ISLAM AND THE WEST: THE THREAT, THE DEFENSE
by Srdja Trifkovic
Al Kresta is a broadcaster, journalist and author who runs one of the liveliest and most popular Catholic talk shows in the country. Currently heard on some thirty stations, Kresta in the Afternoon looks at current affairs through the lens of Scripture. Its guests have included Mother Angelica, William Bennett, Pat Buchanan, Michael Novak, Judge Robert Bork, Jerry Falwell, Steve Allen, Cal Thomas, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Chuck Colson, Ken Starr, James Earl Ray, Mary Higgins Clark, C. Everett Koop, and Ollie North. Last month (Sept. 9) Mr. Kresta interviewed Dr. Trifkovic on the nature of Islam and its impact on the West and the rest. Here is the transcript of that program.
KRESTA: What is the relationship between traditional, historic Islam, and people like Osama bin Laden? Is there danger inherent in the spread of Islam, just like there was danger inherent in the spread of communism and nazism? Is this just a small bunch of politically motivated Islamist or are they in fact the faithful cutting edge? Who defines the soul of Islam? Joining us now is Serge Trifkovic. He is the author of The Sword of the Prophet-Islam: History, Theology, Impact on the World. He is foreign affairs editor of Chronicles . . . Is Islam inherently violent, imperialistic, and must it dominate the world?
TRIFKOVIC: The answer is "yes." It is unpleasant having to say so, since one is naturally inclined in today's liberal, multicultural West to award each creed and each world outlook the equality of esteem in a mutual celebration of our beautiful diversity. But since you put the question as starkly as you did, the answer is "yes."
KRESTA: Does this go back to its founding, or is it a tradition that developed over time. The canonical material that the Muslims have to deal with-the Koran, the Hadith, the life of the Prophet and early Muslim communities-is it that material which encourages imperialism, the use of the sword, and eventually world expansion and domination?
TRIFKOVIC: The terms of the relationship between Muhammad, the founder of the cult, and his followers with the "infidels" were clearly set in his lifetime, particularly with the destruction of three Jewish tribes in the city of Medina, where Muhammad had established a theocratic statelet. The first two tribes he expelled and simply sequestered their property. That was a prime example of ethnic cleansing, to use contemporary terminology. To the third tribe, Banu Quraiza, he offered conversion or death. Obviously, well versed in the Old Testament theology and faithful to the Torah, these Jews were somewhat reluctant to submit themselves to the mumbo-jumbo that this illiterate Arabian shepherd was offering to them. The result was decapitation of nine hundred grown-up men followed by mass rape of women that same night. Muhammad chose as his concubine one of them, whose husband and father were killed hours earlier before her own eyes. The children were enslaved.
It is important to remember that in all primary texts-the Koran, the Traditions of the Prophet (the Hadith), or the example of the so-called "Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs"-the early successors to Muhammad-we have a certain pattern that has been replicated for thirteen hundred years. The world is divided into the world of faith, where Islam is triumphant, and Dar-ul-Harb, the world of war, where it is not. It is the Allah-ordained destiny of the Muslims to fight until the entire world succumbs to the faith and the entire planet bows to Allah, kisses the carpet. As you've mentioned in the intro, the similarity with the mindset of communism, with its insistence on the global triumph of the proletariat as the precondition for the end of history-the secular parousia of the classless society where state and money will cease to exist-is remarkable. Furthermore, if we are looking for historical parallels, the one with Nazism is even more apt because German National Socialism had found a willing ally in Islam, in the person of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who not only went to Berlin in 1941 and raised the banner of Jihad against the British, but also materially helped in the recruitment of Chechens, Kosovo Albanians and Bosnian Muslims into the SS, where they committed all the usual, to-be-expected atrocities against their Orthodox Christian neighbors.
KRESTA: Let's leap from to the Muslim next door. If what you describe is endemic to Islam, it is part of its basic standards, part of its history, why is it that in, say, Dearborn, Michigan, Muslims that I know do not seem as though they like Osama bin Laden?
TRIFKOVIC: This is a difficult question, especially for a Christian who should and does have the natural tendency to take his neighbors at face value and seeks to discover their humanity. From Muhammad's time onwards, taqiyya-duplicity-is openly preached in Islam as the preferred and condoned tactic of softening resistance of non-Muslims to Muslim encroachment. When their numbers are low, with single-digit percentages, when they are only establishing themselves in an area, they will project an acceptable face. One may compare that to the early Muhammad, in Mecca: spirituality, tolerance, and all those Kuranic verses that were to be abrogated later on when he moved to Medina.
For a Christian the real task is to help our fellow humans who are trapped in Islam and to help them become free. But the more pressing task than that is to help our fellows former Christians, or post-Christians, to become aware of who they are and to become proud of their civilizational and spiritual legacy, because that's the only defense we have. If we fall into the pattern of post-Christian hedonistic and functionally nihilistic post-modern West as we have it today, our goose is cooked-demographically, spiritually, materially, and politically. One can almost not blame Muslims for doing what they are doing, immigrating into the West, procreating at five times the rates of Western nations, because, to paraphrase Martin Luther, they kann nicht anders, they cannot do otherwise. But we do have ourselves to blame for having fallen victim to the putrid, horrible, lukewarm ideology of multiculturalism that cannot be the basis of defense of anything at all. It is a form of anti-culturalism that opens the floodgates of hell.
KRESTA: But can Muslims work together across national boundaries? There's this pan-Islamic ideal, but if it wasn't for the issue of Israel in the Middle East, wouldn't the Muslim nations be fighting one another?
