Ever since President George W. Bush said “Islam is peace” on Sept. 17, 2001, it has been politically shielded from any debate about its effects on its adherents or on the rest of the world. Muslim nations and pressure groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations have used political correctness as a weapon to punish anyone who dared to begin any debate on Islam by calling them “Islamophobes,” an accusation of racism.
That era was ended by the lead editorial in the July 5 edition of The Economist, the prominent liberal British news magazine. Titled “The Tragedy of the Arabs,” the article began by wondering why after the glories of past centuries the Arabs are in a “wretched state,” why the fruits of the Arab Spring “rotted into renewed autocracy and war.”
It concludes that, “Islam, or at least modern reinterpretations of it, is at the core of some of the Arabs’ deep troubles. The faith’s claim, promoted by many of its leading lights, to combine spiritual and earthly authority, with no separation of mosque and state, has stunted development of independent political institutions.” The Economist correctly assesses the problem by finding that economic stagnation is an inevitable product of these problems and that “only the Arabs can reverse their civilizational decline and right now there is little hope of that happening.”
For a respected liberal media outlet to write these things is literally a revolution in media thinking. Gone is the consistent narrative that every cause of terrorism is the fault of the United States. It is now permissible to ask the questions that the politically correct media has refused to ask for almost 13 years.
To begin with, one of the features of Western and Far Eastern religions is that they encourage introspection. Americans take great pride in their habit of challenging established beliefs be they in government, religion or other aspects of society. Islam prohibits introspection largely because the Quran is believed by Muslims to be the actual words of God and not subject to debate.
As we see in Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq -- as well as in terrorist powers such as the Taliban, ISIS and Persian Iran -- interpretations of the Quran are delivered as religious decrees which -- because they are given by the “juridical scholars” -- are also not subject to debate. Muslims should be free to debate what their faith and their religious leaders demand of them.
And so should everyone who is a non-Muslim. We are entitled to ask why Islam should be entitled to be comprehensively intolerant of Christianity and Judaism. Aren't we entitled to demand that Saudi Arabia cease being a primary funding source for al Qaeda?
Why shouldn't we be telling the Saudis and Qataris and the others that they will be punished for funding terrorist networks? America is nearly independent of Saudi oil, and we should start behaving in accordance with that fact.
With its editorial, The Economist has broken through the wall of political correctness that has prevented debate on that and any other subject that addresses Islam and its effects on the societies it dominates and on the rest of the world. If it were the “religion of peace” Bush labeled it, there would not be any need for, as The Economist wrote, “[o]ther Muslims, threatened by militia violence and civil war, [to] have sought refuge in their sect.”
The biggest issue is whether American mainstream media will take up The Economist’s themes and ideas. It’s safe for them to do so, now that The Economist has broken through the established liberal narrative.
But outside of the conservative media, there is little courage or inclination to do so. Our media suffers from the same problems The Economist attributes to the Arabs: Their liberal faith has stunted independent reporting and thinking among them.
Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration and is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research. He is the author of "The BDS War Against Israel," with Herbert London.