The death toll from Friday’s terrorist attack on an Egyptian mosque has topped 300. Hundreds more were injured. It was the clearest demonstration of the imperative for the world’s Muslims to “Drive Them Out” since President Trump’s forceful Riyadh speech last May.
“Drive Them Out” was the President’s repeated refrain addressed to the leaders of the Arab world. It dealt with a painful reality so difficult to face that much of the world prefers to live in denial. There is a supremacist strain of popular, mainstream, Muslim thought that threatens the entire globe. Islamists believe that Islam is as much a political program as it is a faith; that the Koran is a constitution as well as scripture.
Islamists of all stripes — the Islamic State, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and their lesser-known compatriots — see themselves as the sole possessor of Truth. In itself, that doesn’t distinguish them from many other people of faith — or even a certain strand of atheists. But in today’s world, only Islamists believe that God instructed them to enslave, convert, or kill all who question – or whose existence challenges – their Truth.
All who adhere to that Islamist belief are parts of the problem, even though they do not form a unified, coherent movement. Islamists disagree among themselves as to what that Truth is, and they have widely varying opinions about both strategy and tactics. Some Islamists are far more brutal and violent than others. But Islamists typically restrict their condemnation of other Islamists to tactical grounds. They may question the usefulness of YouTube beheadings — or mosque bombings — but there is little evidence of unease or doubt that infidels and apostates warrant the death penalty.
President Trump called upon Arab leaders — and the world’s Muslims — to Drive Them Out not because it is easy, but because it is necessary. Islamists rarely self-segregate. They live as parts of Muslim communities or nations, sharing families, neighborhoods, and even mosques with non-Islamists. Their radicalization, and their recruitment to the Islamist cause, can be difficult even for insiders to detect. It is nearly impossible for outsiders — until they have crossed the Rubicon to commit some heinous act.
President Trump had the courage to become the first Western leader to speak this uncomfortable truth about Islam. He spoke it in the very heart of the Muslim world — to broad acclaim. Nonetheless, condemnation from predictable sources in mainstream Western media and academia was swift and widespread. These so-called experts have built a cottage industry as apologists for, and the useful idiots of, the Islamist cause. They have worked overtime to blur the distinction between Muslims who subscribe to the Islamist philosophy and those who do not. They brandish as a weapon the Islamist charge of Islamophobia to stifle intelligent and necessary discussions critical to dealing with a global threat — mirroring the ways they deploy thoughtless and inapplicable charges of racism, anti-Semitism, or fascism to discredit those whose views they are incapable of rebutting.
Perhaps most importantly, these Western apologists have created an entire mythology of justified grievances that Islamists seek to address: European imperialism, colonialism, the existence of the State of Israel, American heavy-handedness, discrimination against Muslims throughout the West, even the Crusades all play critical roles. Western apologists are willing to condemn specific atrocities, but point to every cause except Islamism. When backed into a corner, they try to isolate the tiny number of Islamists bearing personal responsibility for atrocities from the sizable swathe of mainstream Muslims who share the Islamist worldview and philosophy.
Friday’s mosque bombing calls out the entire mythology for the lie it is. On Friday, in the Egyptian Sinai, violent, radical Islamist Muslims massacred non-violent, mystic Sufi Muslims. The motivation was clear: Sufis reject Truth as Islamists define it. That motivation is identical to the motivation at play in Jerusalem, Paris, London, San Bernardino, New York, Boston, and Orlando. In the Islamist playbook, the rejection of Islamism is a capital crime. Period.
Sadly, the lie of legitimate grievances is the easier part of the apologists’ myth to dispel. The harder part has to do with the distinction they attempt to draw among Muslims. The proper dividing line does not run between Islamists who have already demonstrated brutality and those who have not. Nor — to anticipate a common straw man argument — does it run between Muslims and the rest of the world. The dividing line runs between Islamists — adherents to a violent, supremacist ideology — and other Muslims.
President Trump put the matter clearly and succinctly. Muslims who reject Islamism must drive the Islamists out. Non-Muslims seeking coexistence rather than confrontation with the Muslim world must help them in that effort.
To date, America has led the West in shying away from that duty. We must now take the next step. We must call out the apologists’ mythology for the lie it is. Hundreds of Sufis in the Sinai are just the latest to pay the price. Their deaths show that Islamism is a problem for the entire world.
President Trump sent precisely the right message in Riyadh: Drive them out. Now.
Bruce Abramson is the president of Informationism, Inc., and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research. Jeff Ballabon is CEO of B2 Strategic and an adviser to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.