Make Love, Not Jihad

There might be something to the old hippie line about making love, not war. Crushing last decade’s violent Islamist uprisings in the Middle East took brute military force, but homegrown Islamist extremism among American Muslims may be more vulnerable to a different sort of weapon. When it comes to human sexuality, there is a non-negotiable conflict between Western progressivism and Islamist ideology. Indeed, leftists and Islamists are so strict in their conflicting orthodoxies on sex and gender that the former have ended many careers over dissent from their dogma, while the latter have ended many lives over dissent from theirs.

Commentators on the right, including this author, tend to portray American leftists as the proverbial useful idiots of the Islamists, feeding the rest of the West into the jihadist crocodile maw, and hoping to go in last. Perhaps we have underestimated the left: in Boston at least, it might well eat the crocodile.

Boston has been the scene of many audacious “firsts” in the modern sexual revolution. Now its aggressive sexual liberty activists are pressing local mosque leaders to renounce their stances on homosexuality. At the same time, modern pleasures are gradually seducing local Muslim youth away from the darker religious orthodoxy that, since 9/11, has produced over a dozen homegrown Islamist terrorists in the Boston area.

On the surface, it is hard to detect any conflict between leftists and Islamists in Boston. In my recently-published book, Terror in the Cradle of Liberty: How Boston Became a Center for Islamic Extremism, I document the lovefest between Boston’s far-left political establishment and the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB), the controversial group that runs Boston’s largest mosque.

In the first years of the Trump administration, squads of leftist politicians, rabbis, ministers, and priests made their pilgrimages to the ISB mosque to denounce the President’s counterterrorism policies from the mosque’s pulpit, and to organize for the Democrats. Senator Elizabeth Warren showed up, as did the Boston mayor and two successive Boston police commissioners -- with one proclaiming: “We are all Muslims deep inside.” The lesbian Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, came to show her support. The chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court -- the first state high court in the nation to recognize gay marriage -- came four years in a row. In 2018, he told the ISB’s members, “as long as things are being said in our nation’s capital that might cause you to wonder whether your constitutional rights will be honored, I will continue to come,” and praised the ISB’s preacher as a man of justice.

Just one week before hearing from the chief justice, that same ISB audience listened to that same ISB preacher, Imam Yasir Fahmy, screaming that “behind fornication” and the freedom to “please myself sexually in any way that I want… behind all of that is a very big injustice.” According to Imam Fahmy:

“When Allah talks about the types of relationships that a person is allowed to have, and he says that it is the marriage between a man and the woman in holy matrimony, in accordance with the Quran and Sunna, then that is haq [the truth]. Anything other than that is baatil [falsehood]. These are not things that we are allowed to negotiate over.”

Imam Fahmy’s predecessor at the ISB, Imam Suhaib Webb, had gone even further, preaching that Muhammad “cursed the man who imitates a woman,” and that Muslims must oppose gay marriage “by any means necessary.”

When Massachusetts leftists, many of whom have personally played pioneering roles in the global movement to legalize same-sex marriage, found out about these sermons, they put the squeeze on the ISB and its imams. Imam Webb tried to save his standing in Boston by privately confessing to a gay Jewish leader that he “was wrong” about same-sex marriage and swearing to him that he repented “after meeting with gay congregants and humanizing their struggles some months ago.” Apparently, this was not enough, and the imam had to go on record in the Boston Globe as having “rethought the gay marriage issue.” Since nothing is ever enough for the left, the imam lost his job anyway. Early last year, my organization ridiculed New England’s leftist politicians for embracing his equally homophobic replacement, Imam Fahmy. Late last year, Imam Fahmy resigned as the ISB’s imam. The pilgrimages of politicians to the ISB’s mosque have since stopped. Love won, as the left always likes to say.

The real threat to Islamist extremism in Boston, however, is not coercion from the city’s left, but seduction from the city’s good life. Indeed, urban modernity might be grinding away at fundamentalism within Islam, much as it is eroding Western traditional faiths.

In a March sermon at the ISB’s Boston mosque, John Robbins, executive director of the Hamas-affiliated Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) branch in Massachusetts, hit upon the irreconcilable problem Islamism faces in a free society. Robbins was fatalistic about the ISB mosques outliving their current congregations, and told the parents listening that they are wrong to think:

“As long as we can keep [our children] away from anything that is ḥarām [forbidden], we’ll be doing fine… As long as we can protect them and insulate them from illicit images, from drugs and alcohol, from interactions with the opposite gender that are not in a halal [permissible] environment. But I hate to break it to you, the moment that they get in their hands a smartphone… all of that goes out the window.”

Ironically, Robbins’s young fellow CAIR Massachusetts board member Nadeem Mazen was caught cruising the libertine smartphone dating app Tinder a few years back -- while publicly claiming repressive sexual practices like the burqa to be a devout Muslim, defending, and insisting that “trying to foist secular attitudes on Muslims” is “imperialist” and “inherently immoral.” Ilhan Omar, another CAIR-backed American Muslim who claims to be devoutly religious, has recently been enjoying a secular lifestyle that could get her stoned to death in her native Somalia.

Seventy years ago, the ideological father of modern jihad, Said Qutb, came to America from Egypt to study at the University of North Colorado and, like CAIR’s Nadeem Mazen, pretended not to like what he saw. According to Qutb: “The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity... in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs and she shows all this and does not hide it.” Now it appears, in the judgement of those who know them best, an awful lot of Muslim American girls may turn out to be no different; and many of them, along with many Muslim American boys, care little about Qutb.

