A Clash of Civilizations
When The Friends of Israel came into existence more than 60 years ago, the civilized world was engulfed in a gigantic struggle for survival. The Nazi menace threatened all democracies in Europe and North America. In effect, World War II represented a clash of different religious, political, and social ideas that could not coexist on this planet. The world was divided into Axis and Allied forces locked in a life-and-death fight to the finish.
Adolph Hitler and his brown-shirts came to power when Germany, in the aftermath of World War I, was gripped by poverty, humiliation, and a deep-seated hatred for the forces that destroyed their dream of subjugating Europe. Hitler, who despised both Jews and Christians and wished to establish himself as a demigod to the German people, came to power with grand promises to improve the lot of the impoverished nation and create a Reich that would endure for a thousand years—a millennium devoid of any god but himself and his kingdom.
Unfortunately, this tyrant had his admirers and apologists in the very countries he intended to destroy. Their catastrophic miscalculation cost fifty million people their lives and consigned millions more to the horror of memories they could never be rid of.
A New Clash of Civilizations
Ironically, after decades of trying to build a better world and create a more benevolent global society, we find ourselves in the throes of a struggle similar to the scourge of the Führer and his demonic minions. It is a battle of such magnitude that President George W. Bush has declared war on international terrorists and their backers— and he has promised ultimate, total victory. This is the first time since World War II that America clearly is fighting to win.
September 11, 2001
Ostensibly, this war against terrorism is aimed at men so demented that their reason to exist is to take the lives of innocent men, women, and children—particularly Jewish and Christian— and to destroy societies with which they disagree.
For years, people in America and the Western world have been aware, if barely so, that terrorism threatens the existence of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. But for most of us, the Middle East was the other side of the world; and the issues troubling Israelis and Palestinians scarcely concerned the day-to-day lives of affluent, somewhat self-possessed, free people of the West.
But on the morning of September 11, all that changed. With the blinding explosions of jet fuel and the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York City and a portion of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Americans awakened to the horrible realization that our country and our people are marked for destruction. As the president called the nation to arms and unity for the long struggle ahead, and citizens everywhere unfurled American flags in an unprecedented show of patriotism, the United States was plunged headlong into a state of war. But what kind of war?And against whom?
Its’ Not About Religion
As we learned that the terrorists were Muslims from the Middle East, government officials embarked on a campaign to assure us that these men were but a radical sliver of fanatics, wholly outside the mainstream of Islam. “We don’t want to turn this into a religious war,” was the oft-repeated refrain. Their fear of a backlash against Arab Americans and Muslims was understandable. Immediately statements that Islam is a loving religion and that the Quran in no way condones or encourages such belligerent conduct filled news media reports. Anyone who dared to differ was regarded as a politically incorrect bigot worthy of shunning.
Admittedly, it was correct to say that most Muslims are not bent on killing their neighbors and creating mayhem in the communities in which they reside. It was also right to say that people who attack Arabs or Muslims because of their nationality or religious beliefs should be punished to the full extent of the law. But did this conflict truly have nothing to do with religion? Voices within the Islamic world itself beg to differ.
“Yes, This Is About Islam”
Salman Rushdie, a Muslim who lived for years under a death sentence issued by Muslim clerics for allegedly blaspheming Islam in his 1988 book, The Satanic Verses, wrote the following in an article titled “Yes, This Is About Islam”:
“This isn’t about Islam.” The world’s leaders have been repeating this mantra for weeks, partly in the virtuous hope of deterring reprisal attacks on innocent Muslims living in the West, partly because if the United States is to maintain its coalition against terror it can’t afford to suggest that Islam and terrorism are in any way related.
The trouble with this necessary disclaimer is that it isn’t true. If this isn’t about Islam, why the worldwide Muslim demonstrations in support of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda?
Highly motivated organizations of Muslim men (oh, for the voices of Muslim women to be heard!) have been engaged for the past 30 years or so growing radical political movements. . . . Poverty is their great helper, and the fruit of their efforts is paranoia. This paranoid Islam, which blames outsiders, “infidels,” for all the ills of Muslim societies, and whose proposed remedy is the closing of those societies to the rival project of modernity, is presently the fastest growing version of Islam in the world [emphasis ours].1
Master terrorist Osama bin Ladin confirmed Rushdie’s views in a speech reported by the Associated Press:
Osama bin Laden condemned Arab leaders who turn to the United Nations for peace negotiations, saying that this amounts to a renunciation of Islam.
