Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Magical, Timeless Popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien

The support for all things Tolkien is fascinating not only because of its size but because of its surreal diversity


September 17, 2014


He doesn’t really fit the bill.

J. R. R. Tolkien that is. Novelists these days are supposed to wear their angst on their finely tailored sleeves, to be whirling dervishes of deconstruction, discontent, deviance and the divine right of protest. Yet the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings was quintessentially comfortable—in his life as well as in his tweeds. He was also formed, informed, shaped, defined and inspired by his Roman Catholicism.

I write this because yet another movie based—albeit sometimes loosely—on the man’s writings is in the making, and at this rate there will be at least six full-scale feature films. There are two biopics planned about the lives of Tolkien and his friend and fellow Christian, C. S. Lewis. It’s remarkable and welcome, and while purists never welcome publicity or success, the more that is known of Tolkien by a mass audience, the better is has to be for Catholicism.

It’s not only the purists in our camp, of course, who question all this.

When various bookstores, newspapers, magazines and literary societies compiled their lists of all-time greats a few years ago, Tolkien won the contests over and over again. First it was a chain of stores, polling more than 25,000 people. Dickens, Tolstoy, and Jane Austen did well, but the fellow with the pipe and friends in dwarfish places came out top.

This annoyed the chattering classes no end, so the highly prestigious Folio Society polled its 50,000 members. Connoisseurs of fine literature, these good men and women were certain to make a different choice.

They didn’t.

The question was then taken to other countries, other languages, and changed into “Best Book of the Century”, “Best Author of the Century” and even “Greatest Writer of the Millenium.” Like it or not, Tolkien beat Joyce, Proust, and Balzac. It prompted one British critic to say that this was why universal literacy and a publicly funded library system were not so desirable. He was joking. Just.

Because nothing is so unpopular with our elites as, yes, popularity. And Tolkien is as popular as they come. In the summer of 2000 the short trailer of The Lord of the Ringsmovie was put on the film company’s official website, part of an early publicity blitz for the release of the first of the three productions at the end of this year.

On the first day the trailer was available there were 1.5 million downloads. Twice the number for the previous record, held by Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Informed opinion believes that The Lord of the Rings could be the most commercially successful movie ever made.

Why? Or, in the words of those who dislike the Oxford University professor with his tales of wizards, elves, battles and mystery, why does this awful man and his awful readers do so well?

The support for Tolkien is fascinating not only because of its size but because of its diversity. Devotees of science fiction, fans of “Dungeons and Dragons”, traditional Roman Catholics, zealots on the fringes of the political far right, dabblers in the occult, old hippies and, now, a new wave of people opposed to globalisation and free trade.

The reason for the bewildering alliance is the nature of the man himself. He was a serious, orthodox Catholic; he was raised and educated by the Oratorians in Birmingham, England; he was never happy with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council; and he even somewhat sympathetic to the aspirations of Franco and his gang during the Spanish Civil War. Yet this needs context. There were many British and North American Catholics who, whilst totally opposed to Hitler and Nazism, were shocked by the slaughter of priests and nuns by the Republicans in Spain and grudgingly preferred the Generalissimo to a left increasingly dominated by Stalinism and the Kremlin’s thugs.

However, Tolkien was an anti-Nazi before it was altogether respectable, and indeed when many on the political left were still ambivalent. Shortly before The Second World War, a German publisher wrote to him and inquired about buying the rights to his works. They asked if he was an Aryan. He replied that the word made no linguistic or ethnic sense. But, he added, if they were in fact asking him if he had any Jewish blood he regretted that this was not the case, although he would like to have some connection with such a gifted people. He finished by telling the letter writer that he would never be allowed to publish him and that the Nazis were destroying German culture and the beauty of the northern spirit.

Tolkien’s religious conservatism simply did not transfer into political reaction. Indeed, it seldom does. He viewed the industrialisation of his beloved Warwickshire, that country in the middle of England that inspired the characters and locations in The Lord of the Rings, with unrestrained horror. The working people of his youth had, he thought, a certain autonomy, a special dignity. That had been expunged with the advance of the factory, the collective, themultinational.

As for globalisation, Tolkien believed in the small community. He once said that Belgium was the perfect size for a country. Large enough to be distinct, small enough to feel like an extended family. The idea of universal free trade and a one world corporate government terrified him.

His fame and success were in essence an American phenomenon, or at least it began in the United States. Before American university students took up Tolkien’s cause he had been successful on a much smaller scale. World famous in Oxford, so to speak. The new radicalism of the 1960s looked to a most surprising hero. Tolkien’s books sold in quite staggering numbers and graffiti began to appear on college walls. Beneath slogans demanding withdrawal from Vietnam would be written, “Frodo Rules” and “Bilbo for President”.

No surprise then that the man should be read again now by the pierced ranks determined to bring down Starbucks, Nike, and international capitalism.

