There are two fundamental ways to view Islam in the West, and it is now clear those who hold to the “Islam is a religion of peace” view, which has held sway over the affairs of the West for so long, are fighting a desperate rear-guard action to remain in charge following Trump’s rise to power.
As we watch the public pronouncements and the actions of the new administration, we have to carefully determine which path administration officials are on.
It’s pretty clear that Trump himself, throughout his campaign and with his first appointments, completely rejects the old view of Muslims falling prey to a mass misunderstanding of a peaceful Islam. Michael Flynn rejected this view; that was clear from his many public pronouncements. Having him brought down by the shady leaking of supposedly sensitive gathered intelligence was a blow.
Robert Spencer quoted from the New York Times’ latest piece on Flynn’s replacement as national security adviser, General H. R. McMaster. As ever, to confirm what General McMaster said to the first “all hands” staff meeting of the National Security Council, the New York Times quotes its most reliable government sources by citing “people who were in the meeting” and noting what “several officials said.” Ah yes, those anonymous sources are so busy. According to those anonymous sources and the agenda of the New York Times, therefore, General McMaster is continuing to reaffirm the “Islam is a religion of peace” doctrine. Robert is correct to be suspicious about McMaster’s approach to Islam until we see what practical effect he has in his role.
We also have Dr Sebastian Gorka. Any reasonable reading of his book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War would place him over toward the Trump and Flynn side regarding the underlying ideology of Islam with deep suspicion. That paints a big target on Dr Gorka. The first shot came from Eli Clifton writing on an obscure blog concerning an old Hungarian medal Dr Gorka wore, which Clifton claimed was evidence of antisemitism from Gorka. An interesting claim from Clifton, who has written for the notorious Jew-hating site, Electronic Intifada. That charge was easily debunked, so a new charge was needed.
Up to the plate steps the New York Times, and this time they’re going for the jugular with the charge that Gorka is an “ill-informed Islamophobe”:
The new point man for the Trump administration’s counter-jihadist team is Sebastian Gorka, an itinerant instructor in the doctrine of irregular warfare and former national security editor at Breitbart. Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller, the chief commissars of the Trump White House, have framed Islam as an enemy ideology and predicted a historic clash of civilizations. Mr. Gorka, who has been appointed deputy assistant to the president, is the expert they have empowered to translate their prediction into national strategy.
Mr. Gorka was born and raised in Britain, the son of Hungarian émigrés. As a political consultant in post-Communist Hungary, he acquired a doctorate and involved himself with ultranationalist politics. He later moved to the United States and became a citizen five years ago, while building a career moderating military seminars and establishing a reputation as an ill-informed Islamophobe. (He has responded to such claims by stating that he has read the Quran in translation.)
Interestingly, this is what Dr Gorka says about the Qur’an in his book. He advises a critical review of the Qur’an, especially with regard to the pre- and post-Medina chapters, which is advice that I wholeheartedly endorse:
First, since September 11, 2001, every American should own a Koran. There are no excuses. Every day you can switch on the television or the radio or open a newspaper and hear or read pronouncements about “what Islam is” and “what the Koran says.” Most of it is wrong— very wrong. You owe it to yourself, your family, and all the Americans killed on 9/ 11 and since to know the truth. Do not take anyone’s word for it. Find out for yourself by reading the actual Koran. One of the most reliable and recognized versions is the The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, available at Amazon.com.
Once you have a Koran and start to read it, take care to note the enormous differences between the half reportedly communicated to Mohammed in the beginning in Mecca, when he was weak and without followers, and the latter half, allegedly written after he returned from Medina with thousands of followers, the leader of a mighty military force. It is the post-Medina chapters of the Koran that are naturally favored by groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. They are not in fact “perverting” religious texts but skillfully applying those alleged revelations that best support their cause.
In 2015, he caught Donald Trump’s eye, perhaps appealing to someone who had no government experience by declaring everything done by the government to be idiotic. Most notably, Mr. Gorka derides the notion that Islamic militancy might reflect worldly grievances, like poor governance, repression, poverty and war. “This is the famous approach that says it is all so nuanced and complicated,” Mr. Gorka recently told The Washington Post. “This is what I completely jettison.”
For him, the violence emanates from the “martial language” of the Quran, which has hard-wired aggression into Islam. Like the recently fired national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and Mr. Bannon and Mr. Miller, the architects of the ill-conceived executive order barring the entry of citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, Mr. Gorka sees Islam as the problem, rather than the uses to which Islam has been put by violent extremists. The contrast between them and the policy makers of the previous three presidential administrations could not be clearer: For their predecessors, the key has been to fight terrorists, not assault an Abrahamic religion.
