Dhimmipolitik – A 2000 word sample of Chapter 1
When the towers fell, Western apologists and policy makers, fearing an uncontrollable and reactionary backlash to al Qaeda’s military strike on the United States, advanced the narrative that Islam was a religion of peace. Frantic Muslim voices attributed the root of the Arabic word for peace – salam – as the root for the word Islam. Those in the West, who pointed to the ideology of Islam as the source blood of violent jihad, parted the veil and translated the word Islam as submission. In a total rejection of the apologetics of the day, awakening realists of the West denied that Islam was a religion and defined it as nothing more than a political ideology.
At the time, the Western street wanted a swift retaliation to eliminate the threat and did not care to differentiate between Sunni and Shia Islam, much less between moderate and fundamentalist Islam. To this lack of sophistication, Islam’s apologists and Western leaders forwarded a new mantra on the stage of public opinion: “Islam is not a monolith.”
Monolith was an odd word for American audiences to digest. The concept originated in a cerebral 1997 report by the UK-based race relations charity, the Runnymede Trust, entitled “Islamophobia: a challenge for us all.” The large influx of Muslim immigrants into England led many to call its capitol Londonistan, and the report was designed to identify the social friction. Instead, it institutionalized the accepted definition of the word Islamophobia as prejudice against Muslims. According to the report, “Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.”
The function of the new mantra was to humanize the adherents of Islam by identifying the faith as a varied and vibrant religion with numerous schools and progressive thinkers, in order to condition Americans to reject Islamophobia. With the launch of this PR device in the early stages of the Global War on Terror, militant jihadists were neatly packaged for mass consumption by a tuned in Western audience as abhorrent aberrations from Islam rather than the norm.
In response to the mantra, the realists of the West classified the political ideology of groups like al Qaeda and regimes like the Taliban as “Islamic fascism.” The classification was a step toward specificity and a step away from the common catchall phrase “radical Islam.” Beyond this, the phrase was designed to let the Western world know that fear or concern about Islam was not irrational as the charges of Islamophobia more than implied.
Then, in August of 2006, as the 33-day war between Hezbollah and Israel wound down, after years of claiming that the peaceful religion of Islam had been hijacked by extremists with a twisted ideology, President George W. Bush identified freedom’s enemy as “Islamic fascists.” It was a marked change in tone. Bush, at last, conflated Islam with totalitarianism and vindicated the realist narratives – for a moment.
Nihad Awad, the executive director of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, immediately blasted the president’s use of the Islamo-fascist label, calling it an “ill-advised term” that might start a religious war against Islam and Muslims. Within weeks, President Bush dropped the phrase from his public commentary so as not to offend American Muslim sensibilities. By 2008, US diplomats were advised to avoid the contentious phrase “Islamo-Fascism” in official communication.
The realists of the West were undeterred in the interim. Keen to educate others about the totalitarian stripes of the Muslim world view, they advanced a narrative that compared a formless, borderless, murderous threat of jihadism to Nazism and Communism to varying degrees, and unveiled the nebulous connections of the Ikhwan – the Muslim Brotherhood – as the overarching political and institutional structure propping up the Islamic terrorists ranging from Hamas in Gaza to al Qaeda’s growing global concern.
The Holy Land Foundation Trial in 2007 exposed the Muslim Brotherhood network of around 30 organizations in America and uncovered the group’s strategic plan to sabotage the United States from within to prepare the way for an alternative Islamic society. 300 Muslims associated with the charity were listed in the trial as unindicted co-conspirators. Among those conspirators was CAIR.
Unfortunately, as the trial unfolded and it became clear that the HLF charity was funneling millions of dollars to the anti-Israel jihadi terror group HAMAS, Americans weren’t watching anything but their wallets. Gas prices shot up to over four dollars a gallon. The housing bubble burst. The US economy was in a tail spin that threatened global stability. CAIR’s possible involvement as a front for a civilization jihad wasn’t front page. The subprime mortgage industry, the economic stimulus, and the collapse of firms like Bear Sterns were the news of the day when an alarmed FBI severed CAIR’s liaison status.
Looking back, President Bush’s decision to placate Muslims in 2006 was a major coup for CAIR’s Nihad Awad. But, the 2008 decision by the Bush Administration to accommodate the Islamic World by self-censoring the official communications of the State Department’s diplomats was an act of pure, unadulterated dhimmipolitik.
Changing the War on Terror lexicon was not an act of whimsy. It was a cultural shift derived from a January 2008 memorandum that was drawn up by the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security entitled “Terminology to Define The Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims.” According to the official document, Secretary Chertoff sat down with a group of unnamed and unlisted “influential Muslim Americans” in May of 2007 to discuss the best way to combat homegrown jihad through civic engagement during the War on Terror. The goal of countering radicalism was utmost on the agenda. To assist in the effort, the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties office tapped a number of leading US-based scholars and pundits to determine the most suitable language to describe the terrorist threat. The primary conclusion of the document was that words matter.
