9/11, Islam and War
Published on: September 11, 2010
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  • Lea Luke

    “It would be deeply satisfying if the final result of 9/11 was a new and richer understanding of Islam in America and of America in Islam.”

    Especially if it reflected a new and richer understanding of Islam throughout the Islamic world itself!

  • WigWag

    The problem, Professor Mead, is that the pathology in the Muslim world is not limited to Al Qaeda. Yes its gratifying that Al Qaeda is increasingly unpopular in the Muslim world and is failing to meet its objectives. But organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and its many branches and off-shoots are almost as dangerous as Al Qaeda and far more insidious, The temptation of American politicians and opinion leaders to look at organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and conclude that they’re “moderate” because they are not quite as violent or uncivilized as Al Qaeda is particularly unfortunate.

    Militant Islam comes in more “flavors” than just Al Qaeda. The form of militant Islam practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood is not collapsing like Al Qaeda is, its thriving. Unfortunately, it’s helped along by American intellectual elites on the left who have concluded that truly dangerous figures like Tariq Ramadan should be lionized while heroic figures like Ayaan Hirsi Ali should be excoriated.

    An excellent book on the subject is Flight of the Intellectuals by Paul Berman. An interesting interview with Mr. Berman can be found here,


  • kcs

    A lot of fanciful nonsense.

    There may be moderate muslims but a moderate islam is an impossibility. What did you expect from the followers of a “religion” started by an illiterate, mass-murdering pedophile?

    The west has been engaged in a war with islam, practically since its inception. This is merely the latest battle in that war.

    Hoping otherwise is naive and dangerous.

  • Jack

    Whistling past the grave yard.

  • Jack

    Must have been Mormons who set off that bomb in Copenhagen.

  • Paul Hirsch

    I understand Islam just fine. It is my enemy.

  • It’s nice that you concentrated on Al Qaeda, Mr. Mead, but let us not forget about the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Shahab, Hezbollah, Hamas, and this certain Persian country that stated it wants to wipe Israel off the map. You are more of an optimist than I: what I see is a steady capitulation of western civilization to the demands of Islam. I hope you’re right, because if you’re wrong we are all in trouble.

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  • I followed this conflict daily for the last 9 years and I have not read a better or more telling appreciation of what happened in Iraq. As I watch electorates reject 20th century solutions from both sides of politics in the UK, Australia and very probably in the US, I remind myself that General Petraeus and all those who assisted him in Iraq not only grasped a 21st century problem but actually solved it against all odds. It important to recognize what we got right in Iraq, regardless of what happens in Afghanistan, as we continue to learn as WigWag points out above that the problem is deeper and more difficult than just al Qaeda.

  • willis

    “Al-Qaeda is failing not just because Americans have decided to fight it. Al-Qaeda is failing because the world’s Muslims are rejecting it.”

    You have it exactly backwards. Muslims are rejecting it because Americans are fighting it. Let us go into your pacifist, appeasement mode and watch how fast those “moderates” desert to the other side.

  • id8

    I hope you are correct, as the alternative looks to be some kind of Armageddon.
    Thanks for the inspirational and hope filled message.

  • Martha Jennings

    I understand Islam just fine. I will not submit!

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  • John Barker

    Judging from the comments on this post, I believe that many Americans do not trust Muslims and do not share the perspective that we are allied with moderate Muslims in a desperate struggle. I believe that this outlook is not helped by Mr. Obama’s unwillingness to acknowledge that Iraq was both a disaster and an accomplishment. This is not unusual in the course of history. Churchill entitled the concluding volume of his war memoirs, “Triumph and Tragedy.” Obama’s compulsive Bush bashing is counterproductive and cannot replace creative thinking and real leadership.

  • Lina Inverse

    Left out of this narrative is how, “[…] in the spring of 2007, in a huge policy shift, General Petraeus began putting the Sunni insurgency on the payroll–essentially paying them not to attack us.” (according to Amazon’s interview of Thomas E. Ricks for his book The Gamble). How much of this success was due to a well founded dislike of Al-Qaeda plus minor details like shifting our tactics to the tried and true priority of protecting the people and how much to cold, hard cash is something we’re only going to find out in due course as the latter two end.

