Via Eric Kleefeld at TPM, we learn that former Pennsylvania Senator (and possible 2012 Republican presidential hopeful) Rick Santorum has deemed Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf “a jihadist, he’s just not a violent jihadist” because he has been critical of American foreign policy, and innocent lives lost around the world as a result of it. He told Fox News that Rauf isn’t a “moderate” and implied he’s therefore anti-American.
Santorum’s attempt to portray Islam as an enemy of America, its values, and indeed western civilization is nothing new. After Santorum lost his Senate seat in 2006, he became the director of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Program to Promote and Protect America’s Freedom. In that role, he made combatting “jihadis” a focal point of his activities.
But Santorum never let go of his old culture war issues — in fact they became a central facet of his ideology against Islam. I had the chance to interview Santorum in late 2007, as the Republican presidential primary was in full swing, and the candidates were trying not only to out-values-voters each other, but demonstrate their tough-on-terrorism cred.
When I interviewed him, he was fresh off speaking at David Horowitz’s Islamofascism Awareness Week as well as to a group of pastors at Rod Parsley’s Center for Moral Clarity. And in our interview, he asserted that it was essential for conservatives to keep America Christian in order to defeat “jihadis.” Speaking of the speech he gave to Parsley’s group, he told me:
I equated the importance of winning the culture war here in this country as a prerequisite to be able to successfully win the war against these jihadis over the long term. And I made the comparison that if you look at Europe, Europe is not fighting by and large. And the reason they’re not fighting is because they’ve lost the culture war. They are a post-Christian country, they are not a people of faith, their churches are empty, they are people who are not reproducing at any rate to sustain a population. I think the number I heard is every 32 years the population, the European population of Europe will be reduced by 50%. That’s how bad their birthrates are. This is in many respects a dying continent from the standpoint of European-Europeans. And if we lose faith, and we lose the culture war and become a completely secular, materialistic society, then we will go the way of the Europeans and we will have no heart to face these people. The problem with the Europeans is that they are completely secular folks, by and large, who see the world through the eyes of reason. Well, these people don’t – these people reject reason. These people say that their lives are governed by faith, period, by the rule of law. That was handed down in Sharia. And it is all-encompassing and it is perfect and it is not to be added to. And that there is no room for this.
In other words, for Santorum, having a “Christian nation” is the only way to combat Islam because a secular country wouldn’t grasp the irrationality of jihadists. I also asked Santorum about a comment Gary Bauer made at the 2007 Values Voters Summit, that fighting terrorism was a “life” issue for “values voters.” To that, Santorum responded:
I think for values voters, it’s even more specifically Christendom. Which is western civilization, I know we don’t like to say that anymore, but it is one and the same. So I think most voters see it that way, values voters see it that way, they’re very concerned about – they are people of faith so they understand that these jihadists are people of faith and are in some respect – I wouldn’t say respect for them – but certainly understand them in that these are people who are strict adherents to the word of God. . . . When evangelicals and orthodox Catholics listen to that, they say, these people are dangerous but they certainly are people of faith, and these are people of faith who want to destroy Christianity. They want to destroy the West, who see us as heretics, who see us as infidels, and as a result, we are concerned about that. We understand that struggle.
Western civilization is Christendom, in Santorum’s view. Which means, of course, that there’s no room even for someone like Rauf who is so obviously not a threat to American values — he admires and promotes American values. Which makes clear that the threat isn’t a violent one to someone like Santorum — it’s a religious one.