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By filtering the words and deeds of the enemies through our own ideals and assumptions, such stories over the years have created a false picture of Islamism and the jihadist assault on the West. We rely on feel-good words like “freedom” and “democracy,” without understanding the complexity of these ideas, or their foundation in larger notions about God and human nature specific to the West and its Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian heritage, one very different from, and fundamentally incompatible with, the traditions of Islam. As a result, we are easy prey for duplicitous and manipulative propagandists. Or we assume that our belief in environmental rather than spiritual causes will explain the jihadist violence that is in fact rooted in Islamic doctrine and traditions. Thus Bill Clinton, in a recent speech in Nigeria, where the jihadist outfit Boko Haram is fulfilling the Koranic injunction to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them,” opined, “You can’t just have this level of inequality persist. That’s what’s fueling all this stuff.” This economic rationale has been a favorite since 9/11, when the New York Times, channelling Karl Marx, wrote that “the disappointed youth of Egypt and Saudi Arabia turn to religion for comfort.” Then there are those who think that American-supported autocracies have oppressed their peoples into terrorism, and so giving them ballot boxes and constitutions will “drain the swamp” of jihadism. But as G.K. Chesterton wrote, “We shall have real democracy, when . . . the ordinary man will decide not only how he will vote, but what he is going to vote about.” But the autocrats have been kicked out of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, and so far an illiberal shari’a law and Jew-hatred seem to be what the “ordinary man” in those countries is voting about.
So too with all the other causes of jihadism dear to liberal received wisdom. Israel, of course, is favorite rationalization for terrorism, even though the Islamist sects like Wahhabism, Deobandism, and Salafism from which modern jihadism springs appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries, long before Israel even existed. Western apologists decry colonial and imperial depredations, but never ask about the fourteen-hundred-year record of Islamic imperialism, colonization, and occupation, or wonder why Christians from all over the world aren’t rushing to commit terrorist acts against Turkey for occupying Constantinople or northern Cyprus. Alleged American slaughter of Muslims is another favorite explanation for jihadist violence, even though American power has liberated many more Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kuwait than it has killed. And if infidels killing Muslims justifies jihadist hatred, then Russia should top the list of offenders, as it has slaughtered Muslims for centuries, from the siege of Izmail in 1790, when 40,000 Muslim men, women, and children were butchered, to the destruction of Chechnya’s jihadist insurgency, which killed at least 100,000.
No, many in the West have not comprehended the nature of the people we are fighting––a people of blood and jihad. Whether through naïveté or arrogance, too many Westerners prefer their own received ideas and comforting illusions to the words of the enemy and the record of his deeds.
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