Every time a bomb explodes in the West it is a boon for journalists. They photograph weeping people, tell us how implacable the government will be, and, without breaking stride, warn us that more is likely to come. But so far I have never come across any serious reflection on the rationale for the bombings, nor any explanation of the true identity of the bombers. They claim to be Muslims, but we are told Islam is a “religion of peace.” These days ISIS is the great evil, embodying a crazy Islam that has come out of the blue to train terrorists. And that’s that.
You are not satisfied? Go figure. Well, though ISIS may have a lot to do with current terrorism in the West, one may still wonder to what end it commits its trainees to killing Westerners. If ISIS, or some affiliate, is at war with the West, what is it going to war for?
One answer that should immediately be discarded is to conquer Europe. Not only because, whatever Europe’s relative weaknesses, ISIS does not have the military might to achieve such an objective, but for an even more convincing reason: Europe is well on its way to being conquered without any war, without any terrorism. Europe is slouching toward an (almost) painless and (anyway) spontaneous surrender to Allah’s faith, the trumpeted inspiration of ISIS. Europe is building mosques; Europe is adopting the halal diet; Europe is discouraging Christians from exhibiting the symbol of their faith; Europe’s property is gradually being bought by Muslim capital—and these facts are only the tip of the iceberg. Considering the sheer rate of immigration and the incontrovertible facts of demography, it is clear that European civilization as we know it is on the verge of being submerged, all the more as European populations are losing any love for their own past, which has become meaningless to them, whereas they treat as a quasidivine blessing a commercial world without any national boundaries. Most of the European populations, so long as they can continue to shop at the supermarket, fill their gas tanks, and watch ever stupider TV programs, are not willing to heed the warnings of modern Cassandras and consider the steady infiltration of their countries—by people whom they are urged to welcome as hapless, wretched “refugees”—to be a threat to them. And can it be seriously doubted that the American people are following the same path?
So, if the West is declining and being irresistibly overcome, then what is the use of terrorism? If anything, one might be tempted to consider it the best way to raise awareness of the silent tsunami and provoke some kind of reaction, even among the all too subservient Western populations—beyond their pitiful depositing of flowers and lighting of candles on the sites of terrorist attacks. Obviously intent on doing basically nothing, because they insist Islam is a religion fundamentally friendly to the West, the Western governments are nevertheless forced by these attacks to take some token action, like hunting down the surviving terrorists or, as in France, threatening to deprive them of a French nationality they don’t want anyway.
Or would terrorism’s purpose be to frighten not Westerners but the previously settled Muslims into siding with their more radical brothers? But that is what the so-called moderate Muslims are doing anyway, albeit in a passive way. When the attacks are not openly hailed by imams in their mosques or by Muslim youngsters in their classrooms, the Muslim majority remains strikingly silent, as if consenting to the random assassinations of Westerners. And anyway, are not these repeated attempts at killing the source of the golden eggs in direct contradiction with the collective wish of the immigrating masses precisely to profit from the fertility of the Western goose? So again, what’s the use of a terrorism that, by any rational Western standard, appears superfluous, if not plain stupid?
In other words, terrorism is only intelligible if designed to overcome the resistance of an enemy too strong to be challenged by conventional means. But terrorism becomes an enigma when no proper resistance can be ascertained. Let us discard some acts of terrorism that clearly have other sources and concentrate on the terrorists who invoke Islam. The question remains: What is the reason for Islamic terrorism?
As I was brooding over the question, I kept falling back upon two answers.
The first one rests on some acquaintanceship with the Koran, the indispensable guidebook for the faithful—a book, let’s remember, which is supposed to be uncreated, meaning not the product of human minds but the expression of Allah’s everlasting will. Whatever else the Koran contains, it cannot be disputed that it includes commands, formulated in no equivocal terms, ordering the plain and simple murder of the infidel, by whatever means, on whatever occasion, without any further aim. Admittedly, violence against the infidel is not the only language spoken in the Koran, but it should be noticed that Allah, though merciful, unequivocally declares those who dare oppose him to deserve the direst fate. Whoever reads the Koran impartially cannot but notice Allah’s orders: “kill the idolators wherever you find them” (9:5). And, true to his god, Muhammad preaches (2:191)
kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah [the unbelievers’ “oppression” against Muslims] is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al-Haram [at the Sacred Mosque] until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.
