Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Well into the second decade of Islamic jihad against the West, we all know the bloody script. In London, “radical jihadists” or “Islamist extremists” for the third time in a year went on a rampage, ramming pedestrians and slashing throats, and leaving seven dead and 48 wounded so far. Police immediately round up suspects they obviously could have snatched before the carnage. Prime Minister Theresa May blusters “enough is enough” and “terrorism breeds terrorism.” Politicians across the world issue rote “condemnations” of terrorism,” then go back to business as usual. Shrines of teddy bears, flowers, candles, and therapeutic bromides are the best the Brits can do in response to yet another act of a war they don’t even know they’re in.
Welcome to the new normal for a Western civilization, content, like H.G. Wells’ Eloi, to party and consume in leisure and affluence until the Morlocks devour them.
Like most acts of appeasement, this refusal to defend our way of life––individual rights and freedom, tolerance, separation of church and state, representative government, popular sovereignty, and political liberty––starts with the denial of reality. PM May’s comments in response to the attack are a textbook example of the received wisdom that cripples our response to Europe’s ancient enemy that it fought for a thousand years to drive from its lands.
The terrorists, May claims, “are bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division and promotes sectarianism. It is an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth. Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time but it cannot be defeated through military intervention alone.” Meaning, as May says, “teaching Western values.”
It’s important to parse this statement, for it reprises every delusion that has marked the West’s response to Islamic jihad since 9/11. Jihad is not “Islamist extremism,” but has been a foundational tenet of traditional Islam since the seventh century. The Koran repeatedly commands Muslims to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them,” “Fight those who do not believe in Allah,” “fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness,” “kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out,” “I [Allah] will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve . . . Therefore, strike off their heads” ––these are just a few samples of the divine justification for “hatred, division, and sectarianism” found in Islam’s most holy book.
Moreover, the jihad imperative is consistent over 14 centuries. Here is Ibn Taymiyyah, 14th century jurist and theologian:
Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and sine its aim is that the religion is Allah’s entirely and Allah’s word is uppermost, therefore, according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought.
Or Ibn Khaldun, the 15th century historian and jurist:
In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or force . . . Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.
Medieval backwardness? Here’s Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna writing in the early 20th century:
It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations, and extend its power to the entire planet.
His disciple Sayyid Qutb explains how this domination will happen:
Islam has the right to remove all those obstacles which are in its path,” not “through sermons or discourse,” for “Those who have usurped the power of Allah on earth and made his worshipers their slaves will not be dispossessed by words alone.”
So too the Ayatollah Khomeini, the most revered modern Shi’a theologian and creator of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism:
Those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! . . . Kill them, put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]! . . . Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who want to kill you!
According to James E. Mitchell, who interrogated 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, KSM explained his motives in precisely these same terms: Basically the Islamic injunction to “fight all men,” in the words of Mohammed’s farewell address, “until they say ‘There is no god but Allah.’” And that is exactly what ISIS, al Qaeda, and their agents in Western cities are doing––what their ancestors have done for 14 centuries. As a brave Egyptian critic of Islam has said, “What has ISIS done that Mohammed didn’t do?”
Such behavior is not a “perversion,” it is piety. Contra May, terrorism does not “breed terrorism.” Terrorism is born in a heretical faith that values obedience to Allah, and whose adherents “love death as you [infidels] love life,” the motto of jihadists from the 6th century caliph Khalid ibn al-Walid, the “Sword of Allah,” to today’s Hamas.
The corollary to May’s typical blindness to Islam’s theologized violence and religious imperialism is the cliché that the jihadists will not be defeated by “military intervention alone,” but by “teaching Western values.” We’ve been at this strategy for 20 years, ritually chanting “religion of peace,” “moderate Muslims,” “democracy,” “economic development,” and “human rights,” all in effect mere verbal talismans we hope will ward off more slaughter and more colonization of cultural and public spaces by hostile enclaves of people who despise Western values.
And how obtuse do we have to be to think that a Western value like sex-equality will convert Muslims from sharia, which legitimizes sex-inequality and honor killings? To think that confessional tolerance will strike a pious Muslim as nothing other than the indulgence of idolatry and atheism, and so just another casus belli for jihadist terror? To think that our degradation of ordered liberty into hedonistic license will not be yet another proof that the West is morally and spiritually bankrupt, and would be better off under Islam’s laws?
All this empty talk of “teaching Western values” is nothing other than rationalizations for our failure to do what must be done and accept Lincoln’s “awful arithmetic,” the tragic calculus that some must die today so that more don’t die tomorrow. Instead, we outlaw effective interrogation techniques like waterboarding; allow murderers to “wrap themselves in America’s rights and laws,” as KSM told Mitchell; refuse to monitor, infiltrate, and surveil aggressively mosques, “community centers,” internet sites, and “outreach centers”; censor ourselves from speaking truth in deference to the false dogmas of political correctness like “Islamophobia”; and conduct war under rules of engagement that value the lives of the enemy over those of our own soldiers.
Jihadists aren’t just ignorant of “Western values.” They know them very well. And what they see when they look at the West is an exhausted civilization that has discarded faith, despises its own culture, cares only for pleasure and leisure, and does not create families as proof that we believe in the goodness and future of our civilization as one that deserves to exist long after we are gone.
No wonder, then, that KSM––as Qutb, al-Banna, Khomeini, and bin Laden have believed for nearly a century––told Mitchell:
We will win because Americans don’t realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting . . . the brothers would relentlessly continue their attacks and the American people would eventually become so tired, so frightened, and so weary of war that they would just want it to end.
The jihadists have been following this strategy, while the West has continued to indulge its illusions and fantasies. Worse yet, we have institutionalized in our culture and schools a fashionable self-loathing, the sacrifice of truth to a multiculturalist hypocrisy that condemns the free, liberal West but excuses the depredations of the brutal regimes and terrorists that fervently desire to kill us; and that preaches “all cultures are equal” yet screeches about “human rights” that few cultures in the world recognize or practice.
Committed only to material goods and pleasures, how can we battle a foe passionately loyal to the spiritual? Despising our own civilization, how can we confront those fanatically assured of the superiority of their own? How can we defeat such an enemy when there is nothing we believe is worth killing and dying for?
We can’t, and so we will follow the same script after each terrorist murder. And we will continue to surrender bits and pieces of our material goods and freedoms, hoping to buy one more day of physical comfort and material pleasure, as each terrorist attack is quickly eclipsed by the latest Trump tweet, progressive hysteria, celebrity scandal, new gadget, or blockbuster movie––until our civilization dies not with Eliot’s bang or whimper, but with smug blindness and arrogant ignorance.