Is “Dawa” in your vocabulary?

Friends: I’ve read every column before it’s appeared in The Catholic Thing since 2008 – probably close to 3000 of them. I find that I still look forward to doing so every day. Many of you have sent messages along with your donations saying how TCT is the first thing you read in the morning – others add, probably rightly, “after morning prayers.” I do the same, except I’m always one day ahead of you, reading and editing. And it still never ceases to impress me how much our writers, day after day, illuminate issues that we’re all engaged with – witness Matt Hanley’s trenchant commentary today about Islam. We’re nearing the end of this fundraising period and we’re still a way from our goal. If you’ve come to look forward to TCT each morning, now’s the time to do your part to keep the good writing, clear thinking, and faithful witness coming every day. Just click the Donate button so that TCT can continue for the rest of 2017 – and for years to come. – Robert Royal

So, what do you know about dawa? You know what jihad is, and what sharia is. That is Islamic vocabulary 101.

At the more advanced end of the lexicon are terms such as taqiyya (a form of lying specifically permitted to advance the cause of Islam). Or the formerly obscure taharrush, which might sound familiar inasmuch as it – the practice of groups of men surrounding and sexually assaulting women in public – rudely materialized in several European cities recently. That there is a name for it suggests it is a frequent enough occurrence. Charming.

These are all terms with which we were happily ignorant not so long ago. But how many of you are familiar with dawa? That is the question Ayaan Hirsi Ali posed last year to a crowd of admirers who had come to honor her for contributions to culture and civilization. Yet few of even her highly educated and engaged audience could answer.

And so she took them to task. In a way, obviously, that can only be done among friends: “You are honoring me and I am thankful, but I almost want to say to all of you who do not know what dawa is, ‘Shame on you.’”

That’s not what you’d expect at such a banquet, making it all the more effective as a way of seizing the audience’s attention. Not a bad idea. But she wants the attention of the wider public and so has elaborated upon the concept in a new report accessible through the Hoover Institution.

            Dawa can be likened to proselytizing, but it is much more than that. It might be summed up as the insidious project to Islamize the world – as cultural imperialism bent on corroding Western liberties and ultimately imposing sharia law. It is an all-encompassing precursor to jihad, a summons to conquer non-violently, and utilizes any number of mechanisms to achieve that end.

Some – too many – will say: that sounds like paranoia. Pope Francis can lament the cultural imperialism of today’s degenerate West. But to the extent that the exportation of stifling, dehumanizing ideas is critically acknowledged in the “progressive” West at all, it can only be self-directed – and confined to the past.

            Dawa is nothing short of the effort to subvert from within. It is “to the Islamists of today what the ‘long march through the institutions’ was to twentieth-century Marxists.” We have a hard time imagining the immutable designs of Islam, even though Islamic leaders themselves forthrightly say they will conquer Europe and America though dawa, not the sword.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It would be hard to find this more explicitly spelled out than in the Strategic Plan of the Muslim Brotherhood for North America – a land they see as territory to be settled:

The [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.

To bring this about, alas, they are to become masters in the art of cooperation and coalition building. Authorities happened to stumble upon that document back in 2004, making their partners in “dialogue”– however much they want to seek common ground – all the more willfully credulous today.

Here Islamic actors have their (frequently Catholic) “partners” right where they want them – for now. Hirsi Ali pleads that we should be able to see – in our supposed “information age” – where the road of dawa leads: to subjugation.

Even if most of its aspects are manifested informally, dawa nonetheless has a systematic ideological infrastructure. Hirsi Ali walks us through it in detail, describing how their own “charities” and well-bankrolled networks operate, and how our media, education system, and government are targeted. All in pursuit of a political arrangement consistent with the supremacist religious views stamped into Islam’s DNA – supremacy supposedly being verboten as a category in our multicultural milieu.

Which brings us to something dawa entails that is of particularly acute relevance in our present moment: “the abuse of religious freedom in order to undermine that very freedom.”

Although Europe is on the precipice of Islamization – indeed some say due to demographics alone it may now be too late – Hirsi Ali actually sees America as more vulnerable to the tactics of dawa. The reason? Our First Amendment.

It’s not just recent juridical interpretation; several prominent voices, in their fair-mindedness and concern about ongoing efforts to make Christianity unwelcome in public, assert that this liberty must encompass Islam on its own terms as well.

It’s not difficult to appreciate that point in the abstract. And yet we are still left with the truism Hirsi Ali conveys – the end game of dawa is to quash liberty. Liberty is not the value. Islam is the value.

Basic concepts (i.e. liberty) that seem straightforward enough can take on entirely different connotations in the Islamic worldview. Peace is another case in point; like charity, peace is solely to be extended to fellow Muslims, and so may be considered the harmony that can only ensue once everyone submits – becomes Muslim. Peace is not the value. Islam is the value.

Her several practical proposals – various trade-offs to balance the tension between liberty and security – are sensible. Yet even if her proposals are perfectly carried out – a big “if” – and the Muslim population keeps rising, it seems unlikely that dawa won’t tag along. With numbers come inroads.

She surpasses many in defending the values of this land she now calls home. What seems to be missing, though, is an emphasis on the fact that the values she champions – rights, liberty, respect for the individual – come from somewhere. They are not the fruit of secularism. It’s hard to see a solution that doesn’t appeal to the deepest and sturdiest roots of our values.

Matthew Hanley’s new book, Determining Death by Neurological Criteria: Current Practice and Ethics, is a joint publication of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and Catholic University of America Press.