Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Very Soft on Islamic Terrorism

Tibor R. Machan

The New York Times magazine has a feature called “QUESTIONS FOR,” and the other day it was “the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens,” now named Yusuf Islam (as of his conversion to Islam), who was being questioned by Deborah Solomon. Solomon is your typical left of center cultural and political egalitarian, favoring multiculturalism in most cases, but even she seemed to be a bit annoyed with Mr. Islam’s answers when she pressed him on Islamic terrorism.

Noting that “government officials in various countries have tried to link [Mr. Islam] to extremist groups, including Hamas,” Solomon asked him “What do you think of Hamas?” Wouldn’t you know it, Mr. Islam dodged the issue by asserting, “That’s an extremely loaded question.” Was it?

I dispute that and it seems even Ms. Solomon did because her comeback was, “Can you try to answer it?” At that point Mr. Islam said, “I have never supported a terrorist group or any group that did other than charity and good to humankind.” That, of course, was not an answer to Ms. Solomon’s question, which was, “What do you think of Hamas?” And, moreover, maybe Mr. Islam believes Hamas is a charity group and/or it does “good to humankind” so it should get a pass even if it perpetrates terrorism. We will never know because he dodged the question.

In a follow up exchange Solomon pressed even more: “So would you say you have contempt for a terrorist group like Hamas?” And Mr. Islam proceeded to evade the issue when he replied, “I wouldn’t put those words in my mouth. I wouldn’t say anything on that issue. I’m here to talk about peace. I’m a man who does want peace for this world, and I don’t think you will achieve that by putting people into corners and asking them very, very difficult questions about contentious issues.”

When this is our example of a moderate Muslim—and Mr. Islam tells us that if he isn’t “an example of that,” who else would be—then the chance of reaching some accord with Islam is very small indeed. Imagine a Roman Catholic who tried to whitewash the child molestation that has been perpetrated by many priests recently or who said he wouldn’t say anything on the issue of the Holy Inquisition, claiming that it is a very contentious issue. What is contentious about it? Where is the debate about its merits versus demerits? It’s pretty much a slam dunk. That’s the same with the Nazi’s Holocaust, the Communists’ gulags, or South African Apartheid. Anyone who considers these open to alternative contentions—as if the jury were still out about whether they were examples of the worst of human conduct imaginable—simply isn’t worth listening to, maybe even featuring in a prime spot in The New York Times Magazine.

Hamas is a terrorist group. No reasonable doubt about that. If Mr. Islam cannot bring himself to acknowledge and condemn this, his values are unquestionably perverse and if he is our prime example of a moderate Muslim living in the West, well we need to be very much more vigilant about the dangers of Islamic influences here than most people seem to realize.

The book I have been studying recently, the extremely well researched Islamic Imperialism by Efrim Karsh (Yale, 2006), makes no bones about identifying Islam itself, as interpreted by the “prophet” Mohammed, as an aggressive movement, bent on conquest and the coercive conversion of non-believers wherever these are possible to achieve. The fact that for many years we haven’t seen much of this side of Islam in the West only suggests that the opportunity to conquer and covert was missing. With the rise of oil-based riches and with some of the mistakes made by the West regarding Middle Eastern affairs, the situation has changed. The Islamic world has recovered its core aggressive character, with some Muslims going so far as to perpetrate and others to silently stand by relentless terrorism wherever they see a chance to do so.

I am no supporter of the war in Iraq and believe that, all things considered, it is probably not the place where an effective response to Islamic terrorism could be undertaken. Indeed, it was probably a highly counterproductive strategy to invade Iraq since it gave some tiny measure of legitimacy to Middle Eastern, mostly Islamic, anger against the USA, although of course that could not have been behind 9/11, which occurred way before the US invaded Iraq (as distinct from assisting Kuwait in the early 90s).

The bottom line, as I see it, is that a great many Muslims are either out and out bent on conquering the rest of the world or complacent about their extremist and currently dominant fellows who are bent on doing just that. It may then be wise and prudent for us all in the West to make every effort to resist an invasion on the part of such aggressive and complacent Muslims.

Maybe that is the lesson that comes out of Ms. Solomon’s disturbing interview of Mr. Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens.

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