The lesson we refuse to learn

Andrew C. McCarthy, author of the newly published Willful Blindness: Memoir of the Jihad, sat down for an interview at NRO, and voiced some unpleasant truths about our suicidal sensibilities:

Lopez: What’s the most devastating lesson from 15 years ago we still haven’t learned?

McCarthy: That the primary cause of Islamic terrorism is Muslim doctrine, and that we are not fighting a tiny, rag-tag collection of fringe lunatics who have somehow “hijacked” the “true Islam.”

Mark Steyn reminds us of Toynbee’s observation that civilizations die from suicide rather than murder, and our mulish refusal to look at what we’re up against is case in point. It’s really a frightful commentary on the low regard we have for ourselves: that we don’t think we are capable of soberly assessing the Islamic challenge without smearing all Muslims as terrorists — as if, in the scheme of things, it’s more important to shield the tender sensibilities of Muslims than fulfill our duty to protect American lives.

The stubborn fact is: Islamic doctrine is supremacist, chauvinist, and rife with calls to violence against non-Muslims. That doesn’t mean that these are the only elements of Islam. Nor does it mean that all Muslims, or even most, have any interest in acting on those elements. But moderate Muslims, no matter how great a majority of the faithful they may be, do not make Islam moderate. Islam is the font from which springs what we call fundamentalist Islam, radical Islam, militant Islam, political Islam, Islamo-fascism, or whatever we are calling it this week to avoid any hint that Islam has anything to do with the problem.

There are many different interpretations of Islam, of course. The one that truly threatens us — let’s call it fundamentalist Islam, since I think that’s closest to accurate — is not a fringe ideology. It is a comprehensive social system, with political, legal, and theological prescriptions. It is 14 centuries old; has in its history won the fealty of rich and poor, educated and illiterate, etc.; cuts across divides like Sunni-versus-Shiite; and today boasts hundreds of millions of adherents — not a majority of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims, but an influential, dynamic minority.

Only a small percentage of fundamentalists cross the line into actual terrorist activity, but even a small percentage of hundreds of millions of people means an awful lot of terrorists, and the equally significant point is that the others — to a greater or lesser extent — share the goals if not the methodology. Moreover, the leading fundamentalist figures, people like Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, exert a powerful influence over even moderates. Their erudition and conviction, their seeming authenticity and command of the scriptures, are very intimidating for the average Muslim who just wants to go about his life.

In any event, the forcible tendencies of fundamentalist Islam may be exacerbated or rationalized by poverty, resentment, lack of democracy, etc. But they are not caused by such pretexts. The violence is commanded by scripture.

We’ve seen this kind of denial delusion about an enemy before, and we know how it ends.

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Comments

  1. SADIE says

    The lesson began in the early 70’s in the USA. We are now 35 years into it one long and ugly lesson.

    I used to wonder, as a child, how Europe sat and watched itself during the 1930’s. It was as if they were watching themselves in a movie on the big screen.

    I don’t have to wonder anymore, the world is watching it now on DVD’s, TV’s and the internet – Part II and they’re still clueless as to the intended outcome.

  2. SADIE says

    Helen

    In a word – WRONG.
    Violence is no more a choice for Islamic fundamentalists than not eating pork is for Orthodox Jews.
    It’s only a matter of how far you take the faith, who you impose upon and how a faith handles the differences.

    The breakdown is simple:

    Christians will slaughter pigs.
    Jews will not eat pigs.
    Muslims consider the above pigs and infidels.

  3. jj says

    A choice?

    A Pew poll from a couple of years ago. The question was:

    IS SUICIDE BOMBING IN DEFENSE OF ISLAM EVER JUSTIFIED?
    Yes No DK/Refused
    Lebanon 82% 12% 6
    Ivory Coast 73 27 0
    Nigeria 66 26 8
    Jordan 65 26 8
    Bangladesh 58 23 19
    Mali 54 35 11
    Senegal 47 50 3
    Ghana 44 43 12
    Indonesia 43 54 3
    Uganda 40 52 8
    Pakistan 38 38 23
    Turkey 20 64 14

    Now – disturbing as those numbers are, note that Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Iran, Sudan, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories were not included in the survey.

    If all Muslims had responded as Turkey did, where a mere 20% think suicde bombing is okay, the rest of the world would still have a problem worth worrying about: we would be talking about more than 200 million avowed supporters of terrorism – and Turkey is an island of ambassadorial goow will compared with the rest of the Muslim world.

    As to the “choice” part of it – suppose peace does by some miracle come to the Middle East. What will the Muslims then say about the suicide bombings they clearly endorse? “We were driven mad by the Israeli occupation? “We were a generation of sociopaths who should have been euthanized at birth?”

    How will they account for the celebratiuons that followed 9/11, and that invariably follow these “sacred explosions?”

    200 million people are “choosing” to be mad dogs? For some reason I have a tough time believing that.

