Misusing Islam to promote fear

    Muslim demonstrators have been torching embassies, stoning churches
    and threatening mass murder to protest cartoons characterizing Muslims
    as violent extremists. They have been burning flags and stomping on
    crosses and Stars of David to express their outrage at those who say
    they are intolerant.

    Muslim demonstrators have been torching embassies, stoning churches
    and threatening mass murder to protest cartoons characterizing Muslims
    as violent extremists. They have been burning flags and stomping on
    crosses and Stars of David to express their outrage at those who say
    they are intolerant.

    The damage these demonstrators are doing to the image of Islam is
    incalculable, far beyond what any poison-penned cartoonist could
    accomplish. So why are they doing it?

    Machiavelli provided the answer more than 500 years ago. For those
    who would rule, he said, it is better “to be feared than loved.”

    By now, all but the most self-deluded among us recognize that
    militant Islamists are waging a War Against the West, a deadly jihad
    against Christians, Jews, Hindus and moderate Muslims. These
    religiously inspired fascists have no interest in being loved by
    “infidels.” They do, however, want to inspire fear and they do want to
    rule.

    The international intifada that has erupted _ ostensibly in response
    to 12 cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper in September _ is
    merely the militant Islamists’ latest tactic. The charge most
    frequently leveled against the protesters is hypocrisy. How can they be
    up in arms over a few cartoons lampooning Muslims when, in many Muslim
    societies, Jews and Christians are routinely characterized in the most
    vicious terms and images? But that misses the point.

    The militant Islamists are not demanding equality. They are
    demanding superiority. They are Muslim supremacists _ ideological heirs
    to those who, in the 20th century, fought for Aryan supremacy and white
    supremacy.

    Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, leader of the European Council for Fatwa and
    Research and president of the International Association of Muslim
    Scholars, is seen by some as the “hidden hand” behind the protests. He
    has candidly declared: “Islam will return to Europe as the conqueror.”

    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda commander in Iraq, has
    elaborated: “Killing the infidels is our religion, slaughtering them is
    our religion, until they convert to Islam or pay us tribute.”

    In fact, the West has paid tribute for years, not least to Saudi
    Arabia’s theocratic rulers. We have allowed mosques in America and
    Europe to be taken over by Saudi agents who see to it that their
    radical brand of Islam is both preached and practiced.

    At the same time, we have meekly accepted that there can be not a
    single church or synagogue on Saudi soil. We accept, too, that while
    Americans and Europeans may convert to Islam, in Saudi Arabia
    abandoning the faith is a crime punishable by death.

    The Saudis were the first to recall their ambassador from Copenhagen
    in response to the publication of cartoons in Danish newspapers. And
    here the plot thickens: It now appears that three faked cartoons _ of a
    far more obviously offensive nature than those published in Denmark _
    also were distributed in the Middle East, to make sure the fabled
    “Muslim street” would rise up as instructed.

    The mainstream media appear little interested in this alleged
    manipulation. Indeed, most Western news outlets are not even giving
    readers and viewers the opportunity to judge for themselves whether the
    cartoons that were published in Denmark do insult the Muslim faith _ or
    whether they only ridicule the militant Islamists who offer heavenly
    virgins to those willing to suicide-bomb children.

    News executives claim they want to avoid giving offense. But if they
    were practicing self-censorship out of fear, would they admit it?

    More than a few moderate Muslims understand what is really going on.
    A Jordanian editor published some of the Danish cartoons to show they
    are not as offensive as advertised. He was promptly fired and arrested.

    Ayatollah Ali al-Sistanti, Iraq’s leading cleric, was scathing about
    those who “have exploited this … to spread their poison and revive
    the old hatreds with new methods.”

    But, in the end, there is little that liberal Muslims can do. They
    don’t have the oil money. They don’t control the Middle East’s mosques,
    media or governments. And they, too, can be intimidated by the threat
    of violence.

    Militant Islamism is least of all about religion. It’s mostly about
    power. The cartoon intifada has not been a spontaneous uprising in
    response to a gratuitous insult. It’s one front in an expanding war of
    arms and ideas being waged against the West.

    And it appears to be working. If, in the process, the reputation of
    Islam is muddied and bloodied, that’s a price militant Islamists are
    more than willing to pay.

    (Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is
    president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy
    institute focusing on terrorism.)