Science fiction and dungeons and dragons? The appeal is obvious. The issue here is that Tolkien initiated the whole thing. But whereas his emulators fill their books with babes in red leather leotards and muscular chaps in jerkins, Tolkien gave them character and depth and, yes, fundamentally Christian notions of value, virtue, and truth.

So the fan base is a delicious mingling of types who would not normally give each other the time of day. The movie—their movie—will annoy as well as delight. There is none so fanatical as a Tolkien fan. By Gandalf’s beard they better get, well, better get Gandalf’s beard right. And as Tolkien’s triumph is largely within the individual imagination, any interpretation will inevitably displease some. But that is the delight of the man and his work—and it is always Catholic. Tolkien gave us the magnificent Catholic playing field, we play the game. It never stops. It wasn’t supposed to. I will continue to watch the movies; sometimes I will cringe just a little but I will still thank God that even Hollywood has fallen to the charms of Tolkien. Catholic Tolkien.

Today's Tune: The War on Drugs - Burning (Live)

Obama at the Gates of Vienna


By  

http://spectator.org/

September 16, 2014




Sobieski at Vienna by Juliusz Kossak.
Battle of Vienna

Barack Obama is at the Gates of Vienna. But America is not at war with Islam! Got that? As a matter of fact, all those ISIS (or ISIL) people cutting off heads in those videos? They aren’t Islamic at all, according to President Obama:

Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim....ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

Never mind that the beheaders have dropped the “In Syria” or “In the Levant” and simply refer to all their accumulated turf — now the size of Great Britain — as just “IS” as in “Islamic State.” Or that they may have as much as $2 billion in stolen assets.

Who lives in the kind of fantasy that believes a self-proclaimed Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam? The atheist Sam Harris has noted this presidential assertion, agog. Writes Harris at his blog in a post titled “Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon”: 

As an atheist, I cannot help wondering when this scrim of pretense and delusion will be finally burned away — either by the clear light of reason or by a surfeit of horror meted out to innocents by the parties of God. Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas — jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy — reliably lead to oppression and murder? It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocents exactly — but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no.”

Harris makes a point of saying: “In drawing a connection between the doctrine of Islam and jihadist violence, I am talking about ideas and their consequences, not about 1.5 billion nominal Muslims, many of whom do not take their religion very seriously.” However, he goes on to point out that:

a belief in martyrdom, a hatred of infidels, and a commitment to violent jihad are not fringe phenomena in the Muslim world. These preoccupations are supported by the Koran and numerous hadith. That is why the popular Saudi cleric Mohammed Al-Areefi sounds like the ISIS army chaplain. The man has 9.5 million followers on Twitter (twice as many as Pope Francis has). If you can find an important distinction between the faith he preaches and that which motivates the savagery of ISIS, you should probably consult a neurologist.

Understanding and criticizing the doctrine of Islam — and finding some way to inspire Muslims to reform it — is one of the most important challenges the civilized world now faces. But the task isn’t as simple as discrediting the false doctrines of Muslim “extremists,” because most of their views are not false by the light of scripture. A hatred of infidels is arguably the central message of the Koran. The reality of martyrdom and the sanctity of armed jihad are about as controversial under Islam as the resurrection of Jesus is under Christianity. It is not an accident that millions of Muslims recite the shahadah or make pilgrimage to Mecca. Neither is it an accident that horrific footage of infidels and apostates being decapitated has become a popular form of pornography throughout the Muslim world. Each of these practices, including this ghastly method of murder, find explicit support in scripture.

And so they do. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the late Christopher Hitchens took to the pages of the UK’s Guardian to raise the then-new point to a shell-shocked world that the date September 11th had a specific symbolism in the Islamic world. Wrote Hitchens:

It was on September 11 1683 that the conquering armies of Islam were met, held, and thrown back at the gates of Vienna.

Now this, of course, is not a date that has only obscure or sectarian significance. It can rightly, if tritely, be called a hinge-event in human history. The Ottoman empire never recovered from the defeat; from then on it was more likely that Christian or western powers would dominate the Muslim world than the other way around. In our culture, the episode is often forgotten or downplayed, except by Catholic propagandists like Hilaire Belloc and GK Chesterton. But in the Islamic world, and especially among the extremists, it is remembered as a humiliation in itself and a prelude to later ones. (The forces of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza once published a statement saying that they could not be satisfied until all of Spanish Andalusia had been restored to the faithful as well.)

What Hitchens left out is the chilling demand that Mehmet IV, the Sultan of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, made of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I:

Primarily we order You to await Us in Your residence city of Vienna so that We can decapitate You.…We will exterminate You and all Your followers.…Children and grown-ups will be exposed to the most atrocious tortures before put to an end in the most ignominious way imaginable…

In one way or another, what ISIS and their “global caliphate” is all about is refighting the Battle of Vienna — and getting a different outcome. Like it or not, the president finds himself in the position of, as it were, defending the West. A job he repeatedly seems to find uncomfortable if not downright distasteful.

