When Bruce Bawer’s first book, While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West From Within, began to hit bookstores in 2006, among dozens of books that dissected the apparatus of Islamic terror and analyzed in fine detail its many evil acts, the book was one title that suggested a greater threat was posed by global Islam, greater even than the triumvirate of jihadist violence against Western democracies—September 11, 2001 in the U.S., the March 11, 2004 train bombings in Madrid, and the July 7, 2005 subway bombings in London that claimed a combined 3,221 innocent lives.
In a climate of rising anti-war sentiment, and in which liberals cheerfully inserted Abu Ghraib references into the most unlikely places, While Europe Slept shed light on the growing influence of Sharia—the set of laws that the world Islamic community believes must be upheld above all others. The book argued that the acquiescence of the West to tolerate extreme cultural behavior, even when it ran counter to the West’s laws and values, represented a more serious danger to free societies already weakened by the inverse control allowed fringe minorities through the dysfunctional social lens of runaway political correctness.
Having lived in Europe for several years by the time While Europe Slept was written, Bawer’s observations about the nature of Europe’s capitulation to intimidation by Islamic pressure groups had the ring of credibility. As a gay man (understandably more alert to the ultra-extreme positions in Sharia on homosexuality) the rampant hooliganism of Muslim youth in Europe directed at gay men, in countries where acceptance among the native people was the norm, was described in the chilling context that can only come from someone who themselves are in the crosshairs of evil-intentioned intolerants. His accounts of religio-political assassinations of those European voices willing to suggest that Muslims must integrate into European society (while, for some leaders, it seemed easier to accommodate practices that were in complete conflict with the core value of individual freedom) further illustrated that the knee-jerk response of the ‘enlightened’ class was simply to whitewash atrocious behavior with the broad brushes of multiculturalism and political correctness. By offering anecdotes of the treatment of the wives and daughters of Muslim men in Europe, and the way that the European government and system bent to avoid punishing acts that would only be legal under strict Sharia law—beatings, rape, and honor killings, to name but a few of the horrors—readers are given the best set of arguments for why the West should be afraid of radical Islam.
In Bawer’s latest offering, Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, the enemy seems to be not only radical Islam, but the values inherent in Islam itself, a belief system that Bawer sees as being intrinsically resistant to the kind of moderation that has occurred in all other major surviving religions. Because of Islam’s core beliefs, it is antithetical to Western democracies in which freedom of the individual is a core principle. Bawer’s interpretation of Islam—a word which he translates as submission—and its designs for the West, is one in which the freedom to coexist is not in the ultimate plan of Islamists, radical or not. America, in particular, with our radical attachment to freedoms of speech and religion, has always been the natural antithesis of global Islam, a religion that has submission as its central value. For Bawer, as long as the world’s democracies hold these freedoms dear, they will always be at war with Islam in some way, but leveraging the plurality of opinions in a society like America has been the strategy of global Islamists for decades. It was a sobering and well-made argument that began to weigh larger on my mind with each paragraph.
Even a casual observer unequipped with Bawer’s ground-level experience and sharp research skills can see that despite the statements from pro-Muslim groups to the effect that most of the world’s Muslims are not radical and do not support violence as a means of following through on the commands of their faith, Islam is not a religion that is steered by its moderate elements. In the clash of cultures, one firm and unflinching and its beliefs and the functionally ambivalent due to its ‘higher’ stage of enlightenment, the more intransigent among them will survive, as history shows us. Bawer assembles convincing evidence that this is occurring not only in Europe, but also in America, where the politically correct climates of the mainstream media and academia have helped to create an “Orwellian world” in which “bravery is cowardice, bullying is victimhood, and standing up for freedom in the face of religious totalitarians is a demonstration of racism.”
The contents of Surrender have importance in a time in which U.S. leadership has set a tone of appeasement with the Muslim world (President Obama’s Cairo speech), suggesting that the Muslim religion is “misunderstood” by Americans. If President Obama is right in painting a picture of two Islams—one portrayed as America’s friend and ally, and the other as deluded madmen wanting to drink in the blood of all infidels—Bawer’s entire worldview is shattered. But if we observe that our “friends” in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to inflict the same kinds of oppression on their people, how does it not become impossible to distinguish between Obama’s imagined factions of Islam? The government of Afghani president and U.S. ally Hamid Karzai has had its power protected by the might of a U.S.-led coalition only to pass a law allowing husbands of a certain sect to starve their wives for withholding sex. In Iraq, liberated by the shedding of American blood, Human Rights Watch reported today that hundreds of gay men have been tortured and executed in recent months as Iraqi clerics continue to publicly embrace Sharia’s intolerance of what it deems unclean behavior.
Because Surrender unravels the twisted skein of pro-Muslim misinformation campaigns, shoddy journalism, and the multicultural worldview of our institutes of higher learning, Bawer gives us a tool for wiping clean the lens through which we must view the events surrounding us. With momentous decisions looming for U.S. foreign policymakers on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Surrender is a lifeline to an alternate way of thinking that can illuminate your discussions with elected officials and friends. It is highly recommended as an addition to your personal library.
[This post originally appeared on UnequalTime.com at http://unequaltime.com/2009/08/book-review-surrender-by-bruce-bawer/]