If I may, I’m going to push back against one aspect of Victor’s characteristically insightful post because I think it underscores exactly the problem he diagnoses. VDH says, “A saner approach would be to acknowledge that there is a small minority of Muslims who channel generic Islamist fantasies.” I would just point out that the belief that the American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is cause for violent jihad until Americans are driven out of those Muslim countries is not a generic Islamic fantasy held by a small minority of Muslims. It is a mainstream Islamic position held by tens of millions of Muslims. That doesn’t mean tens of millions of Muslims will act on it, but many will and millions will cheer on those who do.
As I’ve recounted before, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi — the spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood — issued a fatwa in 2004 calling for Muslims to fight the Americans in Iraq. He later expanded on this concept, elaborating that American support personnel (i.e., those who do not do the actual fighting and patrolling but maintain equipment and do other contract work) are legitimate targets every bit as much as American soldiers are. He has also urged Muslim members of the American armed forces to decline assignments that involve fighting against other Muslims. A few months after the 2004 fatwa, Alberto Fernandez, then the State Department’s top spokesman in the region, gushed that Qaradawi is an “intelligent and thoughtful voice from the region . . . an important figure that deserves our attention.” Fernandez obviously felt compelled to make this feckless statement because Qaradawi is not a fringe figure — he is the most influential Sunni cleric in the world (see, e.g., the Danish cartoons controversy he stoked). Indeed, his 2004 fatwa was enthusiastically echoed by the faculty of Islamic jurisprudence at al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni learning.
The depth of the challenge we face is daunting. Hatred for America and the West is rampant in the Islamic world. We are not merely willfully blind to it. Our government, wittingly or not, is endorsing it, and not just by Obama’s apology tours. At his ballyhooed Cairo speech on Islam and the West, the president insisted — over the objections of the Mubarak government — on inviting members of the Muslim Brotherhood, whom administration insiders view as Islamists we can work with. This is the same Muslim Brotherhood whose motto remains “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” It is the same Muslim Brotherhood that encourages suicide bombings and other terrorizing of Israelis (i.e., “resistance”) in the Palestinian territories. It is the same Muslim Brotherhood for which Qaradawi — who has promised that Islam will “conquer America” — speaks.
Islamism is about a lot more than al Qaeda. Nidal Malik Hasan committed a mass-murder under the influence of principles held by a disturbingly large percentage of the world’s billion-plus Muslims. Rather than condemning those principles as barbaric, it is the policy of our government either (a) to pretend that those principles do not exist, (b) to pretend that they are held only by a teeny-tiny handful of extremists who have “hijacked” Islam, or (c) to encourage the Muslims who hold them by engaging, embracing and legitimizing the leaders who preach them. Under these circumstances, I think Victor’s three-to-six-month timeline is not only sensible; it’s the best we can hope for — and the atrocities are going to get worse.