‘The state of our union is . . . denial — at least when it comes to Islam.”
I’m not holding my breath waiting for President Obama, as denier-in-chief, to make that pronouncement when he addresses the nation this evening at one of Leviathan’s more notorious wastes of time, the State of the Union address. Indeed, Washington’s annual celebration of itself, high on pageantry and bereft of substance, is unlikely to dwell much on the “religion of peace,” notwithstanding its centrality — acknowledged or not — to much of U.S. policy. Such silence is fitting, as is its flip side: to brand as “Islamophobia” any deviation from the party line — a bipartisan party line if ever there was one. An adult discussion of Islam would bring down the house of cards on which our policy is based. Better to say nothing.
Thankfully, the Jeruslam Post’s Barry Rubin won’t play along. He disrupted our sweet dreams last week with a pronouncement from al-Azhar University. Al-Azhar is the centuries-old seat of Sunni scholarship in Egypt, a status that vests its sharia scholars with unparalleled doctrinal influence over the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims.
It is conventional wisdom among the West’s Islamophilic opinion elites — and thus prototypically among Obama administration officials — that jihad, the Islamic injunction to struggle in Allah’s cause, has been distorted by sharia-obsessed Islamophobes into a summons to destroy the West. Jihad, this wisdom holds, is just an internal exercise in self-betterment — kind of like greening the planet and brushing after every meal. Jihad becomes confrontational and even violent only in self-defense, when Muslims are truly under siege.
Au contraire, says al-Azhar’s Imad Mustafa. To be sure, he agrees that the doctrine of “defensive jihad” calls for war against non-Muslims who “attack” Muslims. But defense, for purposes of this doctrine, is in the eye of the beholder — or, more accurately, in the eye of the mufti who decides what sorts of provocations constitute an “attack.” Implicitly, that leaves room for lots of pretty offensive jihad if the mufti construes the concept of “attack” broadly enough. What is bracing about Mustafa’s new fatwa, however, is that he’s not leaving anything to chance. He’s making what is implicit unmistakably explicit.
Besides the defensive variety, Mustafa expressly endorses “offensive jihad” as the license to attack non-Muslims living in non-Islamic countries. It is the consensus of sharia scholars, he instructs, that offensive jihad is “permissible” in three different situations: (a) “to secure Islam’s border”; (b) “to extend God’s religion to people in cases where the governments do not allow it”; and (c) “to remove every religion but Islam from the Arabian peninsula.”
The unapologetic aggression affirmed here is breathtaking. Ever wonder why Muslims demand a right of return to Israel for Palestinians but impose the death penalty on Palestinians who sell land to Jews? Why Muslims demand the right to build a grand mosque and Islamic community center on the lower Manhattan site of radical Islam’s 9/11 atrocity but think nothing of barring non-Muslims from Mecca and Medina pursuant to their scriptures? It is because Islam — not radical Islam, political Islam, or Islamism, but Islam itself — is threaded with an intolerance that would be undeniable to anyone not in denial.
This is not something al-Qaeda dreamed up. Mainstream Islamic scholarship is reflected by Mustafa’s first and third claims: a right to brutalize non-Muslims in order to ensure that an Islamic territory remains Islamic, and a right to purge non-Islamic influences from the Arabian Peninsula. The latter, in fact, explains not only Saudi Arabia’s official policy of apartheid in Islam’s major cities but al-Azhar’s prior green-lighting of attacks on American troops in Iraq.
More immediately alarming for us, however, is the second justification Mustafa offers for offensive jihad. As Rubin correctly contends, this injunction “to spread God’s religion” is not limited to circumstances in which a government has imposed an absolute prohibition on Islam, or at least driven Islam from the public square as Ataturk did in Turkey. It would also approve campaigns of aggression against countries that bar any aspect of Islamic belief or practice that Muslim scholars deem “necessary” to the full implementation of Islamic law.
Al-Qaeda seeks to spread Islam by brute force. The Muslim Brotherhood and its American confederates — CAIR, the Muslim American Society, the Islamic Society of North America, etc. — agree with al-Qaeda on the endgame but part company on methodology. Theirs is a sophisticated potpourri of political agitation, legal extortion, public-relations legerdemain (such as Imam Feisal Rauf’s claim that the U.S. Constitution is perfectly consonant with sharia — which is true only in the sense that the Constitution does contain the seeds of its own undoing), and clever campaigns to legitimize terrorism practitioners while ostensibly condemning terrorism in the abstract. But whether we are talking about violent jihadists or stealth jihadists, notice that there is no real daylight between what these forces seek to achieve and what the most influential Islamic scholars would authorize.
Nothing about that would surprise us at this point if we were watching as yet another terrorist murderer of yet another moderate Muslim politician is celebrated as a hero in Pakistan; if we saw the new Iraq, of which we are midwife, purge Christians and other non-Muslims from its territory; if we noticed the Ahmadi, a Muslim minority sect, being brutally persecuted for beliefs that are heretical to Muslims taking their cues from al-Azhar; and if we were studying polling that tells us most Muslims in Islamic countries would like to see a strict application of sharia.
But we are not watching, seeing, noticing, or studying. President Obama just announced the appointment of Quintan Wiktorowicz to the National Security Council as “senior director for [what else?] global engagement.” A perfect fit for the administration, Wiktorowicz is a former Rhodes College professor whose claim to academic fame is the trendy theory that, as NPR admiringly put it, “very religious Muslims were in fact the people who ended up being the most resistant to radicalization.”
Who, then, becomes a radical, Mr. Wiktorowicz? They tend to be (in NPR’s description of his theory) “people who don’t have a good grounding in the religion.” Grounding in what aspect of the religion? We’re not told — just left with his insistence that Islam is ecumenical and non-violent, end of story. The game, though, is given away with our new engagement director’s explanation that any effective “counterradicalization” campaign must include “beefing up education about Islam among Muslims themselves.”
Alas, real “education about Islam” would include such discomfiting texts as Imad Mustafa’s latest fatwa. Wiktorowicz is not talking about teaching the Islam that is. He’s talking about teaching the Islam of his dreams. On the Islam that is, al-Azhar has the ear of Muslims. The Obama administration has the ear of NPR.
Denial is not a river in Egypt. Turns out it’s a university in Egypt.
— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.