What Americans Have Learned Since 9/11

Posted on Mon 09/12/2011 by


By John McClaughry

Before the morning of September 11, 2001 most Americans who had followed world affairs for the previous decade were aware of the attacks on Americans in the Middle East: the Khobar Towers bombing (19 American airmen killed, Saudi Arabia, 1996); the American embassy bombings (12 American dead out of 224 total, Kenya and Tanzania 1998); and the USS Cole attack (17 U.S. sailors dead, Yemen, 2000). These were generally viewed as indigenous partisans attacking a resented U.S. military presence in their lands. (The inept 1993 World Trade Center bombing was dismissed as the work of a few crazed Muslim malcontents.)

But by the end of that awful day it had become brutally clear that a powerful new Islamic movement had shifted its target list, from American interests in the Middle East to America itself. Now our homeland was under attack, from determined men driven by Islamic theology to seek paradise through offensive jihad.

Despite President Bush’s fatuous protestations that “Islam is a religion of peace”, an awakened America came to learn that, in the words of author Serge Trifkovic, “Islam is the only major religion in human history with a developed doctrine, theology and legal system of mandatory violence against non-believers.”

Only Islam, guided by Allah’s infallible and unalterable instructions, charges its followers to ceaselessly push outward the boundaries of lands ruled by Islamic law (sharia). Only Islam gives the “infidel” inhabitants of its conquered lands the mournful threefold choice: convert, pay a high tax penalty to retain your faith, or die by the sword.

From the century of its birth (7th century AD in the Western calendar) the caliphs, sultans, and warrior chiefs of Islam pressed forward from Arabia as far as their swords could take them: to, Spain, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Balkans and Central Asia. Western legend honors great leaders who blunted this expansion: Charles Martel, Roland, El Cid, Richard the Lionheart, John Sobieski, Skanderbeg, LaVallette.

But we Americans had no part in this. By the time of our appearance on the world scene, the caliphate had long become an exhausted force. European nations – Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Holland, Germany – conquered Islamic lands and ruled them as colonies.

We Americans lean to the side of colonials rising against the foreign oppressor (with the notable exception of Native Americans), and common people rising against opulent autocrats. We can, with a stretch, understand why Muslims might want to rid their countries of what they view as the corrupt influence of infidel Western political and business interests.

But 9/11 gave us a new perspective, one that Western Civilization had long known, but Americans had never fully grasped. The Islamic Holy Book specifically directs the faithful to strike, strike, strike at us infidels (see especially Sura 9). Jihad must be offensive as well as defensive, and dying in jihad ensures the martyr passage to eternal paradise.

Islam, at war with the West for fourteen hundred years, finally, with the 9/11 attacks, devised a means of striking at the Great Satan’s homeland using our own technology plus a dozen box cutters.

Islam also instructs the faithful to avoid sincere friendships with non-Muslims. But although no Muslim can deny the instructions recited by Mohammed and remain a Muslim, there are millions of Muslims throughout the world who don’t have much interest in jihad, and gladly coexist with respectful non-Muslim neighbors.

These Muslims include Sufis, Ahmadis, Ismailis, and Libforall Indonesians. They believe, generally, that whatever Allah wills must happen, but the Quran does not specifically mandate that everybody wage jihad here and now. For the indefinite future they can affirm their faith, worship Allah, fast during Ramadan, give to charity, and if they’re lucky, make the pilgrimage to Mecca. (Jihad is not one of the Five Pillars of Islam).

They are, in the view of the hard core Al Qaeda types, backsliders, just as Catholics who practice birth control are backsliding from their Church’s teachings. The Quran prescribes death for the most serious backsliders, the outright apostates. This fate was recently only narrowly averted by an Afghani who converted to Christianity, and is even now visited on the peaceful Baha’i of Iran, who honor Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed but never were Muslims.

After  9/11, America’s mainstream (Sunni) Muslims badly need to find a way to combine their faith in the Five Pillars of Islam with an interpretation  that at the very least, postpones any call to jihad until clear instructions come from Allah, either to murder their neighbors or (preferably) to finally abrogate the warlike mandates of their 7th Century Holy Book.

For their part, non-Muslim Americans need to clearly understand the explicit demands of the Quran upon the faithful, applaud Muslim efforts to recast their faith to become compatible with peaceful coexistence and friendship across religious lines, and speak out against mindless bigotry.

In addition, all Americans need to commit ourselves to the defense of our traditions of individual liberty, democratic self-government, the freedoms of association and enterprise, mutual aid and charity – all the while standing against the subversion of those values by fanatic Muslims and others seeking to destroy our cherished institutions.

Family Security Matters Contributor John McClaughry of Kirby recently retired as head of Vermont’s Ethan Allen Institute.

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