In February 2002, Chronicles’ associate editor Aaron Wolf and I spent a day at the Rockford Iqra School, a Muslim academy in Southeast Rockford. I chronicled the events of that day in “Through a Glass, Darkly,” the April 2002 installment of The Rockford Files. The frank expression of admiration for Osama bin Laden by the chairman of the school (the assistant director of neonatology at Rockford’s largest hospital) and the performance of Muslim raps about jihad by children as young as six were not what we, or our readers, expected. The reaction to the article was varied, ranging from anger—either because of my supposed “intolerance” to Muslims or because of my perceived evenhandedness—to shock, as readers admitted that they had no idea that such schools existed in the United States, much less out here, in the middle of Middle America.
The 43 children enrolled at that time at the Rockford Iqra School are a small portion of the children at the more than 600 Islamic schools nationwide. (Some estimates range as high as 1,000.) Today, the U.S. State Department officially estimates the number of mosques in the United States at over 1,200, but that is based on a survey conducted in the late 1990’s; unofficial State Department estimates rise as high as 2,000. CNN notes that nearly 80 percent of those mosques have been built since 1990—after our first war with Iraq; of the rest, the bulk were built after the Islamic revolution in Iran.
In both the United States and the world at large, Islam has become the fastest-growing religion. In 1990, the Census counted 5.27 million Muslims; today, there are as many as 9 million Muslims in America. Most of that growth, again, occurred between 1990 and 2002. By 2000, the number of Muslims worldwide had exceeded the number of Catholics; by 2010, the State Department estimates that there will be more Muslims in America than there are Jews, making Islam the second-largest religion in America.
A Zogby poll in August 2000 revealed that almost 78 percent of Muslims in America are immigrants, most from the Middle East. “Approximately a third of American Muslims live on the East Coast (32.2%), 25.3% live in the South, 24.3% in the Central/Great Lakes Region, and 18.2% in the West.” In other words, the bulk of the Muslim population is firmly in the heart of Middle America. Moreover, Muslim population growth in the United States is no longer driven primarily by immigration but by birthrate. Of the six children we interviewed extensively at the Rockford Iqra School, only one—a nominal Christian—had fewer than three siblings. And conversion is also contributing to the growth of Islam in America; a 2004 Zogby survey found that 20 percent of American Muslims are converts.
Muslim population growth in the United States has been accompanied by a sea change in American attitudes toward Islam over the past quarter-century. In 1979, one of the most popular songs on country-music stations began:
Dear Mr. Ayatollah
I know you think we’re yella
But you gotta learn you can’t blackmail
the good ole U.S.A.
I hope the sand you eat
fills your stomach like our wheat
and you can shove your oil up your only holy place.
The jingoistic lyrics reflected a broad anti-Islamic sentiment brought about by the storming of the American embassy in Tehran and the taking of 40-some American hostages, all of whom were eventually returned. In 2001, however, after the greatest act of foreign terrorism ever committed on American soil, with over 3,500 dead, our government reacted quickly to try to prevent the development of similar sentiments, assuring us that true Islam is a “religion of peace” and that the men who committed and coordinated these acts are “fundamentalists” or “radicals” or “extremists” or “Islamists”—anything but good Muslims.
How is this even possible? What kind of society, after enduring the tragedy of September 11, continues not only to allow the coreligionists of the September 11 terrorists to flourish within its borders but to invite even more to cross those borders and take up residence within? The answer is simple: Only a dying society would accept the presence of such a fifth column. And only a society with a death wish would take the further step of praising that fifth column and encouraging its members to remain true to their religion of war.
In Europe and around the world, America’s status as the only remaining superpower, and especially the Bush administration’s willingness to use military means to achieve its foreign-policy goals, has left many with the impression that the United States is vibrant and strong. That impression is mistaken.
