Studies in Proleptic Dhimmitude: Bush’s speech at the Islamic Center after 9-11

With 15 years of sad learning, reflections on President Bush’s speech should have at the Islamic Center in Washington DC

On September 17, 2001, surrounded by select Muslim leaders, President Bush said:

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.

In the annals of Cognitive Warfare, this may stand near the top for catastrophic mistakes. Indeed, it is hard to shake the sense that these are rarely, if at all, Bush’s own words. He is reading from a script. (NB: So did President Obama’s recently at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.)

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.

9 Responses to Studies in Proleptic Dhimmitude: Bush’s speech at the Islamic Center after 9-11

  1. Walter Sobchak says:

    We should have nuked Mecca and Medina on September 12, 2001. Not doing that was far worse than any speech.

  2. Jim Hankins says:

    This post, and your other recent post on Triumphalist religiosity I found to be very insightful, Richard. The question remains: what to do? My suggestions, which some will find too hard, is to pass legislation declaring that any ideology which calls for violence against non-believers should not be considered a religion and the followers of such an ideology should lose all protections afforded in the US Constitution to religious persons for the free exercise of their faith. Such an ideology should be considered a political movement rather than a religion and should be subject to the laws of sedition.

    • Matt Westbrook says:

      Not a bad suggestion on the face of it. However, academics and lawyers are known to poke holes in words or, in this case, be ready to expand on their definitions. “Violence” could be easily broadened to include any kind of religious exclusion or political action based on religious conviction.

  3. Cynic says:

    ” 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. ”

    Just consider how riddled the administration is with Muslims who have extreme views. The FBI, Pentagon DHS etc., are listening to them as consultants on how to deal with Islam.
    Heh, who was Clinton’s senior adviser, Huma Abedin, with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood through her parents.

  4. Cynic says:

    I think that Bush was naive with regard to the culture of Islam.
    To have to rely on the State Dept., for foreign policy moves is usually disastrous.

  5. robert davis says:

    Muslims understand only harsh words in particular on such an occasion. This speech was totally counter-productive. Not surprisingly a moslem vicious hard liner such as obanana took advantage of this kind of speech a…frenchman could have made!

  6. “Proleptic Dhimmitude”: proleptic use of a definition (word, phrase, term) means applying that definition on a phenomenon in a time in which it was not yet known by that definition. But both the definition and the phenomenon (dhimmitude) have been known for many centuries.

    • Richard Landes says:

      proleptic means anticipatory. proleptic dhimmitude, acting like a dhimmi before even being conquered, in anticipatory conquest.

  7. […] Or maybe it’s not folly, but cowardice and proleptic dhimmitude. […]

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