“Some say there is an inevitable clash between Western civilization and Western values, and Islamic civilizations and values. I believe this view is terribly wrong. False prophets may use and abuse any religion to justify whatever political objectives they have—even cold-blooded murder. Some may have the world believe that almighty God himself, the merciful, grants a license to kill. But that is not our understanding of Islam…. There are over 1,200 mosques and Islamic centers in the United States, and the number is rapidly increasing. The six million Americans who worship there will tell you there is no inherent clash between Islam and America. Americans respect and honor Islam.”
And so, on September 21, 1998, at the United Nations, President Clinton declared the quest by our ruling establishment for a “moderate Islam” officially over. If “six million Americans” believe in something, that in itself is taken as proof that their ideals include religious tolerance, kindness to strangers, and aversion to violence. Like the unicorn or phlogiston, however, “tolerant Islam” can be defined and visualized, but it cannot be made real. In the name of “diversity,” we are required to praise alternative religions, but Islam itself cannot tolerate diversity without ceasing to be what it is.
To the ruling post-Christian elite, this notion is unbearable. Having no faith themselves (except the baby boomers’ belief in their own uniqueness), they do not take Islam’s faith seriously. Smugly observing the demise of Christian belief and culture on both sides of the Atlantic, they trust the combined efforts of television, the Big Mac, and the public education system to make little Muhammad and Azra into carbon copies of Johnny and Chelsea.
It may not work. Contrary to Mr. Clinton’s “understanding of Islam,” this peculiar creed has been synonymous with violence and intolerance since its earliest days. Like Bolshevism and Nazism, Islam is part religion and part ideology, and it seeks to impose uniformity of thought and feeling on the faithful, and to subjugate and ultimately to destroy its non-adherents.
The beginnings of Muhammad’s public career are little known to most Westerners. A non-Muslim reading the Koran, however, might conclude that Muhammad’s career was marked by a long string of killings, armed robberies, and rape, interspersed by a series of inspired pronouncements of varying coherence. Outsiders—the Jews of Medinah, or Muhammad’s Arabic kinsmen who were reluctant to accept his self-proclaimed divinity—could testify to his unique concepts of justice and mercy.
When, in A.D. 626, for instance, six of Muhammad’s henchmen murdered an elderly Jew by the name of Abu Rafi in his sleep, they argued afterwards whose weapon had actually ended the victim’s life. The prophet decided that the person who owned the sword that still had traces of food on it was entitled to the credit. Abu Rafi had just finished his dinner before falling asleep, and the fatal slash went through his stomach.
If Abu Rafi’s murder was a kind of Kristallnacht, Muhammad’s attack against the tribe of Banu-‘l-Mustaliq, later in that same year, was a decisive step towards Endloesung. His followers slaughtered many tribesmen and looted thousands of their camels and sheep; they also kidnapped 500 of their women. The night after the battle, Muhammad and his brigands staged an orgy of rape. As one Abu Sa’id Khudri remembered, a slight problem needed to be resolved first: In order to obtain ransom from the surviving tribesmen, the Muslims had pledged not to violate their captives.
We were lusting after women and chastity had become too hard for us, but we wanted to get the ransom money for our prisoners. So we wanted to use the Azl [coitus interruptus]. . . . We asked the Prophet about it and he said: “You are not under any obligation to stop yourselves from doing it like that.”
The members of the last surviving Jewish tribe in Medinah, Banu Qurayzah, were even less fortunate. Muhammad offered the men conversion to Islam as an alternative to death; upon their refusal, all 900 were decapitated in front of their enslaved women and children. The women were subsequently raped; Muhammad chose as his concubine one Raihana Bint Amr, whose father and husband were both slaughtered before her eves only hours earlier.
This same man is explicitly upheld by all Muslims everywhere—from Los Angeles to Sarajevo, from Marseilles to Chechnya—as the paragon of godly, morally impeccable behavior, to be admired and emulated until the end of time. The prevalence of his name among Muslim men is symbolic of the covenant. His behavior, and that of his followers, was sanctioned in Muhammad’s prophetic revelation, and duly recorded in his holy book:
And all married women are forbidden unto you except those captives whom your right hand possesses. It is a decree of Allah for you. Lawful unto you are all beyond those mentioned, so that you seek them with your wealth in honest wedlock, not debauchery. . . . [Koran 4:24]
Non-Muslims who look for mercy and compassion from these quarters will search in vain. Muhammad explicitly forbade his followers to make friends of Christians and Jew’s, and warned them of the sanction for disobedience: “He among you who taketh them for friends is one of them” (Koran 5:51). But as the marauders could derive no material benefit from corpses, the lives of the conquered could be spared if they agreed to pay a hefty tribute to the Muslims. In his own lifetime, Muhammad thus established the model for subsequent relations between Islamic conquerors and their Christian or Jewish subjects.
