Ten Years of Lessons Unlearned

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Ten years after 9/11 many politicians and pundits continue to misinterpret Islamic jihadism. Typical is the following comment from Senator Joseph Lieberman’s essay in Foreign Affairs, in which he speaks of “an ideological struggle within Islam, waged between an extremist minority that seeks to enslave the world and a moderate Muslim majority who want the same freedoms and opportunities that we all desire.” In this view, bin Laden and his ilk are outliers, fringe figures exploiting the lack of political freedom and economic opportunity among Muslims, particularly the young men who fill the jihadists’ ranks. This was the view of the New York Times right after the attacks, in an editorial opining that “the disappointed youth of Egypt and Saudi Arabia turn to religion for comfort.” In other words, we have interpreted jihadism through our own categories and concepts, dismissing the history and theology of Islam with which most Muslims are intimately familiar.

Indeed, this misapprehension began long before 9/11. The Iranian Revolution and its leader the Ayatollah Khomeini were analyzed from the perspective of Western notions. Khomeini, a revered and respected Islamic scholar, was dismissed by Time magazine as “a fanatic whose judgments are harsh, reasoning bizarre and conclusions surreal.” The revolution was seen not for what it was, a restoration of Islam’s political and social preeminence diminished by the modernizing secularism of the Shah, but as a nationalist, anti-colonial movement for which, Barry Rubin writes, “Islamist rhetoric was seen as a mask, as a convenient vehicle for expressing accumulated economic, political, and social grievances.” Mistaking a religious movement for a Western political one, the U.S. was caught unprepared for the theocratic regime that has for thirty years been the premier state supporter of jihadist terror, and today is actively seeking nuclear weapons.

Despite that mistake, our reaction to the latest phase of jihadism has been equally myopic. The 14-centuries-long doctrine of violent jihad against the unbelievers––copiously documented in the Koran, hadiths, and Islamic theology and jurisprudence, and written on every page of history––is dismissed as irrelevant compared to the Western ideals we assume drive all peoples: political freedom and material prosperity. Religious belief is either a Marxist opiate or a Freudian illusion, a relic from our benighted past that progress will reduce to what it is in the West today: a mere lifestyle choice with no greater claim on the public square or political policy than any other. The jihadists are thus “distorters” of Islam, disguised “fascists,” would-be tyrants exploiting religious beliefs in order to seize power for themselves. And this “extremist” minority stands in opposition to that alleged moderate majority, whom it is our duty to aid in their struggle for human rights, freedom, and all the goods we enjoy.

What is curious, however, is that for the last decade, the thousands of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims, the violent riots over trivial “insults” to Islam, the murders committed by Muslims like the Fort Hood killer are never met with global widespread protests on the part of all those Muslim “moderates” presumably outraged by this “extremist” distortion of Islamic doctrine. Muslim opinion did turn against bin Laden, but that came only after the al Qaeda jihadists began killing fellow Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Formulaic “condemnations” of terrorism are indeed trotted out by Muslim leaders after an attack, but always as the prelude to the demonization of Israel and American foreign policy, to whose depredations the attacks are an understandable response. I’ll believe in Senator Lieberman’s “moderate majority” when hundreds of thousands of ordinary Muslims march in protest against the next jihadist attack on Westerners.

Having created this “moderate minority,” for the last decade we have anxiously monitored our public statements about Islam in order not to alienate all those Muslims we think are outraged by the jihadists’ “distortions.” Thus we have heard from Republican and Democratic administrations alike all about the “religion of peace.” According to President Bush in the aftermath of 9/11, Islam’s “teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.” Nearly a decade later, John Brennan, Obama’s assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, repeated the same received wisdom: “Nor does President Obama see this challenge as a fight against ‘jihadists.’ Describing terrorists in this way––using a legitimate term, ‘jihad,’ meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal––risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve.” Unfortunately for this sort of thinking, the evidence for understanding jihad as the violent defense of Islam against its enemies is overwhelming in Islamic religious writings. Khomeini certainly thought so: “Islam is a religion of blood for the infidels but a religion of guidance for other people,” he proclaimed. And so did Muslim Brothers founder Hassan al-Banna, who wrote, “Fighting the unbelievers 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.”

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  • http://www.resonoelusono.com/Infamy.htm Alexander Gofen

    The lies and obfuscation Re. islam in Lieberman’s brochure is nothing new. For 80 years the “progressive” policy makers (the State Department in first place) deliberately diminished the global aspirations of the big enemies of freedom such as Soviets, Nazis, and now of islam. Since recognition of USSR in the 1930s and on, the entire US policy was essentially against American interests. It was mostly appeasement of the enemies and denial of the real jeopardy we were in.

    These days the jeopardy is much higher due to confluence of many deadly factors:


    The newest of the factors is an erosion of our national identity (always presumed exclusively Judeo-Christian indeed). Now it is both the lefts and THE RIGHTS OF RON PAUL ilk who blatantly deny our national identity, who insist as though the 1st Amendment concerns also islam! As though it allows proselytizing islam and converting America into islamic nation. As though to confront islam is against American interests: To appease islam and submit to it is…

    We are in a very perilous situation when the opposite wings of the political spectrum joined and turned into dhimmies or worse: the islamic collaborators.