Today, there is no dearth of imams to follow suit, like Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, the spokesman for ISIS, who, in a radio message in September 2014, declared, “if you can kill an infidel American or European—in particular, those evil and filthy Frenchmen—or an Australian or a Canadian, or any citizen of the countries with members of the coalition against ISIS, then rely on Allah and kill them whatever way you can.” And he is the same man who, this year on May 21, posted the following message online:
Ramadan is the month of invasion and Jihad. Make that month with the help of Allah a month of misery for the infidels wherever they are. I address particularly the soldiers and the followers of the Caliphate in Europe and in the United States . . . there are no innocent amongst
Indeed, isn’t it obvious that beheading or slitting the throat of the enemy is the standard policy of the self-proclaimed Islamic State? However Islam may be interpreted, the Koran clearly commands its followers to spread death among the infidels in words that are Allah’s own.
So why wouldn’t terrorists simply be convinced that they are being good Muslims—faithful to Allah, the only god, and Muhammad, his prophet, and examples to their brothers in the faith—when they slay infidels with no other motive or goal than simply to kill them, even at the price of their own lives? I think it is a politically incorrect but incontrovertible possibility that believers think they are simply obeying Allah when they kill as many Westerners as possible, whether the latter be atheists, Christians, Jews, or non-Muslims in general. Of course, it requires much hatred toward the West to resort to deliberate slaying over any other kind of action, but obviously the assassins spring from the ranks of a population resentful of a society they both envy and despise. The only thing one can say is that not all Muslims are willing to become criminals in the eyes of Western justice, which translates into more congenial behavior. But even though this is true, it is also true that, owing to any number of mishaps in their private lives, any one of them can suddenly turn his or her attention to the more aggressive parts of the Koran and, following (or not following) the teachings of some imam, go in the name of Allah to a bloody war, public or private, against the nonbelievers, including other Muslims whom they have declared to be heretics.
I should also mention those who, while they have but the faintest idea of what is written in the Koran, have heard enough about it to justify their criminal deeds by evoking Allah’s standing orders: the mentally deranged individuals for whom Islam is a means to deal with their inner problems, those who see in Islam an unexpected justification for robbing banks (quite a few of the terrorists have criminal records), those again who expect to derive from their supposed warrior’s stance the admiring regards of a feminine audience, etc. Islamic violence does not lack recruits. All in all, Westerners should know that in all Muslims, particularly the young and more rash, there might be a dormant enemy.
Why, then, does modern Islam resort to terrorist actions? Indeed, Islamic terrorism against the West is a relatively recent phenomenon, while Islam itself is a long-standing historical reality. I am tempted to reply by considering the evolution of two phenomena, which have coalesced.
The first is the progressive decay of Islam as a power player on the world stage (particularly the European one) over the past two centuries, the last blow to its importance being the demise of the Ottoman Empire—put to death in the aftermath of World War I as much by the might of European powers as by the cultural influence of the West. (Kemal Atatürk forbade the fez.) Then followed the dominion imposed upon the greater part of the Middle East by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, not to mention the not-so-discreet handling of Muslim Arab nations, freed from the Ottoman yoke but folding under a new one because they were endowed with oil (or convenient waterways)—a situation that could not indefinitely bear well with these same nations, whether they be devoid of religion (like Nasser’s Egypt) or self-consciously Muslim (like Khomeini’s Iran). I cannot forget that, when visiting the Saudi kingdom for professional reasons some decades ago, I read a warning uttered by its royal founder: “if and when the ways of the West overcome our ways, my kingdom will be lost forever.” Does that not go to the root of the matter?
