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Still Delusional After All These Years
Obama, Hamas and the venerable doctrine of Islam.
By Bruce Thornton
Recently Barack Obama opined on Israel’s war with Hamas, and predictably reprised all the received wisdom that our politicians on both sides of the aisles have indulged since 9/11. One comment in particular evoked one of the more dangerous takes on the conflict with modern jihadism – that this venerable doctrine of Islam is some sort of heresy or extremism that doesn’t represent Muslims worldwide.
In the context of the current war with Hamas, according to ABC news, Obama said of Israel’s campaign, “‘There are people right now who are dying who have nothing to do with what Hamas did,’ Obama said, making the distinction between Palestinians who live in Gaza and the militant group Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization.”
We’ll pass over the mendacious euphemism “the militant group Hamas,” and the implication that the accurate description “terrorist organization” is merely a prejudiced slur by U.S. security agencies. More important is Obama’s variation on the cringing and dishonest phrase “nothing to do with what Islam,” an echo of the Western apologists after 9/11 who regularly chanted this lie.
The use of this duplicitous formula transcends political party. After 9/11, the Bush administration no doubt thought that such rhetorical distortions would pacify Muslims and show them that we’re “not at war with Islam.” Verbal preemptive cringes abounded in Bush’s speeches, such as the following: “Our enemy [al Qaeda] doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion…All Americans must recognize that the face of terror is not the true face of Islam…It’s a faith based upon love not hate.”
Anybody even vaguely familiar with traditional Islamic doctrine and history knows that this flabby ecumenicalism is at best well-meaning wishful thinking, at worst a talking-point for malignant apologists. Listen to Ibn Khaldun (d.1406), one of Islam’s most significant and revered historians and philosophers: “In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.” So too, Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), another important Muslim theorist of jihad: “Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought.” Are these titans of Islamic thought “hijackers” or “heretics”?
In the current crisis, such distortions of jihad like Obama’s serve to cast Hamas as victims, and to demonize Israel for its alleged callous disregard of innocent lives, as Obama implies. But “innocence” is not so simple, not when the enemy is utterly indifferent to their own peoples’ security and lives, and hide their weapons in schools, tunnels under hospitals, mosques, apartment buildings, and other civilian infrastructure. Moreover, Hamas has the support of about half of Gazans, who voted Hamas into power in 2006. Nor was there any mystery about Hamas’s genocidal violence, which is codified in its founding covenant.
Also, support for “armed struggle” against Israel and its people is shared by most Gazans. As Andrew McCarthy recently reported, a poll “from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research tells us that, by a margin of 58 percent to 20 percent, Palestinians would prefer a renewal of the intifada (the ‘armed struggle’) to peaceful negotiations aimed at ending ‘the occupation.’ That’s consistent with last year’s polling, as is the finding that about seven in ten Palestinians oppose the two-state solution.”
Other recent polls from the Washington Institute similarly report that “there is widespread popular appeal for competing armed Palestinian factions, including those involved in the attack. Overall, 57% of Gazans express at least a somewhat positive opinion of Hamas — along with similar percentages of Palestinians in the West Bank (52%) and East Jerusalem (64%).”
Moreover, smaller but more fanatic outfits like Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Lion’s Den have “receive the most widespread popular support in Gaza. About three quarters of Gazans express support for both groups, including 40% who see the Lion’s Den in a ‘very positive’ light, an attitude shared by a similar percentage of West Bank residents.” Given that the Palestinian Arabs have no formal military, “armed struggle” means terrorism.
No surprise, then, that many “civilians” took part in the massacre on 10/7. Photographers embedded with Hamas terrorists have publicized the carnage with photos that appeared in Western media like AP, the New York Times, Reuters, and CNN. The media watchdog website HonestReporting wondered, “Is it conceivable to assume that ‘journalists’ just happened to appear early in the morning at the border without prior coordination with the terrorists? Or were they part of the plan?” And wouldn’t that make those reporters and media outlets “accomplices in crime,” as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said?
Indeed, according to the Coalition for Jewish Values managing director Rabbi Yaakov Menken, “What we now know is that ‘civilians’ drew maps for Hamas, guiding them to each house, to each child, to each pet…‘Civilians’ came after the terrorists to murder and kidnap those who had been spared,’” and “‘civilians’ were embedded with the terrorists to report on the atrocities committed. Also, ‘civilians’ deliberately gather around the terrorists, even, barbarically, bringing their children.”
These delusions about the doctrines of Islam have vitiated our response to jihadist terror since before 9/11. There was the misinterpretation of the Iranian revolution by our national security and intelligence agencies, who seemingly knew little of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s religious motives in the 1978-79 revolution that created the Islamic [N.B.] Republic of Iran. More egregious was the similar failure in the Nineties to understand the origins and motives of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
And it’s not like we weren’t warned before then. In 1993, a group of jihadists associated with Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheik,” bombed the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center, leaving a 100-foot crater and killing six. Federal Prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who successfully prosecuted Rahman and his accomplices, laid out during the trial the jihadist doctrines that also would motivate Osama bin Laden.
Nor was Abdel Rahman a nutty cult leader, a Muslim “beard from the fringe” similar to David Koresh or Jim Jones, both of whose beliefs were obviously bizarre interpretations of Christian doctrine. In contrast, Abdel Rahman had a doctorate, with distinction, in Koranic studies from Cairo’s famed al-Azhar University, the Islamic equivalent of Harvard or Oxford. As McCarthy’s analysis of jihadist doctrine showed, Abdel Rahman’s preaching on jihad was completely consistent with traditional Islamic orthodoxy as set out in the Koran, the Hadith, the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and later theorists like the traditionalist Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned earlier.
Yet nobody in our security and defense agencies seemed to take seriously McCarthy’s explanation of jihadist doctrine during Rahman’s trial. Throughout the Nineties, scores of our citizens and service members were murdered, and our national security and interests damaged by al Qaeda’s string of terrorist attacks against our embassies in East Africa and military housing in Saudi Arabia.
All these attacks were treated by the Clinton administration as crimes rather than battles in Osama bin Laden’s declared war against the infidels’ greatest power and challenger to Islam’s religiously sanctioned dreams of global domination. And as we saw earlier in Bush’s remarks, not even the gruesome finale on 9/11 and the 2996 dead could awake our foreign policy mavens from their dogmatic slumbers.
Finally, this willful blindness, as McCarthy titled his important book on the first World Trade Center bombing, serves the therapeutic, self-loathing narrative that makes our jihadist enemies the victims of Western historical depredations abetted by Israel, particularly colonialism. Barack Obama, in his cringing flattery of Islam during his 2009 Cairo speech, recycled this dubious received wisdom about the West’s guilt.
Just like today’s Western supporters of Hamas and their ahistorical chatter about “settler colonialism,” Obama blamed “tensions” between Islam and the West on “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.” Obama neglected to point out that Islam created one of history’s greatest colonial empires, and those Muslim nations were paid billions of dollars in foreign aid to align with the U.S.
So now, due to our decades of delusions, we are facing a more dangerous Middle East dominated by Iran and its terrorist proxies, an Iran partnering with Russia and China to compromise our national interests and security. Yet still we disregard the facts of history, and more important continue to indulge our own moral idiocy.
For the moral truth is, if a man stands behind his family and shoots at yours, and you return fire in self-defense, killing members of his family, then the moral culpability is his for putting them in danger in the first place. We need to stop pressuring Israel to value the enemy’s civilians more than their own, and speaking the truth about jihad is a good place to start.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons