were somewhat, largely, or completely justified,” he wrote. And polling shows that “almost one in four British Muslims believe that the 7/7 attacks on London in 2005 were justified,” Gelernter added.

This will be the year of the Islamists because these attitudes are hardening within parts of the Islamic world. And the Islamic population is growing in the very places where these cultural attitudes are most virulent.

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While the world’s population is projected to grow by 35 percent in the coming decades, the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 73 percent, from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion in 2050. More than a third of Muslims are concentrated in Africa and the Middle East, the regions that are projected to have the biggest population increases. And Muslims are also the youngest of all major religious groups, seven years younger on average than the median age of non-Muslims.

That’s a big problem for the world. A perfect storm of sorts, with social media compounding the problem

No one knows all of this better than the people of Israel. Life has always been tenuous for Jews, with or without a Jewish state. Saul Bellow wrote about this subject:

What you do know is that there is one fact of Jewish life unchanged by the creation of a Jewish state; you cannot take your right to live for granted. Others can. You can not. Jews, because they are Jews, have never been able to take the right to live as a natural right.

In 1988, Hamas released its Covenant of the Islamic Resistance. It reveals much about the nature of the threats Israel faces. Here’s just one passage:

The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”

All we in the West need to do is replace the word “Jews” in that passage and think of ourselves instead. Think of those of us, like our brothers and sisters in Israel, who cherish freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and mutual tolerance. And think about the state of Israel, and the threats it has faced from Islamic cultures since its founding for the crime of being Israel.

The Islamists are coming after all of us. And coming after us for being who we are. In this year of the Islamists, on this we can all agree: Je suis Israel.

We are all Israel now.

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network. Mike Leven is the chairman and chief executive officer of Georgia Aquarium.