The Limitations of Andrew C. McCarthy on Islam, Part I

In the February edition of Imprimis, the magazine of Hillsdale College, a contribution to what is fast becoming the Republican position on Islam was submitted by Andrew C. McCarthy, the leader of the prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 others in the 1993 failed attempt to bomb the World Trade Center. His thesis is that the Obama administration is wrong to distinguish between Islam and the terrorists. McCarthy suggests, quite persuasively, that the attempt to present Islam as a religion of peace distinct from the interpretation of the terrorists such as Rahman is a mistake of the simpleminded, politically correct democrats such as Bill Clinton and Janet Reno, and especially Barack Obama. In response, I will demonstrate the truth of the Administration’s position. Islam and ISIS are radically distinct, and avoiding a world war depends upon the distinction.

What Mr. McCarthy thinks he learned while doing that prosecution is that Islam and these Islamic terrorists are the same. Rahman is a “doctor of Islamic Jurisprudence” whose “area of academic expertise was Sharia- Islamic law.” As we have said elsewhere, the position of both the last two administrations, of Barack Obama and George Bush, and the whole assumption of the American response to the bombing of the World trade center on September 11, 2001 has been that Islam and this fundamentalism are fundamentally distinct, and that on this distinction depends the attempt to keep this war against Al Quaeda-ISIS from becoming a World War between everyone else and Islam. Islam has some 2 Billion, or 1.5 Billion followers. The aim of Al Quaeda, though, is to present this as a war with all of Islam so that they might just win. But without the collapse of this distinction, they will probably lose. The distinction is factually true, and this is one case where the right policy and a great deal of bloodshed depend on this thing, truth. The American right, becoming extreme in a new way, is playing again into Al-Qaeda hands. They are beating us again strategically, just as they did by sparking civil war between Shiite and Sunni with terrorist bombings of their fellow Muslims after we tried to leave Iraq.

Mr McCarthy cites Justice Robert Jackson in Jackson’s 1955 book Law in the Middle East regarding the way in which, “In its source, its scope and its sanctions, the law of the Middle East is the antithesis of Western Law.” McCarthy explains:

Sharia rejects freedom of speech as much as freedom of religion. It rejects the idea of equal rights between men and women as much as between Muslim and non-Muslim. It brooks no separation between spiritual life and civil society. It is a comprehensive framework for human life, dictating matters of government, economy, and combat…

It affirms or sanctions “Jihad in order to” “rule both believers and unbelievers.” But the question is first what kind of “antithesis” McCarthy intends, after slipping in that Jackson was also “Chief prosecutor of the war crimes trials at Nuremburg.” There are different kinds of opposites or antitheses, and the question regarding ISIS is that of the sort of beast with which are dealing.

The American principles, from the second sentence of the Declaration– the principles of the equal endowment with God given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness- are the deliberate antithesis of the whole medieval world. Hence they are also the antithesis of Christianity and Judaism or Israel, and in many of the same ways as those listed by Mr. McCarthy in order to present the antithesis of Islam as a whole and the West. The fact is that Islam the normal, decent traditional world religion is similar to modern Christianity and to modern Israel. It is a fact that they worship the same God, the God of Abraham. Radical interpretations of both Christianity and Israel  can be attempted, and sometimes are for both of these. The horrors of the Medieval persecutions, rivaling the Roman persecution of Christians through the first 313 years, were thought entirely scriptural, with text and verse cited to uphold these atrocities. Nor need we even raise the questions of Moses, nor the trumpet of Joshua striking terror into the hearts of the enemies of Israel. But let it be said, for those who do not read, that the religion of Moses is not a religion of peace in the literal sense. Mohammed brought the God of Abraham to the Arabs, who were once pagan, if also to the Persian Zoroastrians, who were not pagan. St. Paul was turned away when his journey would have taken him to the now Islamic parts of Asia Minor, past Troy to Bythinia, Galatia and Phrygia. He was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia (Acts 16:6-10), and we guess that this is because these people had not yet been prepared, as by having the Abrahamic legislator. These are the same people Churchill considered corrupted, as he would the contemporary Americans (and certainly Donald Trump), if in a different way. But Medieval Christianity too is the “antithesis of Western law” in many of these exact same ways. The same is true for slavery, justified from scripture, though we of course think that the New Testament, while not aiming to end the political institution of slavery, does just that, not through a political but a spiritual movement. That Islam is the antithesis of Western law  is then only because these places had not yet received the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment and then the Industrial age, as was received in the West. Non-radical Islam is simply a medieval tradition living on in the modern age, in a modernity that occurred in the West but has yet been exported to the East. Western thought has been received most often in the East as tyranny. These Western tyrannies are named fascism and communism, though there are a few free nations too, such as India. Without the Western Marx, the spawn of German philosophy, there would not have been 70 million dead in Russia in 70 years, 40 million dead in China in 40 years, and 3 million dead in Cambodia in 3 years. Fascism, though, has so far not been a Western export, but a political cancer effecting Western nations alone.

