Caliphaters and Apocalyptic Jihad

Caliphaters and Apocalyptic Jihad: The Dynamics of the Most Powerful Millennial Movement of the 21st Century
(Richard Landes, May 29, 2019)

Transcript available below

About the speaker

Dr. Richard Landes is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University (2015 to present). He is the author of a number of books, including Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience.

Of his topic, he says: “Millennial movements seek to usher in ‘heaven on earth,’ a messianic era in which evil has been destroyed and good finally triumphs. When motivated by a sense of imminent success, apocalyptic-millennial movements move into active phase. The most dangerous of all these movements are those which believe in an active cataclysmic scenario (we are the agents of the necessary and massive destruction of evil that will clear the path), leading to an imperial millennial dream (we will rule the world). Currently Global Jihad represents one of the largest and most dangerous of all such movements known in history. The current ignorance of Westerners about this dimension of the problem and its dynamics constitutes a major weakness in our ability to resist. Worse, certain Western responses enable this movement.”

Dr. Landes taught history at Boston University for 25 years and was Director and co-founder of the Center for Millennial Studies. For four years prior, he taught at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also the editor of The Apocalyptic Year 1000: Studies in the Mutation of European Culture; and Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements.

He received an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University in history and a B.A. from Harvard University. He also attended the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris.


Robert R. Reilly:


Dr. Richard Landes is a senior fellow at the Center for International Communications at Bar-Ilan University and that he has been since 2015 to the present. He is the author of a number of books, including Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience, which pertains to the subject he is addressing this evening, about which he says, “Currently, global jihad represents one of the largest and most dangerous of such movements known in history.” And I will not give any more of his lecture tonight. I will let him do that.

As I mentioned, Professor Landes has taught for some three decades. Twenty-seven of those were at Boston University. He is also taught at the University of Pittsburgh. I should mention at Boston University he was the Direcor and cofounder of the Center for Millennial Studies,. [He was] also the editor of The Apocalyptic Year 1000. It has a long subtitle, so I will not want to take his time by getting it. He received both his MA and PhDs from Princeton University in History and a BA from Harvard. He also attended the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Tonight, he addresses us on the Caliphaters, a wonderful neologism, “Caliphaters and Apocalyptic Jihad: The Dynamics of the Most Powerful Millennial Movement of the 21stCentury.” Join me in welcoming Richard Landes.

Richard Landes:

Thank you very much Bob and thank you all for coming. You force me to rethink certain things, which is always good. I just finished the manuscript. I still do not have a publisher for it. The manuscript of a book that is tentatively titled, “They are so smart because we are so stupid: A Medievalist Guide to the 21st Century,” and the epigram to it is in the middle of the back of your page. If I were a Muslim, I would view the stupidity from Westerners as a sign from Allah that I should join global jihad, which alas is both funny and true.


So what I would like to do is I would like to start out briefly with definitions. You have them here. You can consult them as I go on, but briefly, the language that I use: I talk about eschatology, which is what happens at the end of time. In monotheistic religions that is generally the Last Judgement and the end of the physical universe entirely, the saints go to heaven, the damned go to hell. I use millennial as a intermediary stage of this worldly perfection. In the Christian tradition it is a thousand years. In some Jewish traditions it is a thousand years, so as a result that is where we get the term millennial, which is from mille-annus.

So millennialism is the goal of a perfect society on earth. It is an enormously attractive idea no matter how unrealistic it ends up being. In fact, there are a whole range of millennial beliefs which are magical in which we are going to live in a sort of magical society in which the earth is super abundant, in which the lamb lies down with the lamb. There is a famous joke about the zoo exhibit, the messianic exhibit at the zoo with the [lion] and the lamb and somebody says, “Zookeeper, how do you do it?” He says, “Easy, new lamb every day.” So yeah, ouch, right. So that is millennialism.

Types of Millennialism

There are two broad varities of millennialism. One is egalitarian. Communism is a good example. Many of the Christian millennial movements, I think the apostles are a good example of an egalitarian, millennial community, but there is also hierarchical versions in the Christian tradition you have the last emperor who is going to conquer the world and bring the benefits of peace top down instead of bottom up. These are, if you will, starting points because once people start to engage in the project of bringing about the millennium, they tend to move from one extreme to the other as for example the communists, who start out radically egalitarian and end up being ferociously totalitarian.

And then I use the term apocalyptic to describe two different elements. One is a sense of imminence. In my work on the Middle Ages I work on the idea that the end of the world will come six thousand years from creation, six days of creation, one day of rest, a thousand years is a day in the sight of the lord, six thousand years of travail and then a millennial sabbatical millennium. And that idea was introduced to sort of calm people down and say yes, Jesus is going to come back, but you have to wait another three hundred years. And then what is interesting is what happens as the date approaches, but that is a different story and a different lecture.

But there are non-apocalyptic, millennial beliefs and in some sense all of us, all Westerners, all monotheists, have somehwere embedded in their psyche this notion that at the end of time, all the mess will be sorted out, the good who suffer will be rewarded and the evil who inflict that suffering will be punished. So in some senses millennialism, apocalypticism, eschatology, it is all about theodicy, it is all about god’s justice, which in the current world is not always so visible and in the Middle Ages was even less visible.

