Monday, March 10, 2008


Western countries must rid themselves of multiculturallist delusions and take the assimilation of immigrants much more seriously than has been the case in recent decades. . . . Bringing immigrants from outside the civilizational orbit of the West to an appreciation of . . . civil society norms must be the task of civic education -- George Weigel

Jihadism is a mortal threat to the civilization of the West, writes George Weigel, Catholic theologian and member of the Ethics and Public Policy Center , in a fascinating short new book, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, A Call to Action. Unlike as in World War II, he says, we do not understand the motives of the global jihadists nor how to confront their danger.

“Jihadism is a religiously inspired ideology [which teaches] that it is the moral obligation of all Muslims to employ whatever means [are] necessary to compel the world’s submission to Islam,” is Richard John Neuhaus’s definition. Jihadism’s goal is a global Islamic state. Jihadists believe that murder of innocents is not simply OK but morally required.

Hassan Nasralla of Herzbollah put it clearly: "Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [U.S] is absolute. . . . Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, 'death to America' will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America.'”

In September, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave a lecture at the University of Regensburg in which he discussed the theological roots of jihadism and presented an interreligious, ecumenical vocabulary by which people of all religions can engage in a genuine conversation about the threat from jihadism.

Jihadists demanded his death. But within a month came a welcoming “Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI” from 38 prominent Muslim leaders suggesting a follow-up. The letter rejected the mainstream Islamic interpretation of jihad as a holy war of conquest till Allah is acknowledged supreme by the whole world. Contrary to mainstream Islamic tradition, it said God cannot command the murder of innocents. The letter condemned the jihadist murderers. It did not condemn pathological anti-Senitism.

In his 2006 Christmas speech, the Pope said history has tasked the Islamic world to come to grips with the intellectual achievements of the Enlightenment. Islam should accept religious freedom. The interreligious dialogue should be based on where “faith meets reason.”

Weigel asks, are there themes in Islam theological self-understanding that would in time make fruitful an encounter with Western culture for both Islam and the modern world? An interreligious dialogue should focus on helping those Muslims willing to explore the possibility of an Islamic case for religious tolerance, social pluralism, and civil society.

Outsiders can help by not giving non-participants most-favored-dialogue-partner status if they cannot condemn jihadism or suicide bombing. “Public condemnation of jihadism ought to be the admission ticket required of any Islamic religious leader or scholar who seeks dialogue with Western intellectual institutions,” Weigel suggests. “It should go without saying that anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers are disqualified as dialogue partners.”

An example last week of who should not get an admission ticket is Harvard University . It granted a request by six Muslim women students to give women-only six hours a week access to the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center , to accommodate their religious customs. This latest politically correct concession was announced on March 6 by The Amboy Times.

Another example (Weigel mentions in a footnote) is that Melanie Phillips’s manuscript for her book Londonistan (about how British officials appease militant Muslims) was rejected by several mainstream UK publishers in yet another demonstration of “self-imposed dhimmitude.”

Dhimmitude is second-class status accepted by non-Muslims in their own country by accepting Islamist pressures. Under Shariya (Muslim) law, non-Muslims are free to practice their religion but are subject to humiliating regulations designed to enforce the Koran’s command that they FEEL inferior.

Non-acquiescence to Muslim pressures is not Islamophobia. Acquiescence should stop, declares Weigel. It is not Islamophobic to condemn violence in the name of God. And it would help if the western media that reach the Islamic world like CNN and BBC would call things by their right names: in Iraq , not insurgents but murderers and terrorists, not suicide bombers but homicide bombers.

Islam is in a “wrenching encounter with modernity.” Islam’s sense of self-sufficiency led to deterioration of its intellectual vitality. “As Bernard Lewis writes, “the Renaissance, the Reformation, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment . . . passed without effect in the Islamic world, without even being noticed.”

The only feasible answer is to focus on religious freedom, and the separation of spiritual and political authority in a just state. ”A West that does not take religious ideas seriously as a dynamic force in the world’s unfolding history is a West that will have disarmed itself, conceptually and imaginatively, in the face of war,” Weigel.comments.

There is no interreligious dialogue as yet, partly because of political correctness but also “because the dialogue partners have not yet developed a grammar that turns noise (or banality, which amounts to the same thing) into conversation,” Weigel concludes, adding that such a grammar would also aid the efforts of Islamic reformers in their struggle against the jihadists, who, they believe, have hijacked Islam. The war against Jihadism will last for generations.

Weigel has advice for civics teachers:

Civic education . . . is a crucial component of immigrant assimilation. Democratic citizens are made, not born. “Making citizens” is difficult enough in itself; the difficulties are compounded when it is thought that efforts to “make citizens” are either unnecessary, or an offense against others’ culture.

By Natalie Sirkin

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