February 13, 2007
Modernity and Western Values In the Clutches of IslamizationBy Magdi Khalil
Muslim reformers of the past century - such as Mohammed Abdu, Refaa Al-Tahtawi, Taha Hussein, Ali Abdel-Razik and others - sought and unfortunately failed to modernize Islam. The militants, led by Hassan Al-Banna and his partisans, won this battle, and forced their vision to "Islamize" modernity on the people. They created a certain pattern - a mindset and a lifestyle - and promoted it as "The Valid Islam," Al Islam al-Sahih.
They resorted to seduction and fear to impose this pattern on their societies, and made sure to attach an "Islamic" label to each and every aspect, with the clear implication that other patterns were deemed non-Muslim and illegitimate. An increasingly wide array of things fall under this valid pattern: the Islamic dress, the Islamic banks, the Islamic economy, the Islamic education, the islamization of science, media and the judiciary system, the application and enforcement of Islamic laws, the widespread dissemination of the fundamentalist culture, the promotion of Islamic medicine and the Prophet's medicine, the expansion of Islamic organizations, the marginalization of the national identity of the state in favor of Islamic nationalism, and the islamization of daily vocabulary and political terms (mobayaa, welaya, shura, thawabet al-oma, etc..).
As a result, the Muslim countries wasted their chance to embrace modernity, opting instead to import a shallow veneer of modernity from the West; and they became idle consumers of the products of civilization, with no contributions to offer.
With different factions engaging in a morbid religious bid, intent on proving that they can win the title of the most rigid fundamentalists, it is no wonder that the Muslim societies started to crumble from within under the mounting pressures of regression and strife. However, the damage did not stop there, as some of those bidders developed a terrifying propensity towards violence which left a hideous mark on their societies; then, in a moment that went down in history, the violence spilled out to the outside world, and thus began the Muslims' greatest crisis with the contemporary world, and particularly with the West.
If this horrifying action brought about the initial problem, the crisis became more pronounced as a result of the massive Muslim immigration to Western countries, and the presence of large Muslim communities in Europe, the United States and Australia. These communities are supposed to bridge the modernity gap between West and East as the pioneers of the Arab renaissance once did, but, instead, many of the immigrants are holding firm to the prospect of Islamized modernity, whether because of a long-ingrained belief or one acquired through the influence of the islamized media stemming, in over-abundance, from the Middle East. Many have insulated themselves in their own world, in a form of isolated "ghettos", identified by their particular dress, halal food and special culture.
In and of itself, this poses no problem, as the modern Western mind-set greatly values pluralism and respects cultural idiosyncrasies. However, it soon became a problem when some of those immigrants attempted to impose their own values on the western societies in which they lived, or to elevate their values above the laws of the communities in which they lived. United States Vice President Dick Cheney summed up the situation by saying:
On the Islamic side, the European Muslim advocate Tariq Ramadan confirmed without hesitation:
But what happens when those values clash with the law? What about spreading hatred in the name of religion, beating women (as the Imam of a mosque in Spain encouraged), female circumcision, the violation of children's rights, polygamy, judging non-Muslims as infidels, deeming the Muslims' enlistment in Western militaries an illegitimate act, abusing the system of social welfare, heaping praise on terrorism and acts of murder, or actually joining terrorist organizations?
A major difference in opinion between the Muslims and the West has to do with the separation of state and religion, including the right to criticize religions, and the right to have a religious belief, or to hold no religious beliefs (atheism). It was this total and clear-cut separation of religion and state that made the members of the European Union insist on not making a single reference to Christianity in the European constitution, though it is the recognized faith of the majority in Europe.
There are countless books in Europe that attack religion, God, the prophets and Christianity in particular, and many that proclaim atheism. Karl Marx, the man who whose philosophy depended on the statement that "religion was the opium of the people" embraced atheism as a foundation for his ideology. The famous German philosopher Nietzsche went as far as saying that "God is dead"; the French existentialist Sartre and his rebellious, atheist philosophy comes to mind, as well as dozens of variable atheist schools and philosophies that have spread throughout Europe. People are unlikely to forget shocking novels and movies such as "The Last Temptation of Christ", "The Da Vinci Code" novel, "The Abnormality of Paul" which discredited St. Paul, and even more shocking the book entitled "The Foolishness of God".
