Politics & Policy

Islamism Resurgent: A Review of The Grand Jihad

From the June 7, 2010, issue of NR.

The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, by Andrew C. McCarthy (Encounter, 455 pp., $27.95)

The very notion of a Muslim America might seem preposterous, downright laughable, but there are people and forces identifiably working towards that end. “Islamism” is the term that describes the growing global movement of Muslims for whom the supremacy of their faith justifies every kind of deception and violence.

#ad#Islamism as we experience it today began in Egypt between the world wars, with the movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood. Over the years, the Brothers have been phenomenally successful, establishing themselves in one form or another in at least 60 countries. In 1991, the Brotherhood’s top leader in America wrote a memorandum for the Brothers to make them understand their present purposes — and, in so doing, provided the title of this book. They were engaged, he explained, on “a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” Had he known that the FBI would obtain this document, he might have been more guarded. Yet today’s foremost spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, boasts in much the same manner: “We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America, not through the sword but through dawa [the Arabic for proselytizing, or outreach].”

People in public positions — George W. Bush, for instance, Tony Blair, and pretty well all other European politicians — like to maintain that Islam is a religion of peace, and consequently it has become politically correct, indeed mandatory, to say that Islamism is a deformity, nothing whatever to do with the faith. Andrew C. McCarthy has the independence of mind and the courage to put the opposite point of view, that Islamism is the practical derivative of Islam itself. The doctrines of the faith and the savagery of Muslims are directly related or, as McCarthy defines it, they form a “nexus.” Plentiful incitements to violence and war against non-Muslims are to be found in the Koran to substantiate the point.

Islamism means jihad, and jihad means the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law as laid down in a doctrinal and theological form that cannot be challenged, and that means a Muslim society and Muslim supremacy for ever and ever, amen. Sharia, as McCarthy puts it, “establishes a state religion, rejects the freedom of citizens to govern themselves irrespective of a religious code, proscribes freedom of conscience, nullifies economic freedom, destroys the principle of equality under the law, subjugates non-Muslims in the humiliation of dhimmitude [officially recognized second-class status], and calls for the execution of homosexuals and apostates” — all of which is “antithetical to bedrock American principles.”

McCarthy has a serious case to make, even if the material has its sensational side. He was plunged into the study of Islamism as the federal prosecutor in the case of the Blind Sheikh responsible for the 1993 terror attack on the World Trade Center. That outrage was widely dismissed as an aberration, an isolated phenomenon, the act of a few deranged criminals. That was both ignorant and condescending. 9/11 and subsequent attacks provide the contrary evidence of a sustained international campaign planned and waged by purposeful and capable men. It is their belief that Muslims everywhere are suffering from injustices inflicted upon them through no fault of their own. Bad Muslims and wicked non-Muslims are held responsible for everything that has gone wrong in the Islamic world, and good Muslims are obligated to resort to jihad to put this right, sacrificing their lives if they have to.

#page#A plethora of organizations is at work in the United States implanting Islamism with all the overt and covert means at their disposal. The first step has been to arrange for some sort of social separation from the native non-Muslims, or what McCarthy calls “voluntary apartheid.” He duly unpacks the complicated genealogy of the organizations set up for this purpose: the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, the Muslim Students Association, the Islamic Assembly of North America, the North American Islamic Trust, the Muslim American Society, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and others besides, all more or less derivatives of the original model of the Muslim Brotherhood.

#ad#In opposition to American law, bogus charities surreptitiously funnel money to such causes as al-Qaeda and the Palestinian Islamists of Hamas. CAIR is an especially subversive organization, masquerading as a civil-rights lobby but prominently and consistently defending indicted terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. One of its officials called the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania the unfortunate result of “misunderstandings on both sides.” Other CAIR figures have been convicted of federal felonies, including terrorism, illegal financial transactions, and recruiting jihadists; and some have been deported for their offenses.

