Dinesh, Dinesh, You Have Gone Too Far
Dinesh D’Souza, as my readers know, is one of my favorite people. He is being raked over the coals these days because of his recent book, “The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11”. D’Souza’s main contention is that the disintegration of American society and its decadence, as seen by others through television and movies, provided the main motivation for the Islamic fanatics who attacked us on 9/11 and in previous and ongoing attacks. For once I agree with his critics; his contention is not correct. I believe that his previous position, that American culture is inundating and dominating many other cultures, including Muslim culture, - together with other factors such as: Muslim shame at being left behind and their desire to reestablish the Caliphate – are much more important. He forgets that Islamic terrorists are at work almost everywhere in the world, in deepest Africa, in the Orient, in Europe and in Chechnya.
On the other hand, D’Souza does make some good points, some of which I have excerpted from an interview he gave to FrontPage Magazine last week:
FP: You argue that liberal popular culture has created a blowback of resistance from traditional cultures, especially Islamic culture. Kindly explain.
D’Souza: Here in America we know that there is a distinction between the values of American popular culture and the values by which Americans live. But for a Muslim on the streets of Cairo or Islamabad, American popular culture reflects what America is all about. Our popular culture is our country’s face to the world. There is an attractive aspect to this culture, its vitality and individuality. But there is also a lot in this culture that is excessive and trivial and indecent and shameful. I’m not just talking about rap music and Jerry Springer, but also about so-called high culture. Eve Ensler is very proud that her “Vagina Monologues” has played worldwide, including in many Muslim countries. She is especially proud of sequences in which people stand up and discuss their vaginas. Now you have to remember that outside of Europe and America, most of the cultures of the world are quite traditional. They are socially quite conservative. Islamic culture is especially conservative in valuing female modesty and childhood innocence. So things that we may consider edgy or “pushing the envelope” here in America are, in the Muslim world, considered shocking evidence of American moral degeneracy. The radical Muslims say it’s one thing for Americans to have these perversions in their own society, but now they are forcing it upon the rest of the world. So the call to jihad is issued defensively: to protect Islamic society from values that will undermine the religion and destroy the family and corrupt the children.
FP: If Islam rejects separation of church and state, how can Muslim countries become democratic?
D’Souza: Separation of church and state is an American invention. Even the Europeans don’t have it. In England you have the Anglican Church which is an official establishment. Even European countries which are more secular than the United States often give money to religious schools and so on. So religious establishment is consistent with religious toleration. And religious toleration is an idea that has long been upheld in Islam. When Catholic Spain gave the Jews three choices—leave the country, convert to Christianity, or be killed—Jews and other religious minorities were living peacefully and practicing their religion in Muslim empires, from the Mughal empire in India to the Abbasid empire and later the Ottoman empire based in Turkey. True, the Islamic empires discriminated against other religions, but they put up with them and gave them considerable control over their own communities. The radical Muslims are trying to get rid of this tradition of religious toleration, but the traditional Muslims still abide by it. Here is something within the Muslim tradition that can provide a foundation for Muslim democracy.
FP: You cite Abu Ghraib as an example of the depravity of “liberal family values.” Why exactly do you say this?
D’Souza: For Muslims, torture was not the big story at Abu Ghraib. Historian Bernard Lewis has said that compared to prisons anywhere in the Muslim world, Abu Ghraib was like Disneyland. Many of the infamous pictures depicting captives blindfolded, or with wires all around them—that was simulated torture, not real torture. What really scandalized the Muslim world were the pictures of sexual depravity. Now even some conservatives minimized this at the time, I guess in the hope that it would make the scandal go away. “It was just a fraternity prank,” and so on. But for traditional societies where honor is the highest social value, there is nothing amusing about taking a religious man and putting a woman’s underwear on his head. There is no humor in stripping him naked and forcing him to masturbate while you take photos. For many Muslims Abu Ghraib was an illustration of what perverts Americans have become, and how lightly we tread on other people’s sacred beliefs. We think that a little sexual tomfoolery is nothing compared to cutting of a man’s head and broadcasting the assassination on the Internet. But for many Muslims, it’s bad to kill a man but it’s worse to strip away his honor. This is why some traditional Muslims are reluctant to condemn their radical counterparts. They don’t want to be seen as taking the side of Western depravity, a depravity that my book shows to be the product of contemporary liberalism.
FP: You challenge the idea that radical Muslims are against modern science, democracy and capitalism. How come?
D’Souza: Because they’re not. Read the works of the leading thinkers of Islamic radicalism, like Qutb and Sharia’ti and Mawdudi. They are all champions of modern science. They like capitalism. Now democracy is a trickier issue. Here the radical Muslims are divided. Some, like Qutb, support democracy while others say we cannot allow the will of the people to substitute for the will of God. But in the last decade and a half most of the leading organizations of radical Islam have become enthusiastic proponents of democracy. Why? Not because they have been reading The Federalist Papers. The reason they support democracy is that they have discovered that this is an excellent way to come to power. Look at the success of the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria in the 1990s. Or the success of Hamas. Or of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian parliamentary election.