    • ObamaYoMoma

      Alexander…you always see the world with crystal clear moral clarity.

    • WildJew

      At least FDR, a leftist-socialist, declared war not only on Nazism but on Germany and by extension the German people. What did Bush declare war against? 'Terrorists' who pervert the peaceful teachings of Islam? Now Mr. Thornton is properly taking former President Bush to task for misleading Americans. I did not see anything in the seven years post 9/11 taking Bush to task for his repeated falsehoods about the enemy on the right. Did you? What and who has Obama declared we are at war with? "Violent extremists?"

  • ObamaYoMoma

    Unfortunately for this sort of thinking, the evidence for understanding jihad as the violent defense of Islam against its enemies is overwhelming in Islamic religious writings.

    Actually, jihad is holy fighting in the cause of Allah against non-Muslims to make Islam supreme, and as such it can be both violent and non-violent. In fact, the non-violent varieties of jihad relative to the violent varieties of jihad takes place astronomically far more prevalently, yet because violent jihad is always conflated with terrorism, the non-violent varieties of jihad take place completely unacknowledged and unopposed in the West today.

    For instance, mass Muslim immigration to the West is a form of non-violent stealth jihad that takes place completely unacknowledged and unopposed, as Muslims never ever migrate to the West or other non-Muslim countries for the purpose of assimilating and integrating, but instead to eventually subjugate and dominate in order to make Islam supreme via demographic conquest. Indeed, look at the hundreds of Muslim no-go zones ruled by Sharia that are sprinkled throughout Europe and are now also forming in the USA.

    where after ten years of occupation and nation-building the jury is still out on what sort of regime will be left after we depart.

    The jury may still be out for you, but the jury I was apart of always knew what sort of regimes will inevitably be left. Indeed, both regimes are in effect Sharia states and if you believe that Sharia states will somehow be loyal friends and allies with the infidel US and West, then I have a bridge for sale that I need to sell you. Indeed, both nation-building missions couldn't have been anymore counterproductive or fantasy based.

    “Now, throughout the Middle East, we see the narrative of violent Islamist extremism being rejected by tens of millions of Muslims who are rising up and peacefully demanding lives of democracy, dignity, economic opportunity, and involvement in the modern world. Indeed, the Arab Spring and its successes thus far are the ultimate repudiations of al Qaeda and everything Islamist extremism stands for.”

    It's hard for me to believe that such unhinged oblivious useful idiots like Joseph Lieberman, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham, two of which are Republicans, by the way, are actually elected members of the US Senate.. Indeed, this world gets more and more surreal for me every day. No wonder this country is going to hell so damn fast. No one has the first damn clue. It's sad and pathetic, that's all I got to say.

    Indeed, Lieberman's article is an indication of how much the paradigm of leftist thinking pervades the dialogue on both sides of the political aisle today. Sadly, it's also a very strong indication that the Republican Party is virtually indistinguishable from the Dhimmicrat Party today as well.

    • Zam

      Yes–we can refer to the bunch of them as either "Demicans" or "Republicocrats" (per Michael Savage and his Savage Nation)

  • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

    I would remind the author that Lieberman was AIPAC’s number one man in 2000 and also in 2006, even printing up campaign buttons in Hebrew.

    • StephenD

      A valid point…finally. Time for them to hold his feet to the fire as well, I'd say. That doesn't mean you throw the baby out with the bath water. It merely indicates he needs to be properly educated on the issue. Maybe it’s time for some sessions with David Yerushalmi or Spencer or Horowitz. Lieberman may yet prove to be a substantial advocate for the fight against the Islamization of America.

    • WildJew

      Why is it to Lieberman's credit. AIPAC supported the forcible uprooting of thousands of peaceful, law-abiding Jews from Gush Katif, Gaza, August 2005. So adamant was AIPAC in its approach, they would not give one anti-'disengagement' speaker the podium at their 2005 annual meeting in Washington. Even Ambassador Yoram Ettinger was banned by AIPAC. AIPAC supports the so-called "two state solution" to the Jewish question in Israel. Why would AIPAC support a Muslim-enemy state in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem, dedicated to Israel's destruction? I would like to see Israel wean herself from U.S. aid. AIPAC works to keep Israel dependent on American aid. I'm not saying AIPAC has not done good, yet in many ways AIPAC has not been good for Israel or the US in my opinion. I would like to see a more independent Israel who makes her own security decisions. I can understand why the Democrats support a Muslim-enemy state in Israel. Why do the Republicans? I read a piece written by Rick Perry the other day on Israel. Even Perry drinks the "two state" Koolaid and Perry is a self-professed born again Christian like Bush! Don't these men read their Bibles? How can AIPAC have as its president, a fund-raiser for Obama?

      • Linda Rivera

        I don't trust ANY politician who supports a two-state solution. The two-state solution is the means to the PLANNED Second Holocaust.

  • WildJew

    FDR, a leftist-socalist, named the enemy.

