One was a young father of an 8-month-old. Another was a cricket fan. A third was supposedly “proud to be British.” Yet these four young Britons of Pakistani and Jamaican extraction committed an act of mass murder and suicide last week in the heart of London.
What were the danger signs? There were none, the stricken families of the terrorists report. The young men, between the ages of 19 and 30, showed no signs of violent intentions toward anyone. Only in retrospect does one red flag stand out: Several of them had, within the past two years, displayed a sudden increase in religious zeal.
Radical Islam is unlike any other modern religion. Can you imagine being afraid of someone because he had recently become a committed Christian, or Buddhist, or Jew, or Hindu?
And indeed, most Muslims around the world are peaceable. But radical Islam is like a throwback to violent cults of mankind’s more primitive past. We know Aztecs cut the hearts out of young men and women as they offered them to the gods. We know many early civilizations practiced child sacrifice. People are evidently capable of any atrocity, if convinced the act is ordained by God — or some substitute for God, like Nazism or communism. And it is a most powerful idea indeed that can induce young, healthy men not just to kill infidels but to kill themselves for the satisfaction of killing infidels.
We have declared a war on terror, but the critics of this imprecision in language are right. Failing to name the true enemy obscures our task. The enemy is Islamism — the radical interpretation of Islam that sanctions violent jihad, and whose grievances include, to paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, the unveiled female face, the existence of Jews, Hindus, music, literature, democracy and nearly everything we hold dear.
Until we clarify the enemy, we fumble about in the dark in fighting this war. Europeans have long tolerated the presence of radical mosques in their midst. As Louis Caprioli, former head of the DST, France’s equivalent of the FBI, told the Weekly Standard, “Behind every Muslim terrorist is a radical imam.” Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who has risen to prominence since the murder of Theo van Gogh in 2004, declares, “For too long we’ve been tolerant of the intolerant.”
As are we in the United States. Saudi money infiltrates many mosques in America. With Saudi money come Wahhabi imams, textbooks and agitators. Saudi-financed and -controlled organizations have trained Muslim chaplains for the U.S. armed services. And radical Islamists are making inroads in Muslim student organizations on American campuses.
Remarkably, in the one area where officials exercise total control, prisons, the Islamists have found their most fertile soil. This is true in Spain, where the terrorists who bombed Madrid on March 11, 2004, met in prison, and in America where Jose Padilla, who allegedly participated in a plot to explode a dirty bomb in a U.S. city, was converted to Islam in prison.
Mr. Wilders told United Press International that in the Netherlands, “Our secret service has already known for two years that the recruitment for jihad in mosques and prisons were no longer incidents but a structural phenomenon.” The U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general warned recently that federal prisoners were being radicalized by religious services performed entirely in Arabic.
Even among native-born English-speaking inmates, radical Islam is making inroads. The Bureau of Prisons was cited in 2003 for hiring Wahhabi imams. According to the Associated Press, 25 percent of the inmates at New York’s Riker’s Island prison are Muslims. It is impossible to know what percentage may be Islamists — but among a population of already disaffected men, it isn’t difficult to imagine the allure of an angry faith. The FBI has called America’s prisons “fertile ground for extremists.”
At the end of the day, lovers of freedom, decency and enlightenment must prove themselves as dedicated to preserving their civilization as the Islamists are to destroying it. Surely a healthy step in that direction would be simply to stop “tolerating the intolerant.” We need not open our prisons to Islamist chaplains, nor our military to radical imams. How about doing the opposite — beating the bushes for the Islamist killers and purveyors of hate? Deportation, anyone?
Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.