Read the rest of the article by clicking on the link below:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Church of U2


September 16, 2014
A few years ago, I was caught up in a big research project about contemporary hymns (or “hymnody,” as they say in the trade). I listened to hundreds of hymns on Spotify; I interviewed a bunch of hymn experts. What, I asked them, was the most successful contemporary hymn—the modern successor to “Morning Has Broken” or “Amazing Grace”? Some cited recently written traditional church hymns; others mentioned songs by popular Christian musicians. But one scholar pointed in a different direction: “If you’re willing to construe the term ‘hymn’ liberally, then the most heard, most successful hymn of the last few decades could be ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,’ by U2.”
Most people think of U2 as a wildly popular rock band. Actually, they’re a wildly popular, semi-secretly Christian rock band. In some ways, this seems obvious: a song on one recent album was called “Yahweh,” and where else would the streets have no name? But even critics and fans who say that they know about U2’s Christianity often underestimate how important it is to the band’s music, and to the U2 phenomenon. The result has been a divide that’s unusual in pop culture. While secular listeners tend to think of U2’s religiosity as preachy window dressing, religious listeners see faith as central to the band’s identity. To some people, Bono’s lyrics are treacly platitudes, verging on nonsense; to others, they’re thoughtful, searching, and profound meditations on faith.
Christianity Today regularly covers U2, not just as another Christian rock band but as one of special significance. In 2004, the magazine ran an article about Bono’s “thin ecclesiology”—his unwillingness to affiliate himself with a church—that sparked a debate about the health of organized religion. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, addressed the issue of Bono’s belief in a fascinating 2008 lecture about the place of organized faith in secular society. “Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog” is one of several books exploring the theological ideas in Bono’s lyrics. Churches around the world have held “U2charists”—full services at which traditional church music is replaced with songs by U2. A few years ago, an Episcopal priest I know helped organize one at a church in New Jersey; the service, which featured a huge sound system, stage lighting, cocktails, and a bonfire, raised around forty thousand dollars for an orphanage in Cameroon.
Much of the confusion around U2’s faith stems from the fact that they’ve never been an “officially” Christian rock band. The ambiguity goes back to the band’s origins, in the Dublin of the late seventies, during the Troubles. In a country divided along sectarian lines, little about organized religion was attractive. U2 were teen-agers when they got together (Larry Mullen, Jr., the drummer, was just fourteen), but they were beginning to see outside of the faith traditions of their families. Bono’s father was a Catholic, his mother an Anglican. Adam Clayton (the bassist, English) and David Evans (the Edge, Welsh) came from Protestant backgrounds; Mullen had Irish-Catholic parents. In “North Side Story: U2 in Dublin, 1978-1983,” Niall Stokes, the editor of the Irish music magazine Hot Press, writes that the members of U2 were “primed” to ask what it meant to be Irish. They were “as close as you could get at the time, in an Ireland that was monocultural to an extraordinary degree, to a licorice all-sorts of nationalities and faiths.”
Their break with organized religion was probably inevitable. But it was still traumatic, which is perhaps why almost every U2 album contains a song about their decision to belong to a band rather than a church. (“One,” for example, is about the challenges of joining together with your friends to try and find God on your own.) Greg Garrett, an English professor at Baylor, a Baptist university in Waco, Texas, explains U2’s lack of religious identification in his book “We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2.” In high school, Bono, the Edge, and Mullen grew close to a faith community called Shalom, whose members Bono has described as living on the Dublin streets “like first-century Christians.” The group was a big presence in their lives during the recording of U2’s first two albums, “Boy” and “October” (“Gloria,” the best song on “October,” has a liturgical chorus, sung in Latin). The turning point came just as the “October” tour was set to begin: the Edge announced that he wanted to leave U2, because the twin demands of piety and rock stardom could not be reconciled. (“If God had something to say about this tour, he should have raised his hand a little earlier,” the band’s manager, Paul McGuinness, said.) Ultimately, of course, U2 stayed together: Bono, Mullen, and the Edge left Shalom. “I realized it was bullshit, that what these people were getting close to … was denial, rather than willful surrender,” Bono told an interviewer.
The tension in spiritual life—between discipline and vulnerability, order and openness, being willful and giving in—became U2’s central preoccupation, and gave it its aesthetic. During the Troubles, the band witnessed the consequences of an approach to faith that had become too organized and martial. Against that, they argued for “surrender,” in both its political and its religious senses. When Bono ran around onstage with a white flag during performances of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” he was expressing not only an approach to politics but also an approach to faith (often, the song suggested, they were the same thing). U2 were learning to infuse their music with a sensibility that had been unreachable in their religious lives—a kind of militant surrendering.
