Is Islam good for individuals? Is Islam good for societies?
It is almost universally assumed by elites that Islam is good, and that even to ask such questions is offensive. But there is good reason to raise them anyway.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Monday that the Nice truck attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel “showed a certain recent interest for radical jihadist movements.” French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve likewise said that he “appears to have become radicalised very quickly.” A neighbor of Bouhlel’s wife noted: “Mohamed only started visiting a mosque in April.”
Yet apparently contradicting all this was authorities’ subsequent announcement that Bouhlel had planned his attack for months. Either authorities were caught flat-footed, which would be no surprise, and the neighbor was wrong or lying about Bouhlel’s mosque attendance – or else Bouhlel underwent a serious change, growing more religious and beginning to attend mosque as he began plotting his jihad attack.
There is good reason to believe that’s what happened. Evidence indicates that Bouhlel was highly promiscuous, with numerous liaisons with both women and men. While this has been trumpeted as evidence that Bouhlel was not a Muslim, it is really only evidence that he was a bad Muslim. If he really did not attend mosque, did not pray, did not observe Ramadan, drank alcohol, ate pork and took drugs, he may have been a bad Muslim who experienced an awakening and thought, I’m headed for hell. What great deed can I perform that will outweigh all my evil deeds?
And the answer to that question, of course, is jihad, the greatest of all Islamic deeds.
A hadith (an accepted oral account of Muhammad’s words and deeds) says Muhammad was asked what deed equals jihad in heavenly reward. He replied, “I do not find such a deed” (Bukhari 4.56.2785). And so Bouhlel rented the truck and waged his jihad in the hope of earning his religious redemption and the supposed 72 virgins.
There are numerous other examples of relatively secular Muslims becoming disastrously Islamic.
Gulchekhra Bobokulova, the Russian woman who last year beheaded a toddler and brandished the severed head outside a train station, had recently grown devout in her observance of Islam, and had started wearing the hijab. San Bernardino jihad murderer Tashfeen Malik, according to the Associated Press, several years ago “started dressing more conservatively, wearing a scarf that covered nearly all her face, and became more fervent in her Muslim faith, according to some who knew her in Pakistan.”
These examples suggest a very unpleasant reality — that introducing Islam into free societies based on meritocracy and freedom is tantamount to throwing a lit match into a barrel of gasoline.
In Arab societies, losers are socially humiliated and also impose shame on their friends and family. Obvious Islamic piety and observance provides a partial redemption.
Muslim losers in the West, however, have an additional option — they can redeem themselves from personal and familial humiliation by an outburst of murderous piety, be it performed with a machete, truck, gun or bomb, against nearby non-Muslims.
These redemptive outbursts of jihad are theologically and socially 100 percent halal.
Islam in its classic, dominant and mainstream formulations encourages Muslims at all strata of society to impose the wrath of Allah against those who have violated one of the many, many rules imposed by the deity: “Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands” (Qur’an 9:14).
Winston Churchill, in a less cowardly, fantasy-besotted and authoritarian time than ours, declared that “individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.”
Islam was “as dangerous in a man as [rabies] in a dog,” he added.
Could Churchill have been right? Is Islam a retrograde force in the lives of individuals?
Several years ago while in Israel, I took a tour of the ancient city of Caesarea. Part of the tour consisted of maps projected onto the wall of the city as it appeared under the rule of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks, and the Israelis. The city was thriving in four of these epochs, but became a backwater and a ghost town in two: under the Arabs and the Turks, the only periods during which the city’s mixed populations were under the rule of Islamic law.
Was this just coincidence, or did Islam somehow cause the city’s decline?
Caesarea is not alone. We hear much nowadays about the glorious Golden Age of Islamic civilization, which was, we’re told, an early trailblazer of scientific invention and cultural/religious tolerance. This only begs the question, however, of why scientific invention and cultural/religious tolerance are found virtually nowhere in the Islamic world today. Could Islam itself have had something to do with their disappearance?
Barack Obama and all other Western leaders are unshakably committed to the proposition that Islam is at worst benign, and at best a positive benefit for society, with the problem of jihad terrorism having nothing to do with it.
A great deal is riding on the ruling elites’ assumption that Islam is benign. Immigration policies and law enforcement procedures in the U.S., Europe, and Australia — not to mention our war aims, strategy, and tactics in military conflicts where Americans are risking their lives — rely upon the truth of the core belief that Islam is beneficial for individuals and societies. Politicians from all over the political spectrum (including both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S.) clearly believe it would be political suicide to question this assumption.
But what if it’s civilizational suicide not to question it? What if the war on terror will remain unwinnable until our leaders see the human problem created when Islamic believers try to live amid modern secular meritocracy?
Any belief system can justly be criticized, and should be criticized when it has been shown to have negative effects. Could Islam simply be bad for people in modern societies?
The same questions are routinely asked about Buddhism, secularism, Christianity and other belief systems. Why not Islam as well? Why not evaluate the evidence of each religion’s ability to work in unstable societies filled with winners and losers?
Our continued existence as a free nation could depend on our investigating questions such as these – before it’s 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. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.