Proposal: The Museum of the Victims of Jihad
Where is the tribute to those lost to the great evil of our time?
Museums play a key role in defining societies and establishing priorities. Dorothy’s ruby slippers and the Wright Brothers’ plane at the Smithsonian, the Museum of Natural History’s life-size blue whale, the Uffizi Gallery’s David, Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House, the Israeli Shrine of the Book’s Dead Sea Scrolls: all exemplify the essential work museums perform.
There was a time when people weren’t sure how to name or recount what has come to be called the Holocaust. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum does the hard work of curating a nightmarish tale that must be told. Hitler asked, “Who speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” In 2005, Nobel Prize laureate Orhan Pamuk mentioned the Armenian Genocide in an interview. Turkey prosecuted Pamuk for “insulting Turkishness” and he had to flee his homeland. Institutions like the USHMM guard against such revisionism.
Museum exhibits receive the tender care a religious society extends to objects of veneration. Artifacts might be sealed in nitrogen chambers and handled only with gloved hands. Lights are lowered and visitors speak in hushed tones; thus, artifacts are accorded all but eternal life. This veneration highlights museums’ duty to prioritize. For whom do we shed tears? What detail must never be eliminated from the canonical history? Museums influence and reflect policy, spending, and curricula.
Exactly because museums are so powerful, controversy surrounds them. Conflict over the treatment of Native Americans in museums has been fought in the courts. The 9⁄11 Memorial Museum has been criticized for its admission fee, its architecture, its inclusion of the Ground Zero Cross, and its treatment of Islam.
The twenty-first century needs a Museum of the Victims of Jihad. Jihad is a major force in world history, affecting everything from desertification to international trade routes, for example Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America.
Koran 9:5 and hadith of Bukhari 1:24 are just two of the verses that stipulate that Muslims are to fight non-Muslims until they become Muslim. Muslims, citing these texts, have been killing non-Muslims for 1400 years. Motivations such as greed, bloodlust, jealousy, tribalism, territorial expansion, revenge, hunger, and dynastic disputes have long sparked war. There is, though, perhaps no other written texts that have for so long and so unambiguously instigated murder. Soldiers in war killed for Nazism, for example, for a mere six years.
It is difficult to find one coherent treatment of jihad per se. As Bill Warner has written,
“Islamic nations are nearly 100% Muslim. Those countries were Christian, Buddhist and Hindu. Exactly how did this change happen? When you read history it seems that Islam came, and, magically, the countries are Islamic … The entire history of the rise of Islamic imperialism is denied in the curriculum of our schools.”
The textbook History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond teaches, “Muslims should fulfill jihad … in their struggle to resist evil. The tongue may convince others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research. Hands may perform good works and correct wrongs.” Or there’s this; jihad is “a struggle within each individual to overcome difficulties and strive to please God.” “Islam spread peacefully,” reports Pearson’s My World History. In Prentice Hall’s The Modern World, the 9-11 hijackers are merely “teams of terrorists.”
Distortion of Islam is not limited to grade school. New York University’s Slavoj Zizek is a superstar scholar of Kim Kardashian wattage, though he is significantly less well groomed. He insists that 9-11 is equivalent to the “Christian” Oklahoma City Bombing. The Koran is not inspiring anyone: “one should instead focus on today’s global capitalism” and “the catastrophic consequences of global economy.” ISIS is representational of “western corruption by products;” ISIS members are businessmen selling cotton and oil. Westerners are “barbarians”; they practice “fundamentalist violence” through “anti-immigrant populism.” When Muslim gangs rape women, they perform “a carnivalesque rebellion of the underdogs.“
Politicians from both parties have distorted jihad. “Islam is peace,” George Bush declared. “ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents,” said Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton opined that the four dead Americans in Benghazi might be the victims of “guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans.“
Contrast this with the PC insistence that any evil committed by a Christian be treated as an expression of an essential, ineradicable flaw in Christianity. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, is frequently cited as an example of “Christian terrorism.” In fact he declared himself an agnostic saying, “Science is my religion,” and there are no Christian verses telling Christians to kill, and neither Jesus nor his apostles killed anyone. The attempts to identify Nazism as Christian are extremely powerful, even though they defy every known fact.
Another approach that distorts history: slice up the jihad narrative into isolated episodes: “Turks against Byzantines,” “Tolerant Moors against Inquisitorial Spaniards” or in the words of Rolling Stone’s cover story on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, “how a popular, promising student was failed by his family and fell into radical Islam.“
This slicing of history into unconnected capsules was exemplified on May 5, 2016 when NPR host Brian Lehrer argued that Al-Qaeda chose to attack America on 9-11 in order to tinker with the New York City mayoral election. Mark Green, a prominent Democrat who was expected to win that year but lost to a Republican, called 9-11 “a comet from the sky.” Lehrer’s theory, which reduces 9-11 to a temporary and local event, ignores that, as has frequently been pointed out, including by scholar Bernard Lewis, September 11 is the date of the Battle of Vienna, where jihad stop its thousand-year expansion. Lewis identified September 11 as a key date before 2001; he was not Monday-morning-quarterbacking.
