Dear Mr. Buckley

Dear Mr. Buckley:

This open letter to you is the result of your essay published September 14th of this year and entitled, 'Is Victory Possible?' In this essay, you quite ably, as we have come to expect from you, describe President Bush as a man committed to defeating the extremists among the Muslim faithful. For you, the post—9—11 president who 'radiates singular American strengths when especially taxed' stands poised to take this war to our enemies and to fight it until we stand alone victorious.

But having lavished such praise, you immediately retract it but not for the reason that the President has insisted on whimsically 'building democracy' among a people with an ideology acutely and chronically resistant to the ways of the West, but because the President has manufactured an 'ideological divide' where none exists. For you, the evil is human sin, a crime of which we are all capable. Permit me to allow you to speak in your own words:

The key point is that this is not an ideological divide, because 9/11 was an aberrant act, not an expression of Islamic dogma.

George Bush is a thoughtful Christian who is prepared to weigh human behavior as sinful. He said in his talk,

"We have learned that (our enemies) are evil and kill without mercy —— but not without purpose. We have learned that they form a global network of extremists who are driven by a perverted vision of Islam. ... And we have learned that their goal is to build a radical Islamic empire."

The day he spoke, a suicide bomber in Afghanistan attacked the funeral of a provincial governor, who had himself been killed by a suicide bomber the day before. [....]

The quickest answer to the division between them and us, as summoned by Mr. Bush, is that the New York firefighter [who rushed into a burning inferno to save men and women he could not have known] acted in fulfillment of his official training, which taught duty transcending risk. The Afghan bomber was not fired by official training in the illusion of an Islamic empire. That is not the training to which millions of young Muslims around the world are subjected. That is why the President could speak of a "perverted" vision of Islam and of a "radical" Islamic empire.

The suicide bomber is enacting a masturbatory vision of himself as a cog in an enterprise that is nowhere set in hard theological language authorizing, let alone enjoining, him to kill himself and whoever else is in range of the explosive he detonates. There is not a single sentence in accepted Muslim doctrine that commends, let alone encourages, suicide action entailing the destruction of bystanders, although there are, among renegade sects, leaders who urge precisely that.

How is it possible, Mr. Buckley, a man so erudite and literate could be so misinformed? Certainly you are aware that Islam is a religion of law and that the world's Muslim faithful, even in their non—observance, consider this law supreme. (See, e.g., here.) While Islam's theology of a world Islamic state established by the sword if necessary and waiting not for some eschatological moment is threatening enough, are you oblivious to the Shari'a's claims on the Muslim and its demand for martyrdom? Have you not been exposed to the recent research on Islam and Jihad which rejects the romanticism and polemics of the older Islamic scholarship? Have you ignored the work of this new investigative genre, often the joint labor of specialists and non—specialists who have invested in the translation into English of the Arabic juridical texts of the authoritative Islamic legal academies? Have you not read Andrew Bostom's The Legacy of Jihad? Anything by Robert Spencer or Bat Ye'or? Have you seen my own work? Is there a common denominator at work here that leads you to dismiss this scholarship?

You demand to know of the President and others where in Islam suicide —— otherwise outlawed to Muslims —— is authorized much less enjoined? But have you not chosen purposefully a straw man? Is this not a slight of hand?

You most assuredly are aware that Islam, per force of law, demands martyrdom of its faithful in a war 'to open the nations to Islam'. There is no historical or theological dispute about this. While the Qur'an has its share of pre—Medina peace and co—existence verses, the Muslim's holy book, Mohammad's history of war making, conquest, and murder, and Islam's extant authoritative law, demands a Muslim die in making war against the infidel to establish a world owing its allegiance to the Muslim's Allah. Are you blind to these matters?

And, let's suppose suicide were to be outlawed by the Imams today so silent around the world when Jews die at the hands of the bombers. Would the jihad against the West cease? Islamic martyrdom, unlike the Jewish tradition where a martyr dies because he refuses the demands of a tyrant to deny the Jewish faith or to spill the blood of an innocent, demands the Muslim martyr die murdering the infidel. And this is not my rhetoric. This is Mohammad's and more importantly, the legal dictates of Shari'a.

While I might criticize President Bush for his fatal, but well—intentioned ideological whim to build democracies among a ruthless people who believe in a murderous creed falsely labeled a 'religion of peace,' you suggest by implication that there cannot be a distinction between Islam and the Judeo—Christian West. Do you not sail dangerously close to the equally fatal ontological shallows of moral equivalence when you write that the "anarchic passion to smash" so manifest in 'radical Islamism' also 'threatened Christianity in its early centuries'?

Do you find no difference of meaning and purpose in the two religions? And, even assuming a shared burden in their infancy, is there no ultimate distinction to be made in one which grows to responsible adulthood and the other to pathological criminality?

Finally, Mr. Buckley, I am left with more questions than answers. You wish to suggest in your essay that even the weak—kneed response to Islam by the Bush Administration is wrongheaded because those in line with the Bush agenda still see an evil ideology in the 'perversion of a peaceful Islam.' Of course, no one has yet to point to a peaceful Islam, but you go even further. You imagine to see the hundreds of millions of Muslim faithful, who confess even in its breach total allegiance to a murderous Shari'a and to an even more deadly theology, as no more than a generic 'human perversion.' Do you wish to suggest that what we see in the Arab and Muslim streets is merely a reflection of all of us?

I refuse to believe that of a man of your intellectual and moral stature. It cannot be that you have been infected with that most deadly of modern bacterium that renders man's ability to distinguish and order wholly inert. There must be something else at work in your words. Some other more sublime message or motivation. For the life of me, I cannot fathom what that might be.

David Yerushalmi is the founder of SANE.