On December 2, 2015, two Muslim terrorists massacred fourteen Americans at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California. On December 6, President Obama delivered an Oval Office address. In it, he said, “We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam … It is the responsibility of all Americans to reject discrimination.” Many listeners were disappointed that Obama focused so much passion on lecturing Americans.
Media reported that hostility against Muslims increased after the San Bernardino attack. Public figures including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, filmmaker Michael Moore, and Wheaton college professor Larycia Hawkins insisted that Muslims must be protected against the bigotry, stereotyping, and violence of non-Muslim Americans.
President Obama, Zuckerberg, Moore, and Hawkins are acting on their own bigotry. In hostility and ignorance, they stereotype all Americans (except Muslims, of course) as an inherently ignorant lynch mob. That’s not who we Americans are. If Americans had been hearing from their leaders what they need to hear – a passionate defense of Western Civilization and a ringing condemnation of jihad – average Americans would not feel that they themselves must take on both rhetorical tasks. Americans, as YouTube curmudgeon Pat Condell pointed out, are trying to fill a leadership vacuum and to speak and hear unspoken truths.
It is a demonstrable historical fact that Americans have traditionally not held hatred toward or stereotypes of Muslims. A hundred years ago, if Americans thought of Muslims at all, they associated Muslims with romance. Maud Hull’s 1919 softcore novel The Sheik was a blockbuster bestseller. Superstar Rudolph Valentino made two Sheik films, in 1921 and 1926. They were record-breaking international hits.
It is primarily terrorists and Islam-apologists, people like Obama, Zuckerberg, Moore and Hawkins, who are in fact responsible for the current tension. Politically Correct speech codes suppress and demonize necessary conversations about Islam. Priests and rabbis, presidents and judges, journalists and college professors – the very people whose job it is to wield words to address matters of public import – are complicit. These cultural leaders are all covering their own posteriors, timidly mincing words so that no stray syllable can be used against them. Americans are frustrated and outraged at this absence of frank speech.
It is exactly because of this suppression of speech on a matter of life-and-death importance that some Americans have been pushed over the edge and are letting their fears and frustrations get the better of them. Some are using hateful neologisms that previously did not exist in the English language: “sand n – – – – -,” “raghead,” “koranimal,” “Mudslime.” Some are joking about nuking Mecca. Some say they hate all Muslims. Some act on that hate.
Clear and frank speech on Islam will alleviate, not exacerbate, anti-Muslim hostility and help, not hurt, Muslims. Such speech could ease tensions and educate and reassure the populace. Effective counter-jihad activists recognize the following two truths:
1.) Islam poses challenges to world civilization that are posed by no other belief system.
2.) Hating and stereotyping all Muslims is not only not helpful, hatred and stereotyping of all Muslims actually undermines counter-jihad.
Below you’ll find my story, four reasons why hate and stereotyping are counter-productive, and eight statements by counter-jihad activists who all agree: we must fearlessly address the challenges Islam presents. We must be victorious. And we must point out why hate and stereotyping undermine our cause.
I was born, grew up in, and currently live in Passaic County, NJ, home of one of the US’s largest Muslim populations.
I have had Muslim friends, bosses, landlords, doctors, coworkers, and students. I have not encountered more or less intelligence, kindness, honesty, violence, humor, or generosity among Muslims than I have in any other population.
When I was sick and needed a ride to the hospital, a Muslim drove me. Later, as I slept, she quietly entered my apartment, left food, flowers, and a heating pad, and retreated silently. When there was a problem with my prescription or my tire, it was a Muslim pharmacist, and a Muslim mechanic, who saved the day. Such encounters are part of day-to-day life in New Jersey.
While working in the Central African Republic, I traveled over night with Muslim men in a truck caravan across uninhabited jungle. I was the only Westerner, the only woman. They treated me well. In Turkey, Muslims greeted me in remote villages and in Istanbul, a cosmopolitan city. I was treated like visiting royalty.
I’ve been a guest at traditional Muslim feasts. I’ve also done very American activities with Muslim friends. I have swum at Gunnison, New Jersey’s nude beach. I’ve drunk beer and eaten lunch during Ramadan.
