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By Barry Rubin

Yes, it’s true; a fringe minister with just fifty followers in America wanted to burn a Koran. But he didn’t. Meanwhile another nut wants to kill all Jews, wipe Israel off the map, destroy the United States, eliminate all Christians, indoctrinate children into being suicide bombers, and carry out a revolutionary war of terrorism for decades no matter how many die and how much destruction occurs.

Oh, and by the way, he and his colleagues have several hundred thousand followers and are ruling what amounts to an independent state bordering on the Mediterranean.

When you study the Middle East seriously you get used to this kind of rhetoric, yet somehow the seriousness and importance of such talk doesn’t seem to register with many Western government officials, journalists, and academics who explain away these movements and regimes as somehow rational and moderate.

Maybe that’s because when you look at the situation honestly it’s really rather scary. Another word for finding something scary is to have a “phobia” toward it.

So it wasn’t some silly, obscure guy who said this but…well, please wait just one more paragraph to find out.

In the speech, this fellow said that it was really great to be a martyr for Islamic revolution because there are 2.5 million black-eyed virgins waiting at the gates of a palace–just one, so presumably there are more–in the Garden of Eden just waiting for them. You do the math: 500 gates, 5,000 virgins per gate.

Who said this? Ahmad Bahr, a Hamas leader and speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council. In other words, he’s the Palestinian equivalent of Nancy Pelosi.

Bahr and his colleagues aren’t just joking; they aren’t just telling tall tales to titillate the yokels. Nor are they making this stuff up, since Bahr is quoting one of Muhammad’s chief lieutenants and a caliph in his own right. This speech was broadcast on al-Aqsa television on September 5, 2010. It was intended to mobilize the masses to go out and die for Hamas and the Islamic revolution. So presumably a good number of Palestinians take this seriously, too.

Now how is this plan going to be implemented? Basically, Bahr said that every Muslim should have a lot of sons and train them to be terrorists and hence martyrs. He concluded:

“If this is the culture of the nation today, who will be able to stop it?…As long as we continue on this path, nobody on Earth will be able to confront the resistance, or to confront the mujahideen, those who worship Allah and seek martyrdom.”

So it doesn’t matter how hopeless the odds seem, how many will die, how much suffering will take place. Peace is not more attractive than war; having a nice future for your children is not the top priority. Goals are not set by a cost/benefit analysis but on the basis that the creator of the universe is calling the shots, insists on this path, and will ensure its victory.

OK, you say, but maybe Bahr just hates Israel and would be satisfied if it is wiped out and then the struggle would end? Nope. Maybe he just wants an independent Palestinian state and then will leave everyone else alone? Again, nope.

Here’s what he said in 2007 in a speech broadcast on Sudan television:

“‘You will be victorious’ on the face of this planet. You are the masters of the world on the face of this planet. Yes, [the Koran says that] ‘you will be victorious,’ but only ‘if you are believers.’ Allah willing, ‘you will be victorious,’ while America and Israel will be annihilated, Allah willing. I guarantee you that the power of belief and faith is greater than the power of America and Israel. They are cowards, as is said in the Book of Allah: ‘You shall find them the people most eager to protect their lives.’ They are cowards, who are eager for life, while we are eager for death for the sake of Allah. That is why America’s nose was rubbed in the mud in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, and everywhere….

“America will be annihilated, while Islam will remain. The Muslims ‘will be victorious, if you are believers.’ Oh Muslims, I guarantee you that the power of Allah is greater than America, by whom many are blinded today. Some people are blinded by the power of America. We say to them that with the might of Allah, with the might of His Messenger, and with the power of Allah, we are stronger than America and Israel.”

Again, this is one of Hamas’s top leaders, and others in the leadership–not to mention their Iranian, Hizballah, and Syrian allies–have said similar things. This is not a joke. Middle East: This is your life!

Do you mind if I’m perfectly frank with you? I suspect that deep down most Westerners think people like Bahr are as corrupt and hypocritical as an Upper-West-Side-of-Manhattan progressive thinks is true for a Southern televangelist. They probably expect Bahr steps out of the pulpit then goes to a bar for a scotch and a ham sandwich.

If they would only apply to Bahr–whose extremism they tend to ignore, feel overrated, or can easily be turned into moderation–the same standards as they do to Christian Pentecostals–who they despise without tolerance–that would be one step in the right direction. Then keep going, adding on that, unlike Christian “fundamentalists” in America, revolutionary Islamists have murdered tens of thousands of people and want to kill many more; unlike those Christians they command thousands of armed soldiers; unlike those Christians they will kill anyone who changes to another religion or who doesn’t behave as they want; and, too, their program is to seize state power, establish totalitarian states, and attack other countries.

No, Bahr isn’t just speaking for effect. He’s dead serious, and that expression isn’t chosen by accident, betting his life on his cause. And what Bahr says and believes is word-for-word also applies to Hizballah; the Egyptian and Jordanian Muslim Brothers; Iran’s regime; the Taliban; Islamists in areas of Russia; Islamists in Indonesia and Pakistan; clerics in Syria and many other countries; and is heard in certain meetings and mosques throughout Europe and North America.

By no means all Muslims, or even most, but a heck of a lot do talk like Bahr. Not a very small minority of believers; a very big minority of believers. And if they are not stopped they will be the majority of believers and the rulers of multiple countries.

Given the number of martyrs that have been and are going to be generated, there’s going to be a need for all 2.5 million of those virgins Bahr mentions. Actually, that won’t be enough because at 99 per (male) martyr that’s only enough for about 25,000.

Very few Muslims are publicly making fun of such statements or battling against them, though many are fighting the Islamists on political grounds.

Doesn’t all of this matter a bit? Shouldn’t this be something people in the West know about, the mass media cover fully? Mightn’t this kind of talk and thinking convey something of why nobody should try to bring Hamas or similar groups into the diplomatic process, give it aid, or help it in any way? Isn’t this a bigger threat than some marginal haters of everything Muslim who just aren’t going to become martyrs? In the face of this threat should people be demonized and intimidated if they dare talk about it?

I can’t imagine why there should be any doubt about the answers to these questions.

Note: the 2007 quote is translated from MEMRI but available only by subscription

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

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