EDITOR’S NOTE: Kathryn Jean Lopez continues her conversation with Andrew McCarthy on his new book, The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. Part 1 of the interview can be read here.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: “So atrocious has been the bloodbath wrought by al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and its imitators that it has enabled more methodical Muslim extremists to operate under the radar.” Are there politicians — true leaders — out there who get that?
ANDREW C. McCARTHY: Some do, most don’t. In the last three attacks or attempted attacks (Fort Hood, Christmas bomber, and Times Square), absurd efforts were made to pretend that there was no connection to Islam. Fort Hood was especially reprehensible, with Gen. Casey claiming that to lose the military’s “diversity” would somehow be even worse than the mass murder, and with the military following up by whitewashing the role of Islamist ideology from its report on the atrocity.
And now, look at the Ground Zero mosque controversy. We have leading politicians rallying to the Islamist cause on the grounds of “tolerance.” Yet there are 2,300-plus mosques in the U.S. and scores in the New York metropolitan area alone. No one has tried to stop that, even though we know about three-quarters of the mosques are controlled by anti-American Islamists. (To be clear, I am speaking about who controls the mosques, not who attends them.)
If you want to talk tolerance, let’s talk Islam — not Islamism, Islam. In Mecca and Medina, the Muslim crown-jewel cities, it’s not just that there are no churches or synagogues permitted. Our “friends” the Saudis, enforcing a command of the Koran, refuse to permit non-Muslims even to enter these holy cities (though I understand some accommodations have finally been made for non-Muslims in the outskirts of Medina — not the main part of the city). I don’t think there should ever be a mosque at Ground Zero, certainly while the war is raging. Would we have permitted a Shinto temple to be built at Pearl Harbor in 1943? But even if I were open to the concept, is it unreasonable to tell the sponsors: “No mosque for now; get back to us when Islamic countries start exhibiting the same degree of religious tolerance that is the hallmark of the West”?
The effort to build the mosque has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. They want to call it “Cordoba,” the name of the caliphate that conquered Spain and ruled it, often brutally, for over half a millennium. This is no surprise. The Muslim Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, taught that propaganda battles were among the most important in the civilizational jihad. “Fighting the unbelievers,” he elaborated, “involves all possible efforts that are necessary to dismantle the power of the enemies of Islam including beating them, plundering their wealth, destroying their places of worship, and smashing their idols.” One of the ways Islamists have always smashed idols is by building theirs atop those of the peoples they set about conquering.
Since the controversy started, we’ve learned that the principal figure behind the mosque, this imam called Faisal Rauf, is a member of the “Perdana Global Peace Organization,” which was one of the Islamist-Leftist groups behind the flotilla that tried to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas — and Rauf’s father was a Banna contemporary who studied and taught at al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islam where many Islamist clerics (e.g., the Blind Sheikh) were educated and where, for example, the faculty rallied behind Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi (the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide) when he called for the killing of U.S. troops in Iraq.
What is going on with this mosque couldn’t be more transparent, and yet the political class — with a few honorable exceptions — has either fallen silent or joined in the ridiculous claim that “our values” require that we permit the mosque’s construction on that site.
LOPEZ: Why is Saul Alinsky so important?
McCARTHY: Well, even if there were no civilizational Islamist challenge, Alinsky would be important because President Obama is an Alinskyite — as I said earlier, he learned it, taught it, and contributed a chapter to an Alinsky retrospective. Alinsky’s shrewd, practical method for achieving radical social change is to bore into our institutions from the inside, to co-opt our language, our law, and our principles (which the Left, more elastically, calls “our values”) in order to alter them fundamentally. But Alinsky becomes even more significant because his strategy finds important parallels in Hassan al-Banna’s roadmap for Islamic revolution — a ground-up plan that also strives for a long-term infiltration of a society’s institutions, especially the schools, the media, the law, and the agencies of government. For my money, that goes a long way toward explaining why Islamists and radical Leftists work so well together.
LOPEZ: Your first chapter title is “With Willing Submission.” Did you ever stop and wonder if you need to hold onto that for the third book title?
