Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday’s attacks. And so were Muslims all across the world. Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens. These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that. The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself: ‘In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.’ The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.
If we seek an author for the script, I think strong odds are that it was in large part either written or dictated by triumphalist Muslims. The discourse he adopts is precisely what a such a Muslim would want the President of the United States to proclaim. In framing matters the way he does, with his inverting equivalences, Bush turns dhimmi discourse – Muslims have a right to the “comfort of their faith” (which includes dominion over dhimmi) – into universal human rights discourse (everyone wants to be comfortable). Intimidation of Muslims by infidels is un-American; even as not a word addresses the intimidation of both Muslims and infidels by triumphalist Muslims on the warpath.
Above all, the passage Bush read meant exactly the opposite of what he (and his audience of American infidels) thought it did. The triumphalist reading is as follows:
In the long run [i.e., soon], evil in the extreme [our punishing violence] will be the end of those who do evil [e.g., America]. For that they [Americans/infidels] rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.
How much more eloquent in the original Arabic! From the perspective of triumphalist Muslims, a dhimmi President had just waved the flag of Jihad from the nation’s capital. Those who read events in this manner, were probably not surprised that, within the decade, infidels would be shouting “We are Hamas!” from European capitals and claiming “anti-imperialist” solidarity with the sadistic Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi’s army.
Only Allah could make infidels so stupid.
What the President should have said, and should still now say:
My fellow Americans:
I address both the citizens of our nation in general, and our Muslims citizens in particular, at this very dark hour.
What for many of us was unthinkable, has happened. Jihadis from half-way around the world have struck at America in the most savage manner. They did so without mercy for civilians – on the contrary, they targeted civilians. They did so without any visible provocation. They did so with supreme malice.
And they did so as fervent, believing Muslims.
Today, we turn to our Muslim community and say:
What is this?
What kind of Islam does it represent?
What relationship does it have to what you teach in your communities?
Condemnation of the deed is not enough for us, your fellow citizens. We want to know:
What do you have to say – religiously – to these fellow Muslims who cite your scripture, traditions, and laws to justify those deeds?
How do you read these scriptures cited to justify such terrible deeds?
What do you have to say to your fellow Muslims around the world, and here “at home” who rejoiced at this great Jihadi deed?
And what do you have to say to your fellow Americans – indeed to the whole free world – upon whom your fellow Muslims have declared a barbaric Jihad?
I hope you understand. I am not trying to tell you what Islam means to you. I – we, rather – want to know what your beliefs mean to all other non-Muslims around the world. After all, the Muslim Jihadis who attacked us, call us kufar (infidels), harbis (destined for the sword), and dhimmi (subjected). They show us limitless, contemptuous hatred.
What do you call us?
What are your principles about your relations with people who do not share your faith? What do you think we, should be the lot of those who do not share, persist in not sharing, your faith?
Show us where you stand. We need to know whether you are prepared, appropriately, to man the frontline in fighting this medieval, theocratic, inquisitorial, holy war! This spiritual work, makes a free, cooperative, tolerant, and peaceful world possible. Without it, democracy is impossible.
Show us that Islam, at least in democratic societies like ours, is prepared to leave behind its medieval triumphalism, and join the community of nations and religions that live together in peace and mutual tolerance on this sacred globe.
If the President had said that, then maybe today the American Muslim community would be the leading voice of reform in global Islam, contributing to peaceful relations between Muslims and their neighbors worldwide.
Instead, the current situation in America, and more broadly in the democratic world, looks like one in which potential Muslim reformers have been intimidated into near silence by triumphalist Muslims. This small but domineering group, for whom the world is divided into (true) believers and infidels (to be subjected), have not only bullied Muslim reformers, but they use cry-bully techniques to push Western progressives into creating a safe space for their triumphalist Islam.
And it is precisely for this kind of situation that President Bush’s speech, written by triumphalist Muslims for a dhimmi leader, paved the way.
(New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2015), 178 pages
Reviewed by Richard Landes
Senior Fellow, Center for International Communications, Bar-Ilan University
Every Anglophone reader, Jew and non-Jew, owes it to him or herself to read Jews against Themselves. And every non-Anglophone country that aspires either to establish or maintain democracy owes itself a good translation. Rarely has a book so thoroughly and eloquently identified, analyzed, and rebuked a form of thinking that endangers the very democracy from which that thinking arose. In this case, one might call the problem “the tyranny of penitence” or “masochistic omnipotence syndrome”—the tendency to blame oneself for everything in the vain hope that in fixing oneself, one can fix everything. Since, in the current world crisis of the early twenty-first century, this problem has struck the (post-) modern West with unusual force, and since the particular variant upon which Edward Alexander, professor of English at the University of Washington, focuses in this book is an especially powerful contributor to the phenomenon, his work deserves close attention. Alexander’s book is a collection of articles and op-eds written over the course of some three decades, from the mid-1980s to the present.
I have read many texts that try to explain why some Jews turn on their own people, from Sander Gillman’s Jewish Self-Hatred to the endless current Jeremiads by assertive Jews about how self-accusing Jews are a bane, not only on their own people, but on those who trust their pseudo-prophetic utterances. Never have I read one with such moral clarity, subtlety of thought, and, above all, such calm but righteous anger. The enormity of the deeds Alexander chronicles does not make him shrill in his indignation, but rather drives him to repeatedly point out, with a certain black humor and as little ad hominem as one could expect any human to muster, the exquisite and corrosive ironies that riddle the world of Jews who publicly attack their own people.
His case is a painful one, and meticulously chronicled. In a series of essays written between 1986 (chapter 1, discussion of Gilman’s book) and the present (essay on moral inversion at The New York Times), Alexander documents a phenomenon that Gilman had delineated as follows: “How Jews see the dominant society seeing them and how they project their anxiety about this manner of being seen onto other Jews as a means of externalizing their own status anxiety.” Unpacked, this sentence means that some Jews, seeing how negatively gentiles view them, turn on their own kind, holding them responsible for that hatred: “If only ‘they’ would behave the way ‘we good Jews’ do,” they tell themselves, “then non-Jews wouldn’t think so badly of us.”
I just delivered this paper to a conference organized by Springs of Hope at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, March 6, 2015.
How Jihadis Interpret the Way Westerners Treat the Victims of Jihad
I’d like to engage you all in an exercise in empathy. Mind you empathy does not mean sympathy. It means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and thinking the way they do. If, as in this case, the people with who we empathize are thoroughly repulsive, learning to think like them hardly means sympathizing with them. Today the subject of our empathy will be jihadis, and the topic we want to understand about how they think is “how do they respond to the way that we Western infidels, treat their victims.
In order to do so we have to look at the role of humiliation in the mindset of the Jihadi. The following discussion takes its cues from Farhad Khosrokhavar’s Inside Jihadism: Understanding Jihadi Movements Worldwide (2015). According to him, humiliation plays a key role and that on three registers:
There is the humiliation of the Muslim condition of inferiority to the West. Here are the remarks of the Saudi ideologue Youssef Uyayri:
Muslims are at war today. What distinguishes our time from other times is the humiliation and the contempt suffered by the Umma, which was unheard of in the past. At the same time, Muslims are in a state of lethargy and anemia (wahn), instead of mobilizing and fighting against this humiliation. There is a Saying of the Prophet attributing anemia to the love of this world and the aversion of death… Nowadays this is the deadly illness of which the Muslim world suffers.”