Politics & Policy

In the Aftermath of Brussels, There Is a Mistake We Shouldn’t Make

Outside the Maalbeek metro station in Brussels following the attack. (Cédric Simon/AFP/Getty)

It’s happened. Again. Another significant terror attack in another great European city. London, Madrid, Paris, and now Brussels. It should go without saying that this is exactly what happens when nations open their borders to Islamic radicals and then allow the spirit of jihad to flourish within their cities. It should go without saying that these radicals cannot be “won over” even by the best of intentions, the most politically correct policies, or the most fervent desires for multiculturalism. Europe tries to “win over” Islamists. Islamists merely try to win.

We’ve known these normal rules of terrorism for years — even if we don’t want to face them. Large Islamic communities can and will shelter jihadists, protecting them with their silence even if they don’t actively facilitate their attacks. Terrorist safe havens that used to exist mainly in the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan/Pakistan now exist in the heart of Europe. Jihadists laugh at Western squeamishness (Belgian law actually prohibits nighttime police raids — a policy terrorists have exploited before) and use our sensitivities to facilitate mass murder.

Jihad is an eternal, all-encompassing unholy war against the unbeliever.

But here’s what we often don’t know. Here’s the mistake we always make after a major terror attack — we believe this is what jihad looks like, and that stopping jihad means stopping violence. But the reality is that terrorist bombings represent merely an aspect of jihad — the most spectacular and bloody, to be sure — but only a part of the sinister whole.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans were treated to a parade of “experts” who assured a worried public that jihadists were perverting the meaning of the term, that the term really and truly only referred to a peaceful, internal struggle — the quest for goodness and holiness. We’ve learned to laugh at this nonsense, but in so doing I fear that we’ve wrongly narrowed the term. To us, jihad is a bomb. It’s a beheading.

#share#No, jihad is an eternal, all-encompassing unholy war against the unbeliever. It is waged in the mind of the believer, to fortify his or her own courage and faith. It is waged online and in the pages of books and magazines, to simultaneously cultivate the hatred and contempt of the committed for the kafir — the unbeliever — while also currying favor, appeasement, and advantage from the gullible West. Jihad is the teaching in the mosque. It is the prayer in the morning, the social-media post in the afternoon, and the donation to an Islamic “charity” in the evening.

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There is jihad in predatory, coordinated sexual assault, there is jihad when Western camera crews are chased from Muslim neighborhoods, and there is jihad when Muslim apologists invariably crawl from the sewers of Western intelligentsia, blaming Europeans for the imperfections in their life-saving hospitality.

So don’t make the mistake of believing that Europe or America only “periodically” or “rarely” deal with jihad. We confront it every day, just as the world has confronted it — to greater or lesser degrees — ever since Muslim armies first emerged from the Arabian peninsula. While not all Muslims are jihadists, jihad is so deeply imprinted in the DNA of Islam that the world will confront it as long as Islam lives.

#related#And so combatting jihad isn’t simply a matter of firepower — though that is certainly vital to the work — nor is it a matter of perfecting intelligence and police tactics. It’s the spiritual and intellectual effort of generations. And while the West currently enjoys unmatched military superiority, its mind and spirit aren’t just grotesquely decayed, they’ve been intentionally vandalized. Unless we can reverse that decline — and rediscover the eternal truths that defined our civilization — our guns, bombs, and magnificently-trained troops will merely constitute the rear guard, the force that delays the inevitable.

Until Europe can rediscover its heart — the courage and faith that turned back the ancient Caliphs — then the bombs will stop only when the jihadists have won.

— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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