David Wood's new nearly 8-minute video on the Paris attacks and the Koran is almost superb -- but for one flaw that turns out to be rather crucial.
As usual, his manner of presentation is impeccable, and his obvious knowledge of the relevant subject is excellent. On the former, one deeply appreciates his affectation of sarcastic restraint and an almost unctuous patience as of a grownup explaining something elementary to a little child, imbued with a calm almost zen-like. To this viewer, at least, it resonates and reverberates with deep satisfaction in the pit of my psyche, since I recognize it as simply an elegantly civilized translation of our fury and exasperation.
However, with this particular communiqué, manner of presentation and general grasp of the relevant subject are not enough.
Most of David Wood's video is taken up with a meticulously limpid explanation of the oft-cited Koran verse 5:32 -- "...We ordained... that if anyone killed a person... it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind." Of course, I just now used my cherry-picking scissors to extract only the seemingly pleasing part from that verse; though that is the purport which most Western ignoramuses take away from the verse even when quoted a bit more fully with other surrounding phrases. Such as, for example, the several other words which my ellipses left out: "Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person...[blah, blah, blah]". I've noticed that none of the Pleasantly Correct Westerners I've encountered who have been impressed by that verse have ever paused to wonder at that strange locution about the "Children of Israel". David Wood explains it well: it is a quotation from a major Jewish source, the Talmud, and it leads to David Wood's next point: verse 5:32 is not complete without its complement, the very next verse, 5:33. The first verse describes what the "Children of Israel" have been told to do and why; the second verse describes what Muslims have been told to do and why. Here is that second verse, 5:33:
"The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on opposite sides, or be exiled from the land."
No wonder Muslim apologists leave that second verse out of their explanation of how peaceful their Islam is. Why Western Useful Idiots fail to learn about it, however, is a more complicated question, which I've gone into at length elsewhere (complicated, that is, if we want to avoid a conspiracy theory that imputes a strangely devastating depreciation of Western civilization -- or, on the flip side, however tempting it may be, if we want to avoid calling hundreds of millions of our fellow Westerners colossally stupid).
So far, so good in David Wood's presentation. However, he begins to falter as he's approaching the finish line. The viewer becomes increasingly dismayed and frustrated as it becomes clear that his entire argument rests on interpreting the key phrase "mischief in the land" in literal, military terms of "wage war against Allah". And he makes it worse by explaining just seconds before how elastic that term "mischief in the land" is -- how it can include so many different, even innocuous things. Let's quote him:
"So what counts as mischief? Lots of things. Apostasy, preaching a religion other than Islam, adultery, becoming too Westernized... things like that."
A good list, to which he should have added blasphemy -- because that is precisely what the ISIS declaration specifically cited as one of their three grievances justifying the Paris attacks. As I noted in a recent essay, All the PC that's fit to print, the ISIS declaration said, and I quote:
“…the scent of death will not leave their nostrils… as long as they dare to curse our Prophet (blessings and peace upon him)…”
For some strange reason -- we must assume David Wood never read the ISIS declaration, since surely he would have noticed this -- he leaves this utterly out of his argument and proceeds straight to building a case of a military explanation: i.e., the terrorists massacred French civilians because through their taxes as citizens they support the French military which is currently "waging war on Allah" by sending troops to Iraq and Syria. One shakes one's head in dismay at this impoverished argument, especially coming from someone as otherwise excellent as David Wood -- and especially because ISIS had already handed him a much more disturbing argument on a silver platter. For the ISIS quote above clearly and specifically cites the casus belli ("reason for declaring war") of what constitutes in the perspective of Islam repellant ideas, speech, and behavior -- which is the broader and deeper motivation for all the jihad violence we have seen over the past several decades, which as we know all too well has been getting alarmingly worse, notably in the years following that spectacular quantum leap in terrorism, the 911 attacks. Indeed, that casus belli is the broader, deeper reason why Muslims have been at war with the non-Muslim world for 1,400 years.
In addition, the exegesis of the Koran, known in Arabic as tafsir, which is so important to Islamic law and doctrine, makes clear that the relevant terms for "mischief in the land" -- fitna, fasad, and shirk -- go well beyond mere conventional military attacks on Muslims (see, for example, the tafsir on Koran chapter 9 by one of the most respected Muslim scholars of Islamic history, Ibn Kathir). The real international crime as articulated in the Koran is "fighting words" of blasphemy and disrespect against Islam, Allah and Muhammad -- against which the Koran commands Muslims to "defend" themselves by fighting and killing. Which is exactly what they did in Paris on Friday.
Instead, David Wood's argument operates on a State-Department level of analysis, whereby an obtuse Republican could say, "Well, we just need to withdraw our military from the Middle East and maybe they'll stop killing us..." That's barely scratching the surface of the full horror, the full catastrophe unfolding in our century like a global train wreck coming down the pike. For, the real casus belli, the real "offense" we present to Muslims according to their Islam is not that we may intrude upon their lands for economic, geopolitical, or post-imperialist reasons: it is simply by continuing to be ourselves, by not submitting to Allah and His Messenger, we are in the eyes of Muslims continuing to foment "mischief in the land".