Islam Versus Islamism: Inside the Mind of an Anti-Anti-Jihadist

Prayers at Noor Mountain

Recently I was surprised to come across a chapter titled “My Dinner with David" — the David in question being me and the dinner one that continues to produce indigestion for the diner — in a just released book called "Conservative Confidential: Inside the Fabulous Blue Tent." In this self-published account, Ottawa author Fred Litwin sets out to tell the story of how he became a moderate gay conservative, a voice of reason and sanity in the heated rhetoric of gay liberation and anti-jihad activism. The chapter in which he distinguishes his own apparently sensible views on Islam from the apparently toxic views of various anti-jihadists uses me and some of my close friends as hateful foils to his enlightened position.

The book received several glowing endorsements from such heavy-hitters as Daniel Pipes, who praises its handling of the ongoing dispute between what Pipes calls “anti-Islamist sophisticates” and “anti-Islamic simpletons.” (More on this later.) Litwin’s mischaracterizations and temper tantrums, applauded by Pipes and several biggish names who give the book their imprimatur, got me thinking once again about the much-belabored subject of the hypothetical difference between Islam and Islamism.

Allow me to set the scene since it has now become part of the public record. I have known Fred Litwin for five or six years. An associate and occasional dinner guest, fellow member of the Civitas “think tank,” CEO of a Canadian Indie music company and director of the Ottawa-based Free Thinking Film Society, Litwin had earned my respect. Until, that is, we fell out over the ongoing controversy regarding the essential nature of Islam. Influenced by Bassam Tibi’s 2012 book "Islamism and Islam," and taking a page from Daniel Pipes’ political texts, Litwin insisted that broad-brush criticism of Islam would succeed only in driving moderate Muslims into the arms of the extremists. Litwin emailed me during the course of our growing dispute that “it is not to our advantage to be adversarial.” We must, rather, support the legions of peaceable, democratically inclined Muslims engaged in a heroic struggle against the radicals. That these myriads resembled something like dark matter in the universe, presumably ubiquitous but wholly undetectable, did not seem to trouble my interlocutor.

Litwin was fond of quoting Pipes’ cheerful mantra — Pipes calls it his “watchword” — that “radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution.” Anyone who demurred from this confident prediction, either by suggesting that many soi-disant moderates were actually quite radical in deed or thought, or by asserting that true moderates were not really Muslim in the authentic sense and therefore in a tenuous position to reform their religion, was branded by Litwin a member of the “counter-jihad movement, a poisonous far-right subculture…unhinged and venomous.” Clearly, I am one of these manic agitators, irredeemably unhinged and venomous. Of one of my political articles, he sniffs “that could have been Osama bin Laden talking.”

From any rational perspective, as I reiterated to Litwin to no avail, it is ludicrous to affirm that an army of moderates would offer any pushback to the fanatics, since moderates are exactly that — moderate. The only meaningful resistance entails an engaged electorate, or a substantial cohort of, let’s say, fanatical non-fanatics, carnivores, not herbivores. The problem is that the overwhelming majority of ordinary citizens — whether Muslim or non-Muslim “moderates” — is generally indifferent to the revolutionary activities of those who would subjugate them.

Additionally, the anti-Islamist thesis that the extremists constitute only a tiny proportion of the mass of Muslims and are therefore not to be unduly feared is distressingly moot, if not dangerously deceptive. History shows that revolutionary factions generally form only a fringe minority of a given population. In 1910 Russia, as Richard Pipes (Daniel’s father!) points out in "The Russian Revolution," the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks together had fewer than 10,000 members, which reduces to an infinitesimal segment of the overall population. Similarly, the Nazi party, which developed out of Anton Drexler’s Free Workers’ Committee, constituted a rump organization of little significance. Joachim Fest’s "The Face of the Third Reich: Portraits of the Nazi Leadership" provides the relevant statistics: Hitler delivered his first speech before 111 people; in 1928, the party polled only 2.6 percent of the vote. We know the rest of the story.

