The War on What?
Eighteen years after the fall of the World Trade Center, I find it odd that very obvious and necessary questions about Islam and the West simply can’t be publicly contemplated, for fear of offending someone in Riyadh, or Manhattan for that matter. I’m not even talking, at the outset, about terrorism or violent jihad. I’m talking about very simple and obvious conflicts involving cherished western traditions which include the right to revere or ridicule religious faith, or the notion that we are all equal before the law, or even just something as simple as the right to sell bacon and alcohol in your grocery store.
It’s difficult for me to believe that even the most protective multiculturalist would argue that Mohammed can never be ridiculed but it’s okay to make Buddha and Jesus jokes. Adapting such a position would require the guardians of tolerance to admit their standards were inconsistent. I know they are good at avoiding that conclusion with critical theory and intersectional dodges, but I’m guessing the imperative “Bow to Allah, infidel” chiseled in marble, would not sit well — even with them. Rather than have that conversation, and force that conclusion, the usual approach is to a) pretend there is no conflict, b) call anyone who mentions the conflict a bigot. Even Donald Trump, regularly pilloried for being an anti-Muslim bigot, took exception to a Pamela Geller event that tested the limits of Islamic ridicule. As if to prove Geller’s point, Islamic terrorists arrived, guns in hand.
Is it any wonder our “war on terror” staggers along like a blind man on a meth and whiskey binge? We don’t know where we’re going, who we’re fighting, and what our enemy believes. A long time friend, and a former marine officer, made the mistake of introducing non-disputed Islamic beliefs (jihad, dhimmitude, taqiyah) at a training session for Iraq bound soldiers. He was relieved of his position. Robert Spencer, a mild-mannered scholar, who is very careful not to broad-brush peaceful Muslims in the west, and a man who merely elaborates violent and repressive themes within Islamic theology, has been banned from travel to the UK.
All of which makes me wonder: when the 9/11 hijackers brought down the world trade center, when they crashed into the Pentagon, and when we responded by agreeing never to discuss their religion in a negative light, when we sent American soldiers to die, establishing an “Islamic republic” in Iraq — um, just who won and who lost?
In my case, I guess the legacy of 911 is that I don’t get to discuss Mohammed, Allah, or the Q’uran on Facebook. 911 made them sacred territory.