Among the Believers

Nearly ten years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many politicians, diplomats, journalists, and academics remain reluctant even to name America’s enemies. To take but one example: John Brennan, head of the White House homeland-security office, has argued that America is only “at war with al Qaeda” and its closest affiliates.

I understand the impulse to frame the conflict as narrowly as possible. Brennan and others do not want to reinforce al-Qaeda’s message that Muslims from Afghanistan to Iraq to Israel to Paris to Detroit must choose between the umma, the global Islamic community (“Islamic nation” is an equally accurate translation), and the West — to fight for one and against the other.

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