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What About Moderate Muslims?
Posted By Frontpagemag.com On December 8, 2011 @ 12:40 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 20 Comments
The panel discussion below recently took place at David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend in West Palm Beach, Florida (Nov. 17-20, 2011). The transcript follows. To view the question and answer session, click here.
Karen Lugo: I thought this panel was of critical importance because so many of us are out there trying to talk about Islam. And there is always the question — what about moderate Muslims? And there’s always the question — how do we identify Muslims who would be supportive of patriotic American Constitutional values?
So over the last six months, I’ve been fairly involved in this kind of a public discussion, where I’ve done over 50 radio interviews in the last three, four months. I’ve been before five city councils, county board of supervisors, city planning commissions on mosque permits, and learning with a core group of people in my area how to have this conversation with public entities, elected officials.
We have also visited mosques on Open Mosque Day. We went, and to show — rather than just kind of cursing the darkness, which — at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, we are very good about identifying what is the challenge to our Western traditions. But in our case, we’ve decided to go into the mosques and ask the questions, record the answers, engage in a very local community fashion; so that we know who in our community is participating with us and supporting the Constitutional values and liberties that we support in America.
So in doing this, of course, it has been a matter of how we have this conversation. And there are no better qualified people to do this than the four panelists that will be discussing it today.
You may have already been somewhat involved in tracking the debate — the discussion, conversation — that Andrew McCarthy and Robert Spencer have been having on National Review Online. I’m going to introduce the panelists in series. They will speak in series for about 10 minutes each. And then we’ll have some time for questions. Those of you that are just coming in, there are additional chairs on the way. So they should be arriving soon. I will check on those in just a minute.
But we wanted to leave as much time as possible. We do only have an hour. So we wanted to leave as much time as we could for question-and-answer.
So I will be cutting the biographies fairly short. You’ll see most of these panelists again this weekend. And we all are friends, I think, with most of the people that we see up here.
So, first of all, Andrew McCarthy. With all of the work that I do, I either hear, “But Andrew McCarthy said,” or “Robert Spencer said,” as I’m working with all of the citizen activists in my area. So both Andrew and Robert are very, very well known.
But we know and love Andy for the fact that in 1995, he successfully prosecuted the Blind Sheikh. He is also author of “Willful Blindness,” which is the story of that prosecution, and very interesting for learning what our criminal courts can and cannot do, and the possible hazards of having these trials in criminal courts. He’s also written “The Grand Jihad,” and he’s up on National Review Online. And so, definitely make sure you are following him there.
Robert Spencer has written many books on Islam and helping us understand what is at the core and the heart of Islam. Robert also famously — at least, in my opinion — is a consultant for many military as well as some civilian enterprises. And I was delighted to be reading — I’m a big fan of Brad Thor novels. And the last one that I read, which was “The Last Patriot” — at the end of the book, Robert Spencer is credited as having advised Brad Thor. So I was greatly excited to know that.
But in addition, I was just as the Federalist Society convention, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey gave a seminal speech on Islam, starting with the history and going right to where we are in this nation today. Was very courageous, very declarative. And in that speech, he quoted our own Robert Spencer. So we are very proud and pleased to have Robert on this panel as well.
And then, a new face to some of us — Bosch Fawstin, who is a cartoonist and has been nominated for several awards, including one that’s the equivalent of an Emmy. He is working on a graphic novel which will be called “The Infidel.” And his lead character/superhero is called Pigman.
And as the Europeans have learned, there is a very, very interesting and, I think, proper role in a society like ours for wit and for ridicule in a smart fashion. I’m one who’s very emphatic about reasonable speech. But provoking the discussion, I think, in a smart and clever way can sometimes be a very productive thing. So we’re very interested to hear from Bosch today.
And then finally, we will hear from the Baroness Caroline Cox, who was recommended for her peerage by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She’s a cross-bench member of the House of Lords and was Deputy Speaker from 1986 to 2006. She’s very involved now in African and Armenian human rights issues and supporting the Christian communities against the Muslim oppression. And she also was involved in a lot of other human rights concerns.
She’s known as a Euro-skeptic. Here in the US, we call people phobic when they’re against something. But in Great Britain, she’s a skeptic, a Euro-skeptic. And importantly, she has introduced over this last summer an initiative called One Law for All, which would bring the Sharia tribunals back under the British courts.
So, we’ll start with Andrew McCarthy.
Andrew McCarthy: Thank you, Karen.
Karen was good enough to mention the Blind Sheikh case. And it’s worth going back to it because this is sort of how I not only come into this challenge, but to try to reflect the debt I owe to Robert Spencer. I think that when I got involved in trying to confront this — really, civilizational threat is the right way to put it — I knew nothing more about Islam than somebody’s who’s got a reasonably good education in the United States, which is to say not much.
And I wanted to believe what we were saying as a Justice Department, which was essentially that there was a fringe group — very, very small; almost unnoticeable, except that they were involved in committing such heinous acts — but they were totally unrepresentative of Islam, and that if we could just shave off this fringe, everything would be fine. Because Islam itself was peaceful and wonderful, and one of the great religious traditions of the world. And I wanted to believe that. And I think almost everybody in the government, when we first started to say those sorts of things, really did believe that.
What ended up happening was — in almost every trial, whether the lead defendant testifies or not, you have to get ready for him as if he were going to testify — and so it was with the Blind Sheikh. And he didn’t end up testifying. But I actually had to go to school on everything that we had that he had either written or said. And he was a very prolific speaker and writer.
