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An Israeli friend, a wise and gentle man, told me once, after having spent a few days at a hospital, that his favorite doctor there was an Arab. My friend simply could not imagine that a doctor so competent, so pleasant, so attentive to a Jewish patient could possibly be an enemy of Israel.
"Are you sure he doesn't send half of his salary to Hamas?" I asked, cynical as usual.
"I don't know, could be," my friend said. "But he seems knowledgeable and kind, and I can't imagine that he dreams of destroying Israel and exterminating the Jews."
A bright young man, a freshman at a large Mid-Western university, who had read some of my articles, presented me with irrefutable proof that everything I had ever written about Islam and Muslims was wrong. He shared his room at the dorm with a Muslim kid, he told me defiantly.
"So?" I asked.
"And he is nice!" the boy said.
"And?" I still missed the point.
"I mean, really nice."
"Do you mean to tell me that we cannot be at war against nice people?" I asked.
"Can we?" he snickered at me.
What a question. What a perfectly understandable question. How much easier it must've been to be at war against vampires or cockroaches.
We have all read so much about German atrocities during World War II, that it looks to us as appropriate retribution for those atrocities. We feel that the act of killing a German soldier was, in essence, the execution of a condemned criminal who, in all fairness, did not deserve to live due to the extreme depravity of his actions.
In reality, more often than not, the dead German soldier was a high-school kid, decent, honest, respectful of his parents, hoping to live through the war, to come home, to meet the girl of his dreams, to become a husband and a father, and to spend the rest of his life as a scientist, or a farmer, or a businessman. More often than not, prior to being killed, he had demonstrated uncommon courage and excellent fighting skills in battle against a formidable enemy. More often than not, he had done absolutely nothing to deserve being killed. Regardless of his personal traits, his death was not a punishment. Killing him was as impersonal an act as issuing a parking ticket. He was killed only because we were at war with Germany and he happened to be wearing a German uniform. Á la guerre comme á la guerre.
Contrary to what most people think, we didn't enter the war in Europe to punish Germany for its crimes against humanity. The atrocities that took place in Cambodia under Pol Pot, in North Korea under both Kims, in the Soviet Union under Stalin, or in China during the Cultural Revolution, were no better than the Nazi atrocities, and yet we never declared war on any of those countries. Besides, most people on our side knew little and cared less about those German crimes. As a matter of fact, when it was absolutely impossible not to print the news of German atrocities, the papers did their best to bury it somewhere between articles about a drought in Togo and a beauty contest in Rio de Janeiro.
Come to think of it, our own, passionately beloved FDR was personally responsible for the death of a few hundred German Jews who had managed to escape from Germany and arrived at US shores after trying and failing to gain asylum in several countries on the American continent. Nobody wanted them. America was their last hope. When President Roosevelt refused to let them enter this country, they were forced to return to Germany, where they were promptly transferred to a death camp. An Estonian or Ukrainian immigrant responsible for one tenth of FDR's accomplishment would be tried for war crimes even today and, with comparable evidence against him, most certainly convicted. And rightly so.
Here's the thing. We had to fight and defeat Nazism not because Nazi doctors were all butchers with awful bedside manners or because Nazi college students made unpleasant roommates. We didn't fight Nazism because of the Nazi crimes either, even though those crimes were perfectly real, my eulogy for the dead German soldier notwithstanding. We had to fight Nazism because its existence had become incompatible with the existence of our way of life. If we wanted freedom and democracy to survive in the United States of America, we had no choice but to fight Nazism in Europe and destroy it.
Today, if we want freedom and democracy to survive in this country, we must fight Islam and destroy it everywhere it has established roots, which means everywhere, period. It's not because we are good people and Muslims are bad people. Of course, they do a lot of things that we find disgusting and inhumane. But, believe it or not, we also do a lot of things they find disgusting and inhumane. That is not a reason to go to war. At least, not to us.
Sometimes, if you want to understand what's happening in the world, you shouldn't apply moral criteria, because moral criteria are never absolute. They become meaningless and invalid as soon as you cross the border of the culture that produced them. Instead, you must look at the conflict as if you were an extraterrestrial with no personal stake in the outcome. Or, if sci-fi metaphors leave you unconvinced, try to look at it the way you watch a documentary about wild life in the African Savannah. The lions are trying to eat the antelopes; the antelopes are doing their best not to get eaten. You are watching it with a detached amusement; you don't really care whether any animal that happens to get into the frame survives until the time you switch the channel to something less boring. If the filming is good and you don't flip the channel too soon, your cynical attitude may help you understand the dynamics of daily life in the Savannah.
By the way, if I were an antelope, I would be wondering why the lions, instead of hunting us relentlessly, don't graze peacefully together with our entire herd. We never claimed any exclusive rights on the grass; we welcome everyone to join us. I feel inspired by the vision of lions peacefully munching the grass alongside the antelopes, enjoying the advantages of the herbivorous way of life, and teaching their young not to kill but to be extremely kind to every living creature in the universe.
The beauty of the antelopes' way of life must be plainly obvious to anyone with an ounce of brain: you don't have to exert yourself chasing your prey; you don't have to choose between dying of hunger and committing murder; and you don't have to suffer from terrible guilt recalling all the innocent lives you have taken. And all you need to do to enjoy it is join the antelopes and all the grass in the world will be at your feet.
I have to add that if I were an antelope, I would most probably be a dead one, because I would be irresistibly tempted to enlighten the lions by presenting my perfectly logical arguments to them. Since antelopes, as all herbivores, are not really famous for their superb intellect, I would be most likely remembered as a hero rather than a fool, and my example would inspire other well-intended idiots to follow in my hoofsteps.
If Sean Hannity were an antelope, he would firmly believe that the absolute majority of lions in Africa are dreaming of becoming vegetarians. He wouldn't be able to tell what stops them from doing so.
