In the Western world, almost 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, and after many thousands of other terrorist attacks by Muslims, why are Western publics still so ill-informed about Islam?
One reason has to do with the way people now find out, not only about Islam, but about so much else. The Internet has helped foster the Age of Distraction, of Triviality, of Hectic Vacancy. We are all now victims of heedless ephemerality, which gets in the way not only of learning about Islam, but of learning about anything. Think of the passing parade of online stories, where the Insects of An Hour take up so much of our attention — how many billions of man-hours are spent clicking on sites that the whirligig of time proffers: something about Jennifer Aniston today, and something about Jennifer Lawrence tomorrow; an invitation to take a gander and gawk at the photographs showing us just how breathtakingly beautiful George Clooney’s house in Italy is, or that of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt in the Hollywood Hills. And surely you need to know what John Travolta tweeted yesterday, or Shaquille O’Neal the day before that, on the subject of racism at the Oscars. And then there are Dr. Oz’s miracle creams, which have done so much for Cher, and Demi Moore, and Meryl Streep – you mustn’t miss that. And then there are the indispensable lists, for which you click and click away: the fifty richest people in the world; the ten most livable cities for retirees in America; the fourteen favorite hobbies of Heisman Trophy winners; the six most tried-and-true recipes for pumpkin pie; and so on, and so idiotically forth. How much time do you have left to find out about Islam?
Along with Distraction, life throws up the obstacle of Boredom. Islam is a tremendous challenge for Unbelievers, not because it is objectively hard, but because it is simply not very interesting for those who do not share the fanatical faith. It takes great mental stamina for non-Muslims to engage with all the sacred rigmarole of Islam — just to follow the isnad-chain of a single hadith can be exhausting. And the plot and the dramatis personae of Islam are not attractive. Islam’s history is bloody, and one is not riveted, but repelled, by that bloody history. You can only take so much.
Another reason for the widespread refusal to recognize the nature of Islam is that so many of us – especially our leaders, those who are supposed to protect and instruct us — just don’t know what would follow from that recognition, that is, what would be demanded of them. Better to keep repeating the same vapid assurances, hoping that somehow things will work out. But just look at Europe today, or just look at the stories put up at Jihad Watch for the last week. What could you, Angela Merkel or David Cameron, do at this point? Can you publicly admit you have been so wrong for so long, and that you have put in danger the people you were elected to protect? You long ago committed yourself to a soothing narrative, in which Muslim behavior is disconnected from Islam itself. Whatever explains the mass-groping in Cologne or mass-gang-raping of girls in Rotherham, in your telling those attacks certainly had nothing to do with Islam. And whatever the Islamic State’s spokesmen insist on, about scrupulously following the dictates of the Qur’an and the example of Muhammad, we Infidels know better – again, we are told by our leaders, or tell ourselves, this all has nothing to do with Islam. Why, just the other day, Tom Foreman of CNN solemnly sought the historical antecedents of the Islamic State not in the earliest Muslim conquerors (whom ISIS forthrightly claims as its model) but in the Vikings and Vlad the Impaler. (David Wood’s evisceration – Robert Spencer’s mot juste — of Foreman can be found here.) You have every right to feel you are living through a Vast Absurdity.
If you keep your wits about you, and finally conclude that something is very wrong with how our leaders approach the subject of Islam, their public pronouncements after each new Muslim outrage either pollyannish or pusillanimous, you may well undertake on your own to study Islamic doctrine, and to find out how that doctrine explains the practice, as shown by the history of Islamic conquest, of many different non-Muslim peoples, in time over the past 1350 years, in space from the Iberian Peninsula to the East Indies. Don’t expect institutions of higher learning to help you; when it comes to Islam, they have been thoroughly corrupted, by money, or by the desire of professors not to offend but to parrot the party line.
But you keep at it. You read, you visit certain websites (as the one you are reading now). And if you do that, then the Jihad News of the day will not confuse you; you will be able to fit it into the larger history of Islam. And you will know why, when some high-ranking Christian cleric, as part of his Interfaith Outreach, offers this slippery solipsism — All religions are a force for good. Islam is a religion. Therefore, Islam is a force for good. — he is wrong, and you will be able to adduce the textual support for your conclusion. You might even begin to ask some delicate questions: who is to decide what is a “religion” and what distinguishes a “religion” from a “cult”– and is it possible that we call Islam a “religion” only because we don’t know what else to call it?
But then what? After you have achieved such knowledge, what forgiveness for those non-Muslims who continue to refuse to see Islam steadily and whole? You have a perfect right to be downcast, even despairing, at news of what is happening in Germany, in Sweden, in France, but you also have a duty – owed to yourself and to your own, imperiled, Western civilization — not to give in but to keep trying to inform and enlighten others. You have no Munich to point to, no single Grand Appeasement. Rather, there are a hundred sundry appeasements. It can be the Bishop of Londoncalling on fellow clerics to “grow beards” in order to put Muslims at ease. It can be the prayer rooms in schools, halal food in prisons and schools, single-sex hours at the municipal pools. You can make your own list.
We are living in a time, because of Islam, of mass disorientation and topsy-turvydom. You have to keep your wits about you. You are suavely told that Europeans simply must not oppose Muslim migration. Why not? Why can’t we ask that question? What duty do we have to those whose entire history has been one of hostility toward, and conquest of, non-Muslims? And hasn’t the West already tried to be as accommodating as it can? Point out that there are already tens of millions of Muslims living in Europe, in lands they have been taught to regard as Dar al-Harb. They are there to take advantage of well-run and prosperous societies, to pocket all that they can – the free or subsidized housing, health care, education, and even family allowances – but not to jettison Islam. They are not there to “integrate” into non-Muslim societies, but instead are obligated to engage, using whatever means are available and effective, in the Jihad or struggle to ensure the ultimate triumph and dominance of Islam, and rule by Muslims.
Non-Muslims find this a fantastic goal, but a large part of the globe succumbed to Muslim rule in this way a long time ago. A million Muslims settled, last year, in Germany alone; millions more are on the way to Europe; among these migrants are many who, it has been reluctantly conceded by the authorities, have already been involved in attacks on non-Muslims; no Western politician of the mainstream dares to discuss the significance of the Muslim division of the world between Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam, and between Believer and Unbeliever; those in public life who call for a halt to Muslim migration – what is assuredly the most obvious measure of self-protection — are immediately demonized for that commonsensical suggestion and politically placed beyond the pale.
So share what you’ve learned; go to those mosque open-houses and spoil the proceedings with a Qur’anic quotation or two that will upset your hosts but which they will be unable to deny; call into those talk-shows with similar material, write those letters to the papers, engage in guerrilla warfare on the blogs. When you learned about Islam, you did not make the world any easier for yourself, just easier to comprehend. And in so learning about Islam, you should recognize that you now have a responsibility to share that knowledge with others, many of whom have shown they will be willfully resistant to it. But you have taken on this task. If not you — who?