'From a purely academic point of view, this translation is superior to anything produced by orientalists in the way of translations of major Islamic works." Taha Jabir al-Alwani was writing about Reliance of the Traveller, the English version of Umdat al-Salik, the classic manual of sharia ("Islamic Sacred Law," as the cover of Reliance puts it). Alwani is no lightweight in these matters. His specialty is fiqh -- Islamic jurisprudence. In fact, he has been a member of the Islamic Fiqh Academy in Saudi Arabia and is renowned among orientalist scholars in the West as president of the Fiqh Council of North America.
More significant, he was writing in his capacity as president of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). Headquartered in Virginia, IIIT is an Islamist think tank created by the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1980s.
I was reminded of Dr. Alwani when reading the latest hit job against my friends David Horowitz and Robert Spencer, authored by the Center for American Progress. Directed by Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta, CAP is a lushly financed leftist think tank that profoundly influences the Obama administration -- indeed, Podesta oversaw the Obama transition after the 2008 election. CAP's sugar daddy, George Soros, has made a cottage industry out of whitewashing Islamist ideology. This enterprise has lately produced a lengthy ad hominem rant called "Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America."
Islamophobia is a neologism coined by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is as practiced at the art of deception as any organization on Earth. It should come as no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is a smear, intended to discredit a phenomenon that, in truth, is neither a phobia -- i.e., an irrational fear -- nor concerned about Islam in general. The phenomenon, instead, is a quite rational disquiet about Islamists -- fundamentalist Muslims, some of whom are violent jihadists and some stealth jihadists. They seek incrementally to implant sharia principles in the West.
Islamist organizations abound in the United States. Like IIIT, many of them are affiliated with the Brotherhood and collaborate regularly with leftist organizations such as CAP. Reciprocally, CAP, like many in the Obama administration, advocates the Brotherhood's acceptance as a legitimate political party.
The Islamist groups purport to speak for the broader American Muslim community, but this is about as true as the claim that Occupy Wall Street speaks for 99 percent of Americans. Nevertheless, Islamist groups punch way above their weight, because they are lavishly financed, and they get red-carpet treatment from government officials -- a bad habit the Obama administration has exacerbated but certainly did not originate.
As I outlined in The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, the Muslim Brotherhood is engaged in a "civilizational jihad" against America, Europe, and Israel. There is no need to take my word for it: Islamists are quite blunt about this fact when they speak among themselves. The title of my book, in fact, is drawn from the words of an internal Brotherhood communiqué seized by the FBI, a memo in which the Brothers describe their work in America as a "grand jihad" aimed at "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."
It is no secret that the Brothers intend, as their leading jurisprudent, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, puts it, to "conquer America" and "conquer Europe." Moreover, they believe this can be done mostly without violence, through a sedulous campaign of voluntary apartheid (integrating with but not assimilating into the West) and the infiltration of sharia principles into our law and our institutions. One need only open one's eyes to see that Islamists are acting on these intentions, and one need only glance at Europe to know that their strategy can work.
There is nothing phobic about being concerned over this. And although Islamist ideology is undeniably a mainstream interpretation of Islam in many Islamic countries, that is not the case in the United States -- or, for that matter, in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world by population. Contrary to the Brotherhood smear that the Left blithely retails, justifiable anxiety over the Brotherhood's designs is not a generalized fear of Muslims.
Naturally, this does not stop the CAP report from liberally applying the "Islamophobe" smear to Horowitz, Spencer, and other conservative commentators. I'm also mentioned in the report, something I learned about only a couple of days ago, when the castigation of Horowitz and Spencer was brought to my attention. Ordinarily, I'd sit through an Obama speech on Solyndra's solar-bright future before I'd waste my time reading a Soros-funded report about a Soros hobby-horse. But David and Robert did read it, and responded forcefully. That prompted a reply from CAP's Matthew Duss, a co-author of the "Fear, Inc." report.
Duss's screed is the CAP report in small compass: long on character assassination, short on substance, disingenuous in relating its targets' position on Islam (as opposed to Islamist ideology), and woefully incomplete on Islamic scripture. That's to be expected, and I'm sure it will be a big hit at the many confabs where Islamists and leftists gather. More offensive is CAP's plea that National Review go lefty and turn Horowitz and Spencer into non-persons. CAP is basically the Obama administration's brain -- where could NR and the Right possibly get more well-meaning advice about who should have credibility in our movement?
As precedent, Duss purports to rely on Bill Buckley's famed ejection of the Birchers. The comparison is noxious, but typical. It was only a few years ago that a CAP offshoot ("Campus Progress") absurdly slandered Horowitz as a racist because he, like the vast majority of Americans, was opposed to the notion that Americans who had nothing to do with slavery should pay slavery reparations to people who were never slaves, 137 years after the abolition of slavery. (CAP might have considered stepping up to the plate for those still living in slavery in Saudi Arabia and Sudan, Islamic countries where the Koran's express approval of slavery enables the institution to endure.)