If George W. Bush were an antelope, he would capture a couple of lion prides and waste the rest of his term as an antelope unsuccessfully trying to convince the captured lions to look happy while he stuffs grass down their throats. Seeing that it doesn't work, he would try to improve the situation be feeding them, first, Israeli grass and then Israeli people. As you should know by now, that wouldn't work either, and the captive lions, deprived of their usual quarry, would try to tear each other apart at the every opportunity.
Here's a simple fact beyond the grasp of an antelope: Even the kindest, gentlest lion in the world is no more capable of living the life of an herbivore than even the cruelest, most vicious antelope in all of Africa is capable of hunting down another animal, crushing its windpipe, and devouring it while it is still struggling.
Unfortunately, we are the antelopes rather than the lions in that analogy. We don't want to kill anyone. All we want is to be left alone. We wholeheartedly welcome anyone to graze on our grass, and when lions come in overwhelming numbers and mix with the herd, we suppress our healthy instincts with the politically-correct, but absolutely baseless assertions that most of those lions have come here not to crush our windpipes and devour us while our hearts are still beating, but merely in search for greener grass, for which our pastures are so deservedly famous all over the world.
Despite the obvious beauty of my analogy, even I have to admit that it is not quite perfect. Herbivores and predators are condemned to follow their respective biological imperatives. We, on the other hand, both Muslims and infidels, are equally human. We belong to the same wondrous species; we share the same dreams.
No, let's stop at the species; dreams, with the exception of wet ones, are not a product of biology. They are shaped by purely societal stimuli. They are culture-dependent. They are the byproducts of civilizations, and different civilizations induce drastically different dreams. While antelopes are dreaming of grass, lions are dreaming of antelopes.
The antelopes in our midst keep bleating that Islam is just another religion. This is not true. Islam does not stop at stating a religious dogma to those who follow it willingly. Unlike any other religion, Islam imposes its own peculiar way of life on every person within its power, regardless of whether that person is Muslim or not.
I am a Jew, but my way of life is not really different from that of my Christian relatives, friends, neighbors and colleagues. They go to church on Easter and Christmas; I go to the temple on Passover and Yom Kippur. That's the extent of the difference, although when the time comes for the Jews to march to the gas chambers again, other aspects of it may be revealed to everyone's surprise. When presented with a choice between imposing our religious beliefs on others and productive coexistence with each other, we wisely opted for coexistence and turned our faiths into an intimately personal matter. As a result, tolerance has become our way of life. Thank God for that! How can you not love the grass?
Now, if, instead of an antelope, I were a lion, my view of the conflict would be entirely different.
My faith is Islam, but my way of life is jihad. For 14 centuries, never letting up for even a minute, Islam has demanded of me that I continue jihad until the last infidel stops breathing. How can you counter my upbringing? By reeducating me? By trying to teach me to live on grass? You won't succeed even if you keep at it for the next 14 centuries, but, considering your staying power (or, rather, lack thereof), your effort is not likely to last 14 months.
I don't expect the infidels to approve of it; after all, it's my sword against their throats. But even they must admit two facts. First, Islam has always kept its doors open for newcomers. Grazing at your side doesn't attract me the least; but if you decide to say the shahadah, you are welcome into the pride.
Second, my way of life has a huge seniority over yours. My way of life existed for at least 12 centuries before the half-baked ideas of democracy and tolerance began having their first practical effects on the Godless society where they emerged.
While my world, Dar el-Islam, was enjoying comfortable stability in the course of many centuries, the West kept changing itself, its ideology, its philosophy, its way of life. And every time they came up with something new, they were so proud of themselves, so sure that the folly they were living at the moment would last forever. This is a special kind of blindness that Allah inflicts upon the infidels. How can they expect that I will give up my way of life in favor of theirs?
"But wait," an antelope is sure to ask. "Can't you enjoy your way of life without destroying mine?"
No more than a lion can survive on grass. In His infinite wisdom, Allah created the antelopes as sustenance for the lions. In His infinite mercy, He gave every antelope an opportunity to become a lion. Don't blame the lions for your failure to make the right choice.
Your peacemongers may sing sweet songs about Islam's benevolence, but the truth is: Islam and jihad are as inseparable as the two poles of a magnet. A smart demagogue may describe them as two opposites, but you know as well as I do that the two cannot exist without each other. Jihad is the only state in which Islam has ever existed since the day when the infidel fools exiled the Prophet from Mecca. Jihad is the only state in which Islam can exist.
A Muslim's ancient urge for jihad is so great, so unquenchable, so uncompromising that whenever he is deprived of his sacred right to murder the infidels, he will inevitably begin killing his own brothers, using obscure tribal or sectarian distinction as the cause of war. Just look what's going on in Iraq today, where Muslims successfully resist the infidel occupation by murdering each other.
The history of Islam is the history of jihad. The purpose of jihad is expansion. We don't send out missionaries. We send out warriors. We give you a fair choice to accept Allah and His Messenger or die. That's the extent of Allah's boundless mercy to the infidel. That's the extent of benevolence your female Secretary of State so lavishly praised.
And if you don't destroy Islam at least as thoroughly as you destroyed Nazism, Islam will destroy you as thoroughly, as it has destroyed everything and everybody in its way during the 14 centuries of unending jihad.
 According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahadah) "A single honest recitation of the shahadah in Arabic, in front of two Muslim witnesses, is all that is required for a person to become a Muslim according to most traditional schools." "The shahadah is the Muslim declaration of belief in the oneness of God and in Muhammad as his final prophet."
Yashiko Sagamori is a New York-based Information Technology consultant. To read other articles by the author, go to http://www.middleeastfacts.com/yashiko/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This essay was submitted November 1, 2006.
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