In a sane world, Dinesh D’Souza would not merit a single inch of this column. The greater Middle East, Islamic terrorism, Korea, the Balkans, the imperial mind-set, and many other problems and challenges America faces around the world would take precedence over the musings of a self-designated “conservative intellectual” with few original ideas and little ability to express them coherently.
We live in strange, postmodern times, however, in which Mr. D’Souza’s views on Islam and terrorism are taken seriously by many decent, reasonably educated Americans. His views deserve our attention not because of any intrinsic value in them, but because his status as a mainstream conservative is illustrative of the state of the “movement,” and the prominence given to his claims is detrimental to America’s ability to wage the “War on Terror” successfully.
In his latest New York Times best-seller, The Enemy At Home, D’Souza asserts that conservative religious believers in America should join forces with conservative religious believers in the Islamic world to combat their common enemy: the cultural left. In order to build alliances with traditional Muslims, he asserts, the right must take three critical steps:
First, stop attacking Islam. Conservatives have to cease blaming Islam for the behavior of the radical Muslims. Recently the right has produced a spate of Islamophobic tracts with titles like Islam Unveiled, Sword of the Prophet, and The Myth of Islamic Tolerance. There is probably no better way to repel traditional Muslims, and push them into the radical camp, than to attack their religion and their prophet.
Two of the titles D’Souza finds so offensive that condemning them tops his list of “critical steps” are by Robert Spencer, and Sword of the Prophet is mine. D’Souza wants us, and presumably other similarly minded authors (Bat Ye’or, Ibn Warraq, Walid Shoebat, et al.), to shut up.
It is noteworthy that D’Souza is condemning our writings as “Islamophobic” without further elaboration. Like the term Islamophobia itself—a classic product of the Hate Crime Industry—his technique is characteristic of the totalitarian left. I remember reading, as a teenager in Tito’s Yugoslavia, similarly worded condemnations of dissident writers and their “tracts” in the communist-controlled press. Once they were defined as “antisocialist,” “reactionary,” or “nationalist,” no further elaboration was needed, and no debate allowed.
Furthermore, D’Souza uses Islamophobia with the implicit assumption that his readers are familiar with the term’s meaning. Nevertheless, for the uninitiated, it is necessary to spell out its formal, legally tested definition, provided by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), a lavishly funded organ of the European Union. Based in Vienna, this body diligently tracks the instances of “Islamophobia” all over the Old Continent and summarizes them in its reports. The EUMC’s definition of the hate crime of Islamophobia includes eight salient features: Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change; Islam is seen as separate and “other”; Islam is seen as inferior to the West, barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist; Islam is seen as violent, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations; Islam is seen as a political ideology; criticisms made of the West by Islam are rejected out of hand; hostility toward Islam is used to justify the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society; anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural or normal.
This definition is obviously intended to preclude any possibility of meaningful discussion of Islam: Islamophobia amounts to Islamo-denial. In reality, all eight proscribed views of Islam are, to some extent, true.
That Islam is fundamentally static and unresponsive to change is evident from the absence of an orthodox school of thought capable of reflecting critically on jihad, sharia, jizya, etc., and developing the new Islamic interpretations that so many Westerners keep hoping for. Previous attempts to reformulate Islamic doctrine have failed, because they opposed centuries of orthodoxy. It is not the jihadists who are “distorting” Islam; the would-be reformers are.
That Islam is separate from our (Western, Christian, European) culture and civilization, and that it is “other” (than our culture and civilization) are facts that will not change even if the West eventually succumbs to the ongoing jihadist demographic onslaught. As for hatred of “the other,” no religion mandates it so implacably and unambiguously as Islam does.
Whether Islam is inferior to the West is a matter of opinion. That it cannot create a prosperous, harmonious, stable, creative, and attractive polity is not. Whether Islam is barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist is at least debatable; but that its fruits are such is beyond reasonable doubt. Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations, not because of an irrational “phobia” in the feverish mind of the beholder, but because of the clear mandate of its scripture, because of the record of almost 14 centuries of historical practice, and, above all, because of the example of its founder.
Islam should be seen as a political ideology because its defining characteristic is a highly developed mandatory program to improve man and create a new society; to impose complete control over that society; and to train cadres ready, even eager, to use violence in its pursuit. The doctrine of jihad makes Islam closer to Bolshevism or National Socialism than to any religion known to man. D’Souza’s alleged distinction between Islamic “extremists” and “moderates” is a Western construct. They may have differences over methods, but not over the final objective: to turn every last square inch of Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam. Hence, Islam’s chief “criticism of the West”—and of every other non-Islamic culture, civilization, or tradition—is that it is infidel and, therefore, undeserving of existence.
A reasoned hostility toward Islam should not be used to justify discriminatory practices toward Muslims. On the contrary, a comprehensive education campaign about the teaching and practice of Islam should result in legislative action that would exclude Islam from the societies it is targeting—not because it is an offensive religion, but because it is an inherently seditious, totalitarian ideology incompatible with the fundamental values of the West and of all other civilized societies, including India, China, and Japan. The “infidels’” determination to defend their lands, families, cultures, and faith against Islamic aggression is both natural and normal and must not be neutralized by the Eurocrats from the left or by D’Souza and his likes from the “right.”