  • voted against carter

    ' TAQIYYA '
    Do your own research about it if you don't know what this means.

    islam IS EVIL. PERIOD.

    islam strives for world domination.

    The quran commands muslims to exercise jihad.

    The quern commands muslims to establish shariah law.

    The quern commands muslims to impose islam on the entire world.

    islam is NOT a religion, it IS a totalitarian ideology.

    islam IS and has remained a death cult from its beginnings.

    islam wants to dominate all aspects of life, from the cradle to the grave.

    shariah law is a law that controls every detail of life in a islamic society.

    From civic- and family law to criminal law.

    It determines how one should eat, dress and even use the toilet.

    Oppression of women is good, drinking alcohol is bad.

    The core of the quran is the call to jihad.

    Jihad means a lot of things and is arabic for battle.

    islam means submission, there cannot be any mistake about its goal.

    islam and freedom, islam and democracy are not compatible.

    They are opposite values.

    mohamed's "wife" was six years old.

    That makes mohamed a PEDOPHILE!!!

    And you want to base a "Religion" on this a z z -holes rantings?

    Are you INSANE?

    I STAND with Israel

  • Mustafa Huffnpuff

    Our war is with all muslims. It is impossible to separate them into groups with the accuracy needed to decide which to kill.

  • mrbean

    The jihadists are motivated by the core principles of Islam with the goal of converting, killing, or subjugating all non-Muslims. Unfortunately, too many non-Muslims have reverted to a pre-9/11 mentality and do not see the necessity of an offensive war in Iraq or Afghanistan, or of a defensive war at home. Non-Muslims are going to have to decide to fight for their cultures, freedoms, and values or they are going to lose them. It is our killer instincts which must be harnessed if we expect to survive in a war with the Jihadists. Our weapons are only tools. It is a hard heart that kills. If our killer instincts are not clean and strong we will hesitate at the moment of truth. We will not kill. We will become dead Americans. And then wewill be in a world of trouble. Because there are a billion Muslims and on a few of us who will fight! Do you understand?

  • BrooklynChick

    Oh this is where all the blood-lusting extreme LEFT Trotskyite neo-conmen went. Your reign is coming to an end and your dream of killing every Muslim in the world will never be realized. You should all do the honorable thing and kill yourselves.


    • crypticguise

      I think you may be very confused.

    • DonJuan

      You had better hope that we get all the ones in the US, or else they'll rape you and then stone you for it. Stupid, misguided idiot.

  • Seamystic

    Sad to see that Leftist Crotch Cannibals, as well as Islamic Paedophiles & Bestialists, are now driving the present agenda in the U.S.A..
    Most of Washingtons Politicos are bribed, or fear standing for REALITY.
    "GUARDIANS OF DEMOCRACY, ARISE!" It's time to instill Fear in the Leftist Pundits who are acting Treacherous and Treasonous, in relation to U.S.'s Constitution. Sign the "Ban Islam" petition if you have any Backbone. http://www.petitiononline.com/MYSTIC/petition.htm

  • Bernie

    What is Sen. Joseph Lieberman doing sticking his nose into Islamic debates? As far as I can make out Khomeini and Khameini; has just as good arguments in Islamic theorlogy as anyone else including the Senator.

  • Linda Rivera

    Politicians KNOW the truth about Islam. Politicians are DELIBERATELY deceiving for Islam.

    Supported by US/EU tax dollars, global jihadists, Palestinian Authority Seek Islamic CONQUEST of America, Britain and the world.

    Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, Palestinian Authority TV, May 13, 2005: "The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world." http://www.nysun.com/foreign/terrorists-promise-m

    American and British leaders must immediately explain to Americans and Brits why they finance the PLO/PA terrorist organization whose declared goal is Islamic conquest of our countries.

    Not one more tax dollar to to PLO/PA/Hamas!

  • Linda Rivera


  • xlent

    Islam in a nut shell, …jihad (death to all infadels) and taqiyya (lie to the infadels)

  • nampopo

    Islam is the fastest growing religion in the west. It is a fact. Some people are still in denial mode. The absence of religion or the inadequate christianity has left a void for Islam to penetrate. It is just wishful thinking that yuo will see Islam go away just because someone wishes so. Truth loving people will find it and accept it as is. Christianity has failed with all the born agains like Bush et al. McDonalds is everywhere even in the Muslim world and the tolerate that and you do not tolerate a mosque in your neighborhood. Sensible people are turning to Islam for guidance even your leaders read the Qur’an for guidance and they see sense in that. We are not all terrorists and barbaric. Some of us grew up in a non-muslim family but I was converted after reading the Qur’an and good morals taught by Muhammad (peace be upon him). Since I became a muslim I never had stress in my life and I have the contentment of the that I didn’t growing up as a christian. The Qur’an teaches us there is no compulsion in religion because truth is manifest from error.

    • Mysterion

      Save all that crap for the lefties that like you. We don't believe a word of it.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    I hear you buddy!

  • CisscoKidd

    Can illegal mexicans wear these jackets? They can surely afford them–

    Now do you know where you should be concentrating your marketing efforts? Now do you know? Now?