A Dose of Nuance: How much more will it take?

Do the presidents of France, the US really believe that IS, Boko Haram, 9/11, the Paris attacks and dozens of other incidents perpetrated by Muslims say nothing about what Islam has become?

By
January 15, 2015 19:02
France Jewish

A French soldier guards a Jewish institution in Neuilly-sur-Seine.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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In this column, just six weeks ago, I wrote the following: “Europe has turned and anti-Semitism is back in vogue… A nuclear France risks becoming Muslim. Parts of London are too dangerous for Jews to walk in. And in the Middle East, the West has still not decided to destroy what is clearly the greatest threat to Western civilization since Nazism… [But] I do not believe the French will really let hundreds of years of French literature, art, music and philosophy be strangled by Shari’a. One day, the French will hear that yet another town has caved in to Muslim demands, and when they sense that Paris is next, they’ll act. They’ll take France back.”

How I wish that I had been wrong.

How we all wish that Paris had not known such horrific tragedy and suffering.

Still, we might be telling ourselves, at least the wakeup call has come, has it not? After all, Patrick Klugman, deputy mayor of Paris, said clearly, “This is our 9/11.”

What is almost as sad as the attacks themselves – or maybe even sadder – is that the 9/11 analogy is very apt. For in the US, 9/11 changed almost nothing.

No one wanted to speak about the real enemy. The US went to war pretending it was addressing the enemy, but it was not. The enemy was not Iraq or Afghanistan; the enemy was what too much of Islam is becoming.

In Paris, though, just as in Washington, too many people are still willing to be part of the charade. Compare French President François Hollande with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Speaking to his nation after the attacks, Hollande said, “These fanatics have nothing to do with Islam.”

Really? They themselves said that they did. They shouted on the street that they had avenged the Prophet.

They posed in front of flags of Islamic State. The attacker in the supermarket interrupted the emotional torture of his victims to prostrate himself and pray to Allah. Nothing to do with Islam? Which makes one wonder: Are the French going to toss Hollande out of office for this stupidity? Or does France, perhaps, really want to die? Who knows Islam better, François Hollande or Abdel Fattah al-Sisi? Sisi, unlike Hollande, seems to understand what is at stake, and is not inclined to pander. Instead, he is honest. Because of what Islam has become, he admitted, the Islamic world is “making enemies of the whole world. So 1.6 billion people [in the Muslim world] will kill the entire world of 7 billion? That’s impossible...

We need a religious revolution.”

Sisi is right, but only partially so.


Yes, Islam needs a revolution, but so does the West. How else are we to explain Hollande’s blindness? Or that of White House press secretary Josh Earnest, who said (however incomprehensibly), after the Charlie Hebdo attack, that the problem was not Islam, but Islamophobia: “We have enjoyed significant success in enlisting leaders in the Muslim community, like I said, both in the United States and around the world to condemn that kind of messaging, to condemn those efforts to radicalize individuals, and to be clear about what the tenets of Islam actually are. And we’re going to redouble those efforts in the days and weeks ahead.”

US President Barack Obama himself said something similar in his now infamous speech in Cairo – attended, among others, by the Muslim Brotherhood which Sisi, unlike the West, had the courage to topple: “I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

Negative stereotypes are to be avoided, of course – unless they are correct.

Do the presidents of France and the US (the latter one of whom could not be bothered to attend the giant unity rally in Paris) really believe that Islamic State, Boko Haram, 9/11, the Paris attacks and dozens of other incidents perpetrated by Muslims say nothing about what Islam has become? Imagine a world in which Barack Obama played less golf and read more books. In that world, I would suggest he pick up a copy of Robert R. Reilly’s The Closing of the Muslim Mind. Reilly, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, makes a very simple claim: Islam, he says, initially embraced the rationality and scientific study the West had inherited from the Greeks, but somewhere around the 9th century, it consciously rejected rationality, insisting that God detests reason and then embracing a dangerous form of theological irrationalism.

That religious reinvention, he insists, makes Islam utterly incapable of embracing science, democracy and philosophic reasoning to this very day. It makes jihadism not an aberration, but an almost inevitable outgrowth of Islam.

Reilly may be right, and he may be wrong. Whatever one’s take on his claim, though, his arguments are at least carefully documented. Yet no one at the top of the political food chain in Washington or Paris is even remotely open to hearing cases such as his. Hear no evil, see no evil – that, apparently, is the plan.

It would be laughable were it not so frightening. Patrick Klugman was right, indeed. This was France’s 9/11. The US’s leadership drew no conclusions about Islam when New York was attacked, and Hollande seems intent on following that grand new American tradition.

Theirs is a noble reaction. A decent one. An embracing one. And an entirely misguided one. Pretending that a problem is not a problem is almost always a deadly mistake.

By this point, even Neville Chamberlain would have figured that out. 

The writer is senior vice president, Koret Distinguished Fellow and chair of the core curriculum at Jerusalem’s Shalem College, Israel’s first liberal arts college. His latest book is Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul; he is now writing a concise history of the State of Israel.

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