"I'm so proud that God allowed him to be a martyr." Those are the words and sentiments of Ariz Masq, widow of Raed Abdel-Hamed Masq. She uttered them "not out of grief but gratitude," according to the Los Angeles Times reporter who was present at her parents' home in Hebron, West Bank. The grateful widow was "surrounded by friends and family" offering her "condolences and congratulations." The friends and family were watching television reports about her husband, who had earlier that day (Tuesday, August 19) murdered at least twenty people including several children and several Americans by blowing himself and them up on a Jerusalem bus.
The 30-year old Masq had memorized the Koran by the time he was 16 and preached regularly in local mosques. He is described as a pious, "happily married . . . doting father about to finish his master's degree." The couple had a daughter aged 2 and a son aged 4, who will presumably be raised in the sentiments being indulged by all at the family celebration. Masq was also a member of Hamas, which, along with Islamic Jihad, claimed credit for the bus bombing. Masq boarded the bus disguised as an observant Jew.
As Paul Marshall argues in the latest Claremont Review of Books, contrary to much expert commentary, Islamist terror is not "rooted in ignorance or poverty or U.S. policy in the Middle East . . . ." Nor is the war between the West and Islamist terrorists, "fueled," as influential scholar John Esposito suggests, "by a gulf of misunderstanding . . . between a liberal, secular culture . . . and a more conservative Muslim community. . . ." (And it's not just the metaphor that's the problem.)
Islamist terrorists, from Hamas to al Qaeda, "are often graduate students with extensive knowledge of the West." Their "ideology is . . . a historically rooted view of the nature of Islam and its fundamental and necessary opposition to the western world's commitment to individual freedom and constitutional democracy." The war between these terrorists (and their sponsor states) and the West is based on different and irreconcilable understandings of the most important things. But you would hardly know that if you listened only to the academic establishment in Middle East studies in Americawhich breeds "apologia for Islamist authoritarians . . . and ignorance and incompetence in the face of terrorism."
The terrorists do not, yet, command Islam. There are other competing views in Islamic history and culture that are more friendly to reason, freedom, and the West; indeed, the fanatical and terrorist character of Islamist ideology is due in no small part to influences from modern Western thought. But Marshall seems to share Bernard Lewis's pessimistic view: "If the leaders of [terrorist Islam] can persuade the world of Islam to accept their views . . . a dark future awaits the world. . . ." Marshall thinks that "America must be prepared at least for several decades . . . to combat terrorism and violence in the Muslim world." I'm inclined to agree. One reason is the obvious one: Wherever America and the allies of civilization exert themselves against terrorist forces beyond our shores, the terrorists, with persuasive plausibility, say to the bedeviled and wavering locals"the Americans and the international community will leave someday, and we will come back."
In the same large and lovely issue of the CRB, substantially different, not to say contradictory, views are developed at length. Angelo Codevilla maintains that to accept such an endless war is to accept defeat. Mark Helprin thinks that the war on terrorism "would now be largely over," if America had done what he suggests following September 11, 2001. Bill Rood looks at the war from a strategic point of view in which religion must defer to geopolitics. I'll talk about their arguments next week and thereafter. But why wait for a second hand report, however lapidary? Get it straight from the horse's mouth. Pick up a copy of the CRB at your local newsstand or bookstore. Or subscribe here.