Perhaps the greatest blasphemers in any religion are those who appoint themselves as God’s executioners. When an entire civilization embraces such butchers, both the civilization and the religion are in trouble.
The ritual slaughter of Paul Johnson Jr. in Saudi Arabia wasn’t simply the act of a cluster of terrorists, but a reflection of the failure of the entire Arab world.
Religions are what men make of them. In the Arab heartlands of Islam, Muslims are making a gory mess of their faith. It’s time to end the politically correct baby-talk insisting that Islam isn’t the problem. In the decaying Arab world, Islam is the problem—because of the way bitter old men interpret and deform its more humane precepts while embracing its cruelest injunctions.
The decapitation of yet another American civilian can’t be dismissed as an aberration from “true” Islam. The tradition of beheading unarmed prisoners dates to the earliest decades of the Muslim faith. The butchering of Paul Johnson, Nick Berg and others isn’t a new phenomenon—it’s revivalism, “that old-time religion” returning for a re-match with secular devils.
Millions of Muslims find such atrocities inspiring. Millions more view such cruelty as just. It’s the vicarious revenge of the self-made failure. And for every rent-a-cleric the Saudi government pushes in front of a television camera to condemn such acts, thousands of other mullahs continue to preach anti-Western hatred--the brutal specificity of which would horrify even America’s leftists, if only they stopped apologizing to terrorists long enough to listen.
The Saudis, especially, have sown the wind and now are reaping the whirlwind. I personally have seen their attempts to “purify” Islam and provoke anti-Western rage, from Africa to Southeast Asia, from Central Asia to the Arab homelands. No matter how many terrorists the Saudis kill on their own soil hereafter, they will remain guilty—in great part—for every murder committed by Muslim extremists. They created the monsters who now have run amok.
But the problem is far greater than the degenerate House of Saud. We face a phenomenon new to history: A once-great civilization failing before our eyes. Whether or not one subscribes to the idea of a “clash of civilizations,” we are incontestably witnessing the crash of an entire civilization, that of Middle Eastern Islam.
After centuries of self-destructive behavior, Arab civilization is unable to compete in a single field of human endeavor relevant to progress. Instead, Arab societies are racing backward into superstition, bigotry and a narcotic culture of blame. They have grown so impotent in every other regard—unable even to translate great wealth into minor power—that Arabs rich and poor, educated and illiterate, are enraptured by their rare “triumphs” over the West, from 9/11 to the barbaric murder of Westerners doing the work that Arabs themselves are too slothful or incompetent to do.
Baghdad fell, to the collective shame of those Arabs who prefer homegrown despots to Western-inspired democracy. The Arab revenge is to slaughter innocent captives. It makes no difference that the Koran specifically forbids the mistreatment of prisoners. As with the worst demagogues in every religion, the apostles of terror cite religious texts selectively. But if such practices are limited to fringe elements in other world religions in our time, the perversion of faith pervades today’s Islamic mainstream.
One can’t say that, of course. Arab Muslims are allowed to spew anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-Hindu, anti-everybody-else hate speech. That’s just their culture, you see. But it’s taboo for a Westerner to suggest that the roots of terror may go a bit deeper than a black sheep or two in a few Middle-Eastern families.
Leftist apologists for terror here in the United States attack any attempt at a frank discussion of the Middle East’s problems with charges of bigotry and neo-imperialism. But if we examine the madness of the American Left dispassionately, we find that it’s the Noam Chomskys, Susan Sontags and their acolytes from the campus greensward who are the true bigots. Imperialists, too.
By refusing to hold Middle Eastern civilization to reasonable standards of behavior and responsibility, our domestic Left has given new life to the “little brown brother” school of colonialist thought. According to the Left’s internal logic, Arabs aren’t capable of the same moral reflection and behavioral maturity well-educated whites demonstrate. And, of course, Arabs are oppressed (no matter that their oppressors are all Arabs).
Arab extremists and dictators have become the ghetto blacks of hard-Left foreign policy. They’re all victims of Washington and bear no personal responsibility for their own errors, failures or crimes. It isn’t the Saddams, Abdullahs, Assads or Mubaraks who oppress the Arab masses, you see. Despots are never guilty--unless they get too chummy with the Americans. Anyway, dictators are victims, too. The mass graves and misery that haunt the Middle East (if such inconveniences must be mentioned at all) are my fault. And yours, dear reader. We’re to blame for all that’s wrong with the world. And don’t you forget it!
The family secret of the hard-Left is that its followers share one powerful trait with Osama bin Laden: They need to look down on others, to feel superior and just. If the lords of terror dispense with displays of pity for their victims, it’s only because they haven’t yet attained the leftist’s level of hypocrisy.
Why shouldn’t we hold a civilization accountable for its own failures and horrors? Why does our domestic Left revel endlessly in the excesses of a few renegade guards at Abu Ghraib prison while remaining silent on the industrial-scale massacres of Saddam Hussein—and other terror regimes? Why don’t our self-appointed “voices of conscience” speak out against the beheading of Paul Johnson Jr. or Nick Berg? What about the hundreds of Iraqi doctors, lawyers, engineers and educators slain by terrorists for trying to build a humane government in the Middle East? What about the countless civilians killed by car bombs? What about the victims of 9/11?
The silence isn’t just deafening. It’s revolting.
We all await, anxiously, Michael Moore’s film “Trolling For al-Qaeda.” A pity Paul Johnson Jr. won’t be around to watch it.
Ralph Peters is the author, most recently, of Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace.