Misrepresenting the ideology of Islamic terrorists

In their Nov. 12 Times Op-Ed article, “Our enemy is not Islam — it’s extremists,” Judith Miller and David Samuels wrote regarding the Ft. Hood shootings that “in taking aim at the evasive psycho-babble that dominated early news accounts, the right has engaged in an equally dangerous bias that conflates [Nidal Malik] Hasan’s radicalism with the religious beliefs of mainstream Muslims. In their narrative, any Muslim might suddenly ‘snap,’ as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within.” They identify me as a proponent of this view. While acknowledging that I added “sensibly that not all Muslims might be so inclined,” they assert that I “left it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.”

Miller and Samuels distort, quite egregiously, my views. In a different post from the one they referenced, I wrote:

“To be clear: it is the ultimate red herring, a straw man of gargantuan proportions, to suggest that those pointing to Hasan’s ... announced intentions (‘I am going to do good work for God’) are suggesting that Muslim soldiers as a group are untrustworthy or suspect. No, there is no ‘backlash’ in the works. What there is, and what elite opinion makers should recognize before the public’s fury builds, is that ignoring signs of Islamic-fundamentalist-inspired animus toward America will get people killed. It has. And it will again unless and until we stop tip-toeing around the obvious link between a murderous ideology and murder.”

In another blog post, I made a similar argument:

“But let’s be clear: the Army didn’t fail the ‘Muslim community’; it failed 43 wounded or slain people and their families. And to prevent it from happening again, we need to get over the diversity fetish (which imagines that Americans are too dumb to distinguish between nonviolent Muslims and those who’ve adopted a murderous ideology) and get on with the business of fighting a war against those who want many, many more Fort Hoods.”

One would be hard-pressed, after a fair reading of these, to conclude that I conflated fanatical jihadists with nonviolent Muslims or left “it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.” The opposite is obviously the case.

But there is something more fundamental and of greater consequence than the sloppy distillation of one commentator’s work. The suggestion by Miller and Samuels that what is really at play is the “perverted political ideology” of heretics who merely use the language of religion to achieve their goals deserves scrutiny.

Their argument might be strengthened by evidence that the brand of jihadist ideology we confront is alien to Islam or that its followers have been declared heretics by prominent Muslims. But the evidence for this is thin, if nonexistent. Cliff May, writing for National Review Online, reminds us: “Hateful, medievalist, supremacist, and genocidal ideologies, movements, and regimes have risen up from within the world’s Muslim communities. They are waging a war against the West -- and against Muslims who don’t go along with them.” To say that the majority of Muslims don’t subscribe to the strain of radical fundamentalism is a truism. To say that it is not rooted at all in Islam is sophistry.

Moreover, it really matters not so much what Miller, Samuels and I think; what is critical is what those committed to the slaughter of Americans think. And in this regard the evidence is mounting. Hasan printed business cards identifying himself as “SoA (SWT).” That would be “soldier of Allah,” with the parenthetical referencing the Arabic phrase, “Glory to him, the exalted.” Hasan reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) as he allegedly slaughtered his fellow soldiers. According to other reports, Hasan informed his neighbor before the shooting that he was “going to do good work for God.”

And then there is Hasan’s 50-slide PowerPoint presentation, which as Thomas Joscelyn described on the Weekly Standard’s blog, makes it “fairly obvious that Hasan endorsed the jihadist view of the world in which believers are rewarded, while the infidels are punished. And only those believers who truly follow Allah’s commandments will be rewarded in the afterlife. Allah’s demands, according to Hasan, included participation in an offensive jihad against Islam’s enemies.”

It is reasonable to conclude, given all of this, that Hasan certainly thought of himself as a Muslim believer on a mission from God. It was that which seems to have inspired him, as it did the 9/11 hijackers and those who attacked the U.S. warship Cole. If we want to understand America’s enemies, disrupt their plots and protect innocents, it would behoove us not to obscure or misrepresent the ideology that motivates them.

Jennifer Rubin is a contributing editor at Commentary magazine, where she writes for its “Contentions” blog.