BY WILLIAM KILPATRICK, AUGUST 29, 2016
It’s often said that we are engaged in an ideological struggle with radical Islam—a clash of civilizations. But what exactly does that mean?
Ideological warfare is, in its most basic sense, a war of ideas. Of course, it’s not advisable to engage in pitched intellectual warfare with every group with which you disagree. As Jefferson said, “it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” On the other hand, if your neighbor’s religious or political beliefs do encourage him to break your leg, then it makes perfect sense to try and disabuse him of his beliefs.
The Cold War was in part a war of ideas. It was necessary to fight it because it was one of those cases where the other side’s ideology encouraged them to break your leg—or, as Soviet Premier Khrushchev put it, “we will bury you.” On top of that, communist ideology was spreading rapidly across the world. Discussion about the nature of that ideology could no longer be confined to faculty lounges in ivy-clad universities.
Today we are in the middle of a new Cold War—this time with radical Islam. Once again we are faced with an ideology that seeks to subjugate us, and, once again, it is a fast-spreading ideology.
So it seems that ideological warfare is called for. But there is a caveat. There’s no sense in engaging in a war of beliefs if you don’t have any of your own, or if the ones you do have are of the wishy-washy variety. But thanks to relativism, multiculturalism, and moral equivalence, wishy-washy is the order of the day.
Many Americans—particularly younger ones—have been conditioned to believe that one belief system is as good as another. The only exception to this rule is the American/Western/Judeo-Christian tradition which, they have been taught, is the font of all evil. So for a significant number of Americans, the question is not, “How do we defeat radical Islam?” but “Do we really have anything worth defending?” Many Americans are unequipped to fight a war of ideas because they are paralyzed by political correctness.
Which brings us to Donald Trump’s recent speech on defeating jihad. The second half of his talk focused on home-front measures for making America more secure, but for many Americans his suggestions will be non-starters because they fly in the face of politically correct dogma.
Take his proposal that we should screen Muslim immigrants for anti-American beliefs such as adherence to sharia law. That makes sense because many elements of sharia law are opposed to constitutional law. For example, under sharia, women are not the equal of men, and non-Muslims are not the equal of Muslims. To use Cold War terminology, sharia is subversive of American values. It’s a legal system that should not be allowed to gain a foothold in the U.S.
Nevertheless, many Americans will respond to the idea of an ideological test which targets sharia-adhering Muslims as being somehow un-American. That’s because they have come to equate the American way with relativism and moral equivalence. An ideological test would imply that our values are better than theirs and, even worse, it would imply that there is something wrong with their values.
The relativistically-minded will not only oppose the idea of vetting immigrants, they will also tend to oppose the idea that immigrants should assimilate. Many Europeans, for example, believe that asking others to assimilate is an act of cultural imperialism. In some European countries, it is semi-official policy that immigrants should retain their cultural identity completely intact—an idea which happens to coincide with the radical Islamist belief that Muslims should remain apart in Muslim ghettos (now frequently referred to as “no-go zones”).
Another Trump proposal calls for the reversal of the administration’s 2012 purge of law enforcement training materials. That also makes sense. Our law enforcement and investigative agencies are severely handicapped by the current policy of see-no-Islam, speak-no-Islam, and hear-no-Islam. Here again, however, our society’s commitment to political correctness makes this a tough sell. It will be argued that any “profiling” of the Muslim community will be offensive and will only drive moderate Muslims into the arms of the radicals.
In fact, this was the very argument employed by the dozens of Muslim groups which requested the purge in late 2011. They claimed that the training policies then in effect made a connection between Islam and terrorism and were therefore biased against the Muslim community. As a result of the purge, politically-correct policing is the order of the day, and law enforcement personnel who look too closely into Muslim activities risk demotion or job loss. For some examples of the purge’s devastating effect, read Philip Haney’s See Something, Say Nothing or Stephen Coughlin’s Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad.
A further Trump proposal calls for the setting up of a “Commission on Radical Islam” which would educate the American people about the core beliefs of radical Islam and help them “to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose, the networks in our society that support radicalization.”
The trouble is, the core beliefs of radical Islam are quite similar to the core beliefs of mainstream Islam and it is the height of insensitivity to notice. Once again, Muslim advocacy groups will complain loudly that their beliefs are being attacked. And once again, the moral equivalence crowd can be counted on to echo the complaint.
Who are the Muslim advocacy groups? They happen to be the very same groups that Trump targets as the support networks for radicalization. These would include organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), and the Muslim American Society (MAS). There is a good deal of evidence that these groups function as subversive (there’s that quaint Cold War term again) organizations that aim eventually to supplant the Constitution with sharia law. Common sense would suggest that at the very least they should be kept out of the corridors of power they now inhabit.
Trump’s proposal that these support networks should be “stripped out and removed one by one” will be the toughest sell of all. That’s not only because these well-funded organizations will raise a ruckus, but also because the media, academia, administration officials, and many church leaders will rush to their defense. When you go up against CAIR and company, you’re going up against many of our society’s elite opinion-makers. Despite the damage they do by misleading Americans about Islam, they are protected by the forces of political correctness.
So engaging in ideological warfare will not be easy. The other side is ready for it and we are not. Their beliefs are strong, and ours are weak. They hold their ground, and we crumple up in apologies at the least suggestion that we are being offensive.
It all has to do with the will to resist. Many Americans are no doubt prepared to resist at the barricades if it comes to that, but resisting at the barricades is to resist rather late in the game. Some Europeans are now at the point of resisting at the barricades, but it’s not clear if their governments are. After being subject to decades of stealth jihad campaigns, it looks like some European governments—Sweden comes to mind—would rather go quietly into the dark night of dhimmitude than resist. After all, why make a fuss if one set of values is as good as the next?
One reason that Americans are so unprepared to resist stealth jihad is that they understand so little about it. Take the “clock boy” incident. Ahmed Mohamed brought a homemade clock to school which teachers mistook for a bomb, leading to his detention by the police. Ahmed was hailed by the PC media as a civil rights hero for standing up to discrimination, but there is a good deal of evidence that he and his family were actually conducting a stealth jihad operation. With the assistance of Muslim “civil rights” organizations, they turned around and sued the town of Irving, Texas and the Irving school system for 15 million dollars.
And that’s likely what they intended to do all along. It’s a typical stealth jihad maneuver: create some sort of provocation and then, when the “mark” responds in the expected manner to the provocation, sue them in the confidence that some politically correct judge will back you all the way. The intent is to create a chilling effect that will silence criticism and enable the stealth jihadists to carry on with little interference. Thanks to the “clock boy” and the PC media, teachers and police have 15 million additional reasons not to look too closely into Muslim affairs.
It’s not just teachers who will be tempted to give Muslims wide latitude. Suppose you own a small business, or suppose you are a store manager. What will you do when an employee demands to wear a hijab at work? When a group of employees demand prayer breaks during the day? When they demand that you establish a special prayer room for them? Will you resist? Do you want to face an expensive lawsuit? Is a prayer break the hill you want to stake your career on?
Although Muslims make up only about one percent of the U.S. population, 40 percent of religion-based workplace complaints are Islam-related. Are these just typical civil rights grievances or are they examples of stealth jihad—efforts to expand the influence of Islam in American society and force acceptance of Islamic practices? In any event, according to one report, businesses are becoming more and more accommodative of Muslim culture out of fear of lawsuits.
That’s the way stealth jihad works and, as you can see, much of it is conducted under the guise of civil rights activism. Therefore, all our conditioning in relativism and multiculturalism and all our guilt over racism will persuade us to put the best possible face on each new Islamic initiative.
Understanding an enemy’s core beliefs is one side of the ideological warfare coin; the other side is understanding and valuing our own beliefs. Do we believe strongly enough in them to stand up to the threat of lawsuits or job loss? To charges of hate and bigotry? The cultural confidence that is required to resist cultural jihad has been badly undermined by our allegiance to cultural relativism. Do we have enough confidence in our own values and beliefs to insist on the right to vet immigrants? To give law enforcement agencies accurate information about Islam? To investigate possible subversive activities on the part of Islamic “civil rights” organizations? To even utter the word “subversive”?
As Mark Steyn has noted, “there is no market for a faith that has no faith in itself.” He was referring not only to the decline of Christianity in Europe, but also to the general loss of cultural confidence in the West. Right now, Europe is having a difficult time in fighting its own ideological war with radical Islam because, as Pope Benedict observed, Europe has succumbed to a hatred of itself.
Many Americans suffer from some of the same doubts. They want to defeat radical Islam, but they are reluctant to take the concrete steps necessary for its defeat. They believe radical Islam should be opposed, but only in a politically correct and non-offensive way. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. Ideological warfare can be a rough business. For instance, in the wake of the massacre in Nice, French police raided 200 mosques. Vetting immigrants and investigating stealth jihad groups seems mild in comparison. Fighting stealth jihadists is likely to be a very insensitive affair, but as I wrote previously, “thirty years hence, how would you like to be the one to explain to your burqa-wearing granddaughter as she is married off to a man thrice her age that we lost the culture war against Islam because it would have been insensitive to fight back?”
William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Psychological Seduction; Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and the forthcoming The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com