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Islamism Isn’t a Religion, It’s a Political System at War with Us

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Last week, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs convened a hearing on political Islam, also called “Islamism.” The committee invited four witnesses: Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, Asra Q. Nomani, Michael E. Leiter, former director of the United States National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and John Lenczowski, president of the Institute of World Politics. The hearing shines a bright light on the dysfunction that attends our treatment of the topic.

In her opening remarks, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) clearly articulated the Democratic position on Islamism: “Anyone who twists or distorts religion to a place of evil is an exception to the rule…We should not focus on religion.” Unfortunately, Democrats do not have a monopoly on willful blindness when it comes to Islamism or “Sharia supremacy.”

Hirsi-Ali and Nomani, both under a death sentence from jihadis on the charge of apostasy, wrote about the hearing in the New York Times. They noted that the four Democratic female senators—McCaskill, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)—feminists all, who whiff the scent of sexism in every passing breeze, did not ask either of them a single question.

Ali and Nomani wrote that what transpired during the hearing

…was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives when it comes to confronting the brutal reality of Islamist extremism and what it means for women in many Muslim communities here at home and around the world. When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.

The whole affair reveals the contradictions of the “identity politics” that define the current Democratic Party and its manifestation in what some have called the Oppression Olympics: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall/Who is the most oppressed of all?” The current front runner seems to be political Islam, which cannot be criticized, even if it means throwing other favored groups under the bus. Islamists punish homosexuals with death, but today “Islamophobia” trumps “homophobia.”

Much of the problem in dealing with political Islam is the failure to distinguish between Islam as a religion and political Islam as a system for organizing society. This issue arose in response to the testimony of John Lenczowski, during which he raised the issue of “no-go zones”—that is, areas where non-Muslims are not permitted to go—in certain European cities. McCaskill did not ask Lenczowski to expand on his point but instead turned to Leiter, who argued that there was no such thing.

But as Andrew C. McCarthy has explainedit is not true that a no-go zone is a place that Muslims forbid non-Muslims to enter, as suggested by McCaskill’s question and Leitner’s answer. The case is more complex and gets to the heart of the distinction between Islam as a religion on the one hand and political Islam, or sharia supremacy, as a system of social and political organization.

In reality, sharia explicitly invites the presence of non-Muslims provided that they submit to the authority of Islamic rule. Indeed historically, as I related in The Grand Jihad, my book about the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist ideology, because sharia calls on these submissive non-Muslims (dhimmis) to pay a poll tax (jizya), their continued presence was of economic importance in lands conquered by Islamic rulers.

It is therefore easy for Islamists and their apologists to knock down their strawman depiction of what a no-go zone is when they leave it at that: a place where non-Muslims are “not allowed.” That is not what no-go zones are—neither as they exist in fact nor as they are contemplated by Sharia. The point of imposing Sharia—the reason it is the necessary precondition for building an Islamic society—is to make Islam the dominant social system, not the exclusive faith. The idea is that once Sharia’s systematic discrimination against non-Muslims is in place, non-Muslims will see the good sense of becoming Muslims. Over time, everyone will convert “without coercion.” The game is to set up an extortionate incentive for conversion while maintaining the smiley-face assurance that no one is being forced to convert at the point of a sword.

So radical Muslims will be welcoming to any ordinary non-Muslims who are willing to defer to their mores. What they are hostile to are officials of the host state: police, firefighters, building inspectors, emergency medical personnel, and anything associated with the armed forces. That is because the presence of those forces symbolizes the authority—the non-submission—of the state.

Notice, however, that no sensible person is saying that state authorities are prohibited from entering no-go zones as a matter of law. The point is that they are severely discouraged from entering as a matter of fact—and the degree of discouragement varies directly with the density of the Muslim population and its radical component. Ditto for non-Muslim lay people: It is not that they are notpermitted to enter these enclaves; it is that they avoid entering because doing so is dangerous if they are flaunting Western modes of dress and conduct.

As Hirsi-Ali and Nomani observed, the hearing was an example of extreme moral relativism disguised as cultural sensitivity, which leads people to make excuses for the inexcusable. “Call it identity politics, moral relativism or political correctness—it is shortsighted, dangerous and, ultimately, a betrayal of liberal values.”

But Hirsi-Ali and Nomani are too kind. To understand the roots of the pathology that the Senate hearing reveals, one must recur to certain philosophical fonts of today’s political Left, which has  embraced unassimilated Muslims as the true agents of redemption in an imperialistic, colonial world. Marxists identify Muslim Islamists as the latest replacement for the proletariat, who, because of “false consciousness,” failed in its historic mission to overthrow capitalism. Those who, consciously or not, follow Rousseau, see them as a manifestation of the “noble savage” who heroically rejects the pretensions of Western civilization. For the followers of Frantz Fanon and other post-colonial theorists, they are destined to effect the final destruction the West.