The diversity of these bodies reflects the careerist capabilities of those coming to the top of them, and it is more apparent than real because, in general terms, they are front organizations for Saudi Arabia, whose foreign and domestic policies they exist to promote. According to McCarthy, Saudi Arabia has spent in the United States alone $100 billion and probably more on its policy of “sabotaging,” which includes funding mosques like the Dar al-Hijrah in northern Virginia, where the Islamist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki prepared Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to kill and wound his army colleagues at Fort Hood. (Awlaki fled to Yemen to avoid investigation, but remained in touch by e-mail.) The one genuine dispute between these bodies and their representatives concerns the implementation of terror. Some believe that terror is an indispensable weapon that must so undermine the will of Americans that they will collapse, sue for peace, and convert to Islam. The more cold-blooded argue that terror is certainly a vital tool in the long term, but 9/11 proves that it risks provoking Americans to defend themselves with superior violence, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, and therefore for the time being its use is premature.

Granted their view of the irremediable malice of infidels and Westerners, Islamists are behaving predictably, you might even say naturally. They want a clash of civilizations, and they shall have it. Much more extraordinary, much more damaging, is the support given by the Left to Islamism. In McCarthy’s judgment, these partners may look improbable but actually they are two of a kind: “The essentials of their visions coalesce: They are totalitarian, collectivist, and antithetical to . . . individual liberty.” Elsewhere he rephrases this analysis: “With their collectivist philosophy, transnational outlook, totalitarian demands, and revolutionary designs, Islamists are natural allies of the radical Left. That doesn’t mean the alliance is naturally enduring,” but only that free-market capitalism and the liberty of the individual are enemies they have in common.

What is apparent here is an intellectual failure current throughout the West. Due to some inferiority complex or other psychological disorders, many Westerners have internalized the negative view that Islamists have of them, and feel themselves to be guilty as charged, capitalists, exploiters, racists, and what have you. Third World sadism perpetuates First World masochism in a vicious cycle. Ranks of professors and Islamist apologists line up with the likes of Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi, John Esposito, and Juan Cole. A chapter or two about these persistent, home-grown saboteurs would have helped to nail down the argument McCarthy is making.

#page#One representative and very exposed leftist is Barack Obama, and McCarthy builds much of his case about today’s fellow-traveling with Islamism around him. He identifies him with “a Leftism of the most insidious kind: secular and uncompromising in its rejection of bourgeois values, but feverishly spiritual in its zeal to tear down the existing order.” Such was indeed the aim of those once exercising intellectual influence on Obama — for instance, Saul Alinsky, the community organizer who politicized him; the Communist-party member Frank Marshall Davis, at whose feet he sat; and the race-obsessed and anti-American Jeremiah Wright, in whose Chicago church Obama worshipped for some 20 years.

#ad#His accusations against Obama as president are comprehensive. Obama is suffocating freedom, encouraging voluntary apartheid; and he and his Islamist allies consider capitalist democracy an abject failure. His speech in Cairo in the summer of 2009 was to mark a new beginning in the relationship of the United States to the Muslim world. That speech was co-hosted by Al-Azhar University, at which the Blind Sheikh and Sheikh Qaradawi had studied, and selected members of the Muslim Brotherhood were in the audience. They may have been as surprised as everyone else to hear in that speech that Islam had always been a part of America’s history.

All around him McCarthy sees evidence of appeasement and surrender in response to the example set at the top. The Department of Homeland Security is a monstrosity, more harmful than helpful to national security. Muslim officials and imams deliberately provoke the public with Islamist behavior but then demand, and receive, groveling apologies from those whom they have offended. An Orwellian order comes that language has to be controlled, and terms like “jihad” and “Islamofascism” purged. The expression “War on Terror” is now bowdlerized to “Overseas Contingency Operation against Man-Caused Disasters,” and officials have to keep a straight face when they utter this complete travesty of reality. Maj. Stephen Coughlin, an expert in Islamic jurisprudence, was ousted from the Pentagon — at the behest of someone of Egyptian origins and dubious credentials — for a scholarly brief he had written. The incident when Obama bowed low to the Islamist bigot-in-chief, the king of Saudi Arabia, seems to McCarthy the perfect symbol of national abasement and a promise of worse to come.

Everyone must hope that Muslims will assimilate wherever they have immigrated, and that the Grand Jihad will fade away as fantasies do. In that event, this polemic will seem a curiosity, a state-of-the-nation pessimism at a time when things were in flux and Obama’s contribution still in the balance. But should the opposite occur, and the Grand Jihad make further inroads, then this will prove to have been a furious and prescient warning.

David Pryce-Jones is an NR senior editor. This review originally appeared in the June 7, 2010, issue of National Review.

David Pryce-Jones — David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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