Regardless of whether one subscribes to the notion of a clash of civilizations, I think we can all agree that relations between “the Islamic world” and “the West,” however one defines those labels, are, well, strained. President Obama was elected at least partly because, with childhood roots in Muslim Indonesia and an Arabic middle name no one was allowed to mention until after the election, the Left believed him to be the perfect candidate to heal that rift. When he wasn’t healing the racial divide, America’s reputation abroad, and the planet, that is.
So right out of the gate, Obama made his first order of business an appearance on al-Arabiya TV, in which he made seven references to “respecting” the Muslim world, his flashing neon semaphore to them that he was no imperialist exploiter like his predecessor (Daniel Pipes notes here how common a motif the word “respect” was for Obama, ironically so for a man who commands none either at home or abroad). Then it was on to a self-important speech from Cairo, in which Obama flattered the Islamic world so effusively that one wondered if he was angling to ask it to the prom. And of course, who can forget his show of contemptible dhimmitude – I mean deep respect – to the Saudi King?
His efforts haven’t exactly mellowed the clash of civilizations into a Kumbiya campfire circle. And yet Obama was at least theoretically on the right track. Because a recent poll by the new Abu Dhabi Gallup Centre reports that a large majority of Muslims say that the best way for the West to improve relations with them is to “respect Islam.” But the West has made every effort at “Muslim outreach” and bent over backwards to make social and cultural concessions to its Muslim citizens. President Bush himself expressed a distasteful degree of deference toward Islam, and Obama far surpassed even that; so how much more respect will it take to make the Muslim world feel sufficiently respected?
The issue needs to be reframed. Since even our most gushing genuflection seems to have accomplished nothing except to incite further expectations of respect, it’s time for the West to take charge of this dialogue on our terms. We in the West – apart from Obama and his sycophants – are accustomed to the understanding that respect cannot simply be expected, much less demanded; it has to be earned. So now the question becomes, what must that majority of Muslims who want respect for their religion do to earn it? How can they make their religion, well, more respectable?
What follows are ten suggestions (some of which mirror Robert Spencer’s five ways to end Islamophobia) for those Muslims cited in the Gallup poll to take to heart – those who, like Rodney Dangerfield, lament that they can’t get no respect.
10. Stop waging violent jihad.
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. If Muslims are tired of having the words “Muslim” and “terrorist” linked (on those rare occasions when our leaders and media actually do link them), a painfully obvious solution leaps to mind: stop committing acts of terrorism in the name of Allah and his prophet.
Ending atrocities against innocents and non-combatants (as we define them, not as the Islamists define them), and striving to actually live up to Islam’s Religion of Peace™ label, would be a nice good-faith gesture to lay the groundwork for better relations with the West. It’s certainly the most urgent step to take, and the most necessary – without it, none of my subsequent suggestions will matter.
For Muslims who already are not plotting or committing acts of terrorism, confront your co-religionists who are and nip them in the bud. After all, as it’s often pointed out, they constitute a TME – Tiny Minority of Extremists™ – that should easily be overwhelmed by the moderates’ superior numbers. At the very least, report the TME to the authorities…
9. Cooperate to the fullest with law enforcement to root out the terrorists in your midst.
A New York Times article last week noted that Rep. Peter T. King of New York, who will become the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, intended to look into a lack of cooperation in terror investigations:
When I meet with law enforcement, they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders.
[King] basically wants to treat the Muslim-American community as a suspect community.
I’m sorry to break this news to Mr. Marayati, but the Muslim-American community is suspect – not because of bigotry or Islamophobia, but because the terrorists and radicals in its midst have made it so. Resisting cooperation with law enforcement naturally lends even more weight to that suspicion. It doesn’t help when Muslim community leaders cry “civil rights violations” while claiming that people like King are
undermining the relationship that Muslim leaders had sought to build with law enforcement officials around the country.
Relationship? Law enforcement officials nationwide are complaining that there isn’t one. Short of infiltration, which Muslim leaders also oppose, law enforcement has no way of knowing what radical activities may or may not be going on inside the mosques. And that brings us to our next recommendation…
*Check out the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s devastating piece about MPAC’s unfitness to serve as a liaison with law enforcement.
8. De-radicalize your mosques****
Estimates are that upwards of 80% of all mosques in the United States are controlled by the fundamentalist Wahhabi strain of Islam promoted by the Saudis’ bottomless funding. Preaching Jew-hatred, the supremacy of sharia, and the downfall of democracy isn’t likely to win us over. I’m just sayin’.