Jihadis embrace and cultivate the very same continuity and uniformity that the Politically Correct forbid the masses to recognize. Jihadis have been claiming the same inspiration, in the same verses, the same heroes, and the same history, for 1400 years.
Khalid ibn al-Walid, aka “The Drawn Sword of Allah,” “The Master of War” and “The Friend of Death” was a companion of Mohammed. He lived in the seventh century. Before invading Persia, he bragged that jihadis love death more than non-Muslims love life. Today, 1400 years later, “We love death more than you love life” is a standard jihadi taunt. Khalid is the star of Omar, a multimillion-dollar, 2012 miniseries. In this YouTube clip, Deathboy, played by handsome actor Mehyar Khaddour, can be seen manfully menacing a crowd of kuffar, promising to kill anyone who doesn’t convert to Islam. In posts under the clip, twenty-first century Muslims vow to be just like Khalid. Their choice of role model does not bode well for world peace.
Not just jihad quotes and jihad heroes are stable throughout the 1400 year-long narrative of jihad, but jihad practices as well. The Koran recommends beheading (8:12). In 627, in Medina, Mohammed supervised the beheading of hundreds of Jews. In Spain, in 1086 at the Battle of Zallaqa, 24,000 Spanish corpses were beheaded. These Spaniards were already dead; beheading them served no military purpose. Human remains were mounded high. Muezzins climbed atop these “minarets” and sang praises to Allah. In 1761, in the Battle of Panipat, jihadis decapitated 40,000 Hindus. In 2007, members of MILF, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, decapitated eleven Marines. The Arabian Peninsula, Spain, India, and the Philippines are thousands of miles apart. The Arabian, Spanish, Indian, and Filipino beheadings occurred centuries apart. The killers and their victims spoke entirely different languages, were of different economic groups and ate different foods. One salient inspiration unites these beheadings: jihad.
How many people have been lost to jihad? Bill Warner counts 270 million. Koenraad Elst has suggested that eighty million Indians lost their lives to jihad. Their numbers are controversial. No one else has come up with any better number, though. To count the dead lost to jihad is to acknowledge that people have been killed in the name of jihad and that acknowledgement would violate Politically Correct taboos.
Linguist George Lakoff emphasizes the importance of how the mind creates categories. As he points out, how we group items determines how we decide such weighty matters as politics, spending, and human sympathy. Think of how you might categorize the following people.
- Martin Richard was a twenty-first century, eight-year-old schoolboy in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
- Antonio Primaldi was a fifteenth-century Italian tailor.
- Kahina was a seventh-century Berber warrior queen who lived in what is today Algeria.
- Carlos, Jaime, and Maria Luisa were Argentinians in downtown Buenos Aires on the morning of July 18, 1994.
- Khaled al-Asaad was an 81 year-old Syrian archaeologist who had given his professional life to the ancient site of Palmyra.
- Veronicah Wairimu Kamau was the mother of Simon, a four-year-old boy. She worked at the Nakumatt supermarket in the Westgate Mall in Kenya.
- Chen Guizhen’s husband was commuting by rail in Kunming, China, on March 1, 2014.
- Shushanig der Marderosian was an Armenian wife and mother who starved to death in Yerevan in 1919.
- Three Chinese sisters were at home in Jakarta, Indonesia, in May, 1998. Intruders raped the two younger girls. They told the oldest, “You are too old and ugly for us.” The rapists burned the home and pushed the two younger sisters to their fiery deaths. The oldest alone survived.
- Laxmi Narayan Goel was a lawyer from Hyderabad. Rebbetzin Rivka Holtzberg was from Israel. Both were both in Mumbai, India on November 26, 2008.
Most of us would not place these disparate individuals, who lived on different continents, during different epochs, in the same category. In fact they were all victims of jihad and its epiphenomena. Grouping them and other victims of jihad teaches us much about jihad’s reach and devastation.
Professional, credentialed scholars at the new museum will, finally, arrive at the best approximation of the number of jihad’s casualties. As many victims as can be named will be named.
The president of the Museum of the Victims of Jihad will be a proven administrator. The museum’s curators will be published scholars with advanced degrees. They will represent every nation that has been affected by jihad. The museum’s collections and publications will adhere to the most rigorous scholarly demands. The museum will disseminate facts stated in rational and careful language, free of exaggeration, provocation, sensationalism, unnecessary gore, or hate.
The museum must be accessible worldwide. Such access is guaranteed by placing the museum, not in any physical location, but exclusively on the web. Many museums maintain a web presence, and web-based museum access has been elevated to an art.
