Osama’s Challenge

FrontPageMagazine.com | Robert Spencer | Monday, September 10, 2007

“I invite you to embrace Islam,” says Osama bin Laden in his latest videotape. Most analysts take this as pious window-dressing and focus on what they believe to be the more substantive points of his message: his comments on the war in Iraq, his critique of capitalism, the similarity of much of what he says to Democratic Party talking points, and the like. But in fact the invitation to Islam is the heart, and the most revealing aspect, of bin Laden’s entire statement.

The chief reason for this, of course, is because in traditional Islamic law, the invitation to Islam must precede an attack on non-Muslims. The Islamic prophet Muhammad makes this clear, directing Muslims to issue this invitation first, and if the unbelievers refuse, to invite them to enter the Islamic social order as second-class dhimmis, and if they refuse both, to go to war with them:

Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them….If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya [the poll tax on non-Muslims]. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim 4294)

Is, then, a major attack imminent? There are numerous indications of that – suggesting that one of the primary audiences, at least for this part of Osama’s message, is the Islamic world. If such an attack comes, Osama has by means of this videotape attempted to forestall criticism by Muslims, and has laid claim to Islamic legitimacy for Al-Qaeda’s actions.

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Six years after 9/11, and a year and a half after Donald Rumsfeld observed that “We need to find ways to win the ideological battle as well,” the jihadists’ ideological challenge is not being answered adequately. Osama’s challenge to Christianity and advocacy of Sharia is an opportunity for Western leaders to stress the aspects of Judeo-Christian civilization that Sharia law denies: notably the equality of dignity of men and women and the freedom of conscience. But no Western leader will do this, because it would contradict the multiculturalist dogma that no civilization or culture has any virtues that any others do not possess. The centrality of the jihadists’ cultural challenge to the West, and Western unwillingness to respond to this challenge, is a chief theme of my book Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t, but it is getting little attention elsewhere; even conservative media figures are hesitant to discuss the cultural conflict. The ideological challenge that the jihadists are making to the West remains the single most misunderstood aspect of the war on terror. As Osama invites us once again to accept Islam, probably very few Americans would be able to articulate why they wouldn’t want to accept the invitation, and yet talk of Sharia and how it contradicts basic Western understandings of human rights remain taboo.

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