Now former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Reza Khalili reports that Iran is using mosques and Islamic cultural centers in Europe and the U.S. as centers of terrorist recruitment and planning:
They recruit, they train, they sell the ideology of martyrdom, and many, many are guided and connected to terrorist groups.
There is no surprise in this, except for those Westerners who buy the politically correct line that mosques are benign houses of worship that are never used for any nefarious purposes. In reality, mosques have been used to preach hatred; to spread exhortations to terrorist activity; to house a bomb factory; to store weapons; to disseminate messages from bin Laden; to demand (in the United States) that non-Muslims conform to Islamic dietary restrictions; to fire on American troops; to fire upon Indian troops; or to train jihadists.
If Muslims don’t want their mosques infiltrated or investigated by non-Muslim law enforcement, then it’s up to them to clean house and rid themselves of the elements – including the imams themselves – who might be fomenting and plotting subversion, hatred, and terror.
7. Start respecting the rights of women****
If you’re somehow arguing that Islam has a different conception of women in society than Europe does, it’s just wrong.
For the first thirty years of my life, I lived as a virtual slave. I was a bird in a cage; a second-class citizen who had to watch what I said even to my close friends. Under Islamic law I had to live in a gender-segregated environment and always be aware that the legal and social penalty for “sin” could end my life. This is what it is to live as a woman under Sharia law.
Last week it was reported that each year an estimated 600,000 lashes are dealt to women in the sharia wonderland known as the Sudan, for such shockingly heinous crimes against humanity as wearing pants. Women in sharia-controlled Saudi Arabia must conceal their seductive charms in black Hefty bags and veil their faces in public, of course; but now even that’s not enough for the Saudi “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.” A Commission spokesman announced that
The Commission members have orders to tell any women in public to cover up her face if they find that her eyes are seditious.
Ah, seditious eyes – potentially more threatening than seditious bare ankles, although the Commission doesn’t explain what constitutes “seditious.” No word either on how the Commission feels about “Bette Davis Eyes.”
* Not that Aslan will listen. In 2009 I attended an event at which Aslan was speaking, and Nonie Darwish rose in the audience to challenge him about the condition of women under sharia. After conceding one small point, he said, “Everything else you said is wrong” – and turned away from her, ending their discussion.
6. Start reciprocating religious tolerance
There is no more religiously tolerant country in history than the contemporary United States, although you’d never know this from the constant wailing refrain of “Islamophobia!” from Islamists and their leftist sympathizers. The notion of a tsunami of Muslim-hatred washing over the nation is a shameful PC myth, as a November “hate crimes” report reveals. Muslim-Americans enjoy as much, if not more, religious freedom here as anyone else.
By stark contrast, no Bibles, churches, temples or synagogues are allowed on the Arabian peninsula, the home of Islam. Non-Muslims are not even allowed in Mecca. Under Islamic rule elsewhere, no new non-Muslim houses of worship are allowed to be built, and existing ones may not be repaired.
Then there is the violent persecution of non-Muslims. My friend Mark Durie, the brilliant scholar of Islam, notes in his _The Third Choice_ that
The human rights situation of Christians in many Muslim countries has been getting steadily worse over the past half-century. This deterioration has been directly linked to the worldwide Islamic revival and reinstatement of sharia law.
A report last month at the Hudson New York think tank states that
Christians in Arab countries are no longer being persecuted; they are now being slaughtered and driven out of their homes and lands.
Muslims want us to respect Islam? End the persecution of non-Muslims, reciprocate religious tolerance, and abolish the death penalty for “apostasy.” Then we’ll talk.
5. Update your penal code from “medieval.”
While our own legal system has a far-from-perfect record of dispensing justice, and punishment can be harsh (that’s why it’s called “punishment”), sharia is the very definition of draconian. This “cruel and usual punishment,” as Ms. Darwish calls it, includes lashings for drinking alcohol, amputations for thievery, beheadings for more serious crimes, being hanged or thrown from a roof for homosexuality, and – the real gem in sharia’s crown – the stoning of adulterers.
This last method of execution requires that the stones used be neither too small to do serious damage nor large enough to cause a quick death. So it’s clear that the ordeal is intended to be as excruciating and prolonged as possible.
Say what you will about our own electric chairs and firing squads, which we’ve largely abandoned in our search for the most humane method of execution (itself reserved for only the most heinous of crimes); sharia’s punishments are characterized by barbarism. News flash: barbarity doesn’t generate respect.