The first “Expert Recommendation” on offer was to recognize that groups like al Qaeda are exploiting Islam for their own ends and that each group should be dealt with separately, rather than corralled into a single entity or presented as a unified movement. The second recommendation was to deny terrorist groups any semblance of legitimacy. The unnamed experts in the report agreed that classifying a terrorist as a “jihadist,” “Salafist,” “Islamist,” or even as an “Islamic terrorist” had the power to provide an undue veneer of religious credence to the Osama bin Ladens of the world. The third recommendation urged US Government officials to refrain from using Arabic or Islamic theological terms in any context.
In summation, the first three recommendations to improve America’s strategic approach to communications in the Global War on Terror were: (1) cast Islam as the pitiful victim of exploitation; (2) stifle any religious connotations or references in regards to terror committed by nominally Islamic groups; and, (3) accept the reality that American officials do not have the religious authority to speak on matters pertaining to Islamic Law.
The next six recommendations from the expert gallery identified strategic words and messaging approaches that would help bring clarity to the fight. These included identifying groups like al Qaeda as a “death cult,” and refraining from belittling the faith of moderate Muslims by referring to them instead as “mainstream,” “traditional,” or “ordinary” Muslims. The word “takfir” was met by the ad hoc panel as a potentially strategic bridge of common ground, since 200 leaders from 50 countries met in July of 2005 to collectively reject the takfiri practice of charging fellow Muslims with the Islamic capital crime of apostasy in a document known as “The Amman Message.” One recommendation noted that the “War on Terror” was negative rather than positive and suggested “A Global Struggle for Security and Progress” as an alternative moniker that would resonate with all audiences and emphasize what America was fighting for rather than what it was fighting against. Another called on US Government communication specialists to emphasize the value of equality and the success of Muslim integration in America by categorically rejecting the Osama bin Laden narrative of a “Clash of Civilizations.” Of course, the document closes with a desire to reaffirm that America is not at war with Islam.
The most revealing takeaway from the document was the manner in which these presumably well-adjusted and thoroughly integrated American Muslim commentators viewed liberty. The experts chosen to join the discussion rejected liberty as any sort of positive goal, arguing that liberty was nothing but a buzzword for “American hegemony.” In its place, the struggle for progress was seen as the most strategic and universally acceptable goal of civilization. Violent imposition of a global caliphate isn’t an affront to liberty, it is an assault on the pathways of global progress.
From this expert vantage, the 9/11 plane attacks on New York and Washington DC, the 3/11 train bombing in Madrid, and the 7/7 tube strike in London were not jihadist assaults on the liberty of Western societies by Islamic supremacists, they were terrorist attacks on global progress committed by violent extremists indoctrinated to mindlessly exploit Islam.
Words matter, indeed!
On March 14, 2008, The National Counterterrorism Center’s Extremist Messaging Branch boiled down the January document into a 14-point bulletin, entitled “Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication.”
According to the March 2008 bulletin, the communication guidelines were not intended to be binding or meant to influence research analysis or policy papers. The aim was to raise awareness of the fact that what an audience hears is not necessarily the same as what is said.
As such, the use of “pejorative” or ill-defined and offensive term terms like Islamo-fascism should be avoided. The terms “violent extremist” and “terrorist” were identified as the best way to define the enemy without legitimizing it. Rather than discussing the goal of instituting a “caliphate,” the phrase “global totalitarian state” was seen as acceptable middle ground. In this, framing the terrorist groups as illegitimate political organizations that use religion as a political tool was deemed the best way to achieve specificity.
One notable somehow non-binding suggestion was to never use the words “mujahideen” or “jihadist” when referring to or describing a terrorist. Why? Because the term “mujahed” holds a positive connotation to Muslims, since it refers to a holy warrior that is participating in a just war. The bulletin notes that in Arabic, “jihad” is defined as “striving in the path of God.” And, since jihad holds many contexts beyond warfare, to call a terrorist a jihadi actually legitimizes his striving.
Both documents are available for public view at Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project.** The internal memos were leaked to the Associated Press in late April of 2008. Whether or not the leak had any bearing on the reality, the memo was approved by the Bush Administration for diplomatic use and distributed to all US Embassies.
In light of these realities, it should be thought on that the goal of US Embassies is to promote the American way and advance American values. But, in April of 2008, the very liberty, that for six bloody years, the allied soldiers had been fighting and dying to guarantee, was abandoned in the name of progress. Rather than given the capacity to effectively compete in the War of Ideas, US diplomats were given notice to surrender their diplomatic space to the wiles of cognitive dissonance in order to accommodate the authority of Islamic Law.
After all, according to the memos, American Ambassadors simply weren’t qualified to crack open the Keller translation of Reliance of the Traveler to the Sharia Law appendix entitled “Justice” and digest the first sentence of the section regarding jihad (o9.o), which states “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion.” In this cultural shift, in the name of strategic communications, US Diplomats were essentially advised to disregard the fact that, in Sharia Law, the primary definition of jihad is Holy War against infidels with the intent to institute an expanding Islam.
– Mack Zed