  4. spiff580 says

    I’m not sure why your bothering trying to debate Helen with facts and logic. From what I have seen she is quite adept with the snarky comebacks but short on actually debating the issues with anything more than clichéd argument or two. Oh, and don’t forget little happy faces as well.

  5. says

    Y., I studied creative writing (poetry and prose) and African American studies for my master’s, which I finished in 2000. I have published two chapbooks of poetry since the and have a book manuscript ready for publication. I’m working on a second now, but it’s no where near finished. I’m sure everyone who comments here is as busy, if not busier, than I am. I think I understand my position well. But I don’t buy that I have to think like someone else. I’m the person I am and the one I’m becoming. I’m not a finished product. My education will end when I die. I have come to realize that facts should lead to truth, but that’s not always what happens. People twist facts to make their points. The fact is, truth matter much more than the statistics that prove a point. Truth comes via facts and other means. The truth will set us all free, but we have to want it.

  6. spiff580 says

    Helen,

    “The fact is, truth matter much more than the statistics that prove a point”

    Truth without statistics or facts to back it is nothing more than an opinion. How can you know what the “truth” is if you don’t have data, facts or historical context to support or back it up? Is it just a feeling?

    Perhaps this is a great example of how liberal arts majors views things differently than hard science majors. I don’t know.

  7. Mike Devx says

    I think the crux of the piece was this:
    “But moderate Muslims, no matter how great a majority of the faithful they may be, do not make Islam moderate. Islam is the font from which springs what we call fundamentalist Islam, radical Islam, militant Islam, political Islam, Islamo-fascism, or whatever we are calling it this week to avoid any hint that Islam has anything to do with the problem.”

    I have to say, I still disagree with it. I really don’t think Islam itself is the problem. It is *worse* than Christianity in the breadth of its violence and misogyny. It’s demonstrably worse. But I think it’s a matter of degree.

    There have been many cases throughout history where Christian Biblical text was used to justify any number of abhorrent actions. I can list all the ones I can think of if someone wants me to do that work, but I suspect most of you know what I’m talking about.

    These outrages spring up seemingly out of nowhere, rage for a while, then die down. Again with Islam the perniciousness seems to last longer than it does when it occurs within Christianity.

    The people – the Muslims themselves – can change this from inside. Until they do, we must protect and defend… and most likely KILL to protect and defend. But in this day and age, and for the foreseeable number of decades, they’re coming after us, with extremely vicious and determined intent, and we do not have to let them destroy us.

    It will take decades for the fury in this current – can I call it hysteria? – to die down. We must stand strong against it and wait. Again, standing strong will likely involve a great deal of unpleasantness, including killing. One can only hope that nuclear weapons do not become involved.

  8. Mike Devx says

    Did anyone notice that Dhimmi Carter laid a wreath on Arafat’s tomb today?

    I wonder how many Israeli victims of terrorist bombings he laid a wreathe for? Did he lay one for Ariel Sharon? I wonder… After all, he claims that he is simply looking for avenues of peace! One would expect him to be absolutely fair in the laying on of his pious, morally superior hands.

    So I have to wonder… where all is Carter laying his wreaths these days?

  9. says

    spiff580, It’s more than just a feeling. I’m not avoiding your question, which is a fair one, but I need to do some things with my family (like eat dinner) and I want to give this some thought. I’ll post my answer tonight (or in the morning at the latest).

    BTW, my undergrad major was English, so I’m liberal arts all the way. I did, however, make an “A” in the first semester of calculus, but I also realized that all I was doing was memorizing patterns and plugging in numbers. I got out before disaster had time to strike me. I don’t think like a scientist.

  10. SADIE says

    Mike

    Ariel Sharon ,although in a bad place, is not dead whereas Carter should be both deceased and in a bad place.

    Spiff

    Carter has managed to make victims of Israelis, both living and dead.

    He is, the Grim Reaper. He’s actually worse, but I will respect the Bookworm Room and hold my tongue here.
    Suffice it to say…he should never have been allowed outside of Georgia.

  11. Ymarsakar says

    After all, he claims that he is simply looking for avenues of peace! One would expect him to be absolutely fair in the laying on of his pious, morally superior hands.

    What better way to create a desert and call it peace than by honoring fallen mass murderers?

  12. Ymarsakar says

    But I don’t buy that I have to think like someone else.

    Given that communication requires each party to think like the other party at least some of the time in order to correlate concepts, this might be a major component of why you can’t really do anything about the arguments presented here against your positions.

    but that’s not always what happens. People twist facts to make their points.

    Facts have interpretations and while facts don’t change from person to person, interpretations certainly do. Logic helps a person who wants to interpret facts, to get it done correctly.

  13. says

    spiff580 said,
    “The fact is, truth matter much more than the statistics that prove a point”
    Truth without statistics or facts to back it is nothing more than an opinion. How can you know what the “truth” is if you don’t have data, facts or historical context to support or back it up? Is it just a feeling?
    Perhaps this is a great example of how liberal arts majors views things differently than hard science majors. I don’t know.