4. Let the whole cartoon thing go.
Speaking of barbarity…
This would seem to be a no-brainer, but apparently it bears explaining: “taking offense” is not a license for frenzied rioting, murder and mayhem. The most notable example is the worldwide rage over a set of cartoons published years ago in a Danish newspaper, which no one outside of that tiny country would have seen if not for the cartoons’ shrewd distribution by Islamists themselves eager to unite the ummah, the worldwide Muslim community, against the blasphemous West. That murderous outrage is ongoing: Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard was recently set upon in his home by a Muslim attacker seeking vengeance.
Similar, more recent examples include the threats to kill the South Park creators for their tame, satirical, animated take on that same hypersensitive hysteria, and the death fatwa issued against cartoonist Molly Norris, who has since “gone ghost” in fear for her life. Not to mention the death threats, explicit or implied, over innumerable other things that offend many Muslims.
Apologists like to point out that many Muslims take disrespect toward Islam, Allah, and his prophet very seriously, and they suggest we tiptoe respectfully around that religious sensibility. I would like to point out that such apologists are cowards, appeasers, and religious hypocrites, and remind them that violent lunacy is not deserving of respect. And this segues into suggestion number three…
3. Stop trying to curtail our free speech and to criminalize Islamophobia.
From the Salman Rushdie affair to Molly Norris’ sad vanishing, the list of Islamist assaults on our precious freedom of speech is far too long to do justice to here. And the West has too often responded not with firm resistance, but by preemptively censoring itself: witness Random House rescinding its offer to publish The Jewel of Medina, a novel that an academic warned might outrage Muslims, or the Yale University Press publishing a book about the Danish cartoons that will not include the cartoons themselves.
Islamists know that the key to winning the war of ideas against the West is to keep hammering away at our freedom of speech – our right and our ability to critique and denounce a totalitarian ideology that is hell-bent on bringing the West under its heel. Criminalizing blasphemy, defamation of religion, “Islamophobia” and the like will put us at a mortal disadvantage. Indeed, the world’s largest Islamic assembly, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, has made the criminalization of religious defamation, specifically “Islamophobia,” its number one priority – and Obama has sent a sympathetic envoy to that party to help them achieve it.
To earn our respect and the beginning of trust, you must embrace, not threaten, our freedoms and our values.
2. Stop letting the Muslim Brotherhood speak for you.
For decades now, the Muslim Brotherhood has shrewdly worked to establish its subversive presence in America through a complex network of front groups and “legacy groups” which includes virtually every recognized Muslim organization in this country. Over time these groups – most notably the ubiquitous CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations – have gradually muscled their way into position as the representative voice of all Muslim-Americans.
Maddeningly, our government, law enforcement, and media have taken the bait and embraced these groups unquestioningly – blindly engaging an enemy that seeks the “elimination of Western civilization,” as an internal Brotherhood document proclaims. Such Islamist groups completely control this country’s dialogue with our Muslim citizens.
Americans have been asking since 9/11/01:
Where are the moderate Muslims? Why have they not risen up en masse to show that they stand with us against the extremists?
For Muslims to earn the respect of the West, those moderates in America and around the world must prove first that they exist – by uniting, organizing, promoting themselves not only to the media and government but to the public, and fearlessly confronting the deeply-rooted network of Brotherhood groups. They must speak out forcefully in unqualified solidarity with the West against their co-religionists’ terrorism and stealth agenda.
1. Start taking responsibility for your own destiny instead of blaming the West
In contrast to Western notions of self-reliance and free will, the Arab world suffers from what Hugh Fitzgerald calls an “Islam-inculcated inshallah-fatalism” characterized by the habitual mantra “Inshallah,” or “If God wills it,” used in reference to virtually every action. As Fitzgerald writes,
Why try very hard when, in the end, every fiber in your individual or collective being tells you that, in the end, it’s all up to Allah, and he will intervene, quite inexplicably and suddenly, whenever he wants?
This is fatal to cultural, technological, scientific, economic, and spiritual development. Without the culturally ingrained confidence that human beings can, through their own decisions and choices, impact the external world and to a large extent steer their own destinies, a people is doomed to stagnation, jealousy, and parasitism, and tends to look outside themselves to affix blame.
To earn the West’s respect, such Muslims must stop shrugging “inshallah” about all things great and small, stop laying the blame for their conditions on conspiracy theories of Western imperialism and thievery, and actively take responsibility for a better future and a peaceful, shared destiny with the West.