Address by Dr. Richard L. Benkin
8 March 2009
The greatest challenge facing any free society in a time of war—and make no mistake about it, that is exactly what time it is for the world—is to remain a free society while effectively fighting that war. As the great American statesman, Benjamin Franklin, once said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The worst thing we can do is to allow our enemies to dictate an agenda by which we sacrifice those qualities that we believe distinguish us from them.
So, how do we do that?
I am neither Indian nor Israeli, although I have strong feelings for
both nations; I am nothing more than an individual American citizen. As an American, however, what I have in
common with the Indian and Israeli gentlemen on the dais with me is that I am a
citizen of a free society that has been marked for extinction by the same
global adversary: radical Islam. Let me repeat, our free societies have been
marked for extinction by the same global adversary: radical Islam. Not terrorism, which is only a
tactic; or unspecified radicals,
militants, or whatever politically correct word is in fashion at the moment but
radical Islamists. For the words we use are important. They can help us act, or they can hinder
action. If we merely are engaged in a
war on “terror,” then all we are doing is reacting to a tactic after it occurs.
It means we are not engaged in a comprehensive effort to defeat the terrorists
and those who send them. If our enemies
are merely “the extremists,” it means we have decided to abandon the search for
any ideology or force that unites those extremists and motivates them. That is why we hear simplistic analyses that
say land disputes or poverty are the cause of these horrible acts. Does anyone take that seriously? We simply cannot do that; it dilutes our
struggle, weakens us, and strengthens our enemies. This is the same reason why I always refer to
We also have to recognize that not all Muslims are the enemy;
some, such as Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury of
It is important that we understand this for two reasons. Dictates of political correctness would have us erase this distinction between free and unfree societies. They would have us omit the word “Islam,” “Islamist” or any other variant from this discussion. My own country’s Voice of America just issued a directive in that regard. But in doing so, they are undermining any effort to defeat our enemy, which again, is radical Islam. No? Well, the terrorists who murdered 3000 of my fellow Americans on September 11 were not terrorists from Mars; neither were the 26/11 terrorists in Mumbai. They were Islamist terrorists; and it is hopelessly naïve and destructive not to identify them as such. For if we are too scared even to name our enemy, how in the world do we stand any chance of defeating it?
But there is another reason. Because we are free societies and must remain so, we blanch at the thought of identifying any religion with something so heinous as wanton murder. While that is to our credit, one of the most effective ways we can deal with our enemy is to stop giving it the status of a religion. Using the dichotomy offered by American scholar, Dr. Daniel Pipes, we must recognize that Islam is a religion that has roots going back to the seventh century. Radical Islam is not a religion but a millenarian ideology with roots as far back as the 1920s. A religion seeks to transform its adherents in an image that is pleasing to God. The ideology of radical Islam seeks to transform the entire world in its image, and as dictated by its own warped interpretation of the religion, Islam. That includes adherents and kaffirs like us. We have two great religions represented here today—Hinduism and Judaism—whose tenets most emphatically reject forcing others—or even encouraging others—to convert. That, my friends, is the height not of religious tolerance, but religious respect. That should be the standard that free societies use to measure religious freedom: who can practice their faith freely and who seeks to impose their faith on others.
To the extent that apologists treat radical Islam as a
religion, they actually undermine the very institutions they believe they are
upholding with their craven appeasement.
Let us prove our point with a simple case study for
Radical Islamists have murdered more Muslims than non-Muslims. The apostles of political correctness are not helping anyone except maybe themselves. As long as we treat radical Islam as a religion and not as the pernicious ideology it is; and as long as we use that false equation to stop individuals from naming our enemy, we are signing our own death warrants, or at the very least insuring that more will die before we triumph over those forces that are antithetical to free societies like India, Israel, and the United States.
Let me provide one more example of who we are fighting. Some years back, my family was enjoying a
meal in a
So that is the first challenge I wanted to address: the challenge of ourselves. That is, we all can sit here and agree that radical Islamist terrorists are bad guys. But we hardly need go to the trouble of convening a conference to come up with that. There is a very famous passage from William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Ceasar: “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves.” Our worst enemy might be radical Islam, but our most dangerous enemy is ourselves.
All of us are courageous enough to shake our fists at radical Islam, but if we are to succeed in this war, who is courageous enough to look critically at ourselves? Clearly, the need to balance democratic principles with defeating an enemy that just loves to use those principles against us is no easy feat. Sometimes we make good choices; sometimes not. That’s the price of freedom, I suppose.
But there is one way to address this that is unequivocal; that should be supported by every decent human being on the planet. And that is by identifying a specific issue—a specific human rights issue—that happens to be part of global jihad. For me, that issue has become the murder of Bangladeshi Hindus and the racist Vested Property Act. Let me show you what I mean.
Worse, during the same time period, the number of Bangladeshi
Hindus has fallen from almost one in five to less than one in ten. Demographers have made it clear that such a
drastic drop could not come as a result of natural increase and decrease. Almost every day, reports come out of
This—the murder of millions—this should be an issue that
leaves no one unmoved. It should not
matter to anyone that the victims are
Hindu and the perpetrators are Muslim.
What matters is the death of innocents.
If it is part of a greater Islamist jihad
It is also highly significant that we are talking about
But the key is recognizing that although there could be implications that go beyond the issue itself, we must remain focused on the horrible human rights violation. Do not let anyone dissuade us. Do not let anyone hijack our agenda with partisan questions about their favorite issues. Focus on this great wrong! That should be something that no one—no matter how politically correct or fearful—NO ONE should remain silent about—ever again!
One more thing. As a Jew, I can’t think of anything worse than watching your mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, even children murdered and the world is silent about it. In the 1940s, one third of my people were murdered in a brutal and horrible fashion. During the 1930s, all the signs were there, but the world was silent; their silence saying, “Go ahead and kill the Jews.” Afterwards, a phrase became familiar to us: “Never Again”; never again would we let this happen. But never let it happen not only to the Jews but to any people. And so I say to the Bangladeshi Hindus: “Never Again.” I will not sit by while you are slaughtered! I will not keep silent!
Remember, it is up to us and only us.