They bring up the “ill conceived executive order.” It is still blocked on legal grounds, mostly a function of the ridiculously political courts that blocked it, and without reference to the stated reasons for the order, which I still consider to be transformative and indicative of the Trump administration’s significant break from the past.
The gist of Mr. Gorka’s worldview is that the United States is locked in an ideological conflict with “radical Islam.” A report he wrote with his wife assesses that “it is the key failing of U.S. efforts to fight terrorism that we have not understood the importance of ideology.” He attributes this failure to a “systematic subversion of the national security establishment under the banner of inclusivity, cultural awareness and political correctness.”
This is a supremely uninformed and ahistoric claim, as evidence demonstrates. Consider the raft of recently declassified United States government assessments of Islamic militancy going back nearly 40 years. The C.I.A. has produced in-depth analyses of Sunni radicalization dating to 1979, when Wahhabi messianists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
It’s hard to know why C.I.A. assessments from 40 years ago are proof of anything very much. In his book, Dr Gorka refers to 1979 as the “Annus horribilis,” the point at which modern jihad went global. He’s pretty clear to trace the ideology of modern Islamic terror back further, and he does point out the inherent calls to violence and the specific reasons why Mohammed was not successful as a leader until his Islam became a doctrine of conquest and war. In his chapter on 1979, he lays out the three massively important events that year which boosted global jihad: the Iranian revolution, the siege of Mecca and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Afghanistan invasion, particularly, set the scene for one of global jihad’s greatest triumphs: the defeat of the Soviets, in which it was aided by the C.I.A.
The rest of the New York Times hit piece continues with an optimistic read-out of America’s supposedly huge success in dealing with the growing number of people who continue to misunderstand their peaceful “Abrahamic religion” and insist on blowing themselves and others up so regularly.
Who are we to believe is running the new policies of the Trump Administration when it comes to tackling terrorists who profess so strongly to be acting in the name of their Islamic faith? Trump, Gorka, Bannon and others, or General McMaster, as told to the New York Times by “people who were in the meeting” and “several officials”?
Gorka has made numerous television appearances since his appointment, but spoken relatively little about the finer details of defeating jihad. This is probably because the opposition (media) is unable to relate to the finer points of what he thinks.
At CPAC, Gorka appeared on a panel that was ultimately uninspiring, possibly because of way too much input from Zuhdi Jasser and other wonkish advisors and army men who kept returning to an endless quest for a reformed, peaceful and moderate Islam. For the most part, Gorka stuck to ideas familiar from his book, centered around the completely different and incompatible value systems of Islam and the Judeo-Christian world. However, he made one statement, coming back from something Jasser said, about the US not being at war with Islam, and citing the example of the Jordanian pilot who was tortured in an ISIS video. Gorka said: “This idea that we’re at war with Islam is really fallacious. Because what’s the religion of the guy in a cage who was burnt alive. He’s not a Baptist. He’s not a Hindu. He’s not an Episcopalian.” That’s a backward step. The pilot was killed by Muslims because they considered him to be an apostate for waging war against them. For Gorka, who often refers back to the Cold War, there is still some reluctance to firmly classify Islamic teachings as a root issue in public.
There is another aspect of the Cold War period that Sebastian Gorka refers to that is in need of some evaluation. He is entirely correct in comparing the fight against Marxist communism of that period to the present-day fight with Islamic jihad, but he should avoid being blindsided by the thinking of most Cold Warriors. These heroic patriots were hindered in their goal of establishing real liberty in Europe, for throughout the Cold War era, the fight was exclusively focused on the Marxist communism being spread by the USSR. Never was the European states’ so-called “democratic socialism” to be portrayed in a negative light, though socialism was the key identifying marker in Marxist theory. “Socialism light” was to be looked at through the fingers; the Cold Warriors couldn’t afford to anger their European allies.
We simply can’t afford the same mentality with Islam. Civilizational (or stealth) jihad is the key element driving Islam forward; violence is but a means in achieving that aim. Saying that we are at war with “radical Islam,” or that the terrorists are un-Islamic, in order not to offend our Muslim allies, brings us to the same dilemma faced by these Cold Warriors: yes, the Marxist empire imploded, but socialism still lives on in all of its destructive forms. We are still fighting it to this day.
We’re watching a titanic struggle for the future of the United States and the free world. If the U.S. can take a sane lead, perhaps Europe can be saved. One thing is for sure: the old guard and the New York Times will be running a fierce campaign of opposition to anyone who tells the truth.