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Dinesh D'Souza

Dinesh D'Souza

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DINESH D'SOUZA is the Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Previously he was a domestic policy analyst at the White House. He is the best-selling author of several books, including Illiberal Education, The End of Racism, and What's So Great About America. His new book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 has just been published by Doubleday. He lives in Rancho Santa Fe, California, with his wife Dixie and daughter Danielle.

Letting Bin Laden Define Islam

Posted Mar 2nd 2007 1:35AM by Dinesh D'Souza
Filed under: Middle East, Politics, Religion

Yesterday I debated Robert Spencer at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in Washington D.C. The debate was aired live on C-Span. Our topic was essentially, Is Islam the Problem? My book The Enemy at Home says no, locating the problem in the way that liberal foreign policy and liberal values projected abroad have strengthened radical Islam and emboldened it to attack us. Spencer's books collectively answer yes, the problem is with Islam itself.

But Islam has been around for 1300 years and the problem of Islamic terrorism is a recent one. How can Islam be to blame? For me the intelligent question is: what is it about Islam today that has made it an incubator of a certain kind of fanaticism and terrorism?

Spencer iwill have none of it. He is part of an influential strain of conservatives who blame the teachings and practice of Islam for producing Islamic terrorism. Since the terrorists do what they do on behalf of Islam, Islam must be the source of their convictions and therefore Islam needs to be examined, denounced and reformed. This is how Spencer thinks we can win the war on terror: by demanding that Muslims stop practicing Islam as it has been practiced since Muhammad.

In arguing his thesis Spencer locates all the violent verses in the Koran and all the hideous deeds performed by Islamic conquerors, especially in their early centuries of irredentist expansion. Then he links these to the words and actions of Khomeini, Bin Laden and today's Islamic radicals. Spencer is an effective polemicist.

But his historical argument is dubious. It emphasizes violent passages in the Koran, while downplaying the passages that urge peace and goodwill. It applies a moral standard to Islamic empires (they didn't give minorities full rights! they reduced Jews and Christians to second class citizens!) that certainly could not be met by the Roman empire or the empires established by the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French and the British. In the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella, for example, Jews had three choices: convert to Christianity, leave the country, or be killed. No Muslim empire legislated or systematically enforced such a policy toward its religious minorities. Yes, the Koran says "slay the infidels" but no Muslim empire actually did that. For example the Muslims ruled North India for two centuries before they were displaced by the British. The Mughal emperors could have killed the tens of millions of Hindus under their control or at least forced them to become Muslims? They did nothing of the sort.

Spencer glibly jumps over entire centuries in linking, say, the savagery of the Ottomans in Constantinople with the savagery of Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Taliban in Afghanistan. How different is Spencer's one-sided reading of Islam from, say, the works of historian Bernard Lewis. Lewis is hardly uncritical of Islam. But he knows that world, speaks the local languages, and exhibits in his work a nuance, judiciousness and balance that, alas, I don't find in Spencer or other conservative Islamophobes.

It is Bin Laden's argument that radical Islam is true Islam. It is Bin Laden's contention that he is doing nothing more than what is commanded in the Koran and the Islamic tradition. And Robert Spencer essentially agress with Bin Laden! Spencer is willing to concede one of the world's great religions--one with more than a billion adherents worldwide--to the murderers of Al Qaeda. At one point in our CPAC debate he asked me to name a traditional Muslim, as if such a creature scarcely exists in the world.

Do we really want to go to war with a billion Muslims? If not, is it realistic to approach the Muslim world with the premise that the only good Muslim is a non-Muslim? Don't all these Western attacks on Islam and the Koran and Muhammad, not to mention Spencer's agreement with Bin Laden that Islam mandates violence and terrorism, have the effect of alienating traditional Muslims and pushing them toward the radical camp? These are my questions for Spencer, and for other conservatives who follow the same line. It's time, I would urge these good folks, to reconsider some basic assumptions. Unfortunately you are part of the reason we are losing this war of ideas.

Reader Comments

(Page 1)

1. Hey Geniuses.......Islam, Fizzlam....Of course you miss the point. What I say is this: when intelligence fails you, implement logic. 1) Eliminate the West's dependence on MidEast oil 3) Get out of their countries 3) They have no argument with us 2) Pfttt....bye, bye Terrorism.

Gee, can I start my own think tank ?

Ricard at 10:30AM on Mar 2nd 2007

2. Maybe islam has been around 1300 years and maybe terrorists attacks have "recently" come about, but it is well known that for at least 200 years, islam has proclaimed that this will indeed be an islamic world by their sword if need be.
America`s founding fathers were told by islamists leaders that this was their goal at the time of piracey that America dealt with militarily.
Go ahead and practice your religion, but leave us out of it, and when you rear your terrorists heads to kill, be met with force.

MyKisa at 10:42AM on Mar 2nd 2007

3. WHO ARE YOU? THE RADICAL RIGHT AND BUSH'S MACHINE WENT INTO IRAQ AND OCCUPIED A COUNTRY. NOT THE LIBERAL MEDIAL YOUR BOOK SOUNDS RATHER BIASED AND UNINFORMED WITH THE TRUTH. SHAME ON YOU.

cm at 10:43AM on Mar 2nd 2007

4. Could the cause be that we have backed invasions of Lebanon by Isreal? Supported Isreal displacing millions of Palestinians and using military forces against civilians? Killed over one million Iraqies with our extreme use of the embarbo? Invaded Iraq and Lebanon without valid reasons? Dictated internal politics of Middle Eastern countries? No -- lets just blame "liberal" thought instead. What stupidity!!!