So apocalyptic is the belief that it is happening now and that is the key idea because it activates what otherwise– I mean Marx called it ‘pie-in-the-sky, bye-and-bye’. Well, it is not ‘pie-in-the-sky, bye-and-bye’, it is pie-in-the-sky right now and it is pie-on-earth right now and ironically, Marx was one of the millennialists who spent a lot of energy denying it. I will come back to that in a second, but in any case, the point about apocalyptic is on the one hand timing, it is now, and on the other hand, what is the scenario where by you get from this world, which is filled with evil and filled with suffering, to the world in which evil is vanquished and suffering disappears

And there are two basic scenarios or, if you will, there is a kind of four square: on one axis is either violent or peaceful, what I call cataclysmic, apocalyptic or transformative, apocalyptic, so the idea that, you know, at the end of time they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation will not lift up sword against nation nor study war anymore is a transformative notion. The warriors are voluntarily giving up their weapons of dominion and turning them into tools of honest labor, which is a classic, demotic, transformative vision of the end of time. The cataclysmic on the other hand tends to go on with a fairly negative view of human nature and not believe that people are capable of, you know, transforming themselves or being inspired to transform themselves to be inspired through terror and there is lots of evil that just plain needs to be destroyed. So for example, the Book of Revelation and a number of the prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible contain some fairly elaborate descriptions of the kind of cataclysmic destruction that will happen before you get to either the Last Judgement or the millennium depending on what you think is coming.

There is a comment that Eric Hoffer makes in a brilliant book called The True Believer in which he says, “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without a belief in god, but never without a belief in the devil.”

So that goes hand in hand with this apocalyptic scenario of cataclysm. Now, the other axis is active and passive, so for example, in the scenario, the cataclysmic, apocalyptic scenario of Revelation, I call that a passive scenario because humans play no role in the destruction. It is divinely wrought destruction. The most dangerous form of apocalyptic movement is an active, cataclysmic movement. That means to say huge violence and destruction accompanies the resolution of history and we are god’s active agents in bringing that about. The alternative is active-transformative. I will come back to that when I discuss the modern Western, Progressive notions.

But this idea that we are agents of redemptive violence, that we must destroy the world to save it, which is the title of Robert J. Lifton’s book about the Aum Shinrikyo millennial movement in Japan. This is possibly the most dangerous idea ever. It is one that has killed literally tens of millions of people and when people say, you know, ‘religion has caused more death than any other’, I would say active-cataclysmic millennialism has caused more damage than any other movement.

These ideas are – one historian of the phenomenon described it as ‘they catch like a forest fire’. Once these ideas take, you cannot argue people out of them, events will not necessarily sway them from believing in them. You will have a movement that if it takes well enough, you literally have a forest fire that at best you can direct, but basically is going to have to burn itself out and that is why it is so dangerous to allow these movements to take, and that is exactly what I think is happening at the beginning of the 21st century, which is my talk today.

Just a quick list of the mega-deaths caused by active, cataclysmic, millennial movements: the Taiping in China between 1850 and 1864, fourteen years of millennial warfare against the Qing Dynasty produced somewhere between 25 and 30 million dead. We had the American Civil War, which could be argued had millennial dimensions to it. We had the American Civil War: 600,000 dead. Now, granted it did not last as long, but nothing compared to what was going on in China.

The Bolsheviks probably killed about 60 million people with their famines and their purges. The Nazis and the Japanese probably certainly caused the death of maybe 50 million people and the Maoists may have killed as much as 100 million Chinese with their actions. So before I go into my discussion of what I call Caliphaters as an active, cataclysmic movement, I would like to spend a few moments on an actual active, transformative millennial movement that is operating in plain sight, but neither recognizes itself as such nor do most of us recognize that, and it is what I and they call the ‘global Progressive Left’.

So essentially this book I wrote describes how in the first years of the 21st century we made catastrophic decisions and strengthened enormously an active, cataclysmic movement. The second half, the second part is six different major players in this, two of which I will discuss tonight, on the one hand the global Progressive Left and on the other hand the Caliphate.

So the global Progressive Left. One of the mutations that occurs in the West that is particularly interesting is the development of what some of us call secular millennialism, in other words millennialism without god. People also refer to it as utopianism. One of the interesting things about secular millennialism – Marx for example was accused of being a chiliast, the Greek word for a thousand, and he was indignant and insisted that it was science and not any kind of you know either literary text or strange prophecies that moved his scenario. It was science. Of course, it was his reading and it proved as inaccurate as all previous millennial movements.

But not unless one of the basic principles of millennial studies is wrong, but all the movements, the apocalyptic movements, which we historians study, were wrong, the world did not come to an end. The millennium did not come, so they are all wrong, but one of the basic rules is wrong does not mean inconsequential and in fact, these are some of the most consequentially wrong movements in the history of mankind.

Now, what is the basic creed of the global Progressive Left today? Which goes back to earlier, but I think that you know Woodstock is a good example of an apocalyptic moment and it is fifty years ago, so… But Woodstock is a good example of this transformative, apocalyptic movement. I dreamed, I saw the bomber jet planes, riding shotgun in the sky, turning into butterflies across our nation. We are stardust, we are golden, and we have got to get back to the garden. That is a millennial song.

And this is after World War II and it is sort of the apotheosis of Liberal, Progressive thinking and it runs something like this. First of all, the key element at least in late-20th, early 21st century Progressive millennialism is the idea that you transgress boundaries, that all boundaries create conflict, us-and-them, all nationalism is bad, all of these things, even gender is problematic and so on – believe it or not.

