On the morning of October 8, I learned of the death of my friend Laurent Murawiec, the French-born author of The Mind of Jihad, a seminal and ambitious work that casts radical Islam as a successor to the totalitarian ideologies of the Western world. And yet, because his work was so contrary to the prevailing politics of the mainstream media, you are unlikely to learn about his contributions to the understanding of Islamic terrorism.
Indeed, because we are living in an era when all the values that enable a culture to remain alive and strong are systematically inverted and perverted, almost no one will speak of him anywhere. For my part, I know I have lost a friend and an irreplaceable brother-in-arms. The road that lies before me will be more difficult, and I will feel even more alone. At this moment, I think of his two daughters, who are still so young and who will have to face the future without their father. I think of his wife, who has not been in the U.S. for very long; the ordeal can only be terribly trying for her. I think of his family in Europe.
When one is absorbed by a multitude of tasks, one can sometimes let time slip by, without giving all the attention one should to those who really deserve it. Sometimes in recent years, because my stay was short and I was about to go elsewhere, I passed by Washington, where Laurent was a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, without taking the time to contact him. I always thought that there would be another opportunity: but there will be no other opportunity, and I feel through and through the pangs of guilt.
What remains is for me to pay tribute to his memory and his work. Laurent was a fearless man. He never ceased to prove it in his too short life. He never hesitated to say or write what he thought should be said or written, whatever the personal cost may be. In 2002, for instance, he told a Pentagon advisory panel that the United States should seize Saudi oil fields and target its financial assets if the country failed to act against Islamic terrorism. Fallout over the undiplomatic assessment forced Laurent to resign from his then-employer, the Rand Corporation, but he made no apologies for saying what he believed.
He never pitied his own plight. He was an uncompromising man who never diluted his words, since he was one of the few who know that the truth, when it is watered down, is no longer the truth. He was an intellectual in the highest sense of a term: someone who worked with tenacity to create and spread ideas and knowledge, in order to dispel darkness and bring more light to others and the world.
He wrote articles that, behind a seemingly polemical tone, showed an incisive erudition. He wrote remarkable books, some of them as yet unpublished: one of them is about Europe and bears a very appropriate title: The Empire of the Setting Sun (L’Empire du soleil couchant). Laurent was also the author of War in the Twenty-first Century (La Guerre au XXIe siècle), a masterly analysis of the “revolution in military affairs” that has changed the face of war in recent years. He also wrote The Spirit of Nations (L’Esprit des nations), an innovative essay about the connections between geopolitics and the history of cultures, which opened new horizons of research to those who understand that the world has become a more complex place. The Next War (La Guerre d’après) is a charge leveled against Saudi Arabia, and the best documented and most innovative approach to have been published about a country and a regime that is almost everywhere behind the spread of radical Islam today (the book was published in the US under another title: Princes of Darkness: the Saudi Assault on the West).
Laurent’s masterpiece, however, is The Mind of Jihad. Originally published in two volumes, it has now become available in a complete edition thanks to Cambridge University Press. It is not just one more book about radical Islam; it is one of the most important books on the subject ever published.
The book shows very precisely what makes Islamic radicalism inseparable from Islam itself, and traces the connections between radical Islam and the most nihilistic and more violently destructive political trends that have emerged during the last two millennia. It masterfully reveals the danger facing the West, and it explains the deleterious attraction that jihad exerts over the adherents of other totalitarianisms. I am convinced that The Mind of Jihad will be read and reread for years to come, and that it will become a classic. Michael Ledeen described it as “at last, a book on radical Islam that does it all.” Fouad Ajami calls it “a work that will make for itself a sure place in the writings on Islamic radicalism.”
Laurent still had much to say, write and offer. He spoke little of his plans, but all those who were fortunate enough to know him are sure he was at the dawn of further accomplishments. He spoke little of his own and his family’s past. However, he gave me texts about the memory of the Holocaust and the mutilations that it had inflicted on his family. He was Jewish, even if it is an aspect of himself that he almost never evoked. He was a steadfast friend of Israel – not because he was Jewish, but because he was firmly on the side of liberty and the dignity of human beings, and because he was obstinately hostile to all that oppresses, degrades and perverts the human spirit.
Like many of those who have had to choose between compromise and exile, he chose exile and left his native France. But he became an American, attached to everything that has belonged to the true soul of America since the time of the Founding Fathers.
Laurent’s death won’t generate much media attention. But everything that he was will survive him, an ever-shining light in the hearts and minds of all those who have met him and loved him. Although I feel more alone in his absence, I will always cherish the memory of conversations with Laurent. And though he is gone, I know when I read his words that he will never disappear.