Do conservatives recognize the threat?

Rarely, in the course of history, has a nation gone to war while praising the enemy’s ideology. We can, however, see this absurd spectacle today. While terrorists attack our greatest cities in the name of Islam, we are told that these ideas have nothing to do with their actions. As Muslims cheer with joy throughout the Islamic world, we are told that we mustn’t rush to judgment and stereotype another culture. With each report of repression, misogyny, self-imposed poverty, anti-Semitic hatred, and suicidal glorification, we are told that they are human beings just like us – don’t judge! There is a pathological fear of saying anything negative about the motivating force driving our enemy: Islam.
At first this may seem like an exaggeration. But is it? We do condemn radical Islam but notice how we unduly minimize our criticism. We add the qualifier “radical” or “militant” to imply that it is something added to Islam. The problem must be this additional element – not Islam itself. Or we borrow a word from Christianity and call them fundamentalists as if there were differing versions of Islam. We presume fundamentalist Islam is spurned by the average Muslim, who, we imagine, sees this 7th century practice as a relic relevant to Mohammad’s time. How enlightened we imagine the modern Muslim!
Or we may complain that Islam needs some missing element that will transform it and bring it into the 21st century. We make a moral equivalence between Christianity’s failures centuries ago and Islamic backwardness today. If Christianity can move forward and adapt to the modern world, why can’t Islam? It must be this missing element, modernity, which Islam needs. It took Christians two thousands years to grow up, we are told; you can’t expect Islam to do that in 1400 years. At no point must we question the Islam religion itself.
The taboo against subjecting a religion to critical analysis is even greater when that religion is part of a foreign culture. Conservatives are quick to attack the relativism inherent in contemporary multi-cultural analysis – particularly on the left. There is indeed a wide-spread relativism and vitriolic anti-Americanism on the left but it is by no means universal. I will address this at another time. The contention of this article is that conservatives’ response to the Islamic threat is inadequate and they need to change if we are to fight this enemy effectively.
Almost immediately following the Islamic attacks of September 11, President Bush launches a propaganda campaign – of adulation of the Islamic religion. On September 17, Mr. Bush says, “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” 1 In the next few months, showing his understanding of Islam, he proclaims, “The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.” Islam “teaches the value and the importance of charity, mercy, and peace.” “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” A year later, presumably after an extensive study of the Koran and Hadith, he pronounces that, “Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It's a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It’s a faith based upon love, not hate …“ “Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others …”
The public is understandably confused and looks for leadership as it reads the daily news. Continual reports from all over the world show nothing but Islamic atrocities with few denunciations from Islamic religious leaders. Yet, Mr. Bush is undeterred. “President Bush yesterday removed his shoes, entered a mosque and praised Islam for inspiring ‘countless individuals to lead lives of honesty, integrity, and morality.’”, writes Bill Sammon of the Washington Times. 2 Scott Lindlaw of the Associated Press explains that the purpose of Presidents visit is two fold: “defuse Americans’ anger against Islam” and decrease “hostility by Muslims around the world against America”. He reports that the Pew Global Attitudes Project shows “large percentages of Muslim respondents in several countries said they believe suicide bomb attacks are a justifiable defense of Islam.” 3 This is not a shrewd tactic as conservative apologists imply. This is a fundamental failure to understand the enemy we face.
