In his perception, the millennial struggle between the true believers and the unbelievers had gone through successive phases, inwhich the former were headed by various dynasties of caliphs, and the latter by the various imperial Christian powers that had succeeded the Romans in the leadership of the world of the infidels— the Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the British and French and Russian empires. In this final phase, he says, the world of the infidels was divided and disputed between two rival superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. The Muslims had met, defeated, and destroyed the more dangerous and the more deadly of the two. Dealing with the soft, pampered, and effeminate Americans would be an easy matter.
This belief appeared to be confirmed in the 1990s when the world saw one attack after another on American bases and installations with virtually no effective response of any kind—only angry words and expensive missiles dispatched to remote and uninhabited places. The lessons of Vietnam and Beirut (1983) were confirmed by Mogadishu (1993). In both Beirut and Mogadishu, a murderous attack on Americans, who were there as part of U.N.–sponsored missions, was followed by prompt and complete withdrawal. The message was understood and explained. “Hit them, and they’ll run.” This was the course of events leading up to 9/11. That attack was clearly intended to be the completion of the first sequence and the beginning of the new one, taking the war into the heart of the enemy camp.
In the eyes of a fanatical and resolute minority of Muslims, the third wave of attack on Europe has clearly begun. We should not delude ourselves as to what it is and what it means. This time it is taking different forms and two in particular: terror and migration.
Terror is part of the larger issue of violence and of its use in the cause of religion. Islam does not, as some would have us believe, share the pacifist aspirations of early Christianity. Islamic theology and law—like Christian practice if not theory—recognize war as a fact of life and in certain situations commend and even require it. In the traditional view, the world is divided into two—the House of Islam where Islamic rule and law prevail, and the rest, known as the Dar al-Harb, the House of War. Later, for a while, some intermediate categories were introduced, to designate regimes with limited autonomy under Muslim suzerainty.
War does not mean terror. Islamic teachings, and more specifically Islamic law, regulate the conduct of warfare, requiring respect for the laws of war and humane treatment of women, children, and other non-combatants. They do not countenance actions of the type now designated as terrorism. Islamic doctrine and law forbid suicide, which is regarded as a major sin, earning eternal damnation. The suicide, according to Islamic teaching, even if he has lived a life of unremitting virtue, will forfeit paradise and will go to hell, where his punishment will consist of the eternal repetition of the act by which he committed suicide.
These rules and beliefs were generally respected in classical Islamic times. They have been eroded, reinterpreted, and explained away by the various schools of present-day radical Islam. The young men and women who commit these acts of terror should be better informed of the doctrines and traditions of their own faith. Unfortunately they are not; instead the suicide bomber and other kinds of terrorists have become role models, eagerly followed by growing numbers of frustrated and angry young men and women.
The other form, of more immediate relevance to Europe, is migration. In earlier times, it was inconceivable that a Muslim would voluntarily move to a non-Muslim country . The jurists discuss the question of a Muslim living under non-Muslim rule in the textbooks and manuals of Shari‘a, but in a different form: Is it permissible for a Muslim to live in or even visit a non-Muslim country? And if he does, what must he do? Generally speaking, this was considered under certain specific headings.