As U2 grew up, they continued to talk about God without seeming to. On 1987’s “The Joshua Tree,” Bono combined sexiness with holiness, writing love songs sung to God, in the vein of the Song of Solomon. U2 has written a few straight-up love songs, like “All I Want Is You.” But, most of the time, when Bono uses the words “love,” “she,” “you,” or “baby”—which he does often—a listener can hear “God” instead.
Song lyrics are endlessly interpretable, of course—but, once you accept U2’s religiosity, previously opaque or anodyne songs turn out to be full of ideas and force. People sometimes sway to “With or Without You” at weddings, but the “you” isn’t a romantic partner (the line about seeing “the thorn twist in your side” should be a giveaway); the song is about how the intense demands of faith are both intolerable and invaluable (“I can’t live / With or without you”). “The Fly,” on “Achtung Baby,” seems a little overwrought as a love song, but as a song about the writing of the Gospels it’s surprisingly concrete (“Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief, / All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief”). “Until the End of the World” is meaningless until you realize that it’s a love song for Jesus, sung by Judas, as portrayed by Bono. (This becomes especially obvious when the song is juxtaposed with scenes from “The Passion of the Christ.”) The best of these songs may be “Ultra Violet (Light My Way),” which sounds like it’s about a desperate romance, but is actually about the cruelty of God’s reticence:
You bury your treasure where it can’t be found,
But your love is like a secret that’s been passed around.
There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep.
I guess it’s the price of love; I know it’s not cheap.
In the chorus, Bono alludes to the Book of Job (“Baby, baby, baby, light my way”), while the Edge offers a metaphor for the near-invisibility of God (“ultraviolet love”). On their recent “U2 360°” tour, the band came up with a clever visual metaphor for the song’s big idea: Bono wears a jacket trimmed in red lasers that point out into the crowd. It’s a pained, incomplete aura—trashy, but beautiful.
U2’s best songs were written during these years—roughly from 1986, when they began recording “The Joshua Tree,” to 1997, the year “Pop” (which is actually very good) was released. But there was a problem: the songs depended for their power on the dramatization of Bono’s ambivalence about God. Onstage, he theatrically performed his doubt: on the “ZooTV” tour, in support of “Achtung Baby,” Bono regularly dressed up as the devil, singing songs of romantic-religious anguish in costume. That anguish was genuine, but there was something unseemly about his flaunting of faith and doubt. It was a peep show in which, instead of showing a little leg, Bono teased us with his spiritual uncertainty. In a song called “Acrobat,” on “Achtung Baby,” he accused himself of hypocrisy: “I must be an acrobat / To talk like this and act like that.” He quoted Delmore Schwartz: “In dreams begin responsibilities.”
U2 have continued to write songs of doubt (“Wake Up Dead Man,” off “Pop,” is especially good). But they are no longer wild, ludic, and unhinged in the way they talk about God. There used to be something improvisational and risky about their spirituality—it seemed as though it might go off the rails, veering into anger or despair. Now, for the most part, they focus on a positive message, expressed directly and without ambiguity. The band’s live shows have a liturgical feel: Bono, who regularly interpolates hymns and bits of Scripture into his live performances, leads the congregation with confidence.
On their most recent albums, including “Songs of Innocence”—which Sasha Frere-Jones, the magazine’s pop music critic, reviewed last week—Bono sings about religious subjects with the kind of unfussy directness that, perversely, makes the songs less open to the resolutely secular. Two songs on the new album, “Every Breaking Wave” and “Song for Someone,” express rich ideas about God—in the first case, the paradoxical idea that, to really sink into faith, you have to stop questing after new experiences of it; in the second, the idea that fleeting moments of religious feeling, even when they don’t make sense in your own life, might be a “song for someone” you don’t know, perhaps someone in need, or some other version of yourself. These songs aim for clarity but end up being uncommunicative; they aren’t rough enough around the edges, and so there’s nothing to grab on to if you’re not already interested. If you aren’t listening carefully, it’s easy to think they’re about nothing.
The story of U2 might be this: having begun as a band that was uncertain about the idea of pursuing a life of faith through music, they have resolved that uncertainty. Their thin ecclesiology has become thick. Today, they are their own faith community; they even have a philanthropic arm, which has improved the lives of millions of people. They know they made the right choice, and they seem happy. Possibly, their growing comfort is bad for their art. But how long could they have kept singing the same song of yearning and doubt? “I waited patiently for the Lord,” Bono sings, in the band’s version of Psalm 40. “He inclined and heard my cry.”
In the meantime, the new album has plenty of good songs, and one great one, “Iris,” about Iris Hewson, Bono’s mother. She died when he was fourteen, after collapsing from an aneurysm at her father’s funeral. Bono compares her love for him, which he still feels, to the light that reaches Earth from a star that’s gone out. It’s a comforting, not unfamiliar idea, until this thought: “The stars are bright, but do they know / The universe is beautiful but cold?” Then the song stops being comforting; it reaches for something it doesn’t quite understand, and possibly doesn’t even want; it becomes ambiguous and mournful. It expresses a particular combination of faith and disquiet, exaltation and desperation, that is too spiritual for rock but too strange for church—classic U2.



