“REMEMBER 11th SEPTEMBER.” Last Tuesday, a band of demonstrators appeared outside the British prime minister’s offices on Downing Street in London. Some were carrying signs bearing photos of the burning World Trade Center, with the exhortation to remember as a caption. But it wasn’t a memorial. It was a threat.
They were chanting, “Bomb London, bomb New York” and “We are terrorists.” Another one of their signs asked “IS THIS YOUR FREEDOM?” and bore one of the photos of the Iraqis prisoners abused by American and British soldiers in Iraq.
Is this our freedom? No. Our freedom is more accurately illustrated by the fact that those responsible for the abuse of prisoners will be prosecuted. They are, in other words, not protected by an ideology that is immune to self-criticism and justifies abuses by theological or legal tenets, or by reference to other abuses. The difference between the two civilizations that are clashing now is not that one will commit heinous acts and the other will not. Human nature being what it is, evil will never be wholly absent from any group. But one civilization will condemn and punish those who commit such crimes; the other will not.
The Iraqi prisoners are just the latest pretext. If the stories of abuse had not existed, they would have had to be invented – as evidenced by their augmentation on the ever more frenzied Arab Street with footage from an old porn film depicting American soldiers raping an Arab woman. Many people believe that if we only made a few adjustments here or there – Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan – the animosity toward America in the Islamic world would melt away. The demonstrators, for all their particular grievances, prove otherwise.
They were from Al-Muhajiroun, the notorious pro-Osama radical Muslim group in Britain that has been wanting to “bomb London, bomb New York” long before these prisoners were abused – and long before there were even any American troops in Iraq. In “Onward Muslim Soldiers,” I record the group’s leader Omar Bakri’s statement that he is working for the day when the “black flag of Islam” – the jihad flag – will fly over No. 10 Downing Street.
A few days before this demonstration, my old college roommate Dave sent me a New Yorker cartoon depicting a group of people, male and female, in a hot tub, with the caption: “I think if these Islamic fundamentalists got to know us they’d like us.” Of course, many real people think the way the folks in the hot tub in this cartoon think. You’ll find some of them not in hot tubs, but in the State Department.
Unfortunately, however, despite all the hearts-and-minds initiatives, this conflict has nothing to do with getting to know us. The principles of global jihad, to which Al-Muhajiroun enthusiastically subscribes, are not a reaction to American power or any particular American action. The influential Pakistani radical Muslim theorist Syed Abul Ala Maududi declared that “Islam requires the earth – not just a portion, but the whole planet – not because the sovereignty over the earth should be wrested from one nation or several nations and vested in one particular nation, but because the entire mankind should benefit … from ‘Islam,’ which is the program of well-being for all humanity.”
Maududi insisted that non-Muslims, although free to practice their “false, man-made way,” have “absolutely no right to seize the reins of power in any part of God’s earth nor to direct the collective affairs of human beings according to their own misconceived doctrines.” If they do, “the believers would be under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge them from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life.”
Committed mujahedeen will never be mollified by any amount of good will or economic aid or anything else from the West. They won’t be happy if every prisoner gets his own hot tub and copy of the New Yorker. They are dedicated to the proposition that no non-Sharia government has any right to exist and that Allah commands that all non-Sharia governments must be fought. As the principal obstacle to this, we are directly in the line of fire.
There are two possible outcomes as far as they’re concerned: death, or victory. Not negotiations, not peaceful coexistence, not mutual understanding. Those who abused the Iraqi prisoners should be punished, above all for stimulating anti-U.S. hatred among Muslims. But no one should be deceived into thinking that such abuse is the cause of that hatred.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and the author of “Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West” (Regnery Publishing), and “Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).