Daniel Greenfield, (pictured) the Sultan Knish columnist and frequent contributor to FrontPage’s The Point Blog, is one of the most perceptive, objective, prolific, and ruthless observers of contemporary politics and culture in the country. He writes things Charles Krauthammer would be hesitant to publish, and says things no one on Fox News would dare utter.
This is because he is an intellectual, a thinker in fundamentals, and so he has a far wider perspective on things Islamic than has any newspaper pundit or TV anchor or teleprompter reader.
One of the first tasks I perform when returning to my computer after a night’s sleep is to hunt up and read his latest pieces. I do not know how he keeps up the pace and the output. I’ve often kidded him by asking him if he has a time warp device that allows him to vanish into a timeless realm to cover and produce as much copy as he does, and then emerge from it to have a bite to eat and take a nap. That way he could keep to the twenty-four hour day with the rest of us.
He will only admit that it is “like racing along a treadmill manned by Marxist clowns.”
More often than not his Sultan Knish columns are evocative of H.L. Mencken at his best: wryly ironic, sometimes bitter, always contemptuous of politicians and activists who suffer from foot-in-mouth disease or who have been lobotomized by political correctness, or who are just plain morally and/or politically corrupt. Regardless of his mood, he will make an unforgettable point. A few times he might over-write, and occasionally a grammatical error might creep in, but such lapses are so infrequent it would be picayune to dwell on them. Given the caliber of his intellect and his bare-knuckles honesty, readers are getting a bargain.
Greenfield has a devoted and growing readership. He has been writing “Sultan Knish” since 2005 and for FrontPage since 2011. His FrontPage byline reads: “… a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center… a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.”
An example of his thinking is his latest Sultan Knish column, “The Gang Religion of Islam,” written on the occasion of the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya over the weekend. While the attack and massacre of non-Muslims (and perhaps of a few Muslims who weren’t lucky enough to be asked to recite an Islamic prayer or name Mohammad’s mother) has been claimed by Al-Shabab, a faction of the Somalian jihadist gang of the same name, Greenfield points out that the particular umbrella name of the killers hardly matters. The attack could’ve been planned and executed by any other jihadist outfit: Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Nur, Al-Qa’ida Central, the Muslim Brotherhood, or any one of numerous units of the “Free Syrian Army.”
In short, Greenfield did not use the notion of “gangs” as a mere metaphor. He identified Islam’s core modus operandi: kill for the sake of killing.
To one reader of “Gang Religion,” who commented on Islam’s “Golden Age,” Greenfield replied:
Islam is not conducive to philosophy. You can’t read it and gain a larger sense of the world. There’s no room for speculation afterward. It’s a series of badly cribbed scriptures and the narrative of Islam’s present, past and future wars.
In short, Immanuel Kant had a philosophy (with which Islam and modern Western culture are largely copasetic). Hegel had a philosophy (which let loose today’s Marxists and Progressives and other totalitarians). Martin Heidegger had a philosophy (which sanctioned Nazism). Christianity and Judaism have their philosophies.
Islam has no philosophy that pursues the meaning of life. In it, speculation is prohibited. As such, it can only obsess with the meaning of death, without page-long Kantian paragraphs that explicate its death-worship.
Islam at bottom is imbecilic and it attracts recidivist imbeciles. Passive Muslims are those who religiously go to mosque and question nothing. Activist Muslims are the killer imbeciles who fly planes into skyscrapers, prey on non-Muslim women in Britain and Europe, and invade shopping malls, guns blazing.
Islam’s “Golden Age” is based on Greek and Roman texts which invading Arabs might have discovered and preserved, but which they did not originate and which were subsequently disdained as un-Islamic.
But Islam, if it can be called a philosophy, is a philosophy of nihilism and death. Islam, as Greenfield describes it (and too few others critical of Islam), is a manual for conquest, submission and self-immolation cobbled together from other creeds, chiefly from Judaism and Christianity, while Allah was originally a pagan moon god. There is no system or structure to it. It is an arbitrary, unwholesome porridge of assertions, sayings, anecdotes, and dicta, a disparate potpourri of statements of dubious authorship whose central theme is “conquer them, convert them, or kill them.” It appeals to psychopaths and sociopaths – the jihadists – and to the morally rootless and selfless rank-and-file Muslims, that “silent majority” of manqués who refuse to think. But its overall thesis is explained by Greenfield in his opening paragraph:
Killing non-Muslims is the point of Islam. To the extent that it has any point. That isn’t to say that Islam doesn’t preach the virtues of charity and love for one’s fellow Muslim. It does. But its virtues are not original. Like most of the rest of the framework of it, they are lifted from existing religions.
Not a day passes anymore without news of another spate of Muslim honor killings, rapes of child brides, or of mass murders of Muslims by Muslims of either sect, or of the targeting of Westerners and others not of the Islamic suasion for slaughter or rape. All of it done in the name of Allah, or for the sake of being a “good Muslim.” Since 9/11, nearly 20,000 acts of Islamic terror have been committed. Perhaps more. Someone is keeping count.