Islamic State Atrocities the Product of ‘Grievances’?


Posted By Raymond Ibrahim On September 17, 2014 @ 12:33 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 12 Comments

Screenshot from Islamic State video

While many have rightfully criticized U.S. President Obama’s recent assertion that the Islamic State “is not Islamic,” some of his other equally curious but more subtle comments pronounced in the same speech have been largely ignored.

Consider the president’s invocation of the “grievances” meme to explain the Islamic State’s success: “At this moment the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL—which calls itself the Islamic State.”

Obama’s logic, of course, is fortified by an entire apparatus of professional apologists who make the same claim.  Thus Georgetown professor John Esposito—whose apologetics sometimes morph into boldfaced lies—also recently declared that “The “primary drivers [for the Islamic State’s violence] are to be found elsewhere,” that is, not in Islam but in a “long list of grievances.”

In other words and once again, it’s apparently somehow “our fault” that Islamic State Muslims are behaving savagely—crucifying, beheading, enslaving, and massacring people only on the basis that they are “infidels”:  thus when IS herds and slaughters “infidel” men (citing the example of the prophet)—that’s because they’re angry at something America did; when IS captures “infidel” women and children, and sells them on the sex-slave market (citing Islamic teachings)—that’s because they’re angry at something America did; when IS bombs churches, breaks their crosses, and tells Christians to convert or die (citing Islamic scriptures)—that’s because they’re angry at something America did.

Although the “grievance” meme flies in the face of logic, it became especially popular after the 9/11 al-Qaeda strikes on America. The mainstream media, following the Islamist propaganda network Al Jazeera’s lead, uncritically picked up and disseminated Osama bin Laden’s videotapes to the West where he claimed that al-Qaeda’s terror campaign was motivated by grievances against the West—grievances that ranged from U.S. support for Israel to failure for the U.S. to sign the Kyoto Agreement concerning climate change.

Of course, that was all rubbish, and I have written more times than I care to remember about how in their internal Arabic-language communiques to fellow Muslims that never get translated to English, Osama, al-Qaeda, and virtually every Islamist organization make it a point to insist that jihad is an Islamic obligation that has nothing to do with grievances.

Consider Osama’s own words in an internal letter to fellow Saudis:
Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue — one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice — and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? 
Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: [1] either willing submission [conversion]; [2] or payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; [3] or the sword — for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. (The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 42)
Conversion, submission, or the sword is, of course, the mission of the Islamic State—not alleviating “grievances.”  Yet it’s worse than that; for unlike al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, from day one of its existence, has made it very clear—in Osama’s words, “with power and determination, with one voice”—that its massacres, enslavements, crucifixions, and beheadings of “infidels” are all based on Islamic law or Sharia—not silly “grievances” against the West. Unlike al-Qaeda, the Islamic State is confident enough to avoid the grievances/taqiyya game and forthrightly asserts its hostility for humans based on their religious identity.

Yet by slipping the word “grievances” to explain the Islamic State’s Sharia-based savageries, Obama apparently hopes America has been thoroughly conditioned like Pavlov’s dog to automatically associate Islamic world violence with “grievances.”

What Obama fails to understand—or fails to mention—is that, yes, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and countless angry Muslims around the world are indeed often prompted to acts of violence by “grievances.”  But as fully explained here, these “grievances” are not predicated on any universal standards of equality or justice, only a supremacist worldview.


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Obama’s Self-Defeating Fight



By CAROLINE B. GLICK 
http://www.jpost.com/
September 15, 2014

isis soldiers

The United States has a problem with Islamic State. Its problem is that it refuses to acknowledge why Islamic State is a problem.


