Selling Islam in America
The one-year commemoration of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon spawned a huge irony. While Americans and masses of people the world over held solemn gatherings to mourn the loss of more than three thousand innocent lives and renounce international terrorism, Islam was enjoying a coup of sorts in the United States.
For days surrounding the commemoration, the airwaves and print media bombarded us with programs and articles promoting the virtues of Islam, and the networks featured Muslims and their apologists in a favorable light.
Although the interviewers obviously didn’t know enough about the subject to ask the right questions, they were well prepared not to ask the wrong ones. They carefully avoided queries that would expose the dark side of the religion. Much of what was said was either misleading, false, or slanted so heavily it seemed like Muslim propaganda.
When asked about the true meaning of jihad, the answers were pat responses. We were told that jihad does not mean conquest by the sword or spilling the blood of one’s infidel enemies; nor does the Qur’an sanction or imply such a concept. To devout Muslims, so the line went, jihad represents “the inner struggle of the heart to achieve inward peace and personal purity,” nothing more; and the Muslim holy book is essentially a volume promoting love, peace, and brotherhood.
Then there was the matter of Islam touted as a pluralist religion. This malarkey is an easy sell in the West because religious pluralism is basic to democracies like the United States. By and large, Americans, including Christians, are naïve and uninformed about where much of the rest of the world draws the line on religious tolerance. This fact is particularly true when it comes to Islamic states.
Another prominent ingredient in these benign conversations was the idea that the Saddam Husseins and Osama bin Ladens of the world are hijacking Islam. The vast majority of Muslims were purported to be negatively typecast by the actions of a few bad apples and were portrayed as collectively wringing their hands in anguish over these miscreant troublemakers.
In the mix was the subtle implication that those who happened to see things otherwise and dare express themselves are intolerable bigots who practice the kind of prejudice and hate-mongering that are totally out of step with 21st-century, politically correct behavior.
The Questions No One Asked
No one is saying that all Muslims are terrorists or bent on world conquest. No doubt many Muslims do, indeed, want to live in peace with their neighbors. And people who know the world of Islam well understand that many innocent Muslims are persecuted, victimized, and even killed by other Islamists.
However, if the Qur’an is all about love and jihad is simply a matter of an inner personal struggle for peace and purity, why are hundreds of thousands of Christians being slain by Muslims waging jihad (holy war) and professing to be motivated by the Qur’an, which they say encourages their actions? Contemporary examples run in the millions. Here’s just a sample:
In Indonesia, some 200,000 deaths resulted in jihad violence in East Timor. Christians have been pursued, and massacred, and their churches burned down by jihadists….The death toll in these violent attacks is over 10,000, while an additional 8,000 Christians have been forcibly converted to Islam.1
These slaughtered or mutilated Christians had no one to speak or ask questions on their behalf in the media commotion surrounding September 11. If Islam is pluralistic (it is, in truth, absolutist), why do most Muslim countries have zero tolerance for Christians and Jews? Saudi Arabia is a prime illustration. There, all citizens must be Muslim. No churches are allowed; publicly displaying Christian symbols can get you arrested; and Muslims converting to Christianity can be executed.
Furthermore, why would an Islamic scholar argue for the incompatibility of Islam with non-Muslim systems? He said, “There can be neither peace nor coexistence between the Islamic religion and non-Islamic social and political institutions….When the Islamic movement is strong enough it must take power and create an Islamic republic.”2 Islam has accomplished this very feat in other places—in the Sudan, for example.
And if Islam has been “hijacked” by maverick bands of off-brand radicals, why hasn’t there been an outcry from the abused Muslim-American community? It is well known that terror cells operate in or near some of the mosques in this country. It is also a fact that diatribes against Israeli and American authorities, much like those churned out by Muslim mullahs in the Middle East, spew with regularity from lecterns in the mosques of America. It would appear logical that if radicals have hijacked Islam, mainstream Muslims would be leading the posse to track down, expose, and excommunicate the misfits from among their peace-seeking Muslim brothers and sisters. Doing so would be in their best interest.
Christians, in fact, have done so with the likes of the Ku Klux Klan, Racist Christian Identity movement, and violent Aryan Nations that corrupted everything Christian and American. The issue is not complex. If Muslims want to live here (they are doing so in the millions) and be peace-loving American citizens, they should be held to the same standards of conduct as the rest of us. And why should they, or we, expect anything different?
- “Culture of Hate,” Bat Yeor, National Review Online, August 2, 2002, [www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-yeor080202.asp].
- Cited in Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1997, p. 269.