The option of conversion was always available, and to be on the right side of Allah —and of history, as it seemed for a long time—was not too demanding. God, the creator and sustainer of the world, rewarded all those who expressed their worship in prayer, almsgiving, and self-purification, and above all in unquestioning obedience to Muhammad. That “God is great, and that there is no God but God” was easily grasped by the nomadic tribes of the desert and, later, of the steppe.
Underdeveloped culturally and socially, the nomads had few theological and logical qualms about Muhammad’s claim that he was the sole spokesman for the authentic “religion of Abraham,” a religion that had been corrupted by Jews and Christian alike. Since Jerusalem was, for the time being, out of reach, Muhammad audaciously attributed to Abraham the founding of the old pagan sanctuary, the Ka’bah, which housed a piece of black meteoric rock that became the Muslims’ holy of holies. Later, non-Arab converts would translate “the crude and casual assertions of the Prophet” into a coherent teaching.
Between Muhammad’s death in A.D. 626 and the second siege of Vienna, just over a thousand years later, Islam expanded —at first rapidly, then intermittently—at the expense of everything and everyone in the wav of its warriors. But Islamic models of culture and society—represented by the horsemen who swept across three continents in the decades after Muhammad’s death—were unable to induce the heirs of Christian, Middle Eastern, and Indian civilizations to attune their values and ways of life to the true faith.
There have been times when some Muslim lands were fit for a civilized man to live in. Baghdad under Harun ar-Rashid in the eighth and early ninth centuries or Cordova under Abd ar-Rahman in the tenth come to mind, but these brief periods of civilization were based on the readiness to borrow from earlier cultures, to compile, translate, learn, and absorb—a bit like America before the closing of its mind. These cultural awakenings happened in spite of the spirit of Islam, which—unable to engender interesting ideas of its own—rejected others as a threat.
In subsequent centuries, cross-fertilization of elements from diverse regions and traditions became increasingly difficult: Islam was accepted or rejected in its entirety, regardless of local custom or tradition. An unprecedented rigidity was introduced into the relations between civilizations, reflecting the fundamental tenet of Islam—accurately restated a decade ago by Bosnia’s president, Alija Izetbegovic, in his Islamic Declaration—that “there can be no peace between Islam and other forms of social and political organization.”
Unleashed as the militant faith of a barbarian war-band, Islam turned its boundary with the outside world into a perpetual war zone. For a long time, the outcome of the onslaught was in doubt. The early attack on Christendom reached as far west as Tours, and almost enabled the Koran—in Gibbon’s memorable phrase—to be “taught in the schools of Oxford” to a circumcised people. The last attempt in pre-modern times, going through the Balkans, took the sultan’s janissaries more than half-way from Constantinople to Dover. On both occasions, the tide was checked, but its subsequent rolling back took decades, even centuries.
For the millions of Christians and Jews engulfed by the deluge, those were centuries of quiet desperation interrupted by the regular pangs of agony. The materially and culturally rich Christian civilization of Byzantium and its budding Slavic offspring in Serbia and Bulgaria were reduced to dhimmis, “people of the Book,” whose advantage over pagans was that their life and earthly goods were ostensibly safe for as long as they submitted to Islamic rule. That rule rested on the two pillars of Islamic ideology and political practice—jihad and Shari’a—that provided the quasi-legal framework for institutionalized oppression of the infidels.
The story of the non-Muslims’ experiences under Islamic rule is as politically incorrect to tell, and therefore as little known in today’s America, as the remarkable life of Muhammad himself At first, the choice of the vanquished seemed to be not “Islam or death” but “Islam or super-tax,” but over time Shari’a ensured the decline of Eastern Christianity, the sapping of the captives’ vitality and capacity for renewal. The practice of devshirme, the annual “blood levy” of Christian boys to be trained as janissaries, and the spiking of infidels were among its more obvious consequences.
