September 11, 2010
The Shifting Paradigm of IslamBy G. Murphy Donovan
Richard Cohen of the Washington Post has discovered an Egyptian anti-Semite. Unfortunately, the object of Cohen's ire has been dead for over four decades. Yes, Cohen, who once labeled Israel a "historical mistake," has taken to the pages of the Washington Post to chastise a martyred cadaver. Indeed, Cohen castigates The Economist for its review of Sayyid Qutb's biography, which celebrates Sayyid's contributions to contemporary Islamic political "reform" while ignoring the bigotry for which he is equally famous. Cohen's column makes you wonder where he and the American press corps have been for the last fifty years. Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood (al Ikwan) have already been taken to the woodshed by Cohen's betters: the likes of Paul Johnson, Bernard Lewis, and Paul Berman. Cohen also suggests that the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is starting to get thin. Do you think, Dick?
There are precious few columns in the Post or other dailies about contemporary home-grown anti-Semitism and hate speech like that of Louis Farrakhan (aka Louis Walcott) of the Nation of Islam and Malik Zulu Shabazz (aka Paris Lewis) of the New Black Panthers. Indeed, Cohen could audit Farrakhan's hate speech on one of his many visits to Howard University right there in Washington, D.C. In case anyone missed it, the old Panthers, who were once garden-variety black nationalists, have been hijacked by another malignant strain of Islam. Most of the "new" cats are radical Muslims.
But the most egregious negligence of the press on all things Islamic is their failure to track the bloom of foreign Muslim study programs, cultural centers, mosques, and related organizations in the West -- especially those on American university campuses. Indeed, one of the more notable Saudi-funded institutes thrives, again, in Cohen's backyard at Georgetown University.
The Alwaleed Bin-Talal Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding is funded by "Prince" Alwaleed, whose autocratic family, the house of al Saud, mandates Wahhabism as the state religion of Saudi Arabia. Alwaleed owns three palaces, the world's largest yacht, and the world's largest private airplane. He was educated in U.S. schools, yet he still practices polygamy. Alwaleed's lifestyle and similar Saud family excesses help make countrymen like Osama bin Laden possible.
A Freedom House study of Wahhabi publications used in American mosques concluded that the Saudi brand of Islam:opposed all nonbelievers, advocated hatred of all other religions, and blamed "democracy" for the pathologies of the 20th century. Wahhabis also control the Islamic shrines at Mecca and Medina, sacred to Muslims of all stripes yet off-limits to nonbelievers, infidels, and dar al harb (literally "the house of war").
There are no Jewish or Christian centers of "understanding" in Saudi Arabia. Cohen and most of his journalistic colleagues have been remarkably incurious about the ideology, funding, and objectives of a host of Islamic propagandists, most of whom originate in the Arab world. Many scholars suggest that Saudi Arabia alone may have spent as much as "87 billion dollars" to date to spread "theofacism."
No surprise, then, when John Esposito, the noisy Catholic director of the Alwaleed Center, was quick to come to the defense of the Ground Zero mosque -- beating even President Obama to the punch. Twenty million Saudi petro-dollars did not come to Georgetown University without political obligations or ideological strings.
It's difficult to know what Catholic hierarchies believe they have in common with Islamist elites.
Take Turkey as an illustration. The Turks have long been held up as an example of Islamic "moderation," yet starting with the Armenian genocide (1915), official state policy has sought to eliminate all vestiges of ecumenicism in what was arguably the oldest Christian diocese in the world. The only seminary in Turkey has been closed now by Ankara fiat, and without clergy, the Christian congregation has been reduced to marginal numbers. The Eastern Rite Orthodox patriarch in Istanbul has sought a dialogue with the Islamist regime in Ankara for years -- to no avail. Anatolian Christianity is being exterminated in slow motion. Even in the so-called "moderate" Muslim world, tolerance is a one-way street.
No less an Islamic eminence than the Turkish prime minister has put a stake through the heart of moderation. Indeed, on several occasions, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that to put the adjective "moderate" before the noun "Muslim" is an insult to Islam: "The term 'moderate Islam' is ugly and offensive; Islam is Islam." If Muslims themselves don't believe in Islamic moderation, why is this myth so pervasive among Europeans and Americans?
Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, discredited Swiss professor of taqiyya (the Islamic art of deception), and celebrated "moderate," was recently granted a visa, courtesy of Hillary Clinton, to tour the American academy, including a stop at Georgetown University. Previously, Ramadan had been offered a university sinecure at Notre Dame University. Ramadan, labeled a "dangerous" man by the French foreign minister, is notorious for breathing fire at young European Muslims while singing dulcet notes of moderation when speaking French or English to infidels. Ramadan defends the infamous Islamic practice of stoning women. How moderate is that?
Clearly, academic America is motivated by petro-dollars, seen as an alternative revenue stream. These same scholars seem all too anxious to return the favor by defending Islamism and associated practices on cue under the burkas of ecumenicism, culture, and moderation. Tolerating intolerance in the name of tolerance is not a virtue; it is an oxymoron, the first impenetrable paradox of the early 21th century.
Richard Cohen's opinion columns and similar reporting, like those of Michelle Boorstein, are typical of most journalism or academic writing on all things Islamic -- more notable for what it excludes or ignores. Qutb is not simply a lone agitator for Muslim irredentism; that creed is now spread by the global reach of the Muslim Brotherhood, cutouts, and subsidiaries. Hamas and al-Qaeda are just two of the more notorious military spin-offs of the Brotherhood.
