Fear Not ‘Islamo-Fascism,’ Nor Ahmadinejad

The Disputation

By David Klinghoffer

Published October 31, 2007, issue of November 02, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Last week was Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, the brainchild of David Horowitz, conservative political gadfly and self-effacing founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Friends of mine and other writers I admire spoke on college campuses around the country, garnering impressive media coverage. The week was a big success, if measured by how much awareness of Islamic villainy was heightened.

A lot of people, not including me, feel that there can hardly be such a thing as too much awareness. Estimations of the Islamic threat run exceedingly high, not least in my own party. On this point I find myself uneasily agreeing with liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney warns that radical Muslims would “unite the world under a single jihadist Caliphate. To do that they must collapse freedom-loving nations. Like us.” He makes it sound like any moment Islamic theocracy could be extended across the land — an echo of the equally hysterical liberal charge that any minute a Christian theocracy will descend upon us all.

When Rudy Giuliani addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition in October, he spoke of almost nothing but countering the Islamic threat. Obviously, he figured that’s what Jews want to hear.

There is, however, a Jewish case to be made that we would all benefit from less Islamo-Fascism Awareness. To see what I mean, you need to clear your mind briefly of sensational media headlines. Let’s go back to basics.

Judaism prompts us to consider whether life has transcendent, objective meaning, as opposed to the subjective kind that you invent out of your imagination. By definition, that meaning has to be supplied by a source outside our material, human world. As for the identity of the source, I know of only one plausible candidate — the God who revealed the truth about existence through the medium of the Torah.

If you contentedly see life as meaningless, then searching for truth in religious tradition will hold no appeal. In that case, all the great political and social questions might as well be adjudicated the same way animals in perilous circumstances decide on the right course of action, typically by the instinct to save their own skin. Such responses are generated by fear.

When threatened, animals growl or bark. Their fur stands on end. In the neighborhood where our family lives, the cat community is keenly aware of the raccoon threat and at night can be heard hissing and moaning at the raccoono-fascists.

With humans, the fear dynamic is more complicated, partly because humans can take a weird pleasure in feeling threatened. Some Islamo-Fascist Awareness activists find a sort of catnip in terrifying tales of Muslim-related horror.

During Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week, a Jewish friend asked me with breathless excitement, “Did you see on Little Green Footballs [a blog] how the thugs at Berkeley attacked Nonie Darwish and had to be pulled off her?” He was referring to the Egyptian-born Muslim-turned-Christian writer, who spoke at the University of California. Her memoir calls the “Islamo-Fascists” worse than the Nazis or communists.

In fact, my friend had misread an ambiguous headline on LGF. The nutty Berkeley left-wingers didn’t attack her. They interrupted her speech with slogans and rude behavior and were ejected from the auditorium.

I recall a wildly overheated article on, of all things, the Web site of Aish HaTorah, the Orthodox outreach group. The author cited as authoritative an implausible tale he heard on wacky right-wing radio host Michael Savage’s program that 20 Al Qaeda suitcase nukes were already in the United States, ready to be detonated any minute. That was a couple of years ago.

Like me, you are probably bombarded by e-mail lists from well-meaning but hyperventilating Jewish activists bursting to provide information about the wicked lies and terrible deeds of the Iranians, the Palestinians, the Syrians and the rest. There is a whole galaxy of popular Web sites and book authors devoted to banging away at this theme with harsh, braying words and images.

The theme is always fear.

Fortunately, if we prefer to think of life as having meaning, the Torah proposes a different way, a transcendent truth about life: We are meant to fear no one nor to take pleasure from fear.

From the Exodus on, the Israelites faced many enemies. God told them over and over not to be afraid. Forget about the bad guys. Concentrate on getting your own people’s moral condition in order. Our enemies can only harm us when we reject God’s laws, as the Israelites did in the wilderness.

In the book of Numbers, we read about how the Jews panicked at the thought of entering the land of Canaan and encountering its fierce natives. They decided they would rather go back to Egypt. This demonstrated their lack of faith and gratitude, a grave sin.

Soon after, they sought to engage the hostile Amalekites and Canaanites in war. Moses warned, “Why do you transgress the word of the Lord? It will not succeed. Do not ascend, for the Lord is not in your midst! And do not be smitten before your enemies. For the Amalekite and the Canaanite are there before you, and you will fall by the sword, because you have turned away from the Lord, and the Lord will not be with you.”

On the other hand, if the Jews obeyed and maintained faith, they had nothing to fear. This is the theme of my favorite psalm, Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?”

The Bible wastes no time obsessing about the evils of enemy nations. Rather than be distracted by phantom menaces, it devotes itself single-mindedly to calling us to look inward, always inward. Applied to a Bible-believing country like America, that would mean attending first of all to a corrupt culture right here at home. Applied to the Jewish community, it would mean less attention to Iran and more attention to the pervasive soullessness of Jewish culture, here and in Israel.

Fortunately there is always our ancient tradition to take refuge in, a resource counseling us always to keep our hearts directed to the timeless rather than to the ephemeral, with fear of no man, not even Ahmadinejad.

David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. His new book is “Shattered Tablets: Why We Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril” (Doubleday).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.