October 26, 2007
Islamophobia and the Islamist ScarecrowBy Magdi Khalil
The wave of terror that was unleashed on the world in the past few decades is widely referred to as "Islamic terrorism" (or Islamist terrorism); the term is an apt description of the facts, and has a strong credibility among academicians, in the international media and with the ordinary citizen all over the world, with the exception of the Muslim countries.
In return, The Muslim world, and specifically the Muslims of the West, introduced defensive terms such as "Islamophobia", which has become the current favorite for dozens of Islamic organizations in the West. The term "phobia" denotes an unreasonable, perhaps imaginary fear, one that is a mental disorder. The new term "Islamolphobia" has served those organizations well in their fervent promotion of two false concepts:
If Terrorists do not indeed represent Islam, then why do religious authorities in Muslim countries refrain from voicing an absolute condemnation of the Terrorists, why aren't they called infidels and renegades, and why allow them to remain part of the Islamic Body?
After all, in Muslim countries, all sorts of things have become subject to religious edicts (fatwas), from the most trivial to the most bizarre: the camel's urine, the Prophet's urine, adult suckling, the ant's backside which may excite a person fasting in Ramadan, the ban on flowers in special occasions, and the significance of the fly which carries sickness in one wing and healing in the other!! Yet, virtually none of the Islamic scholars (sheikhs) were inclined to condemn Bin Laden, Al-Zarqawi, Al-Zawahiri, Mohammed Atta, and others who follow the same path. I have yet to find a single fatwa that renounces their actions, and plainly state that they are considered infidels and should not be counted as Muslims.
To the contrary, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Negeimy -- member of the Saudi Fiqh assembly -- has furiously denied that Mohammed Atta and his companions have been sent to Hell! Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi, the most popular preacher in the Arab countries, has tackled an extremely wide range of subjects in his speeches, and in his Al-Jazeera TV program Al-sharia wal hayat. He had no problem devoting an entire episode of that program to discussing the intimate relationship between a man and his wife in a level of detail that is suitable for a porno movie and not a religious program; however, he didn't find it convenient to address the issue of Bin Laden, Al-Zarqawi, Al-Zawahiri, and others.
A considerable number of individuals and organizations endorse the concept of "Islamophobia", the most notable being Tariq Ramadan in Europe and the Islamic organization CAIR in the States, and none of those has ever explicitly rejected the Terrorists as infidels who have renounced Muslim faith. Instead, the statements issued by those individuals and organizations carry a vague and general condemnation of terrorism, while their actions serve to stir up Muslims' indignation. By persistently pushing the concept of Islamophobia, they are adding to the feelings of resentment and anger among the Muslim communities in the West and making it easier for terrorist organizations to recruit their members of those communities.
The U.S. Department of State's report on the global patterns of terrorism for the year 2006 deduced as much:
The report called this devious machination "the terrorist conveyor belt."
Despite the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, and that there are millions of open-minded, peace-loving Muslim individuals, the truth is that most contemporary terrorists happen to be Muslims, and the majority of terrorist operations are carried out by Muslims -- a fact that is acknowledged by Muslim intellectuals such as Abdel Rahman Al Rashed. Furthermore, all Muslim terrorists draw on religious scriptures to justify their actions, recruit new cells and motivate Muslims to provide funds for terrorist organizations. Keeping in mind that the majority of terrorists are Muslims, and that all of them use the religious scriptures as a sound basis for their actions and to receive supporting funds from Muslim countries, then how can anyone have the gall to interpret acknowledging this situation as Islamophobia?
According to the "Global Patterns of Terrorism" report, the incidents of terrorism in 2006 highlight the extremely serious nature of the current situation. As most of these incidents have been carried out by extremist Islamist factions and Muslim terrorists, we can clearly deduce that the deliberate promotion of the concept of "Islamophobia" was a supporting factor in stirring up the feelings of resentment and anger against the West, thus adding more fuel to the fire of terrorism. The term itself can also be perceived as some form of blackmail that has had an intimidating effect on Western societies, with the intent of dissuading those societies from hunting Muslim extremists and terrorists, and putting them in a situation where they are required to coddle the Islamic organizations instead of subjecting most of those to lawful trials.
