Don’t Accept Terrorism as the New Normal Each terror attack creates a horrifying new normal.…
The Deadly Wages of Western Secularism
When an enemy tells you he wants to kill you, believe him.
By Bruce Thornton
The Enlightenment project to diminish faith – or as the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “to see God eradicated once and for all from the public life of humanity and shut up in the subjective sphere of cultural residues from the past” – has nearly succeeded in the West.
Even in the U.S., long mocked by Europeans as a hotbed of religious irrationality and bigotry, the younger generations are increasingly alienated from traditional religion. This estrangement, reinforced by the Christophobia and chronocentrism of schools and most of our culture, has gotten worse over the last two generations. According to an American Enterprise Institute report, 34% of Gen Z, and 29% of Millennials are unaffiliated with any religion, compared to 18% for Boomers, and 9% for the Silent Generation (1928-45).
The wages of this historical sea-change are legion, but nowhere more deadly than the long, profound misunderstanding of Islam, gruesomely obvious in the commentary and protests concerning the current savagery of Hamas’s terrorist attacks against Israel. One effect of our diminishment of faith is that our political leaders, charged with protecting the interests and security of we the people, have failed to understand or even know the doctrines of Islam, its history, and the intensity of its adherents’ faith that all inspire and motivate the attackers.
As a consequence, policies and strategies are based on a materialist calculus that emphasizes Western goods like “national self-determination,” democracy, prosperity, or political rights like freedom and equality. Religion, a Freudian “illusion” or a Marxist “opiate,” is either ignored or, in the case of Islam, refashioned in terms that gratify the West’s parochial prejudices like identity politics based on a historical victim status.
As long ago as the Thirties, this historical amnesia and its dangers were pointed out by Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc:
Millions of modern people…have forgotten all about Islam. They have never come in contact with it. They take for granted that it is decaying, and that, anyway, it is just a foreign religion which will not concern them. It is, as a fact, the most formidable and persistent enemy which our civilization has had, and may at any moment become as large a menace in the future as it has been in the past…The final fruit of this tenacity, the second period of Islamic power, may be delayed — but I doubt whether it can be permanently postponed.
Our ignorance and indifference reflect the long retreat of Islamic power and influence since the 17th century, and its increasing domination by the West. These have had two effects in our times: the West became uninterested in Islamic nations other than as Cold War allies and sources of the fossil fuels that have powered our rich economies; and the deep sense of grievance on the part of Muslim nations, especially after the “disaster,” as Osama bin Laden put it, of the 1923 dismantling of the Ottoman Caliphate.
That historical development, along with Kemal Atatürk’s secularizing reforms, marked the end of the last Islamic great power, and the marginalizing of the faith that once dominated the infidel West. The Christians who for a thousand years were prey for Allah’s armies and their depredations, now possess the global hegemony rightfully belonging to Islam, the “best of nations,” as the Koran put it, destined to rule the world.
These disasters have spurred a religious revival, for as Bernard Lewis has written, “From the beginning of Western penetration into the world of Islam until our own day, the most characteristic, significant, and original political and intellectual responses have been Islamic. They have been concerned with the problems of the faithful and the community overwhelmed with infidels.”
And not just restoration, but global dominance is Islam’s aim: “The last great Muslim empire may have been destroyed,” Efraim Karsh writes, “and the caliphate left vacant, but the imperial dreams of world domination has remained very much alive in the hearts and minds of many Muslims.” The jihadist aggression that created the Islamic empires, which once occupied two-thirds of the old Roman Empire, would also be the doctrinally sanctioned instrument of its recovery. This goal required that the Muslim faith and Islamic societies be purged of the infidel accretions from Western civilization.
The most important and influential modern jihadist organization is the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928, five years after Atatürk ended the Ottoman caliphate. This organization has significantly influenced and supported modern jihadism, including outfits like al Qaeda and Hamas. Its founder, Hassan al Bana, in his writings confirms Karsh’s analysis: “It is the nature of Islam to dominate not to be dominated, to impose its power to the entire planet.” And his colleague Sayyid Qutb made it clear that force would be necessary to achieve Islam’s restoration: “Those [Western infidels] who have usurped the power of Allah on earth and made His worshippers their slaves will not be dispossessed by words alone.”
However, the biggest victory of neo-jihadism was the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, a religious movement inspired and directed by the revered Shi’a cleric, the Ayatollah Khomeini. But the revolution was misinterpreted by our foreign policy establishment, who downplayed the role of Islam and emphasized instead the Western goods of national self-determination and human rights. The Shah was caricatured as a neo-imperialist stooge of the U.S., who thwarted his people’s aspirations for political freedom and national sovereignty.
Yet Khomeini had for decades resisted the Shah and his father before him not for their brutality, corruption and illiberal policies, but for their liberalizing policies such as the secularization of society, securing rights for women and religious minorities, and reducing of the power and influence of clerics. In 1962, when the Shah proposed a law that emancipated women and Jews, Khomeini said that the law was actually the creature of the “spies of the Jews and the Zionists,” and that “the Qur’an and Islam are in danger.” In 1963, Khomeini added that the clerical establishment “have come to the conclusion that the regime also has a more basic aim: they are fundamentally opposed to Islam itself and the existence of a religious class.”
In other words, the revolution was not about liberalization and reform of the regime, as Western analysts claimed, but about resisting the Shah’s programs aimed to provide secular improvements like the freedoms and rights enjoyed by the West. And for Khomeini’s revolution, jihad would be the means of thwarting these developments.
In his sermons and writings, for example, Khomeini defended this traditional Islamic response to the incursions of modernity: “Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says, Kill all the unbelievers as they would kill you! …Islam says, whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors! …Islam is a religion of blood for the infidel but a religion of guidance for the people.” So much for Western apologists who claim jihad is about personal self-improvement.
Finally, foreseeing the role of Iran today in nurturing global jihadist terrorisim Khomeini promised, “We shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry ‘There is no God but Allah’ resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle,” meaning jihad – promise we have seen fulfilled by 44 years of America and Israeli blood on the Mullahs’ hands.
The failure of imagination displayed by our foreign policy technocrats – who dealt with Iran in terms of Western materialist and political ideals – is a consequence of the secularism that has marginalized faith into a primitive superstition. This diminishment has borne bitter fruit, most obviously in the current savage murders of Israelis by Hamas, one of Iran’s jihadist creations.
Iran is the key to the ongoing mayhem in Israel, Syria, and Yemen, and remains the challenge to our power and influence in the region. Indeed, the prophecies of Hilaire Belloc are growing closer to realization: “Islam is the most dynamic force today because, unlike other major religions, it hasn’t succumbed to secularism. It doesn’t divide human life between the religious and the secular, the spiritual and the totality of human existence. Only Islam is the route to victory,” for “In Islam, there has been no such dissolution of ancestral doctrine — or, at any rate, nothing corresponding to the universal break-up of religion in Europe.”
Given this resurgence of traditional Islamic jihad over the last century, we in the West need to start taking more seriously religious motives and the beliefs that inspire them, and stop rewriting Islamic doctrines to suit our own anodyne conceptions of Islam’s precepts and 14 hundred years of brutal conquest in the service of Allah. Feckless rationalizations of Islamic terror like “nothing to do with Islam” and “religion of peace,” are mere delusions that signal the weakness of those who have lost their faith, live only for today’s material pleasures, and for whom there is “nothing to kill and die for.”
Most importantly, when an enemy tells you he wants to kill you, believe him. Iran’s Mullahs already have 44 years of American blood on their hands – that should tell us they mean what they say.