My Facebook friend Lucy is not from New Jersey. She has never met any Muslims. She didn’t think about Islam till September 11, 2001. When I mention my Muslim friends to Lucy, she yells and screams and types in all caps.
“Muslims are commanded not to take kuffar as friends!”
“I know,” I say. “Koran 5:51.”
“These people you talk about are not really Muslims!” Lucy insists.
I respond that we can debate semantics and accomplish nothing. I know people who identify as Muslim, who are the children of Muslim parents, whose first language is Arabic or Turkish or Urdu, who drink alcohol and eat during Ramadan and don’t pray five times a day.
“What about taqiyya?”
I respond that the Muslims I know have never heard of taqiyya, any more than most Catholics I know have ever heard of “ex cathedra” or most Americans know what the Monroe Doctrine is. For the Muslims I know, Islam is found in the kitchen, in the family room, and in the street. Islam is found in family photographs and stories of grandma and grandpa. Many Muslims I know have never read the Koran, and have at best a flimsy idea of what it contains.
“These nice Muslims are dangerous,” Lucy insists. “They provide cover for the terrorists! Their niceness gets us to lower our guard! They convince people that Islam really is a religion of peace!”
“Look,” I say. “Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch has been on the internet since 2003. If Americans are ‘fooled by nice Muslims’ they have only themselves to blame.”
Muslims vary. Some are nice. Some are jerks. Islam does not vary. Jihad and gender apartheid must be named, condemned, and defeated.
One day, back in the 1970s, I was leaving class with my friend. “Nur” was beautiful, a gentle person, and a talented artist; she used to doodle arabesques in her notebook margins. We were comparing our two religious traditions. She said “When the time for jihad comes, if you don’t accept Islam, I will have to kill you.”
I had been educated in Catholic school, where nuns encouraged me to interrogate my faith. I extended to Nur that invitation. “Just for the sake of argument, let’s imagine for a moment that there is no Allah,” I suggested.
Nur replied that she could not. She had been trained that even a moment’s doubt could lead to an eternity in Hell. Koran 49:15 says that believers are only those who do not doubt. Islam.org cites numerous verses and traditions to support condemnation of doubt.
I compared Nur’s mind-numbing and mind-imprisoning terror with the spirit of inquiry my faith had encouraged in me: to fully understand my Christian faith, I had to suspend and examine it. I thought of famous Biblical passages like John 20:24-29 and Mark 9:17-29 where Jesus does not punish, but shows compassion to doubters.
Later, in the 1980s, when I was working in Paterson, I used to hang out with a group of young, male, Arab friends and coworkers. We had hours-long debates. Some, not all of these men voiced enthusiastic support for terrorism. They said that the day was coming when jihadis would commit acts of terror in the US. They said that American culture – the culture in which they were all immersed – would topple, and Islam would replace it.
These conversations frightened and angered me. I was angry at the dominant discourse in America that made it taboo to criticize Islam.
After the September 11 terror attacks occurred, I thought, if one good thing can come of this nightmare, it will be this. America will finally speak frankly about jihad.
On September 17, 2001, less than a week after the terror attack, President George Bush, with CAIR members standing behind him, under distinctive Islamic architecture, made the demonstrably false and propagandistic statement that “Islam is peace.” His entire talk was an apologia for Islam. Bush referred to the September 11 terror attack as “the matter at hand” – rather than as the terror attack that it was. He quoted selectively from the “eloquent” Koran. He insisted that all Muslims were outraged, though we know many publicly celebrated. Bush warned against Americans harassing Muslims, as if that were the problem.
I did not encounter, in the wake of 9-11, the frank speech about jihad that America desperately needed.
America’s learning curve has been steep. In spite of PC speech codes, more and more Americans are self-educating about Islam. Some Americans are succumbing to the temptation to hate. Hate is a mistake. Here’s why:
1.) Every time a keyboard commando uses a slur or makes a threat, he is depositing capital into the grievance account maintained by CAIR, by Linda Sarsour, by academics and journalists and other victimization profiteers. Images of Muslims as victims of Western Christians are so valuable that some have staged hate crimes.