And the problem that emerged over time, as I got immersed in his work product, was that every place that he said that the scripture said X or Y, he was not lying. He was not perverting Islam. It turned out that every place that he purported to quote scripture he was correct.
And you know, I wasn’t going to try to get into a theological debate with a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence from Al-Azhar University. But I did think, if we were right, that we ought to be able to nail him in one or two or three places. And there was no place you could do that.
Then, it started to dawn on me slowly that — well, you know, there’s not a whole lot that he could do for a terrorist organization. He can’t build a bomb, can’t conduct an attack. There’s nothing really that you would think of that a terrorist organization does that this guy would be particularly useful for them on, except that he was a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence, graduated from Al-Azhar University. And that singularly was the source of his ability to influence this movement and, actually, in fact, made him the most important person in the cell and in the cells that were being constructed. Because without his green light, things would not go forward, which I think underscores how powerful the ideology is that we’re talking about.
And then there was the final thing that really pushed me over the edge, which was we had a very extensive defense case, because we had such a long trial. The trial was nine months long. I think the defense case took about two and a half months. And during the course of the defense case, we had people who were actually moderate Muslim people who would come in to testify. And they really were moderate people — they wouldn’t commit a terrorist act or even think about committing a terrorist act, no matter what.
But every now and then while they were on the stand, some question about Islam would come up — you know, what does jihad mean, what is Sharia, what is Zakat? And three or four times, these perfectly nice, moderate people would say — well, I wouldn’t be qualified to render an opinion on that. You’d have to ask someone like him. And they would always point to the homicidal maniac –
– in the corner of my courtroom. And I thought it was — in real-life terms, it was a very powerful lesson — that you had these people who were ordinary, peaceful people who would not become terrorists under any circumstances. And yet, with respect to principal parts of their belief system, they were willing to take their guidance from somebody who was a five-alarm terrorist. So I thought — I came away thinking, from that experience, that man, we have this just totally backwards.
The good thing about a trial, particularly a trial of that nature, is that no matter what politically correct thing the government happens to be saying on the courthouse steps or down in Washington, in the four corners of the trial, you actually have to prove to people what happened, what the people did and why they did it. So we didn’t have politically correct Islam in our courtroom; we actually had, you know, what I now call Islamist ideology. And the question is — is it Islamist ideology, or is it Islam?
There’s the other side of this. We could not have done that case without patriotic American Muslims who helped us at every step of the way, either by infiltrating the cells, by helping us whip the evidence into shape, by helping us present it, by giving us intelligence. It was a very interesting dynamic. There were many people who were in the Muslim community, rank-and-file Muslims, who wanted to help the government, knowing exactly what it was that we were doing. Their condition to me usually was — I can only help you if no one will ever find out that I spoke to you.
And it became very obvious to us that there was a big divide between rank-and-file Muslim people in the community, who — at least among the older generations of them — tended to be pro-American and pro-Western, and the leadership of the mosques and the Islamic communities, who tended to be very heavily influenced by overseas elements, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. So you had this divide.
Here’s the problem. The guys from overseas, whether it’s the Muslim Brotherhood or the other groups that give the guidance to both the mosques and the community centers — when they quote scripture, it’s not like they’re — when they tell you what they think, and they root it in Islam, it’s not like they’re dancing on the head of a pin. When they say it’s in there, it’s in there. And when they rely on it, they are not relying on something that’s an aberration.
And this goes to, as I said, the debt I owe to Robert. I think singularly in the country, if there’s anybody who has given us a coherent, deep read on what this ideology really is — and the fact that it is not just coherent, but it is mainstream, and it is what basically is the mainstream ideology of Sunni Islam — it’s Robert Spencer.
And I continue to learn every day, reading what Robert writes.
The issue we have — and whether it’s debate-worthy or discussion-worthy, or what worthy — I’ll leave it to you to decide — is — what do we do about the non-Islamist Muslims? And I’ve assumed a fact that’s not in evidence, which is that “Islamist” is even a valid term, but engage me for a moment. I think it’s absolutely clear that the marriage of the political elements and what are the spiritual elements of Islam are one. And in mainstream Islamic scripture, mainstream Islamic doctrine, there’s no question that there’s no division between the sacred authority and the political authority — they’re one.
The reality of the world, however, is that we have many, many Muslims, millions and millions of Muslims, who don’t want to live that way, who embrace the West, who don’t want to live in Sharia societies. Some of them are trying to interpret their religion in a way that, as they say, contextualizes the troublesome elements of it, so that they can create an Islam that’s congenial to Western ideas about separating church and state, separating the religious elements from the political.
I confess, when I read what they write, I don’t find it particularly compelling. For the most part, I think it’s a work in progress. I think, you know, compared to what I like to call Islamist ideology, it’s not particularly coherent, it’s not well-rooted in scripture the way that Islamic — what I call Islamist ideology is. But I think we have to give them the space to try to evolve their belief systems.
And the reason I use the term “Islamist,” the reason I think it’s a valuable term to use — a means of separating one camp from the other — is I just don’t think that if you’re taking people who we want to have on our side in this struggle — and the people who we have to hope at some point will be able to reform if not the entirety of their religion, at least the way that it exists in the West — that we have to have some space where they can do that. And I think the distinction between Islam and Islamist allows us to identify the people who actually want to impose Sharia on the West versus the people who are Muslims — whether they’re just culturally Muslim or they have a different way of interpreting their religion — but who want to live here and live among us as Americans, as Westerners; and not be identified as Sharia Muslims.