According to the report, 14,352 terrorist operations took place across the world in 2006, and as a result 74545 military persons and 20,570 civilians were killed; 1800 children were wounded and killed, 430 students, 215 teachers and 129 reporters lost their lives; 8,200 policemen were wounded and killed, in addition to 1300 public leaders and guards. The number of individuals abducted during 2006 is estimated to be around 15,855; and the number of buildings, schools and governmental institutions targeted amounted to 19,500; 300 terrorist groups took responsibility for these operations, in addition to the individual incidents of terrorism.
The report indicates that at least 50% of those operations targeted Muslims and were carried out by Muslims as well, and during that same period, 350 mosques were subject to terrorist attacks. When so much death and destruction takes place during a single year, and given that 90% of that horror was unleashed by Muslim terrorists, it is highly absurd to talk about Islamophobia in relation to the current state of affairs. Fear and misgivings are completely warranted in this situation. People are entitled to react in fear when they face a lethal situation, otherwise they would be lacking sensibility and good judgement.
The term "Islamophobia" is a tool of deception that serves to mislead the world, blackmail the West, terrorize whoever dares to criticize Islam, fuel the anger of Muslim youth, and minimize the danger of Islamic terrorism, in addition to being a threat to the freedoms of thought, creativity and criticism in the West, ultimately the term can serve the interests of the terrorists.
While Tariq Ramadan holds the first place among the promoters of the concept of "Islamophobia", Saad Eddin Ibrahim takes the lead in using the term "Islamist scarecrow". The term is meant for the ears of the West as well, and suggests that the autocratic governments play on the fear of the West that an Islamist rule will be the alternative if those regimes fall, so that by waving this "scarecrow" around, and alluding to the ominous repercussions of reform for Western interests, for non-Muslim minorities, and the Middle East as a whole, they have managed to scare off the West and stall the reform project. Though I agree with my dear friend Prof. Ibrahim that the autocratic regimes in the Middle East have skillfully used this scare tactic to alarm not only the West, but also the non-Muslim minorities in the East, the liberals and women, nonetheless the term itself is inappropriate if not misleading, and plays right into the hands of Islamists and their plans to establish a religious state.
The Islamists should not be compared to a scary looking but harmless scarecrow; they are by no means an empty threat, but rather a genuine menace that alarms the advocates of civil society, who realize that if Political Islam gets its chance to take control of the Middle East, the region will plunge into total darkness. The Islamists would not let go of their detrimental vision of a religious state, and there are two recent cases that support this view: the way Hamas renounced the terms of democracy and went back on its agreement, shattering the Palestinian experience; and the way the Muslim Brotherhood have affected life in Egypt, even though they have no part in the government. Considering that the Muslim Brotherhood's proposed reform project is for a religious state that is governed by scholars concerned with camel urine, where the law submits to shari'a and science to superstition, where national belonging is discarded in favor of religious belonging, and political posts turn into religious assignments, where political power bows down to religious power, and to the instatement of welayat al-faqih (guardianship of the Islamic jurists) that mirrors Iran -- considering that this is only a proposal, one has to wonder how much worse reality will be if they gain the power to implement their vision?
The Islamists are certainly no scarecrows; basically, they are a major obstruction standing in the way of real democracy, citizenship and civil state. They do not endorse the supremacy of the law and a civil constitution that separates state and religion. They do not sanction laws that protect and expand freedoms. They reject genuine equality between Muslims and non-Muslims, and they are engrossed with religious interpretations to the point of complete obsession. Hence, it is reasonable to say that any attempts to defend or bolster their image can only lead to the obliteration of whatever little is left of the civil state to the advantage of an extremely dark religious state.
Yes, the Middle East regimes are autocratic, corrupt and do use the Islamists' card in a dangerous game inside and outside their countries. Nevertheless, to stand by the Islamists is a reckless and extremely risky gamble, and much like "Samson choice", the whole region may not survive its outcome.
Magdi Khalil is a Middle East Freedom Forum Director.