Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Take Jihadis At Their Word

A New York Sun book reviewer, Adam Kirsch, notes the enemy’s hatred is not a response to our actions:
But for the jihadists themselves, as Mary Habeck shows in her important and necessary new book, "Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror" (Yale University Press, 256 pages, $25), hatred of the United States is more than a political tactic; it is a religious and ideological principle from which they will never be dissuaded.
Comparing the present to the 1930s, Kirsch notes:
Then, too, there was a party arguing that if only the causes of the Nazis' grievances could be removed - the Treaty of Versailles, the Sudeten Germans, the Danzig Corridor - they would be satisfied. Today, such people are remembered as appeasers, and historical honor is given to those, like Churchill, who recognized that there are some enemies to whom compromise is only a sign of weakness.
Remember that Hitler told everyone of his hatred in Mein Kampf. People didn’t want to believe it. Is it different today?
Ms. Habeck, a professor at Johns Hopkins's School of Advanced International Studies, believes that today's Islamic terrorists - whom she insists on calling "jihadis," in recognition of the central role of violence in their worldview - ought to be taken at their word. To interpret their religious beliefs as merely an expression of class, race, or regional grievance, she argues, is not only condescending but unwise.
What does Ms. Habeck find?
Their central belief, from which so many evil consequences flow, is that Islam is not just the only true, but the only permissible religion. Everything that opposes its universal spread is evil and must be crushed. As Ms. Habeck writes, "They must, therefore, defeat a stunning array of enemies: the West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the 'agent rulers' [i.e., Arab governments they see as illegitimate], and any Muslims who do not agree with their form of Islam - the so-called apostates, heretics, and hypocrites."
Mr. Kirsch ends his review with a sobering summary:
So too with the jihadists: "In their reading of history," Ms. Habeck writes, "the conflict between the United States and Islam is part of a universal struggle between good and evil, truth and falsehood, belief and infidelity, that began with the first human beings and will continue until the end of time." Such an enemy can be fought more or less intelligently, more or less honorably; but that it must be fought, Ms. Habeck leaves no doubt.


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