The Corner

Mukasey Must Reading

Two things you really ought to read.

First, in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, former attorney general Michael Mukasey reviewed two books that analyze U.S. national security in the context of the West’s relationship with Islam — Michael Scheuer’s Osama bin Laden and Peter Bergen’s The Longest War. The review is characteristic of Judge Mukasey, meaning it is thorough, brimming with insight, and a good read. All of it is worth pondering, but his thoughts about Islam are likely to get the most notice. There is an early hint in the Judge’s demurral from the tunnel vision of Scheuer, the former CIA bin Laden unit chief, when it comes to al Qaeda’s emir: “‘Osama Bin Laden’ seems so wound up with its subject that much else gets lost, including any analysis of what it is in Islam that might motivate Muslims apart from the example of bin Laden.” But it is in considering the meanderings of Bergen, CNN’s terrorism analyst, that Mukasey registers his strongest dissent from the mainstream media’s rose-tinted Islam:

Finally, consider Mr. Bergen’s assertion that “mainstream Islam” is rejecting al Qaeda and that the 9/11 attack was “un-Islamic,” a judgment that fails twice over, including once on his own evidence. If by “mainstream Islam” Mr. Bergen means moderate Islam, there is no such thing. There are many moderate Muslims, but there is simply no body of doctrine within Islam that provides a principled basis for condemning the 9/11 attacks.

Elsewhere in his own book Mr. Bergen discloses that a fatwa authorizing attacks on civilians—the fatwa that is thought to have provided the theological basis for the 9/11 attacks—was issued by Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind cleric whom I sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and in a later plot to bomb New York landmarks. In one section of “The Longest War,” Mr. Bergen touts Abdel Rahman’s status as an authoritative theologian; in another, he dismisses the attack that Abdel Rahman authorized as “un-Islamic.” It’s hard to see how that works.

Mr. Bergen also cites condemnation of the 9/11 attacks by a cleric from Cairo’s Al Azhar University, but that is the institution that gave us Abdel Rahman. Similarly, Mr. Bergen notes the rejection of such violence by cleric Yusuf al Qaradawi, a darling of the bien-pensant left, but neglects to tell us that Qaradawi’s oeuvre includes a fatwa authorizing women to engage in suicide bombing.

Reading all of it will reward your time (see also Scott Johnson’s related post at Powerline — and I thank Scott for his kind words at Willful Blindness). Also well worth your time is Jennifer Rubin’s interview with Judge Mukasey for the current issue of the Weekly Standard. As Jen catalogues, the former AG takes a dim view of much of what is happening at the Justice Department under the current AG.


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