But Greenfield asks the question: If these crimes were instead committed by men for no ostensive or alleged religious reason, would we not deem them crimes, regardless of the upbringing or religious background of the perpetrators? Charles Manson, Richard Speck, Aaron Alexis and other mass murderers committed their crimes without benefit of religion or ideology. They were psychotics, sociopaths, or simply nihilistic. Still, we hold them responsible for their crimes. What difference to the victims should it make that they have been slaughtered in the name of a deity? What difference should it make to us that they were slaughtered for a religious reason, or in the name of a deluded vision or for no comprehensible reason at all?
Greenfield leads into his thesis:
Islam may have become a religion, but it began as a code. Like the Pirate Code or the Thieves Law of Russia, it was a set of rules that allowed a select group of bandits to choose leaders, plan attacks and divide the loot.
The code invested their actions with meaning, it kept order in their ranks and allowed the members to believe that dying for the gang was more than a martial ethos, but also contained a spiritual element. Similar attempts to invest gang life with spirituality can be found in the tattoos, rap songs and graffiti memorials of every street gang in America.
And what are street gangs notorious for? Violence. Killing. Terrorism. With guns, with tire irons, baseball bats, knives, or anything else that is proven to be lethal.
Imagine the Kingism of the Latin Kings street gang, which has its own prayers, crude theology and philosophy becoming the religion of the gangs ruling over a Post-American civilization. In the 80s, the Chicago gang Blackstone Rangers realized the benefits of becoming a religion and declared itself the El Rukn tribe of the Moorish Science Temple of America.
Despite the elaborate mythology, the Latin Kings is a gang first and a religion second. In time it might become a full religion, stranger things have happened, but it will never be able to escape its origins. It will at its heart always be a gang code with an emphasis on providing a spiritual overlay for gang violence.
And that is the case with Islam.
It’s nothing new. Let’s go back to the early 20thh century, and the Chicago of that era, and to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of February 14th, 1929. In a reprise of the event, John O’Brien of the Chicago Tribune wrote:
On this frigid morning, in an unheated brick garage at 2122 N. Clark St., seven men were lined up against a whitewashed wall and pumped with 90 bullets from submachine guns, shotguns and a revolver. It was the most infamous of all gangland slayings in America, and it savagely achieved its purpose–the elimination of the last challenge to Al Capone for the mantle of crime boss in Chicago.
What was the prize? The undisputed monopoly of distributing prohibited liquor to the city and its surroundings.
The victims, killed outright or left dying in the garage, included Frank “Hock” Gusenberg, [George "Bugs"] Moran’s enforcer, and his brother, Peter “Goosy” Gusenberg. Four of the other victims were Moran gangsters, but the seventh dead man was Dr. Reinhardt Schwimmer, an optician who cavorted with criminals for thrills. Missing that morning was Capone’s prize, Moran, who slept in.
Interestingly, gangs have attracted hangers-on who are fascinated by the power gangs enjoyed with near impunity. Another hanger-on who cavorted with gangsters was Saul Alinsky, whose mentor, Al Capone’s gang “manager” Frank Nitti, helped him to formulate his “rules for radicals” and “community organizing” techniques.
Is there really any difference between the mob wars of the 1920′s and 1930′s, and the conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites? Except for the religious coloring, both sects seek uncontested dominance over the other, preferably by extinction of the other.
Need one say more about “gangster government”? In attacking the Obama seizure of the auto industry, Michelle Bachmann must have done her homework on the origins of President Barack Obama’s policies, as well. She called the whole phenomenon “gangster government.”
What is the attraction of Islam to psychopaths, sociopaths, and nihilists? As Greenfield explains:
After over a thousand years, after its own empires and conquests stretching around the world, after endless religious schools, reform movements, theological debates and splinter groups, Islam is not able to leave its gang roots behind. It is still at its core a gang religion. That is why it appeals so well to convicts who recognize that they are interacting with something far more ancient than Kingism.
That is also why Islam, like most street gangs, degenerates so readily into internecine violence. No matter how much its devotees dream of conquering the decadent West and planting the black flag of Islam everywhere, they can’t help turning their guns on each other, because gangs are naturally primed to fight amongst themselves. The gang code never suffices to settle disputes among men who live by violence. They may fight to impose Islamic law on the world, but they can’t live by it.
What are we witnessing in Syria, in Libya, in Egypt, in Kenya, in Nigeria? Only the Capone and Moran gangs tricked out in ghutras or shemaghs or keffiyah masks and wearing suicide vests or carrying AK47′s and grenades. Just as Capone’s and Nitti’s Chicago Outfit couldn’t keep the truce with other gangs, so the Sunnis and Shi’ites and other Islamic sects can’t unite permanently, only temporarily, when they gang up on non-gang members. Non-Muslims.