The museums’ homepage will consist of a mural collage of portraits of the above-listed individuals and others like them. The persons in the mural will be vividly alive; their portraits will celebrate their unique and precious humanity. Color and shape will be handled in such a way so that very different costumes, activities and time periods flow together and complement each other. The mural itself will be a living document. Artists will continue to contribute new images. No human endeavor can record all the victims of jihad; God alone knows all their names. The ongoing effort to extend this mural in an aesthetically satisfying way, though, will represent the museum’s mission.
Jihad bullies us. Jihad wants us to regard its victims with revulsion. The word “holy” is related to the word “whole.” The entire point of beheading is to desecrate a corpse by robbing a body of wholeness. Islam’s amputation fetish corrupts natural sympathy into disgust and terror. Beheading, bombing, acid attacks, and hacking turn God’s most glorious creation, a human body, into mere splatter, the stuff of grand guignol.
The Museum of the Victims of Jihad will overturn jihad’s corruption of sympathy. Exhibits will bring to life the pre-Islamic world of North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, and inhabit those worlds with historically verifiable men, women, and children, going about their daily lives. After 9-11, the New York Times published “Portraits of Grief,” brief, exquisite salutes to the people who died on that day. The museum will do similar work. Jihad’s victims will live again in the memories, the prayers, and the security policy of museumgoers.
It is important that even a casual visitor, who has only a few minutes to spend at the museum, get an idea of how many lives have been taken in the name of jihad. Two of the museum’s features will do this work. One will be a horizontal timeline that charts jihad deaths chronologically. Another will be a video of a world map that depicts the spread of jihad geographically.
A visually pleasing, unobtrusive wallpaper for the museum’s pages will do the aesthetic work of linking stories that span space and time. A gold floral motif in an infinity pattern on a warm brown background will echo the museum’s emphasis on life; the tendrils of the vegetative design will literally and figuratively link one exhibit to the next in a living chain.
Icons on the homepage will allow the visitor to take a self-guided tour of the museum. Artifacts in the museum’s displays will be catalogued chronologically, geographically, and by ethnic and religious group. One will be able to take a thematic tour of the museum, as well, focusing, for example, on military history, on the role of jihad in the international slave trade, and on the impact of gender on jihad, including the castration and murder of males and the sexual enslavement of females.
Visitors will be able to explore what the museum’s collections say about technology: the use, and the loss, of Greek fire, the loss of the wheel in North Africa after the Muslim Conquest, drones and IEDs. Muslim soldiers pioneered biological warfare at the 1346 Siege of Caffa, catapulting plague-stricken corpses over the walls of the besieged city. The visitor will learn of scholarly speculation on the linking of jihad with desertification.
Another possible theme: children and jihad. A one-year-old baby was strapped to a bomb in a 2007 attempt on the life of Benazir Bhutto; the bomb killed 170 Pakistanis. Children served in the Iranian Basij during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Another possible theme: slaves. Daniel Pipes argues that slaves played a unique role in Muslim armies.
Visitors will be able to visits exhibits in chronological or geographic order. Those choosing the chronologic option will be shown a timeline. Visitors choosing to explore the collections geographically would be shown a door. The door might be from the World Trade Center. It might be from a Serbian peasant home. It might be the typical door of a seventh-century Berber dwelling. The visitor moves the cursor to “knock” on the door. The visitor is ushered into a hallway.
This virtual hallway, depending on how the visitor has mapped his tour, might contain dioramas that depict North African life 1400 years ago, or Visigoth churches, or Vienna in the seventeenth-century. These dioramas will bring these lost worlds to life through artifacts. There will be eating utensils, clothing, and depictions of festivals.
There will also be sound. The visitor will hear the same hymns that Greek Christians sang in Hagia Sophia before that church was turned into a mosque; the same recitations that sanctified life in Persia, before Zoroastrian blood flowed so freely it ran mills; the chanting of Krishna devotees in Keshav Dev Temple, before its destruction by Aurangzeb, great Muslim destroyer of Hindu temples; readers murmuring aloud the texts in the libraries of Ctesiphon and Alexandria before Omar burned books to heat his soldiers’ baths and threw books into the Euphrates; the ceremonies performed before the Bamiyan Buddhas, before the Taliban dynamited them. The visitor will hear the waves lapping the shore when visiting the diorama depicting the Italian coast in the sixteenth century, where Muslim slave-traders took so many Italians as slaves that it was “raining Christians in Algiers” and one could “swap a Christian for an onion.“
There are ample eyewitness accounts, written both by jihadis and their victims, of what jihad looks like. These accounts will be used to create dioramas.