McCARTHY: Hah! My friend and publisher Roger Kimball will get a kick out of this very perceptive question, Kathryn. I actually had “With Willing Submission” (or variations on this Koranic theme of submission) as a working title for a long time. I finally decided to go with “The Grand Jihad” and the invocation of “sabotage” in the subtitle because of the 1991 Muslim Brotherhood memorandum. I wanted to be able to say to people, “Look, this isn’t me inferring what Islamists are up to; this is me telling you exactly what they themselves unabashedly say they are up to.” But I was always attached to “With Willing Submission,” so when I put it aside as the title for the book, I still thought it was a fitting title for the first chapter.
LOPEZ: Where can we go from here? Domestically? Diplomatically? Reasonably? What could this White House possibly do right? And what should Republicans eyeing the presidency be saying? And how should they be preparing?
McCARTHY: We should look at the Islamist challenge as having two aspects: terrorism and infiltration (or sabotage). On terrorism, it’s simple — not easy, but simple. You have to hunt terrorists down wherever on earth they operate, and you have to treat the regimes that aid and abet them as terrorists — which doesn’t mean you have to attack every such regime, but does mean you have to regard them, unambiguously and without apology, as the enemy.
On infiltration, we must first recognize that it is happening. Then we should focus on the aspects of sharia that cannot be squared with American constitutional republicanism and individual liberty. We should make the case with every means at our disposal — political, social, and legal — that Islamism (i.e., this authoritarian brand of sharia-Islam) must be rejected. That would go a long way toward empowering the true moderate Muslims (i.e., the ones who don’t want to live under sharia or Islamicize the West) and flushing out the faux moderates.
That’s how I think Republicans and security-minded Democrats in the political class (admittedly few in number) ought to think about it. Other than killing terrorists overseas, I don’t think this White House is inclined to do anything else I would do. As I explain in the book, the president is philosophically in favor of radical change, and what I am describing is an agenda toward just the opposite end.
LOPEZ: How important is the fight over enemy combatants and the courts to this whole jihad business?
McCARTHY: The legal fight is crucial. In the immediate sense, it is about our security — will jihadists be transferred here, and inevitably released here? Will we be required to disclose our national-defense information to comply with due-process requirements? Will we be able to gather all the intelligence the laws of war would allow us to gather? In the longer run, it’s about whether we are still a free, self-determining people who take charge of the most important decisions a body politic makes, namely, decisions about our security. If we delegate those decisions to politically insulated judges — or if we allow the judges to usurp them — then we are no longer free or self-determining.
LOPEZ: Are the most important two sentences of your book possibly: “The purpose of jihad is not to kill infidels. The purpose is to institute sharia.”?
McCARTHY: Probably true. If people grasp those rudimentary facts, everything else falls into place.
LOPEZ: The New York Times did a pretty fair profile of you a few months back. Was there a grander significance in that? That perhaps we’ve reached some kind of “getting it” milestone?
McCARTHY: For all the criticism the Times deservedly gets, there have always been some extraordinary journalists there who are not agenda-driven and who try hard to get it right. I am lucky that Ben Weiser, who wrote the profile, is one of them. I’ve also been treated very fairly when the Times has occasionally asked me to contribute to an online debate feature it occasionally runs. The paper has always published exactly what I’ve written — any editing has been stylistic or for length (always a problem with me), but never substance.
In the greater scheme of things, though, I wouldn’t read too much into my experience, which has had some downsides, too. I thought, for instance, it was strange that the Times didn’t review Willful Blindness — not because I expected the paper to agree with my thesis but simply because the Times covered the Blind Sheikh case fairly extensively as a news event. My book was the first account from an insider about what it was like to try to apply the justice system to a national-security challenge. If nothing else, one might have thought that was news fit to print.
LOPEZ: If tea partiers were to take up one point in your book what might you hope it be?
McCARTHY: That our security is a bedrock of our freedom, and that there is an Islamist civilizational movement that sees itself at war with the West and that is determined to snuff out our freedom culture.
LOPEZ: Is this administration anti-Israel? What accounts for the hostility? How does it fit into this Grand Jihad picture?