TRIFKOVIC: The Muslim nations have been fighting one another ever since the earliest days. If you look at the birth of the Shiite sect of Islam, it is rooted in the intra-Islamic civil war that was raging in the second half of the seventh century. But at the same time when it comes to the perception of the outside world as the Great Satan, the enemy, the World of War, the infidels, with whom according to the Koran a Muslim must not be friends or else he becomes worse than they, we have to realize that this mindset unites the Muslims regardless of whether they are in Indonesia, or immigrants into Dearborn or Buffalo or west London. What unites them is the abhorrence of the Other. Since Islam is a violent cult [characterized] by the fundamental lack of love, agape, it will always find the uniting sources of common sentiment and belonging, the glue that bonds that group together, in the way that the members of a gang in west L.A. find their common bond: through animosity vis-а-vis the outside group that defines the insiders. They do not have a true identity because there is no real content: Islam is a totalitarian ideology based on hate and violence. Therefore, the only way it can find adherents willing to sacrifice their lives in what they perceive as a higher cause is to have the Enemy, and that Enemy is the Christian, the European, the more successful civilization that has given us the cathedrals, the cantatas, the icons, the Shakespeares and Goethes. None of that can be produced in the Islamic world. It has always been good only at producing arid deserts.
KRESTA: I thought that there was a "golden age" for Islam?
TRIFKOVIC: We keep hearing from the apologists, the Karen Armstrongs and John Espositos of this world, that Cordoba, or Granada, or Baghdad at a certain point were eminently capable of producing civilization and were fit for a civilized person to live in. Well, this happened in spite of Islam, not because of it. Most of their prominent names in philosophy, mathematics, and speculative thought were in fact Persians, Jews, and Christians. Claiming that the "golden age of Islam" was due to Islam is just like saying that the fact that scholarship on Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy survived in Stalin's Russia was due to Bolshevism.
KRESTA: Let me ask a few geopolitical questions. What do you make of the United States' continued friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, given the fact that the Wahabi sect of Islam dominates the Kingdom and tremendous amount of Saudi money goes to create these schools where kids are indoctrinated so that we end up producing more Islamic warriors? What is the U.S. to do?
TRIFKOVIC: The nature of the regime in Saudi Arabia is inherently unstable. The pressure on the admittedly unpleasant and kleptocratic royal family to reform and become more democratic is likely to result in the Teheran syndrome: the revolution of rising expectations among the populus, the toppling of the regime, and the coming to power of people who'd look upon Osama bin Laden as their model. So it's the lesser of two evils. While I hold no brief for the eminently ugly Saudi Wahabis who run the show, I have to warn that any attempt at democratization of the Middle East-the neoconservatives' favorite phrase-will mean further Islamization of the Middle East. There isn't a single traditionally Muslim country in the world where, if you had real democracy, political Islam would not triumph. The Jihadists of different shapes and colors, the Muslim Brotehrood in Egypt, or Ayatollah al-Sistani in Iraq, or al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, would be elected by democratic means. Then we'd have a similar situation to that in Germany after January 30, 1933: the will of the people produces an unpleasant political result, bringing people who want to fight you to power.
The United States should treat the Middle East as just another spot on the map. It is strategically damaging to be obsessive about the Middle East, to treat it as particularly important to the American psyche. We should treat it as an unpleasant part of the world where people have long-standing disputes over land, resources, and various metaphysical claims. We should treat those claims strictly on their merits. The identification of the American interest with a single country in the region-and the country that has been discriminating not only against the Muslims but against the Christians as well for the 50-plus years of its existence-is unhealthy. I support the survival of the state of Israel on geopolitical grounds, but not on some heretical grounds of confusion of the modern state of Israel, secular as it is, with the Israel of the Old Testament. To any Christian traditionalist the zany, insane mumbo-jumbo of some of our more excitable Protestant brethren is offensive. It is also damaging in terms of the political impact.
KRESTA: It has been said that the Eastern Orthodox were better off under Muslim rule than they were under Catholic crusaders. What's the story there?
TRIFKOVIC: It is indeed remarkable that this year we are remembering the 800th anniversary of one of the great crimes in Christendom-and by the way, as an Eastern Orthodox I believe we are talking about one civilization. The folly of the West is 800 years old this year: the sack of Constantinople during the infamous Fourth Crusade. The Franks did not understand that New Rome, the Orthodox Constantinople, was the guardian and protector of the West. The treachery of the Crusaders in 1204 opened the way for the Ottoman onslaught against Europe that did not stop until it reached Vienna in 1683. And today, the rampant Serbophobia-and let me declare my interest, I am Serbian by birth and an American by naturalization-the Serbophobia reflects the same folly on a much larger scale. The consequence, the price of the emerging post-national global empire, is the obliteration of Christendom, first of all; but secondly, the obliteration of the ethnic identity of peoples, of their special color and uniqueness, and the loss of diversity of the European civilization, both in its North American offshoot and in its heartland. It will result, ultimately, in the demographic replacement of Europeans by North African and Middle Eastern immigrants, and the obliteration of America as we know it into a kind of post-modern Blade Runner-L.A. writ large.
KRESTA: You mention demographics, and they say "demographics is destiny." Are Muslims reproducing significantly more than the allegedly Christian Europe?
TRIFKOVIC: Oh, absolutely, and let us not even pretend that Europe is still Christian. Today there are more Muslims at prayer on Fridays in Britain, France, or Germany than there are Christians at mass or liturgy in those countries on Sundays. To change this, Christian traditionalists belonging to different denominations should forge anti-ecumenical unity.