EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – AUGUST 27, 2008
By Rich Trzupek
It is often said, by opponents of America’s intervention in Iraq, that if we weren’t there, then Al Qaeda would not be fighting us. These critics are close to right, although they get the “there” part wrong. The answer, not surprisingly, can be traced back to Muhammed and the Quran.
As Robert Spencer points out in his book, “The Truth About Muhammed”, the prophet of Islam considered the Arabian peninsula God’s special place, the holiest of holies. He instructed his followers to expel non-believers (i.e., pagans, Hindus, Bhuddists – everyone who was not “of the book”) and to allow Christians and Jews to stay, but only if they agreed to be subjugated and pay a special tax to their Muslim masters.
Having spent some time in the desert kingdom, your humble correspondent can personally attest to the fact that westerners (along with Filipinos, Pakistanis, Indians, Africans – basically all non-Arabs) are looked down upon by many (but not all) Saudis in a way that would shock the sensibilities of genteel America.
What infuriated bin Laden, and his cronies in Al Qaeda, was the fact American soldiers, including shamelessly unveiled women for crying out loud, were hanging out in the holy kingdom, as part of the first war with Iraq. This was, according to the Quran, a sacrilege. This is why it became necessary to attack America. This is why airliners had to be flown into the World Trade Center. Because God said so. Because Muhammed told Muslims that God said so.
If one strictly interprets the Quran and Muhammed’s message, there is really no arguing with bin Laden’s point. From that point of view, it was justified. If the Quran is the word of God, then God unquestionably told Muslims to keep the Arabian peninsula “pure”, and America had unquestionably defiled it, according to the prophet’s definition.
If the Quran is the word of God, then God unquestionably told Muslims to fight and kill those who would defile Islam or question the words of its prophet. The plain truth is that bin Laden was not being unfaithful to Muhammed’s vision of Islam – he was following it, to the letter.
So no, Al Qaeda would not be fighting us – in Iraq – if we had not invaded that country. But they would be fighting us – somewhere – so long as we maintained a presence in Saudi Arabia. The question that critics of the Second Iraqi War find uncomfortable is a simple one: if they (Al Qaeda) are determined to fight us, would you rather have that fight in Iraq, or somewhere else?
Those of the Jewish faith are particularly reviled in the Quran, as the Prophet appeared to grow more and more frustrated with his inability to convert them. He enjoined his followers to fight with the Jews, to kill Jewish leaders who had insulted him, and cosign them to hell.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that Muslims in the Middle East are so violently anti-Semitic? Their founder set the stage. His is a unique, “divinely inspired” level of hatred and mistrust that is without parallel in the history of mainstream theology. When Hamas carries terror into the heart of Israel, they are not defying the Quran or Muhammed, they are rather being faithful to the teachings of God, as they believe those teachings to be.
Few, if any, of our leaders understand this. Few, if any, of our leaders have the courage to ask Muslims – be they “mainstream” or “maniacs” – whether or not they are willing to repudiate the most chilling parts of their holy book. They prefer not to discuss the issue, and it’s difficult not to believe that the reason why is that the answers would be too troubling.
The reason most often given for not answering such questions is something akin to “we don’t want to fan any flames”. This, Spencer asserts, is a policy at once dishonest and counter-productive. The flames already exist. By ignoring them, by pretending the key issues are not related to the core of the religion, we cast reform-minded Muslims adrift.
It is true that there are many Muslims who renounce terror privately, and even some who renounce it publicly. But how many Muslims dare renounce those portions of Islam that are – to western eyes – violent, bigoted, intolerant and sexist?
There is a significant difference, Spencer says, between a religion that challenges he who is without sin to cast the first stone, and one that calls for stoning as a punishment for adultery. (Stoning, as a punishment for adultery, is not proscribed in the Quran itself – which calls for whipping instead – but it is part of one of the most important hadiths).
Along with the “cowboy tradition” of American culture, there is another more humanistic, empathetic element of our culture that suggests, even demands, tolerance of other beliefs and systems of values. I would not decry this tradition. Indeed, I celebrate it. It is one of our strengths.
We have, historically and today, bent over backwards to extend this olive branch to a religion (Islam) that is, at its fundamental core, substantially (at best) and violently (at worst) opposed to the democratic, libertarian principles upon which this country was founded. We can not continue to ignore this simple, undeniable, truth.
Spencer’s book is not, as his critics assert, a call to arms. It may come to that, but it must not be so. Spencer’s book is an appeal for an honest discussion of what is necessary to make the peace that we all desire, with a religion that – at its core – demands surrender before peace is possible.
The sooner we come to grips with this simple truth, the better we all will be.