Far more important than U.S. military actions and belligerent rhetoric is the question of how we treat the potential enemy within. The Bush administration and the American media, in insisting that true Islam is a “religion of peace,” are not simply playing a political game. They are firmly wedded to the postmodern doctrine of multiculturalism, an ideology that Pope Benedict XVI has rightly denounced as “an abandonment and denial of that which is one’s own.”
In contrast, Muslim leaders in the West hold no such illusions. As Kalim Siddiqui, the late founder of the Muslim Institute of London and the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, writes in his book Stages of Islamic Revolution, “The West is frightened of Islam not because Islam is any different now than it was at any time in history; the West is frightened because its diplomatic and intelligence services and the media are reporting strong currents of convergence of Muslim political thought and methods of action in all parts of the world.” And, a few pages later, “This terrifies the West; hence the word ‘terrorism’ and ‘fundamentalism.’”
In the wake of September 11, Muslim schools across the country saw an upsurge in enrollment; in Rockford, the Iqra school’s enrollment rose by close to 50 percent almost immediately, and it has continued to grow at a steady pace, attracting Muslim families from across the country to the area. In the long run, it does not matter whether more parents placed their children in the school because the events of September 11 somehow made them more acutely aware of their faith or whether they placed them there out of genuine concern that their children might be targeted in the wake of September 11. The effect is the same: More children are receiving the message of Islam, undiluted by the multicultural virus that afflicts Americans of European descent.
Even the military might of the United States may give Muslims cause for hope, because it is so often used in the service of multiculturalism. Islam claims to rise above nationality, and its ultimate vision is of a world united in submission to Allah, in which nation-states, as in the Marxist vision, have withered away. As Chesterton realized at the beginning of the last century, Islam may well be the ideal religion for the post-Christian West, because Islam and the modern project have the same ultimate goal—the destruction of the diversity and richness that flows from the Christian understanding of the Incarnation and its replacement with an homogenous, unitary state. As Siddiqui writes: “Once a global Islamic movement acquires global following and legitimacy, all States whose statehood is predicated on nationality may be considered under sentence of disintegration and death.” The American-led destruction of such states aids Islam in its struggle, as does the emerging global culture of Disney, McDonald’s, and Microsoft. The story of John Walker Lindh thus becomes a fable for our time.
This is not an isolated view. Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, a former chairman of the board of trustees of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, writes in Muslims in the West: The Message and the Mission that
Islam is the most suitable religion for this land [America]. Had a union taken place between the two, the history of mankind would have taken a very different course. On the one side, the unbounded natural resources of America, the tremendous vitality, resoluteness and enterprise of its people; on the other, the moderation of Islam, its message of hope and confidence, its unequalled distinctiveness as the faith of nature, its insistence on the intrinsic innocence of man. . . . But, Islam is not the faith in America, a misfortune for this country and the world. The Western world opted for a religion which insisted on the doctrine of original sin, giving rise to the worst pessimism and leading man to believe that sin was his destiny. It did not raise the stature of man, but put the mark of disgrace on his forehead, persuading him to believe that he needed an “other” to redeem him by offering atonement for his misdeeds. . . . But now circumstances are taking a favorable turn. Muslims are migrating to America in a steady stream from different lands and for different reasons. There is no Islamic country whose finest young men are not found here. Lastly, a large number of enterprising people are also coming to it from the country where the Ka’ba is situated.
So-called mainstream Muslim organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which successfully pressured Boeing to convince National Review to quit selling Srdja Trifkovic’s Sword of the Prophet on its website, share this rabidly anti-Christian vision of America. Imagine the outcry if a Christian organization had made a statement similar to the one uttered by Omar M. Ahmad, chairman of CAIR, in a 1998 interview with the San Ramon Valley Herald:
Muslim institutions, schools and economic power should be strengthened in America. Those who stay in America should be open to society without melting, keeping mosques open so anyone can come and learn about Islam. If you choose to live here, you have a responsibility to deliver the message of Islam. . . . Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faiths, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.
