How Pervasive Is the Threat of Political Islam?

It's funny how sometimes the simplest sentences can bring startling clarity.

Late last month, I spent several days in Israel. Unlike most Christians who make pilgrimages to the Holy Land, I wasn't there for the holy sites. I saw the Western Wall, but I didn't go elsewhere—not the Mount of Olives, not the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, not Bethlehem.

I was there for a specific reason: To evaluate potential legal responses to "lawfare" waged against the United States and Israel. "Lawfare" is essentially a weapon of asymmetric warfare, the abuse and misuse of international law and domestic legal systems to accomplish otherwise-unattainable strategic goals.

The second morning of my visit, I was in a meeting with an Israeli official—discussing the Palestinians' much-advertised plan to seek UN recognition as a sovereign state—when he uttered the clarifying sentence: "Our difficulty is that we begin any UN process with the automatic opposition of all 57 members of the OIC."

Catch that? The OIC stands for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a coalition of 57 Islamic states. Its member states include Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkmenistan, and the Maldives. They are bound together by a common religious identity and, well, not much else.

Why then are they in lockstep opposition to Israel in the UN? What possible interest does Malaysia have in Palestine? Do the people of Turkmenistan, who've never confronted Israel on the battlefield, see the Middle East the same way as Egyptians, who fought Israel multiple times from 1948 until the Camp David Accords in 1978?

Based on the history of conflict between Israel and Egypt, one is hardly surprised when the front-runner for Egypt's post-Mubarak presidency is a shameless anti-Israel demagogue. But why do Malaysian politicians trip all over themselves to accuse their opponents of ties to "Israeli spies"? Malaysia in fact has never recognized Israel and has no diplomatic ties with the nation that was (until Iraq's recent successes) the Middle East's only functioning democracy. But has Israel ever made any hostile moves against Malaysia?

Apologists might argue that Malaysia and other OIC states are simply taking a stand for justice, embodying Muslim virtues as they support the downtrodden Palestinians against their (alleged) Israeli oppressor. But how does this claim square with, for example, the OIC's unified opposition to the International Criminal Court's attempt to arrest Sudan's genocidal (Muslim) dictator? How does that action embody Muslim virtues?

Even more disturbing, why do Muslim politicians from Egypt to Malaysia believe that their path to power lies in anti-Israel demagoguery? Why do these politicians, when faced with challenges to their own rule, invariably blame "Zionists"? Perhaps they blame Zionists because they recognize that within their own populations, there is a ready market for anti-Israel propaganda. They don't just manufacture the hate and anti-Semitism of their populations. They are fed and sustained by it.

As I have said before, I can't define "true Islam." I know that I'd chuckle if a Muslim lawyer—even one who was a student of Christianity—tried to tell me what "true Christianity" was. The definition and nature of true Islam I leave to Muslims, and it may very well be that true Islam is something quite different from the Islam that dominates the airwaves and political exchange of the modern Ummah as expressed by the OIC.

It is also undeniably true that many Muslims have demonstrated amazing courage and determination fighting extremism and anti-Semitism. Muslim-Americans have died fighting al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the potpourri of extremist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan. Similarly, Israeli Muslim citizens have given their lives for their own nation. Such sacrifices demand to be honored.

6/5/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • David French
    About David French
    David French is a lawyer, writer, soldier, and veteran of the Iraq war. He is Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. Follow him on Facebook.