So transgressing boundaries is the key and treating us-and-them attitudes, you know, my tribe right or wrong. That kind of stuff is primitive. It is driven by honor/shame. It is not good. We need to rise above it. We need to have instead of viewing the other as an enemy or a potential enemy, we need to have empathy with the other and that empathic connection to the other will transform society.

There is a book by Jeremy Rifkin literally called The Empathic Civilization or something and literally he believes that we are on the verge of, you know, literally rising a whole level of evolution in which we replace our suspicion and hostility and fear of the other, alterophobia. We transform that into an embrace.

So Jacques Derrida was the creator of the exegetical system now as deconstruction literally defines this. He is very much into the other and so on – he literally describes, the attitude that we need to have to the other is to deconstruct the self, so that you make space for the other to feel at home. It is a fascinating idea when it is applied in certain very limited cases where you really – like a marriage, for example – you know, okay, but between nations and between cultures, there are some problems, but the whole point about apocalyptic belief and millennial belief is that once you start along a path, you just keep going. Talk about slippery slopes.

So you know, if deconstructing is good within a marriage and it brings intimacy, how much the better if we deconstruct the entire world and get rid of all tribes, get rid of all identities, we will all become, you know, citizens of the world and so on.

Empathy, dignity, it is an interesting notion. I work on honor/shame issues and honor is a commodity that is limited. Some people have honor, other people do not have honor. It is impossible for everybody to have honor. Everybody can have dignity, but honor is, particularly in a stratified society, is something that the elites have and commoners do not. Manual labor is literally a kind of stigmatizing, degrading act, which is why the egalitarian, millennial movements see this as the apotheosis of the manual laborer, swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks.

So empathy, dignity, the deconstruction of the self. One of the memes of this is who are we to judge? Who are we to judge other people? Well, you know, one might say look, withholding judgement until you have more information and not rushing to judgement is a good idea, but never judging? You know, any animal that cannot detect an enemy is in deep trouble and any society that cannot detect an enemy and mobilize it is in deep trouble, and I would say that is our current condition.

So we have breaking down boundaries, gender, nation-state, religions, racism, ethnicities. We have a sort of worship of positive sum in which everything should be positive sum and there should be no zero sum and there is no question that modern Western society has done more to develop positive sum relations between people than certainly any society in recorded history. We have a remarkable culture in which we urge cooperation on levels that most cultures cannot and one of the good examples of how hard it is is the European Union. I think I still have time for this and given the laughter, you probably want more.

In 2005, there were two series of books that came out. One series of books was warning that Europe was going down the tubes, Bat Yeor’s Eurabia, Melanie Phillips’ Londonistan, Mark Stein America Alone, Bruce Bawer While Europe Slept. The same year a series of books came out. Mark Leonard I think wrote a book called Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century. Another one was how the United States of Europe is going to eclipse the United States of America. And a series of these triumphalist books – Rifkin wrote one as well– that praised the European Union because the European Union was based on soft power and not hard power, and the future was to soft power.

And soft power is essentially the ability to convince people to act in certain ways rather than to force them to act in certain ways. And it is a good thing, but there can be too much of a good thing sort of like too much oxygen can kill you. We need zero sum relations and in fact, one of the reason we have sports is precisely built around these zero sum relations. On the other hand, what we have in the messianic movement that I am trying to describe to you is something very different. That is everything should be positive sum and probably the best place to see that is in a field of academic study, claiming to be scholarship, and there are departments or programs in this field, which calls itself peace and conflict studies.

And peace and conflict studies is basically ‘we can work it out’. They listen to The Beetles too much. If we are just nice enough to the others, they will not be hostile with us. And, in fact, one of the striking things about peace and conflict studies is the degree to which they are hostile to people who want to resist the hostility of others and this came out recently in a case of some poor guy who was at a midwestern university and forced to take this for credits or whatever.

And they are discussing what do you do if there is a shooter. And he said, you know, shoot him, and the reaction was absolutely not, you must not do that. So it is conflict averse, which is good, I mean it is good that we are not looking for a fight. But when a fight looks for you and you have been trained, literally it is a kind of…

For me, one of the most ironic things about the 20th century is that in the entire history of Christianity – and as a medievalist I think I can talk about this – in the entire history of Christianity, there has never been a Christian nation, which took the Sermon on the Mount as a guide to foreign policy. Now, in a post-Christian, allegedly atheist society, they want us to adopt the Sermon on the Mount as foreign policy.

So, peace and conflict studies, human rights discourse, I am not going to go into too much detail because I want to get to my real topic, which is the Caliphaters. So here you go. Just a couple of brief, cute phrases to give you an idea of the messianic dimensions of what we are talking about.

Post-modern one can characterize as the renouncing of the hubris of Western exceptionalism, objectivity, science, phallogocentrism, what is today called white privilege, so the West is not the best. Okay. Post-colonialism, brought to us by none other than Edward Said, is blaming Western imperialism for all of poverty and misery that exists in the world. The West is not just not the best, it is the worst.

And what you have is – with intersectionality and the analysis of systemic racism of the privileged – what you have is what Bertrand Russell called the ‘fallacy of the virtue of victimhood’, which is that if you re a victim, then you are virtuous, and if you are not a victim and in fact seem to be victimizing the other, then you must be bad. I am quoting here from the Green Deal, which describes the people who we have – we, Westerners – are guilty of turning into people of well, shall we call them ‘the suffering’, indigenous peoples, people of color, migrant communities, de-industrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low income workers, women, the elderly, unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth. And our job is to bring these previously marginalized and underrepresented voices into- welcome them in our public sphere.

Now, on campuses that has led to some pretty horrendous events, sort of what Ashley Thorne calls ‘Staged Emergencies‘, where you know there is this hue and cry about racism on campus and certain people get targeted as hate speakers and in some cases driven off of campus or completely intimidated and marginalized. So you let in marginal voices who then take over and marginalize other people.

The result of all this is a dominant cadre of intellectuals in the West who are appeared to adopt the basic principle that if the weak attack the stronger, blame the stronger, even though it means their culture is the stronger. So it is not the ecumenical or civil society principle of whoever’s side is right, but the post-modern version of this is their side is right. And as a result you end up with a, if you will, a mindset which is perfectly primed to be the victim of what I am about to describe, which is the caliphater-cognitive war. So let me turn to the Caliphaters.

I define Caliphaters – and it is interesting because I had a Muslim Uber driver who brought me here today and he asked me did I live here, what is your talk about, so he was actually pretty receptive, he was secular. By the way, according to Ibn Warraq who has been doing a study of this, about 25% of Muslims who come to Western countries become atheists, which is a surprisingly high number. It also gives you insights into the insecurities of the clerics.

But in any case, so I define a Caliphater as a Muslim – and it can be a convert – a Muslim who believes that in this generation there will be a global caliphate. So the millennial dream, which is embedded I think – I mean I would not say all of Islam because I do not know, but all of the Islam that I have read there is embedded in it this belief that when the Last Judgement does come, it is the Muslims who will be saved and not the unbelievers. And so if the millennial version of that is not the Last Judgement and the end of the world, but a universal caliphate or to paraphrase Freud, where there was Dar al-Harb, there shall be Dar al-Islam and we are the ‘where there was’.

Okay, so you have this apocalyptic dimension, it is going to happen in this generation, you have the millennial dimension of a global caliphate, and you have the active dimension of god chose me to be born now, I am in a millennial generation, which I think plenty of us back when we were naive teenagers around the late ’60s, early ’70s, believed that we were that golden generation. I write about that generation. My medieval work is about that generation between 1000 and 1033.

So millennial generations are not rare if there not common or if the really strong ones are uncommon, but this idea that I live in a generation and what I do participates in this redemptive, collective action, which is going to bring history to an end. It is an imperial millennial dream that is that Islam rules the world.

For jihadis, it is an active scenario. For jihadis, it is an active, cataclysmic scenario. That is that enormous damage has to occur, massive death needs to occur in order for the true way to dominate the way it was meant to, and in ISIS you can see I think- It is a medieval principle, actually. J. Cascon articulated it rather well, which is you are utterly ruthless and people will not resist you. If you are merciful, people say eh, you are not going to shoot me, and you end up with no end of trouble or what is it that Dread Pirate Roberts says? If I do not kill you, people will see me as weak and then it is just work, work, work.

So jihadis are active-cataclysmic. Suicide terror, which is a tremendously powerful weapon: suicide was literally created within Hamas in the early period of the 1980s, early ’90s, suicide terrorism, and it was within this apocalyptic, millennial framework. Hamas believed that they were going to lead the Muslim world in the war against the infidels. Jihadism thrives on chaos. In other words, the more unrolled the war is, the better it is for the jihadis. They get to train. This is literally how they see the world. They make the world into the evil place that they want to fix and it is really ferocious and we can see it in a number of places.

Let us start with Kashmir and then move to the Levant, Iraq, Iran- well, no, mostly Iraq and Syria now, and Sudan, and Yemen, and Nigeria. All of these places are sort of perfect Petri dishes for producing jihadis, some of whom right now want to come back, but I do not want to focus on the jihadis right now.

What I want to focus on is the other ones. You could call them transformative because they seem to be nonviolent, but I would not do that because they are not really about transformation. They are the nice guy to the jihadi tough guy and they are working towards the same dominion. They are using each other.

Here, with these people, what we are dealing with is a form of what some of us call cognitive warfare, and cognitive warfare is what you engage in when you are in an asymmetric war and you are the weaker side. You cannot win in an all out military or what is called kinetic battle. You cannot win the kinetic war. You have to win a cognitive war beforehand in which you change the rapport de force, the balance of forces in which you change them, so that you can then engage in a kinetic war that will bring you your victory.

In many cases this kind of cognitive war and guerrilla warfare that accompanies it has been to chase out some invading force, some imperial force, whether it is the Maccabees and the Greeks or it is the Vietnamese and the French and then the Americans. That kind of a cognitive war you can understand. What we are dealing with however, is an absolutely extraordinary form of cognitive war, namely, an invasive one.

So it s not that you have to convince the enemy that it is not worth hanging around, which is what the Vietnamese convinced us. You have to convince the enemy to stand down while you take over. I once described this to somebody. This woman gave me a ride somewhere and she said, “Well, that is ridiculous. Who would do that?” And I said, “We are doing it.” She paused and she said, “Oh.”

But yeah, okay, so kinetic warfare: you give up because it is what you want to do, so what you have here on the second page of your handouts is what I call the jihadi prayer to Allah and it s basically, imagine in the year 2000 when jihad has been successful to some extent. Bin Laden has kicked the Russians out of Afghanistan, the Iranian government has been taken over by theocrats and so on, but it is still a daunting task to attack the West head on.