If any single factor made the Balkans what they are today—to take a newsworthy example—it was the ordeal of five centuries of Muhammadan misrule. Modern attempts by some apologists for Islam in the West—notably, one Noel Malcolm—to present the sordid casino of Ottoman overlordship in southeast Europe as “tolerant,” or even enlightened, are as intellectually dishonest as they are factually insupportable. Bat Ye’or’s The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam gives the lie to that. To understand Islam’s record with its non-adherents, one should compare it not to Judaism nor Christianity, but rather match it against modern totalitarian ideologies, notably Bolshevism and National Socialism. Each explicitly denied the legitimacy of any form of social, political, or cultural organization other than itself Stalin’s forma mentis was different from that of Khomeini only in quantity, not in quality. The latter’s statement that the Muslims have no choice but to wage “holy war against profane governments” until the conquest of the world has been accomplished was Khrushchev’s “We shall bury you” wrapped in green instead of red. “Peaceful coexistence” was but jihad under another name. Islam, communism, and Nazism sought an eschatological shortcut that would enable the initiated to bypass the predicament of a seemingly aimless existence, while explicitly replacing Christian grace with the gnostic mantras of “surrender” (“Islam”), “dialectical materialism,” “Volksgemeinschaft.”
Nazism was the least coherent of the three; but it was among the Nazis (most notably with the architect of the holocaust, Heinrich Himmler) that Islam found its most willing promoters and collaborators in the pre-multicultural Europe. Himmler’s hatred of “soft” Christianity was equal to his liking for Islam, which he saw as a masculine, martial religion based on the SS qualities of blind obedience and readiness for self-sacrifice, untainted by compassion for one’s enemies. (While Hitler did not think much of Himmler’s neo-pagan mysticism, he was happy to let Islam become the “SS religion.”) By creating an SS division composed of Bosnian Muslims, Himmler sought to enhance the links between Nazi Germany and the Islamic world. One of his closest aides, Obergruppenführer Gottlob Berger, stated that
a link is created between Islam and National-Socialism on an open, honest basis. It will be directed in terms of blood and race from the North, and in the ideological-spiritual sphere from the East.
In his drive to recruit Muslims, Himmler enlisted the support of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, El Husseini, who went to the Nazi puppet state of Croatia in 1943 to encourage his Bosnian Muslim flock to fight for the Reich. More than 20,000 enlisted in the 13th SS Division, Hanjar (the Turkish curved sword). The number of Bosnian Muslim volunteers in Himmler’s units reached 46,000 by September 1943. This exceeded the number of Bosnian Muslims sen’ing with Tito’s Partisans and Croatian Ustašas together.
Half a century later, post-Christian “liberal democracy” expects to neuter Islam by reducing it to yet another humanistic project in self-celebration. Foreign policy strategists in Washington pander to its geopolitical designs, throwing smaller Christian nations—Serbs and Greek Cypriots today, Bulgars and Greeks tomorrow—to the wolves, hoping to balance the books for half a century of America’s “passionate attachment” in the Middle East. They do not seem to realize that such morsels will only whet the Islamic appetite, paving the way to a major confrontation in the next century.
One way to avoid this is to open the gates and give up, and Islam’s proselytizers in the West are learning how to play the game. They act as if Islam were just another competitor in the marketplace of the secular political system, without giving up their ultimate claims and objectives. Islam enters the new millennium with a strong hand. For starters, it is “non-white,” non-European, and non-Christian, which makes it a natural ally of the ruling Western elites. At the same time, it has an inherent advantage over Clinton, Blair, Schroder, and Chirac, who are unable to generate an emotional response among the hoi polloi for their tepid ideology of multicultural mediocrity. It also has an advantage over most established Christian denominations, since the latter are no longer even “the Tory Party at Praver” but—at best—”the Social Workers at Therapy.” Richly endowed with petro-dollars, Islam’s public relations front with use the symbols and vocabulary of the Dominant Tendency, and wait for its implosion.
Islam should not be blamed for being what it is, nor should its adherents be condemned for maintaining their traditions: Luther would say that they kann nicht anders. We should not hate it, nor ban it. We should, however, blame ourselves for refusing to acknowledge the facts of the case, and failing to take stock of our options. Those who have lost their own faith have little right to point a finger at those who uphold theirs.
In the present state of Western weakness, this process may well lead further millions to the conclusion that we should all become Muslims, since our goose is cooked anyway, spiritually and demographically. Those of us who do not cherish that prospect should at least demand that our rulers present that option fairly and squarely. To pretend—as Mr. Clinton does —that Islam is rather like Episcopalianism is plainly stupid or deeply dishonest. In view of the source, it is probably both.