Federica Mogherini, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said on June 24, 2015, at a conference aptly named "Call to Europe V: Islam in Europe":
"The idea of a clash between Islam and 'the West'... has misled our policies and our narratives. Islam holds a place in our Western societies. Islam belongs in Europe.... I am not afraid to say that political Islam should be part of the picture."
Nine months later, the ignorance, willful blindness and sheer incompetence regarding even the most basic tenets of Islam, which Mogherini betrayed in her statement has reaped yet another lethal result. What she said is fairly representative of the view aired in public by the European political and cultural establishment.
Thirty-one people were killed and around 300 wounded in Brussels on March 22, in the bombings of Brussels airport and Maalbeek metro station, at the heart of the European Union itself. ISIS took responsibility for these latest terrorist attacks
Mogherini, at an official press conference in Jordan, broke down in tears during her comments on the day's terrorist attacks. But the pain she, as one of the highest-profile representatives of the EU, exhibited on behalf of the many killed and wounded in Europe, is self-inflicted. It is Europe's immunity to facts that has led directly to the current state of utter chaos in European security matters.
Predictably, ISIS tried to justify the attacks by claiming that Belgium was targeted because it was "a country participating in the international coalition against the Islamic State" -- despite Belgium having participated only in a limited bombing campaign in Iraq that ended nine months ago. Clearly, the Iraq campaign had nothing to do with the Brussels attacks, but served as a useful excuse because this kind of reasoning feeds into the dominant narrative in Europe, as expounded by Federica Mogherini.
The current Western narrative represents a persistent and unfaltering refusal to examine the doctrines of Islam, out of fear of offending Muslims. This refusal is not a European phenomenon. The White House ordered a cleansing of training materials that Islamic groups deemed offensive as far back as five years ago. In 2013, the Washington Times also reported that countless experts on Islamic terrorism were banned from speaking to any U.S. government counterterrorism conferences, which include those of the FBI and the CIA. Government agencies were instead ordered to invite Muslim Brotherhood front groups.
Western political and military establishments, as well as media and cultural elites, refuse to examine the political and military doctrines of Islam, and make them a subject of honest intellectual inquiry. When they are facing an enemy that uses these very doctrines as its reason for being, this refusal can only be described as gross malfeasance and reckless endangerment.
The political and cultural elites regularly communicate a deep fear that the fight against terrorism, if taken too far, may compromise the very democratic values and freedoms that this fight is meant to preserve. What they ignore is the irony that, by abdicating the right freely to inquire about -- and discuss -- the nature of Islam, they have already compromised the most fundamental democratic value: freedom of thought, expressed by freedom of speech.
Political Islam is indeed already very much a part of the picture in Europe, but not quite in the way Mogherini imagined it.
The political and military doctrines of Islam -- the political Islam to which Mogherini so casually refers -- are codified in Islamic law, sharia, as found in the Quran and the hadiths. Unlike prevailing misconceptions on Islam, these doctrines are not, in mainstream Islam, subject to mitigating interpretations.
The Islamic injunction to perform jihad, both violent and non-violent, seems an aspect of sharia the West refuses to internalize. CIA director John Brennan, in a 2010 speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, when he was deputy national security advisor for homeland security, described jihad as,
"a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one's community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women, and children."
This is simply not true. As Dr. Majid Rafizadeh writes, the Quran is not open to interpretation:
"The Qur'an has descended, word for word, from the creator Allah, through Muhammad. This is accepted throughout the entirety of the Islamic word... a true Muslim, who represent[s] the real Islam, should be the one who follows and obeys Allah's words (from the Qur'an) completely. As a result, anyone who ignores some of the rules is not, and cannot be, considered a reflection of Islam, a good Muslim, or even a Muslim."
Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Nasr, a scholar of Islamic law and graduate of Egypt's Al Azhar University, explained in November 2015 why the prestigious institution, which educates mainstream Islamic scholars, refuses to denounce ISIS as un-Islamic:
"The Islamic State is a byproduct of Al Azhar's programs. So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic? Al Azhar says there must be a caliphate and that it is an obligation for the Muslim world. Al Azhar teaches the law of apostasy and killing the apostate. Al Azhar is hostile towards religious minorities, and teaches things like not building churches, etc. Al Azhar upholds the institution of jizya [extracting tribute from religious minorities]. Al Azhar teaches stoning people. So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?"