Am I confident that that will happen, that those people will actually succeed, that they can actually reform their religion? No, not particularly. But I think we have to give them a chance. I’m not completely convinced they can’t do it, either. But I just don’t see what the sense is of taking your natural allies — the people that you want on your side, the people who have in their community actually contributed to our counterterrorism — and tell them that the problem is their religion, is their belief system; and that, you know — basically address them in a way that tells them that we think that their choice is basically to convert. Because, you know, the problem that we face is Islam.
And I say that, I hope, with my eyes open. I appreciate the fact that a lot of the people who use the term “Islamist” use it in a fraudulent way, to suggest that, you know, the Islamists are just — what I was talking about back in 1993, just a handful of terrorists; and everybody else is a moderate Muslim. And I think if that’s going to be their interpretation of it, it is a useless term, and we should reject it.
But we do have people who are trying to reform this belief system. And I think we have to give them what encouragement we have to give. I’ll leave it at that.
Robert Spencer: Andy said we’d have to — what do we do about the non-Islamist Muslims? And I’d like to amend the question just slightly, to say — what do we do about the non-Islamist Muslim? And after we have expressed our support for Zuhdi Jasser, then where do we go?
I’m, of course, exaggerating. There are indeed the people who worked with the prosecution in the case of the Blind Sheikh, and there are many others who work. But they work under the cover of darkness, they work not wanting to be recognized, precisely because the situation is what it is within Islam.
The question about giving people the space to reform the religion cannot really be answered until we understand how religions reform in the first place. And do we reform the religion of Islam by pretending that it is other than what it is? Or do we reform the religion of Islam by confronting the elements of it that are outrageous to universally accepted notions of human rights, and call upon Muslims who do want to live according to universally recognized notions of human rights to fight against those ideas? There aren’t really very many historical precedents for reformation in religion. But of course, the main one is the Reformation.
So let me put it to you this way. Imagine, in 1517, that instead of nailing the 95 theses to the door of the church in Gutenberg that Martin Luther had said — how dare you suggest that the Catholic Church teaches the primacy of the Pope and the doctrines of transubstantiation and the perpetual virginity of Mary. You must be a venomous Catholic-hater, a Catholophobe.
And I stand for the true Catholicism, which has none of that in it — now, that would have been absurd. Because obviously, the Church did teach all those things. And those were the things, among others, that Martin Luther objected to. And Martin Luther did not set out to reform the Church. Whatever one may think of the necessity or the veracity of the charges, all that is beside the point. But he did not set out to reform the Church by pretending it was otherwise than what it was. He set out to reform the Church by confronting the doctrines he thought were false and calling upon people to discard them. Now, that ended up creating a schism, of course, a number of schisms, such that there are Catholics and Protestants in the world today. And maybe that’s what would happen in Islam.
But the problem is also compounded by the fact that Islam has a doctrine of religious deception. It not only has doctrines of warfare and subjugation of unbelievers that are universal among the sects and schools of law in Islam, but it also has doctrines of deception. And that makes it doubly difficult.
Because unfortunately, I think, with all the best intensions, Andy — by trying to separate out the supremacists and marshal elements of Islam from Islam — is enabling the deceivers. Because the deceivers sound just like reformers. Or almost just like reformers. They come around — and actually, you can turn on the television any given moment and see them, and they’ll say — Islam doesn’t teach any of this, and we reject all this. And we abhor terrorism. And really, the problem is Islamophobia and unjustified suspicion of the peaceful Muslim community.
And invariably, when you start to look into the people who are saying this, they’re connected to one or another Muslim Brotherhood group. And the Muslim Brotherhood, of course — as you all, I’m certain, know — is dedicated, in its own words, to eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within. And what better way to do that but to render us complacent in the face of the reality of this threat, and make it such that we are afraid to speak about it in its full dimensions? Because we think, on the one hand, that if we do that we will be charged with being bigoted, racist and hateful, and our professional prospects will be dim. And you know, I certainly know that. I’m 10 years an Islamophobe now, and I can’t get another job.
But also, that we will be discouraging the few actual genuine Muslim reformers will be hurting Zuhdi.
And so, for those two reasons, we cannot speak about this problem honestly. And so, the situation we are in now is one that I think was summed up very tellingly by a young man in a video store who ended up foiling the Fort Dix jihad plot.
We all know, of course, that in Fort Hood, Major Nidal Hasan murdered 13 Americans in a jihad attack. And we know, of course, that the United States government in its report on that attack never mentioned jihad or Islam, even though the guy was handing out Korans that morning, and he was shouting Allahu Akbar, and had given off many signs of what he was all about for years before that. And that is, of course, part of the fact — the reason why the government does that is because we don’t want to alienate the moderate Muslim community, which of course also Nidal Hasan lived and moved among, and they never did anything about him.
But also, there was a lesser-known attempted attack at Fort Dix. And at Fort Dix, it was a number of Albanian Muslims who were enjoying watching the gory al-Qaeda videos of beheadings and things like that. But they had them on VHS. And technology marched on. And so they went to the video store to get them transferred to DVD.
And — this is a true story. I know it’s unbelievable. And the young man working in the video store — he’s doing the job, and he’s seeing these horrible images unfold before his eyes. And he goes to his manager. And he says — you know, there’s some very disturbing things on this tape, and I’m thinking maybe we should go to the police. But would that just be racist?
This is actually what he said. And to his credit, the manager encouraged him. They went to the police, they foiled the plot.
But the point is that in both cases, you have the entire United States government, and you have individuals who have been breathing the air of our politically correct culture. And they are afraid to confront this monstrous evil because they think that it will cause some even greater evil if they do. And so they dissimulate, and they pretend that things are other than the way they are. And what exactly does it get us?