Radical Islam is more than just a revenge of the medieval world. It is a kind of totalitarianism, as occurred for the first time ever in the Twentieth Century. This new kind of tyranny is different from the old Aristotelian rule of one man according to his own interests or his own advantage, as in the six forms of the Aristotelian table of regimes. These differences have been addressed in a previous blog, but there was some question lately when President Obama and John Kerry announced that the world human rights organization would now consider what is occurring to be “genocide.” We apply this word from the example of Hitler especially regarding the Jews. Paul Johnson, in his book Modern Times, demonstrates how similar is the attempt of the Bolshevik communists to wipe out an entire economic class, the “bourgeoisie,” so that the word would then be “classocide,” to balance the emphasis on the word geno- in “genocide.” Now, while ISIS takes some elements from the Nazi hatred of the Jews and all the genetically inferior, radical Islam is more properly termed “religiocide.” It is mistermed “genocide,” though at least the multitude in the West will have a chance of understanding. It is toward especially the Christians now an attempt to attain a future imagined condition through the mass murder of a certain section of humanity, this time based not on race or class exactly, but on “religion.” Religiocide, then, is what we are dealing with in radical Islam, and this is radically distinct from Islam the traditional religion that teaches justice, chastity, charity, obedience to traditional ethical law regarding these things, and so forth. It is not, of course, that we would want to live under medieval Islam any more than we would want to live under the medieval Christianity from about 1215 through about 1776 A. D. But regarding chastity especially, one might see why traditional Islam would be a bit defensive toward the smutty contemporary West. Our Super Bowl half time shows were beginning to remind of the Roman empire of the first century, at least until the trend was turned a couple years ago. But this defensiveness of the medieval world is the chink in the wall where recruitment of traditional Islam toward radical Islam begins.

