Nicholas Toyne 17 November 2015
Four days ago, Paris came under attack by Islamic militants. In the evening of November 13th, terrorists detonated bombs and began gunning down civilians at the Stade de France, the Bataclan concert venue, and at four restaurants around the city. Dozens of hostages were taken and systemically murdered. Survivors recount hearing the attackers shout “Allahu Akbar” and “This is for Syria!” as they opened fire.
Almost immediately, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the massacre, citing France’s bombing of the militant group’s positions in Syria. French President François Hollande condemned the attacks as an act of war and declared a state of emergency. By the end of the night, 129 people were killed and hundreds more injured, making these the worst attacks to occur in France since World War II, and the worst act of terrorism in the European Union since the 2004 Madrid bombings. These attacks are the catalyst for a renewed dialogue on the threat of the Islamic State and the means by which we shall confront it. But more immediate than the threat from militant Islam is the intellectual capitulation of Western liberals to its apologists, and the betrayal of our secular creed to the fanatics of Islam.
The attack on Paris follows fast on the heels of a suicide bombing in Beirut on November 12th in which 43 people were killed, and a suicide bombing at a Baghdad funeral on the 13th which killed 19. The Beirut bombing has been attributed to the Islamic State, which did claim responsibility for the Baghdad attack. In addition, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the crash of the Russian Airbus in the Sinai Peninsula, which killed all 224 passengers aboard, but pending the results of an intensive investigation.. Less recent, but just as relevant, is the Al-Shabab attack on Kenya’s Garissa University, in which 147 people were killed. These attacks against civilians illustrate that the long war of ideas between Islam and the secular world has become a literal war, and no one is exempt from harm.
All of these tragedies have come under the intense, if uncritical, scrutiny of the liberal establishment of the West, which claims (not unjustly) that while the attack on Paris was indeed a horrific event, it pales in comparison to similar events throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East; not to mention the violence exacted upon that region by Western military adventures and campaigns. This is a fair criticism, but liberals have perversely twisted it into a convoluted apology for the actions of militant Islam, peddling it as a liberation ideology and echoing the hardline apologists with their accusations of “Islamophobia” against anyone who would criticize the precepts Islam and hold the ideology responsible for its crimes.
The most common of the apologists’ arguments is that the attackers are not truly Muslims, but nihilistic political agents who are defaming Islam by acting in its name. This argument is naïve and easily discredited, as the soldiers of the Islamic State are given to expressions Koranic theology as a matter of principle, as described by Bernard Haykel in The Atlantic:
“The ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”
It must be stated as a matter of objective fact that the Islamic State and its agents abroad are acting according to their interpretation of the Koran. Their barbaric methods are echoes of centuries past when the armies of Islam swept through the Middle East and North Africa, making converts of the conquered tribes and serfs of the rest.
But liberals, in spite of this, still cling to the idea of Islam as a liberation ideology, with the Islamic State drawing the majority of its support not from religious fanatics, but ordinary people, angered by the decades of Western imperialism and systemic poverty (which would explain the number of Brazilian and South African terrorist attacks over the past few years). Poverty alone cannot be the root cause of suicide bombings and the massacring of innocent people; only religion, and in particular Islam, can be objectively identified as the root of such abominable acts.
The next, and most odious, of the arguments made by the apologists is that if Islam is a liberation ideology, it is at worst the lesser of two evils, and at best the antidote to the ultimate evil of Western imperialism. To believe this is to be ignorant of the history and theology of Islam, which like its fellows in the Abrahamic religions, commands its followers to unconditionally love and obey an omnipotent, supernatural being whose will is law. This is the essence of totalitarianism, the very antithesis of a liberation ideology.
As if that weren’t enough, liberals have on occasion expanded the above position on the Islamic liberation ideology by suggesting that because the Western countries have meddled in the affairs of the Muslim world for so long, it’s about time we got our comeuppance. This is sadomasochistic nonsense. It absolves the terrorists and murderers of their crimes and resigns itself to innocent people being blown up and gunned down in the streets of Paris as an inevitable redress for the crimes of their government.
The ultimate question which remains is why have the liberals capitulated? Why have they adopted the arguments of the Islamic apologists? There can be nothing gained from it, nothing except the gradual, unsolicited surrender of our secular ideals to the specter of Islamic theocracy. The liberals, in adopting this position, have betrayed their creed. The erstwhile champions of such liberal bastions as freedom of speech, representative democracy, equal rights for women, equal rights for homosexuals, and the establishment of secular government, are taking the side of a totalitarian religious ideology which stands firmly against those liberal institutions we so cherish. We cannot let them. We must hold them accountable for their hypocrisy. The people of Paris did not die at the hands of the Islamic State so we could surrender our ideals to fanatics.