Sun – September 5, 2004 at 12:03 PM
You who have spent any time on these pages are aware that I am an implacable adversary to Islamist terror. You cannot but understand, even if you do not agree, that I believe that we cannot yield the field of battle to these latter-day vandals, these authors of barbarism, these forces of rejection and nihilism. You know that I believe that if we were to do so, through retreat, negotiation or compromise that we will only end up fighting the same battles on fields far closer to home – In our cities, in our ports and airports. In our schools.
But you should also know that I do not believe that our fight is with Islam, a religion of 1.4 billion adherents, the vast majority of whom live peaceful lives not unlike our own – who love their children, and struggle to make ends meet and do the right thing as they have been given to see it. Our fight is with those who would pervert the sacred texts of one of the world’s great religions to an end so very far removed from the inherent philosophy it espouses, that most basic of our spiritual questions: What is a good life, and how does one lead it?
My hope in manning the ramparts from a position of strength, and from that position launching spoiling attacks against the forces of evil as they assemble, has always been that in time the authors of Islamist terror would see the error of their ways. Failing that they might see the uselessness and counter-productivity of their blood-soaked efforts. And failing that, having walked so very far down the path of extremism as to have eliminated any shred of connection to our shared humanity, that they would through their works and deeds so alienate the heretofore immobile mass of their coreligionists as to be cast out by them and vilified, all support both passive and active withdrawn, left to wander in the darkness of their own devising.
This I believed, was not a problem of the West’s making and therefore not a problem the West could by itself repair. Islamist terror is like a virus, better yet a cancer in a passive host. This host is aware perhaps of the disease’s existence, but not yet alarmed – it is in denial. Through our efforts we could only try to eliminate as many of the virulent cancer cells as possible, in the hopes that the host would in time awaken to its danger and rally to its own defense.
Because if surrender is not on the table (and it is not) the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. In a true clash of civilizations, the eventual outcome is not in doubt – but the process of achieving that outcome would necessarily turn us away from what we would like to become, into something that we are justifiably proud of having left behind. Centuries of human progress in the moral sphere would be overthrown as Islamist savagery was fought with Western savagery, on an industrial, technologically advanced scale. We would in time become what we had beheld.
But now, in the shocking, horrible aftermath of the slaughter of the innocents in Beslan, Russia, hope arises. Is it now possible that the Chechen terrorists, apparently abetted by a number of Arab allies, have finally woken up their slumbering host?
I hope so – read the writings of a brave man.
It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims. The hostage-takers of children in Beslan, North Ossetia, were Muslims. The other hostage-takers and subsequent murderers of the Nepalese chefs and workers in Iraq were also Muslims. Those involved in rape and murder in Darfur, Sudan, are Muslims, with other Muslims chosen to be their victims. Those responsible for the attacks on residential towers in Riyadh and Khobar were Muslims. The two women who crashed two airliners last week were also Muslims.
Standard fare for those in the West who are routinely outraged at the latest Islamist horror – but refreshingly novel fare from the general manager of the Al-Arabiya news channel.
We can’t call those who take schoolchildren as hostages our own. We cannot tolerate in our midst those who abduct journalists, murder civilians, explode buses; we cannot accept them as related to us, whatever the sufferings they claim to justify their criminal deeds. These are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its image. We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise; an almost exclusive monopoly, implemented by Muslim men and women. We cannot redeem our extremist youths, who commit all these heinous crimes, without confronting the Sheikhs who thought it ennobling to re-invent themselves as revolutionary ideologues, sending other people’s sons and daughters to certain death, while sending their own children to European and American schools and colleges.
And he is not alone, as my new correspondent Ozwitch has pointed out.
Islamic leaders in the Middle East yesterday denounced the slaughter of children in Russia as ‘unIslamic’, as commentators asked unusually soul-searching questions about the region and terrorism. Even the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s biggest Islamic group, condemned the bloody siege in Beslan. Its leader, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, said that kidnappings may be justified but killings are not. He added: ‘What happened is not jihad [holy war] because Islam obligates us to respect the souls of human beings; it is not about taking them away.’
Amen, amen, amen.
This is truly courage in the face or barbarism, from people who are much closer to the cancer than we ourselves. We must encourage them. We must match them in the strength of their convictions. We must not be dissuaded.
Let us hope that through the latest act of terror, that the patient has awoken. Let us hope that the tide has finally turned. Let us hope that it is not too late.
Let us keep hope alive.
And in the meantime, because we must, let us keep our powder dry.