And so this is the prayer I imagined if I were a, you know, not somebody who wanted to get killed in war, but somebody who wanted to survive to victory in the end, and if I were thinking about what do I need, what do I need Allah to bring to us so that we can succeed in this ludicrous, you know, Don Quixote-like tilting at, destroying the most powerful nation and the most powerful cultures on the planet. And remember, late 20th century, the Soviet Union has fallen, you know, Fukuyama is announcing the end of history because bourgeoisie, liberal society has won and there is nobody who can take us on. Well, think again.

So this is the prayer. “Oh Allah, the most merciful, give us enemies who help us disguise our ambitions, even our acts of war, blinding themselves to our deployment that targets them.” So we have that today, we have a whole range of journalists and pundits and specialists who will say there are no no-go zones in Europe. In fact, the mayor of Paris insisted after the attack and was just indignant, ‘we have no no-go zones’.

We have the same thing with not reporting or reporting as little as possible or identifying as little as possible the Muslim origin of various attacks, so you will get an attack and in some cases you will not find out that it is a Muslim until later, so you have to be following the story in order to stay up with it.

How many of you followed the bombing in Lyon? Okay, so a week later we find out it is an Algerian. Somebody knew right away it is an Algerian. A week later we find out it is an Algerian, and the papers are filled with testimonies about what a nice person he was, he must have gone crazy.

And the French are particularly good at this. They will get to this guy who tortured and killed this Jewish doctor, Sarah Halimi, for hours, reciting Qur’anic verses while the cops outside were waiting for backup. He was immediately whisked off to a mental institution and will be tried as in terms of an insanity plea.

On the one hand, we do not report. Muslims in Britain, it is always a reference to South Asians, which is their way of referring to Pakistani and Indian Muslims. Benghazi is probably another good example of that kind of reporting.

The next prayer, ‘Give us infidels. Give us enemies who will accept those of us who fight with dawn as moderates who have nothing to do with the violent extremists’. And here, the most obvious and most powerful case in the United States is CAIR. It is just astounding the degree to which it has made its way into the mainstream.

‘Choose these false prophets as advisers and consultants in intelligence and police services and as community liaison.’ That is the theme of Melanie Philips’ Londonistan, and this is true. You talk to genuinely moderate Muslims who are committed to civil society and not the ultimate dominion of Islam and they will tell you that they are systematically being marginalized by their communities.

And it is not that they do not represent the majority of the people – it is not clear how many they do represent, but the people who control the public approval or disapproval are people like CAIR and they are the ones that we empower with our policies and we treat the others as somehow- It is like the Woody Allen joke about, “I would not belong to a club that would have me as a member.” I do not believe a Muslim who actually admires my society. In fact, I had dinner last night with Ibn Warraq, and that is what happened to him. It is sort of like we turn our back on the very people who can save us and Islam.

So let us go on. Choose moderates. ‘Verbally attack anyone, including Muslims who criticize Islam, as Islamophobic’. And the recent accusation of the Southern Poverty Law Center declaring Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali as Islamophobes is a good example of that.

And it is astonishing the degree to which the Southern Poverty Law Center still has credibility and still gets used. And these are the kinds of lists that then get used by Facebook and Twitter, etc., etc. to ban people as Islamophobes, and just recently there were two administrators at Stanford who objected to somebody coming and what stuck in my mind about this objection was that this person had claimed that some Muslims have a tendency towards violence.

Now, as far as I understand it, Islamophobia is sort of saying ah, they are all jihadi, but to not be able to say that some of them are is absolutely astonishing and of all the sort of cognitive war weapons that we need to deconstruct and that have been used against us in terrible ways, Islamophobia is probably the single greatest weapon.

In England, if you are accused of Islamophobia, your career is over. You will lose your job. And if you are a politician, you will lose your position. And it is insane that that should be. The irony, of course, is that it is not actual Islamophobia, we are not actual Islamophobes when we are accused of Islamophobia, we are critics of various behaviors and ideas that are to be found in Islam.

Now, Western civilization would not be Western civilization if we are not able to criticize our traditions, and yet here, we have this medieval religion that has not had anything near the sort of self-critical rounds that Christianity and Judaism have been through, which is basically, we are told, off limits for criticism. I will come back to that in a moment.

The next prayer, ‘Give us enemies who believe that except for a tiny minority, the vast majority of Muslims are moderate and peaceful, and that we are a religion of peace’, and that is exactly what George Bush four days after 9/11, four days, with the now-head of CAIR right behind him. That was a Dhimmi speech. I will come back to that.

Alright, George Bush, but the Pope says the same thing, Obama says the same thing, and Hillary Clinton says the same thing. This is a widespread meme. I remember after 9/11 and Bush’s speech thinking, okay, I understand why he has to say that, it is a diplomatic thing, but surely historians will set the record straight. And instead, a whole bunch of people like John Esposito took over, saying yes, it is true, Islam is a religion of peace.

As a medievalist, I can tell you that there is no religion with a longer history of belligerence against its neighbors than Islam. Medieval Christianity does not have a great record, but it is nothing compared to the constant warfare.

I mean the whole conception of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. We are harbis. You know what a harbi is? Harb is from the Semitic herev sword, so in the Messianic verse that I recited to you earlier from my Isaiah: “Nation will not lift up sword against nation,” so harb is the world of harb, which is where we are, and we are harbis, meaning we are destined to the sword. Okay, so it is built in to the religion and we are told, no, no, no, and if you say it is not, you are an Islamophobe.

