Pat Condell has been railing against Islam as such for the past ten years; he is a crank, he is outside mainstream media, and I am sure he has as much influence as Thomas Friedman among those inclined to be aware of existential threats. He makes acerbic videos of himself talking to the camera from his suburban home somewhere in England. He does not speak in public. You almost certainly are aware of him if you have been a reader of this site. [We know all about our readership].
Thomas Friedman writes for the New York Times on Middle-Eastern Affairs. He has authored several well-received books; he lives in a gigantic house with his rich wife, and he wields considerable influence with those who think they are important. I have heard him speak at a conference and I can assure you from direct observation that he is a pompous ass, a talented writer, and a fair barometer of American liberal opinion.
And yet, despite every possible distance in social and economic class, and religion, Thomas Friedman is now in agreement with Pat Condell. The problem is Islam, not just hard-line interpretations of it.
Friedman was commenting in the New York Times this week on President Obama’s pussy-footing around the issue, and when the Times talks tougher on Islamic jihad than the US President, then you know some important shift in public opinion is occurring.
When you don’t call things by their real name, you always get in trouble. And this administration, so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia, is refusing to make any link to radical Islam from the recent explosions of violence against civilians (most of them Muslims) by Boko Haram in Nigeria, by the Taliban in Pakistan, by Al Qaeda in Paris and by jihadists in Yemen and Iraq. We’ve entered the theater of the absurd.
After citing the administrations excuses for the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Friedman writes:
This makes it sound as if the Charlie Hebdo terrorists set out to commit a random act of violent extremism and only subsequently, when they realized that they needed some justification, did they reach for Islam.
The day before, Earnest had conceded that there are lists of recent ‘examples of individuals who have cited Islam as they’ve carried out acts of violence.’ Cited Islam? According to the Earnest theory … purposeless violent extremists rummage through the scriptures of great faiths, looking for some verses to cite to support their mayhem and often happen to settle on the holy texts of Islam.”
President Obama knows better. I am all for restraint on the issue, and would never hold every Muslim accountable for the acts of a few. But it is not good for us or the Muslim world to pretend that this spreading jihadist violence isn’t coming out of their faith community. It is coming mostly, but not exclusively, from angry young men and preachers on the fringe of the Sunni Arab and Pakistani communities in the Middle East and Europe.
I observe that the Charlie Hebdo murders have finally budged the nearly immovable liberal consensus to start talking a new language that we have being saying for years: it is jihad, stupid; it is part of a thousand four hundred year war against everything not Islamic. It is not new, it is ancient.
The violence, murders and enslavements carried out by Islamic warriors are intimately tied to a religious doctrine called Islam. Jihad is their sacrament. It is as central to Islam as baptism, communion, and burial are to ours.
The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Marine LePen, of all people, and that she rightly called Islam a totalitarian ideology. What Geert Wilders was nearly sent to jail for, several years ago, and cost him many a trial, is now being said in the New York Times.
Let us call things by their rightful names, since the French government seems reluctant to do so. France, land of human rights and freedoms, was attacked on its own soil by a totalitarian ideology: Islamic fundamentalism. It is only by refusing to be in denial, by looking the enemy in the eye, that one can avoid conflating issues. Muslims themselves need to hear this message. They need the distinction between Islamist terrorism and their faith to be made clearly.
Yet this distinction can only be made if one is willing to identify the threat. It does our Muslim compatriots no favors to fuel suspicions and leave things unspoken. Islamist terrorism is a cancer on Islam, and Muslims themselves must fight it at our side.
LePen is still making a distinction between Islam and Islamism, but this attempt to make of Islam a political ideology by adding the suffix “ism” is just a way that we westerners have of denoting an ideology. For the Muslim, there is no distinction between the realms of God and Caesar, for as I said before, in Islam, God is Caesar. Our attempts to analyze Islam with Christian concepts constantly get us confused.
The distinction between Islam and Islamism is a polite fiction. Sooner or later it will be dropped, because there is no distinction between them in substance. With the Charlie Hebdo murders and Boko Haram’s mass slaughters, the western world draws nearer to the moment when we get clear on the concept.
At some point a future ruler will do the same to Mecca as the Emperor Titus and the future Emperor Tiberius did to Jerusalem in AD70: besiege it, defeat it, and carry the inhabitants off into slavery. This will occur after the nuking of Rome by Islamic militants, or some such outrage.
The shock of the fall of Jerusalem diverted the entire Hebraic religion away from a Temple-oriented live-animal sacrifice cult into the study of the Torah under the direction of rabbis. It is not beyond possibility that the occupation of Mecca and the destruction of the central temples of Islam will have an equivalent pacifying effect. Then again, the Jews have learned from history, and the Muslims – so far- have not.
Nevertheless, regardless of these asides, the day of reckoning with Islam is coming.