A penetrating article by William Kilpatrick. The following comparison of Islamism and Communism is very good. Liberals ought to study it unless they wish to remain enclosed in their dangerous, and possibly terminal, ignorance. Emphasis added.
Let’s draw an analogy to another globe-spanning ideology—communism. Take the case of Soviet-bloc communism. Should we have wanted it to succeed or fail? Considering the oppressive nature of communism, it’s surprising how many in the West had mixed feelings about the question. Many Western elites had the same attitude toward Soviet-bloc communism as they do today toward Islam. Like Islam, Soviet communism also seemed permanent—an inevitable force of history with which, it seemed, we had to come to terms. Western apologists for communism were willing to grant that Soviet communism had its faults, but that was because it was a misinterpretation of true communism. It needed reform, yes, but the basic model was sound. Yet, for all its Western cheerleaders, Soviet communism did fail, and it failed in large part because Western leaders stopped making accommodations with communist ideology (as they had during the Carter administration) and began to challenge it instead.
The analogy to Soviet communism limps, however, in one crucial respect. Soviet communism was not a religion. In fact, many attributed the evils of communism to its godless nature. As with the Nazi threat which preceded it, communism was perceived to be a political, not a religious, movement. Although Hitler tried to revive pagan-Teutonic mythology and although Stalin encouraged a religious-like cult of personality around himself, no one in the West thought of Nazism or communism as legitimate expressions of religion.
It’s a different story with Islam. Islam is looking more and more like a world-threatening ideology, but it is more immune to criticism than either Nazism or communism because it is a recognized and long-established religion. To challenge it is to court charges of anti-religious bigotry. In addition, something in our conscience makes us reluctant to reprove a fellow religion.
We are conditioned to have a favorable view of religion—especially other people’s religion. It somehow doesn’t seem right to contemplate Islam’s failure. To get around this difficulty, some critics of Islam contend that it is nothing but a political ideology and ought to be labeled as such. But this rebranding effort is a difficult sell because, by most standard definitions of the term, Islam does qualify as a religion. To most people, moreover, it certainly looks like a religion. The pagan-like symbols and ceremonies of the Nazis were clearly ersatz, but the same can’t be said of the centuries-old observances of Muslims. When people prostrate themselves in prayer five times a day, it’s hard to make the case that what they’re doing is nothing more than a power play.
The truth of the matter is that Islam is a hybrid: it’s both a political ideology and a religion. And although the political side of Islam may turn out to be every bit as dangerous as Nazism or communism, the religious side provides considerable protection from criticism. Because of its religious nature, it seems improper to engage Islam in the kind of ideological warfare the West waged against fascism and communism.
Yet the threat to the West and to the rest of the world is, by all appearances, increasing. Egyptians, Nigerians, Kenyans, Pakistanis, Filipinos, and others are finding it difficult to arrest the spread of radical Islam within their borders. In Europe, Islamization moves on apace, and no one has found the formula for resisting it. In Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has proclaimed the creation of a new caliphate state, declared himself caliph, and has called on Muslims worldwide to join him in waging war against infidels. We hear a lot about all the different forms of Islam, but the idea of the caliphate is that there should be only one unified Islam. Like communism, the caliphate is intended to be a borderless community—a trans-national and ever-expanding empire of true believers. That’s because, like communism, Islam aspires to be a universal belief system.
Unlike communism, however, Islam has the advantage of conducting its proselytizing activities under the banner of religion. During the Cold War, communists did not have the benefit of being able to set up recruitment and indoctrination centers all over the free world. Yet, in effect, Islam does. Mosques are not just places of worship; they are often centers of political activity and, not infrequently, of jihad activity. As a popular Muslim poem puts it, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers.” That may seem like a bit of poetic exaggeration, but it is taken seriously in the Muslim world. Recep Erdogan went to jail for quoting those lines when Turkey was still a secular state. That he is now the leader of that country provides a good indication of which way the wind is blowing.
Of course, for a non-Muslim to even hint at the possibility that mosques might serve such purposes is to invite accusations of Islamophobia and bigotry. Likewise, to suggest that there are similarities between Islam and communism or between Islam and Nazism puts one on the fringe of acceptable discourse. Which goes to prove the point: Islam’s religious status puts it beyond criticism. You can criticize very radical Islamic radicals and very extreme Islamic extremists—just as long as you add that, of course, their activities have nothing to do with the religion of Islam.