In his Introduction to Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith, G.K. Chesterton casts himself as a man on a yacht seeking the world and finding home. The seeker, he writes, may have entertained us with his efforts to find “in an anarchist club or a Babylonian temple what I might have found in the nearest parish church.” Chesterton had desired to be “in advance of the age,” but found, instead, that he was “eighteen hundred years behind it.” He had uncovered nothing new. The “romance of faith,” he discovered, could be found in Christian orthodoxy.
Chesterton had thought of turning the seeker’s tale into a “romance” in which the “English yachtsman” discovers what he takes as “a new island in the South Seas,” planting a British flag on a “barbaric temple” that turns out to be the “Pavilion at Brighton.” The seekers I am addressing here, however, are not those who traverse the globe (literally or figuratively) to land at home, either slaking a youthful wanderlust and returning to their native lands or, having become disillusioned after “seeing the world,” realizing that “the world” is contained in the ordinary lives they left behind. The seekers who concern us are those who reject home, spiritually or intellectually, finding an elusive sense of identity in the barbarian temple itself. Or, in some cases, those who find a sense of purpose in what amounts to their own destruction.
A search of the World Wide Web yields some remarkable stories of such seekers from recent years.
In Texas, a woman reared in a Christian family told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that a prayer she offered in church led her to Islam. Struggling with the mysteries of faith and forgiveness, she prayed, “God, show me what this means or show me something else.” The Star-Telegram reported that, “like many others who convert,” this woman had said “she found that her new religion allowed her an understanding of God that previously seemed elusive.” Islam, the paper stated, is a missionary religion. Indeed, it is—one that has been spread by fire and sword over several centuries.
Other Westerners have gone native while living in Islamic countries. Witness a report from IslamForToday.com dated November 25, 2001, just over two months after the terrorist attacks:
The Italian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Torquato Cardeilli, has converted to Islam, the Italian embassy here announced Sunday . . .
Following a close reading of the Holy Qur’an and study of Islamic culture, Cardeilli embraced Islam to become the first ambassador to convert to Islam in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, according to an office which handles conversions to Islam.
Sheikh Nouh bin Nasser’s office said the Italian ambassador converted to Islam on Nov. 15, the day before the start of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan . . . Saudi Arabia has in the past few years witnessed the conversion of more than 50,000 foreigners to Islam, the Saudi daily newspaper Oqaz reported.
But perhaps the strangest stories of Islamic conversions come from Russia, a country that has suffered from numerous terrorist attacks spawned by the war in Chechnya. With Islamic militancy spreading in the Land of the Firebird, one can read of Russian soldiers taken prisoner, converting, and joining the jihad—and of a Russian Orthodox priest’s conversion. In East European Constitutional Review (Winter/Spring 2002), Dmitri Glinsky writes:
[T]he expansion of Islam is clearly an unsettling phenomenon for most Russian observers and practitioners of cultural politics, for whom an undeniable link between ethnicity and religion has been a normative standard, an analytical framework, and a guide for political engineering. This deep unease is leading some of them to view the relationship between Christian Orthodoxy and Islam as akin to a zero-sum game. This impression is reinforced by such instances as the recent conversion of a onetime Christian Orthodox priest and public figure, Vyacheslav (nowadays Ali Vyacheslav) Polosin, who has himself turned into a missionary of Islam and its social teachings. Indeed, a sizable share of converts appears to be not just ethnic Slavs but spiritually disenchanted Orthodox Christians.
As I write, the five-year anniversary of September 11 approaches; in Britain, citizens of “South Asian” origin (or “home-grown” terrorists, as the British press depicted them) have been arrested for plotting to blow up a number of airliners in mid-flight to the United States. In Britain, the European Union, and the United States, the perils of importing the Other (in this case, Muslims) via mass immigration are finally beginning to be debated; and the stories of Americans and Europeans converting to Islam accumulate, even as the apologists for open borders continue to paint the Other as the equal of, or perhaps superior to, their countrymen.
Conversions by force of arms or a gradual absorption of one population by another, are, of course, nothing new under the sun. What is peculiar about the conversions of Westerners, in general, and Americans, especially, are the circumstances that may have spurred them on. In this “clash of civilizations,” one of the striking trends has been the defense of the Other by some of the very people whom that alien force is attacking. I do not have in mind those who understand that Washington’s Middle East policy (unquestioning support of Israel; the democracy-by-force plans of the Bush White House; the occupation of Iraq) has something to do with the popularity of Osama bin Laden. What I am getting at is something else entirely.
After the September 11 attacks, there was reportedly an increase in conversions to Islam in the United States, as well as a general increase in interest—not necessarily an attempt to “know your enemy” or to understand the “root causes” of the attacks—in all things Islamic. And our President, a man many Americans consider to be a devout Christian, assured us that “Islam is a religion of peace,” despite ample evidence to the contrary. There was no backlash against Islam—domestically, at least. How this state of affairs came about can be explained in many ways: We may rage at Big Business globalism, driven by short-sighted greed; or blame “political correctness,” the liberals, or religious universalism. These are merely symptoms of a deeper illness.
In my review in these pages of Paul Sperry’s book Infiltration (February), I recounted the bizarre tale of John Walker Lindh. A cradle Catholic, Lindh had converted to Islam as a teenager. Lindh—or Suleyman al-Faris, or Abdul Farid, as he was also known—traveled to Pakistan in 2000, studying in an Islamic madrash. He joined the Taliban and met Osama himself, then won his fleeting moment of fame as the “American Taliban.” Some hated Lindh, while others seemed to love him—or at least defend him. As I wrote,
[I]t is questionable that John Walker Lindh ever had a strong American identity. The point that was missing in all the coverage was that Lindh’s saga can only be understood within the context of what the Nixon Center’s Robert S. Leiken has dubbed the West’s “adversarial culture.” Lindh is simply not worth hating. He is another pathetic example of a civilization that has lost confidence in itself and produces lots of people with a very shallow sense of identity. Apparently, Islam provided Lindh/Al-Faris/Farid with [one] . . .