Edessa was a Christian city in what is now Turkey. It was home to the Image of Edessa, linked by Ian Wilson with the Shroud of Turin. Jihadis arrived in 1144 and 1146. Michael the Syrian wrote a contemporary account. Andrew Bostom cites that account in The Legacy of Jihad.
“Thirty thousand souls were killed. Women, youths, and children to the number of sixteen thousand were carried into slavery, stripped of their clothes, barefoot, their hands bound, forced to run beside their captors on horses. Those who could not endure were pierced by lances or arrows, or abandoned to wild animals and birds of prey. Priests were killed out of hand or captured; few escaped. The Archbishop of the Armenians was sold at Aleppo … The whole city was given over to looting, ‘for a whole year,’ resulting in ‘complete ruin.’ From this disaster the Christian community of Edessa never recovered.“
Exhibits will be cross-indexed. For example, a visitor might search the museum holdings for famous quotes. That visitor would be shown the exhibit outlining the Arab conquest of the Persian Empire and would see the above-mentioned necrophiliac quote by Khalid: “You should convert to Islam, and then you will be safe … I have come to you with an army of men that love death as you love life.” That exhibit would be indexed under keywords including Khalid ibn al-Walid, companions of Mohammed, Persia, the seventh century, etc.
The quote-seeking visitor would also be shown the exhibit on the Muslim Conquest of the Byzantine Empire, source of this from the fifteenth-century Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” After Pope Benedict XVI merely repeated this quote in his 2006 Regensburg University lecture, Palestinians firebombed churches, Somalis shot an Italian nun in the back, and Iraqis beheaded a priest and stabbed Christians to death.
That same quote-seeking visitor would be shown the 1683 Battle of Vienna exhibit, and learn this rhyme from Jan Sobieski: “Witajcie w piekle, zblakane owieczki.” “Welcome to Hell, lost lambs” – reportedly what Sobieski said to the Turkish invaders he defeated.
The visitor would encounter the exhibit covering the Barbary Wars. On March 28, 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams summarized what they had learned about jihad from the Ambassador of Tripoli. Jihad “was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
The visitor would discover this ISIS quote from a September, 2014 YouTube recruitment video, “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah.“
And of course the visitor would be shown the exhibit for United Airlines Flight 93 and discover Todd Beamer’s words, “Let’s roll.“
Faith leaders from the Buddhist, Catholic, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Jewish, Pagan, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Secularist, and other belief systems will provide the museum with chapels where persons wishing to offer prayers or carry out appropriate rituals for the deceased can do so. Yes, Muslims may also pray here.
The Museum of the Victims of Jihad will not hate anyone, including Muslims, who have themselves been victims of jihad. Among those commemorated in the museum will be 1,500 Shiite air force cadets. On June 12, 2014, in Tikrit, Iraq, ISIS members bound these cadets’ hands behind their backs, and dumped them, face down, in ditches. They then shot the defenseless cadets in the back. The goal of the museum is to honor human life. That goal embraces Muslims as part of humanity. The museum will offer Muslims the chance to confront, reconsider, and reject jihad.
Jihadis and their many allies and apologists will of course protest. Why not a museum describing the horrors of Western colonialism and Christianity? Those failings are detailed in numerous books, feature films, museums, and school curricula. Western scholars and Christians themselves have produced this burgeoning avalanche of self-examination and self-flagellation. Muslims deserve the same opportunity that Westerners have had to confront the dark side of their own history, and to improve themselves, their lives, their futures, their impact on their fellow humans, and on planet Earth.
Another objection: how to define death-by-jihad? Will the museum insist that every time a Muslim kills someone, that that is an expression of jihad?
Answer: look to the motivation of and statements by the killers themselves. For example, in May, 1998, Muslims rioted against Chinese in Jakarta, Indonesia. There were mass rapes. Some scholars insist that there was no religious motivation for the riots, and the only motivation was economic. Similarly, Slavoj Zizek, exhibiting just how quickly Marxists are to betray women, explained away the 2016 New Year’s Eve sex assaults in Cologne, Germany, as an economically-motivated “obscene version of Carnival.“
On the other hand, on June 10, 1998, the New York Times reported that Jakarta rapists said to their victims, “You must be raped because you are non-Muslim.” Some accounts of the riot report that rapists shouted “Allahu Akbar.” A Cologne imam said Muslim-on-German sex assaults “were the girls’ own fault, because they were half naked and wearing perfume.” Islamic scripture, history, and practice sanction Muslim men raping non-Muslim women the men have overpowered; as quoted above, that very tradition is an ISIS recruiting tool. Given this context, a purely economic explanation for mass rape in Jakarta or Cologne is suspect.
Finally, a disclaimer: I am not a website designer, a wealthy philanthropist, or a museum professional. I cannot make the Museum of the Victims of Jihad a reality. I describe, here, only what should and could be.
Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct the name of the Wright Brothers’ plane.