    **

    As a Christian, I believe in TRUTH that is only known 100% by God. I think any truth that people discover is part of the TRUTH. I think that truth is present wherever it is and that often people we don’t expect to have it actually do. I think everyone possesses some degree of truth. I think that if we combined the parts of truth that we know, we could create a better world but that humankind will never possess TRUTH, otherwise we’d be God, and we’re not. I think communication is very important in the conveyance of truth.

    There are many ways to discover truth. One is by fact-finding. This way is used by everyone but is vital to the scientific method. A hypothesis is formed and facts are gathered to prove or disprove the question at hand. This method does not always give a definitive answer. But there are other ways of knowing.

    One is through comparing and contrasting two or more things (or people, such a candidates for president). This method is used in literary analysis. In literature (sacred and secular) we see archetypes for good and evil. We judge characters or people by given traits. Does the person possess traits we admire? Is he/she kind, brave, helpful, etc.? We learn this type of character judgment even before we can read. The stories our parents read to us as toddlers are designed to teach values. If literature teaches about life (which I think it does), we learn the values we admire in people. Stories can help us know how to size people up with respect to the truth.

    And intuition plays a part. First impressions are important—they can make or break a relationship—but they do not tell the entire story. And life is a story not a series of facts. Personality has a lot to do with a first impression, but character is makes a relationship endure. People can be grouped as to friendly, shy, or slow to warm up. The charismatic person is friendly but not necessarily a better worker (teacher, president, . . .) than one with a different personality. Character, however, means everything in one’s choices for a life partner, a president, etc. The person with a flawed personality may, indeed, be the person with the stronger character (i.e., the most favorable value system). The person who always seems to say the wrong thing may be the best choice for a given task. He/she may speak before thinking. In some field, this deadly. In others, it matters little. Intelligent people are willing to change their direction (what they believe and what they say,) if they prove themselves wrong or find a better way to do something. Bad vibes do exist (and likewise good vibes), but it dangerous to trust these alone unless a person feels he/she is in physical danger. If the sense of danger is strong, it is probably true. If the good vibes are strong, it’s probably hormones.

    It is important to know one’s own learning style. The style in which one processes material is not only a positive indicator of how well one might do in a given field (college major, job) but helps a person actually learn more, presuming he/she wants to continue learning throughout life. A person can determine which of the five sense provides the best input for learning. Some people can follow verbal directions; others learn only by doing. I learn by setting educational goals and seeking to fulfill them. For long term educational goals, I phrased these are infinitive phrases. For example, in a college course (grad school), I might say my goal this semester is to improve my reading comprehension level. To accomplish this goal, I read materials I did not understand on the topic I was researching. I knew I was accomplishing this goal, when I started to understand part of what I was reading, in this case, lots of statistics concerning life in slave times.

    A study technique I learned in grad school (and wish I’d know earlier) is to pose questions and set out to find answers. This is a similar to the scientific method, in that it begins with an idea, but different in that it’s much more subjective. A lot of learning is subjective. That’s why teachers (I taught junior high and high school English for nine years) ask questions and require students to support their answer with facts? They are not just opinions; they are informed opinions. Not every fact is a statistic, quantitatively measured. For example, a question might be, “Which character in the story got what he deserved? Support your choice by citing three examples.” Not every student will select the same character. It’s subjective. There is more than one right answer.

    In a class entitled, “Slavery: Black Point of View,” (which meant we’d be reading primary sources written by slaves or former slaves), I chose to write about the lives of female slaves. My thought process went like this: How can I narrow the field so that I can learn the most about a subject of which I know almost nothing? Problem: They are slaves; I am free. They lived in a different century. They are black; I am white. But women, mmm. We have shared experiences. We are wives. We are mothers. Maybe I can get into their heads. Did you know that some white, slaveholding women actually breastfed black infants? It’s true. But the reverse was true more often. I looked for patterns in the stories and accounts I read. The facts show that for almost any trend, one can find an exception. Here’s where drawing conclusions leads to controversy. My thesis advisor once said to me, “Do you know what historians do? They sit around all day criticizing other historians.” We laughed, but it’s true. And mush of what we do on this blog is the same thing on a less scholarly level.

  14. Danny Lemieux says

    This was a very well-thought-out post, Helen.

    “A study technique I learned in grad school (and wish I’d know earlier) is to pose questions and set out to find answers.”

    I think that problems arise when people pose answers and then set out to find the questions, as, unfortunately, too many are wont to do.

  15. Mike Devx says

    I’d wipe the egg off my face, but there’s SO MUCH of it that I’d never finish. I was sure Ariel Sharon had died about six months ago. (Thx to Sadie, I now know he’s in a persistent vegetative state. Sigh.)

  16. Ymarsakar says

    Still in a persistent vegetative state, that is. Although given his fall off the radar map of the MSM, he might as well have died if the only data source was the media.

    My view is that your philosophy dictates your quest for truth far more than your self-selected methodology. Everyone has a different view of justice and thus everyone will have a different view of who supposedly got what they deserved.

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