Hopes that we’d earned a little breathing space after the election were quickly dashed with what might be called, for convenience, the Petraeus Affair. With revelations falling like dominoes, I can’t venture to comment on how it will end. But we can be reminded of the simmering kettle that is the Middle East, increasingly dominated by radical Muslim groups and fueled by combustible propaganda.
Last month, seven American culture-makers, all involved in the publishing business, sent an appeal to the government in Saudi Arabia to stop publishing hate-filled textbooks: “As current and former heads of major American publishing houses, we know the value of words. They inform actions and shape the world views of all, especially children.” They go on to express their “profound disappointment” that the Saudis have reneged on promises to reform textbook content and remind them that, in the words of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.”
Here’s the sort of rhetoric the publishers deplore:
“In Islamic law, [jihad] has two uses: 1. Specific usage: which means: Exerting effort in fighting unbelievers and tyrants.”
“As was cited in Ibn Abbas, and was said: the Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.”
“The apostate has two punishments; worldly and in the hereafter. Punishment in this life: Death if he does not repent.”
Conservatives in the United States who trace our current national disarray through the schools can imagine what effect such training has on the impressionable minds of young Muslims. The gentlemen of Random House and Time Warner, et al, agree: This bodes ill for the future. What they don’t seem to recognize, or don’t acknowledge openly, is that teaching hatred and fear is precisely the point.
Andrew McCarthy, a member of the legal team that prosecuted the “blind sheik” in 1996, points out the distinction between Islamic theology and Islamic ideology. The former, according to Western views of tolerance, is a matter of conscience. The latter is not, because it threatens that very tolerance, driven by “the perception of believers that they are under a divine injunction to impose all of Islam’s tenets,” codified in Sharia law. Though a significant minority of Muslims worldwide does not insist on Sharia, the majority do, especially in the Middle East. Most are not personally violent, but they support the imposition of Sharia by any means necessary. “Indeed,” writes McCarthy, “the Sharia to which they adhere requires financial support (zakat) for those fighting in Allah’s cause.”
This is craziness, we say. It won’t succeed. Yes it is, and it won’t. That is, jihadists will not be able to establish a global caliphate all wrapped up and tied with a bow to present to the Twelfth Imam. But as long as they’re convinced it could and should happen, they can do a lot of damage. If the Western world refuses to wage all-out war, we’d better wage all-out peace, insisting on civilized discourse and sane rhetoric, with real consequences for non-compliance. Until then, appeals to reason and Oscar Hammerstein will fall on deaf ears.