A few conservatives have hinted that there may be something wrong with Islam. In a November 30, 2002 article of the Washington Post, called “Conservatives Dispute Bush Portrayal of Islam as Peaceful”4, some take issue with the President’s repeated claim that Islam is “a faith based upon peace and love and compassion” that has “morality and learning and tolerance.” Kenneth Adelman notes: “The more you examine the religion, the more militaristic it seems. After all, its founder, Mohammed, was a warrior …” Eliot Cohen says: “… the enemy has an ideology” but “nobody would like to think that a major world religion has a deeply aggressive and dangerous strain in it -- a strain often excused or misrepresented in the name of good feelings.” Norman Podhoretz writes in Commentary magazine: “Certainly not all Muslims are terrorists. … But it would be dishonest to ignore the plain truth that Islam has become an especially fertile breeding-ground of terrorism in our time. This can only mean that there is something in the religion itself that legitimizes the likes of Osama bin Laden …”5
In contrast to the usual conservative hesitancy, Paul Johnson writes with clarity and decisiveness in the October 15, 2001 issue of National Review: 6 “Islam is an imperialist religion, more so than Christianity has ever been, and in contrast to Judaism.” He reviews the relevant passages from the Koran and adds, “These canonical commands cannot be explained away or softened by modern theological exegesis, because there is no such science in Islam. Unlike Christianity, which, since the Reformation and Counter Reformation, has continually updated itself and adapted to changed conditions … Islam remains a religion of the Dark Ages. The 7th-century Koran is still taught as the immutable word of God, any teaching of which is literally true. In other words, mainstream Islam is essentially akin to the most extreme form of Biblical fundamentalism.” To which one rises to one’s feet and shouts: Bravo! Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson is the rare exception in the immediate aftermath of the Islamic attack of 9/11.
These few critics are but faint whispers in the wind. Almost as soon as their warnings are made, the effect has dissipated. There is no sustained focus, no continued analysis built on a sound foundation of knowledge about Islam’s essential nature. Each insight about some failure of Islamic culture is noted and generally ignored as if it is an irrelevant side note immaterial to the problem we face. Each fact about Islamic history is dismissed as irrelevant to today’s Muslims. Why? The rationalizations are many. All Muslims are different – you can’t generalize, we are told. Each horrendous proscription of the Koran or atrocious example in the Hadith is discounted as if only the pleasant passages are valid. And, always, a comparison is made to Christianity and the Old Testament. We don’t follow those pronouncements do we? Thus, Islam must be the same. Proof!
The conservative embrace of Islam stems from the respect afforded to all believers in God. God seems to be the magic keyword to gain entry to respectable conservative venues. Christianity has become Judeo-Christianity. How about the Muslims? Not only are they God-fearing people, but they even respect Jesus if only as an earlier prophet. There is a positive prejudice – particularly towards monotheistic religions – that inclines many conservatives towards an expectation that Islam is, deep down, like the old time religions we know and love. Since 9/11, conservatives have gone out of their way to look for so-called moderate Muslims for ecumenical memorial services. (Note that secular philosophers and poets are virtually non-existent in these services.) For Republicans, Islam is in. The problem is finding moderate Muslims. Enter one Grover Norquist.
Mr. Norquist has been a Conservative organizer, fundraiser and fixture in Washington Republican politics for decades. His Islamic Institute was established with the help of Abdurahman Alamoudi – an active supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah. The institute’s founding director, Khaled Saffuri, supported Islamist operations worldwide. With Norquist’s help, Saffuri became George W. Bush’s “National Advisor on Arab and Muslims Affairs” during the 2000 presidential campaign. After 9/11, as the President implemented his Islamic sensitivity program he brought forth Muslims for photo ops – supplied in large part by Norquist’s contacts. The press was quick to dig up embarrassing archival video of the President’s Muslim friends cheering known terrorist groups. Frank J. Gaffney Jr., while ducking the usual charges of racism, tried to sever the connection between the Islamists and the White House. Eventually he had to expose the whole sordid affair in David Horowitz’ online conservative magazine. 7
Conservatives aren’t alone in their blindness to Islam. The Left is going through the same denial. This might tempt one to attribute the difficulties to politically correctness. Yes, this influence is felt across the political spectrum but the susceptibility to such self-induced blindness derives from different failings. The Right could condemn communism with full moral righteousness and without a hint of exculpatory relief. Communism wasn’t a noble ideology hijacked by an evil one, Stalin. Communism was evil and the Soviet Union was the “Evil Empire.” No apologies there. Political correctness be damned! Conservatives are unable, this time, to deal with the threat of Islam in the black and white terms that fueled their fight against communism. Let’s contrast the current threat with the 20th century crisis that helped define modern conservatism

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