2.) Slurs and threats displace necessary facts. Schools, politicians, and churches are not educating the public about Islam. Counter-jihad activists must do this work, and we must move it from a few websites that preach to the choir into classrooms, sermons, political discourse, and mainstream media. The facts are extreme enough that they require no hateful elaboration.
3.) Americans, contrary to hateful PC stereotypes, are not a lynch mob rabble. Americans are nice, tolerant people who abhor racism. Those who speak in gutter slurs, “nuke-Mecca” memes and keyboard commando threats are not conveying the message that needs to be heard, and they are not reaching the audience that needs to hear.
4.) Your grandmother was correct. You really do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Mosab Hassan Yousef was born to be a terrorist. He was the first son of one of the founders of Hamas. His first arrest was at age ten for throwing rocks at Israelis. In his book Son of Hamas, Yousef described “an old Coptic priest.” “He was kind and gentle and had a warm, compelling voice. I liked him … he was systematically performing an autopsy on the Koran, opening it up and exposing every bone, muscle, sinew and organ and then putting them under the microscope of truth and showing the entire book to be cancerous. Factual and historical inaccuracies, contradictions – he revealed them precisely and respectfully but firmly and with conviction.” In a 2014 interview, Yousef said, “Christianity really helped me to escape from the Islamic mindset. I still follow the idea of loving our enemies and of unconditional forgiveness.”
Nabeel Qureshi’s parents were “immigrants from Pakistan and among the most dedicated Muslims I have ever known.” In his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Qureshi describes how friendships with Christians, who politely but authoritatively challenged Islam, sparked his conversion.
Below, eight counter-jihad activists offer their thoughts about confronting jihad even while rejecting hate and stereotyping. Each was interviewed one-on-one. The presence of an individual in this article does not imply his or her endorsement of ideas expressed by others quoted here.
Kay Wilson is a Jewish, Israeli tour guide. In 2010, she was hiking with Kristine Luken in a pine forest in the Jerusalem hills. Two Muslim, Arab men attacked them. After screaming “Allahu akbar,” they murdered Luken and stabbed Wilson thirteen times, broke her ribs, punctured her lungs, damaged her bones, and left her for dead. Wilson’s May 13, 2015 TED talk, “The Idiot’s Guide To Surviving A Machete Attack,” is one of the most profound messages you will ever hear. In it Wilson reports that as she was being treated in a hospital, one overheard sentence became unforgettable. “Mohammed, pass me the scalpel.” “It was an Arab Israeli surgeon who saved my life,” she says. There is more to me, Wilson insists, than being a victim. “I do not forgive,” she says. “I cannot forget.” “But I will not live the rest of my life in hatred or fear … I choose to look to the light and not just see the shadow … step-by-step, momentary choices have enabled me, a survivor of Arab terrorism, to reach out to an Arab teenager who was receiving death threats from members of his own community and at the risk of my own life, hide him in my house. It has enabled me, a survivor of Islamist terrorism, to travel to Egypt and hang out with a wonderful Muslim friend.”
Wilson is not blind to the real threat we all face. She said to me, “We have a right to be suspicious and to be fearful of Muslims because it is Muslims who are murdering people worldwide. The onus is on the ‘moderate’ Muslim community to help us rid ourselves of these fears by actively associating terror with at least some warped form of Islam and not dancing around these facts. For Muslims to cry ‘Islamophobia’ every time people are murdered by Muslim terrorists is a sign of moral cancer and makes people feel unjustly gagged by political correctness. If this is not dealt with, we will see more and more hate speech and snide remarks ooze over onto innocent human beings who identify with Islam, people who are noble defenders of humanity for whom terrorism is the furthest thing from their mind.
Acknowledging the reality of Muslim terrorism on the one hand, and hating all Muslims on the other hand is a fine line that we all need to walk, yet it is a line that if crossed is very dangerous one. We do not have the right to cross that line. We do not have the right to spread hate speech towards individuals. Hate and stereotyping occur when we give in to our fears.