The spread of an equally virulent Wahhabism with Saudi monies is complemented by a plethora of irredentist Deobandi seminaries in Pakistan. Sixty percent of Pakistani clerics attend such religious schools. Deobandi, Taliban, and al-Qaeda fanaticism are now the dominant Islamic idioms in South Asia. In flood-ravaged Pakistan, the void created by Islamabad incompetence is being filled by radicals.
With the help of Arab financing, the spread of radical Islamic proselytizing centers in the form of mosques, cultural centers, and madrasses now threatens the myth of Islamic "moderation" -- especially in Europe and America. The moderation paradigm has been carefully cultivated, with little or no evidence, by a combination of Islamic missionaries, venal academics, naïve journalists, and fearful politicians in the West.
Nonetheless, major Arab states like Saudi Arabia (the richest), the Emirates, Egypt (the most populous), Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and the two Palestines are slowly shedding the veils of victimhood. World Health Organization studies of Egypt alone suggest that as many as 90% of Egyptian women have been castrated. Consanguinity in the Emirates is thought to be 50% among Arabs.
Even if terrorism, Sharia financing, and jihad proselytizing were set aside, the prevalence of these and other irredentist practices, which also include fatwas (summary judgments), honor killings, beheadings, amputations, stoning, flogging, polygamy, and child marriage, would put the lie to any conventional notions of "moderation" in the Muslim world. Arguments about whether these traditions are religious or cultural are becoming less and less relevant. These practices are being exposed as part of the weft and warp of dar al Islam.
Not every Muslim is a terrorist, yet nearly every terrorist these days is a Muslim. In the past year, 90 terror groups struck in 83 countries, where there were nearly 60,000 casualties. Sunni attacks alone accounted for more than half the victims.
Recent Pew surveys of Arab attitudes towards Jews put another nail in the moderation coffin. In the countries surveyed, negative attitudes towards Jews were well north of 90%. Europeans and Americans didn't fare much better.
While perceptions about the Sunni side of the Islamic equation are shifting in Europe and America, there has never been any doubt about radical Shiite irredentism in Iran and elsewhere. Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, a novel which mocks the Koran and Mohamed, still has a Shiite price on his head. Indeed, just as theocratic Arabs hijacked a noble Egyptian culture over time, and a more recent surge of Shia Islamists has commandeered a noble Persian tradition. Israel, Europe, and America are now in the crosshairs. Nonetheless, signs of blowback are appearing in both worlds.
In 1962, Thomas Kuhn published The Structures of Scientific Revolutions, a groundbreaking study of shifting paradigms. Kuhn argued that reasonable observers might look at the same evidence and come to radically different conclusions because both proceed with different biases or assumptions. He also argued that the reconciliation of conflicting views, paradigm shifts, is glacial -- often requiring a new generation of analysts.
The conventional wisdom about Islam, or more precisely its status as a morally equivalent religious culture, is starting to shift. The tectonic plates of opinion are moving almost imperceptibly towards the recognition of radical Islam as a necrotic menace, an undemocratic, if not toxic, political paradigm. Appropriately enough, the early evidence of the shift is iconic.
In 2002, a Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, was found decapitated and literally decimated (cut into ten pieces) by Islamists in Pakistan. Then there was the award-winning 2007 UNICEF "engagement" photo of a nine-year-old girl and a bearded, aging patriarch. Then comes the photo of a mutilated young Afghan girl on the cover of Time Magazine, nose and ears cut off by Islamic fanatics for some minor transgression. The girl was rescued on a roadside by some American GIs before she bled to death.
Most recently, in New York City, the Ground Zero mosque and its controversial imam have been swept up in a vortex of public dismay over the cleric's politics and foreign finances and Islam's dismissal of American sensitivities. "In your face" is sometimes out of place even in Manhattan.
Defenders of the mosque refuse to recognize the politics, foreign financing, or the religious double standards of Muslims, and especially Arabs, when it comes to infidel (aka "unclean") churches and/or synagogues in Muslim countries. Adding insult to injury, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been hired by the U.S. State Department as an American outreach (sic) spokesman to the Emirates. Americans are beginning to recognize the lengths to which apologists will go to defend the indefensible. Public opinion polls reflect that dismay.
The Islamic paradigm is shifting in Europe and America. And the questions these changes raise have global consequences. As the appeasement paradigm oxidizes, the West will ask itself why non-Muslims should sacrifice their children and treasure to save Islam from itself. And if fanaticism is more of a threat to dar al Islam than the West, infidels need to know why "moderate" Arab and Muslim armies are not at the front. Europe and America will also need to know why "moderate" Arab treasure is not financing the fight against extremism -- instead of buying yachts, palaces, and propaganda pulpits in Europe and America.
As we speak, Saudi Sunnis are praying that the Israelis will make short work of Shiite apostates in Tehran. Yet the question remains: why should Israel, Europe, or America fight any battles for or within Islam?
All of this raises a ultimate strategic question: what are the consequences of a transient Islamist triumph in South Asia or the Middle East? Do we continue to support Muslim royals, oligarchs, and tyrants, or do we let them fall to their fate in the hands of fellow believers? If the Israeli experience provides any precedent, no amount of reason or appeasement (see land for peace) will placate Muslim elites or radical insurgents.
The short answer may be that any merger of Islamist non-states and Islamic state actors simplifies the targeting problem. The West may die from a thousand cuts before it prevails in any series of debilitating guerrilla wars. Conversely, NATO still retains the conventional and nuclear superiority to make short work of state actors. If conflict is inevitable, why let a weaker, decentralized adversary dictate the terms of the fight?
Tactical simplicity often provides strategic clarity. Islam is not a monolith, nor is it a monoculture; nonetheless, for too many, it aspires to be both. These aspirations pit the irreconcilable paradigms of theofacism and democracy against each other. The coming clash will not be military, political, religious, or cultural; it will be all of these.