President Obama seeks to realign relations between the West and the Muslim world, calling for a “broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”
In particular, while on his visit to Turkey, he tacitly criticized the Iraq war. Mr. Obama blamed it for triggering tensions with Ankara and for fanning the flames of anti-Americanism on the Arab street. “I know that the trust that binds the United States and Turkey has been strained, and I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced.”
There is something not only grotesque, but also pathetic about an American president pandering to Islamic sentiment - most clearly exemplified by his bow to an Arab potentate like the king of Saudi Arabia.
In the last century, no other country has done more to liberate Muslim nations than the United States. President Eisenhower forced Britain, France and Israel to abandon control of the Suez Canal, consolidating Egypt’s independence. An American-led international coalition repelled Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and prevented Saudi Arabia from being annexed as well. U.S. air strikes stopped the Serbs’ campaign of ethnic cleansing against Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Washington toppled fascist dictatorships in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing democracy to more than 50 million Muslims. Precious American blood and treasure has been spilled to extend liberty to the heart of the Middle East.
Like many liberals, Mr. Obama is ignorant of history - especially regarding the nature and aims of radical Islam. Mr. Obama vowed that “the United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.” That’s undoubtedly true. But the real question is whether Islamic extremism is at war with us.
The great historian Bernard Lewis has pointed out that, from its inception, Islamic civilization has been plagued by aggressive expansionism and religious intolerance. “Let there not be two religions in Arabia,” said the Prophet Muhammad on his deathbed. Following his injunction, Christians and Jews during the seventh century were forcibly expelled from the Arabian Peninsula.
Arab forces then swept across the Middle East and North Africa, conquering the then-Christian provinces of Syria, Palestine and Egypt. Muslim armies toppled the ancient Persian Empire and began to push into Central Asia and India. They eventually invaded Spain, Portugal, southern Italy and parts of France.
Later, converts to Islam, such as the Turks and Tatars, smashed the Byzantine Empire and conquered large swaths of Russia and the Balkans. At one point, Ottoman armies were at the gates of Vienna and Rome. Islam was spread not just by peaceful conversion, but also by the sword.
Islamic militants such as Osama bin Laden seek to impose a global caliphate. They desire not only to kick America - and the West - out of the Middle East. Their goals are more ambitious and totalitarian: to restore Muslim dominance over all former territories, including those in Europe, as well as erect a world Muslim empire based on Shariah law. Their idea of “mutual interest and mutual respect” is not what postmodern, multicultural leftists like Mr. Obama have in mind - rather, it is submit or die.
Mr. Obama understands none of this. Iran’s mullahs, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, al Qaeda, Pakistan’s swelling fundamentalists, the Saudi Wahhabis, the virulent mosques proliferating in London, Paris and Berlin - despite the doctrinal differences between Shi’ite and Sunni extremists, all share one thing in common: the overriding imperative to destroy the West.
Islam has always had two competing strands. The first is the quietist tradition based on moderation, personal self-control and distrust of political authority. Most of the world’s Muslims fall into this camp. They are my neighbors - and yours - who believe in faith and family, moral traditionalism and personal probity; they oppose the evils of abortion, gay marriage, drugs, pornography and permissiveness.
The other is the radical, imperialist tradition that champions jihad, conquest and oppression of non-Muslims. It promotes a fundamentalist theocracy, combining political authoritarianism with religious irredentism. It is a minority, but a militant and powerful one with millions of adherents.
Radical Islam poses a greater long-term threat than did Nazism or communism. Both of those Western ideologies had one fatal flaw: They were pagan movements serving as secular substitutes for religious faith. In the end, people always prefer the real thing.
The enduring appeal of the world’s great religions, especially Christianity, Islam and Judaism, is their recognition of the transcendental nature of man - the universal need to obey and fulfill God’s eternal moral precepts and laws.
Post-Christian Europe has embraced a shallow secularism. Its spiritual void is being filled by pseudo-religions, such as consumerism, sexual hedonism, the glorification of the state and pantheistic environmentalism.
But there is one real religion that, funded by Saudi money and encouraged by Western moral relativism and progressive multiculturalism, continues to attract converts and gather steam: Islam. Western Europe’s churches may be empty, but its mosques are teeming. The same is true in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Muslims are on the verge of eclipsing Christians as the world’s largest religion.
Our politicians insist Islam is a “civilization of peace.” Yet asserting that claim does not make it true. Peaceful coexistence depends upon Islam undergoing painful internal reforms - similar to the kinds once adopted by Christianity, which embraced the values of the Enlightenment. Quietism must permanently supplant reactionary fanaticism.
Mr. Obama is wrong. America is not the problem; violent jihad is.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank.