Jonah Goldberg

When Ramzi Mohammed, one of the failed bombers in the second wave of attacks on London, was surrounded by representatives of the decadent, infidel West, he didn't shriek, "Allahu Akbar!" and throw himself at his captors in a suicidal lunge for martyrdom. No, instead he whined, "I have rights! I have rights!"

I was willing to bet we'd be arguing about this odd plea for weeks. One side would complain, "Can you believe the chutzpah?" The other side would applaud how even alienated Islamic youth have learned to respect the majesty of our criminal justice system.

Of course, I'm squarely in the "Can you believe the chutzpah?" column. Murderous goons like Mohammed tempt God's wrath to the point of assuming the form of human lightning rods when, the moment they get caught, they suddenly stand firm on the principle that everyone be treated with dignity.

But the shocking part was that the tidbit vanished almost without comment. A couple of my colleagues at National Review noticed, but that was about it. The "I have rights!" hissy-fit wasn't even mentioned in the news pages of the New York Times.

If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, then Ramzi Mohammed has paid his weight in gold. Would a terrorist in remotely similar circumstances think to come out with demands for due process from the Saudi or Iranian police? Would the appropriate authorities under the Taliban quickly holster their guns the moment a suspect invoked his Miranda rights?

Now, some overly pedantic types might say, "Shows what you know! Islam has a very rich tradition of human rights."

To which I might reply, bully for Islam. The French have an ancient tradition of military bravery, but what have they done for me lately? Traditions are only impressive or useful if they actually shape conduct in the here and now. And in the here and now, the ideal states these nutjobs glorify have a much more vibrant tradition of cutting off heads, stoning women, and jailing nonbelievers simply for nonbelieving. If the Koran recognizes civil liberties, they must be using a "living" Koran in places like Saudi Arabia, the way we've got a "living" Constitution here, because the ideal societies of the Bin Laden crowd aren't sticking much to the original text.

But this raises the real significance of Mohammed's "I have rights!" tantrum. A sizable faction of the Islamists aren't so much pro-Islam as anti-Western.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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