Syria is Islam at its most primal with gangs fighting over the ruins of cities, small groups joining up, Shiite and Sunni militias killing each other, Free Syrian Army and Al Nusra Front gangs fighting over bakeries and pipelines, an endless stream of recruits from around the world rushing to join up in a gang war that has claimed over 100,000 lives.
Not even America’s bootleg and drug gangs and modern organized crime families can top that figure. And that figure is only the tip of a mountain of corpses that began growing in the 7th century.
And the question was how do you keep a band of bandits from stabbing each other over the loot while convincing them that if they die while stealing a goat or raping someone’s third wife, they’ll go to a magical place full of goats and virginal third wives with skin of the color of bone marrow.
As the holy warriors of the Syrian Civil War killing each other over control of bakeries while fighting to impose the perfection of Islamic Law on everyone can tell you, it’s not a very good answer even to that question. It’s an even worse answer to any larger social problem that doesn’t involve twenty men trying to divide the profits from one raid on an abandoned university.
But when a religion is based on gang violence and because of that inevitably reverts to gang violence, it’s an answer that keeps coming up again and again.
The answer of Islam is the answer of violence. It’s the answer of uniting the various gangs around killing non-Muslims. Sometimes that answer even works.
Few Muslims can deal with the conundrum. Raheel Raza, for example, in his September 25th Gatestone column, “The Danger in Our Midst,” addresses it. His article is fundamentally an overture to repudiation. Writing about the recent violence in Nairobi, he asks:
Is it because there are verses in the Qu’ran that can be, and have been, used to justify violence against non-Muslims? If this is the situation, then it is time for us to lift our heads out of the sand, and understand that the enemy is within.
Islam is a prisoner of its own rationalistic Möbius strip. It can’t escape its nature, writes Greenfield. It is congenitally doomed by its defective, anti-life purposes and ends. It can’t be “reformed” without repudiating its core premises and therefore obviating it. Its metaphysics is impossible and the stuff of Looney Tunes, and its epistemology is intrinsically blood-red.
The “ideal” Islam, writes Greenfield, isn’t Muslims butchering each other in Syria.
Islam finds its meaning from fighting and killing non-Muslims. It is the only meaning that it can ever have. The exercises of its devotees who memorize countless Koranic verses, who debate the fine points of laws and prepare for their pilgrimages to Mecca must inevitably converge on the violent core that gives the whole thing purpose.
The historical dynamic of Islam has never left behind its gang origins. Its future is measured in terms of conquest and more conquest. The manifest destiny of Islam is an eating contest as its holy warriors cram more and more territories and people into an expanding Caliphate that falls apart vomiting up the conquests into chaos. The lessons are never learned. The holy warriors fall to fighting each other.
That congenital condition can be likened to the steel pin ball that will always roll towards the bottom, no matter how furiously the Islamic scholars work the flippers. No matter how many times they send the ball back up to score on one of the buttons, the ball’s ultimate and only destination is the black hole of nihilism.
The lessons can’t be learned, because Muslims have a vested interest in the impossible metaphysics and feel naked without flaunting their blood-soaked epistemology in reams and sound-bytes of taqiyya and practiced dissimulation. Greenfield writes:
Every fourth gang hip-hop song is about how hard it is to leave the gang life. The other three are about how everyone else out there is a pretender and not a real gangsta. That is Islam in a nutshell. Islamic civilization can’t leave the gang life and insists that every other civilization and even most other Muslims are pretenders and that only the Salafiest of the Salafists are the real Gangstas.
No one, not even the most authoritative, articulate, and well-read “Islamophobes” in the blog realm can inveigh against Islam as Greenfield can and does consistently and with haunting prose. He goes to the core issue of Islam and reveals its fetid, dank nature. He finds no redemption in its diseased leprosy. It’s unfortunate that his work is confined to the blog realm, because more people concerned with Islam would profit by imbibing it.
He knows there are no such things as “moderate” Islamists or “radical” Islamists or even “militant” Islamists. The adjectival terms are merely evasions indulged in by men who have their own mental problems. In Islam, there are only the passive dullards, and the disconnected “activists.” He knows that jihadists are simply being consistent with their gangster code, adhering to the whole panoply of Koranic ideology in pretend exercises in “spirituality.” Being consistent means killing, either the heretical other, or the “People of the Book.” That is the nature of any terrorist organization or creed.
And that is Islam. Even run-of-the-mill criminals need a philosophy of life, even if it is unarticulated or founded on paranoia or schizophrenia or on some Rosicrucian-like delusion.
Islam, however, articulates a philosophy of death.
If you want a powerful guide to the unabridged, naked hell that is Islam, Daniel Greenfield is your Dante.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Edward Cline is the author of the Sparrowhawk series of novels set in England and Virginia in the decades leading up to the American Revolution, and also of Whisper the Guns and First Prize. His essays, books reviews, and other nonfiction have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and other periodicals. He is a frequent contributor to Rule of Reason and The Dougout.