The Empire of Fear
By Robert Spencer
As I wrote last week, Muslim and non-Muslim analysts often tell us that Muslims hate the West for its decadence, its immorality, its lasciviousness, which they contrast unfavorably with the supposed morality and uprightness of the Islamic world. Often this boils down to a Muslim critique of Western “freedom,” especially as Bush and Obama pursued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan ostensibly to bring Western-style freedom to those countries.
In line with that, the Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali, once complained that “Australian law guarantees freedoms up to a crazy level.” Yet genuine freedom is an indispensable prerequisite for any cultivation of real virtue. Even the post-Christian West makes it more possible to be virtuous than the apparently much more straitlaced Islamic world. With its stonings, amputations, death penalties for an array of offenses including apostasy, Islam has created not a framework in which people can become genuinely good, but an empire of fear. People don’t dare step out of line, not out of an authentic understanding that the path of moral and ethical uprightness is preferable to the alternative, much less out of love for God or a real desire to please him, but because they are afraid of what would happen to them if they did depart from Islam’s vision of morality.
Certainly the same critique can be leveled to some degree against societies that were more Christian than our present one, and this is not to say that society has no right or responsibility to legislate against immoral activity. Still, were people unable to choose to do evil, their choosing of the good would not be a manifestation of virtue, but merely of fear and the power of coercion. Those who have no choice but to be good demonstrate nothing about whether their beliefs enable or inspire them to choose the good when they could just as easily not do so.
Islam does not see virtue this way. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini once thundered: “Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors!”
Even the popular conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza, before he came to agree with the Islamic critique of Western immorality, wrote in 2004: “Consider the woman in Afghanistan or Iran who is required to wear the veil. There is no real modesty in this, because the woman is being compelled. Compulsion cannot produce virtue; it can only produce the outward semblance of virtue.” Yet three years later D’Souza had moved to the other side of the fence: “When you make America synonymous with permissiveness, when you dismiss serious moral offenses with a no-big-deal attitude…you are driving the traditional Muslims into the arms of the radicals.”
D’Souza appeared to be unaware that something quite similar to Western “permissiveness” was already written into Islamic law, albeit with a fig leaf of morality over it. In Islamic law we see circumstances permitting lying (cf. Muhammad’s dictum “war is deceit”), stealing (under the guise of the lawful seizure of the property of the victims of jihad, and the collection of the poll tax -- jizya -- from the subjugated Jews and Christians), rape (understood as the lawful sexual enslavement of infidel women captured in jihad warfare), and murder (if the victim is a non-Muslim who is understood to be at war with Islam, or someone who has simply been accused of “blaspheming” Islam or Muhammad).
These outrages, and others like them, blunt Islam’s moral critique of the West and should deter American social conservatives from seeing “conservative Muslims,” in D’Souza’s phrase, as potential allies in the culture wars. They also highlight how radically different Islamic law is from the core values and principles of American society. However, since “war is deceit” after all, the Islamic supremacist propaganda machine, with the willing help of the mainstream media, will continue to obscure these vital truths for most Americans. Nonetheless, as Islam continues to expand its presence in the U.S., the horrors of Sharia and the Empire of Fear it creates will eventually become obvious here – although probably only when it is too late.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad.