March 13, I gave my talk “‘No Substitute for Victory’: The Defeat of
Islamic Totalitarianism” to an audience of about forty at Georgia
Institute of Technology. In the talk, based on my article in The Objective Standard,
I rejected all forms of theocracy, but emphasized the danger posed by
the Islamic state and argued for the destruction of its most obvious
manifestation, the regime in Iran. I was prepared for opposition to the
idea of war with Iran, and I acknowledged up front that those who
recognize that religious law is wrong might disagree with my conclusion
that a war against the Iranian state is necessary. But I was not
prepared for the strident defense of Islamic law and jihad—and for the
condemnation of me for even raising the issue of Islamic jihad—that was
The onslaught began with the first “question,” actually a monologue
that lasted nearly fifteen minutes. The monologist claimed that: (1)
there is a long history of separation of church and state in Islam; (2)
Islamic law is good; (3) whenever imposed, Islamic law has brought
peace; (4) jihad is a “wonderful idea” and does not mean war; (5)
Islamic Totalitarianism poses no threat, since 500 million Muslims
reject terrorism; (6) the tax leveled against subjugated peoples is
just, because they are protected by Muslims in return; (7) I am
“ignorant of history” if I do not acknowledge the “truth” of these
I listened to him without interrupting—and even asked a legitimately
annoyed member of the audience to allow him to finish—so that he could
fully reveal himself. In answer, I re-read a series of quotes in which
Islamic leaders—as well as a young girl on Lebanese television—call
for jihad, war, and death; and I pointed out to the monologist that he
must be quite angry at these Muslims for their incorrect view of jihad.
But instead of being angry at those who give his presumably peaceful
religion a bad name, he condemned me for reading their
quotes. This is evasion par excellence—to condemn those who raise
Islam’s violent past and present rather than have to face the fact that
the vision of idyllic peace that one associates with one’s religion has
no basis in reality.
(I at least got a good laugh out of this exchange when I concretized
the meaning of the tax on subjugated peoples. Suppose a Mafia thug came
to your door, I said, and he offered to protect you for, say, $100 a
month. You would ask the thug, “From whom do I need protection?” to
which he would reply: “Us.”)
Following this was more of the same: combinations of Islamic
apologizing and ad hominem attacks. I was told, for instance, that I
could not possibly understand Iran if I had never been there myself. By
this standard, history as such is impossible; no one today can know
what it was like a decade, a century, or a millennium prior to his
birth. But the apologists have no problem suspending this standard for
themselves when it serves their purposes, in this case to glorify
Mohammad (“a peaceful man”) and 7th-century Arabia.
But one “questioner” in particular stands out: After reading a sentence from my article Notes on the Near Eastern Roots of Islam,
with no context or explanation for the audience to even understand what
it meant, he attacked me by saying that I should remember “logic” and
the fact that I was at a “scientific” school before making statements
such as those that I had made. But rather than explain to me what was
illogical or unscientific about my views—let alone ask a question in
the question period—he continued his ad hominem attack by stating that
my views were so obviously wrong that only a “criminal mind” (a phrase
he repeated) could have come up with them. Again, he never stated what
was wrong with my quote, never established any reasons for his
conclusion, and never asked me to clarify my reasoning—he took his
assertion of the “criminality” of my mind as a self-evident fact.
On the face of it, the “scientific logic” he employed was nothing
more than arbitrary name-calling—obviously a cherished technique by his
“method.” But what motivated his calling me a “criminal mind”—twice?
The topic of my talk was theocracy and Islamic law. Islamic
governments, as ideological states founded on claims to divine
revelation, must jail—or worse—those who speak out against the clerics.
This was the thug’s ideal: In lieu of rationally demonstrating the
“truth” of his beliefs, he would criminalize me, or jail me, or perhaps
kill me, to stop the spread of ideas contrary to his. In Iran, this
ideal has already been achieved; there I would have been arrested,
condemned, and thrown into solitary confinement. But in America, the
thug’s ideal is frustrated; without the power of the law to silence me
he was reduced to name-calling.
What deeper attack on civilization, freedom, the mind, and human life could be possible than to propose the establishment of thought crimes in
an American university? His was the voice of a dark-age Nazi brownshirt
longing for the day when he can destroy those who vocalize ideas that
make it difficult for him to evade the irrational nature of his whims.
Who is it that should be empowered to peruse articles and determine
which ones constitute crimes? The thug made that very clear.
Unfortunately, with but one exception, the Muslims in the audience did
not say anything against him.
For a taste of what develops when people like the ones I faced have their way, read this article
about a university lecturer in Iran who was sentenced to death in Iran
for the “crime” of polling Iranians about their attitudes towards
America. This is the real meaning of Islamic law: the destruction of
the mind, and death to those who use their minds.
The content of my article is irrelevant in the face of such attacks
on the mind. But, for the record, the passage that the thug read was
this: “There is a need for an external enemy, as a point of focus for
the rage which would otherwise turn into civil war.” And here are the
next two sentences: “The Arabic tribes were in constant warfare, until
Islam pointed their energies outwards, into conquest. To this day, the
civil wars return to such areas whenever there is no external enemy, or
no dictator to keep order by force.” I wrote this because it is true.
Dictatorship or anarchy is largely the rule in the Middle East today—as
it was under Mohammed in Arabia, which he conquered internally and then
turned outward to foreign conquest.
On display the night of my talk were the theory and practice of
Islamic totalitarianism—the soul and the fist—in the evasions about
Islamic history and its practices today, and in the open wish to
criminalize those stating these truths.
There were, however, two bright spots to the evening. The first was
a man who described himself as a thirty-year emigré from Turkey. He
noted with pride that his homeland had a thoroughly secular government
and he praised Kemal Ataturk for bringing Turkey into the modern age,
for instance, by banning the headscarf. But today Turkey’s secular
government is being undercut—by Americans who describe its government
as “moderate Islamic” and thereby blur the line between theocracy and
secularism. This opens the door to the establishment of Islamic law.
The man’s message was this: There can be no compromise between
theocracy and secular government; it is either–or. To accept “moderate
Islam” into government is, in principle, to establish theocracy. I
wonder if he realized that, by the standards of the brownshirt in my
audience, he was a criminal for holding such a view.
The second bright spot of the evening was a young woman who asked me excitedly about Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness.
As the young woman struggled to understand Rand’s challenging ideas,
our conversation continued into the hall and outside. She apologized
for the actions of the audience; I told her not to be concerned with
them, only herself. I am certainly glad that, for now at least, she
lives in a society where she can remain focused on her own intellectual
development—and safely ignore those who would stifle or slaughter her
“criminal mind” before the wings of her intellect have a chance to