Yet, there are no reports about anyone losing his life as a penalty for criticizing Christianity, and these philosophies and books did not jeopardize Christianity or Judaism; as a matter of fact, the Eastern bloc countries went right back to their abandoned faith after the collapse of the USSR.
Islamic extremism is a menace to the value of freedom, starting with the hunt of novelist Salman Rushdie, the murder of the Egyptian intellectual Farag Fouda, and the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh; and ending recently with the fatwa (legal Islamic opinion) to kill the Danish cartoonist, and the riots and acts of violence that surrounded this incident. In between the first and the latest, there were dozens of incidents when writers, intellectuals and artists were the target of similar assaults. Following the publication of the cartoons, a fatwa sanctioned the elimination of the cartoonist, and a statement by Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Palestine threatened the citizens of Denmark, Norway and France. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the extremist Hezbollah movement, said that people would not have dared to insult the Prothet if the novelist Salman Rushdie had been executed.
Nasrallah's appalling comment echoes that of Omar Abdel Rahman years ago:
Abdel Rahman has thus given his blessings for killing Naguib Mahfouz, who received a serious injury in a failed attempt on his life. The frenzy surrounding this last incident was palpable when an Islamic demonstration went out in London carrying terrorist slogans that incite hatred and murder and defy the basic values of Western civilization: "To hell with freedom", "Slay those who insult the prophet", "Wipe out those who mock Islam", "Europe, you will pay the price: The disaster of 9/11 is on its way to you".
Meanwhile, the Arab media has no qualms about attacking and insulting Christianity and Judaism. Let's take a look at some insulting titles written by "Abu Islam Ahmed" , the Egypt Islamic writer, that were displayed in The Cairo International Book Fair in January 2006": "The Church and Sexual Deviation", "Pagan Beliefs in Christianity", "The Unholy Book", "A Nation without a Cross", "Oh ye filthy gypsies: a message to the Diaspora Christians"; and a book about Farag Fouda, under the extremely revolting title "Who Killed the Dog?"
The most prominent Arab newspaper, Al-Ahram, devotes a whole page every week to the articles of Zaghloul Al-Nagar, where, among other things, he openly expresses the contempt he has for other religions:
The insults are not just restricted to the written word, but extend to extremely rude actions as reported by a Los Angeles Times journalist who saw a number of Palestinians who were hiding in the Church of the Nativity use pages from the Holy Bible as toilet paper. However, no Muslims were assaulted due to this incident, and there were no violent demonstrations in the West, a fact that stands in sharp contrast with the Muslims' increasingly frenzied reaction, the excessive threats and the actual violence whenever Islam is involved.
The Muslim states have collectively requested to include the following statement in the proposal to establish a human rights council as a substitute for the UN Human Rights commission:
If the statement is approved, freedom will be imperiled, mouths will be gagged, and the militants and extremists will be celebrating their victory, while the world will be forced to bow to the values of Islamist Fascism.
First, the Muslim countries will not abide by this resolution, just as they did not abide by other UN resolutions and treaties; second, they do not acknowledge other religions (for example Denmark acknowledges 12 religions, while most Muslim states only acknowledge 3 religions and some of them only acknowledge Islam, and realistically, in all of the Muslim countries, the Muslims are the only ones to enjoy religious freedom as defined by the UN); third, followers of religions other than Islam suffer the most persecution in the Muslim states; fourth, while the Muslim states are half-heartedly condemning terrorism, they are in fact backing terrorists, and supporting their tactics. At the end of the road, terrorism will benefit the most from this "protection"; this clause will shield it against criticism since Islamic terrorism resorts to religious texts as a means to mobilize and motivate terrorists.
The call for an international law that restricts individual freedoms is an open invitation for fascism to set roots and take over the world; fascist values were behind the regression of the Muslim societies, and it is illogical to impose those same values on countries which have bravely resisted fascism, nazism, and religious tyranny, and paid the price with the lives of millions of victims.
The shameful silence of the moderate Muslims in Muslim states will eventually make the leadership of those states fall into the hands of the militants, corrupted opportunists, and tyrants; it will also increase the chances of a disastrous collision with the path of progress of humanity Ultimately, the values of freedom will gain the upper hand, but it seems that humanity is once more about to pay a huge price in order to preserve those values, and this time the face-off is with militant Islam.
Magdi Khalil is a political analyst, researcher, author and Executive Editor of the Egyptian weekly Watani International. He is also a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, London.