I had to do two things. I had to name terrorism as coming from the Muslim community. I also had to develop a power of rational thought that challenged my fears. I started by acknowledging that it was two Muslims wielding a machete that nearly murdered me, yet it was a Muslim surgeon who saved my life. Each one is evaluated in his own right, for his own deeds, yet against the backdrop of growing Muslim global terrorism.
Phyllis Chesler is a professor emerita of psychology and women’s studies and the author of fourteen books. Born to an Orthodox Jewish family, in 1961 she married a Muslim and moved with him to Afghanistan. There, through illness and mistreatment from her mother-in-law, she nearly died. She returned to the US and divorced. Chesler’s firsthand experience inspired her to speak out frankly against gender apartheid and against Politically Correct Americans’ complicity in it. Chesler is on good terms with her ex-husband. Having loved a Muslim man, and having dedicated her life to criticizing gender apartheid, she understood my question.
I do not believe in collectively punishing an entire faith for the radically evil actions of those who insist that they kill for Allah. While most Muslims are not Jihadists, all too few dare resist these barbarous regimes – they want to live. Our task is to recognize the difference between, first, Islamists, that is, those who wish to kill us and a Western, modern way of life, second, those Muslims who do not have the courage or the ability to fight them, and, third, those Muslims who are their victims.
As Dr. Daniel Pipes has recently suggested, what the United States must do is learn to recognize Islamists among Muslims – radical fundamentalist Muslims whose culture has been inundated with hatred toward infidels, especially Jews, Christians, and Hindus as well as towards the ‘wrong’ kind of Muslim; who have been indoctrinated to torture, enslave, and kill infidels and to establish a Caliphate. We must stop or slow down Muslim immigration until experts devise ways of doing this.
For a long time, I have been criticizing the White House for welcoming the advice of Muslim Brotherhood members as opposed to anti-Islamist Muslims whose views have been marginalized or disappeared. Some truly anti-Islamist Muslims, such as Dr. Tawfik Hamid, are advising that we engage in psy-ops against Islamism using the internet.
NEIL J KRESSEL
Neil J. Kressel received his PhD in social psychology at Harvard. He is the author of “The Sons of Pigs and Apes”: Muslim Antisemitism and the Conspiracy of Silence. Kressel is Jewish.
“Individual Muslims are not defined in toto by their religious traditions,” Kressel told me.
Many in the United States, I suspect, have not even heard of the worst aspects of their religious tradition that scholars like myself find so troubling. Many haven’t been exposed to the hateful utterances that occur in some mosques. Some have heard this stuff and – due to secular learning, skepticism, human decency, past interactions with non-believers, and other reasons – dismiss the hatefulness as nonsense. People cannot be seen as passive vessels who receive fourteen-hundred year religious traditions mindlessly. It’s not like the civilization is downloaded by a button press into the individual. People are complex beings who derive their identities from multiple sources – their careers, their families, their neighborhoods, their schools, their friends, the media. In America, in particular, those agents of socialization can go a long way toward erasing the effects of religion – good or bad.
Plus, you shouldn’t hate people even when they do dislike you – although this (Jesus notwithstanding) is easier said than done. As someone who has devoted many years to documenting the extent of virulent anti-Semitic hatred that exists in the Muslim world, I believe it is absolutely essential to recognize the diversity of Islamic belief and to encourage Muslims who oppose violent jihad, antisemitism, and anti-Americanism.
The Pulitzer committee awards its prize for editorial cartooning to artists who “who use strong images to connect with readers while conveying layers of meaning in a few words;” who produce “thought provoking cartoons drawn with a sharp wit and bold artistic style.” By these criteria, no artist better deserves the prize than Bosch Fawstin. Absent the downfall of Political Correctness, he will never receive it. Fawstin was born in the US to Albanian parents. He was raised Muslim but now is an atheist. When I asked him about being a counter-jihadi who rejects hate and stereotyping, he responded that one of the reasons he addresses Islam in his work is Islam’s command to believers to kill apostates like himself. He quoted his essay, “My Name is Bosch and I’m a Recovered Muslim.”