I can’t tell you how many times — and I expect if you thought that you would be in the same situation — how many times have you read an article since 9/11 that said — it’s time for the moderate Muslims in the United States to stand up and show that they oppose this? And then, the next year — it’s time for — and every year, it’s time. Well, when are they going to get on it? When are we going to learn the lesson of the fact that they have not done so, and examine the implications of that?
The reality is that Islam does teach these things, as Andy acknowledges. Islam does teach warfare and subjugation. If there are Muslims — and there certainly are — who do not want to kill or subjugate us, then I applaud them. But they can only succeed if they confront the problem honestly.
And we can only truly encourage them if we confront the problem honestly. Anything else leads to bad policy. We’ve been pretending they weren’t Islamists in Pakistan for a decade now, giving them billions every year to fight al-Qaeda. And what’d they do? They gave the money to al-Qaeda. But we had our Islam/Islamist distinction, and they were on the good side. And so that was as far as it went. Well, the implications are obvious.
Bosch Fawstin: Hello. I’m honored to be here. I was invited here with a short notice. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to read some stuff that I prepared.
I come from a Muslim Albanian background, and born and raised in America. We were non-devout. But it was enough where it still had detrimental things in our lives growing up.
So, you know, one thing — the entire context here is the fact that we are at war. We are at war. This is not — we’re indulging things that are outside of that in order to try to create this Islam that doesn’t exist. Because there are, you know, Muslims who are not terrorists; therefore, they’re practicing some other sort of Islam. And they’re not. You know, they’re practicing life in a free country, they’re practicing something other than Islam.
You know, as Jerome Brooks said — you know, even though I disagree with him in terminology, we agree on this — we need to identify the enemy and do whatever is necessary to eliminate the threat, with minimal loss of life and liberty on our side.
You know, Andrew McCarthy said — early this morning, he said we need to put American interests first. I absolutely agree with that. So we need to identify the right terms to use so we can defend our interests. [I think] Islam — you know, not Islamism, militant Islam, radical Islam, totalitarian Islam, every other Islam that we hear about — Islam is the right term to name the ideology that we must criticize, reject, ultimately defeat, regardless of there are non-Muslim Muslims out there. And the implication with all those terms is that Islam as such is fine. It’s all the other, bad Islams that are the problem.
And you know, post-9/11, I read the Koran. I read Robert’s books. Everything I could get my hands on — jihad, Islam. And I just — Islam is not fine, Islam as such. Islam promotes anti-Semitism, misogyny. And being raised again as a non-devout Muslim, there was still an admiration for Hitler in my household. My cousins. Because of the anti-Semitism. And Hitler — there was a mutual admiration society between Nazism and Islam. Hitler admired Islam as a “masculine religion.”
And you know, besides the explicit doctrines of jihad and Sharia, I know firsthand from being raised by non-devout Muslims — my mom, even — I come home one day, and she’s crying. And I was worried about her. I said — what happened, what happened? My first niece was born. And she was mourning the birth of a female, of a baby girl. Because she had projected the idea that her life would be miserable. It will have to be miserable, there’s no way out. And in Islam, women, in a lot of ways, are necessary evils. They can bring into the world male Muslim heirs.
Besides that — and while it’s true that only a small minority actually wage jihad — small minority of Muslims — it’s equally true that only a small minority criticize them. How many Muslims celebrated 9/11? Far too many. We don’t even know. In America, the Middle East, Europe. You know. And imagine in the past, if we referred to enemy ideologies such as radical Nazism.
Militant communism. You know, that kind of thinking leads us to try to find moderate Nazis. You know.
In lieu of waging a proper war in our defense. Because that’s the most important thing here — our defense. Not their defense, not the Muslim world’s future — our future. And you know, besides using the correct term, “Islam,” at times, in order to distinguish between individual Muslims and Islam as such, I use the term “organized Islam.” That doesn’t connote anything besides the fact that [you have] Islam is bad as such. And if it’s organized, it’s even worse.
Individual Muslims — they are what they are. They don’t want to take part in it. But they — you know, I have family who don’t want to talk about jihad; never, ever talk about it. They want to remain — they identify themselves as Muslim. But they eat pork, they have dogs — which are considered filthy in Islam. They’re — I call them post-Islamic Muslims, you know. They’re not Muslim in any serious way. But they sure as hell don’t want to say anything against jihad, which is troubling. Because they give a good face to an evil ideology.
And that’s a real problem. Because people keep saying — well, I know a good Muslim. He’s, you know, a nice guy. But he doesn’t personify the religion. You know, and if he does — if he’s pro-Israel, he sure as hell doesn’t, you know, personify the religion. And you know, my thinking is, in general, your average Muslim is morally superior to Mohammad, morally superior to Islam itself. It’s the consistent practitioners who are the problem.
Then you got individuals like Irshad Manji, who wants Islam to return to its fun — clever, fun-loving roots.
She’s another non-Muslim Muslim. And Zuhdi Jasser — while he may be a good individual amongst us, according to Islam, he’s bad. Because he’s like — he might as well be an apostate. You know, you can’t be against Sharia, against jihad, and be for Islam. In a literal sense, you really can’t. So his Islam, in a lot of ways, I call Zuhdi Jasser-ism.
You know, it’s a subjective, individualist view of Islam. And it gets in the way of us seeing the actual threat for what it is and what it promotes.
And then, you know, the political agenda furthering the myth of “moderate Islam” is good only insofar as it furthers our interests. We cannot sacrifice the truth or refrain from fighting the war we need to fight in the proper way. I see no widespread moderate movement, and I don’t want to help create one at our expense.