‘Oh, Allah, give us enemies who report our war propaganda as news.” Now, I have worked a lot on this. I am not going to go into it now, but basically, in the year 2000, the media reported Palestinian claims about Israeli atrocities as news.

The murder of Muhammad al-Durrah, the massacre at Jenin, and so on, and so forth, they reported this as news, violating every single principle of the modern journalism that they were supposed to be practicing, and essentially engaging in what I call not just lethal journalism, which is reporting one side’s lethal narrative propaganda as news, but [unintelligible] journalism, which is reporting your enemy’s propaganda as news to your own audience, which is the ultimate betrayal.

And if you think we are in bad shape because of fake news, the first piece of fake news of the 21st century was the story of Muhammad al-Durrah, the boy who was allegedly gunned down by the IDF, in the arms of his father, and it was seen by the whole world on television. I will not go further on that.

But you know you have the same thing, the Muhammad cartoons. Three of the cartoons were made by the people who were objecting to depicting Muhammad as a cartoon and they were by far the most disgusting. There was Muhammad being buggered by a dog, there was Muhammad as a pig, and I forget what the third one was, but they were really disgusting, and that is what blew up the Muslim Street.

And instead of Westerners saying, ‘Woah, what is going on here? You guys really believe this is blasphemy when you make your own Muhammad cartoons?’ We go, ‘Oh, what can we do to apologize?’ That is chapter four.

Among the things at Abu Ghraib was a fake video taken from a porn site of American soldiers raping Arabs and again, that is what drove people up a wall, and it even passed muster – not quite, but it made its way on to the pages of The Boston Globe.

So you have these pieces of war propaganda that are designed to incite hatred of Muslims against the enemies and a sense of victimization because in many Muslim arguments jihad is a defensive action, so you need to build up this sense of being assaulted by the outside.

So you end up with all of these things. The Pope’s Regensburg address in which he was accused of saying all Muslims are violent when he was in fact quoting a 14th century Christian Emperor who said that and he was disagreeing with it and nonetheless, we get riots in the Muslim street around the world.

Riots: ‘how dare you say we are violent’. And we are not laughing. The intellectual and the cultural elite in the West is looking at the Pope and saying apologize, which is what happened with the Danish cartoon scandal.

‘Give us enemies who adopt our apocalyptic enemy Israel as their own, so that they can join us in an attack on one of their key allies’. The UN, the European Union, the whole BDS movement, all of these things are essentially adopting the Muslim apocalyptic narrative in which we are – their term for it is ad-dajjal, our term for it is antichrist – we are the cosmic force of evil, and if only we will be defeated, then everything will work out just fine.

‘Give us enemies who legitimate our terror as resistance and denounce any violence in their own defense as terrorism’. Reuters after 9/11 refused to use the word terrorism to describe what had happened and they were soon followed by the BBC and other journals, who had no problem in fact viewing what happened to America as our chickens coming home to roost, but eventually, by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and so on, a whole series of editorials, explaining how one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

And the irony of all of this is the last thing that Calipher-jihadis are is freedom fighters. They are imperialists, the worst, the most ruthless kind. And the press is saying, well, you know, and of course, what is the way that sneaks into the system? It is Palestinian terrorists are freedom fighters because we buy this narrative that what they want is their own state, a democratic state side-by-side with Israel.

‘Give us enemies who legitimate our terror,” so Chomsky is an example. After 9/11, he said ‘America is the worst terrorist in the world, and in fact, their attack on us is well deserved’. Well, you probably all know about Reverend Wright’s speech about roosters coming home to roost, so if you go online and YouTube it, you will come upon some really extraordinarily well done videos in which as he is talking you get illustrations of American, colonial, imperialist aggression the world over to illustrate what he is saying. So like Chomsky and Reverend Wright cheer on jihad.

Public Fear

The reason that they have been so successful is that they are pitching directly to the millennial fantasies of the Progressive Left, who happen to have almost – and it is happened over the last twenty years, it did not happen automatically or immediately – but almost a stranglehold on the public’s fear and the ability to talk about these things. That is the role that Islamophobia has played.

And so there is no way in the world- not only is there no way in the world I am going to write for The New York Times, there is no way in the world The New York Times is going to review a book of mine. Well, medieval book maybe, but it was not popular enough, but the millennial book should have been and it was not because the last chapter is basically about Islam as a millennial movement. And my editor at Oxford basically said this spoils the whole book.

Anyway, okay, why did they succeed? After 9/11, I remember reading an article about somebody in the Department of Agriculture who had been approached by Muhammad Attah for a $600,000 loan to buy a crop-duster without outsized tanks. And what he was planning to do was fill it with poison gas and fly it over an urban area, and she said, we did not give it to him because he was not an American citizen. And his response was, ‘you are racist’.

I thought about it. I thought, holy mackerel! This guy could [not] care less about racism. He looks at us the way a racist looks at somebody of a different color. He is just as us-them and hostile as what he is accusing this woman of being, and of course, this woman is a nice woman. In fact, if you look at the interviews of the guys who let Muhammad Attah and the other guys board the plane, they were to some extent embarrassed into letting them on because they did not want to confront them.