Tom Walsh at 10:49AM on Mar 2nd 2007

5. WHO ARE YOU? YOU SEEM TO FORGET THAT BUSH'S CONSERVATIVE RADICAL RELIGIOUS RIGHT MACHINE LAID THE GROUND WORK BY LEVELLING IRAQ BY AN INVASION AND OCCUPATION. THANK GOD THE DEMS ARE IN CONTROL NOW; AND WE CAN CONCENTRATE ON AFGHANISTAN. BIN LADEN IS A RADICAL. NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE BAD. YOU HAVE NOT EITHER AN ASTUTE OR ACCURATE ACCOUNT OF HISTORY. THE RADICALS HAVE BEEN FIGHTING FOR CENTURIES; AND THE US AND THE SO CALLED COALITION GO IN AND TRY TO TAKE ON MILLIONS OF MUSLIMS? THIS IS NOT LIBERAL. THIS IS MADNESS. YOU, SIR, HAVE AN ILL PUBLISHED AND BIASED BOOK. ONE I, WILL NOT BOTHER TO PICK UP AND READ THE DUST COVER.

cm at 10:50AM on Mar 2nd 2007

6. Islam has always breed terror. mahamid talks of it as a tool to inforce islam, the "religion" cult of the moon god. islam is respocible for 95% of all terror on this planet for most of the last 100 years. islam is live a virous taking over the body, al it leaves behind is death and destruction.

brett m at 11:02AM on Mar 2nd 2007

7. Well, well, of course Bush is to blame, and our 'backing Israel' is to blame too for terrorism. How convenient!
There is a site called "Rantberg"..here is the link...http://rantburg.com/....that cronicles Muslims bombing each other, etc. I suggest you go there to help clear your brain. There are other similar sites that can bring you up-to-date on the hundreds of years of Muslim terror and conquest, slavery, and death.
You people are unbelievable.

Les Redmon at 11:12AM on Mar 2nd 2007

8. Islam IS the problem...this tyrannical cult is responsible for problems all over the world. Name ANY place in the world where there is trouble and you can be sure this gutter religion is the cause of it! The world is only going to wake up when its too late. The Serbians had the right idea when it comes to muslims.......

Dave at 11:12AM on Mar 2nd 2007

9. "ANY place in the world where there is trouble"???There aren't any Muslims in Colombia, but it is a chaotic mess due to the drug trade fed mainly by Amerian non-Muslims drug addicts and sellers. Muslims have nothing to do with the centuries-long war between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Just ot name a couple. I could probably list a hundred more.

Andy at 11:24AM on Mar 2nd 2007

10. walsh and cm must be either terroist or left wing fruit cakes.and they definately don't have a clue about the world around them.Islam has tried for centuries to spread its evil religeon on the world by the sword only to be finaly defeated by european nations.Israel only went after the hamas terrorist group,not children.More children have been killed by the terrorist groups you support then in WW2.
Irael has every right to defend its citizens as we do no matter were it leads.I leave with the terrorist own words BUT WITH A DIFFERENT TWIST..DEATH TO ALLAH,DEATH TO TERRORISTS,DEATH TO ISLAM AND DEATH TO LIBERALS.

mike at 11:24AM on Mar 2nd 2007

11. Every day, five times a day, the people of Iran bow towards Mecca and say their prayers. When they are finished, they chant together DEATH TO AMERICA for two minutes. This has been going on since they took our embassy people hostage during the Carter administration. That means anyone who is 30 years of age has been doing this most of their life. It really does not matter how this happened, but WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO NOW PEOPLE. THEY WANT TO KILL US AND OUR WAY OF LIFE. LET'S QUIT THE BLAME GAME, QUIT POINTING FINGERS, and decide what now. PERIOD. I am sick and tired of this crap. We can not have a discussion in this country without people using hindsight to validate their feelings. Spewing hatred on a blog comment, reminds me alot of the way they sound when they talk about Americans. Did you hear that cm or Tom Walsh. Mykisa said it, Islam will rule the world again. They have proclaimed that for centuries. Now with the oil money we have given them, they can make those threats real. It is easy to tell someone who is very poor to look at what we have here in this country, and tell them that they do not have this for themselves because it is our fault. While their leaders live in luxury. We need to do something, but I fear until they come here we will continue this sad dialogue. When the next 911 happens, I hope the people in this country are madder then hell. Not just shocked like the last time.

Jim Steel at 11:48AM on Mar 2nd 2007

12. God the Father defines religion, not a morTal man.

abraham eapen at 11:51AM on Mar 2nd 2007

13. The leading cause of death in the world has always been one thing RELIGION,no matter what kind ,if you don't believe in my God I will kill you .And it has always been that way in recorded history .Thank what's going is now ,the 10 and 11 century,s show the same thing as is going on now .blame it on bush ,well maybe he is a Christian but is he to blame when the Islam religion is doing this all over the world I thank not.
did bush go into Afghanistan and start this NO the Islam,s did and where we made out mistake is not helping Russian clean out the place.how long is this going to go on ,as long as we fight a civilize war the only thing these understand is death ,so lets give them that and there 72 virgins and don't waste any more men doing it back out men out and drop neutron bombs on them wait 24 hours and go in and bury the dead .

Ben Thompson at 12:03PM on Mar 2nd 2007

14. When you live in a unheated and unairconditioned Hut with dirt floors and eat with your fingers ANYPLACE has to seem better then where you are....

Johnny Rocca at 12:14PM on Mar 2nd 2007

15. D'Sousa comes from India. India used to be twice the size. The other half is now called Pakistan. You are part of the problem, not the solution.

LB at 12:17PM on Mar 2nd 2007

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The Enemy at Home

The Enemy at Home

This book uncovers the links between the spread of American pop culture, leftist ideas, and secular values, and the rise of anti-Americanism throughout the world.



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