Santorum calls for war with ‘Islamo-fascists’

Amid a chorus of condemning hisses, supportive banging and outright laughter, former Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum argued for war with radical Islam at the Yale Political Union debate Thursday night.

As part of a speaking tour throughout various college campuses about the dangers of Islamic extremism, Santorum spoke before a full house in Sterling-Sheffield-Strathcona Hall on the importance of defining the enemy in the “War on Islamic Extremism” — the subject of the debate — and on the historical roots of the clash between Islamic and Judeo-Christian culture. After the event, many students interviewed agreed with Santorum that dangerous extremists who tend to justify violence through the Quran do exist. But most went on to emphatically dispute his claim that Islam is a fundamentally violent religion.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum discusses what he termed the “War on Islamic Extremism” at Thursday night’s Yale Political Union debate.
Eva Galvan
Former Sen. Rick Santorum discusses what he termed the “War on Islamic Extremism” at Thursday night’s Yale Political Union debate.

For Santorum, though, any lingering questions about the necessity of America’s war with Islamic extremists are in no way moral. Rather, he said, they are practical.

“We absolutely must confront this enemy,” he said. “The real question is ‘Will the American People be willing to fight?’ ”

Resistance to the war is the result of America not knowing its enemy and instead clouding the mission with political correctness and more palatable jargon, Santorum said. He specifically targeted the characterization of America’s military efforts in the Middle East as a “War on Terror.”

“How can you be at war against a military tactic?” he asked. “FDR had the courage to offend people and called the Germans Nazis, and the Italians Fascists … Congress, on the other hand, has sugarcoated the enemy so as not to offend anyone. Seven years into a war and people still can’t tell the difference between Sunni and Shi’a.”

Santorum’s criticism of the handling of the war in American politics was focused even more fiercely against the political left.

He argued — amid impassioned banging of support and opposing hissing — that the left should recognize that the “Islamo-Fascis world” is the antithesis to everything the left embodies.

“The very principles the left holds dear in the United States, such as feminism, homosexual rights, separation of church and state, and the elimination of anti-Semitism are the ones the Islamo-Facists violate,” Santorum said. “[The left says] the enemy hates us because of us, that [the extremists] are victims of imperialism and Zionism, that it is our fault, and that if we walked away they would leave us alone.”

Santorum was adamant that negotiation is not an option, though he did not go into detail about the actual level of war the U.S. should engage in with the Middle East.

But many in the audience said they were not convinced that warfare and Santorum’s rhetoric are the best ways to deal with Islamic extremism.

“There are people who use Islam to justify violence and there are strains of Islam that are antithetical to western civilization, but [Santorum] is wrong on the question of how deal with those groups,” Matthew Ellison ’10 said. “Our challenge is to convince others that the liberal values we hold dear are worth subscribing to. When we use the rhetoric of war we are pushing the moderates away from us and emboldening the extremists.”

Santorum seemed to remain unfazed by any skepticism in the audience and only got louder as he argued for the origins of Islamic extremism in the religion’s founding.

He offered a contrast between Jesus Christ and Muhammed as the basis for the irreconcilable differences between Christianity, which he linked to the West, and Islam, which he linked to the Middle East.

“The greatest Christian, the Messiah, is Jesus — he never ruled a country, never forced anyone to convert,” Santorum said. “Islam, on the other hand, was founded by Muhammed who went on to conquer much of the Middle East and Northern Africa.”

He pointed to how Muslim leaders of Spain, centuries ago, gave nonbelievers the option of converting or facing death. He did not mention the Spanish Inquisition, and he excused episodes of Christian violence as “misguidance.”

This message did not sit well with some in the audience who did not appreciate what they termed a “history lesson.”

“I don’t think Rick Santorum is qualified to give us a lecture on the history of Islam,” Benjamin Chaidell ’11 said. “He oversimplifies the religion of Islam and the struggle against Islam as an ‘us vs. them’ phenomenon.”

Syed Salah Ahmed ’11 took issue with the way Santorum interpreted Islamic thinkers like Madudi and Syed Qutb out of their contexts. Ahmed said that Islamic fundamentalism is a reaction against British — and now American — imperialism.

Santorum concluded his speech by emphasizing to his audience that the struggle against Islamic extremism will remain the key struggle of its generation.

Before losing his bid for reelection in 2006, Santorum served in the Senate from 1995 until 2007 and was also the third-ranking member of the Senate Republican Leadership after 2001.

Comments