Declaring that some of the words used by Orianna Fallaci in her book about Islam were "without doubt offensive to Islam and to those who practice that religious faith," an Italian judge has ordered her to stand trial for anti-Islamic defamation. Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice has in effect accused all of America of anti-Islamic defamation, saying that a single mishandling by a single U.S. serviceman of a single copy of the Koran is a terrible offense that tarnishes the image of our country. Yet even as our Secretary of State condemns America for its bigotry, the Saudi government funds the massive distribution of anti-American hate literature at U.S. mosques—and the Saudi Crown Prince, far from being criticized, let alone indicted, for spreading defamation of Christians and Jews, is invited to President Bush’s ranch for a chummy get-together. At the same time, the main cleric of the Palestinian Authority issues Hitlerian calls for the utter destruction of America and the Jews—and Secretary Rice praises the Palestinians for their march to peace and democracy and the U.S. government gives the Palestinians hundreds of millions more in U.S. taxpayer dollars.
People have pointed to all this recent kow-towing to Muslims as evidence of dhimmitude, the subjection of non-Muslims to a humiliated, second-class status under Muslim rule. But looking at the total pattern described above, I wonder if dhimmitude is an adequate description of it. The condition of dhimmitude, as miserable as it is, is relatively straightforward: dhimmis have no power, they're in a defeated, subordinate position, and they have no choice but to accept the harsh treatment meted out to them by their Muslim overlords. But what we have now is in a sense worse than dhimmitude. After all, we are the more powerful party. We are the ones who bestride the world like a colossus. We are the country that arrogantly or idealistically claims to be setting standards for all the nations of the earth. And yet, from our superior position of unquestioned military power and insufferable moral pretentiousness, we engage in a vicious double standard against ourselves, in which we condemn and punish our fellow Westerners for using critical language about Islam (let us remember that Americans as well as Europeans have been threatened with legal action for condemning Islam), while we reward our Muslim enemies who are openly engaged in a war of vilification and civilizational destruction against us.
What is it that leads us to accept the use of this spectacular double standard against ourselves? Why are we rushing to surrender to those who hate us and everything we cherish?
The answer is simple. In resurgent Islam the liberal West has met its fate. Islam is a non-Western religion set on conquering and converting non-Muslims, while liberalism is a Western ideology set on tolerating and including non-Westerners. They are predators, we are prey. This complementarity spells the death of the West, unless there is a radical awakening on our part to the true nature of Islam and a willingness to oppose it.
But there's a further twist to this complementarity that makes it even harder for us to extricate ourselves from the dhimmi-like trap in which our own ideology has placed us.
As I said, Muslims seek to turn the whole human race into Muslims. We are the demonic and tempting Other, whom they must subvert and convert, and against whom any deception or double standard that may be used to accomplish those ends is sanctioned by God. But liberal Westerners and particularly liberal Americans (which, when we understand the word "liberal" correctly, means basically all Americans, including most conservatives) remain for the most part indefeasibly naïve about the nature and goals of Islam. We imagine that the Muslims—except for a "tiny minority" of extremists—are more-or-less similar to ourselves, citizens-in-making of a democratic world order. Just as the Muslims' hard-boiled view of us as the infidel Other stems from their very being and faith as Muslims, liberal Americans' naïve view of the Muslims as people "just like us" stems from our very being and faith as liberal Americans. Being a liberal American means being non-judgmental of other cultures and civilizations, seeing other people as individuals, and putting group differences into the background.
For our liberal American identity to be sustainable, we must go on believing that all people are essentially like us. If we became convinced that a billion Muslims are not like us but are irreconcilably different from us and dangerous to us, then, instead of being open and accepting toward them, we would have to become closed and defensive. We would lose our very being as liberal Americans, as well as our hope of a harmonious, unified, equal world. And that is why we stubbornly ignore the Muslims' actual qualities. We don't do it simply because we are "naïve." We do it in order to maintain our own identity, our liberal identity which is based on our believing that humanity consists of nice people like ourselves, and that discrimination against anyone on the basis of religion, nationality, or ethnicity is always wrong.
We thus have a false view of our own motives, which Sartre would have called bad faith. We think that we disregard other people's negative qualities out of unselfish generosity and tolerance. In reality, we are pursuing an imperial impulse, constructing an image of an Americanist world in which everyone is at least potentially an American, reasonable and easy-going like ourselves, and in which discrimination is therefore unnecessary. But—the final irony—our imperial agenda is leading to our dhimmi-like subjection to the Muslims' imperial agenda, since our empire is an empire of tolerance and inclusion in which we must open our arms to merciless world-conquering jihadists.
Lawrence Auster is the author of Erasing America: The Politics of the Borderless Nation. He offers a traditionalist conservative perspective at View from the Right.