“From China’s borders to the Atlantic Ocean, masses are being taught to hate the other side of the world and blame it for all evil.”
Phares, a Lebanese-born policy analyst and television commentator, is no alarmist; in public discussions of U.S.-Middle Eastern affairs, he is a voice of calm and reason. Yet, he urges, there really is such a thing as a terrorist Muslim enemy, a class of person he calls a jihadist, who takes literally Islam’s call for jihad, or war against the infidel. This term, Phares argues, has been denatured and defused: An academia friendly to Saudi interests (because it’s funded by them) has assured worried Americans that “jihad is essentially a spiritual experience,” just as Harvard think-tankers once called the Taliban “elements of stability.” “Since 9/11,” he concludes, “many Western political and academic establishments have generally caved in to the jihadi intellectual offensive.” Well, jihad is jihad, the author says, wrapped up in a pan-Arabist, Islamist (though jihadists and Islamists aren’t necessarily one and the same), Baathist, generally fascist ideology that demands the restoration of the caliphate to wage endless war against all nonbelievers. These jihadists want not only that, Phares adds; they also want to roll back the clock, remove from Islamic minds anything that smacks of Western modernism. To that end, they have made allies of neo-Nazis, promulgated antifeminist—and anti-women—doctrines far beyond anything in the Qur’an and, of course, launched vicious attacks on Westerners, and not in 2001 alone. If there was a bright note to 9/11, Phares concludes, it was at least to highlight that the jihadists mean business. He asks that those in the West who would rise to the challenge “make a clear distinction between the majority of Muslims who seek freedom, democracy, and pluralism and the Islamists and jihadists who oppose all of these.” He warns that the challenge cannot be ignored.