World on Fire

We Should Have Seen These Protests Coming

Surprised that the Middle East exploded in protests this week? You shouldn’t be. Andrew C. McCarthy on why Islam and the West just don’t mix.

09.17.12 6:41 PM ET

That Cairo’s “Arab Spring” has devolved into another round of mayhem, including last week’s storming of the American embassy, comes as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.

In poll after poll, and now election after election, Egypt has told the world that three-quarters of its population is adherent to Islamic supremacism. They are Islamists: Muslims who wish to be ruled by Islam’s repressive Sharia societal system. As rendered by centuries of Islamic scholars, Sharia is antithetical to Western notions of liberty, rationalism, and self-determinism. 

Equally predictable were the atrocities in Libya, where American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack that was patently coordinated by trained militants—contrary to the risible denials of Islamist premeditation by Obama administration officials. Per capita, Libya sent more jihadists to fight Western troops in Iraq than any other Muslim country. The increasingly familiar black flag of al Qaeda was a constant presence among the “rebel” factions—it is more accurate to call them mujahideen—that warred against Muammar Gaddafi, even if their bipartisan American fan club made a habit of denying what was in plain sight.

Most stunning this week to Americans is the mayhem’s spread to Tunisia, which, The Wall Street Journal was quick to remind us, is “considered a moderate Muslim country and the birthplace of the wave of revolutions that hit the [Middle East] starting nearly two years ago.” These “moderates,” too, converged on the American embassy, ripped down and stomped on the stars and stripes, and raised the black flag of militant jihad. Similar demonstrations rocked Iraq, where Americans sacrificed blood and treasure for nearly a decade before leaving behind an “Islamic democracy” that—again, predictably—has become an Iranian satellite, working against American interests.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, where American troops still toil, the ravage of “blue on green” attacks—Afghans turning their guns on the “allied” Western forces trying to train them—continued apace. In the last week, six more coalition service members were killed in such attacks. That brings this year’s death toll to 51, already exceeding the harrowing total of 35 murdered last year. 

Nearly 20 years after the World Trade Center bombing began bringing home to Americans the worst excesses of Islamic supremacism, we still do not grasp its fundamentals. Our government and commentariat adopted a seemingly immovable policy of willful blindness to the pervasiveness of this ideology, the mainstream Islam of the Middle East. Consequently, most Americans do not know what any child in Cairo could tell you: when non-Muslim forces operate in Islamic lands, particularly if they seek to plant Western ideas and institutions, they must be driven out, by violent jihad if necessary. It matters not that the West believes it is doing humanitarian work, attempting to make life better for Muslims. Classical Sharia regards these efforts as provocations.

My new book, Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, endeavors to explain that, on the matter of freedom, the Muslim Middle East and the West are ships passing in the night. In Islamist ideology, the concept of “freedom” is total submission to what is seen as the beneficent gift of Allah’s law—“perfect slavery” as Islamic scholars render the idea. Democracy is not a culture of liberty, as it is in the West. It is a route to power. It is not substantive democracy. It is democracy’s mere procedures, particularly popular elections. This understanding was perfectly captured by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now the prime minister of Turkey: “Democracy is just the train we board to reach our destination.” The destination is Sharia, not liberty. 

To understand “the Arab Spring,” it is essential to grasp that the key fact on the ground in Arab countries—as well as in Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other neighboring non-Arab territories—is Islam. It is not poverty, illiteracy, or the lack of democratic institutions. These features, like anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and an insular propensity to buy into conspiracy theories featuring infidel villains, are epiphenomena. They are consequences of Islam’s regional dominance and supremacist ambitions. They do not cause populations to turn to Islam. One need not be led to that which pervades one's existence.

There are many different interpretations of Islam. With the “Arab Spring,” though, we are not talking about Islam in the West, under pressure to evolve, to make the compromises that integration in a different civilization calls for. We are talking about Islam on its home turf. That Islam, we are perhaps beginning to realize, is most emphatically not “moderate.”