If we’re not talking about theology we’re not really talking about the problem.
Why is it that so many of the same people who are skeptical about exporting liberalism (count me as one) are perfectly content with the idea of importing illiberalism?
Even as the terrorist attacks in Paris were happening, a predictable debate broke out over the millions of Islamic refugees now pouring into the West from the Arab world. We were once again asked to pretend that Islamic terrorism materializes in a vacuum that has absolutely nothing to do with theological beliefs of the majority of people in the Middle East and thus nothing to do with brutality and oppression that prevail in the region.
One of the most common talking points regarding refugees has been this:
From the Vox piece:
This kind of emotional appeal avoids some very inconvenient facts. For starters, it looks like at least one of the attackers was a been (update: or posed) as a refugee from Syria. Put another way: he was a terrorist posing as a refugee — one of the most potent arguments refugee opponents offered.Again, we still don’t know who’s to blame for the Paris attacks, whether a jihadist group was involved, or the motives involved. But if a jihadist group is the culprit, these kinds of terrorist organizations are exactly the kind of danger that many Syrian refugees are fleeing from. It is ISIS, after all, that has terrorized so much of Syria — and forced people to flee their homes to avoid violence.
Whatever the case, it’s true that most refugees are fleeing genuine and horrifying violence. But it is also true that many refugees bring with them — through their culture, ideology, and faith — the same conditions that bred the violence in the first place. It has nothing to do with what immigrants “look” like or how many superb and moral Muslims there are in the world (because there are many) and everything to do with what these refugees believe.
The vast majority of Muslims aren’t terrorists, but in the contemporary world nearly all movements and ideas that produce political terrorism are birthed in Islamic communities that house mostly peaceful people. Mass immigration bolsters those communities with hundreds of thousands of new, unassimilated adherents in the middle of secular nations with belief systems that grate against Islamic worldview. How can Europe not expect some of them will embrace the radicalism and fundamentalism adopted to some extent in nearly every other major Islamic community?
It doesn’t only manifest in terrorism, but in the medievalism of whippings, mass hangings, stoning, and violent misogyny and bigotry — not just mean words.
The tragedy of Syria should make us sympathetic to the plight of refugees fleeing murderers, but that doesn’t change the fact that — according to a Pew poll and every other reputable polling that’s been done on the topic — “overwhelming percentages of Muslims in many countries want Islamic law (sharia) to be the official law of the land.” The losers of civil war are victims, but that doesn’t mean they have liberal values. When the Arab world has been granted the right to vote, it almost always backs religious extremism. It votes for Hamas and for the Muslim Brotherhood. ISIS and Shia terror groups aren’t funded by Kickstarter; they are partly funded by forces in Gulf States, Iran, and throughout the Islamic world.
Here at home, the restraints of feigned tolerance make debating this issue seem like we’re living in kindergarten circle time. When John Dickerson asked the Democratic candidates if they would use the words “radical Islam” at the presidential debate on Saturday to describe the enemy, not one of them would do so. Like the two presidents before them, Democrats now function in a fantastical alternative reality where every denomination is equally decent (other than, perhaps, orthodox Christians here in U.S.) and all of humanity share the same values and the same dreams.
“This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share,” Barack Obama explained after the attacks. All of humanity? No, it was an attack by fundamental Islam against Europeans. Just like 9/11 was an attack against the United States, stabbing civilians in the streets of Israel was an attack against Jews, and the Charlie Hebdo massacre was an attack against free expression.
When there is a deadly bombing in Beirut or horrifying assaults on civilian populations in Iraq or Syria, it is part of an ongoing factional religious war. This is not some ideology disconnected from all others that visits from outer space every few days to kill humans randomly. Yet, many of the same people who argue that ISIS was created by George Bush and climate change will also tell you that the group has nothing to do with Islam. It’s about economics. It’s about blowback. It’s about poverty. It’s about anything and everything but the theological war that’s actually going on.
None of this is to say Muslims can never assimilate in the West. The U.S., for the most part, proves the opposite. But there is nothing bigoted about being vigilant when embracing millions of new people who bring all kinds of illiberal baggage with them. If, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali says, we keep pretending this has nothing to do with Islam, we will never actually talk about the problem. There are many good Muslims, but if that’s the only criteria, no one will be able to be critical of any theology or ideology ever again.