Yusuf al-Qaradawi is an extremely influential Islamic cleric and jurist. He is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, president of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, and the host of a popular Al-Jazeera TV program about sharia. Qaradawi has stated that,
"the shariah cannot be amended to conform to changing human values and standards. Rather it is the absolute norm to which all human values and conduct must conform."
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also an Islamist leader, has repeatedly rejected Western attempts to portray his country as an example of "moderate Islam." He states that such a concept is "ugly and offensive; there is no moderate Islam. Islam is Islam."
The jihadists who carry out terrorist attacks in the service of ISIS are merely following the commands in Quran 9:5, "Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them..." and Quran 8:39, "So fight them until there is no more fitna [strife] and all submit to the religion of Allah."
There is, however, a persistent refusal by many in the West to acknowledge that sharia is the doctrine with which jihadists justify the war they wage on the West. This refusal is a most dangerous form of dishonesty; it has arguably already cost hundreds of lives on both American and European soil.
Unless Islam is radically reformed, and progressive Muslims are supported in a serious way (instead of bypassed in favor of Muslim Brotherhood fronts and other questionable organizations), these kind of terrorist attacks -- and worse -- could well become even more common throughout the West.
The infantile refusal of many government leaders to face the hard facts about the nature of Islam's tenets, as opposed to indulging in fanciful utopian fantasies, will not change the plans of jihadists; it will only embolden them.
There is now speculation that the terrorist attacks in Brussels might have been revenge for the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, who was apprehended last week as a suspect in the Paris terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015. This speculation misses the point. This time, the excuse is the arrest of a high-profile terrorist; with the next attack, the excuse will be something else. There is never any shortage of things that "offend" jihadists. The heart of the matter, however, is the criminally negligent way in which European and American officials deal with the fundamental issue of the doctrines of Islam.
In a revealing article published November 21, 2015, Teun Voten, a cultural anthropologist who lived in the Muslim majority Molenbeek district of Brussels between 2005 and 2014, asks himself how Molenbeek became the jihadi base of Europe. His answer:
"...the most important factor is Belgium's culture of denial. The country's political debate has been dominated by a complacent progressive elite who firmly believes society can be designed and planned. Observers who point to unpleasant truths such as the high incidence of crime among Moroccan youth and violent tendencies in radical Islam are accused of being propagandists of the extreme-right, and are subsequently ignored and ostracized.
"The debate is paralyzed by a paternalistic discourse in which radical Muslim youths are seen, above all, as victims of social and economic exclusion. They in turn internalize this frame of reference, of course, because it arouses sympathy and frees them from taking responsibility for their actions. The former Socialist mayor Philippe Moureax, who governed Molenbeek from 1992 to 2012 as his private fiefdom, perfected this culture of denial and is to a large extent responsible for the current state of affairs in the neighborhood.
"Two journalists had already reported on the presence of radical Islamists in Molenbeek and the danger they posed -- and both became victims of character assassination."
This terror-enabling culture of willful ignorance and denial continues up until today -- compounded by the lack of a central and unified security authority in Brussels. The city has 19 mayors, one for each borough assembly -- as exemplified by the current mayor of Molenbeek, Françoise Schepmans.
One month prior to the Paris attacks, Schepmans received a list "with the names and addresses of more than 80 people suspected as Islamic militants living in her area," according to the New York Times. The list was based on information from Belgium's security apparatus, and included three of the terrorists behind the Paris attacks, including Salah Abdeslam. "What was I supposed to do about them? It is not my job to track possible terrorists," Mayor Schepmans said. "That is the responsibility of the federal police."
Federica Mogherini, the EU's de facto foreign minister (posing at left with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif) said last year, "Islam belongs in Europe.... I am not afraid to say that political Islam should be part of the picture." Françoise Schepmans (right), mayor of the Molenbeek district of Brussels, received a list with the names and addresses of over 80 suspected Islamic militants living in her area. "What was I supposed to do about them? It is not my job to track possible terrorists," she said. "That is the responsibility of the federal police."
This lack of accountability can only exacerbate an already dire situation. Far more damning, according to reports, is that Belgian authorities had accurate advance warnings that terrorists planned to launch attacks at Brussels airport and in the subway -- yet they failed to act. This extremely lax approach to security appears to be a widespread problem in the Belgian -- and probably European -- political and security apparatus.
If there is to be any hope of fighting the terror threats against the West, and actually bringing public life back to a semblance of normality, at an absolute minimum the politics of willful ignorance, political correctness, and denial will have to go.
Judith Bergman is a writer, columnist, lawyer and political analyst.