“Many have quarreled about religion that never practiced it.” -Benjamin Franklin
On September 6, Brookings published an article entitled, “Ten Years After 9/11, We Still Can’t Agree On Who the Enemy Is.” And I thought, “Okay, maybe it’s about the TSA or something. . .” Nope. Stephen Grand (who wrote the article) instead decided to tell us who is really being unreasonable in the fight against terrorism: The United States.
Out of ignorance, we have tended to paint our enemies with a broad brush, implicating ordinary Muslims in the sins of an extremist few. In our television and film, Islam is often depicted as a violent religion. Rumors are spread that our president might be a closet Muslim (as if that were something dangerous and un-American). Conspiracy theories are spun—akin to those that once circulated about the Freemasons, the Papists and the Jews—that American Muslims are secretly plotting to establish a Muslim caliphate in the United States. . . . None of this goes unnoticed abroad. In a large Gallup survey of Muslim communities around the globe, one of the key findings was that Muslims feel a profound lack of respect from the West. They sense that Islam as a religion is under siege.” –Stephen R. Grand, Director, U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, The Brookings Institution
Oh yes, I’m sure the U.S. is just ignorant about Islam. That’s the real problem. Broad brushes, and all that rot. The real problem (according the the wonderful and infallible Grand) is that the U.S. has an unacceptable inability to differentiate between the, “faithful and the fanatical.” I guess you could say that Islam is just, well, misunderstood.
On the contrary, one needn’t look too deeply into the meaning of the words in the Koran to understand what Islam means. A wise way to evaluate a religion or belief is to look at the principles that govern it and not the abuses of those principles. But are the terrorists an example of Islamic principles or the abuse of Islamic principles?
Take, for example, the brutal beheading of a Christian in Afghanistan in June. Obviously, Grand would tell us, this is a perfect example of the fanatical and not the faithful. Sorry to let you down, but before they beheaded this poor guy, they cited their Koran saying, “Whoever changed his religion must be executed.” A reference to Sura 8:12, “I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks . . .” I am not saying that all the Muslims you will meet will be terrorists. In fact, many Muslims are average, law-abiding people. Yet, while most Muslims aren’t terrorists it is also true that most modern terrorists are Muslims.
Many may call Islam a, “religion of peace.” Grand in the Brookings article even says as much. Some go as far as to suggest that the very word “Islam” means “peace.” But is that true? Well, if you ask renowned English historian Paul Johnson, he’ll soon inform you that Islam actually means “submission.” Johnson goes even further than that, he says, “one of the functions of Islam, in its more militant aspect, is to obtain that submission from all, if necessary by force.” This statement is reinforced by Sura 9:5, “Then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them. And seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them, in every strategem [of war].” And to do this to all nations, “until they embrace Islam.”
That sounds peaceful, doesn’t it?
After the Norway killing, the Wall Street Journal published a small piece that included some quotes from an interview with Noor Ahmad Noor (would that make him Noor Noor? “Can I call you Noor or is that too informal?”) When Noor found out that the shooter/bomber was just an average Norwegian nut case, here’s what he had to say, “That was the end of one grief, because he wasn’t one of us, thank [g]od, but it was the beginning of another grief, because some of those kids were ours.” What did Noor just say? He was relieved that the killer was not a Muslim. This draws just one small question from me: You mean, you expected the killer to be a Muslim? You assumed he was one of your guys until you learned otherwise? Hmm . . .
So all the bombings, killings, shootings, and chaos caused by the terrorists are not abuses of the principles of Islam but affirmations of those principles. It may very well be true that only a fraction of Muslims are crazy enough to act on what they believe, but that’s only luck on our part that they practice a moderated and watered down version of Islam.
The other part of Grand’s argumentation is that Muslims feel like Islam is under siege. The implication of his statement is that the U.S. should focus on making Muslims feel at home in the U.S. rather than actually work to stop terrorism. That kind of philosophy would only show the terrorists that we are really not serious about defeating the group that killed almost three thousand of our citizens on 9/11. The US should have no qualms about peaceful Muslims, and we don’t. What we want to do is extinguish and eradicate the terrorists — and if they happen to be Muslims, well, that’s just a part of enemy recognition.
If Hindus were terrorists, we’d be fighting Hindus. If Buddhists were terrorists we’d be fighting Buddhists. If atheists were terrorists we’d be fighting atheists. The war against terror has nothing to do with hatred and everything to do with terror.
When the U.S. entered the first World War, that was only after Germans torpedoed the Lusitania leaving a few hundred American bodies floating in the water. We declared war on Japan, entering WWII, after they’re attack on Peal Harbor killed 2,400 American soldiers. In both cases, war was justly declared because of the unnecessary killing of American citizens — and those declarations have been left mostly uncontested. The war declarations that have been contested were the ones established on more shaky ground, like Vietnam and Korea.
The terrorists attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11/01 killing the most American citizens in one fell swoop than any other army we’ve ever fought. And yet we continue to question and think that since America is fighting terrorists, they must therefore hate Muslims. Is that true? Did we “hate” the Germans and Japanese before or after our declaration of war? No, we would have had no problem with either of them had they not attacked American civilians. Did Japanese-Americans or German-Americans feel somewhat “under siege” during the war? Probably. But were we fighting peaceful Germans or Japanese? No, of course not. Would we have any problem with faithful Muslims didn’t keep trying to blow us up? Nope, not one.
If we actually want to win — as in, beat — the terrorists, it would be helpful if we acknowledged who the terrorists were. The movie Midway (1976) is about the famous American-Japanese battle at (shocker) Midway. In the movie a Captain Matt Garth (played by Charlton Heston) has a son who is in love with the child of some Japanese immigrants (Haruko Sakura.) The parents of Sakura are suspected of being involved in Japanese plans against the United States so Sakura and her family are forced to live under the surveillance of the U.S. government. When Garth goes to see if he can do anything to free them from suspicion for his son (who was a little busy fighting Japanese soldiers) and in their conversation, this short exchange occurs:
SAKURA: [Expletive deleted.] I’m an American! What makes us different from German-Americans or Italian-Americans?
GARTH: Pearl Harbor, I guess.
What makes a Muslim different from anyone else in the world? 9/11, I guess.
In the film, Garth’s son has “enemy recognition problems” supposedly due to the fact that he is in love with a Japanese-American. And the last time you see him in the movie, he is depicted being wheeled away on a gurney all burned, cut and shot. In a similar way, if America fails to recognize their enemy, it may very well be true that the last time you’ll see us in the war against terror, we’ll be on a gurney all cut, shot and burned.
The only thing worse than being at war is being at war half-way. Or should I say, midway?