Suppose you are the pastor of a large suburban parish and suppose further that several members of your parish want to invite a well-known speaker to talk about the threat from militant Islam. You check the Internet and find that the speaker is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the head of a hate group. Upon further checking, you find that this speaker has had speaking invitations rescinded by four different bishops.
You doubt that the man is really a hater and you’re disposed to hear what he has to say. At the same time, you realize that an invitation would probably bring unwelcome pressure from local Muslim groups and unwelcome attention from the local media. And somewhere in the back of your mind you recall that numerous churches in other parts of the world have been attacked or firebombed by Muslim terrorists. You tell yourself that it’s highly unlikely that your own church would ever be a target but, still, why put your parishioners at even the slightest risk. Besides, you’re sure that other parishes in other cities will provide a venue for the speaker. In the big scheme of things, it won’t matter if one parish decides to pass up the opportunity.
Suppose that you are the editor of a mid-size publishing house, and suppose you are considering a proposal for a book on Islamic terrorism. The sample chapters are thoroughly researched and well-written, but it concerns you that the author links Islamic jihad to Islam itself. It’s the kind of book that, in ordinary times, you would be inclined to publish. But these are not ordinary times. The massacre of the editorial staff at Charlie Hebdo magazine is fresh in your mind. Of course, nothing like that is likely to happen in America, but you’re not sure if you have the right to put your employees at any risk, no matter how slight. Besides, you’re sure the author won’t have any trouble finding another publisher.
Multiply these two scenarios a thousand times and you can see why Americans remain relatively complacent about the threat from Islam. When everyone in the information business decides that the prudent thing is to pass the buck, everyone else ends up with only a passing knowledge of Islam.
It’s not as though Americans don’t know about terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Nigeria, Paris, and Copenhagen. But because the media police their own thoughts so carefully, these events tend to be presented as discrete happenings with no connection to a larger pattern. More significantly, very little attention is paid to the phenomenon of stealth jihad—the quiet preparatory process that makes possible the more spectacular acts of jihad.
What’s stealth jihad? It’s an attempt to spread Islamic law and culture by non-violent means, including political activism, propaganda and lawfare. Think of it as an influence operation. Islamic activists aim to influence government, media, entertainment, educational institutions, the courts, and even churches. When Father Jim or Bishop Murphy decides to rescind a speaking invitation lest the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations takes offense, it’s partly because of pressures created by stealth jihadists. When a book publisher decides to pass on a book that might hurt the sensitivities of the Muslim community, it’s because stealth jihad has magnified the clout of the Muslim community well beyond its actual numbers.
Stealth jihad need not be particularly stealthy. In fact, Muslim groups can be quite vocal about their demands. But in comparison to the other type of jihad, demands for halal menus, special toilet facilities in public places, and sharia courts for resolving family matters seem minor in nature.
What’s more, there’s an implicit understanding that the granting of these concessions will serve to keep the violent kind of jihad at bay. It’s the latest twist on the old mafia extortion ploy. This time around, it goes something like this: “You and I are reasonable men, but my friend here is hard to control. He can get very excitable if his son is forced to sit next to pork-eaters at the school cafeteria.” It’s all unspoken, of course, but those who are attuned to cultural change will find it easy to convince themselves that their own sons and daughters can only benefit from eating a more multiculturally sensitive diet.
The trouble is, such concessions are more, not less, likely to bring the other kind of jihad closer. The Muslim enclaves that stealth jihad serves to create can eventually become breeding grounds for terror. For example, the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre didn’t pop up out of nowhere. Cherif Kouachi, one of the two assailants, was part of the 19th Arrondissement Network, a terrorist group that operates out of a Paris neighborhood with a large Muslim population. Their friend Amed Coulibaly, who killed four hostages at a kosher market, grew up in Grigny, another suburb of Paris with a heavy concentration of Muslims. Many of the “sensitive urban zones” that ring Paris are effectively controlled by Muslims, and they provide environments where terrorists and would-be terrorists can find like-minded collaborators and supporters.
