February 6, 2006
The Cartoon Crisis Conspiracy and Moderate MuslimsBy Thomas Lifson
The cartoon crisis which has left embassies ablaze and sparked riots from Beirut to Bangkok and Jarkarta was a set—up job, planned and executed by a group of Muslim leaders from Denmark in concert with leading lights of the Islamic world. The conspirators used supremely inflammatory phony cartoons never published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten to gin up a campaign of violence and intimidation against Denmark, the EU, and the West.
Those involved in taking a four—month—old incident in far—away Denmark and making it into a crisis roiling the streets of Beirut, Bangkok and Jakarta among other Muslim outposts, include Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa, Grand Imam of Al—Azhar Mosque Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi, and Sunni Islam's most influential scholar, Yusuf al Qaradawi, according to Lorenzo Vidino of the Counter Terrorism Blog.
These are very heavy hitters in the umma, the world community of Muslims.
Two questions raise themselves about this crisis manufactured by a who's who in the world of Islam: Why was a plan created and put into effect? And why now?
The answer to the second question is likely found in the need to whip up Muslim unity in the face of several severe challenges on the world's political agenda. As Richard Baehr notes today, the new Hamas government of the Palestinian territories needs to continue on life support via cash infusions from the European Union and other donor nations, including the United States. Fear and chastening have usually worked to unlock resources and sympathyin the past, so why not now?
Meanwhile Iran is facing potentially serious consequences from the referral of its nuclear program to the UN Security Council, not to mention a possible military attack on said facilities. Syria and its clients in Lebanon also face ongoing pressure and consequences from the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. At such a time, anti—Western anger serves to unite the fractious Sunni and Shia elements of the umma, and make the infidels more cautious about the Arab or Muslim street, in case they plan any actual use of force or other compulsion.
These answers to question 2 alone may seem to be sufficient to generate an answer to question 1. But there are longer term, far more important strategic goals being advanced, matters beyond the immediate tactical considerations of hardball geopolitics, no matter how serious these immediate concerns may be.
The battle for moderate Muslims
President Bush has repeatedly made the argument that we must work with and strengthen the forces of 'moderate Islam' to combat those who have 'hijacked a great religion.' Although it is far too impolitic for any political leader to admit, the real terms of the struggle we face are as follows:
1. A subset of the world's 1.4 billion or so Muslims wants to destroy freedom of religion and impose Sharia law on all humanity. The Global Caliphate is the name for this ideal state toward which they strive, and for which many will happily sacrifice their lives. Even the smallest estimates number these activists, recently labeled Islamofascists but existing virtually throughout the almost 1400 years of Islam, in the millions.
Ever since Muslim conquerors rode out of Arabia in the century following Muhammad's death, Islam has sought to spread the True Faith throughout the world. The injunction to force the rest of humanity to choose between conversion and death or Dhimmitude is not merely a matter of saving souls, the power driving Christian evangelism, or compassion for fellow men trapped in suffering, the motive driving Buddhist outreach. Islam as dictated by its scripture is not merely a matter of personal faith, it is also a political system, forever unchangeable, based on the Quran and Hadith.
2. A much larger subset of the umma lacks deep commitment to establishing a Global Caliphate, and watches for signals to guide its behavior toward each other and other faiths.
Most Muslims, like most other human beings, just want to get along and take care of their families and their lives. For them, whatever political and religious system has power where they live is the one they will follow, however grudgingly or enthusiastically their circumstances and values may incline them.
3. There is abundant scripture and tradition sanctioning the use of extreme violence against those who in any way are seen to deny, mock, or insult Muhammad and Islam, or any of their teachings.
4. The only way that Islamofascism can be defeated and the world's Muslims live in harmony with other faiths in today's interconnected world is for questions of faith to be discussed without fear. Fundamental questions need to be debated among Muslims about the use of violence against unbelievers and those Muslims who dare question any scriptural teachings. The rest of us must be permitted to express opinions as well.
Muslim immigrant and Dutch Member of Parliament Hirsi Ali (who now lives in hiding under death threats) makes the point convincingly:
Those who seek the same goal as the Islamofascists, the global reign of Islam as the unchallenged religion of humanity, understand Hirsi Ali's point very well. For them it is essential that ordinary members of the umma never see fundamental questions raised and never start raising them on their own. For once degrees of individual autonomy are granted on spiritual questions, and the right to question and make up one's own mind becomes established, the top—down pattern of divinely—sanctioned authority inherent in the ideal of a Global Caliphate collapses.
'Moderate' Muslims by definition are people who recognize some limits on scriptural injunctions to spread the faith by violence. Questioning religious injunctions from others and deciding for oneself the best answers is the only way such moderation will spread in the umma.
By seeking to establish a global norm — a custom enforced by social sanction, not law — that Sharia restrictions shall apply even in non—Muslim lands, the Islamofascists are engaging in prophylaxis: preventing the 'disease' of free discussion and debate over topics they wish to control exclusively from ever gaining traction and possibly spreading to their own constituency.
It is quite understandable that caring, sensitive Westerners seek to avoid offending the religious sensibilities of any serious believers, Muslims included. Such empathy is normally a highly commendable impulse.
But acceding to the demand that those most willing to use violence be allowed to control the discussion and stifle debate, among infidels and Muslims alike, is a betrayal of not only the moderate Muslims, but of all those who hope someday to live in peace with an Islam that grants legitimacy to religious dissent and to the claims of other faiths.
Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.