Ralph Peters' Fog of Confusion on Islam

Ralph Peters, retired military officer and author of several books on this present conflict, has published an op-ed in the New York Post titled “Islam-Haters: An Enemy Within,” which is one of the most confused and irresponsible pieces I have ever seen in an American newspaper. Even worse, Peters’ column was praised by the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto and others, contributing to the fog of misunderstanding and disinformation that envelopes public discourse about jihad terrorism five years after 9/11.

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Peters never tells us to whom he is referring. He just says that “a rotten core of American extremists is out to make it harder” for moderate Muslims. A “really ugly” group of “right-wing extremists” is “bent on discrediting honorable conservatism” by “insisting that Islam can never reform, that the violent conquest and subjugation of unbelievers is the faith’s primary agenda — and, when you read between the lines, that all Muslims are evil and subhuman.”

For my part, I have never said that “Islam can never reform or that violent conquest and subjugation of unbelievers is the faith’s primary agenda,” and I certainly have never stated or implied in any way that “all Muslims are evil and subhuman.” I have said, of course, that Islamic reform will be extraordinarily difficult. I have also pointed out that violent conquest and subjugation of unbelievers is an element of the teaching of all Islamic sects (except the Ahmadiyya, who are persecuted as heretics as a result). This is simply a question of fact. Its truth or falsehood can be established by anyone who examines the teachings of the sects and madhahib. I invite all to do so — and if you do, you will see that I am stating this accurately. Does this constitute the “primary agenda” of Islam? No. At some times and among some groups it has been central, but at other times and among others it has been for certain periods of time deemphasized almost to non-existence.

Above all, does the existence of this doctrine mean that “all Muslims are evil and subhuman”? That’s just ridiculous. The existence of any religious doctrine, even if someone thinks it is false and wicked, doesn’t make all those who hold it evil and subhuman. If Peters is in this referring to me or anyone else who has published on Islam and terror — Serge Trifkovic, Andrew Bostom, Ibn Warraq, Bat Ye’or, or anyone else — he would be hard-pressed to substantiate this outlandish charge from anything any of us has actually said or written.

Peters later informs us that “as a believing Christian, I must acknowledge that there’s nothing in the Koran as merciless as God’s behavior in the Book of Joshua.” Sure, Ralph. That’s why there’s a global terrorist movement of Christians committing violent acts and justifying them by quoting the Book of Joshua. Peters apparently believes that it would be a species of bigotry to suggest that Islam is more likely to inspire violence than Christianity. But here again, this is simply a question of fact. The Bible contains no open-ended, universal command to make war against and subjugate unbelievers, a la Qur’an 9:29. Muhammad commanded his followers to wage war against unbelievers who refused to convert to Islam, and to subjugate them as dhimmis (Sahih Muslim 4294). When did Jesus ever say anything like that?

As I have said many times, I am all for encouraging and working with moderate Muslims. But for their moderation to be effective, they have to confront, repudiate, and help other Muslims repudiate the elements of Islam that are giving rise to violent fanaticism. Most self-proclaimed moderates instead simply deny those elements exist, while the mujahedin continue to use those same elements to recruit new members. In the run-up to 9/11 there has been an avalanche of articles in the mainstream media bemoaning the “victimization” of Muslims and Islam — thus taking the focus off efforts Muslims need to make to clean house if they can and if they will. And now Ralph Peters, in his fog of confusion, has contributed to that destructive denial.