Horowitz, of course, is a former radical leftist who became a conservative of singular eloquence. With his intimate knowledge of how the progressive project works, David is his era's most consequential detractor of the Left, which has only slightly less contempt for its apostates than does Islam (on which more momentarily). Spencer, the longtime director of the invaluable Jihad Watch, is a scholar of sharia who works tirelessly to expose the global Islamist threat and to track the sundry collaborations of Islamists and leftists. To equate their carefully documented, amply supported critiques of Islamism to Robert Welch's lunatic claim that Dwight Eisenhower was a closet Communist is contemptible.
It is not my burden to refute what Duss has said about Horowitz and Spencer. As one would expect, they have done that ably, here and here. Nor is there benefit in spending much time on what Duss claims is "the actual argument made in 'Fear, Inc.,' which is that they, along with a small cadre of self-appointed experts and activists, promote the idea that religiously inspired terrorism represents true Islam." I have said any number of times that I do not presume to say what "true Islam" is, or even if there is a single true Islam. What the true Islam may be is irrelevant to U.S. national security; what matters is that Islamist ideology -- which fuels both the terrorist threat and the Muslim Brotherhood's multi-faceted civilizational jihad -- is a mainstream construction of Islam to which many millions of Muslims adhere. If they believe it and act on it, it is a threat regardless of whether it is an authentic expression of "true Islam."
I've pointedly and repeatedly observed that our government could not have thwarted terrorist attacks without the assistance of patriotic Muslims who've worked against the violent jihadists. And, like Horowitz and Spencer, I regularly use the term "Islamist" rather than "Islam" to draw a distinction between the ideology of the enemy and Islam as it is practiced by most American Muslims, and by millions of Muslims throughout the world. We can make a sober concession that Islamist ideology draws on Islamic scripture without leaping to the conclusion that it is the only legitimate interpretation of Islamic scripture.
The most risible aspect of CAP's Islamophobia smear is that it cavalierly sells out the Muslims it pretends to defend. As the commentators CAP vilifies are wont to point out, among the most persecuted victims of Islamist ideology are Muslim women, Muslim homosexuals, and patriotic American Muslims who, in the tradition of E Pluribus Unum, want to empower their fellow Muslims to assimilate and enjoy Western civil-rights norms -- in sharp contrast to Islamists, who regard encouraging Muslims to assimilate in the West as a "crime against humanity." Duss, however, tells us not to worry about sharia's compatibility with "a modern society," because its more unsavory features are not reflected in the practice of Islam by most American Muslims, whom Duss describes as "Sharia-adherent."
Of course, the problem is that American Muslims are being encouraged (and in some cases, coerced) into fundamentalist sharia -- to which most of them are certainly not adherent -- by Muslim Brotherhood organizations such as IIIT, which CAP is abetting, whether knowingly or not. (See, e.g., the signatures of IIIT and CAP, along with various other organizations, on this 2009 letter advising President Obama on democracy promotion in the Middle East, also available on the Muslim Brotherhood website, here.) That brings us back to Dr. Alwani and the English translation of Reliance of the Traveller.
The IIIT president's lavish praise for the translation, which he called an "eminent work of Islamic jurisprudence," was not idle. It was written in an IIIT report that is included in the preface of Reliance as an endorsement of the manual's rendering of sharia. The purpose of the translation, Alwani explained, is to make this faithful interpretation of sharia "accessible" to English speakers who are not fluent in the original Arabic. "The book will be of great use," he elaborated, "in America, Britain, and Canada," among other countries. Echoing IIIT's commendation is the certification that immediately follows from the Islamic Research Academy at al-Azhar University in Cairo, the ancient and profoundly influential seat of Sunni learning.
The manual is startling. To take just a few of its innumerable bracing instructions, it pronounces that:
The IIIT was established by Muslim Brotherhood figures in 1980. Its mission is the Islamization of knowledge -- "a new synthesis of all knowledge in an Islamic epistemological framework," as recounted in an important study, "The Muslim Brotherhood in the United States," authored by the Hudson Institute's Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World. As I've previously explained, the Brotherhood expressly identified the IIIT as being among "our organizations and the organizations of our friends" in internal memoranda seized by the FBI and admitted in evidence at the Hamas-financing trial. It shares common leaders with the Islamic Society of North America, another Brotherhood affiliate that was shown to be complicit in the Hamas-financing conspiracy. And Dr. Alwani himself was cited as an unindicted coconspirator in the Justice Department's prosecution against Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian, who ultimately pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge.
The IIIT's sharia -- the one it labors to make more "accessible" -- is not the form of Islam that American Muslims appear to desire. In fact, its gradual adoption, which the publication of Reliance was designed to facilitate, would make life incalculably worse for American Muslims. That is a fact of the sort that, for years, David Horowitz and Robert Spencer have taken many a sling and arrow to expose. It is a fact the Center for American Progress prefers to obscure. I doubt that factophobia will prove a winning strategy, either for American Muslims or for American national security.
By Andrew C. McCarthy
National Review Online
Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.