On September 10, 2001, we Americans -- we Westerners -- we citizens of the world -- went to sleep comfortable and complacent. On September 11 we were rudely awakened; we found our land attacked and our people violated; and we came face to face with the manifest existence of evildoers who wished to destroy us.
Then arose the refrain: "Why do they hate us?" "Is not Islam a religion of peace?" "We must have done something horrible to bring this on." "It must be our foreign policy, or our spiritual decadence, or our cultural imperialism, or even our very success in commerce, production, science, and technology."
I, too, wondered. I began a program of reading and research to understand the nature of the West and the nature of Islam. I still have much to learn. But I know now much more than I knew on September 11, 2001.
I know that the jihad of Islam against the West is not solely a battle of Muslims against Christians (or, in the case of most Europeans, the heirs to Christendom). I know that Islam has waged its so-called holy war against Zoroastrians in Persia, against animists in Africa, against Hindus and Buddhists in India and Southeast Asia, against Taoists and Confucianists in China, against Berbers in the Maghreb, against Jews in Palestine -- as much if not more than against Christians in ancient Syria, Asia Minor, the Balkans, Hungary, Iberia, Armenia, Sicily, Crete, Lebanon, and beyond.
I know that Islam means submission -- submission to the arbitrary will of Allah, submission to the ravings of Muhammad, submission to the arbitrary edicts of strongmen on earth -- and thus abject and total fatalism in spiritual matters, irrationalism in intellectual matters, and authoritarianism in temporal matters.
I know that Islam is not a religion of peace. I know that the Koran enjoins Muslims to not make friends with those who do not believe in Allah, and even says to "seize them and kill them wherever you find them" (sura 4.89). I know that according to one of the hadiths Muhammad said: "I have been ordered by Allah to fight and kill all mankind until they say, 'No God except Allah and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.'"
I know that Islam holds that all truths are contained in the Koran and that new truths cannot be discovered. I know that Islam is thus opposed to science, technology, and progress. As one of the hadiths says, "Verily the most truthful communication is the Book of Allah, the best guidance is from Muhammad, and the worst of all things are innovations; every innovation is heresy, every heresy is error, and every error leads to hell."
I know that Islam endorses slavery, oppresses non-Muslims, and is opposed to human dignity, especially the dignity of women. I know that under the sharia (the Islamic law), the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man. I know that under Islam, a woman is not to seek her own fulfillment, but exists only to please a man.
I know that the West's struggle against communism in the twentieth century was merely a blip on the historical radar, whereas the struggle of Islam against all other cultures has been a constant of human history for almost 1400 years.
I know that many Muslims believe it is inevitable that all of humanity must eventually believe in Allah, his Prophet Muhammad, his holy book the Koran as the only source of human wisdom, his law the sharia as the only law; and that all other cultures must submit to the will of Allah, whether willingly or by the sword.
I know that many Muslims are not violent; but at the same time I know that the term "Islamic fundamentalism" is redundant, because to be a Muslim is to believe that the Koran holds all truth, that nothing new can be discovered because it was all discovered by Muhammad, that anyone but a Muslim is in error and shall roast in Hell for all eternity.
I know that it is claimed that many Muslims are moderates, not radicals; but at the same time I see no evidence of this so-called moderate Muslim majority rising up in protest against their extremist, terrorist, jihadist brethren, because in their hearts they know that the Koran condones and excuses and encourages all believers to slay the unbelievers wherever they may be found.
I know that we -- the peoples of the West, the peoples of Europe and America, indeed also the peoples of India and Russia and China and Africa -- live in what Muslims consider the lands of war (Dar al-Harb). I know that we are being warred upon and that we have been warred upon whenever possible for almost 1400 years. I know that this war will not end as long as there are people who believe in the Koran as the literal word of God, whose minds will never be open to innovation or science, who consider a woman to be half of a man, who consider the life of one who does not believe in Allah to be worth less than nothing.
I know that we must stop trading with those who want to kill us (or those who, directly or indirectly, fund those who want to kill us), that we must not tolerate them, not support them, not grant them recognition, not collaborate or negotiate with them in any way, shape, or form.
I know that there are many enemies of freedom and enlightenment, of science and democracy, of open inquiry and personal choice, of free minds and free markets. I know that even the West contains such enemies. But I know that there is no greater enemy of freedom and enlightenment than Islam.
I know that there will be no peace until freedom and enlightenment reach the lands of submission (the Dar al-Islam). Yet I know that speading freedom and enlightenment is perhaps the hardest and subtlest struggle of any civilization, especially when the soil in which the seeds must be sowed is so virulently opposed to precisely freedom and enlightenment.
I know that it will be supremely difficult for the peoples of the West to maintain and expand their traditions of freedom and enlightenment while resisting those who would have us submit to Allah, Muhammad, sharia, fatalism, and authoritarianism. I know that it will be even harder for the peoples of India, Russia, China, and Africa, who lack the strong and deep traditions of freedom and enlightenment we take for granted in the West.
I know that the peoples of the Anglosphere -- the Americans, the Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the British, etc. -- are the greatest targets for the forces of submission, because our traditions of freedom and enlightenment are more deeply engrained and more fully developed than those of any other peoples on earth.
I know that, despite its faults, Western civilization is the greatest, freest, most enlightened, most open, most advanced, most peaceful, most ethical civilization in the history of humanity. I know that the West is the last, best hope of earth. I know that freedom and enlightenment must be defended, articulated, and indeed actively and confidently spread to every far corner of the earth if humanity is to survive and advance, as individuals and as a species.
I wish that it were not so, but I know that we live in difficult, challenging times, and that in all likelihood the times will become harder before they become easier.
I know that one small voice cannot have much influence on the course of history, but I know that each of us must do what we can to defend, articulate, and spread freedom and enlightenment. And I know that I will strive to do so every day of my life, because to do anything less would be to submit to the forces of slavery and darkness.
--September 10, 2006
Peter Saint-Andre > Writings > Essays