So you have this phenomenon of confrontation. So I turned to a bunch of friends of mine at that time and I said what is the word for somebody who uses the language of human rights and democracy and the principles of democracy without having any commitment whatsoever to those principles in order to weaken the people who do have a commitment to those principles?

And of my friends came up with the word demopathy. You have got sociopaths, you have got psychopaths, you have got demopaths. It is maybe not the best word, but I have not seen anything better for it and demopathy is basically – and we have jihadis saying this, we have caliphaters saying this – you use democracy to destroy democracy. That is a formula. You demand rights that once you are in power, you would never grant to anybody else.

You use enemy terms to have them adopt your cause, so you talk about justice, and dignity, and human rights, and you condemn racism, and islamophobia, and hate speech. And when you engage in it, for example, against Israel, ‘hey, I am just criticizing, what they cannot take criticism?’ It turns out the people who cannot take criticism are the Islamists and not the Zionists.

Another term for this is hypocrisy. This hypocritical system only works because people are its dupes, and the post-modern Messianics are the perfect dupes for this kind of discourse. They have a framework in which everything in the world is about human rights and the violation of human rights and we are building up an international law that is going to stop people from preventing people from having their human rights, as if human rights were sort of there and they have been taken away.

Alienated Rights

I was going to start this speech with a quote from the Declaration of Independence, “hold these truths to be self-evident,” “that all men are created equal.” Well, for most of history it was not self-evident that people were created equal. In fact, if anything, it was self-evident that they were not created equal.

“Endowed with certain unalienable Rights.” Well, for most of human history those rights had been alienated. The Declaration of Independence is an inspiring rhetoric. It is not a description of historical reality and yet, we take that as a description of historical reality, ‘everybody in the world has human rights that should not be alienated or cannot be alienated, and we are going to stop people who try’, and that is the paradigm that we work in.

They move into this so easily. The obvious place where they do this is the Palestinian claims. It is all based on rights, including the right of return, which is an invented right, including the right to nationhood as if every people had a right to nationhood.

It may be that every people has a right to nationhood. It is not exactly clear why yet one more majority Muslim country with a terrorist infrastructure is in the interest of the world. And yet, they have managed to convince everybody that if you just have Israel withdraw to the ’67 borders, everything will be fine, whereas, in fact, it will just be one more stage in a war.

I mentioned earlier these marginalized voices who stage emergencies and take over campuses and then purge the opposition. What we end up with is – to some extent you can explain the behavior of the Progressive Left in terms of their loopy, messianic extremism, but what you cannot explain is why even when it is counter indicated, they continue to pursue it.

Proleptic Dhimmitude

And the other explanation is a slightly more depressing one, which I put forward before you as a hypothesis rather than as a conclusion. And that is one of the striking things if you study the history of dhimmitude in Islam – everybody here knows what dhimmitude is – if you study the history of dhimmitude in Islam, it is absolutely clear that the job of the leaders of the dhimmi communities is to prevent their people from angering Muslims. Blaspheming, whatever behavior might provoke Muslim violence, it is the leader’s job for the sake of his community to discourage that kind of behavior.

What I think we see today in many of our leaders, many professors who end up joining the staged emergencies in condemning their colleagues for hate speech that they never even bothered to read is what I call proleptic dhimmitude.

Proleptic is a fancy word for anticipative, but it has got fewer syllables. And what it means is without even being conquered, they are behaving like dhimmi, and they are fulfilling the job of a dhimmi leader, which is to turn on anybody who might produce resistance. And there is actually nothing that an invasive, cognitive war strategy would more like to have than people who behave like that.


So let me conclude by saying that we are faced, and most of us here are of the older persuasion rather than the younger persuasion, actually, our young people are faced with a great war. It is a cognitive war. It does not have to be a war of killing. It has to be a war of courage and it has to be a war of backbone.

We really need to develop an ability to say wait a minute, this is totally wacky. We need to be able when somebody says, ‘Oh, that is just islamophobia’ to say ‘no, you cannot do that. You cannot use that word that way’ or ‘it is racist’, ‘you are a racist’.

I talk about honor/shame culture in the Middle East and I am called a racist, and I say, it is exactly not a racist argument, it is a cultural argument, but I get accused of being a racist. So there are all kinds of ways that we can fight back, but we really have to. We really have to stop allowing ourselves to be stagecrafted by caliphater-dawaists, da-is, who are out there directing us as Nawad was directing President Bush in Washington before the television cameras. He basically gave a speech that any Muslim listening would have said, ‘a speech for jihad’. Alright, let me stop there.

See the Q&A…


Audience member:

Sir, Islamophobia should not be discounted by saying a phobia is an unreasonable fear. Given Islam’s history, fear is not unreasonable.

Richard Landes:

Right, no, that is definitely a good point and the other thing, the other question that I want asked is if a phobia is an irrational fear, what is the term for an irrational lack of fear? Yes, stupidity, somebody said. Yes?

Audience member:

I wanted to ask you about what I think is probably an original origin of our problem in the West. Dominant school child psychiatrist, psychology and all the other major institutions say that the worst thing a child can do is hit a bully.

Richard Landes:


Audience member:


Richard Landes:

Well, that is peace and conflict studies.

Audience member:

I am just wondering if this passivity and lack of self-defense in childhood is not an origin of the problem we have today.

Richard Landes:

Yeah, and in fact, you can link it to the confusion of gender boundaries, so there is enormous discouragement at an early age in sort of you know testosteronic-behavior by males. In fact, when I was teaching my class in honor-shame and I talked about testosterone, I had a female student come to office hours and I say I would like to write a paper about how we can get rid of testosterone.