They’re making love, not jihad.

There might be something to the old hippie line about making love, not war. Crushing last decade’s violent Islamist uprisings in the Middle East took brute military force, but homegrown Islamist extremism among American Muslims may be more vulnerable to a different sort of weapon. When it comes to human sexuality, there is a non-negotiable conflict between Western progressivism and Islamist ideology. Indeed, leftists and Islamists are so strict in their conflicting orthodoxies on sex and gender that the former have ended many careers over dissent from their dogma, while the latter have ended many lives over dissent from theirs.

Commentators on the right, including this author, tend to portray American leftists as the proverbial useful idiots of the Islamists, feeding the rest of the West into the jihadist crocodile maw, and hoping to go in last. Perhaps we have underestimated the left: in Boston at least, it might well eat the crocodile.

Boston has been the scene of many audacious “firsts” in the modern sexual revolution. Now its aggressive sexual liberty activists are pressing local mosque leaders to renounce their stances on homosexuality. At the same time, modern pleasures are gradually seducing local Muslim youth away from the darker religious orthodoxy that, since 9/11, has produced over a dozen homegrown Islamist terrorists in the Boston area.

On the surface, it is hard to detect any conflict between leftists and Islamists in Boston. In my recently-published book, Terror in the Cradle of Liberty: How Boston Became a Center for Islamic Extremism, I document the lovefest between Boston’s far-left political establishment and the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB), the controversial group that runs Boston’s largest mosque.

In the first years of the Trump administration, squads of leftist politicians, rabbis, ministers, and priests made their pilgrimages to the ISB mosque to denounce the President’s counterterrorism policies from the mosque’s pulpit, and to organize for the Democrats. Senator Elizabeth Warren showed up, as did the Boston mayor and two successive Boston police commissioners -- with one proclaiming: “We are all Muslims deep inside.” The lesbian Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, came to show her support. The chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court -- the first state high court in the nation to recognize gay marriage -- came four years in a row. In 2018, he told the ISB’s members, “as long as things are being said in our nation’s capital that might cause you to wonder whether your constitutional rights will be honored, I will continue to come,” and praised the ISB’s preacher as a man of justice.

Just one week before hearing from the chief justice, that same ISB audience listened to that same ISB preacher, Imam Yasir Fahmy, screaming that “behind fornication” and the freedom to “please myself sexually in any way that I want… behind all of that is a very big injustice.” According to Imam Fahmy:

“When Allah talks about the types of relationships that a person is allowed to have, and he says that it is the marriage between a man and the woman in holy matrimony, in accordance with the Quran and Sunna, then that is haq [the truth]. Anything other than that is baatil [falsehood]. These are not things that we are allowed to negotiate over.”

Imam Fahmy’s predecessor at the ISB, Imam Suhaib Webb, had gone even further, preaching that Muhammad “cursed the man who imitates a woman,” and that Muslims must oppose gay marriage “by any means necessary.”

When Massachusetts leftists, many of whom have personally played pioneering roles in the global movement to legalize same-sex marriage, found out about these sermons, they put the squeeze on the ISB and its imams. Imam Webb tried to save his standing in Boston by privately confessing to a gay Jewish leader that he “was wrong” about same-sex marriage and swearing to him that he repented “after meeting with gay congregants and humanizing their struggles some months ago.” Apparently, this was not enough, and the imam had to go on record in the Boston Globe as having “rethought the gay marriage issue.” Since nothing is ever enough for the left, the imam lost his job anyway. Early last year, my organization ridiculed New England’s leftist politicians for embracing his equally homophobic replacement, Imam Fahmy. Late last year, Imam Fahmy resigned as the ISB’s imam. The pilgrimages of politicians to the ISB’s mosque have since stopped. Love won, as the left always likes to say.

The real threat to Islamist extremism in Boston, however, is not coercion from the city’s left, but seduction from the city’s good life. Indeed, urban modernity might be grinding away at fundamentalism within Islam, much as it is eroding Western traditional faiths.

In a March sermon at the ISB’s Boston mosque, John Robbins, executive director of the Hamas-affiliated Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) branch in Massachusetts, hit upon the irreconcilable problem Islamism faces in a free society. Robbins was fatalistic about the ISB mosques outliving their current congregations, and told the parents listening that they are wrong to think:

“As long as we can keep [our children] away from anything that is ḥarām [forbidden], we’ll be doing fine… As long as we can protect them and insulate them from illicit images, from drugs and alcohol, from interactions with the opposite gender that are not in a halal [permissible] environment. But I hate to break it to you, the moment that they get in their hands a smartphone… all of that goes out the window.”

Ironically, Robbins’s young fellow CAIR Massachusetts board member Nadeem Mazen was caught cruising the libertine smartphone dating app Tinder a few years back -- while publicly claiming repressive sexual practices like the burqa to be a devout Muslim, defending, and insisting that “trying to foist secular attitudes on Muslims” is “imperialist” and “inherently immoral.” Ilhan Omar, another CAIR-backed American Muslim who claims to be devoutly religious, has recently been enjoying a secular lifestyle that could get her stoned to death in her native Somalia.

Seventy years ago, the ideological father of modern jihad, Said Qutb, came to America from Egypt to study at the University of North Colorado and, like CAIR’s Nadeem Mazen, pretended not to like what he saw. According to Qutb: “The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity... in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs and she shows all this and does not hide it.” Now it appears, in the judgement of those who know them best, an awful lot of Muslim American girls may turn out to be no different; and many of them, along with many Muslim American boys, care little about Qutb.

They’re making love, not jihad.