Henry Luce would have been mortified. The founder of Time magazine believed Americans had a responsibility to stand up to the enemies of freedom and democracy. He saw the 20th century as “the first great American Century.” He would have wanted the United States to lead in the current era as well.
Now Time has hired Fareed Zakaria, who is perhaps best known for The Post-American World, which, he insists, “is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else.”
Among those rising: self-proclaimed jihadis and Islamists about whom Zakaria expresses minimal concern. On his CNN show the other day, he noted that a synagogue in Beirut is being restored. Hezbollah, he said, supports the restoration: “Yes, Hezbollah — the one that the United States has designated a foreign terrorist organization. Hezbollah’s view on the renovation goes like this. ‘We respect divine religions, including the Jewish religion. The problem is with Israel’s occupation of Arab lands . . . not with the Jews.’ Food for thought.”
Let’s chow down. Among the reasons Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist organization is that in 1983 it dispatched suicide bombers to strike American peacekeepers in Beirut. The terrorists killed 220 Marines — the deadliest day for Marines since Iwo Jima. Eighteen Navy personnel and three Army soldiers were also slaughtered.
Perhaps Zakaria thinks Hezbollah has mellowed in the years since? Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hezbollah, has declared: “Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, ‘Death to America’ will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan.”
As for Jews, Nasrallah has said he hopes they will all “gather in Israel” because that “will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”
Zakaria might have inquired as to how many Jews are in Lebanon. In 1948, there were 24,000. After decades of persecution, as few as 50 remain. Most Lebanese Jews have fled to Israel, which, as George Will recently pointed out, “was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called ‘the Arab world.’”
Can Zakaria really be ignorant of all this? Is a press release all it takes to derail him from reality and send him before the cameras to proclaim that poor Hezbollah has been misunderstood?
Zakaria arrives at Time at an interesting moment. The weekly — on both its American and international editions — recently featured a cover story titled “Is America Islamophobic?” The question was rhetorical. The evidence: a poll finding that 46 percent of Americans “believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers.”
In a previous column, I argued that the facts inescapably lead to that conclusion. In response, Time’s Joe Klein last week called me a “hater.” He also employed a clever trick. In his diatribe against me, he distorted what was asked and answered in the poll, changing it to 46 percent of Americans “thinking that Muslims were more likely than others religionists to act violently.”
You see his deception? The poll asked whether Islamic scripture and its interpretation by radical Islamic clerics encourage violence. But Klein made it appear that a plurality of Americans regard Muslims as congenitally violent. That allowed Klein to charge that I had “slandered” all Muslims, every single one.
Which, I guess, is how Klein jumps to his next charge: that I have “problems with Sufis — among the most peaceful religionists extant — the former Cat Stevens, the Green Movement protesters in Iran, the ‘liberated’ people of Iraq, plus several close Muslim friends of mine who are — at least, it seems to me — far more civilized than any hater who would make this sort of statement.”
Had Klein bothered to spend five minutes reporting, he would know that I’m on record urging the U.S. government to support Iran’s Green Movement. He’d know that I began working with Iraqi freedom fighters soon after 9/11 and that several have served with distinction on the staff of the think tank I head up.
As for Sufis, I was recently privileged to attend a small dinner for the American Sufi leader Sheikh Hisham Kabbani. He is, in my opinion, a man of peace, integrity, and inspiring spirituality. And, by the way, Kabbani is concerned about the growing number of mosques run by fundamentalists and radicals. Does that make him a “hater” and an Islamophobe, too?
Klein is right about Cat Stevens, but I didn’t much care for “Peace Train” before his conversion to Islam. I don’t know what to say about Klein’s “civilized” Muslim friends — except that it seems rather patronizing for him to describe them that way.
It all adds up to this: By defending such terrorist groups as Hezbollah, while simultaneously denouncing those attempting to understand the motives and methods of ruthless jihadis and insidious Islamists, Klein, Zakaria, and Time are not just spreading disinformation — serving junk food for thought — they are pursuing intellectual disarmament in the middle of the War against the West.
By so doing, they also undermine those many Muslims who do not want to live under the rule of the Taliban, Khomeinist mullahs, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other militants intent on imposing their oppressive versions of Islam on all of us.
The Lebanese historian Antoine Sfeir has written that “to attack the Islamists, to denounce their actions and their lies, is not to attack Islam. To attack the Islamists is, on the contrary, to defend the Muslims themselves, the first though not the only victims of the Islamists.” Zakaria, Klein, and others at Time can’t seem to grasp this idea. Henry Luce would not have put up with them.
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism.