Saturday, December 27, 2008

Do I exaggerate the stealth jihad?

Robert Spencer

The always acute and perceptive David Yerushalmi of SANE sent me the following message about Jacob Laksin's review of my book Stealth Jihad, and my response to that review.

Dear Mr. Spencer:

I saw your response to Jacob Laksin’s Pajamas Media Book Review and was sufficiently curious to take a look at it. Your response, while polite to a fault, was not properly focused on what the Laksin critique really means. Since you chose not to, for whatever reason, let me respond more substantively to Mr. Laksin’s critique of your valuable and timely book, Stealth Jihad. Let me begin with this. While Mr. Laksin frames his critique as but a minor one of style—you exaggerate the threat to America’s existence and national security created by stealth jihad-- in truth, and he of course knows this full well, his criticism is a central antithesis to your book and its purposes.

Stealth jihad works precisely because there are three responses to it—or, more accurately two responses and one non-response. The non-response we can identify quickly. The vast majority of Americans who just don’t care or for whatever reason don’t know anything about the threat. They are either too busy raising a family (hard working) or texting on their cell phones (banality).

The first of the responses to stealth jihad and your book’s warning about it comes from the Elite and the Stealth Jihadists and I need not spell that out here. In a word, attack the messenger typically on ad hominem basis.

The second of the responses is an acceptance of the stealth jihad phenomenon but dismissing it as not an existential threat because it is: (A) Simply the way America assimilates the violent jihad—that is, the way America’s melting pot forces the mujahideen to act western and use courts, finance, etc. and thereby launders the dirty laundry and turns it into a clean, if not a bit stained, western assimilated version of its once foreign and threatening self. By the 2nd or 3rd generation, all is well. Or, (B) It is a problem of assimilation but overstated and America will push back at the right time.

Laksin’s argument is really a bit of both A and B. But if the Laksin argument is true, your book is without point or merit. And, indeed, if the assimilation argument is true in fact then efforts like yours (and mine in the policy-legal worlds) are counterproductive because it creates noise and a bogey when the correct response should be silence and acceptance of a cultural phenomenon oft repeated in our history. Indeed, I have heard the refrain that by making stealth jihad an issue of US-THEM, we are exacerbating the problem and making it more difficult to “assimilate” these stealth mujahideen (and, the argument goes, we are antagonizing all those otherwise assimilated and peaceful Muslims). This is of course the American version of the Jewish response to Nazis, both the original ones and the neo-Nazis in Europe and America. I often heard growing up in the 1960s and early 70s that we should just ignore the neo-Nazi types lest we bring them more attention (and embolden them and otherwise awaken a dormant anti-Semitism in the broader population).

While it would seem odd that Laksin would fall into that category since he works at FrontPageMag, his criticism of your book, properly understood, is a central criticism on its face and so irrational and contrary to fact (there has never been such a hostile immigrant group/movement as the Shariah-faithful or Shariah-sympathetic in the US) that one is hard pressed to understand the motivation.

NB: As an aside, the only similar hostile group of immigrants were the Russian/East European Jewish anarchists and their follow-on Marxist brethren who immigrated here at the turn of the last century through the 1940s. These folks were also both outright revolutionaries and stealth revolutionaries (they used labor-union tactics and university academics as stealth). The difference is that they preached what we can properly call “ideology” since that is what they called it. But ideas are easy to destroy especially if they are beaten in the real world of facts by better ideas. Thus, Marxism failed in the world of ideas as against free markets and representative government and now free markets are failing and we are turning back to socialism and statism. Always in flux because ideas are just that: ideas. Nothing concrete; nothing real. (Don’t get me wrong; this country has in addition to the idea of liberty and representative government strong but vastly weakened institutional biases toward individual freedom and free markets brought to these shores by hard working Christians and memorialized in the original Constitution, but these have been under assault at least since the New Deal and ramped up since the revolutionary 60s.

But that is why I always insist on making the point that Shariah is NOT an ideology because it is not an idea that you can point to and say, “You see, it fails to be the basis of a just society in the real world of facts; ergo change your ideas!” Precisely because Shariah is a faith-based legal-political-religious-cultural institution that need not prove itself on a consistent basis to be accepted. And, because it is predicated upon faith, it is NOT an idea or “belief”. Modern religious men tend to talk of “faith” as “belief” but those two things are opposites. Faith is knowing the truth of something a priori (Gd’s existence and love are examples). With all the good efforts by Aristotle (prime mover), Maimonides (neo-Platonic), St. Thomas Aquinas etc, Gd’s existence and love have hardly been demonstrated logically. They exist within faithful men as an unwavering truth of existence, NOT BELIEF which can come and go with the day and time. Shariah is such a faith but wholly protected by a 1200 year old institutional framework that resists any effort from within or without to undermine its authority. (See here and here for a discussion of Shariah as an institution that protects itself against change.) That is what makes Shariah so dangerous in our time. And, the fact that Mr. Laksin and so many others can simply laugh it off as he does in his book review, makes it exponentially more so.

That is what makes your book invaluable and Laksin’s criticism so devastating.

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