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Liberal Fatwa: How the Left Deals With "Infidels"

Exclusive commentary by Greg Lewis /
March 4, 2003

A fatwa is, as we've come to know, a clerically sanctioned death threat. If, for instance, Christianity or Judaism approved of such edicts, the equivalent would be your minister or your priest or your rabbi telling the congregation that "it is your obligation to kill John Smith on sight because he has made statements against our religion." Can't imagine it happening where you worship? Neither can I. It's primitive and brutal, and it's a lead-pipe cinch that the minister of my family's church would not last the rest of Sunday in his position if he did such a thing.

The issuance of a fatwa is a terrorist technique endorsed by Islam. Such a death threat, pronounced by a religious leader against one who has (as is almost always the case) presumed to criticize Islam is designed to silence the offending voice as well as to intimidate others from taking a similar course, whether or not it is successfully carried out. You and I, unless you are a Muslim, have been living under the threat of a fatwa for longer than we could have known, for Islam, through pronouncements in the Qur'an and periodic reinforcement from its Imams, has issued a blanket fatwa against all infidels, and, again, unless you're a Muslim, we are infidels.

Well, if that's not bad enough, as it turns out, if you're a politically conservative non-Muslim, especially an outspoken one, you're living under a double fatwa. That's because liberals regularly issue what amount to fatwas against their political opponents. Now a left/liberal fatwa is not, strictly speaking, a death threat. It's only a threat to destroy your reputation, get you fired from your job, and deny you your rights as an American citizen.

While they whine unceasingly about, for instance, the violation of the civil rights of Muslim terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, liberals rejoice when due process is denied to those who have offended the code of correctness of the left. To Left/Liberals, Republicans and conservatives are infidels, and such political infidels are to be treated only slightly less brutally than Islamists treat religious infidels. The issuance of a fatwa is done by the left in the name of political correctness, which passes for them as a religion. In defense of their "religion," those on the left behave as true believers who brook no deviation from their stated aims.

The term "fatwa" first impinged on my consciousness more than a decade ago when it was used in conjunction with the author Salman Rushdie. The Ayatollah Khomeini, then the Supreme Leader of Iran, took offense to remarks Rushdie made about Islam in the novel The Satanic Verses. Rushdie's response to the fatwa against him was basically to cave in and say, "OK, you win, I'll just go to ground til you guys get tired of looking for me." He went into hiding for the better part of a decade, at the cost of his marriage and, I have to think, some not-insignificant part of the creative output of his best years. During that time Rushdie skulked around under the protection of bodyguards, when he got up the courage to skulk at all. Otherwise he just lay low.

I must confess that I didn't take seriously the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Until the Rushdie/Khomeini brushup, the only incident that had brought the Middle Eastern version of Islam to my attention was Cat Stevens' 1977 embrace of the Muslim religion. At that time, the gifted and internationally successful singer-songwriter converted to Islam, pledged his fortune to good works, and retired to what I assumed was something approaching a monastic life. I remember — this would have been about three or four years after Rushdie had been for all practical purposes "disappeared" (to borrow an applicable term from "The Sopranos") by Khomeini — putting on a Cat Stevens' Greatest Hits CD and listening to such brilliant songs as "Wild World" and "Katmandu" and understanding exactly the difference between what Cat Stevens' and Salman Rushdie's lives had become.

Cat Stevens is a genius. I have to think that, if Stevens had committed an affront against Islam equivalent to Rushdie's, he would have stood up and said, "You know where to find me. I'm not about to be cowed by a pack of religious thugs." (Stevens —now known as Yusuf Islam — did, by the way, condemn in the strongest terms the loss of innocent life in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.) I can't imagine that Stevens, who had the courage to resign voluntarily his place in the greater world for the purpose of following his convictions, would have been intimidated by something as meaningless (in the spiritual grand scheme of things) as a death threat. On the other hand, Rushdie's convictions were so weakly held that a death threat could bring him to his knees.

It is interesting and instructive to observe that Left/Liberals in America, particularly the Democratic Party, who employ tactics, including fatwa, similar to those of Islamic fundamentalists and to similar ends, are unwilling, not to say unable, to stand up to terrorism when our country is confronted by it. They tend, as Rushdie did, to cower in the face of a bully's threat. When America was threatened during the 1990s, the Clinton Administration went so far in its attempt to look the other way as to create a euphemism for the term "rogue state": Such entities were rechristened "states of concern," with the effect that any threat they might pose was minimized and the need for confronting them made to seem trivial. The Left today, in America and around the world, would avoid confronting bullies of all political and religious stripes by demonstrating in the name of the very principle that is most at risk when tyrants are not confronted: Peace.

The point that needs to be made about responding to fatwas, whether they come from Islamists or the political left, is that the proper response is to stand up. Our President knows this. He knows that you can't give in to intimidation, that there are some fights you can't walk away from. The fact that he inherited an international terrorist threat that had been swept under the rug by the Clinton administration has never come up in his public utterances. It could have been Bill Clinton's fight (and Clinton struts around bemoaning the fact that he didn't have the "opportunity" Bush now has), but Clinton chose what amounted to an emulation of Salman Rushdie in response to terrorist threats. Now it is George W. Bush's fight.

When you confront attack dogs, whether of the Islamist or political liberal breed, you're not just standing up for yourself. You're standing up for hundreds and thousand and millions of people who are themselves subject to the tyranny of religious and political totalitarianism. If you're a public figure, some part of the world is watching. And when you give in to a fatwa, when you let it intimidate you into cowardice and inaction, when you, especially as an American leader, abdicate the responsibility implicit in your public words and deeds and in the principles on which our country was founded, then those less fortunate who are watching you see dimmed one more ray of hope that they may have been holding onto. Conversely, when you confront and defeat terrorist regimes, you shine the light of hope for all oppressed peoples the world over to see.

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