  • Judithe Thompson

    Disagreement over foreign policy–code words for “They hate Israel and we had better start hating Israel, too, if we know what’s good for us.”

  • engineer

    Recently the Wall Street Journal had a symposium on moderate Islam. All six experts had interesting things to say, but I think last, Mr. Akbar Ahmed, the former Pakistani ambassador to Great Britain had the most interesting insight. He suggested that Islam can be divided into three broad streams. The mystics treat the Koran as just one approach to enlightenment and do not treat Muhammed and the script of the Koran was the final word. Sufi’s are an example of this mode. The national/modernists regard Islam as perfectly compatible with modernity. In practice this meant a selective emphasis on texts, and it served as the recruiting ground for most major leaders in Muslim societies from the 19th century through the immediate post-colonial period. However, Mr. Ahmed believes that these leaders have lost legitimacy given the absence of obvious success in establishing successful prosperous nations based on more than petro-dollars. Finally, there are the literalists. They aspire to Sharia and regard the Koran as the word of Allah, “bloody bits” an all. Rather than selective interpretation of the Koran they want all the verses enforced.

    I think Al Qaeda is a small subset of the literalist school of interpretation. Furthermore, the US can live in a world with literalist Muslim states. There’s nothing that mandates offensive wars of religion without assurance of victory. However, fundamental US civil liberties, freedom of conscience, no established state religion, freedom of speech, etc., represent plain blasphemy for literalists. To paraphrase Franklin, We are infidels and entitled to our benightedness if we can keep it.

    Mystic Islam poses no threat. National/modernist Islam would be unlikely to threaten the West (this was the Egypt of 40 years ago where women routinely wore western dress). At the risk of sounding simplistic, a literalist Islam would pose no threat to powerful, self-confident West. Peace through self-confident strength wouldn’t plead with Islam for understanding but would tell the Muslim world that American civil liberties are not curtailed at the say-so of this or that Imam or Koranic verse. Get over it or riot and burn your own cities as you please. Prudent heads would quiet the Islamic street soon enough.

  • James Savik

    Al Qaeda is failing because every time one of those flea-bitten mutts puts on the grand poobah hat, we send his [inelegant referent deleted — ed] to the after life.

  • Haim

    Thing is, al-Qaeda is a tip of the iceberg. It is quite easy for an average Muslim to reject the appeal of a bunch of nitwits on the run, lead by a crazed madman in a cave, who mostly kill not infidels but other Muslims. It is a very different thing for the same Muslim to reject, say, Hamas or Hezbollah or Iran (or Protocols of Zion’s Elders, very popular reading in Arab world). Now we see Turkey moving in the same direction, about Pakistan you’ve said enough. Our goal should not be “burn the Koran”; what we should aim for is to get Arabs to burn it themselves. Otherwise, this war will go on forever.

  • Ron Hyder

    It is fascinating to see how Israelis align their own goals with Americans whereas the fact is the opposite. Israel shoves its goals down the throats of Americans. Right now I see now the “war on terror” but on certain fronts a “war for Israeli interests” being waged.

    Either you people don’t know enough about Islam or have just drunk the cool aid being offered to you by the media. Get real people these are the same people who have fought by the side of the USA for decades and have provided it support in all of its endeavors. now all of a sudden you think they are mad dogs and need to be exterminated? Start thinking with the brain God gave you and get your heads out of the murk created by the media.

  • Haim

    To Ron Hyder

    What are “Israel’s goals”, pray? Kill all Muslims? What are “Israel’s interests”? And do elaborate on the “these are the same people who have fought by the side of the USA for decades” thing.

  • Lea Luke

    What would Mead say?

