One of the hallmarks of jihadists is their grotesque savagery against women. The classic Hollywood picture of a jihadist as a pure, pious young Muslim man is largely nonsense. The reality is far more brutish. The tales of sex slavery in ISIS-held Iraq and Syria should chill thinking people to the bone. During my own time in Iraq, al-Qaeda terrorists were known for systematically raping women as part of an effort to shame them into becoming suicide bombers. After brutal gang rapes, they were told that the only way they could “redeem” their allegedly lost honor was to strap a bomb on their broken bodies and blow themselves up at restaurants, checkpoints, and hospitals. It was pure evil.
Also striking was the nonchalance and fearlessness of the most hardened jihadists after their capture by Americans. By the end of my deployment, I could almost predict whether we’d snagged a committed jihadist by his attitude in detention. Al-Qaeda leaders would often laugh, act like they were on vacation, and sometimes attempt to engage their captors in casual conversation. I’ll never forget the arrogant confidence of an Oxford English-speaking leader of an al-Qaeda rape ring. They knew they were safe, and they gloried in their invulnerability.
The stories are horrifying, sometimes involving attacks in broad daylight and in public spaces like parks, trains, and train stations. Read these stories and try to imagine them happening here:
In one recent case that raised a huge public outcry, a woman was out for a walk in a park on an elevation above the Danube. With her she had her two children, a toddler plus her infant in a baby carriage. Out of the blue, an Afghan refugee leapt at her, threw her down, bit her, strangled her and attempted to rape her. In the struggle, the baby carriage went careening towards the embankment and the infant almost plunged into the river below. With her second child looking on aghast, the woman valiantly fought off her assailant, ripping the hood off his jacket, which later made it possible for an Austrian police dog to track him down.
Front page: Afghan (eighteen) attacks young woman at Danube Festival. “Once again there has been an attempted rape by an Afghan. A twenty-one-year-old Slovak tourist was mobbed and groped by a group of men. She managed to get away, but was pursued by one of them, an Afghan asylum seeker who caught her and dragged her into the bushes. Nearby plainclothes policemen noticed the struggle and intervened to prevent the rape at the last moment.” Page ten: “A twenty-five-year-old Afghan attempted to rape a young woman who was sitting in the sun in the park. Four courageous passersby dragged the man off the victim and held him until the police arrived.” Page twelve: “Two Afghans have been sentenced for attempting to rape a woman on a train in Graz. The men, who live in an asylum seekers’ residence, first insulted the young woman with obscene verbal remarks before attacking her. When she screamed for help, passengers from other parts of the train rushed to her aid.”
Compounding the horror, she describes how authorities covered up or minimized the worst atrocities:
It became clear that the authorities had known about, and for political reasons had deliberately covered up, large-scale incidences of sexual assault by migrants. For example, a gang of fifty Afghans who terrorized women in the neighborhood of the Linz train station had been brushed off by a government official with the remark that this was an unfortunate consequence of bad weather, and that once summer came the young men would disperse into the public parks and no longer move in such a large, menacing pack. The public was not amused.
Benard concentrates on Austria, but these stories are being repeated across Europe. Moreover, these disproportionately Afghan attackers display breathtaking contempt for the law. Old men with gray hair will claim to be minors. They ruthlessly exploit welfare systems, due process, and Western norms to not just attack women but to suck all the resources they can from their increasingly angry and frustrated hosts.
Apologists try to offer absurd explanations for the crime wave, claiming alcohol abuse (an excuse sometimes offered by the refugees themselves), culture clashes, and the alleged inability of fundamentalist men to control themselves when exposed to the actual female form. All of them fail. Human beings are not that animalistic. A few beers don’t transform men into wild animals. Nor does the sight of a young mom’s bare arms. Benard, instead posits a different and far more disturbing explanation:
This brings us to a third, more compelling and quite disturbing theory — the one that my Afghan friend, the court translator, puts forward. On the basis of his hundreds of interactions with these young men in his professional capacity over the past several years, he believes to have discovered that they are motivated by a deep and abiding contempt for Western civilization. To them, Europeans are the enemy, and their women are legitimate spoils, as are all the other things one can take from them: housing, money, passports.
This explanation, in fact, rings true with jihadist theology and practice. Sex slaves represent “spoils,” as does the wealth of conquered regions. It’s a return to the plunder of the medieval past. The gentle Europeans give them nothing to fear, so jihadists live as they wish, taking what they want.
Benard ends her piece with a disturbing observation. Many of these Afghan men are products of American-funded education, grown up in an American-influenced nation. She calls these men “ours.” It’s a challenging point, but she’s wrong to say that we’ve been “the dominant influence and paymaster in Afghan society.” Paymaster, yes. Influence, no. Talk to virtually any veteran of the Afghan war, and he’ll tell you — we’ve barely touched the underlying culture, and the line between outright enemy and oppressed refugee is very blurry indeed.
America has friends in Afghanistan, to be sure, but it’s also full of enemies who hate America and the West. Never forget that it was and is fertile ground for Taliban extremism. It’s simply a mistake for anyone to think that the fact that someone “flees” a jihadist nation is at all relevant to their views about jihad or their regard for Western civilization.
So far, the United States has been fortunate. In large part because of the vast ocean that separates us from the Middle East, our refugee influx has never been more than a trickle compared with the surges that overwhelmed Europe after the rise of ISIS. Would the Obama administration have had the will to turn away a million men and women if they somehow washed up on our shores? But as the political battle over immigration and refugees continues to rage, Benard’s story is a vital reminder that jihad is the product of a culture that isn’t confined to the soil of a place. When enemies move, they bring their hatred to new lands.
What’s the solution? Benard calls for rigorous screening that reads a bit like the oft-maligned “extreme vetting” that Trump rightly promises. She also has a challenge for the Left:
Finally, the Left has to do a bit of hard thinking. It’s fine to be warm, fuzzy and sentimental about strangers arriving on your shores, but let’s also spare some warm, fuzzy and sentimental thoughts for our own values, freedoms and lifestyle. Girls and women should continue to feel safe in public spaces, be able to attend festivals, wear clothing appropriate to the weather and their own liking, travel on trains, go to the park, walk their dogs and live their lives. This is a wonderful Western achievement, and one that is worth defending.
In the aftermath of sexual assaults in Cologne, Stuttgart, and Hamburg at the end of 2015, my colleague Andrew McCarthy coined the term “rape jihad” to describe the systematic, large-scale, and public attacks on women at the hands of Muslim migrants. It’s a reminder that jihad — even violent jihad — is about more than car bombs, random stabbings, or nightclub shootings. It’s also manifested through a ground-up assault on Western values, taking advantage of Western sympathies, to create fear and confusion. Europe is teaching America a sad lesson. Our compassion must never make us fools.
— David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, an attorney, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.