While the mainstream right spun its wheels denouncing liberalism and Lindh’s pathetic parents (his mother had reportedly “dabbled in Buddhism,” while John’s nominally Catholic father had thought his son’s conversion good for him), it was missing the larger point:
“[C]onservative” criticism [of Lindh’s parents] never mentioned a capitalist culture, usually defended by the mainstream right, that inculcates a view of life as a series of consumer choices. It’s a culture in which CEOs are encouraged not to think of their firms as American but “global.” And Americans born and raised in the Good Ole U.S.A. replace their neighbors with “outsourced” foreigners and shop at “big-box” stores retailing Chinese-made goods, with hardly a single pang of conscience.
In the 20th century, the West saw itself betrayed by the likes of Kim Philby, along with the other “Cambridge spies,” and such groups as the Red Brigades, the Red Army Faction, and the Weathermen. The radicals and traitors had legions of sympathizers and fellow travelers in the elites of their own countries. Western individualism and rationalism, radicalized by the decline of Christianity; the curiosity of the Western mind, which lost its sense of context as it lost its religion; and a fascination with things foreign that is not quite like any that has been seen in other civilizations all contributed to the growth of a rootless, self-hating “adversarial culture,” whose platform for attacking the civilization that produced it was Marxist-Leninist.
The “adversarial culture” is not the wholly owned subsidiary of what is nowadays called the “left”—the “right” is also attached to theories of Economic Man and the worship of Progress, something that Chronicles contributors have been writing about for years. The problem is not only ideological but structural: a postindustrial society not attached to the land, or even a company town, is going to have a very hard time putting down roots. And a rootless society with a shaky sense of identity will find it difficult to defend itself.
So the problem is not limited to a few alienist (the term has been used as the antonym of nativist by immigration-reform advocates) cheerleaders. Because of open borders and an immigration policy enabling mass migration from non-Western states, the Islamic Other is here and offers another opportunity for the agents of adversarial culture to play out their multicultural, anti-Christian, antiwhite, anti-American fantasies. With many of its younger members having missed out on the fun and games of the “revolution” of the 60’s, the current Party of Treason now identifies with the immigrant masses: The more alien, the more hostile, the more militant, the better. But they are not alone. Islam is growing in America—and not only among the John Walker Lindh imitators one would expect in our increasingly fragmented society. Could it be that Western alienists may have found the perfect vehicle to replace Marxism-Leninism in a militant, resurgent Islam?
Muslim militants, hoping to dodge any future profiling, are reportedly seeking out native-born Americans to do their dirty work. At the same time, an alarming number of Islamic converts are black Americans. Accounts of the Islamic recruitment of prisoners, however, are not limited to proselytizing blacks. “Latinos” and even East Asians are said to be targets. Given that normal patterns of socialization have been disrupted, there are plenty of Americans alienated from their traditional cultures and civilization. How can anyone hope to assimilate and socialize waves of immigrants from vastly different civilizations, when we have failed to socialize our own people? With the white, Christian majority designated the perpetrator of countless genocides and unmatched oppression, it is small wonder that racial minorities, encouraged by the cult of victimhood, might find militant Islam attractive. If Al Qaeda can recruit a John Walker Lindh, how many Third World immigrants will sympathize with, if not join, the jihad?
Islam’s comprehensive worldview, which does not recognize any division between religious and civic life, is, as Srdja Trifkovic argues, a telling indicator of its incompatibility with Western political systems. Citing terrorist cases involving American citizens and attitudes of Muslims toward the United States and the West, Trifkovic writes that “the application of political criteria in determining the eligibility of prospective visitors or immigrants to the US should become an essential ingredient of a long-term anti-terrorist strategy.”
On ChroniclesMagazine.org, Trifkovic has further pointed to the feelings of alienation that Muslim immigrants and their progeny have indicated in polls taken after the July 7, 2005, terrorist bombings in London:
According to a detailed survey of the attitudes of British Muslims prepared for the Daily Telegraph in the immediate aftermath of the London bombings . . . one in four sympathizes with the motives of the bombers, and six percent insist that the bombings were “fully justified.” In absolute numbers, this means that there over 100,000 Muslims in Great Britain who either are prepared to carry out terrorist acts or are ready to support those who do. And a substantial majority—56 percent—say that whether or not they sympathize with the bombers, they can at least understand why they behave in this way. The sheer scale of Muslim alienation from British society that the survey reveals is remarkable: Nearly a third of them, 32 percent, believe that “Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end.”
Other surveys cited by Trifkovic reveal that Muslim hatred for the United States is even worse: 81 percent of Pakistanis, for example, “dislike” America. In Lebanon, 73 percent believed that suicide bombings are justified. This is what Trifkovic described as the “baggage” Muslim immigrants bring with them to America and transmit to their children who are born here:
The sense of hostile detachment from any recognizably American identity and values that breeds terrorist intent is not confined to any single group of Muslims. It transcends class and affects students, Ivy League-educated doctors, and criminals alike. The problem is not limited to those Muslims who came to the United States as adults: In December 2003, five U.S.-born Muslim youths from upstate New York were convicted of aiding Al Qaeda and plotting attacks on Americans.
What is unclear from all of this is the degree to which we are becoming them or they are becoming us. The sense of hostile detachment of upper-middle-class, American-born Muslims is as much a part of the culture of their white counterparts in those same Ivy League schools as of the Islamic culture their parents brought with them. Calling a halt to mass immigration is an absolute necessity. But having won that victory, patriots will have just begun to fight.