Celebrating Our Enemies, Twenty Years after 9/11
America dives, Islam thrives.
On 9/11, the world was shown, in one horrific, indelible image, precisely what Islam is all about. Today, to write the previous sentence is to be guilty of Islamophobia. How did that come to be? It began in the days after 9/11 itself, when George W. Bush - by repeatedly insisting that the cause of the jihadists had nothing to do with Islam - effectively ruled out of bounds any criticism of that religion, or any honest education and open discussion about it. Instead, Bush - who had gotten it into his head that all religions are basically good, and who was manipulated by advisors who wanted to project American power in a part of the world about which they knew very little - used 9/11 as an excuse to rein in Americans’ civil liberties and go nation-building abroad. It was a massive folly, doomed to failure. Why doomed? Because Islam is utterly irreconcilable with American-style freedom and incapable of reform, at least not without a far more aggressive effort than America was willing to commit to. Unlike America, moreover, Islam has a long memory. Muslims recall their forebears’ foiled attempts to conquer the Christian West at Tours in 732 and Vienna in 1683; the attacks of 9/11 were part of a history of such actions that goes back to Islam’s earliest days. Yet few Westerners know about this history or are aware that 9/11 was part of it.
Indeed, how many Westerners know, even now, that the word Islam means submission? For a long time, America was the ultimate symbol of the refusal to submit: in World War II, we took on powerful enemies on two fronts and won; during the Cold War, we protected the Free World from Communist takeover. But the Muslim wars we entered into after 9/11 were different. We were hobbled by leaders who refused to name the enemy - and by a corrosive victim culture, born in the academy but rapidly spreading into the mainstream, that divided Americans into oppressed and oppressor classes. It was Muslims who had attacked us on 9/11, and had done so in accordance with their prophet’s directives; but even as our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan labored to overcome social ills in those countries that were the direct result of Islam’s baleful centuries-long influence, our elites began painting Islam as beautiful and peaceful while casting Muslims in the role of America’s ultimate victims.
So little did Americans understand about Islam as of 2008 that they elected as their president a man who was the son and stepson of Muslims and who’d spent much of his childhood in the Muslim nation of Indonesia, where he’d been registered at schools as a Muslim, taken Koran classes, worn Muslim garb, and attended mosque. In a 2007 interview with Nicholas Kristof, he described the Muslim call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.” (Kristof observed enthusiastically that “a president is less likely to stereotype Muslims as fanatics...if he once studied the Koran with them.”) Delivering an address at Al-Azhar University in Cairo shortly after his inauguration, the new president hailed Islam’s purported contributions to human civilization, inventing an entire alternate history that replaced primitive violence with advanced learning and scientific discovery. If Bush had whitewashed Islam, Obama exalted it, shifting the Overton window even further away from candor about Islamic fundamentals in the direction of sheer fantasy - and deference.
In the years following 9/11, class divisions in the U.S. intensified. And one mark of the difference between the elites and the deplorables was that the former tended to parrot the pretty lies about Islam while the latter didn’t. During this period, the planet’s ultimate elite newspaper, the New York Times, perfected a subgenre of article that has won it the highest of accolades: the shameless Muslim puff piece. In 2007, Andrea Elliott was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for what the Pulitzer website describes as “her intimate, richly textured portrait of an immigrant imam striving to find his way and serve his faithful in America.” The website’s language is indicative of the supremely mendacious way in which our betters routinely frame the subject of Islam.
These are people who rarely write about a member of the Christian clergy unless he’s been caught with his hand in the collection plate or under some altar boy’s cassock. But when they’re profiling an imam, they invariably represent him as a deeply holy man, a virtuous soul “striving” to “serve his faithful.” In order to make such a profile work on the desired warm-and-fuzzy level, to be sure, they need to elide certain uncomfortable details about what that imam actually preaches. Hence the harsh reality of sharia - Islamic law - needs to be kept from the reader; indeed, legitimate expressions of concern about sharia by well-informed members of the public need to be dismissed as the ravings of ignorant bigots. (Dias, for example, quotes a Muslim activist who characterizes various states’ anti-sharia legislation as the product of “hysteria” and compares them to campaigns to ban the teaching of that other gift to mankind, critical race theory.)
