On the day the Royal Navyâ€™s hostages were released, I chanced to be reading a poem from Reflections on Islam, a terrific collection of essays by George Jonas. The verse is by Nizar Qabbani, and it is his ode to the intifada:
O mad people of Gaza,
a thousand greetings to the mad
The age of political reason
has long departed
so teach us madness
Or as the larky motto you used to find on the wall of the typing pool put it: You Donâ€™t Have to Be Crazy to Work Here, but It Helps. For the madness of the intifada and the jihad and Islamist imperialism is calculated, and highly effective. There is, as Jonas sees it, method in their madness.
Do you remember that little difficulty a few months back over the Popeâ€™s indelicate quotation of Manuel II? Many Muslims were very upset about his speech (or his speech as reported on the BBC et al.), so they protested outside Westminster Cathedral in London demanding â€œcapital punishmentâ€ for the Pope, and they issued a fatwa in Pakistan calling on Muslims to kill His Holiness, and they firebombed a Greek Orthodox church and an Anglican church in Nablus, and they murdered a nun in Somalia and a couple of Christians in Iraq. As Tasnim Aslam of the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad helpfully clarified, â€œAnyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence.â€ So donâ€™t say weâ€™re violent or weâ€™ll kill you. As I wrote in National Review at the time, quod erat demonstrandum.
But thatâ€™s a debating-society line. Islam isnâ€™t interested in winning the debate, itâ€™s interested in winning the real fight â€” the clash of civilizations, the war, society, culture, the whole megilla. Thatâ€™s why it doesnâ€™t care about the inherent contradictions of the argument: In the Middle East early in 2002, I lost count of the number of Muslims I met who believed simultaneously (a) that 9/11 was pulled off by the Mossad and (b) that it was a great victory for Islam. Likewise, itâ€™s no stretch to feel affronted at the implication that youâ€™re violently irrational and to threaten to murder anyone who says so.
Western societies value logic because we value talk, and talks, and talking, on and on and on: Thatâ€™s pretty much all we do, to the point where, faced with any challenge from Darfur to the Iranian nuclear program, our objective is to reduce the issue to just something else to talk about interminably. But if you donâ€™t prize debate and you merely want to win, getting hung up on logic is only going to get in your way. Take the most devastating rapier wit you know â€” Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward â€” and put him on a late-night subway train up against a psycho with a baseball bat. The withering putdown, the devastating aphorism will avail him nought.
The quality of your argument is important only if you want to win by persuasion. But itâ€™s irrelevant if you want to win by intimidation. Iâ€™m personally very happy to defend my columns in robust debate, but after five years Iâ€™m a bit bored by having to respond to Muslim groupsâ€™ demands (in America) that I be fired and (in Canada) that I be brought before the totalitarian-lite kangaroo courts of the countryâ€™s ghastly â€œhuman rights commissions.â€ Publishers like hate mail; theyâ€™re less keen on running up legal bills defending nuisance suits. So itâ€™s easier just to avoid the subject â€” as an Australian novelist recently discovered when his book on a, ah, certain topical theme was mysteriously canceled.
Thatâ€™s the advantage of madness as a strategy. If one party to the dispute forswears sanity, then the obligation is on the other to be sane for both of them. Thus, if a bunch of Iranian pirates kidnap some British seamen in Iraqi waters, it is the British whom the world calls on to show restraint and to defuse the situation. If an obscure Danish newspaper prints some offensive cartoons and in reaction Muslims murder people around the planet, well, that just shows we all need to be more sensitive about Islamophobia. But if Muslims blow up dozens of commuters on the London Underground and in reaction a minor talk-show host ventures some tentative remarks about whether Islam really is a religion of peace, well, that also shows we all need to be more sensitive about Islamophobia.
Do this long enough and eventually youâ€™ll achieve the exquisite sensitivity of the European Unionâ€™s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. In 2003, their report on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe found that â€œmany anti-Semitic incidents were carried out by Muslim and pro-Palestinian groups,â€ and so (according to the Daily Telegraph) a â€œpolitical decisionâ€ was made not to publish it because of â€œfears that it would increase hostility towards Muslims.â€
Got that? The EUâ€™s principal â€œfearâ€ about an actual ongoing epidemic of hate crimes against Jews is that it could hypothetically provoke an epidemic of hate crimes against Muslims.
And so the more the enemies of free society step on our feet, the more we tiptoe around. After the release of the Royal Navy hostages, the Right Reverend Tom Burns, Roman Catholic Bishop of the Armed Forces, praised the Iranians for their â€œforgiveness.â€ â€œOver the past two weeks,â€ said the bishop, â€œthere has been a unity of purpose between Britain and Iran, whereby everyone has sought justice and forgiveness.â€
Really? In what alternative universe is that? Maybe the insanity is contagious. As the columnist Jack Kelly wrote, â€œThe infidels Allah is about to destroy, he first makes mad.â€ And so these twin psychoses â€” Islamist rage and our determination never to see it â€” continue their valse macabre on the brink of catastrophe.