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January 19th 2009 print

Bill Muehlenberg

Recall Lebanon to Understand Gaza

Lebanon used to be a bright spot in a very dark Middle East. Muslims and non-Muslims could live together in peace and calm, even at the political level. It was a beacon of hope and freedom to the surrounding Arab nations. The Lebanese had the highest standard of living in the area. In many ways it seemed more like a Western nation, and Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East. But all that changed in 1975.

Lebanon used to be a bright spot in a very dark Middle East. It was a rare democracy with a Christian majority. Muslims and non-Muslims could live together in peace and calm, even at the political level. It was a beacon of hope and freedom to the surrounding Arab nations. The Lebanese had the highest standard of living in the area. In many ways it seemed more like a Western nation, and Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East.

But all that changed in 1975 when radical Muslims from surrounding nations declared jihad on the Lebanese Christians, and poured into Southern Lebanon to set up a Muslim state. Radical Muslims who hated democracy and wanted to impose Sharia law turned the Lebanese oasis into a hell hole.

Among those who lived through the terror was one young Maronite Christian girl, Brigitte Gabriel. She was ten years old when the rape of Lebanon began. For the next seven years she and her family would spend most of their time living in an underground bomb shelter, enduring the onslaught of Islamist anger and fury.

She witnessed firsthand the murder, rape, hatred and genocide of a once-great land. She experienced the terror, ethnic cleansing, and dictatorship of Muslim radicals. And she also saw how these Islamists masterfully controlled and manipulated the media, to make it look like they were the good guys, and the Christians and Jews were the source of evil in the region.

Gabriel’s recent book Because They Hate (St. Martins Press, 2006), tells her story in chilling and moving detail. But the book is much more than a personal story. It is also a warning. It is a warning to America and the West that the very thing that happened to Lebanon is now happening to all Western democracies. Radical Muslims have declared a holy war against the West, and made clear their intention of destroying it.

Radical Muslims made their intentions known about Lebanon, and they did what they said they would do. They are now telling us their intentions about the West. And they are working to carry out those intentions. Gabriel asks, will we learn from the experience in Lebanon? Or will the West close its eyes and pretend the threat of radical Islam does not exist?

The 2006 incursion of Israel into Lebanon must be seen from the backdrop of the story told in this book. The hatred and venom that Muslims have for Jews is carefully discussed here. The desire of 150 million surrounding Muslims to drive 5 million Jews into the sea is a daily reality for the Israelis.

And as Gabriel shows, the same media manipulation and deception is taking place now, as it did three decades ago. A favourite tactic of the Palestinians then, like Hezbollah now, is to set up rocket attacks from Christian villages. After the rockets are fired, the Islamists quickly pull out, knowing full well Israeli reprisals will then fall on innocent Christian habitations. And the media of course will be there to record the Jewish “barbarism,” while ignoring the initial terrorist attacks.

The horrible tactics and the frightening aims of the Islamists are here carefully laid out. So too are the lies and the deception Islamists are quite happy to resort to. There are even Arabic terms for these: taqiyya and kithman.

Radical Muslims are willing to present themselves as victims and oppressed peoples. And apologists for the Islamists, and those who loathe their own Western heritage, readily find reasons to blame the West for Islamic terrorism. Somehow the West is to blame for acts of Islamist outrage.

Yet as Gabriel reminds us, it is foolish to suggest that we must somehow address their grievances. “Their grievance is our freedom of religion. Their grievance is our democratic process.” These radicals have repeatedly made their goals known: they seek to destroy Western democracies and set up an Islamic state. Says Gabriel, “Unless we take them at their word, and defend ourselves accordingly, they will succeed.”

And she reminds us that there is a sacred obligation to impose Islam on the entire world. This is not a distortion of Islam, nor the ideas just of extremists, but the very heart of mainstream Islam. “It is mandated by the holy writings of Islam, as interpreted by a vast majority of the classical authorities.”

Indeed, we must reject the myth of moderate Islam. While there are many moderate Muslims, the religion itself is not moderate. Religious and political freedoms are just not hallmarks of Muslim societies. Indeed, the “only social liberal thinkers in the Muslim-Arab Islamo-fascist world are dead ones”.

In this important book Gabriel documents the many Islamist assaults on the West, and asks why we even allow terrorists to live in our own countries, as they prepare to carry our their acts of carnage and destruction. The parallels between what is now happening in the West and what took place in her homeland are too ominous to be ignored. Yet the West seems intent on doing just that.

Gabriel says we must wake up to the fact that a war has been declared against the West. Do we have the will and the resolve to defend our way of life, or will we simply give up without a fight?

She closes her volume with a number of hard-hitting recommendations if the West is to prevail in this conflict. For America these include much stricter border controls, development of alternative energy sources, and security profiling of high-risk groups.

These and other stringent steps must be taken if we want to win this battle against the Islamic terrorists. Mere conciliation, arbitration and diplomacy will not reduce the threat. The radical Muslims do what they do because they hate. And until we learn that lesson the casualties will continue to mount, and freedoms will continue to be snatched away.

To understand the hatred, and why this hatred is such a threat, all concerned citizens must read this book. It is a prophetic warning to the free West. If we do not want to see what happened to Lebanon take place on a far greater scale, then we must wake up to the threat that is staring us in the face, and take appropriate steps in response.

This book is a much needed wake up call to a sleepy and indifferent West. But if we do not heed its warnings, we may well find that the free West will be no more. And given the current crisis in Gaza, it is all the more timely.