Fortunately for us, Islam hasn’t been able to make every Muslim its slave, just as Nazism wasn’t able to turn every German into a Nazi. So there is Islam and there are Muslims. Muslims who take Islam seriously are at war with us and Muslims who don’t aren’t. But that doesn’t mean we should consider these reluctant Muslims allies against Jihad. I’ve been around Muslims my entire life and most of them truly don’t care about Islam. The problem I have with many of these essentially non-Muslim Muslims, especially in the middle of this war being waged on us by their more consistent co-religionists, is that they give the enemy cover. They force us to play a game of Muslim Roulette since we can’t tell which Muslim is going to blow himself up until he does. And their indifference about the evil being committed in the name of their religion is a big reason why their reputation is where it is. In the toilet.
Non-observant Muslims, Fawstin wrote,
lead some among us to conclude that they must be practicing a more enlightened form of Islam. They’re not. They’re “practicing” life in non-Muslim countries, where they are free to live as they choose. There is nothing in Islam that stays the hand of Muslims who want to kill non-Muslims. If an individual Muslim is personally peaceful, it’s not because of Islam, it’s because of his individual choice, which is why I often say that your average Muslim is morally superior to Mohammad, to their own religion. When you see well-assimilated Muslims in the West, you’re not seeing Islam in action; you’re seeing individuals living up to the old adage, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. They’re essentially post-Islamic Muslims who have rejected Islamic values and have embraced Western ones.
While Muslims, at large, have worked very hard towards flushing their reputation down the toilet – giving Westerners every right to be as suspicious and as cautious around Muslims as they want to be, even to shun them – to advocate killing all Muslims sounds like the Koran’s ‘Kill the infidels wherever you find them,’ even if they would argue that it’s just retaliation for terrorism, as if annihilation is retaliation. This war is about ideas and those who take them most seriously. It’s about Islam and its most consistent practitioners who are waging war on us. It’s not about “all Muslims.”
In 2006, Dr. Wafa Sultan riveted television viewers with her clarity and courage. On Al-Jazeera, she challenged the Muslim world. Among her many ringing statements, she said, “Muslims began this clash of civilizations when Islam’s prophet said ‘I was commanded to fight until they believe in Allah and his prophet.’ When Muslims divided people into Muslims and non-Muslims, and called for fighting others until those others believed in what they believed in, they sparked off this conflict, this war. And they must cease this war.” Her 2009 book, A God Who Hates, exposes gender apartheid as only a book written by a Syrian-born, Arabic speaking, woman physician, raised Muslim, could.
After I asked Sultan to comment on being a dedicated counter-jihadi who does not hate or stereotype her fellow Arabs, Sultan apologized for keeping her statement brief. “December has never been a good month for me!” But, as ever, she says what needs to be said.
“The whole world has to realize that we are not waging war against Muslims, but indeed against a very hateful and dangerous ideology! Unless we are able to distinguish between Islam and Muslims, this misinformation and accusations of stereotyping Muslims will never end! The cause of the calamity we’re facing today is deeply rooted in Islamic teachings, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to open the Islamic texts and find the most horrible mass destruction weapons, as I consider it. The Western governments are morally obligated to pressure the Islamic governments to reform those teachings! However, I am extremely confused and shocked by the fact that the Obama administration is ignoring Islamic terrorism and insisting that Islam is a religion of peace, not to mention, that Saudi Arabia is one of our allies against Isis!”
If I had to recommend to a newbie, who knew nothing about jihad, just one book, I would recommend Tawfik Hamid’s 2015, Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works; Why It Should Terrify Us; How to Defeat It. Egyptian-born Dr. Hamid was once a member of a terrorist group. It is now his quest to reform Islam, as he described in a recent appearance on Hannity. He identifies as a Muslim, but in a more universal sense than is usually meant. “I am a Muslim by faith, Christian by spirit, a Jew by heart, and above all, a human being.” In any case, his critique of jihad is utterly gloves-off, as you can read in my review of his book here.
