Peter Beinart Adds Ignorance of Islam to His Resume

In one of his recent columns displaying ignorance of issues on which he feels compelled to write, Peter Beinart attacked the incoming president of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Ari Berman, for a lecture he gave several years ago that reflected what Beinart called the “casually bigoted, intellectually lazy way too many American Jews talk about Islam.” The pot is once again calling the kettle black.

Beinart’s problem with Berman is that his arguments “require a knowledge of Islam that Berman doesn’t appear to possess.” He doesn’t like Berman’s source, Bat Ye’or, who has written extensively on Islam because she doesn’t hold an academic position. I expected him to adopt Edward Said’s absurd Orientalism and argue that only a Muslim could really understand Islam, but instead he turned to an American who is not a Muslim nor an expert on Islam. In fact, Stanford professor Joel Beinin, who he cites as an expert because he’s written about Egypt and Libya, is probably best known as a vitriolic critic of Israel. The Stanford Review student newspaper used to run a column, “Beinin Watch,” because he was “accused on numerous occasions of speaking out in support of terrorist organizations and of spearheading anti-Semitic practices at Stanford.”

As to Beinart’s reliance on Beinin’s expertise on Egypt as proof of his authority to speak on Islam, besides the fact that his 1998 book on the fate of the Egyptian Jewish community is riddled with errors, a serious scholar of Islam and Egypt would have told Beinart about the interpretations of Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose goal is to turn the world into an Islamist empire.

“It is in the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet,” founder Hassan al-Banna stated. In a 2010 sermon, the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Muhammed Badi, said the changes the group seeks “can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life.”

A prescient warning for the countries opening their borders to Muslims without careful vetting was offered by the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who said, “After having been expelled twice, Islam will be victorious and reconquer Europe….I am certain that this time, victory will be won not by the sword but by preaching and [Islamic] ideology.” Qardawi is hardly Gandhi, however, as he has defended suicide bombings, says apostates should be killed and has frequently expressed his hatred of Jews as in this sermon excerpt:

O Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish Zionist band of people. O Allah, do not spare a single one of them. O Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.

Contrary to Beinart’s opinion, one does not have to be a scholar of Islam to learn that the word jihad is used as a term for holy war and not simply a benign expression of struggling with evil intentions. For centuries, the term was used to describe the struggle as one between believers and infidels and the obligation to subjugate or kill nonbelievers. Muslims pursuing a holy war against the infidels have consistently made clear their interpretation of jihad. In 1938, for example, long before the creation of Israel, Shiite chief Mujtahid of Iraq asserted that a jihad for Palestine was everyone’s duty, and that if the Arabs lost they would suffer “humiliation, death and eternal shame.”

Today, a Palestinian terrorist organization calls itself Islamic Jihad and does not hide its goal of driving the Jews from Muslims’ holy land. Similarly, Hamas says explicitly in its covenant that “Palestine is an Islamic land” and “there is no solution for the Palestine question except through jihad” (Articles 14 and 13).

Muslims divide the world into two realms, the House of Islam and the House of War, the Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-harb. The Dar al-Islam is all those lands in which a Muslim government rules. Non-Muslims may live there on Muslim sufferance. The outside world, which has not yet been subjugated, is called the House of War, and a perpetual state of jihad, of holy war, is imposed by religious law. As Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun explains: “In the Muslim community, the jihad is a religious duty because of the universalism of the Islamic mission and the obligation [to convert] everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.”

If Beinart was interested in telling the truth about Islam, he would quote Muslim authorities. If he did, however, it would undermine his attempt to whitewash radical Islam and discredit those who don’t subscribe to his Obama-like political correctness. Take, for example, Saudi Cleric Sheikh Mamdouh Al-Harbi, who said that “the concept of terrorism is a blessed one” and that it is “required by the Shari’a.” He stressed that jihad “does not apply to anything other than fighting.” Another Saudi preacher, Saad bin Ateeq al-Ateeq, has called upon God to “destroy” Shiites, Alawites, Christians, and Jews.

Rabbi Berman was probably referring to Israel when he said that Islam forbids Muslims from accepting non-Muslim rule and based his remarks on statements by Muslim leaders and clerics such as Hezbollah secretary-general Abbas al Musawi who declared his intention to “wipe out every trace of Israel in Palestine,” which he described as “the cancer of the Middle East.” His successor, Hassan Nasrallah said, “Israel represents a permanent and grave danger to all the countries and all the peoples of this region.” Israel, he said is “a cancer” that must be eradicated. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, also referred to Israel as a “cancerous growth . . . that must be removed.”

Muslims can set aside questions of faith for pragmatic reasons, according to historian Ephraim Karsh. If it suits their needs, they cooperate with non-Muslims. That is why Muslim countries today have no qualms about engaging in trade and political cooperation with the “decadent” West and other non-Muslim countries. This does not mean that radical Muslims have abandoned their mission to restore Muslim domination.

Beinart does Muslims no favors by pretending that large numbers of Muslims have not adopted malevolent interpretations of their faith. Jews, Christians and “apostate” Muslims are being murdered in the name of Islam. Radical Islam poses a danger to all of us; it is only the intellectually lazy apologists like Beinart who say otherwise.

Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.