Baroness Caroline Cox: Well, good afternoon.
And I stand before you this afternoon as someone who has no illusions whatever about the threats of contemporary Islamism, political Islam and strategic Islam to our liberal democracies. And I’m deeply concerned about the way in which political Islam is using the freedoms of democracy to destroy democracy itself and the freedoms it enshrines.
My own engagement with Islam began actually further afield, when I confronted military Islam firsthand, face to face, in the warzones of Southern Indonesia, in the Malukas and Sulawesi. And Laskar Jihad was there. And many hundreds were being killed and thousands displaced [in] Ambon. And 5,000 Laskar Jihad warriors [were in] Ambon alone and saw the killings.
I’ve been in Sudan and Southern Sudan many times, over 30 times, in the war against the South, when Khartoum was perpetrating its jihad against the peoples of the South. And I went 30 times to areas designated as no-go areas to international aid organizations. Because they didn’t want to aid victims or anyone to tell the world what it was doing. So I went to those places 30 times. They do not love me. They give me a prison sentence for illegal entry. So thank you for being inclusive and having a convict with you this afternoon.
Northern Nigeria — we’re currently working in Northern Nigeria. Many killings already this year in Northern Nigeria.
And as far as the UK is concerned, at the moment we are confronting very real strategies by political Islam, as I said, to use the freedoms of democracy to destroy that democracy. And I discern nine kinds of strategies being used by political Islam around the world today, including in Britain. And I’ll be saying a little bit about this tonight and much more tomorrow afternoon.
But those strategies include the political strategies; legal — we already have Sharia law in United Kingdom — financial — Sharia finance is extremely dangerous — demographic strategies, and cultural — massive investment in our cultural institutions to try and attain a culture of hegemony; and abroad, military jihad, and the humanitarian — use of humanitarian aid.
So I’m not an optimist at all. Not naïve. When I look at the nature of Islam itself as a traditional religion, I would share your analyses earlier on. Yes, of course there are the verses of the sword, but there are — I mean, there are versus of peace. They sound so irenic, and we could all love to think that they were the real motivating force of international Islam.
The verses of the sword are there. And what is very worrying is the principle of abrogation — that because the verses of the sword are inconsistent with the verses of peace, and Allah cannot be inconsistent, the traditional Islamic scholars developed the principle of abrogation, whereby the later revelations of the Prophet abrogated the earlier revelations. And unfortunately for all of us, the later revelations were the verses of the sword. So Islam is not inherently a religion of peace.
Similarly, amongst the teachings of Islam, the world is only divided into two — the dar al-harb or the dar al-Islam. The world of Islam — we’re already living under Islam — or the world of war. There’s no alternative. So if you’re not living in an Islamic nation, you’re living in a world of war. And of course, you have an obligation to do what you can to try to achieve that for Islam. And that, as we already heard, is perfect legit to use deception [or to kill], as any of us might in a war situation. So I’m not an optimist at all, as will be coming up very clearly in my later presentations.
But what may we perhaps do in this context? First of all, I would say to all of us — we must know our Islam. Do our homework. (Inaudible) in Britain, there are often very well-meaning interfaith dialogues. And the Christians come. The Christians spend the whole time apologizing for all the dreadful things we did in the Crusades, and everything else. I mean, I say the Crusades were nothing to apologize about — they were the response to 400 years of Islamic aggression. But we’ve got a great guilt complex about the Crusades, so we spend our time apologizing, and our Muslim friends agree, so it’s all very peaceful. And that’s many of our interfaith dialogues.
But also, I think we must — and I’ll be saying more about this later — begin to draw very clear lines in the sand, to say enough is enough, to protect our democratic freedoms and our precious heritage — our freedom, for which many have died. And among the ways of doing that — in Britain at the moment, I am introducing a private members bill in the House of Lords to try to address the question of Sharia law. We already have over 60 Sharia courts in UK. And of course, they have fundamental discrimination against women, so they violate all our purported commitments to gender equality in United Kingdom. And women are really suffering in Britain — Muslim women are really suffering.
So that is my black and bleak scenario. But I do search for some signs, possibly, of hope. And this is where I may diverge from one or two of the other speakers.
Going back to Indonesia — when I was down in Indonesia at the height of the Laskar Jihad’s assaults on the communities there, the traditional Muslim leaders did not want that jihad. Indonesia, the world’s largest Islamic nation, does have an honorable tradition of religious tolerance. It’s written into their [pandrocina], their constitution.
And Christians and Hindus and others have been allowed to live peaceably in those areas where they have chosen to live for a very long time. And there were foreign elements that came in from Middle East and Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Laskar Jihad. But after awhile, the traditional Muslim leaders wanted to normalize relations with the predominantly Christian communities. And they were brave people. Because Laskar Jihad didn’t want peace.
And I remember talking to Mr. [Elvi], one of the Muslim leaders from Ambon. And he said to me — you know, if I go to the next interfaith meeting and I get killed, my daughter said to me — daddy, I will be very proud of you. There was a brave Muslim, who was trying to go against violent Islamist jihad. That’s an individual — and individuals, from a slightly larger, national level — who was enabled to hope to establish an organization with an endless title. It’s called the International Islamic Christian Organisation for Reconciliation and Reconstruction. [To most, it] abbreviates to IICORR.