It is entirely possible that Dinesh D’Souza subscribes to some other definition of Islamophobia than the one provided above. In order to find out, I accepted the invitation to debate him on WDAY’s Hot Talk With Scott Hennen. After the first five minutes of the program, I concluded that his knowledge of Islam is pretty tenuous—despite his claim that he spent four years studying it—as this transcript indicates:
Trifkovic: Have you ever actually read the Koran?
D’Souza: Of course I have.
Trifkovic: Do you know—how are the Suras arranged?
D’Souza: They are . . . er . . . they are not arranged in any chronological order . . . er . . . [pause] and . . . er . . . [pause] and so I quote in my book both the violent and . . .
Trifkovic: Just tell me how are they arranged.
D’Souza: The other point . . .
Trifkovic: Can you just tell me how are the Suras arranged?
D’Souza: . . . right. You can’t just call . . .
Trifkovic: Why don’t you just tell me, how are the Suras arranged?
Hennen: OK, one at a time here; your question for Dinesh, Serge, is?
Trifkovic: In what order are the Suras arranged in the Koran?
D’Souza: [long silence] . . . I really don’t know what you mean by that. When you say “in what order” then . . . er . . . [pause] there . . .
Trifkovic: They happen to be arranged by size, from short to long!
D’Souza: [without interruption] And when did Iran . . .
By continuing blithely with his “points,” instead of correcting my assertion (which was deliberately incorrect), Dinesh D’Souza took the bait, confirming that he has not studied the Koran, and that he may never have even held one in his hands.
As it happens, the eccentric arrangement of the Muslim holy book—from those endlessly long and often boring Medinan Suras (Al-Baqarah, with almost 300 verses, or Al-’Imran, with 200) to the shorter and more interesting Meccan ones—is the Koran’s most salient feature and is bound to be noticed and remembered by any modestly observant and not necessarily astute layman. That this fact is unknown to an author who claims to have spent four years studying it is indicative either of his tenuous hold on reality or of his excessively creative imagination. The whole episode would be farcical, were it not for the seriousness of the subject.
D’Souza’s particular statement in our debate that prompted my impromptu test is worth quoting at some length:
These attacks on Islam—the Koran is a gospel of violence, Muhammad is the inventor of terrorism—they are not just tactically foolish, they are historically wrong, because Islam has been around for 1,300 years; Islam radicalism was invented in the 1920’s and came to power in 1979. How can we blame the Prophet Muhammad for things that Khomeini and Bin Laden are saying, that are very new? Historian Bernard Lewis points out that radical Islam is a radical break with traditional Islam. Never before have Muslim mullahs, or clergymen, ever ruled a Muslim country. All Muslim countries have been ruled by nonclergymen until Khomeini. So I think the flaw we see in this work and in the Islamophobic literature is that it tries to link the early centuries of Islam.
The notion that analyzing and exposing those aspects of orthodox Islamic teaching that prompt bloodshed will drive “traditional” Muslims into the radical camp is the equivalent of the claim, advanced during the Cold War by Moscow’s apologists and fellow travelers, that Western “anti-Sovietism” is detrimental to the “moderates” in the Kremlin and plays right into the hands of the “hard-liners.” Aside from its logical flaws, D’Souza’s argument is also hypocritical: His latest book does not allow for the possibility of a cleverly driven conservative wedge between the “traditional” left and its self-hating mutant offspring.
D’Souza’s claim that “all Muslim countries have been ruled by nonclergymen until Khomeini” is simply untrue, as it implies some form of separation of mosque and state that is explicitly rejected by Islam. “How can we blame the Prophet Muhammad for things that Khomeini and Bin Laden are saying?” asks D’Souza, casually adopting a pious Muslim’s designation of Islam’s founder. And, actually, the answer can be found in the Koran and in the Hadith. Islam stands or falls with the person of Muhammad, a deeply flawed and violent man. The problem of Islam, and the problem of the rest of the world with it, is its claim that the words and acts of its prophet provide the universally valid standard of morality for all time. D’Souza is free to deny this; but the seriousness of the issue makes it obligatory for the rest of us to question his conclusions and his credentials.
In the “War on Terror,” the greatest challenge is with ourselves, with those among us who have the power to influence policy and shape opinions, and who are ignorant and deluded. Having absorbed postmodern assumptions, certain only of uncertainty, devoid of any serious faith except a belief in their own uniqueness, members of our elite class treat the jihadist mind-set as a pathology that can and should be addressed by treating causes external to Islam itself. The cure suggested by the left—more inclusiveness, less profiling, more diversity—differs only in form from the alliance of Western conservatives and traditional Muslims proposed by D’Souza. Both are as likely to make us safe from terrorism as the leaders of the “conservative movement” are likely to become conservative.
One of the reasons that movement is politically irrelevant—as the late Sam Francis put it, it “doesn’t move”—is that it accepts people such as Dinesh D’Souza as bona fide members. A good chistka is needed, and exposing these charlatans is one way to start.