FP: You say that liberal foreign policy sowed the seeds of 9/11. How?
D’Souza: First the liberals advising Jimmy Carter helped radical Islam to capture its first major state. Since the 1920s the radical Muslims were on the margins of society. But in 1979 they came to power in Iran. How did this happen? Well, our friend Carter was elected in 1976 on a human rights platform. The liberals went to Carter and said, “You can’t support the Shah of Iran because he is a dictator. He has a secret police. He violates human rights.” And so Carter began to pull the Persian rug out from under America’s ally. As resistance to the Shah mounted, Carter urged the Shah not to resist it but to abdicate, which he did. And the result was Khomeini. In trying to get rid of the bad guy, liberal foreign policy brought us the worse guy. Khomeini invented the idea that America is the Great Satan. He called for martyrdom in the cause of fighting America. Without Khomeini, we would never have had Bin Laden. Khomeini paved the way for 9/11. I’m not even going to get into Clinton’s role in emboldening Bin Laden to strike when he did. I’ll leave that for people to read in my book.
FP: You say the left wants us to lose in Iraq. But why? Aren’t the Islamic radicals a threat to women’s rights and gay rights?
D’Souza: It’s quite clear that the left wants us to lose the war on terror. Some people like Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn are outspoken in saying this. But even people who don’t say it clearly wish it. If you think the left wants us to win, then its actions become baffling and mysterious. You have to labor hard to figure out why they speak and act like they do. On the other hand if you assume the left wants us to lose, then all its rhetoric and actions make complete sense. But why? Because the left is a bit scared of Bin Laden but it is very scared of Bush. The left doesn’t like Bin Laden but it absolutely hates Bush. And while Bin Laden and his allies are the “far enemy,” Bush and the conservatives are the “near enemy.” As the left sees it, Bin Laden threatens sharia in Baghdad, but Bush threatens sharia in Boston. Imagine one or two more conservative court appointments and the whole liberal agenda of the past half-century is jeopardized. So the left is quite willing to ally with the lesser evil, the Islamic radicals, in order to defeat the greater evil, Bush and the right.
FP: We have a difficult time with the word “treason” now. Is treason the problem?
D’Souza: No, because the left loves America. Yes, I know David Horowitz is going to do a double-take on that, but it’s true. I’ll say it again: Michael Moore loves America. The only thing is that he loves a different American that we do. What he loves is liberal America, the America of labor revolts and bra-burning and the Stonewall riots and Roe v. Wade. What he hates is traditional or conservative America. Jeanine Garofalo said that she hates it when people wave the American flag but she gets teary-eyed when they burn the American flag. That’s because she identifies the flag with traditional American values. So she’s not anti-American: her patriotism is based on an allegiance to liberal American values.
FP: How important is the Iraq war? Can we win?
D’Souza: I am not sure how we are doing in Iraq. It’s hard to say because the media accounts are so untrustworthy. It’s important we win because we don’t want radical Islam getting its hands on a second major state. They already have Iran, and that’s a big enough problem. If Iraq falls, you can be sure that Egypt and Saudi Arabia will be targeted next. This is not Vietnam, which was peripheral to our vital interests. Our whole way of life, not to mention our security, depends at least for the foreseeable future, on a stable Middle East. So the stakes in Iraq are very high, and the Democratic Leadership that is trying to force a precipitous withdrawal is playing with fire.
FP: You say America can fight a better war on terror by making allies with traditional Muslims. What do you mean?
D’Souza: Our current strategy is based on trying to find secular liberals in the Muslim world, people who believe in women’s rights and separation of church and state. News flash: there are hardly any such people. Yes, there is Salman Rushdie and a lesbian radio host in Canada who have gotten a lot of attention. I like some of the things these Muslim liberals are saying. But they have no constituency in the Muslim world. That world is divided between the Islamic radicals and traditional Muslims. The left is allied with the Islamic radicals, so common sense says the right should build ties with traditional Muslims. Besides, there is no way to win the war on terror without driving a wedge between radicals and traditionalists. The traditional Muslims are the recruiting pool for radical Islam. Even if we kill 100 radicals, it’s no use if 500 traditional Muslims join the next day. So we have to find a way of drying up radical Islam’s recruitment. Whenever we attack Islam or say that Muhammad was the founder of terrorism, we are pursuing a self-defeating strategy because we are driving traditional Muslims into the hands of the radicals. My book, however, has specific suggestions for how America can work with traditional Muslims to defeat not only Islamic radicalism but also the global influence of the cultural left.
FP: Dinesh D’Souza, thank you for joining us. From Frontpage.com