France, of course, has a more serious Muslim immigration problem than the U.S., but like the U.S., it also suffers from a bad case of political correctness. In France and other European countries, political correctness translates into an excessive respect for and deference to other cultures. In Europe, multiculturalism does not mean that cultures should mix together, but that each subculture should retain its distinct identity. The preservation of the other’s culture in its undiluted form is such a high priority that to expect the newcomers to conform to the native culture is considered tantamount to an act of imperialism. Many Muslims aren’t happy with the policy because they prefer to integrate with the host culture. But some Muslim leaders find the arrangement to their liking because it allows them to create parallel Muslim societies which can operate under Islamic rules with very little outside interference.
The Europeans were hoping that what happened in the sensitive zones would stay in the sensitive zones, but that hasn’t been the case. In addition to the occasional terrorist attack or synagogue firebombing, European cities have been treated to a steady stream of riots, demonstrations, “virtue police” patrols, demands for halal menus, refusals to abide by public health regulations, and at least one attempt to take over a city school system. However, European authorities have been reluctant to challenge the distinctly un-European customs, many of them illegal, that have developed in the “no-go” zones and spread out to the larger culture. Political correctness dictates that they don’t have a right to intrude on the cultural space of the “other.”
This confluence of political correctness and cultural jihad has brought Europe to a perilous state. Some observers of the European scene feel that civil wars are just over the horizon. The situation is not nearly so bad in America, but it could quickly deteriorate if editors, pastors, and other assorted opinion-makers continue to self-censor. One effect of the self-censorship is that the American public has no idea of how bad the situation has become in Europe, and thus no inkling that the same sort of thing could someday happen here.
Of course, you don’t have to be in the clergy or in the media to be caught up in the new culture wars. Stealth jihad can happen to anyone.
Suppose, for instance, that you sit on a city commission that has to decide on a proposal for the construction of a mosque and Islamic center. Opponents of the plan point out that the city’s Muslim population is too small to justify the building of the large and expensive project. Some of them angrily insist that mosques are used as recruiting centers for jihad, that eighty percent of American mosques teach an extremist ideology, and that the deeds to a quarter of American mosques are held by a Muslim Brotherhood trust. How, they want to know, can you possibly consent to such a folly?
On the other hand, you are a strong believer in religious freedom. You would not oppose a similar request for a new Catholic church or a synagogue. How can you deny Muslims the opportunity to worship in their own way? Your parish priest feels the same way. When you asked his advice on the matter, he reminded you that all Christians have a duty to be welcoming to strangers. “Don’t forget,” he added, “Catholics were immigrants at one time and they were falsely suspected of all sorts of treachery.” Your meetings with Imam Badawi, the leader of the Muslim community, have also been reassuring. He deplores the atrocities committed by ISIS, and assures you that they are betrayers of Islam. The true Islam, he maintains, is a religion of peace and justice.
You have your doubts about the wisdom of the project and you wonder what the long-term consequences will be. Still, it’s your belief that the traditional American principles of religious liberty, tolerance, and impartiality should trump all other considerations. You decide to give the Islamic center project the go-ahead.
Turkish president Erdogan once said, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers.” Is the hypothetical mosque project an example of stealth jihad at work? Or does it represent a legitimate desire to freely worship God? Or is it a little bit of both?
That’s the trouble with stealth jihad. It’s difficult to resist it because it’s difficult to say whether any particular demand or request is an example of cultural aggression or simply a desire for equal treatment. In most cases, those who have to make the decisions will be predisposed to accept the more benign interpretation. Otherwise, they risk running afoul of the rules of political correctness, which—although unwritten—carry quite a sting for violators. Very few relish the prospect of being called racist, or bigoted, or Islamophobic.
A new mosque on the block? Cancel the controversial speaker? Head coverings and halal meals in the middle school? Criminal penalties for those who insult a prophet?
Some of these issues are already with us, and some of them will be coming soon to a parish, court, or school board in your neighborhood. The success of stealth jihad depends on the willingness of those who decide these issues to take the easy way out—that is, to do the politically correct, non-offensive thing. Let’s hope that the deciders understand that there are larger matters at stake than whether or not someone’s feelings are injured.
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