10 September 2010

Building Bridges

Today’s Wall Street Journal had a remarkable opinion piece by M. Zudhi Jasser, a doctor and former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander. Nine years after the September 11 atrocity, this is the first—that’s right, the first—significant defense of America by a Muslim man that I have heard.

Dr. Jasser wrote:

In relation to Ground Zero, I am an American first, a Muslim second, just as I would be at Concord, Gettysburg, Normandy Beach, Pearl Harbor or any other battlefield where my fellow countrymen lost their lives. . .

We Muslims should first separate mosque and state before lecturing Americans about church and state. [Note 1, emphasis mine.]

Because I am so accustomed to the euphemistic “bridge-building” talk of so-called “moderate” Muslims, my initial shock gave way to a wonder whether these were simply words calculated (as usual) to placate defenders of freedom. But I don’t think so. The article so piercingly identifies the need to subordinate religious sentiments to the rule of rights-respecting law, I think it is genuine.

There are some more gems in the essay. Dr. Jasser, who opposes building a mosque at Ground Zero wrote, “…it is not a right to make one’s religion a global political statement with a towering Islamic edifice that casts a shadow over the memorials of Ground Zero.”[Again, emphasis mine.] Also, he explicitly links the allegedly moderate political activities of Islamists with their militant goals. “Islamists in ‘moderate’ disguise are still Islamists.”

image from Wikipedia entry for “Corvus (weapon).”

During the Punic Wars, the ancient Romans had an indomitable army but their Carthaginian enemy was superior at sea. How does an army fight a navy? The Romans devised the boarding bridge as a means of fighting a ground war on the water. A Roman ship would pull alongside a Carthaginan vessel close enough to drop the bridge, which had a huge “tooth” or spike at the end, onto the enemy deck. This would bind the two ships together, permitting Roman soldiers to storm the Carthaginian vessel, thus turning the sea battle to their strength of land combat.

We do not need to “build bridges” between Islamists and the West, as Imam Rauf and self-loathing Western intellectuals would have us do. Metaphorically, the sort of “bridge” desired by Imam Rauf and others is the boarding bridge—the only purpose of which is to permit 9th century barbarians to storm a vessel populated by the descendents of Enlightenment thinkers. The only difference between the ancient Roman bridge and the modern Islamist bridge is that at least the Romans did not expect their enemy to build the contraption for them and meekly offer their throats for slaughter.

With the evidence of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, the truth and justice of reason, liberty, and capitalism are plain for all to see. Muslims do not need a “bridge” to gain access to freedom; they simply have to want it and earn it—something only Dr. Jasser and perhaps a handful of others seem to understand. And we Americans, who on the whole have lost our compass and must struggle to right our own ship, certainly have nothing to gain from extending a “bridge” to Islamists who want to wipe individual rights out of existence.

I could hardly have expected a more encouraging sign than this article on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attack. If there are in fact many more Muslims like Dr. Jasser, they must have the courage to speak out now.


1. M. Zudhi Jasser, “Questions for Imam Rauf From an American Muslim,” Wall Street Journal, Friday, September 10, 2010, p. A17.