If anyone wants to know why Muslims the world over tell pollsters the United States is at war with Islam, just read President Bush's speech at the Islamic Center of Washington, especially the part about American-style religious freedom — in the president's words, "what we wish for the world."
He began this way: "For those who seek a true understanding of our country, they need to look no farther than here."
No — not the mosque itself, but down the street it occupies. "This Muslim center sits quietly down the road from a synagogue, a Lutheran church, a Catholic parish, a Greek Orthodox chapel, a Buddhist temple — each with faithful followers who practice their deeply held beliefs and live side by side in peace," the president explained, standing in his Islamically observant stocking feet before a cool Muslim audience. "This is what freedom offers: societies where people can live and worship as they choose without intimidation, without suspicion, without a knock on the door from the secret police."
As one who has attended a bar mitzvah at that synagogue down the road, I have news for the president: Freedom, American-style, has changed. To enter, I passed an armed guard holding an automatic weapon manning the door. Armed guards like him man many such doors in many such cities. In fact, so common is it for religious worship to require armed protection today that we miss the implications: the degree to which freedom to worship without fear in America has been curtailed by the open-ended threat of Buddhist violence.
Whoops, sorry. I mean, curtailed by the open-ended threat of Greek Orthodox violence. Or was that Catholic or Lutheran violence?
No, the peril to the synagogue was and remains Islamic violence. The resulting diminution of freedom is a symptom of advancing dhimmitude — the diminished cultural condition of non-Muslims living in relation to Islam.
So, freedom of worship ain't what it used to be. But even in its terror-constrained state, the spread of American religious freedom actually threatens religiously unfree Islamic cultures, which, for example, consider "apostasy" — deciding not to be Muslim — a capital crime.
But that threat is only on paper. Where Americans actually become involved in the Islamic world, sharia (Islamic law) is protected, as shockingly attested by sharia's primacy in the American-fostered constitutions of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian Authority. The president doesn't seem to understand that. I don't think he even understands sharia, under which the primacy of Islam is absolute, while other religions are "tolerated" at the high cost of dhimmitude. Nearly six years after 9/11, nearly six years after first visiting the Islamic Center — and proclaiming "Islam is peace" — President Bush has learned nothing.
In fact, his peroration on freedom at the Islamic Center mainly underscored "America's respect for the Muslim faith here at home." Abroad, too. Even as he was asking Muslim leaders (again) "to denounce organizations that use the veneer of Islamic belief to support and fund violence," the president announced that the United States would send an envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a global Islamic support group. "Our special envoy," the president said, "will listen to and learn from representatives from Muslim states and will share with them America's views and values."
What can the Free World learn from the Unfree World? Maybe something about the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam adopted by the foreign ministers of the OIC in 1990. In dire contrast to the United Nation's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Islamic document recognizes only human rights sanctioned by sharia — which, basically, leaves women and non-Muslims without much in terms of human rights.
Hmm. Might Bush — or anyone in our leadership, civilian or military — notice the unbridgeable cultural differences revealed by these disparate notions of human rights? Alas, probably not. Islam's still peace, according to the president. Those pesky "extremists" fighting jihad are not, he said, "the true face of Islam."
There Imam Bush goes again. "I am astonished by President Bush when he claims there is nothing in the Quran that justifies jihad violence in the name of Islam," jailed Islamic scholar Abu Qatada said under similar circumstances almost six years ago. "Is he some kind of Islamic scholar? Has he ever actually read the Quran?"
No. He's just leader of the Free World — a Free World that has become less free and more dhimmified on his severely myopic watch.
Diana West is a columnist for The Washington Times. She can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.