But at the launch, the former and our late president of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, was present. He was our president, and he was promoting this. And in his speech, he said something which again is perhaps something which we can put as a ray of hope on the horizon. And I’m now paraphrasing, using a terminology he would not use, because it’s a Christian terminology. But basically, he was saying Islam is at a crossroads; Islam has to have its reformation. And basically, Islam has to learn how to do away with that principle of abrogation, whereby the verses of the sword override the verses of peace.
And that was a very successful initiative. The British government did fund an interfaith delegation to come to the UK to work out principles of reconciliation and reconstruction away from the conflict zone. When they went back, they were able to contain renewed incipient conflict very quickly because of the good relations established. And there has been peace in Ambon since then. I met an Indonesian politician just a few months ago who said that was a successful initiative.
Now, I have no illusions — Laskar Jihad have gone on elsewhere. And so we are tiny, tiny, possible beginnings of rays of hope. I don’t put it much more strongly than that, but that was a successful initiative.
Secondly, I was preaching — or speaking, rather, at an interfaith conference in Paris for the Abrahamic Faiths two or three years ago. And before me, all the speakers were just so cheerful. It was like pink candy frost, all the lovely and good, and nothing to be too skeptical about. Interfaith dialogues and initiatives that were going on everywhere. There wasn’t a hint of the kind of problems that bring us here together today.
Well, I just felt only the truth could make us free. So I stood up and gave a rather tougher talk about what I’ve been talking about — the principle of abrogation, about the nature of Sharia, about the nature of military jihad, about the sort of things that are challenging us, about Islamism and traditional Islamic theology. And I came off shaking at the knees. Because I had been saying the unspeakable things.
There was a Jordanian priest there who, just as I got off the platform, said — thank you for saying all the things I couldn’t say. But there were 12 ladies with hijabs from Iraq, Muslim ladies from Iraq. I went up there, and I said — ladies, I do hope I haven’t offended you in what I’ve been saying today about Islam. They said — no. Thank goodness you were here, we praise God you were here. You’re the only one who spoke with any sense. We were so fed up with all the stuff that went before, we were about to go home. You were the only one who said what needed to be said. And you’re the only one who had the courage to mention Sharia, and we hate Sharia.
Well, I got to know those Muslim ladies from Iraq very well. We had little group meetings. I became their very own baroness. And we were able to share at a very deep level. And there again were women, Muslim women, who were suffering very much under traditional Islam.
Thirdly, very briefly — in the UK, as I mentioned, I’m bringing in a bill to try to address the issue of Sharia law, Sharia courts in the UK, and particularly with regard to gender discrimination and women suffering in our country. And there are some brave Muslims who are supporting me in that bill.
There’s an organization called British Muslims for Secular Democracy. There’s a very brave young woman, Tehmina Kazi, who’s spoken out in public on this issue. And she’s had death threats. But she’s prepared to support this bill.
Also, if any of you are coming to the Olympic games, you might be relieved to know that as you come into London and into the Olympic arena, you will not be greeted by a mega-mosque which would’ve seated 70,000 people.
They reduced, very graciously, that concept of a 70,000-strong mosque to 12,000. Well, our largest cathedral takes three. So even that would’ve been a very strange [somewhere] to welcome everybody. But that initiative has been forestalled, but with the help of many Muslims. So I stand before you as someone who is deeply puzzled, and deeply humbled.
As I finish, I remember a phone call I received very recently from an Indonesian politician who’d read the book we had written on Islam — it’ll be available later on. And it’s hard-hitting, it’s the kind of thing I’ve been talking about this afternoon. But he said — since I read your book on Islam — he is a Muslim — it reopened for me the gates of [jihad]. I realized how as a Muslim I’d been brought up in a theological and mental prison. But now I’ve read your book; I see things differently.
Unless we are available to Muslims — a [message] you said earlier — we give some space for some of those who are courageous enough, and maybe risking death to do so — then I think we are perhaps losing a very important opportunity. Because I have no illusions they’ll be subject to intimidation. We have all the threats outlined at the beginning. They are the minority. But I think we must be open to those who might want to bring about — to use a Christian term, inappropriately — but an Islamic reformation. It won’t be in my lifetime. But if it’s possible, we must support it. If it isn’t, well, we will go on holding the line against those who would destroy our freedoms.
Karen Lugo: Just a very brief footnote — as I was involved in a protest — I emceed a protest against two radical imams in February of this last year. And CAIR, Council on American-Islamic Relations, put out a hit video, a distorted video, of the protest to make it all look like hate speech. They did capture some video of some hecklers that were over by the entrance to this fundraiser.
And later, as this production was going around the Internet, one of our women, who was from Iran, said she had gone up to the louder hecklers with megaphones because she recognized the accent. And she said — where are you from? And the women said — we’re from Iran. And she said — well, then, are you Muslim? And they said — yes, but we just hate Sharia. So the head piece actually wound up being of some of those activists who were — and some of the things they were saying were the most virulently anti-Islam, but they were Muslims.
Also, in my work with the communities, and the citizens who become very involved in my area, we’ve spoken with a lot of secular Muslims who have come up to us. And we’ve had this conversation — you know, why don’t more Muslims stand up? And they’ve said, you know, look at what happened in Europe, with the fact that Europe has caved the way it has. And we don’t see more signs of courage in the United States yet than we do. You know, we’re waiting to see if you’re going to hold the line against the radical elements of Islam. So, you know, that is what the conversation has been.
So at this point, we would love to have some questions until they tell us that the room is no longer ours.
Unidentified Audience Member: So want to go back and look at the history of fascism in Europe in the ’30s, which I kind of relate to this. I’ve been watching this going on now for several years. And it took till Hitler and Mussolini were sure enough, and actually tried to take over the world against (inaudible). And [there was] a real struggle as to whether or not we were going to be able to defeat the fascists. And fortunately, we were.