McCARTHY: The administration is anti-Israel. Obama and many of his advisers reject the propositions that Islamist ideology is fundamentally opposed to Western civilization, mainstream among the world’s Muslims, and the root cause of our problems. They come from the point of view that American policy is the root cause, especially our tilt in favor of Israel. As I relate in the book, focusing on Obama’s Cairo speech, their arguments are subtle attacks on the legitimacy of both Israel’s historical claims to its homeland and its commitment to being a Jewish state. The destruction of Israel — or, at the very least, the forfeiture of its character as a Jewish state — is a top goal of the Grand Jihad.
LOPEZ: Does Israel need to change its posture at all?
McCARTHY: I don’t think so. They are a tiny country confronted by neighbors who, supported by hundreds of millions of Islamists and Leftists, would like to annihilate them. And still Israel has a thriving Arab-Muslim sector that lives more freely than Arabs live anywhere else in the Middle East. No country is perfect, but the Israelis are fighting for their very survival and doing so with great dignity against overwhelming, ruthless opposition. I don’t see how they can afford to change their posture — not in the direction their critics would like Israel to go.
LOPEZ: You’ve done a number of interviews about Grand Jihad already. Is there anything you’re surprised no one is asking you (including me!)?
McCARTHY: Yes, I thought one of the most remarkable episodes covered in the book is the ties between President Obama and Kenya’s Communist faction, and, in turn, the alliance recently forged between that same faction and the Islamists. To me, everything about this is endlessly fascinating. Obama’s father (whose work Obama often lauds) was a Communist. The American media suppressed the father’s work during the campaign: There was one story gently mentioning, in passing, that Barack Obama Sr. had written an essay that “criticized the government’s approach to economic planning.” I was startled when I found the article, which is called “Problems Facing Our Socialism” and champions an alternative, “scientific socialism” — i.e., Communism — approach.
Obama Jr., as a sitting U.S. senator, spent six days in Kenya barnstorming on behalf of Raila Odinga, the anti-Western, radical Leftist presidential candidate — a move that outraged the incumbent, pro-American Kenyan government. Later, it emerged that Odinga had made a secret agreement with Kenyan Islamists to impose sharia law. Moreover, when Odinga lost the election, the Islamists rioted, with the result that thousands were displaced and many were killed. Far from reproach, this extortion resulted in his installation as prime minister, a position that had to be created (Kenya hadn’t had a prime minister since Kenyatta, during the year or so when it was still in the process of severing ties with England — after which Kenyatta became president).
I just think that is a stunning set of events, and it’s gotten almost no attention.
LOPEZ: What can Congress do? Presuming the Republicans take at least the House in November?
McCARTHY: The best service it could perform would be to force a rethinking of our approach to Islam. There are severe threats against us, they are broader than terrorism, and they are driven by a very mainstream interpretation of Islam. We need to recognize that this is so. We need to end the mindset that says if you are not a “violent extremist,” you must be a moderate. Sharia is not moderate, and those who endorse introducing elements of it into our law, our financial system, and our society are not moderates.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its tentacles are actively engaged in a subversive strategy — “sabotage,” as they put it — to destroy the West. They’re entitled to their views, but they shouldn’t have the sort of entrée they have into government agencies, and they shouldn’t be consulted on how we do law enforcement, intelligence collection, and security. We shouldn’t care so much what they think — we should be promoting the Muslims who want a separation of mosque and state, who are unambiguous in their condemnation of Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and Brotherhood ideology. The Islamists are the problem, not the solution, and you can’t solve a problem by “partnering” with it.
LOPEZ: Is the Grand Jihad going to get worse before it gets better? Do you have cause for optimism?
McCARTHY: It’s pretty bad now, but it could get much worse. There could be more attacks, and unless we recognize and oppose the broader campaign against us, it will make more inroads — we could start seeing “no-go zones,” the Islamist enclaves that have become common in Europe.
But there is room for optimism. As we’ve discussed, the Islamists and Leftists have deep disagreements. They collaborate only when they have a common enemy or obstacle that is strong enough to make their differences seem less consequential. Here, that common enemy is the freedom culture. If it weren’t so strong, if it weren’t so ingrained in who we are as a people, they’d already have rolled over it. They haven’t been able to do that. They’ll keep trying, but my sense is that Americans have decided we are a uniquely good country after all, we’re tired of hearing otherwise (especially from our political leadership), and, on reflection, we’re more of a mind to celebrate our freedom culture than apologize for it . . . or surrender it.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.