“They are infidels.
“Those who claim to be the leaders of Arabs and are still in the United Nations have renounced the message of Muhammad. Those who resort to international legitimacy are renouncing the legitimacy of the book and the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad.
“Muslims should understand the nature of the struggle, and the truth about the struggle, so they can decide in which ranks they stand.
“In essence, this war is a religious war.”2
Samuel P. Huntington, in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Simon and Schuster), predicted five years ago the colossal clash of civilizations that we are now witnessing.
Among the prominent Muslim journalists whom Huntington quoted is Egyptian journalist Mohammed Sid-Ahmed, who commented on the core of the conflict in writing “of a growing clash between the Judeo-Christian Western ethic and the Islamic revival movement, which is now stretching from the Atlantic in the west to China in the east.” A leading Tunisian lawyer stated, “There is a conflict between civilizations.”
In summary, Huntington wrote,
The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defense. It is the West, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superior, if declining power, imposes on them the obligation to extend that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel the conflict between Islam and the West.3
Its’ Not About America and Israel
This information about the true essence of the war against terrorism emphatically answers two important questions: Is U.S. support of Israel the cause of America’s woes? And why, then, are Muslims slaughtering non-American Christians?
It has been proposed (and no doubt will be heard frequently as the war’s intensity increases) that the crux of the issue between radical Islamists and America is Israel. “Back away from Israel and the Middle East, “ they say, “and all will be well. ” Rubbish.
If Israel did not exist, the situation would be the same. Israel represents a small bastion of Western values, freedoms, democratic ideals, and religious tolerance that threatens militant Muslims and their intimidating control over their people. To them, the Jewish presence is a humiliating intrusion into a speck of land they consider sacred to Allah and Islam. In a culture where religion drives both the political and military machinery, this factor is immense.
Interestingly, a huge influx of Muslim immigrants have been welcomed into the Western world; but Muslims have no such tolerance for Jewish immigrants who are not even invading Muslim countries but, rather, are moving to the Jewish state, which is a legitimate nation and member of the international community. In addition, Muslims are equally hostile toward Christians—American or otherwise—who immigrate to Islamic lands.
Responding to a statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell concerning Powell’s vision “of a region [the Middle East] where all people worship God in a spirit of tolerance and understanding,” journalist Cal Thomas wrote, “He [Powell] cannot point to a single Islamic state where tolerance and understanding are extended to non-Muslims. What makes him think,” concluded Thomas, “a Palestinian state would exhibit anything but hostility toward anyone who does not toe its political and theological line?”4
This is a battle of civilizations. And it brings to the surface another situation that most public officials and virtually all of the secular media have concealed for much too long: Militant Muslims are slaughtering Christians by the thousands in a host of countries. If the only issue between Islam and America is the U.S. alliance with Israel—if Islam is a loving, tolerant religion—then why are roving bands of terrorists and killers making war on Christians in the name of jihad (holy war), the Quran, and Allah?
Nigerians, Sudanese, Egyptians, Lebanese, Indonesians, Pakistanis, and others who follow Jesus are not Americans, nor are they Jews. They are marked for annihilation, however, because they are Christians.
Thus the reality of the conflict is further verified. It is global in scope and unremitting in intensity. And in Muslim lands, there abides a determination to drive out any and all people who represent Judeo-Christian commitment, Western ideas, and the stench of the “infidel.”
These people also have a vision. They see a global Islamic Empire. When President Bush and Western leaders say this is a war that dare not be lost, they are stating a reality that can shape the future of life on this earth. And regardless of the cost, we must see it through.
Years ago, when a rash of Arab terrorism broke out, little Israel declared it would never negotiate with terrorists. We should follow Israel’s example today. There is no alternative to terrorism but to stop it. And in the words of President Bush, we must hunt down terrorists and “bring them to justice!”
- Salman Rushdie, “This Is About Islam,” in “Israel News, Eye on Israel,” National Unity Coalition for Israel, November 2, 2001, home page [www.israelunitycoalition.com].
- Mariam Fam, “Bin Laden Condemns Arab Leaders,” e-mail from America OnLine Internet, November 3, 2001.
- Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1996, p. 218.
- Cal Thomas, “Powell’s ‘Vision’ Is a Mirage,” The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition [www.jpost.com/Editions/2001/11/25/Opinion/Opinion.38666. html], November 25, 2001.