Islam vs. the West


Like I've been saying …..

Brett Stephens has a good piece in the Wall Street Journal on the growing threat of Islamic supremacism across the more "moderate" Muslim countries. My only issue with Stephens is his use of the word "radical." It is not radical. It is authentic Islam. It is pure Islam. And "islamists"? These are devout Muslims, "islamist" and "islamism" is an artificial distinction.

An 18-year-old Muslim student from Western University, born in Mississauga, Ontario, had this to say about the distinction between Islam and Islamism: "case and point on why you dont understand Islam. No one makes this distinction [between Islam and Islamism] other then the Western world, for the sake of having a tidy little system to classify everything. Our religion and political ideology are one. Furthermore, I really wouldnt use the term islamist or Islamism. Many muslims, including myself, find the term deeply offensive."

Other than that, I am glad someone of note is addressing this grave threat in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Irshad Manji, like Zuhdi Jasser, is living in her own private Islam. It was only a matter of time before her fantasy ran smack up against the brutal reality of true Islam. Their re-interpretations of Islam is a crime under the sharia, "hypocrisy," punishable by death.

"Lady Gaga Versus Global Jihad" WSJ

The West needs a countercultural strategy against radical Islam.

Two years ago I wrote a column making the case that Lady Gaga did more to galvanize Muslim hatred of the West than all Israeli settlements combined. The column was denounced for naïveté and—what else?—shilling for Israel.

So here's the latest news from Planet Gaga: Last week, the star announced she was canceling her June 3 Jakarta concert date, disappointing the 52,000 ticket holders who had sold out the show in days. The reason? A group called the Front for the Defense of Islam, or FPI, had threatened to "wreak havoc" at the concert. Their reason? She brings "the faith of Satan to our country and thus will destroy the nation's morals," according to an FPI leader.

Then again, who isn't bringing Satan to the Muslim world these days?

Shortly before Gaga's canceled appearance, Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University, visited Indonesia to promote her moving new book, "Allah, Liberty and Love." Ms. Manji is a faithful Muslim, a refugee from Idi Amin's Uganda to Canada, and the author of the 2004 best seller, "The Trouble With Islam." That book's subtitle, "A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith," gives away the gist.

Ms. Manji is also no stranger to Indonesia, having toured the country four years ago to promote her last book. Back then, she found a mostly tolerant country, eager to debate her ideas if not always to embrace them. Not anymore.

"Four years ago at Gadjah Mada"—one of Indonesia's leading universities—"they welcomed me with open arms; I spoke to three hundred students," she tells me. "This time the rector canceled my event."

That wasn't the only trouble Ms. Manji ran into in Indonesia. She and her party were repeatedly turned away from hotels. A community event in south Jakarta was disrupted by a deputy police chief who announced that "the community doesn't want Irshad here." At an event at an Islamic Center in Yogyakarta she was set upon by radicals wielding crowbars and yelling "Where's Manji?" Audience members formed a human shield around Ms. Manji, but an assistant of hers was hit and had part of her vertebrae dislocated.

So here, it seems, is the new state of play: In a country in which transvestism had an honored place in public culture long before it became acceptable in the West, the world's leading gender-bending pop star is no longer welcome. And in the country long thought of as the home of moderate Islam, a leading voice for Muslim reform is treated as persona non grata.

All this should be taken as evidence that, when it comes to building bridges between the Islamic world and the West, no amount of Western policy concessions—whether that means an end to Israeli settlements or finally closing Gitmo—is going to mollify Islamists. The real Islamist complaint is against Western culture itself, in all its innovating, freewheeling and free-loving glory. Islamists won't be satisfied until the First Amendment itself is revoked.

Yet that's a lesson that still hasn't been learned. Since 9/11, the West's approach to Islamism has been one long pre-emptive cringe. It's how we have come to handle the Quran with white gloves and shy away from reprinting the Danish cartoons. It's why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is now being represented in court by a military attorney wearing a hijab. It's why the phrase "Islamic terrorism" has become taboo. It's why nobody in the Army had the sense to call out Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan on his rants before he went on his rampage.

The predictable result has been to violate our best principles while encouraging Islamists to make ever-more outrageous demands.

Maybe there's a better way. The West so far has been trying to fight radical Islamists with a mix of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism strategies. But it's not going to win the long war unless it has a countercultural strategy, too.

Consider Lady Gaga's abortive attempt to perform in Jakarta: What's interesting isn't merely that she was forced to cancel. It's that the show would have filled a stadium had it gone ahead.

Similarly with Ms. Manji: The salient fact of her visit wasn't just that she was set upon by thugs. It's that there were Indonesians on hand to shield her physically against violent men with crowbars. And that was for a woman heckled with calls to "please go back to your lesbianland."

In other words, both Lady Gaga and Ms. Manji have important constituencies in mass and high culture. The worrying question is whether those constituencies still form a majority capable of defending Western-style rights. "We're giving away our rights under the constitution piece by piece," one of Ms. Manji's supporters told her in Jakarta. Will there be anyone to support her should she visit again in five years?

Thinking about the threat of radical jihadism isn't fashionable these days, with unemployment at 8.2%. But the threat hasn't vanished simply because we don't like to think about it. Countering that threat will require not just drones or boots on the ground, but also moral confidence. For that, there is Ms. Manji—and also (swallow hard, conservatives) Lady Gaga.

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