I’m wondering if this is going to drag itself along until such time that there is a conflagration (inaudible) –
Robert Spencer: If only we had worked with the moderate Nazis, we could’ve forestalled all that.
Unidentified Audience Member: — that’s what they were doing, that [was genuine].
Andrew McCarthy: But the Nazis were radical Germans. I mean, it depends on what level you’re going to evaluate it.
Bosch Fawstin: Well, this is the question, then. See, obviously there’s a spectrum of belief, knowledge and fervor among Muslims. Nobody on this panel actually thinks that every Muslim is on with the program of warfare and subjugation, least of all me. And I’ve made this abundantly clear in everything that I’ve written. The fact is that there are probably a majority — there is a majority of Muslims who just want to live their lives and have a job, and raise their family. And they couldn’t care less what the imam is saying in the mosque.
But the doctrines of Islam are the source of this hatred. People have been wondering why they hate us for 10 years. And they hate us because they’re taught to hate us, not because of our foreign policy, not because of Israel, not because of Iraq or Afghanistan; but because Islam teaches that Muslims should hate and wage war against and subjugate non-Muslims. And these things are demonstrably in the Koran. Does that mean that every Muslim is doing it? Certainly not. But do we pretend that it doesn’t really teach these things in order to encourage the ones who aren’t with the program? I don’t see the utility of that.
Andrew McCarthy: Well, let me — if I may, though — what Robert has painted, I think, is a very black-and-white view. And I have no quarrel with the idea that this comes rooted from Islamic scripture. But the two alternatives — or, I guess I shouldn’t say there are two alternatives. It’s not like we have a choice of — either you acknowledge that the Koran teaches this and that the scriptures teach this, or you deny it. I mean, that’s just not reality. There are other ways to address it. If there aren’t, we’re really at the abyss, right?
But if you ask people — and I’m not contending that this is a majority view in the slightest — but they have come up with different interpretations, they have come up with ways, as they say, to try to contextualize the bad stuff, to try to limit it to its time and space, so that they can put more emphasis on the verses of the scripture that we see as having been abrogated by the verses of the sword. And as far as, you know, taqiyya is concerned, this whole thing about taqiyya — and I don’t deny taqiyya exists; it obviously does.
But you know, I remember, when I was a mafia prosecutor, they have a rule, too, you know — they call it omertà. And we used to get these mobsters in who wanted to cooperate with the government, and we’d get to interview them a little bit, you know. And they’d tell me about, you know, the secret code they had of omertà. And I remember sitting there and saying — all right, let me get this straight. You’re part of a secret criminal organization, and you have this rule that you don’t tell anybody anything. Wow, where do you guys come up with this stuff?
I kind of see taqiyya the same way. I mean, if you’re dealing with Islamists, if lying serves their purposes, obviously they’re going to lie. But the fact that there is a doctrine of lying doesn’t mean that everybody who has the opportunity to lie will do so. I mean, some of the people who say that they are trying to interpret their doctrine a different way actually authentically mean that they’re trying to interpret their doctrine a different way. They’re not trying to pull one over on you.
Baroness Caroline Cox: Sorry, can I just –
Karen Lugo: I want to allow Baroness Cox a second.
Baroness Caroline Cox: Okay. Maybe I could just try and answer your question, sir. I come from the land of Chamberlain. And we stood alone for awhile fighting Nazi Germany. And I would say to you, nothing I’ve said today suggests we should not adopt the strongest possible line. I don’t want to be a Chamberlain. That’s why I’m introducing a bill in the House of Lords to try and address this issue of the growth of political Islam in the United Kingdom. Suggest to you I’d like to see –
– I’d like to see some parliamentary or government initiatives in the United States. We can have wonderful conferences. We can talk, we can learn. That’s not going to change the situation. We’ve got to do things politically and strategically. And that’s why I’ve introduced the bill. But also, there must be (inaudible) more space if there are the other Muslims who want to support the defense of democracy, they’ve got a chance to do so, too.
Unidentified Audience Member: What I’m saying is I don’t think anything is going to happen until (inaudible).
Bosch Fawstin: Yeah, that’s probably true.
Unidentified Audience Member: (Inaudible — microphone inaccessible)
Karen Lugo: Okay, Amy?
Unidentified Audience Member: My concern is the motivation for the giving of space. So on one hand, you want to get, I guess, help from the Muslim community to achieve various ends. And one question is — how much help are you actually getting from them? Or [is the] concern to give them the opportunity to stand up for the right thing — which is nice, but it isn’t like you’re preventing them from standing up for the right thing. Sometimes giving them space in that regard could be a sacrifice for us. So I am concerned about that.
The other issue — (inaudible) –
Karen Lugo: I think –
Unidentified Audience Member: — are we going to be sacrificing by doing this, or are we furthering our interests by giving them space?
Karen Lugo: And it’s a very good question. And I think — just one second here — it’s a matter of developing some confidence and trust in us to do better than the Europeans have done in defending our culture and our freedom of speech, and all the rights, self-government, the things we hold so dear. I mean, do we have a deep enough belief in those things to defend them, and to also then recognize that there are Muslims who would aid us in that? Andy?
Andrew McCarthy: Since I’m the one who said give them space, let me try to be a little bit more concrete about what I meant. I meant give them rhetorical space, and understand that they have their own struggle that they’re trying to go through. I wasn’t suggesting that we take any other national security — I’m Attila the Hun on national security. I absolutely think that we have to have our eyes open about not only the people who want to destroy this country by violent jihadism, but the broader civilizational threat to the United States and to the West, which is profound.
