By Ed Koch Former Mayor, New York City
May 24, 2010, Huffington post
We are at war with radical Islam, and that war will go on for many years.
For me, the question is this: will the secular Western civilization shared by America and Europe, which allows us to enjoy life and its creature comforts, still be standing at the end of that war? Or will radical Islam, with an aggressive culture that treasures martyrdom and death over life, prevail?
The vast majority of Muslims, of course, are peace-loving. The fanaticism found among the Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia is not found in many of the countries where a billion, 400 million Muslims live. Nevertheless, we know that radical Islamists want to convert us to their faith, either voluntarily or, if necessary, by force. Among the Islamist radicals there is a special hatred of Jews and Hindus and, to a lesser extent, of Christians. The hatred of Jews is such that some of the leaders of radical groups have called for the killing of Jewish civilians all over the world. For some, the Muslim rule is to permit Jews and Christians - as monotheists - to practice their religions, provided that they accept the supremacy of Islam and pay a poll tax - so described by Bernard Lewis, America's foremost scholar on Islam.
Mr. Lewis states
"This tolerance is limited to monotheists and recipients of what Islam recognizes as a revelation. It does not apply in any circumstance to those who are seen as polytheists and idolaters. For them the rule was indeed conversion or death, though the latter was rarely enforced and in the past was often commuted to enslavement. The Wahhabi demand, as far as I know, is not that Christians and Jews convert to Islam, but that they accept the supremacy of Islam and the rule of the Muslim state. On that condition, they may continue in the practice of their religion."
All this is by way of preface to a current controversy here in New York City concerning the construction of a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero at the World Trade Center site where near 3,000 people lost their lives in acts of terror perpetrated by 19 Muslim hijackers, 15 of whom were from Saudi Arabia, who deliberately flew two planes into the twin towers.
Understandably, but nevertheless wrong, there are those who object to the construction of this mosque, believing its presence would insult the memory of the victims of the terror. In my opinion, and I believe the opinion of many others, including the local community planning board and the local elected political leaders, it would sully the good name of the United States and New York City were the members of the mosque which is permissible under existing zoning laws, prohibited from constructing it. While no one can be sure what activities will take place there, that is true of any religious institution. It also follows that none may violate the law with impunity.
What distinguishes the United States is our pluralism and tolerance for minority groups, religions of every persuasion and acceptance of the rights of those with policies and philosophies different than the prevailing views of the majority, provided they are non-violent and observe the law.
Having said that, and believing in our tolerance for others, I believe we must be willing to defend our people and country against all attacks that are violent - tantamount to war - as well as those attacks that are unfair and intended to humble and denigrate our nation. It is infuriating to see Turkey, an actual NATO ally, and Brazil, a neighbor and trade partner here in the Western hemisphere, collude with Iran which has said through its president that it wants the U.S. to disappear and makes clear every day its enmity and threats directed at us and our ally, Israel. It is infuriating that North Korea threatens the world with its nuclear and missile arsenal and sinks a South Korean destroyer with a torpedo that an examining commission found to have North Korean markings, and no immediate military retaliatory action is taken, out of fear of consequences. If Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress had failed to assist in the defense of Great Britain in its war with Germany, and Great Britain had gone down to defeat because early on we refused to become Great Britain's supplier of naval ships and other war materials out of fear of the consequences, we here in the U.S. might be speaking German today instead of English. We would certainly no longer be the great and sovereign nation we are.
Have we lost the will to stand up to the bullies of the world? The administration points with pride to the fact that it is proceeding with sanctions against Iran at the Security Council and that it succeeded in bringing Russia and China to the point where they too have agreed to vote for sanctions. To do that, the U.S. had to agree to Russia's delivering arms to Iran, e.g., an anti-aircraft system that would be used to shoot down U.S. and Israeli planes that might in the future seek to eliminate Iran's nuclear facilities. With respect to China and getting its consent to vote with us, we dropped sanction measures that would have crippled Iran's banking and financial institutions and prohibited the sale of gasoline to Iran which has no conversion facilities, which would have devastated its economy.
Some will say that pointing out these failures of will is jingoistic. I believe these failures to stand up for allies and most importantly to stand up for ourselves is why we are taken less seriously by nations throughout the world than should be the case. When others fully respected us, we were able to keep the world at peace. We are losing that ability with each passing day, as we demonstrate our unwillingness to teach the bullies of the world the lessons they deserve.
Speak softly and carry a big stick, Teddy Roosevelt said. President Obama speaks apologetically and carries no stick at all. No wonder North Korea torpedoed that South Korean warship, something they would not have done in all probability if China had not quietly approved. No wonder Brazil and Turkey thumb their noses at us. We have become a laughingstock.