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Times ran yet another of its cozy pieces about American Muslims. In “9/11 and After: Muslim Americans’ ‘Seismic Change,’” Elizabeth Dias purports to profile a “community” that is “determined to thrive” - in the face, apparently, of widespread hatred and intolerance. As is de rigueur in this subgenre, Dias opens by introducing us to somebody with whom we’re expected to sympathize:
When Sylvia Chan-Malik reflects on the aftermath of Sept. 11, she has two starkly different personal memories from the trauma.
She recalls the strangers yelling epithets at her and her young daughters on their way to Eid prayers. But she also thinks of her daughters, now teenagers, seeing Hasan Minhaj, the Muslim comedian, at a sold-out theater and reading novels about Muslim girls like themselves.
Dias proceeds to quote Chan-Malik on the way in which 9/11 and its aftermath have “caused incredible violence and pain and trauma,” but also “created incredible possibility and hope and new forms of community.” Dias picks up the message, telling us that 9/11 “unleashed a deluge of anti-Muslim hate and misinformation that persists today” and that Donald Trump was elected “on an anti-Muslim platform,” resulting in “a surge in violence against American Muslims.” Of course, the only “misinformation” about Islam that persists in America is the kind served up regularly in places like the Times by way of prettifying what is, in reality, an exceedingly poisonous ideology.
If Trump is “anti-Muslim,” it’s only by the Times’s own highly dishonest standards, under which it’s an act of vicious bigotry to take Islamic theology seriously, to deal with Islamic terrorism responsibly, or to acknowledge the link between Muslim belief and violent jihad. As for that so-called surge in anti-Muslim violence, it’s as much of a canard as the bogus statistics on campus rape, spread by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and its comrades on the left, none of whom ever dare to speak honestly about the violence (largely anti-Jewish) committed by Muslims in the West - or about the bloodthirsty decimation by Middle Eastern Muslims, during the last two decades, of Christian and Jewish communities in that region. No, Muslims must always be portrayed as victims - and that includes portraying them, unforgivably, as the leading victims of 9/11.
A brief detour: who, incidentally, is Sylvia Chan-Malik, this woman with whose comments about Muslim life Dias chooses to begin her article? As it turns out, she’s not just your run-of-the-mill American Muslim. No, she’s an academic-elite success story of the first water, with one of the trendiest professional CVs I’ve ever seen. A Berkeley grad with a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies, Chan-Malik was a visiting professor at Princeton last spring and now teaches “American studies, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, and Religious Studies” at Rutgers, with a focus on “anti-blackness, xenophobia, orientalism, and white nationalism,” not to mention “the rise of anti-Muslim racism in 20th-21st-century America” and the way in which “race, gender, and religion...interact in struggles for social justice.” There’s no indication in Chan-Malik’s Rutgers bio that she has anything negative whatsoever to say about Islam itself. On the contrary, while she deplores the “oftentimes violent legacies of white Christian Protestantism in the United States,” she balks at even the mildest and most justifiable criticism of Islam - taking issue, for instance, with those who, in her words, set up “a false opposition between ‘Islam’ and feminism.’” In other words, she’s a perfect Muslim source for the Newspaper of Record.
Anyway, getting back to Dias: balancing out all the alleged horrors experienced by American Muslims in the last twenty years, she informs us, is the triumphant entry of Muslims into the American mainstream. Example #1: “Ramy Youssef won a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of a young New Jersey man struggling with his identity.” I looked up Youssef. He calls himself an “Allah Carte” Muslim - which means that under the rules of Islam, he’s an apostate, and thereby deserving of death. (No mention of this by Dias, naturally.) Example #2: the election to Congress of Muslims like Ilhan Omar, who “successfully challenged the 181-year rule banning headwear in the House chamber.” Well, for some of us, the election to Congress of someone like Omar - a vile anti-Semite and America-hater with terrorist ties - is not something to celebrate.
But in the world according to the Times, it’s in bad taste to look too closely at such people’s more unsavory opinions and connections (or, for that matter, at such minor biographical details as her marriage of convenience to her brother). Dias goes on to note that America’s Muslim population has doubled since 9/11, so that about 1% of Americans are now Muslim. You might think she’d ponder the impact of Islamization in Western Europe, where in some countries Muslims are approaching 10% of the population; there’s no reference here to the rapid spread of no-go zones, the huge rise in violent crime, the destructive force of mass welfare dependency, or the official persecution (and prosecution) of critics of Islam. Nor does Dias cite any of the many deadly jihadist attacks that have taken place since 9/11 on both sides of the Atlantic. Preposterously, she quotes Farah Pandith of the Council on Foreign Relations, who laments “the rising of a fear-based narrative around Islam.” In fact the “fear-based narrative around Islam” became to take shape in the seventh century, with the jihadist destruction of the Sassanid Empire and the severe weakening of the Byzantine Empire.
