"Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us."
Michelle Malkin points out that today is the second anniversary of the jihadist murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.
All the more fitting that today I share with you a lecture I read recently in Imprimis (the national speech digest of Hillsdale College; free subscription here), which was delivered by Bernard Lewis, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University, who has been called by many the foremost expert on Islam in the United States. The name of his lecture is "Freedom and Justice in Islam" and it offers an encapsulated history and analysis of the ideas of freedom and justice as viewed in the Islamic world that I found eye-opening, educational, and sobering.
Just one excerpt here:
Thanks to modern communications and the modern media, we are quite well informed about how Al-Qaeda perceives things. Osama bin Laden is very articulate, very lucid, and I think on the whole very honest in the way he explains things. As he sees it, and as his followers see it, there has been an ongoing struggle between the two world religions--Christianity and Islam--which began with the advent of Islam in the 7th century and has been going on ever since. The Crusades were one aspect, but there were many others. It is an ongoing struggle of attack and counter-attack, conquest and reconquest, Jihad and Crusade, ending so it seems in a final victory of the West with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire--the last of the great Muslim states--and the partition of most of the Muslim world between the Western powers. As Osama bin Laden puts it: "In this final phase of the ongoing struggle, the world of the infidels was divided between two superpowers--the United States and the Soviet Union. Now we have defeated and destroyed the more difficult and the more dangerous of the two. Dealing with the pampered and effeminate Americans will be easy." And then followed what has become the familiar description of the Americans and the usual litany and recitation of American defeats and retreats: Vietnam, Beirut, Somalia, one after another. The general theme was: They can't take it. Hit them and they'll run. All you have to do is hit harder. This seemed to receive final confirmation during the 1990s when one attack after another on embassies, warships, and barracks brought no response beyond angry words and expensive missiles misdirected to remote and uninhabited places, and in some places--as in Beirut and Somalia--prompt retreats.
What happened on 9/11 was seen by its perpetrators and sponsors as the culmination of the previous phase and the inauguration of the next phase--taking the war into the enemy camp to achieve final victory. The response to 9/11 came as a nasty surprise. They were expecting more of the same--bleating and apologies--instead of which they got a vigorous reaction, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. And as they used to say in Moscow: It is no accident, comrades, that there has been no successful attack in the United States since then. But if one follows the discourse, one can see that the debate in this country since then has caused many of the perpetrators and sponsors to return to their previous diagnosis. Because remember, they have no experience, and therefore no understanding, of the free debate of an open society. What we see as free debate, they see as weakness, fear and division. Thus they prepare for the final victory, the final triumph and the final Jihad.
There is much more of interest in this talk, including the succinct historical overview of modern Islam, particularly since the world wars. I, for one, did not know that "the modern history of the Middle East begins in the year 1798 when the French Revolution arrived in Egypt in the form of a small expeditionary force led by a young general called Napoleon Bonaparte...."
It was Napoleon who brought talk of "equality" and "liberty" into the Middle East. "The idea of equality posed no great problem," says Lewis. "Equality is very basic in Islamic belief: All true believers are equal. Of course, that still leaves three 'inferior' categories of people--slaves, unbelievers and women.... But liberty was something else.... The word liberty was not used as we use it in the Western world, as a metaphor for good government. So the idea of a republic founded on principles of freedom caused some puzzlement."
We in the West know that knowledge is power. "Why do they hate us?" And do they? And who does and who doesn't? Read the whole thing and learn.
And for more and ongoing current information, visit Jihad Watch, Robert Spencer's blog dedicated to bringing public attention to the role that jihad theology and ideology play in the modern world, and correcting popular misconceptions about jihad and religion in modern-day conflicts.