    Mosque Notes
    Washington Diarist
    Leon Wieseltier
    September 2, 2010 | 12:00 am

    Collective responsibility. One of the most accomplished Jewish terrorists of our time, Baruch Goldstein, came from the Jewish universe in which I was raised. When he committed his crime, there were a few former and present citizens of that universe, a revered rabbi of mine among them, who demanded a stringent communal introspection; but the critics were denounced as slanderers who tarred all of religious Zionism, or all of “Modern Orthodox” Judaism, or all of Judaism, with the same treasonous brush. The killer, we were angrily instructed, was an aberration, and any generalization from his action was an unwarranted imputation of collective responsibility. I disagreed. Baruch Goldstein murdered in the name of Judaism, with an interpretation of Judaism, from a social and intellectual position within Judaism. The same was later true of Yigal Amir. They did not represent the entirety of Judaism, or of the Jewish institutions that formed them—but the massacre in Hebron and the assassination in Tel Aviv were among their effects. If the standpoint of broadly collective responsibility was the wrong way to explain the atrocities, so too was the standpoint of purely individual responsibility. There were currents of culture behind the killers. Their ideas were not only their own. I am reminded of those complications when I hear that Islam is a religion of peace. I have no quarrel with the construction of Cordoba House, but not because Islam is a religion of peace. It is not. Like Christianity and like Judaism, Islam is a religion of peace and a religion of war. All the religions have all the tendencies within them, and in varying historical circumstances varying beliefs and practices have come to the fore. It is absurd to describe the perpetrators of September 11 as “murderers calling themselves Muslims,” as Karen Hughes recently did. They did not call themselves Muslims. They were Muslims. America was not attacked by Islam, but it was also not attacked by Jainism. Mohammed Atta and his band (as well as the growing number of “homegrown” Islamist killers and plotters) represent a real and burgeoning development within Islam, an actualization of one of Islam’s possibilities, an indigenous transnational movement of apocalyptic violence that has brought misery to Muslim societies, and to us. It is not Islamophobic to say so. Quite the contrary: it is to side with Muslims who are struggling against the same poison as we are. Apologetic definitions of Islam will not avail anybody in this struggle.

  • Peter

    “The American military knows deep in its guts that working with Muslims is the key to beating the bad guys.”

    This is somewhat true only as long as the U.S. 1) is involved in the folly of nation building and 2) continues to abide in the self-imposed constraints of political correctness.

    If [when?] the Jacksonians come to power, both these premises vanish, the gloves will come off, and the Muslim threat to the West will disappear quite quickly …. and I dare say, this is exacty what our effeminate elite fear.

  • Jack

    One of the things that has made racism simply unacceptable was the successful branding of ALL white people as racists. Even a hint of racist sentiments (well, when expressed by anyone except blacks and Democrats) arouses universal condemnation.

    It is time the same standard is applied to all Muslims….If you aren’t fighting against Islamic violence, you are helping it.

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  • Adobe Walls

    Afghans, Iranians, Turks and Pakistanis are not Arabs. Islam declared war on the rest of the world over 1300 years ago. They are capable of stealth but the goals have never changed.
    Like it or not know it or not Islam is at war with us.
    The Cross of St George or the Crescent Moon one must fall.

  • Younas Khan Khattak

    first i disagree with the author that alqaeda is unpopular in Muslim world.here in Pakistan what Al-qaeda did is astonishing.muslims may be weak,may not defend themselves,may not repel invaders but we are sure that the reverse momentum will occur.
    I also agree with Adobe Walls that one must go either Crescent or Cross.
    [inane and foolish anti-Semitic remark deleted: ed. This particular commentator seems desperately eager to lend credence to certain western stereotypes about the bigotry and ignorance of Muslims. Fortunately there are too many Muslims who are more thoughtful and wise, so hopefully he will not bring Islam into too much undeserved disrepute.– ed]

  • Andrew Gower

    Islam isnt a terrorist religion. just like every part of the world, there are good and bad people. saddam hussain was a BAD person. prophet mohammed was a GOOD person. and, besides, Islam is the only religion sent from god that havent been distorted. the Bibel have been distorted. the jews book have been distorted. and besides, americans have attacked Palestine for over 60 years just to take Palestine for jews. In the history of islam, they’ve only attacked 1 time in 2001.

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