The problem with Islamic State is not that it is brutal. Plenty of regimes are brutal.
Islamic State poses two challenges for the US. First, unlike the Saudis and even the Iranians, IS actively recruits Americans and other Westerners to join its lines.
This is a problem because these Americans and other Westerners have embraced an ideology that is viciously hostile to every aspect of Western civilization.
Last Friday, Buzz Feed published a compilation of social media posts published by Western women who have left their homes in Chicago and London and other hometowns to join IS in Syria.
As these women’s social media posts demonstrate, the act of leaving the West and joining IS involves rejecting everything the West is and everything it represents and embracing a culture of violence, murder and degradation.
In the first instance, the women who leave the West to join IS have no qualms about entering a society in which they have no rights. They are happy covering themselves in black from head to toe. They have no problem casting their lot with a society that prohibits females from leaving their homes without male escorts.
They have no problem sharing their husband with other wives. They don’t mind because they believe that in doing so, they are advancing the cause of Islam and Allah.
As the women described it, the hardest part about joining the jihad is breaking the news to your parents back home. But, as one recruiter soothed, “As long as you are firm and you know that this is all for the sake of Allah then nothing can shake you inshalah.”
Firm in their belief that they are part of something holy, the British, American and European jihadistas are completely at ease with IS violence. In one post, a woman nonchalantly described seeing a Yazidi slave girl.
“Walked into a room, gave salam to everyone in the room to find out there was a yazidi slave girl there as well.. she replied to my salam.”
Other posts discussed walking past people getting their hands chopped off and seeing dead bodies on the street. Islamic State’s beheadings of American and British hostages are a cause for celebration.
Their pride at the beheadings of James Foley and others is part and parcel of their hatred for the US and the West. As they see it, destroying the US and the West is a central goal of IS.
As one of the women put it, “Know this Cameron/ Obama, you and your countries will be beneath our feet and your kufr will be destroyed, this is a promise from Allah that we have no doubt over…. This Islamic empire shall be known and feared world wide and we will follow none other than the law of the one and the only ilah!” These women do not feel at all isolated. And they have no reason to. They are surrounded by other Westerners who joined IS for the same reasons they did.
In one recruitment post, Western women were told that not knowing Arabic is no reason to stay home.
“You can still survive if you don’t speak Arabic. You can find almost every race and nationality here.”
The presence of Westerners in IS, indeed, IS’s aggressive efforts to recruit Westerners wouldn’t pose much of a problem for the US if it were willing to secure its borders and recognize the root of the problem.
But as US President Barack Obama made clear over the summer, and indeed since he first took office six years ago, he opposes any effort to secure the US border with Mexico. If these jihadists can get to Mexico, they will, in all likelihood, have no problem coming to America.
But even if the US were to secure its southern border, it would still be unable to prevent these jihadists from returning to attack. The policy of the US government is to deny the existence of a jihadist threat by, among other thing, denying the existence of the ideology of Islamic jihad.
When President Barack Obama insisted last Wednesday that Islamic State is not Islamic, he told all the Westerners who are now proud mujihadin that they shouldn’t worry about coming home. They won’t be screened. As far as the US is concerned their Islamic jihad ideology doesn’t exist.
So whereas every passenger arriving in the US from Liberia can be screened for Ebola, no one will be screened for exposure to jihadist thought.
And this brings us to the second problem IS poses to the US.
As a rising force in the Middle East, IS threatens US allies and it threatens global trade. To prevent its allies from being overthrown and to prevent shocks to the international economy, at a minimum, the US needs to contain IS. And given the threat the Westerners joining the terror army constitute, and Washington’s unwillingness to stop them at the border, in all likelihood, the US needs to destroy IS where it stands.
Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that the US is willing or able to either contain or defeat IS.
As US Maj. Gen. (ret.) Robert Scales wrote over the weekend in The Wall Street Journal, from a military perspective, IS is little different from all the guerrilla forces the US has faced in battle since the Korean War. Scales argues that in all previous such engagements, the outcomes have been discouraging because the US lacks the will to take the battle to the societies that feed them or use its firepower to its full potential out of fear of killing civilians.
Clearly this remains the case today.
Moreover, as Angelo Codevilla explained last month in The Federalist, to truly dry up the swamp feeding IS, it is necessary to take the war to its state sponsors – first and foremost Turkey and Qatar.
In his words, “The first strike against the IS must be aimed at its sources of material support. Turkey and Qatar are very much part of the global economy… If…
the United States decides to kill the IS, it can simply inform Turkey, Qatar, and the world it will have zero economic dealings with these countries and with any country that has any economic dealing with them, unless these countries cease any and all relations with the IS.”
Yet, as we saw on the ground this weekend with US Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed mission to secure Turkish support for the US campaign against IS, the administration has no intention of taking the war to IS’s state sponsors, without which it would be just another jihadi militia jockeying for power in Syria.
And this leaves us with the administration’s plan to assemble a coalition of the willing that will provide the foot soldiers for the US air war against Islamic State.
After a week of talks and shuttle diplomacy, aside from Australia, no one has committed forces. Germany, Britain and France have either refused to participate or have yet to make clear what they are willing to do.
The Kurds will not fight for anything but Kurdistan. The Iraqi Army is a fiction. The Iraqi Sunnis support IS far more than they trust the Americans.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will either cheer the US on from a distance, or in the best-case scenario, provide logistical support for its operations.
It isn’t just that these states have already been burned by Obama whether through his support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi. And it isn’t simply that they saw that the US left them hanging in Syria.
They see Obama’s “strategy” for fighting IS – ignoring the Islamic belief system that underpins every aspect of its existence, and expecting other armies to fight and die to accomplish the goal while the US turns a blind eye to Turkey’s and Qatar’s continued sponsorship of Islamic State. They see this strategy and they are convinced America is fighting to lose. Why should they go down with it? Islamic State is a challenging foe. To defeat it, the US must be willing to confront Islamism. And it must be willing to fight to win. In the absence of such determination, it will fight and lose, in the region and at home, with no allies at its side.