His stance against stereotyping is pragmatic as well as ethical, as he described to me:
It is critical, in this global war on terror, to freely criticize the ideology of the jihadists. If we fail to do so we will only allow this ideology to grow unchallenged. But we must be honest and accurate in our criticism, irrespective if it was Islam itself or interpretations of the faith that have spurred worldwide jihad. We must also clearly distinguish between Islam and Muslims. For example, just because someone has an Islamic name does not necessarily mean that person is a radical or supports jihad. And if we condemn them merely for their name and faith, we risk increasing their support for the radical ideology we are fighting. If we are to win the war on terror, we will need the approval of the vast population of nonviolent Muslims. Discriminating against them only risks catastrophe.
Dr. Bill Warner maintains the Political Islam website. While many counter-jihad activists come from the humanities and social sciences, Dr. Warner’s PhD is in physics and math. His unique approach uses numbers to demonstrate the danger of jihad. His “Jihad v Crusades” YouTube video has been viewed over a million times. Using dates and numbers, this video proves the absurdity of comparing the Crusades to jihad. Warner’s “Koran-at-a-Glance” website displays the content of the Koran using color-coding that can indeed be grasped at a glance.
Warner states on his website that statistical methods applied to Islamic texts show that “Islamic doctrine cannot be reconciled with our concepts of human rights and our Constitution.” Even so, he said to me,
“We must be clear that our fight is not against Muslims, but a political/civilizational doctrine, Sharia. The first victim of Islam is the Muslim. We need a full-throated discussion about the politics of Islam, not Muslims. Besides, you never win the Muslim argument, since there are over a billion of them and they come in all varieties. So be smart, pick a winning strategy, and fight against political Islam and the Sharia.”
In December, 2015, a woman said to Joe,
I was in the drug store today. A woman wearing a headscarf entered. I asked if she was Muslim. Then I said to her as loud as I could so everyone could hear me, “Americans hate Islam and Muslims. All of you get out of our country. America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. You are not wanted here. We hate Allah and Islam. You murderous people get out of America.
“There were about ten people standing nearby. Nobody said a word. I took it to mean they wish they would have said it. I dedicate what I said to the innocent fourteen American victims in San Bernardino. They were my neighbors.‘”
Joe had the courage to respond to this heartbroken woman, who had been pushed over the edge.
It is my full time ministry now to speak at churches and help Christians understand the proper response to Islam and Muslims. I’ve been studying Islam for over fifteen years. I interact with Muslims regularly. I speak at dozens of churches a year on this topic.
Is Islam evil? Without a doubt. Are Muslims evil? Not necessarily. They commit acts of evil because they sincerely believe that’s what is required of them to enter paradise. They are after the same goal we are, a life of bliss after death. They have been deceived. Muslims are the greatest victims of the lies of Islam.
Are all Muslims jihadists or Islamists? Absolutely no! There are many, in fact the majority, who know little about the real teaching of Islam. And even among those who do, a majority do not subscribe to the violent aspects of Islam. Do you know that the mosque in Chino on Ramona Avenue is Ahmadiyya? That woman may well have been from that mosque. Ahmadiyyas are genuinely peaceful Muslims. They completely reject the violent verses of the Quran and view them as a relic of the seventh century. Their motto is “Love for all, hatred for none.”
Let’s not forget what Paul wrote to Timothy: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
I have experienced very productive and fruitful conversations with Muslims simply because I respected them as fellow human beings and treated them with dignity.
I met Mike in 2011. He wrote an opinion piece for his local newspaper on how Islam is a religion of peace. I challenged his view of Islam by quoting the Koran, several hadith, and authoritative Islamic scholars. My response to Mike’s article generated a flurry of exchanges between us over the course of nearly a year. Long story short, today Mike is a no longer a Muslim, but a Christian. I just attended his wedding to a godly woman.
One of the biggest mistakes we make in the West is failing to separate the ideology from the people. Yes, Islam is evil. Yes, Islam is oppressive. Yes, Islam is antithetical to everything we hold dear. But Muslims are not an ideology. It is not contradictory to, on the one hand, take a firm stand against Islam as an evil ideology, while on the other hand respecting Muslims as human beings.