When it comes to the percentage of Muslims in a host nation, as Peter Hammond in "Slavery, Terrorism and Islam" and Raymond Ibrahim on the website Islam Translated have painstakingly chronicled, 10 percent of the census is the pivotal number that signals social and cultural destabilization. Even France’s 7.5 percent is sufficient to generate over 750 no-go zones — a real, not mythic, number that interested parties have contested. Meanwhile, 4.5 percent in the U.K. has led to the proliferation of Sharia schools, no-go zones, sundry beheadings and a national grooming scandal in which thousands of young girls have suffered rape and forced prostitution at the hands of Muslim gangs, with a see-no-evil compliance by British civil authorities.

The number of Muslims residing in the U.S. is debatable, but as violent incidents multiply, Islamic organizations and front-groups like CAIR, ISNA and the Muslim Students Association solidify their influence, while “terror mosques” preaching jihad are allowed to operate freely. According to a meticulous study conducted by Mordechai Kedar and David Yerushalmi, approximately 80 percent of such mosques promote violence. The prognosis for the future is dismaying. The country has imported 3,000,000 Muslims since 9/11, creating, as American Thinker correspondent Carol Brown notes, “insular communities that become breeding grounds for terrorists” — a warning certified by the Senate Immigration Subcommittee.

On the global front, no one can accurately compute the fraction of jihadists vis-à-vis the Muslim ummah, but Pipes himself has proposed a figure of 10 to 15 percent, which yields at minimum a 150,000,000-strong militia out to get us. On the Muslim scale, a meager distribution is not inconsiderable and is cause for genuine alarm.

Such conclusive numbers do not resonate with “apologist-centric” non-Muslims (to cite Bill Warner’s term) or selective innumerates like Litwin and his allies, and there was little use in tendering them. The actual sticking point in my Dinner with Fred—there were in fact many lunches, dinners, drinks and informal meetings—which grew less and less collegial over time and put an end to our tabletalk, involved the visit to Canada of British lawyer and so-called “mosque-buster” Gavin Boby, who specializes in zoning by-laws.

As I wrote in an article titled "Saving the Neighborhood," Boby “believes neighborhoods have the right to maintain existing zoning legislation and to resist city-council changes to the law which would facilitate the building of mosques." Boby does not believe in banning all mosques wholesale, but in looking at proposals to build mosques on a case by case basis. "There are just too many violent, Sharia-ruled, Muslim palatinates spreading throughout Europe, from Malmo to Paris and Marseilles to Amsterdam to Luton and Manchester and so on.” What would Litwin think of the residents of Sterling Heights, Michigan, cheering the recent decision of the city’s planning commission to ban the construction of a mosque? It must be Boby at his dirty work, cleverly deluding the multitudes.

Litwin submitted a letter, co-authored by his Muslim sidekick Salim Mansur, to the Ottawa Citizen vehemently protesting a talk that Boby would deliver at the Ottawa Public Library on the subject of neighborhood-despoiling mosques and the legal means of resisting the blight. My letter rebutting Litwin’s logically challenged and poorly sourced argument was rejected by the editor of the daily. Plainly, there was to be no debate on the issue, no weighing of opposing viewpoints and no recognition of evidentiary claims. Litwin’s letter helped to provoke a gaziya of aggrieved Muslims who descended on the library, milling in the foyer and giving a skid of splenetic interviews to a sympathetic press. The damage had been done. From that point on, Litwin and I ceased to have anything to do with one another.

Thus, we come to the book and its assorted puffers. Of the book itself and certainly of the chapter under the loupe, there are a number of internal contradictions that any alert reader would easily recognize: some blatant falsifications both large and small, grand abstractions offered without corroboration and a lot of tumescent self-justification. I do not have the space here to expose in detail and dismantle the damning list of these solecisms. But virulently trashing good people like Boby, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, Vlad Tepes, Andrew Bostom and the editors of “rabble rousing” PJ Media is sufficient to catapult his book beyond the bounds of decency.

But there is more.