But then a second evolution took place. There was a time when the West did not doubt it represented a superior civilization because it embodied a superior creed. Even when it had achieved technological superiority, it did not dare deny its Christian roots completely—and the mass of its populations could not imagine believing in any god other than the Christian One. Even the early defenders of strict secularism, like Jules Ferry, the French minister of education in the 1880’s, revered a moral code directly inherited from Christianity. But then the West, or rather the bulk of its intelligentsia and politicians, decided that secularism had to be understood as a new and exclusive creed: relativism. All religions became equally valid, all cultures admirable; tolerance, permissiveness, fanatical secularism, the hatred of all discrimination, including moral discrimination—all went hand in hand: God was dead, so everything was permitted, as Nietzsche put it. And new deities were born: Mammon and the supermarket, the two faces of what the new Western policymakers called democracy. Both proved to have powerful appeal, but no longer carried any spiritual weight. The West could henceforth be envied, but it was also despised: Its crass materialism made it lose any respect Muslims might have had for its moral strength. And materialism made it lose the will to use its military might other than in a halfhearted way, because it was typically used for purely material objectives. That meant the West lost the respect Muslims have for sheer force—force being a reflection of Allah’s all-powerful will. No longer respected nor considered intimidating, the West remained invasive—wanting to make the Middle East safe for democracy. The ground was laid for Islam to enter an undeclared war with the West without waging an all-out one that no Middle Eastern nation could win. Thus did Islam resort to terrorism. Hence, the burgeoning of relatively private organizations such as Al Qaeda, or more recently ISIS, all (discreetly or not) supported by such countries as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, and, most recently, Turkey.
Within that particular configuration, the invasiveness of the West, halfhearted yet insistent, has been highlighted by its total responsibility for the creation of the state of Israel and its continuous support and blessing of it, starting with the Balfour Declaration just over a century ago. I will not attempt to weigh the respective claims of Jewish and Arab people to the land of Palestine; what I will stress is this plain fact: The state of Israel has never stopped being a thorn in the side of all Muslim Arab states (with the notable exception of the British-created kingdom of Jordan). This is true of neighboring states like Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the more distant but still hostile ones, like Iraq, Iran, and Libya, not to mention the Palestinians, who have seen the land they inhabited pulled out from under their feet. All of these peoples have seldom missed an opportunity to call for the eradication of the state of Israel, that bridgehead of the West on their shores. And the West (and Israel) should feel lucky that the internal strife and rivalries—religious as well as political—that divide the Middle East prevent an alliance of all the local power players around ISIS. Whether it is the Arab states that threaten the Jewish state’s existence or the Jewish state that is always ready to take preemptive action against the Arab states, it can hardly be doubted that the West is bound to inherit from the Muslim hatred of the Jews the hatred that fuels terrorism.
To paraphrase Lenin, What can the West possibly do?
The first option is purely rhetorical: Achieve total control of the Middle East.
The second one is definitely more reasonable, and draws upon the wisdom of Washington (George’s wisdom, not Obama’s): Do not interfere in affairs that are not a clear and present danger to the West’s existence and way of life; at the same time firmly hold your ground and protect your nations and countries from aggression, notably mass immigration that will potentially destroy what is left of the West’s last bulwark, Christianity. To each his own home: That is a law of nature. But again, if that policy were to be implemented, it should include the welcoming only of true refugees, and the forceful expulsion of all those who would not publicly renounce Islam—a sure test of loyalty to the West, since this is a capital sin Allah cannot forgive.
Now, even assuming the Western nations still want to be Christian nations—which may be doubted—such a policy is not cost-free. It is not so much the need for Middle Eastern oil, which may be assumed to be on the wane, nor the amount of Muslim investment Western governments have allowed in their countries, which, assuming a strong enough political will, could be frozen if nothing else. The real hitch comes from the reluctance of these same governments to stop playing guardian angels for the state of Israel. Whatever their reasons, it should be realized, maybe cynically, that the West’s unconditional support of the Jewish state probably represents, for the foreseeable future, the major stumbling block of all relationships between the West and the Middle East—i.e., a standing excuse for continuous terrorism against Israel’s sponsors, and their continued interference, through Israel, in Middle Eastern affairs.
There is a third option: Take no definite stand in the Middle East, and continue interfering in the Islamic world, while trying to ingratiate Muslims by welcoming Islamic hordes to the West. This is the option chosen by most Western governments today. The predictable result of such a policy will be for the West to have to bear with both invasive Muslim immigration and ever-increasing terrorism.
There will be a rude awakening for those who have refused to face reality.