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Jewish World Review Nov. 4, 2002 / 29 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Diana West

Diana West
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What's in a name when the name is Muhammad? | At first, I thought the radio-show caller was a put-on. Following the arrests last week of DC-sniper suspects John Allen Mohammed and John Lee Malvo, the caller politely made his request: Would the media please refrain from identifying John Muhammad as John Muhammad? Identifying Mr. Muhammad as "Mr. Muhammad" -- the surname the suspected serial killer took as a Muslim convert -- might reflect badly on Islam, which, as the caller explained, is a religion of peace, not violence, and whose prophet, of course, was also named Muhammad.

While the radio hosts gurgled over the ramifications of a media-made mix-up between Muhammad the prophet and Muhammad the sniper, I realized the caller -- by now revealed as the real Muhammad, I mean, McCoy -- had a point. He just hadn't taken it far enough.

Not only should we not identify John Muhammad as "Muhammad," we shouldn't call him "John," either. That's the name of a Christian apostle (John, natch). Come to think of it, with such namesakes as these, maybe this prime murder suspect shouldn't be identified, period. In fact, maybe we should just let him go.

So much for logic. What's disturbing about this instinct -- the urge to repress a truth that undercuts a belief -- is its prevalence. Not that it derives from religious fervor alone. I found myself strangely fascinated by the pains The New York Times, for example, took to guard the Chechens who terrorized Moscow last week against their apparent associations with Islamic terrorism.

So far, we know, or think we know, that this Muslim suicide gang sent a videotape to Al-Jazeera proclaiming its intention "to take the lives of hundreds of infidels" was led by a Chechen who London's Daily Telegraph describes as having been "imbued with an unshakable faith in militant Islam" and included "a number of Arab fighters believed to be of Saudi Arabian and Yemeni origin."

To the Times, such telling detail registered only as "gestures and symbols borrowed from extremist Islam." The Chechens, the report wrote with re-capping confidence, were "intent on projecting the image of international Islamic warriors in search of 'martyrdom,'" the idea being to draw Islamic gold into their coffers. In other words, the rebels were faking it. Even considering whether Chechen separatism has been, say, hijacked by Islamist elements, it seems, would take the newspaper too far from a script written for a nationalist movement, not Islamic jihad.

The Times' tunnel vision reminds me of the urge to lose the "Muhammad" in John Muhammad's name. It's the same reluctance to face facts, however gruesome -- or politically incorrect. With all the events of the past week, however, nowhere was this mindset more rigidly in force than at Georgetown University. The occasion was a lecture by Bat Ye'or, the foremost expert on "dhimmitude." This is the term the trailblazing historian applies to the institutional humiliations and discrimination suffered historically by the dhimmis, Jews and Christians under Muslim rule. According to Bat Ye'or, when it comes to non-Muslims, jihad leads to a parlous state of dhimmitude, not a brotherhood of man -- and, in a wide-ranging lecture about jihad ideology and dhimmitude practices, she told a Georgetown audience exactly that.

Oh, the furor the historian and her facts kicked up. Bat Ye'or and, later, her husband, historian David Littman, were jeered by a sizable Muslim contingent, and, even worse, later denounced -- literally -- by two lecture-sponsoring Jewish organizations.

The historians' worst crime? "They made offensive implications regarding Islam," organization leaders Julia Segall and Daniel Spector wrote in the Georgetown Hoya in their cringe-making "apology" for staging the event. The students then accused the historians of making "no effort to make a clear distinction between pure, harmonious Islam, and the acts of a few who falsely claim to act in the name of Islam."

"Pure nonsense," replied Bat Ye'or in a letter to the Hoya. "When one studies the Inquisition or the Crusades, one does not feel obliged to make a clear distinction between 'pure' Christianity and those historical events." She went on to note the crucial difference between traditional methods of Western analysis, which weigh evidence and testimonies, and Islam's religion-based interpretation of history, which frames events according to religious dogma. Shockingly, the latter would seem to be the single interpretation valid at Georgetown, where, in Bat Ye'or's experience, "the historical testimony of millions of human victims of jihad is rejected on its face by this doctrinal attitude."

Only decades of political correctness and cultural relativism could have brought us to the point where there's even a contest between these alien schools of thought. It should be clear by now that the outcome, still undecided, will be far from academic.

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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

10/28/02: Jihad as a First Amendment right
10/21/02: When speaking out isn't allowed
10/14/02: Terrorism in Maryland and abroad
09/30/02: So long urgency, hello indulgence
09/24/02: That one, sturdy, missing word
09/17/02: Fingerprinting, finally
09/09/02: When 'healing' overshadows reality
09/04/02: Tales from the Techno Valley and Forest
08/16/02: Elvis shall rise again
08/14/02: War with Iraq won't harm war on terror
08/06/02: Clinton snaps over Somalia
08/01/02: 9-11 anniversary shouldn't come with apology
07/27/02: An unstable common ground
07/25/02: Hillary fights hard for soft money
07/12/02: Goretheus unbound
07/10/02: Rosie takes a shine to Republicans
07/08/02: Are you still shocked, Sami?
07/02/02: Can Britney win hearts of the Middle East?
06/28/02: A war on terror or Islamists?
06/25/02: Blame the murderer, and the messenger
06/21/02: Up front and personal with Atta
06/18/02: Terrorism at the United Nations
06/11/02: Who's policing the INS?
06/07/02: Spa Gitmo
06/04/02: Can rock gods save the queen?
05/31/02: Hillary's war
05/29/02: Have you forgotten we're at war?
05/24/02: An antiquated luxury of the past
05/21/02: From terrorists to tourists
05/19/02: Hate U.
05/07/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
05/03/02: Pioneering television
05/01/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
04/29/02: It's the misconduct, stupid
04/24/02: Medal of diss-honor
04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West