This is not surprising rhetoric from a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who named his son Osama and worships at a mosque that, in the 1990’s, raised money for Al Qaeda’s second in command. What should be surprising is that CAIR is viewed by the U.S. government as a legitimate civic organization. Indeed, the State Department bases its official “Demographic Facts” on Islam in America on an April 2001 survey entitled “Mosque in America: A National Portrait,” cosponsored by CAIR and the Indiana-based Islamic Society of North America.
Government support of Islamic organizations in America goes far beyond accepting their surveys as the gospel truth. A massive article in USA Today on February 24 recounted the rise of sharia-compliant banks and mortgage-finance companies, glowingly comparing the head of one such company to Jimmy Stewart’s character in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. Rushdi Siddiqui, the director of the Dow Jones Islamic Index Group, told USA Today that, “Frankly, with 9/11, as with any tragedy, there was a silver lining. One of the silver linings . . . was a revival by Muslims to look inward to how they can be more compliant (with the Islamic faith).”
One way is to return to the traditional Muslim ban on interest. This, however, presents a business-model problem for Muslim mortgage companies. In order to make any money, they have to sell those mortgages to a secondary-mortgage marketer. Enter Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—federally funded mortgage agencies that, one year after September 11, began purchasing mortgages from Islamic companies, lighting a fire under a market that has now reached $600 million.
In good Republican fashion, Fannie Mae account manager Colette Porter characterized the agency’s efforts as part of the Bush administration’s encouragement of faith-based initiatives: “Faith-based organizations have become trusted (financial) advisers in underserved communities,” she told USA Today, begging the question of whether the federal government should be doing anything at all to help establish a Muslim beachhead in America by financing the purchase of property.
Those who understand the threat that Islam poses to the United States and Europe occasionally characterize such policies as selling Muslims the rope with which to hang us. But our death wish goes well beyond that: The Bush administration is now buying them the rope. The April 25 issue of U.S. News & World Report details a classified plan, which the administration has dubbed “Muslim World Outreach,” that “calls for working through third parties—moderate Muslim nations, foundations, and reform groups—to promote shared values of democracy, women’s rights, and tolerance.” “In at least two dozen countries, Washington has quietly funded Islamic radio and TV shows, coursework in Muslim schools, Muslim think tanks, political workshops, or other programs that promote moderate Islam. Federal aid is going to restore mosques, save ancient Korans, even build Islamic schools.”
The Bush administration undoubtedly views the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax County, Virginia, as another faith-based initiative. In the case of the ISA, that faith has begun to bear fruit. Built and funded with money from the government of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Saudi Academy lies just up the street from Mount Vernon. Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, valedictorian of his class at the Islamic Saudi Academy, was recently arrested for plotting to assassinate President Bush. Born in Houston, Ali, after graduating from the Islamic Saudi Academy, pursued religious studies in Saudi Arabia, where he joined an Al Qaeda cell in 2001 and where the plot was apparently concocted. Yet, in late April, while Ali awaited trial, President Bush walked around his ranch in Texas, holding hands in friendship with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
Multiculturalism is “an abandonment and denial of that which is one’s own,” and, for Americans of European descent, Christianity is at the center of what is being abandoned and disavowed. Despite President Bush’s profession of faith, his administration is, like the America it represents, at best post-Christian, and perhaps anti-Christian. With Christianity on the retreat in Europe and in America, it is no surprise that insurgent Islam is once again on the rise. If Americans truly believed in the Faith of their fathers, how likely is it that there would be an Islamic school in Rockford or an Islamic academy near Mount Vernon? The presence of these foreign elements is as much an indication of a failure of nerve on the part of Christians as is the mosque that has been erected in Rome. Until we abandon and deny the multiculturalism of our postmodern world, until we rise above our pathological self-hatred and return to the certainties of tradition and kinship and soil and memory, our faith will never match theirs in its intensity, and the Dar al Harb will, gradually but inexorably, be absorbed into the Dar al Islam.