In a saner world, needless to say, it would be considered risible for the Times to run an article bemoaning the “fear-based narrative around Islam” at precisely the moment when the Taliban, having retaken Afghanistan, is back in business destroying artworks and musical instruments, beating up journalists, forcing women back into burkas and girls into sex slavery, and beheading apostates (among others) and desecrating their remains in the gruesomest of ways. But the West today is not that saner world in which it would be admirable to speak frankly about such matters; on the contrary, it’s a world that’s been shaped since 9/11 by people like those who call the shots at the Times - a world in which it’s unacceptable to admit that the Taliban’s current actions are thoroughly consistent with the teaching of orthodox Islam, but where it’s obligatory to condemn as racist even a tame effort by Donald Trump to prevent entry into the U.S. by devout Muslims who support the Taliban’s actions.
This is where we stand, 20 years after 9/11: the West is awash in lies and cowardice; while the shady likes of Omar and Rashida Tlaib flex their muscles in Congress, while hustlers like Sylvia Chan-Malik brainwash students at our most prestigious universities, while degraded legacy media like the Times continue to sugarcoat Islam, and while a perfidious pol like British MP Stella Creasy feels obliged to say in the House of Commons that the Taliban’s iniquities are “not Islam,” brave truth-tellers on the topic, like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Lars Hedegaard in Denmark, are put on trial, even as another, Robert Spencer, is banned from the U.K., and still another, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, must live with bodyguards around the clock.
In 2002, the country singer Toby Keith reacted to 9/11 with a song, “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” that was addressed to Al Qaeda:
Hey Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list
And the Statue of Liberty started shakin' her fist
And the eagle will fly man, it's gonna be hell
When you hear mother freedom start ringin' her bell
And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you
Brought to you courtesy of the red white and blue
Well, we rained down hell on Afghanistan and Iraq. By force of arms, we repelled the Taliban and ISIS and al-Qaeda, but we then failed in the absurd drive to turn those countries into simulacra of the free society that America had once been but was quickly evolving away from. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush said that the terrorists had lost, because the attacks had brought Americans together. Would Bush say now that the terrorists lost? Twenty years on, under the disgraceful Biden, America feels like a damaged and diminished nation - its power weakened, its alliances shaken, its once-unshakable core beliefs largely shattered, not least by the suicidal compulsion to speak well of Islam (as well as of our enemies in China and of the savage gang members who flood across our Southern border, and whom Nancy Pelosi defended with as much passion - “we’re all God’s children,” she gushed about MS-14 - as Hillary Clinton brought to bear in insulting the “deplorables” of middle America). To many Americans, especially the young, the patriotism that inspired Keith’s song now sounds quaint, if not outright offensive; in the view those who hold the future of America in their hands, saluting the flag and singing the national anthem are for “white supremacists.” The America that al-Qaeda struck at on 9/11 is no more; and 9/11 itself, and our tragically misguided response to it, are a very big part of the reason why. Islam plays a long game.
President Biden’s indifference to the parents of the thirteen American armed-forces members killed in Afghanistan spoke volumes. All too many of our elites now view GIs who’ve been wounded or killed fighting Muslims as an embarrassment - as relics of a benighted era when we resisted Islam instead of bowing to it. All those firefighters racing up the stairs of the Twin Towers on 9/11? Todd Beamer shouting “Let’s roll!” as he and some of his fellow passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 rushed the cockpit to foil the Al-Qaeda thugs? In the eyes of many of our most bien pensant types today, these are wince-inducing images - now worn into corny, cloying clichés - that no civilized individual would dredge up any longer except out of sheer Islamophobia. The other day, when Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKinsey actually praised the Taliban for its cooperativeness, it seemed clear that the mantra of “America bad, Islam good” had triumphed utterly over the values that the overwhelming majority of Americans of both parties once shared. So it is that, after the fall of Kabul, many of us who, not so long ago, considered America almost immune to the ideological plagues of Europe and elsewhere find ourselves nothing less than shell-shocked, haunted by Ronald Reagan’s cautionary words about freedom never being more than a generation away from extinction.