This is the hard truth. We ignore it at our peril.

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16 replies
  1. Cybergeezer2
    Cybergeezer2 says:

    Ooooooooooooh!
    Americanism against “Islamism”.
    How intricately refreshing and unique!
    Will this new prestigious title make the muslims friendly now?

  2. Peter S Rieth
    Peter S Rieth says:

    The problem is not exactly no-go zones, but go-and-do-nothing zones. Notice how with each almost daily terrorist attack, we learn that the police knew the terrorist, had been monitoring the terrorist, could identify terrorist cells – they just never actually arrest anyone. It is deliberate self-destruction by Western European elites.

    I see more and more hopeful signs that America is on the path to saving itself, but then I remember that one of the two major parties – my party, which I refuse to leave if for no other reason that one sane Democrat needs to exist – continues to favor the same policies of self-annihilation.

    Oh God: let the Trump Presidency result in the ouster of the Pelosi Wing and the elevation of something remotely like what Jim Webb briefly showed Democrats in 2015.

  3. Forbes
    Forbes says:

    There is naivety in the hair-splitting difference among political Islam, Islam as a faith, shariah supremacy, and other fine-grained distinctions. Islam, meaning submission, and under Islam religion is law–Islam is all-encompassing in terms legal, social, political, and religious. Islam is not solely, simply, merely, a religion. It is only in the West that these quibbles are made due to Western Civilization’s division between religion and the state–something unfathomable under Islam. Yes, ignored at our peril.

    • Rachelnboone
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  4. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi says:

    Ask those who are knowledgeable in the Middle East about Islam and they will tell you it is a front for organized crime. But we don’t hear that here very much. There is so much political correctness on both sides (Islam is a religion of terrorism and Islam has nothing to do with terrorism) that it can’t be seen for what it is.

  5. Felix
    Felix says:

    Often, people instinctively sense a danger. And equally often the choice between recognition and denial is made. To deny Islam’s true danger is a retreat to that “safe space”, the pretend-land where, if you don’t really look at something, it doesn’t really exist. Combine intellectual cowardice with ignorance and you have a huge herd, ripe for the slaughter.

  6. George Dixon
    George Dixon says:

    “Islamism Isn’t a Religion, It’s a Political System at War with Us”
    Wrong, it is an all encompassing ‘both’.
    Witless semantics are witless:

    Ayatollah Khomeini:
    “Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.
    Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war.
    Those who say this are witless.
    Islam says Kill all the unbelievers.”

  7. Liberalism Has Failed
    Liberalism Has Failed says:

    I’ve been saying for some time now that “ISLAM is an all-conquering Political Ideology that’s been masquerading as a Great World Religion for Centuries”. It makes me very pleased that others have recognized that undeniable fact!!

  8. William Westchester
    William Westchester says:

    Perhaps the West Asia problem – matter? – needs a return of colonialism and imperialism.

  9. DanPhillips
    DanPhillips says:

    The “Islam isn’t a religion, it’s a political system” contention is a very dangerous road to travel down. It is historically myopic and places philosophical and political considerations above theological considerations. What this is saying is that in order to qualify as a religion proper, said religion cannot be illiberal (using liberal in the original sense.) Well I’ve got news for you. If illiberality marks a religion as not a proper religion, then Christianity was not a religion until the Radical Reformation and liberality was not broadly accepted until well after the Enlightenment.

  10. NGPM
    NGPM says:

    The author gets a lot right here: she points out very correctly that the real underlying problem is cultural Marxism, postcolonial intersectionalism, in a nutshell Western self-hatred. I do think it’s a bit naïve to try to make such a clean break between Islam and Islamism given the history of the religion from its very inception was based on war, conquest and secular rule.

    I will of course grant that not *every single* Islamic society has played out like that, see for example Indonesia. But it is also true that Indonesian Sufists are often regarded as infidels by many “mainstream” Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. A similar situation was the case for the obscure Islamic sect to which belonged the ill-fated grocer in Scotland, hatefully gunned down for having wished Happy Christmas to his Christian clients.

    Having said that, there are of course people who identify as Muslims who are capable of discussing that history in liberal, Westerm terms without complexes and making it clear that they do not want to live that way or see Islam propagated as it often has been. From these people we have nothing to fear. We however owe it to ourselves to mind the reality that these are a small minority and that many Muslims will refuse even to entertain such thoughts knowing they will be treated as apostates by many of their enthusiastic coreligionists if they do. This is the real problem.

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