So I told her the story, there is a Hassidic story about how a village prayed to God to take away what is called the sort of evil inclination, so God granted it. The next day they got up, everybody was peaceful, and went to get their eggs from their chickens and there were no eggs because without that there is no life force. It is a death force, but it is also a life force, so how do we manage it, not how do we exterminate it.

But yes, I do think this is all part of the same paradigm, which is, you know, let us all share, which is a great thing and anybody who has had kids who do not share, knows how awful things can get, but you always tell a kid always to share. Yes?

Audience member:

I am a retired physicist, eighty-six years old. I have a very strong analytical capability from before school.

Richard Landes:

Okay, and you remember back that far.

Audience member:

And I see the problem with my children, one of them in particular, and my grandchildren. They do not know how to think, particularly the grandchildren.

Richard Landes:


Audience member:

They cannot think.

Richard Landes:

I mean a lot of this has to do with the internet. You can teach them it, but they are not learning it in school. Yeah?

Audience member:

You can teach them that. I allowed my daughter to watch something on television I totally despised and I sat there beside her and let her watch it. While she was watching it, I said do you think that is correct? What do you think about that? That is teaching her to question, to critically think. At the end of it, at a certain point, I turned it off, and then we had a discussion, so what I was doing was teaching her to think for herself.

Richard Landes:

Right, yep, so it can be done. I remember when I was nine or so, I was watching wrestling matches. My father saw me and he said, “Do not you know those are all fake?” I said no. I was indignant because I really got into it and stuff, and then I stopped watching for a while, and then about two years later I came back and I looked it and thought, how could I have ever thought that was real? Yes?

Audience member:

You briefly touched the concept of dhimmitude. What is the difference between the dhimmis who belong to the category of People of the Book and others like Hindus or Buddhists or other nameless pagans? How are they treated differently in Islam?

Richard Landes:

So initially – and this is before Buddhists and Hindus got into the picture because it was Middle Eastern. Initially, it was basically, the People of the Book were the protected. Now, the way that the apologists say that dhimmi means protected makes it sound like you know this avuncular, warm arm around the community that is protecting them, but in fact, what were they protecting them from? They were protecting them from Muslim violence.

Pagans, there was no protection from Muslim violence. Either they converted or, as idol-worshipers, they died, right? Now, most of the Middle East at the time was either Jewish or Christian, so it was not a whole bunch of people – not that there were not, but okay. After the conquest first of Iran-Persia, where there were Zoroastrians, and then to India, where you have Hindus and Buddhists, they extended the notion of People of the Book because if they had slaughtered every last Hindu, peasant, idol-worshiper, it would not have worked. So I think that that is how I understand it is they were sort of the clean-up operation for paganism in the ancient world and all that was left were the great religions, which is not true, but…

Audience member:

Hi, thank you so much. It was wonderful. I am going back to the first millennials you were talking about, the progressive-left. ‘If the weak attack the strong, blame the stronger’ and connecting that with the Caliphaters, in particular, in the issue of South Sudan right now, where the weak are attacking the stronger, blame the stronger. The strongest tribal group in South Sudan, the Dinka, are being totally demonized and attacked by the world as being wanting to commit genocide against the other tribal groups.

Richard Landes:

Interesting, this is what is happening in Burma too.

Audience member:

This fits into the caliphate vision of Khartoum as well, but we are following along with it because of our moral equivalence and I think that we have kept the war in South Sudan perpetuated because of that, because of what we have done, not because of what South Sudan has done.

Richard Landes:

Not only there, but in the Arab-Israeli conflict. You know, the Western progressive elite has insisted that this is a war of national liberation, it is not terrorism, it is freedom fighting, etc., etc., that Israel is the colonial power, and this is the basic paradigm of post-colonialism, BDS, and so on.

And instead, what I argue in my book is that the outbreak of the Second Intifada – what they call the Al Aqsa Intifada, what I call the Oslo Jihad – that was the first attack from Dar al-Islam on Dar al-Harb. Up until then, you know, the Russians invaded Afghanistan and you can argue the Jews invaded southern Syria, but what you have is the first assault on a working democracy.

And the rest of the democracies looked at Israel and said, oh, you are a relic of the 19th century colonial imperial model whereas we a are progressive and we are going to run the 21st century, and we are siding with these poor, scrappy people, basically, Soviet-propaganda narrative.

Instead of recognizing this as the opening round of global jihad, we sided with the jihadis, and when the press reported in Spring of 2002 after a year-and-a-half of suicide bombings when the IDF went into Jenin, the press invented – they accepted a Palestinian narrative with no evidence whatsoever that there had been massacres of hundreds of people, mass graves.

In other words, the ‘IDF was behaving like Nazis’ and this news led people in the West to demonstrate against Israel, wearing suicide belts to show their solidarity with their enemies, so for me that is sort of the quintessential madness.

I use the expression in my book ‘Y2K mind’. Everybody remembers Y2K, the computer bug and stuff. Y2K means year 2000 and in the year 2000, it is not that it did not exist before, but it took in as a meme, it took over our minds: ‘when jihadis attack a democracy, blame the democracy’, and that is what they did with Israel, and that is what the Europeans did with the United States and it has been downhill ever since.

Robert R. Reilly:

Great, Dr. Landes, thank you very much.