My point is that we do have allies in that community. We don’t have as many as we would like to have — not by a long shot. But we have to have a way to separate who those allies are from the rest of the broader threat.
Now, Robert and I have talked about, you know, Islamists and whether that’s an appropriate label or not. But I think — and Robert can address this, but even Robert will use the term “supremacist Muslim,” or, you know, some other adjective. I think we all grope with this need that we all know that we have, to one degree or another, to say yes, there are people out there who are in that community, who are either our allies or our potential allies, and we’re not trying to drive them into the arms of the other side. But we have to come up with a way to acknowledge that.
Robert Spencer: The problem about giving them space is — all I’m saying here is that we can’t give them space by lying to them or lying to ourselves. That’s not any legitimate kind of space. And the whole Islamist idea — that a radical Islamist is the one who carries out terrorist attacks, and ordinary Muslims wouldn’t do that — the problem is there isn’t any distinction within the Muslim community. It isn’t as if there’s the radical Islamist mosque on one block and the moderate mosque on the next block, and there’s some sort of institutional distinction, like between Baptists and Methodists. They’re all mixed up together. How do you become an Islamist? You perform an act of terrorism.
When Andy and I had the exchange in National Review, right that day, there was a Bosnian who went to Sarajevo and shot up the US embassy. And all the stories about him said he was a radical Islamist who shot at the US embassy. Well, that was Friday. On Thursday, he was just an ordinary Muslim.
Andrew McCarthy: [Well] –
Robert Spencer: And he became a radical Islamist when he shot up the embassy. There wasn’t any indication otherwise, in his life, in his movements, in his associations, that would’ve given you the impression that he would ever had committed a terrorist act. And this just shows the uselessness of this distinction that is imposed from without and is not within the Muslim community.
I’d also like to add, in terms of giving them space, that while the perspective that I espouse may be the dominant view in this room — and for that I thank you all — it is a very, very small minority view that is routinely demonized, vilified and dismissed in the mainstream culture, as I’m sure you’re all well aware.
And the point that I’m making is that this is — we’ve been giving them space for 10 years. We’ve been pretending that Islam is a religion of peace. We’ve been encouraging — we’ve been assuming, on an official international policy level and in national policy, that Islam is a religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims — 99.99 percent — are on our side and completely loyal to Western civilizational principles of freedom.
And what has it gotten us? Where do we see large numbers of Muslims, large organizations of Muslims — even any sect, anything — that is fighting against this within Islam? There’s little groups here, little groups there. There’s Zuhdi, of course. And what else?
Andrew McCarthy: I do agree that if we’re going to start saying “radical Islamist,” then the term “Islamist” is useless. And I’m not recommending that. I thought “Islamist” was our liberation from having to say that Islam is the problem period, and move on.
You know, I think Islamists are people who want to impose Sharia on the West. They are people who want to live the mainstream interpretation of Islam that Robert talks about. They include violent jihadists who want to do it by means of terrorism. But if we’re going to start to parse, you know, radical Islamists from moderate Islamists, then I agree. I throw up my hands, and we’re talking nonsense. But I don’t think we’re at that point yet.
Karen Lugo: Do we have one last question? Okay.
Unidentified Audience Member: Seems so far that attempts at reforming Islam have not gotten any traction. I attended, for example, (inaudible) summit four years ago in St. Petersburg, Florida. Participants were either outright apostate, like (inaudible), or like (inaudible) considered apostates by most Muslims.
Question to the panel is — do you see in the future any hope that there will be a real reformation of Islam (inaudible) doctrine of abrogation, supremacy of the Hadith, and so forth? Or is the choice in perpetuity going to be either perpetual warfare between Islam and the infidels? Or eradicating Islam at the end of a war, as was done to national socialists at the end of World War II?
Bosch Fawstin: Well, Islam is not going to be eradicated. It’s much bigger than national socialism ever was. And I just wanted to say that — Andy just said a minute ago that if we say Islam is the problem, then that will discourage reformers. But Islam is the problem. The problem is within Islam. But does that mean that there can be no reform ever, or that Muslims cannot confront this and change it? No, it certainly doesn’t mean that. Anything is possible in history, and nobody could’ve predicted the Christian Reformation a few hundred years before it happened.
It’s historically theoretically possible. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the size of the groups that might affect it in our age. They are minuscule. And they are not traditional and have no basis within Islamic theology or law to stand on. They have their own private and invented Islam.
Karen Lugo: Before we –
Unidentified Speaker: Just one thing — sorry.
Karen Lugo: Sure.
Unidentified Speaker: This whole conversation and everything is — you know, outside of a post-jihad world, it’s all academic, in a sense. Because again, we are at war. And until we take out the countries that sponsor terrorism — I mean, the countries who sponsor terrorism, the rest of the Muslim world will be in [shock and awe]. They will moderate themselves by nature. They will have to. They would have no choice. They’ll see the results, like Japan did, like Germany did. And that’s — in a post-jihad world, that’s when we can get serious about average Muslims going out there and reforming something that was never what it was. They can pretend and deny, whatever, you know, the history of Mohammad, and what he was and what he did, to join the civilized world, finally, after a thousand years.
Karen Lugo: Before we thank our panelists one more time — Frank Gaffney is going to be holding a seminar in this very room as soon as we conclude, talking about the record of Grover Norquist and his activities. So any who want to stay for that, please do. And please thank our panelists one more time.
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