February 5, 2011
Islam on a Collision Course
When he was asked why the vast majority of Egyptians, the heirs to a great pre-Islamic civilization, speak Arabic rather than Coptic, a leading Egyptian historian replied, "Because we had no Ferdowsi." That would be the tenth-century Persian poet and the author of the Shahnameh (Book of Kings) who revived not only the Persian language, but also Persian identity. Ferdowsi is known for his efforts to save the Persian language, and the history, from oblivion. It has been suggested that Ferdowsi is Iran's Homer:
Twice as long as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey taken together, the Shahnameh blends Iran's ancient myths and legends with accounts of major events in its past. Its 55,000 rhyming couplets chart the history of the Iranian world from its creation to the fall of the Persian Empire in the seventh century.
The cruel, successful subjugation of the Persian people by the Arab invaders whetted the latter's appetite for further conquests. They ventured elsewhere into the civilized world -- to Egypt, Syria, the Levant, Spain, and eventually to the gates of Vienna. Cruelty and terror were their instruments of policy.
Out of all the peoples conquered by the Arab invasion in the seventh century, the Persians are the only one who can boast of a major body of literature in the indigenous language that they were using before the conquest. The Persian language, culture, and traditions have been Iranians' shields against the Muslim hordes and their barbaric Islamic ideology for the past 1,400 years.
In English, this language is historically known as "Persian," though some Persian-speakers migrating to the West continue to use inaccurately and inappropriately the word "Farsi" to identify their language in English. Farsi is encountered in some linguistic literature as a name for the language, used both by Iranians and by foreign authors. But in fact, Farsi is the Arabized form of the native word Parsi. Due to a lack of the p phoneme in standard Arabic, the word Farsi was born. The Academy of Persian Language and Literature has declared that the name "Persian" is more appropriate, as it has the longer tradition in the Western languages and better expresses the role of the language as a mark of cultural and national continuity.
The enumeration of the influences of Iranian civilization on world cultures is not the primary objective of this author and is out of the scope of the present article. It is important, however, to demonstrate the salient point of how Islam has been on a collision course with great ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Persia, and many more from its inception up to now. Just as it brutally conquered and bitterly stifled one of the fountainheads of progress in ancient times, Islam remains a very real threat to Western civilization and to any progressive civil society in the 21st century. It is virulently capable of great destruction and retardation of minds, as we have seen in the past three decades in Iran and elsewhere. Any and all enlightened citizens of this planet who care about freedom, human rights, and progress should take this clear and present danger very seriously.
Egypt is one of the crown jewels of the ancient world, rich in culture and filled with illustrious antiquities. Unlike the Persians, the Egyptians became completely Arabized and have little or no nostalgia for their ancient past. Islam has dominated the Egyptians' lives. Pew's Global Attitude Project poll shows that the Egyptians want more Islam in politics.
At the time of the Muslim conquest, the population of Egypt was made up of Christian Copts and estimated to have been about nine million at the time of the invasion of 641 AD. Today, Copts form 15% to 18% of Egypt's population. The Arab conquerors imposed a special tax, known as jizya, on the Christians, who acquired the status of dhimmis. Egyptian converts to Islam, in turn, were relegated to the status of mawali.
Early on, the Prophet Muhammad explicitly said, "There is no compulsion in religion." He further confirmed that admonition: "For you, your religion; and for me, my religion." But as soon as he gathered enough power, Muhammad violated those exhortations and set out to force his belief and way of life on others at the point of the sword. Further, he conveniently ignored his own teaching by unsheathing his sword upon "the people of the book" -- Jews and Christians. He spared them death only if they converted or consented to pay the backbreaking religious taxes of jizya.
I believe that people in the West and in America are beginning to see the real face of Islam and the danger it poses to secular democratic societies. In the past, Islam succeeded in largely displacing the magnificent Persian civilization with a primitive, myopic, discriminatory system of belief. Presently, once again and with renewed vigor, Islam is aiming to destroy another civilization -- the Judeo-Christian civilization, a civilization that constitutes a living falsification of the primitive and backward Islamic creed. Islamofascism presents a clear and present danger -- not only to Western civilization, but to the entire civilized world, as is evidenced by the ruling Islamists in places such as Iran, the Sudan, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia.
With the current Egyptian uprising, the very notion of rapidly advancing 1.5 billion human beings from illiteracy and barbaric 7th-century mentality up to 21st-century Western standards of democracy is an utter impossibility. Over 60% of the "Muslim world" (excluding Iran) is illiterate and only Quran-trained. The task is insurmountable, in my opinion. I believe first and foremost that we must free the Iranian people, draw them back into our Western civilization, and declare Islam a defunct ideology that has simply failed in Iran.
While the Egyptian demonstrators are as much against Hosni Mubarak as they are against his tyrannical regime, they don't mind having sharia law injected into their day-to-day lives. On the contrary, the 2009 Iranian protests were just as much against the Islamic Republic as they were against Shi'a Islam. In fact, much of the protesting was against Islam itself. People have experienced what a primitive and defective system of belief Islam is, and they aim to abandon it for good. In fact, millions of Iranians representing the entire spectrum of society are demanding change from the repressive Islamic theocracy to an open secular democracy.
Young Iranians, particularly the urban educated Iranians, are among the most ardent believers in democracy in the world. Many view America as the country that holds the best hope for spreading and protecting the high ideals of democracy. In a sense, many Iranians feel a closer affinity with a democratic Israel than with all the neighboring Arab Muslim dictatorships. Although Islam was imposed on Iran some 1,400 years ago, Iranians deeply value their own ancient non-Arab identity and have never fully surrendered to the Arab culture. During the bloodletting war initiated by the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein against Iran, all Arab states sided with the "Butcher of Baghdad" against Iran. Israel was the only Middle Eastern country that remained neutral and in fact helped Iran in the struggle. We Iranians don't forget our friends, and we also remember our enemies.
While I'm worried that the Muslim Brotherhood will take over this quasi-popular revolt in Egypt, I am also hopeful that the Iranian patriots will see the Egyptian demonstrations and be inspired to make yet another try at toppling the loathed mullahcracy in Iran.