Max Boot turns the tables on a hackneyed concept that has bedeviled the West whenever discussing strategies to fight terror. Instead of writing another warning about the “Arab street”, Boot warns Muslims about their relative silence in the age of Islamist terrorism and its effect on the “Western street”. He writes in the Los Angeles Times that unless moderate Muslims start taking a much more active role against Islamism, the West will have no choice but to conclude that Islam is incompatible with peace:
EVER SINCE 9/11, a dark view of Islam has been gaining currency on what might be called the Western street. This view holds that, contrary to the protestations of our political leaders — who claim that acts of terrorism are being carried out by a minority of extremists — the real problem lies with Islam itself. In this interpretation, Islam is not a religion of peace but of war, and its 1.2 billion adherents will never rest until all of humanity is either converted, subjugated or simply annihilated.
Is the war on terrorism really a “clash of civilizations”? The overreaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s relatively innocuous remarks at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12 would seem to lend weight to this alarming notion. …
Muslim spokesmen claim that these are unconscionable slurs. Yet, while demanding respect for their own religion, too many Muslims accord too little respect to competing faiths or even to competing brands of their own faith.
Where are the demonstrations in the Muslim street when the president of Iran denies the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel? Or when Palestinian kidnappers force two Western journalists to convert to Islam at gunpoint? Or when Sunni terrorists in Iraq bomb Shiite mosques and slaughter hundreds of worshipers? All too many Islamic leaders prefer to harp on the supposed sins of the “infidels,” however exaggerated or even fictionalized (no, the CIA didn’t bomb the World Trade Center to create an excuse for invading Afghanistan), rather than focusing on the problems within their own umma (community).
Boot focuses on an aspect of the war on terror that too often gets dismissed in a drizzle of political correctness. People rush to excuse Muslims from the war by emphasizing that Islam is a “religion of peace”, a phrase that finds so much repetition that some are now tempted to put it into title caps and stick a trademark notation on it. This comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the faith; it does not value peace as much as it values submission, and even its prophet insisted that his mandate included gaining that submission by force.
As Boot points out, though, that does not translate to every Muslim being a fanatic and a purveyor of violence in pursuit of religion. Islam had its Golden Age at the height of its expansion. Muslims allowed people of other faiths to live relatively unmolested, certainly more so than did the Christians of the same era, although they still had to submit to the authority of Islam, at least publicly. Upon capturing Jerusalem, the Crusaders committed a ghastly genocide, killing almost all of the non-Christians in the city. When Saladin recaptured the city, he refrained from returning the favor.
Since then, the two cultures have moved in opposite directions. While Christianity eventually reformed itself, Islam grew more moribund. The Renaissance and Reformation allowed Christendom to pursue scientific and political reforms that greatly expanded the knowledge of man and the liberty of the individual. Islam, which had led scientific progress for an age, grew hidebound and refused to look past the Qur’an for answers, an impulse that continues to this day. Islam has never experienced a Reformation, nor Arab cultures a Renaissance, and the difference has created the “clash of civilizations” of which Huntingdon warned the West.
The West has to demand that Reformation, and we have to quit relying on passive-aggressive PC platitudes to do it. The Pope’s Regensburg speech, the Danish Prophet cartoons, and the Mozart opera cancellation all comprise symptoms of the same disease. Until Muslims publicly demand freedom of speech and thought, then the West will consider them complicit with the Islamist impulse to smother freedom and liberty under a wave of violence and intimidation. After five years, we should have realized that repeating mantras like “religion of peace” does not transform submission into tolerance. If we want tolerance, we have to be more straightforward in demanding it.