In Search of the ‘Moderate Islamists’


The Muslim Brotherhood is the best Obama can do. 


Fighters with Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is not out of ignorance that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are denying the Islamic roots of the Islamic State jihadists. As I argued in a column here last week, we should stop scoffing as if this were a blunder and understand the destructive strategy behind it. The Obama administration is quite intentionally promoting the progressive illusion that “moderateIslamists” are the solution to the woes of the Middle East, and thus that working cooperatively with “moderate Islamists” is the solution to America’s security challenges.

I wrote a book a few years ago called The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America that addressed this partnership between Islamists and progressives. The terms “grand jihad” and “sabotage” are lifted from an internal Muslim Brotherhood memorandum that lays bare the Brotherhood’s overarching plan to destroy the West from within by having their component organizations collude with credulous Western governments and opinion elites.

The plan is going well.

As long as the news media and even conservative commentators continue to let them get away with it, the term “moderate Islamist” will remain useful to transnational progressives. It enables them to avoid admitting that the Muslim Brotherhood is what they have in mind.

As my recent column explained, the term “moderate Islamist” is an oxymoron. AnIslamist is a Muslim who wants repressive sharia imposed. There is nothing moderate about sharia even if the Muslim in question does not advocate imposing it by violence.

Most people do not know what the term “Islamist” means, so the contradiction is not apparent to them. If they think about it at all, they figure “moderate Islamist” must be just another way of saying “moderate Muslim,” and since everyone acknowledges that there are millions of moderate Muslims, it seems logical enough. Yet, all Muslims are not Islamists. In particular, all Muslims who support the Western principles of liberty and reason are not Islamists.

If you want to say that some Islamists are not violent, that is certainly true. But that does not make them moderate. There is, moreover, less to their nonviolence than meets the eye. Many Islamists who do not personally participate in jihadist aggression support violent jihadists financially and morally — often while feigning objection to their methods or playing semantic games (e.g., “I oppose terrorism but I support resistance,” or “I oppose the killing of innocent people . . . but don’t press me on who is an innocent”).

Understandably, the public is inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to people the government describes as “moderates” and portrays as our “allies.” If transnational progressives were grilled on these vaporous terms, though, and forced to concede, say, that the Muslim Brotherhood was the purportedly “moderate opposition” our government wants to support in Syria, the public would object. While not expert in the subject, many Americans are generally aware that the Brotherhood supports terrorism, that its ideology leads young Muslims to graduate to notorious terrorist organizations, and that it endorses oppressive Islamic law while opposing the West. Better for progressives to avoid all that by one of their dizzying, internally nonsensical word games — hence, “moderate Islamist.”

I rehearse all that because last week, right on cue, representatives of Brotherhood-tied Islamist organizations appeared with Obama-administration officials and other apologists for Islamic supremacism to ostentatiously “condemn” the Islamic State as “not Islamic.”

As I recount with numerous examples in The Grand Jihad, this is the manipulative double game the Brotherhood has mastered in the West, aided and abetted by progressives of both parties. While speaking to credulous Western audiences desperate to believe Islam is innately moderate, the Brothers pretend to abhor terrorism, claim that terrorism is actually “anti-Islamic,” and threaten to brand you as an “Islamophobe” racist — to demagogue you in the media, ban you from the campus, and bankrupt you in court — if you dare to notice the nexus between Islamic doctrine and systematic terrorism committed by Muslims. Then, on their Arabic sites and in the privacy of their mosques and community centers, they go back to preaching jihad, championing Hamas, calling for Israel’s destruction, damning America, inveighing against Muslim assimilation in the West, and calling for society’s acceptance of sharia mores.

The Investigative Project’s John Rossomando reports on last Wednesday’s shenanigans at the National Press Club. The Islamist leaders who “urged the public to ignore [the Islamic State’s] theological motivations,” included “former Council on American-Islamic Affairs (CAIR) Tampa director Ahmed Bedier, [who] later wrote on Twitter that IS [the Islamic State] ‘is not a product of Islam,’ and blamed the United States for its emergence.”

Also on hand were moderate moderator Haris Tarin, Washington director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); Imam Mohamed Magid, former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); and Johari Abdul-Malik, an imam at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va. All of these Islamists are consultants to the Obama administration on policy matters; Magid is actually a member Obama’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.

