WE ARE OFTEN TOLD that we possess the most powerful military in the world and that we will face no serious threat for some time to come. We are comforted with three reassurances aimed at deflecting any serious discussion of national security: (1) that Islam is a religion of peace; (2) that we will never go to war with China because our economic interests are intertwined; and (3) that America won the Cold War and Russia is no longer our enemy. But these reassurances are myths, propagated on the right and left alike. We believe them at our peril, because serious threats are already upon us.
Let me begin with Islam. We were assured that it was a religion of peace immediately following September 11. President Bush, a good man, believed or was persuaded that true Islam was not that different from Judaism or Christianity. He said in a speech in October 2001, just a month after the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon: “Islam is a vibrant faith. . . . We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.” But unfortunately, Mr. Bush was trying to understand Islam as we would like it to be rather than how countless devout Muslims understand it.
Organizationally, Islam is built around a belief in God or Allah, but it is equally a political ideology organized around the Koran and the teachings of its founder Muhammad. Whereas Christianity teaches that we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s—allowing for a non-theocratic political tradition to develop in the West, culminating in the principles of civil and religious liberty in the American founding—Islam teaches that to disagree with or even reinterpret the Koran’s 6000 odd verses, organized into 114 chapters or Suras and dealing as fully with law and politics as with matters of faith, is punishable by death.
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