Surveillance in Muslim communities is indispensable for defeating terrorism.
Imam Omar Abu Namous, right, leads a prayer service at the Islamic Center of New York in 2002. (Joe Kohen/AP)
With no hope of winning an argument on the facts, demagogues resort to the argument ad hominem. Too often, it works. And in the modern “progressive” West, no demagogic tactic works better than branding one’s political adversaries as racists. That is why the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential Islamic-supremacist organization, dreamed up the term “Islamophobia.” It is why Western progressives, stalwart allies of the Brotherhood, have lustily embraced the Islamophobia smear tactic — even sought to engrave it in our law, in brazen violation of the First Amendment.
It beats trying to refute the irrefutable nexus between Islamic scripture, sharia supremacism, and jihadist terror. It beats trying to rationalize the sheer idiocy of a policy, their policy, that idealizes Islam as the irenic monolith they would like it to be, rather than the complex of competing and contradictory convictions it is. Of the latter, the most dynamic is the conviction that Islam is an alternative civilization determined to conquer the West by force, by political pressure, by cultural aggression, and by exploiting Western civil liberties (liberties that are forbidden in the sharia societies Islamists would impose).
Ted Cruz found himself in the middle of this demagogic storm this week. Reacting to the latest jihadist atrocity in Brussels, in which 31 were killed and 230 wounded, Senator Cruz argued that to protect our national security against radical Islamic terror networks, it is imperative for law enforcement to conduct surveillance in Muslim communities.
Cruz was not calling for a dragnet targeting all Muslims. In his presidential campaign (to which I am an adviser), he has stressed the importance of identifying the enemy as radical Islam. That is not campaign rhetoric; it is how we figure out who warrants surveillance — and far from being anything new, it is how counterterrorism was done before President Obama came to power. Yet, as night follows day, the Islamist-leftist alliance pounced with the fury of an emperor whose lack of clothes has just been noticed.
It is simply, undeniably, a fact that some Muslim mosques and surrounding communities are hotbeds of Islamic supremacism, a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that holds that Muslims must struggle against non-believers — by force and by all other means –- until Allah’s law (sharia) is established throughout the world. Islamic supremacism is not the only way of construing Islam, and millions of Muslims reject it. This, however, does not undo the remorseless fact that millions of Muslims accept it, that it is a mainstream construction of Islam (it is, for example, the Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood), and that it has a considerable following in the West.
Why do millions of Muslims accept it? Why do I describe it as a “fundamentalist” interpretation of Islam? Because it is drawn literally from scriptures, which are quite easy to read and grasp. That is why Islamists and leftists slander as a racist/Islamophobe anyone who points out this inconvenient fact. They want you to smile and repeat after them: “Religion of Peace!” — end of story. They are desperate that you do not pick up the Koran (which Muslims take to be the verbatim, immutable word of Allah) and read what Muslims read, such as this (from the ninth chapter, or sura):
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor Hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
(The jizya is a tax imposed on dhimmis — non-Muslims who are permitted to live because they’ve submitted to the authority of an Islamic state. It is designed to remind them of their inferior status under Muslim law, so that they “feel themselves subdued.”)
Again, as I have pointed out on numerous occasions, there are modernist Muslims who embrace the Western Enlightenment and reject the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam — Islam for them truly is a faith rather than a totalitarian political ideology. But while we welcome them into our society (many of them are our fellow Americans), it makes no more sense to see them as the only true Muslims and thus absolve Islam than it would to see the fundamentalists as the only true Muslims and condemn Islam.
We have to distinguish between the two, our security requires targeting surveillance on the hostiles, and non-fundamentalist Muslims — if they are sincere — have as great an interest as anyone in the identification, marginalization, and defeat of the fundamentalists. So we also have to stop walking on eggshells about this, as if commonsense defense measures signaled the rise of the Third Reich.
The challenge we face is not merely jihadists. They constitute the forcible factions of Islamic supremacism. There are other cohorts. Islamic supremacism self-describes as a civilizational alternative to the West. It pulls every cultural and political lever to introduce and codify sharia — the same goal jihadists pursue. This means the jihadist threat arises and thrives within a larger support system of ideological sympathizers.Though not terrorists themselves, these Muslims provide moral and material support to the jihad — very much including their silent acceptance of jihadists in their midst.