Where to begin? CAIR, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, is a Muslim Brotherhood creation conceived to be a Western-media-savvy shill for Islamic supremacism in general, and Hamas in particular. At the 2007–08 terrorism-financing prosecution of Hamas operatives in the Holy Land Foundation case — involving a Brotherhood conspiracy that funneled millions of dollars to Palestinian jihadists — CAIR was proven to be a co-conspirator, albeit unindicted. Mr. Bedier, who is profiled by the Investigative Project here, is a notorious apologist for Hamas — the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, which is formally designated as a terrorist organization under U.S. law. He also vigorously championed such terrorists as Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Sami al-Arian (who pled guilty in 2006 to conspiring to provide material support to terrorism).

I’ve profiled MPAC here. It was founded by disciples of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and champions of both Hezbollah and the Sudanese Islamists who gave safe-haven to al-Qaeda during the mid Nineties. After the atrocities of September 11, 2001, MPAC’s executive director, Salam al-Marayati, immediately urged that “we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list.” Without a hint of irony, MPAC’s main business is condemning irrational suspicion . . . the “Islamophobia” it claims Muslims are systematically subjected to. Like many CAIR operatives and other purveyors of victim politics, MPAC officials tend to double as Democratic-party activists.

Magid’s organization, ISNA, is the most important Muslim Brotherhood organization in the United States. I have profiled it in these pages a number oftimes. As detailed in The Grand Jihad, it is the Islamist umbrella organization that traces its origins to the Muslim Students Association, the foundation of the Brotherhood’s American infrastructure.

The MSA, which indoctrinates students in the jihadist-lauding works of Banna and Sayid Qutb, has not surprisingly been the launch point for several prominent terrorists — Patrick Poole provides the scorecard here, which includes al-Qaeda founder Wael Julaidan; al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlakial Qaeda financier and Hamas/Hezbollah champion Abdurrahman Alamoudi; and Aafia Siddiqui, the notorious “Lady al-Qaeda” who was captured apparently plotting a terror rampage targeting New York City, who attempted to murder as U.S. Army captain while in custody, and whose release the Islamic State has been demanding. (Other MSA alumni include ousted Egyptian president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, and top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.)

I profiled the Dar al-Hijrah mosque and Johari Abdul-Malik, one of its very interesting imams, in both The Grand Jihad and a 2010 column. At a 2001 conference hosted by the Islamic Association of Palestine — an organization the Muslim Brotherhood established to promote Hamas in the United States — Abdul Malik advised that Muslims could “blow up bridges” and “do all forms of sabotage” as long as they avoided “kill[ing] people who are innocent on their way to work.” As he works to make Islam “the dominant way of life” in America (as he put it in a Friday “sermon” in 2004), he shrugs off the mosque’s history of praising violent jihad, comparing jihadist “martyrs” to the United States Marines.

One of the founders of Dar al-Hijrah was Ismail Elbarasse, a Muslim Brotherhood operative who was a friend and business partner of Mousa abu Marzook — a high Hamas official who, before being deported, actually ran that terrorist organization from his Virginia home. It was from Elbarasse’s home that the FBI seized the 1991 Brotherhood memo from which I derived the title of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America — a document in which the Brotherhood described its “work in America” as
a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers, so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions. 
Dar al-Hijrah’s imams and board members have included a who’s who of the jihad:

Anwar al-Awlaki, the aforementioned al-Qaeda operative;

Mohammed al-Hanooti, a former Islamic Association of Palestine leader and major Hamas fundraiser;

Mohammed Adam El-Sheikh, a founder of the Muslim American Society (the Brotherhood’s quasi-official presence in the U.S.) who ran the Baltimore office of the Islamic American Relief Agency until that charity was shut down by the Treasury Department for supporting al-Qaeda;

Abdelhaleem Asquar, serving a federal prison sentence for obstructing an investigation of Hamas’s American support network;

Samir Salah, who helped Osama bin Laden’s nephew set up another charity (Taiba International Aid Association) that was shut down for bankrolling terrorism;

Esam Omeish, a Democrat who was forced to resign from a state-government immigration panel after the emergence of videos showing his praise for “the jihad way” against Israel.

With such a cast of characters, the mosque has predictably attracted some notorious attendees, including the aforementioned terrorists Marzook and Alamoudi; Nidal Hasan, the jihadist who murdered 13 American soldiers at Fort Hood; Omar Abu Ali, the one-time valedictorian at Virginia’s Islamic Saudi Academy who is now serving a life sentence after joining al-Qaeda and conspiring to murder President George W. Bush; and 9/11 suicide hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour — Awlaki’s ofttimes companions whose presence cannot be all that surprising since an al-Hijrah Islamic Center phone number was found in the Hamburg apartment shared by 9/11 ringleaders Mohammed Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

By appearing with leaders of Dar al-Hijrah, ISNA, MPAC, and CAIR, the Obama administration and its allies are telling us that these purportedly “moderate Islamists” are the allies America needs to defeat the Islamic State.

Seriously?

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.