The world is in flames because of jihad, and yet the fog of deception is thicker than ever.
Yet none of this actually addresses the uniqueness of the jihad phenomenon: Muslims, not Christians or Jews or Hindus or Buddhists, are committing acts of violence today on a global scale, and justifying those acts and making recruits by pointing to their own sacred texts. When foes of jihad terror point this out, however, they tend to place themselves in the position of Dr. Thomas Stockmann in Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.
The play is a marvelous parable for our times. Stockmann’s town is famous and prosperous because of its baths, which are believed to have healing properties. But then Stockmann finds to his horror that the baths are not beneficial at all, but actually poisonous, and are making those who bathe in them even worse off than they were previously.
Ever the good citizen, Stockmann sends a report on this to the town’s mayor, recommending that the baths be closed temporarily and costly repairs undertaken to render the waters truly medicinal and not deadly. He expects that the townspeople will be grateful to him for pointing out this looming disaster and helping them avert it. But to his shock, the town leaders are dismissive, even contemptuous, of his findings. They refuse to say anything publicly about what he has discovered, for fear of causing panic and demoralization among the townspeople and ruining the reputation of the baths, which could bankrupt the town.
They warn Stockmann to keep quiet and go along as well, but he refuses, calling a town meeting on his own. There, he is shocked again as the townspeople show themselves no more receptive to his discoveries and recommendations than the authorities were. They see that the baths are making the town rich, and that Stockmann’s findings will hurt the town’s reputation and cost a great deal of money to implement — and they don’t care that the benefits of implementing the repairs he recommends will outweigh the liabilities in the long run. They make fun of him and denounce him, calling him an enemy of the people. And with Stockmann thoroughly discredited, they continue happily on their pathway to their own destruction, and the destruction of untold numbers of other people.
That, in a nutshell, is what will happen to you if you stand up against jihad terror today. Willful ignorance completely blankets the discourse about jihad-related issues.
A particularly egregious example came in the UK’s Daily Mail this week, in a piece devoted to how jihadists from Nigeria and Kenya to Syria and Iraq have set so much of the world aflame. The Mail interviewed Andreas Krieg, a Middle East security analyst at King’s College London in Qatar, about the rise of “Islamist extremism.” Krieg agreed that there was a problem: “All the empirical evidence shows that it is on the rise. You’re seeing it in all the headlines, then you’re looking at Iraq, you’re looking at Syria, you’re looking at Nigeria.” However, he added, “in all three cases this has nothing to do with Islam. I think people in the West may think it is because they feel alienated by Islam. There is a lot of Islamaphobia.”
Krieg attempted an explanation for how all this Islam that has nothing to do with Islam came about: “When communities become disenfranchised – and lot of them are Muslim – they use Islam to further their particular cause. They adhere to a radical interpretation of Islam, but it has nothing to do with the religion.”
How could a “radical interpretation of Islam” have “nothing to do with the religion”? How could it be possible that these groups that uniformly explain and justify their actions on the basis of Islam have nothing to do with Islam? How can it be that a group that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and another that calls itself the Congregation of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad have nothing to do with Islam?
It is also noteworthy that this risible interview got printed at all. What stake does the mainstream media have in absolving Islam of responsibility for evils perpetrated in its name and in accord with its teachings? Why does the mainstream media always rush to exonerate Islam of any connection to the ever-mounting number of atrocities done in its name and inspired by its texts and teachings, instead of explaining the ideology that jihadis say motivates and inspires them?
This fog of deception and willful ignorance is only hindering genuine attempts to formulate positive and effective ways to limit the power of Islamic teachings to incite to violence. But it doesn’t look as if it is going to clear anytime soon.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Arab Winter Comes to America: The Truth About the War We’re In.