Here is a recitation by Bruce Bawer, author of the excellent While Europe Slept, of the half-surrenders and slow-motion retreats by liberal democratic nations confronted by the demands of Islamist ideology. That ideology divides the human race between the House of Submission, ruled by Islamic law, and the House of War, ruled by the infidel but destined by divine decree for conquest or conversion.
The war described by Bawer is ideological: he calls it “cultural jihad.” His theme is that, one small surrender at a time, the House of War — that is, us — is being “absorbed into the House of Submission.” Motivated by fear or self-loathing, the chattering classes of liberal democratic societies have yielded the high ground to zealots and totalitarians, and can only cringe guiltily when accused of strange new moral and psychological perversions such as “Islamophobia.”
Two events in particular — the 2004 assassination in Amsterdam of Theo van Gogh in retaliation for his film about Islam’s oppression of women, and the global wave of riots, murders, and vandalism that followed a Danish newspaper’s 2005 publication of cartoons satirizing Mohammed — have had a massive ripple effect throughout the West. Motivated variously, and doubtless sometimes simultaneously, by fear, misguided sympathy, and multicultural ideology — which teaches us to belittle our freedom and to genuflect to non-Western cultures, however repressive — people at every level of Western society, but especially elites, have allowed concerns about what fundamentalist Muslims will feel, think, or do to influence their actions and expressions. These Westerners have begun, in other words, to internalize the strictures of sharia, and thus implicitly to accept the deferential status of dhimmis — infidels living in Muslim societies. [. . . ]
In June 2005, the BBC aired the documentary Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic, which sought to portray concerns about Islamic radicalism as overblown. This “stunning whitewash of radical Islam,” as Little Green Footballs blogger Charles Johnson put it, “helped keep the British public fast asleep, a few weeks before the bombs went off in London subways and buses” in July 2005. In December 2007, it emerged that five of the documentary’s subjects, served up on the show as examples of innocuous Muslims-next-door, had been charged in those terrorist attacks — and the BBC producers, though aware of their involvement after the attacks took place, had not reported important information about them to the police. [. . .]
After each major terrorist act since 9/11, the press has dutifully published stories about Western Muslims fearing an “anti-Muslim backlash” — thus neatly shifting the focus from Islamists’ real acts of violence to non-Muslims’ imaginary ones. [. . .]
Leading liberal intellectuals and academics have shown a striking willingness to betray liberal values when it comes to pacifying Muslims. Back in 2001, Unni Wikan, a distinguished Norwegian cultural anthropologist and Islam expert, responded to the high rate of Muslim-on-infidel rape in Olso by exhorting women to “realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it.”
Bawer is an American who has lived for many years in Europe. His concern has focused on the almost comical levels of European ideological appeasement: recall that the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Christian Church of England, has promoted the formal acceptance of Islamic law in the country. With regards to Europe, Bawer’s worries may well be warranted.
But a critical distinction must be kept in mind always, when judging something as squishy as an ideological transformation. Liberal democratic countries possess a limited amount of space and time for public discussion. Those who have access to that space and time — the chattering classes — appear powerful and thunder-voiced like Homeric gods.
But this is an illusion. While the intellectuals fly from one fashion to the next, and the news media constructs a world to fit each fashion, and the movies ape them desperately — while all this is going on, the mass of ordinary people live their lives close to the customs and traditions they have inherited, which they find good.
Craven surrender to Islamist bullying is the intellectual fashion of the day. The vast majority of citizens of liberal democracies — even, I venture, in Europe — want nothing to do with such a garage sale of their inheritance.
One fundamental tradition of liberal democracy is the rule of law. In our country, that means equality before the law: no exceptions allowed for men or women, different skin pigmentations, native-born or naturalized, Christian or Jew. At the courtroom, all citizens stand on an equal footing. The good archbishop forgot this principle, possibly because in Britain equality has been a late acquisition, even as an ideal.
Not so in our country: that all are created equal is the proposition on which the United States was founded. This is something no American ever forgets.
Here is a case in which liberal democratic rule of law collided with Islamist ideology in the state of Maryland. A Pakistani-born couple, which had lived in the US since 1985, separated after two decades of marriage. The wife filed for divorce in Montgomery County Circuit Court. The husband took a document to the Pakistani embassy in which he claimed the right of divorce, Muslim-style. That meant he would walk away free of obligations to his wife and son, although his personal worth is $2 million.
It is interesting to move from Bawer’s abstractions to this slice of life. The inequalities expoused by Islamist zealots may claim the endorsement of almighty God, but on this occasion, as frequently happens, those who were anointed more equal than others made piety a mask for selfishness, greed, and immorality. Undeserved privilege is a corrupting agent. Muslim men, if this case is in any way typical, risk finding themselves deeply corrupted in their dealings with Muslim women.
Maryland rose to the occasion. Talaq, the form of Islamic divorce sought by the husband, was rejected, and for the most illustrative of reasons: not because it wasn’t inscribed in Maryland law, but because it failed the test of the foundational American principle of equality.
The state Court of Appeals issued a unanimous 21-page opinion Tuesday declaring that talaq is contrary to Maryland’s constitutional provisions providing equal rights to men and women.
“Talaq lacks any significant ‘due process’ for the wife, its use, moreover, directly deprives the wife of the ‘due process’ she is entitled to when she initiates divorce litigation in this state. The lack and deprivation of due process is itself contrary to the state’s public policy,” the court wrote.
The decision affirms a 2007 ruling by the Court of Special Appeals, the state’s intermediate appellate court, which also said that talaq does not apply in the Free State.
The wife was “ecstatic.” She was awarded half the money from the sale of the couple’s home, and half of the husband’s World Bank pension. The husband, now living in Pakistan, probably felt outraged in his male privilege. But both were ordinary people, who having lived for decades in the US, were treated according to the laws and customs of the place. Islamist ideology counted for nothing. Surrender to Bawer’s cultural jihad was never an issue.
A legal scholar and an Islamic leader said the appellate court’s decision was not surprising.
“For the most part, Muslims expected this kind of ruling,” said Muneer Fareed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America in Plainfield, Ind. “The contrary would be a surprise to them. They do not expect the U.S. legal system to give full recognition of talaq.”