The defining debate of our lifetime 7

The great political divide is between those on one side who want a system of government that preserves individual freedom – broadly speaking they may be called political libertarians and philosophical individualists – and those on the other side, the collectivists, who may variously define themselves as socialists, or communists, or progressives (if they are egalitarians), or Nazis, or fascists, or Muslims (if they are non-egalitarians).

Libertarians believe that the government should be our servant. Collectivists believe it should be our master.

Andrew McCarthy, the lead prosecutor of the bombers convicted of bombing the World Trade Center on 1993, says this about Islam, Islamism, the lawyers who defend jihadists free of charge, and the great political divide:

I don’t think there is much difference, if any, between Islam and Islamism. In that assessment, I’m not much different from Turkey’s Islamist prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who claims it is “very ugly” for Westerners to draw these distinctions between Muslims as “moderate” or “Islamist” — “It is offensive and an insult to our religion,” he says, because “there is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam, and that’s it.”

That doesn’t make any lawyer unfit to serve. It does, however, show us the fault line in the defining debate of our lifetime, the debate about what type of society we shall have. And that political context makes everyone’s record fair game. If lawyers choose to volunteer their services to the enemy in wartime, they are on the wrong side of that fault line, and no one should feel reluctant to say so.

Islamists are Muslims who would like to see sharia (Islamic law) installed. That is the necessary precondition to Islamicizing a society. It is the purpose of jihad. The terrorists are willing to force sharia’s installation by violent jihad; other Islamists have varying views about the usefulness of violence, but they also want sharia, and their jihadist methods include tactics other than violence. I reluctantly use the term “Islamist” rather than “Islam” because I believe there are hundreds of millions of Muslims (somewhere between a third to a half of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims) who do not want to live under sharia, and who want religion to be a private matter, separated from public life. It is baffling to me why these people are Muslims since, as I understand Islam, (a) sharia is a basic element, and (b) Islam rejects the separation of mosque and state. But I’m not a Muslim, so that is not for me to say. I think we have to encourage the non-sharia Muslims and give them space to try to reform their religion, so I believe it’s worth labeling the sharia seekers “Islamists” in order to sort them out. But I admit being very conflicted about it because I also concede that the Islamists have the more coherent (and scary) construction of Islam. We wouldn’t be encouraging reform if we really thought Islam was fine as is.

In any event, Islamist ideology is multi-faceted. You can be pro-Islamist, and even pro-Qaeda, without signing on to the savage Qaeda methods. And the relevant question with respect to progressive lawyers [in particular the ones who provide free defense of terrorists] is not so much whether they are pro-Qaeda as it is whether, as between Islamists and the U.S. as it exists, they have more sympathy for the Islamists. That’s a fair question, but a very uncomfortable one to ask…

Much of the commentary on this point, including from some people who usually know better, has been specious. …

Jihadists believe it is proper to massacre innocent people in order to compel the installation of sharia as a pathway to Islamicizing society. No one for a moment believes, or has suggested, that al-Qaeda’s American lawyers share that view. But jihadist terrorists, and Islamist ideology in general, also hold that the United States is the root of all evil in the world, that it is the beating heart of capitalist exploitation of society’s have-nots, and that it needs fundamental, transformative change.

This … is why Islam and the Left collaborate so seamlessly. They don’t agree on all the ends and means. In fact, Islamists don’t agree among themselves about means. But before they can impose their utopias, Islamists and the Left have a common enemy they need to take down: the American constitutional tradition of a society based on individual liberty, in which government is our servant, not our master. It is perfectly obvious that many progressive lawyers are drawn to the jihadist cause because of common views about the need to condemn American policies and radically alter the United States.