“May Allah rip out his spine from his back and split his brains in two, and then put them both back, and then do it over and over again….Amen.”
“I believe he’s already on the hit list, nothing new.”
“we make dua [i.e., we pray] Allah allows your blood to spill over our hands.”
These are threats I have received recently. Last week, when I spoke at the New York Tolerance Center about “The True Nature of the Jihad Threat,” I discovered that news of these threats have somehow found their way to the New York Police Department, which -- unbeknownst to me until I arrived at the venue -- dispatched its “Hercules Team” to ward off any who might have wanted to make those threats reality. The Team, a group of courteous and accomplished plainclothesmen, turned away one young man with a backpack at the door, after he refused to let them search his bag.
Against that somewhat ominous backdrop, I spoke about the violent intolerance of the Islamic jihad: its imperative to impose Sharia, with its institutionalized discrimination against non-Muslims and women, and its mandate to commit violent acts that is rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah, supported by mainstream understandings of those texts, and elaborated by Islamic law. I tried to impress upon the crowd the threat that the jihad poses to central notions of human rights enshrined in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Bravo for life’s little ironies: after this talk about the need to defend the West from this furious and fanatical form of intolerance, I was confronted by a young man and a young woman who were quite offended by my -- you guessed it -- intolerance. The Muslims who made it necessary for us to have our conversation under armed guard because of death threats did not offend them. My talk did. We had a brief discussion -- until the young man refused to shake my hand and I realized that no real exchange of ideas was going to be possible -- in which I found that their views reflected not just their personal opinions, but a large number of common prejudices and false assumptions about the nature of the present conflict, the meaning of tolerance itself, and more.
The young man, for example, insisted to me that my focus was wrong. He told me that even though he was a Jew, he believed that Israel was a worse violator of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights than the jihadists, and reiterated several times that America is the world’s greatest terrorist, not any jihadist. These are, of course, fashionable notions on the Left and some sectors of the Right, but that doesn’t make them true.
Israel a worse threat than the global jihad? What violence is Israel fomenting in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Bosnia, and elsewhere around the globe? Where are Israelis spreading an ideology that demands that its adherents subvert the states in which they live and replace their societies with a radically different social model that denies equality of rights to women and certain religious groups? Where are Israelis teaching their children that the noblest thing they can do with their lives would be to strap bombs on themselves and blow themselves up in a large crowd of unsuspecting civilians?
I am sympathetic to the Palestinian Arab refugees, some of whom I know personally. But let us not forget that the refugee problem was not created by Israel, but by the Arab states surrounding Israel that started war against her, making the displacement of peoples necessary where it need not have been. Those states also refused to take in those refugees.
It is also true that the obstacle to peace today in the Middle East is not Israel, which has always been willing to come to a negotiated settlement, but the Palestinian Arabs’ attachment to the jihad ideology, which will admit of no peaceful coexistence or any lasting negotiated settlement, but only truces on the way to total victory: the destruction of Israel and reduction of the Jews remaining in the area to dhimmi status.
Israel remains today the only Western-style republic in the Middle East, with the possible and increasingly problematic exception of Turkey. I am in daily contact with Christians from the Middle East, who feel hemmed in on both sides. Most, continuing cultural habits ingrained by centuries of dhimmitude, identify with the Muslims and excoriate Israel. Others are aware of what Sharia means: were peace to come to the area, it is unquestionable that Christians would enjoy more rights and freedoms in Israel than they would in a Palestinian Sharia State (and the Sharia is already invoked in the constitution of the PA). Where in the Muslim world do religious minorities enjoy the rights they do in Israel? Yes, the wall has made life hard for Christians and others in Bethlehem and elsewhere. Blowing people up in buses and restaurants made life hard too. Jihadist brutality and intransigence made the wall necessary.
And America is the greatest terrorist? In this the young man echoed views better expressed by the likes of Osama and Abu Hamza, but let that pass. The fact nevertheless remains that even if the most lurid tales coming out of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are true, they are simply no comparison in terms of human rights violations to the day-to-day record of Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world’s most notable modern Sharia states. To ascribe jihad violence to a reaction to American imperialism is to ignore the jihad conquests that went on for centuries before there even was a United States.
Of course, I was not dealing with the clearest of thinkers. The young man insisted that my talk was about “True Islam,” and that I had said that all terrorists were Muslims, when in fact the talk was entitled “The True Nature of the Jihad Threat,” and I had said no such thing about terrorists (I actually said that there was no global terrorist network comprised of Jews or Christians acting on theological imperatives from the mainstream of their traditions.) But unfortunately, it would be too hasty to dismiss all this as the muddled views of two somewhat under-informed and overly propagandized young idealists: such views are held by millions in the United States today.
Even worse came from the young man’s companion, a Syrian Muslim young lady, wearing pants and no hijab. She complained that my talk did not reach out to moderate Muslims like her -- indeed, she said, it was full of “vitriol” and left the audience more intolerant than they were when they came in. Their view of my intolerance was reinforced, they said, when a New York Tolerance Center official, delighted with my talk (and finding in it no “vitriol”), told me they wanted to have me back next year to be part of a panel. The Tolerance Center official asked me to give them the names of my “dream panel” -- people I’d like to appear with. Off the top of my head, I named Bat Ye’or, Rafael Israeli, and Ibn Warraq. The couple was dismayed: no Muslims! And not only that, but all people identified with “The Right”! I tried to tell them I’d be happy to appear with Tashbih Sayyid, or, indeed, any other Muslim who cared to discuss these things with me, but by that time I was having trouble getting a word in.
However, I never did find out exactly what they found intolerant about my talk. Since I insisted -- as I always do -- that Muslims and non-Muslims must face the reality that jihadists are using the Qur’an and Sunnah to recruit and motivate terrorists, and that only when they face this problem will there be any chance for a viable solution, I can only think that that was their problem. Of course, many on both the Left and the Right consider it in the worst possible taste to suggest that today’s terrorism might have anything to do with Islam (despite the fact that this cuts the ground out from any genuine Muslim reformers, whom they profess to support). Couple that with a Saidist inability to see non-Westerners as anything but victims, and Westerners as anything but perpetrators, and you have a potent brew that clouds men’s minds.
Is it intolerant to speak about the intolerance of others? Is it intolerant not to tolerate evil? Is it intolerant to set out facts that are uncomfortable and that most people don’t want to face? This Jewish/Muslim couple runs an organization that is designed to foster understanding between Jews and Muslims by bringing Jewish and Muslim children together to “celebrate” the “religious identities” of each. How do they keep Muslim children from celebrating the aspects of their religious identity that call Jews apes and pigs (Qur’an 2:62-65; 5:59-60; 7:166) and says they are under Allah’s curse (9:30) and must be fought (9:29)? I do not know. But I know that if they simply ignore such aspects of Islam, they will someday be unpleasantly surprised by a recrudescence of Qur’an-inspired anti-Semitism and violence.
Tolerance is a keystone of modern Western societies. But if it is an absolute value, it is a one-way-ticket to cultural suicide. As I spoke with my accusers that evening, the policemen all around us made it vividly clear where the real intolerance was coming from. Should the policemen have been more tolerant of the jihadists who issued the threats against me, and the young man who refused to let his backpack be searched? Should the British and Americans have tolerated Hitler? Should the Cold Warriors have tolerated the Gulag? “Toleration of the unacceptable,” as Bob Dylan once said, “leads to the last round-up.” I am trying to head that off. Intolerant? Sue me.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch; author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter); and editor of the essay collection The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: Islamic Law and Non-Muslims (Prometheus). He is working on a new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (coming August 8 from Regnery).