Similarly, all medieval religions are criticized from the perspective of the modern west regarding their treatment of women as property, suppression of free speech and religion, and failure to recognize the equal rights inherent in human nature. All medieval religions can also be said to aim at a picture of world-wide dominion of various sorts, and if the New Testament cannot in truth be pressed into service to uphold the war of the conquest of Jerusalem by the Knights of the Temple, it was surely not impossible that someone construe it this way. The prophesies of the world ruled from Jerusalem in both the Old and New testaments may just now admit of being read in a way that precludes any military application. It is surely necessary to read the Koran in detail, and the Arab world, having lacked the Western liberty of scholarship since the Islamic science of the 800’s, has not permitted the free inquiry that seems necessary to foster good commentary on the text. It is forbidden to preach Jesus in the Islamic world, much as it was forbidden in the medieval West, say, in the Spain of Maimonides, to preach or proselytize either Israel or Mohammed. This rejection of the freedom of religion occurred throughout the Western world, that is until Jefferson, or until Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, and in the succeeding generations, those he influenced, persuaded Madison and Jefferson that such a thing as freedom to pursue happiness through the freedom of religion, was possible. The first two clauses of our First Amendment guarantee that government will neither establish a religion nor proscribe the free exercise of religion, establishing to just this extent that confusing thing called a “wall of separation” between church and state. Prior, to Jefferson, Madison and the U. S. Bill of rights, it was assumed that all public order depended on such questions being settled before they were asked. In order to violate the freedom of religion without violating fundamental U. S. law, even a majority must amend the constitution by gaining the super-majorities needed to propose and then ratify such a thing. It is like the super-majority that would be needed to set aside the Fourth Amendment and legally violate privacy without a warrant-so we see that these things can indeed become passe, though they are illegal. Now, the free reading of the Koran is permitted perhaps ironically only in the West! But it is this free reading, indeed of all the texts, on which the world now depends to avoid a religiocide that has promised to be worse than the Nazi persecution, which was perhaps foretold to the Jews in the book of the prophet Daniel. This time it includes the Yaziti and the Christian, a religiocide effecting every form, including traditional or non-fundamentalist Islam.

That, Mr. McCarthy, is why you are wrong to collapse the distinction between traditional and radical Islam, and why the president and Jeffersonian America are right to embrace and protect traditional Islam. As with your Muslim friends that worked for the U. S. against the rabid Jihadists, perhaps they did this because they were descent and, unlike Western thought, could give an answer to the question of why murder is wrong.* (Go ahead, try to give a non-medieval answer: Western thought in fact depends upon the virtue instilled on the basis of something either ancient or medieval, or it would long ago have collapsed into the pursuit of mere self-interest, as is now occurring.)

This is why the CLC or something like it will now overtake the Republican party. Your policy, and that of the collapsing Republican party, plays right into the hands of ISIS, and leads to a third world war that America just might lose. And as the right wing here quickly sets aside the distinction between liberty and tyranny along with the religion clauses of the First Amendment, both you and Hillsdale College Conservatism will have to decide whether to go with “success” in the form of a phallus with a toupee selling soap and a used car, or rather to remember the principles, mission and meaning of American Liberty. Remember, the first nation ever founded on the principle of race, as well as the second- in the current forms of the KKK and the Nazis- these are right behind the phallus. Indeed, “you cannot serve both God and Mammon.” Let us now see what is the American way.

 *When teaching American Government as an “adjunct” professor over ten years at Oakland Community College here in Michigan, I would often ask the class, “Why is murder wrong?”Here, all our principles of tolerance from History and our scientific sophistication from biology fail us completely, and we cannot give an answer at all. Why, Mr McCarthy? Why is murder wrong? Perhaps we shall apply a little fact value distinction, or get rid of that species-ist distinction between men and animals, engage our cultivated humility and remind that this is only one person’s mere opinion, while everyone of course has a right to their own opinion. The students will often on their own think of the argument that we did not make their life, and so have no right to take it away. But this argument holds good too for worms. Or, you could consider my serious suggestion: modern thought on its own cannot uphold the distinction, leading to a world where murder becomes common. The Declaration says we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now we are getting somewhere, in just the place where modern thought in the founding touches upon the medieval and ancient. The best reason, though, is not articulated in Aristotle on happiness, but will be approached in Plato’s Laws. The reason is best articulated in Genesis 9:6, where after the flood, there is a new creation of the human world, and the reason  against murder is given: “…for God made man in his own image.” The cause of the laws is the image of God in man, and it is a violation of the sacred to strike this image of God, the light in the eyes, spark of divine or intellect, regardless of whether some animals also have this within. There are kinds of man killing that are not murder, such as in war, the defense of oneself and others, or capital punishment. But this is why murder is wrong. And this image of God in man is also the basis of the endowment of all men equally with the natural rights enshrined in our Declaration and spelled out in some detail, though not completely, in our Constitution, the purpose of which is the prevention of just what we see emerging, the prevention of tyranny.