This is why, in Europe, jihadists succeed in virtually hiding in plain sight for months on end, despite continent-wide manhunts. They move easily between and within communities notoriously sympathetic to fundamentalist Islam and thus hostile to Western police. The vast majority of Muslims in these communities are not terrorists, but many applaud the jihadists; others, opposed to the jihadists, are too intimidated to alert the authorities about suspicious goings-on. These communities have become safe havens. Law enforcement has ceased being a presence, much less conducting surveillance; therefore, the recruitment for and plotting of terrorist attacks proceeds apace.
This experience is not foreign to the United States. In 1995, I led the prosecution of the jihadist cell directed by the “Blind Sheikh” (Omar Abdel Rahman), which carried out the 1990 assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, besides unsuccessfully plotting to bomb other New York City landmarks, to attack U.S. military installations, and to assassinate American and other pro-Western political officials. In the nine-month trial, we proved two things of great consequence.
First, there was a straight line of causation between commands to jihadist violence in Islamic scripture; the exploitation of those scriptures by a renowned Islamic scholar in order to urge jihadist attacks against America, Israel, and the West; and the execution of jihadist strikes by young Muslims against Western targets. Second, the hubs of jihadist activity were the mosques and Islamic community centers in Muslim communities where fundamentalist Islam was mainstream. Mosques and community centers were used to store and transfer weapons, raise funds, recruit young Muslims to jihad, propose attack plans, and study potential targets that had been cased. This is not a theory; it happened, and we proved it.
Moreover, it happened quite strategically. Let’s nudge ourselves from our “Religion of Peace” slumbers for a moment and consider Muslim Brotherhood ideology — the main subject of my 2010 book, The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. Not only are the writings of the Brotherhood’s founding theorists (Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, to name the most prominent) readily available; the organization’s strategy in the West was laid bare by the Justice Department in the 2007–08 Holy Land Foundation prosecution of a conspiracy to fund Hamas (the terrorist organization that is the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch).
I did not pull the title of my book out of the sky or from the dark recesses of my Islamophobic mind. I took it from the Brotherhood’s own words, in internal memoranda seized by the FBI from a high-ranking operative of the organization. The key memo explained that the Brotherhood’s American tentacles (including CAIR, one of the outfits that attacked Senator Cruz) see their mission 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. [Quotes in original.]
The plan for carrying out this grand jihad against Western civilization is based on Banna’s vision of a ground-up revolution, in which the use of force plays a part but is just one aspect of a multi-faceted aggression arsenal. Banna taught that, in each city and town where the Brotherhood operated, the mosque and Islamic community center must be the “axis” of the fundamentalist movement. This is reflected in the Brotherhood memoranda, which elaborate on the goal of forming:
an effective and stable Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood, which adopts Muslims’ causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observant Muslim base, aims at unifying and directing Muslims’ efforts, presents Islam as a civilization alternative, and supports the global Islamic state, wherever it is.
That last part is worth pausing over: Fundamentalists see Islam as a civilization alternative to the West, and their ultimate loyalty is to a global Islamic state, not the Western state they happen to be living in. They want their communities to be Islamic enclaves where sharia principles control and where fealty to fellow Muslims — even Muslim terrorists — is prized over loyalty to the home government and its police authorities.
Following the 9/11 attacks, counterterrorism policy shifted away from the Clinton approach of treating radical Islamic terrorism as a law-enforcement challenge, which essentially meant prosecutions only after Americans had been killed. The new strategy regarded jihadism as a national-security challenge and aimed to prevent attacks from happening. Such a strategy must be intelligence-driven. It must be based on an understanding of the nature of the threat and surveillance of the places where the threat thrives.
As I’ve discussed before, Obama-style national security — “Countering Violent Extremism” — denies the Islamic ideological component of terrorism. Because it indulges a counter-reality in which there is only a single, resolutely peaceful Islam, it denies that jihadists have a support system of ideological sympathizers in Muslim communities. Terrorists, instead, are imagined as non-Islamic (indeed, anti-Islamic) “violent extremists” who kill because . . . uh . . . well . . . don’t ask us why — all we know is that it has nothing to do with Islam, and don’t go quoting the Koran at us, you haters!
This week we continued to watch Europe disintegrate precisely because its swelling fifth column of non-assimilable fundamentalist Muslim communities are abetting the jihadist war against the West. Ted Cruz seized on the moment to urge that we not follow Europe down the Obama path, that we return to the intelligence-driven counterterrorism strategy that targets surveillance at communities where fundamentalist ideology is prevalent — under circumstances where we know, from hard experience, that our enemies intentionally use mosques and Islamic community centers as their operations base.
If that makes him an Islamophobe, we should all be Islamophobes.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.
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