Islamic Executions in Paris

The Islamic terror attack on the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo humor magazine is neither an aberration of historic Islamic belief and practice (as many would like to believe) nor the beginning of a full-scale intifada against the French Republic (as some suspect).  What this incident demonstrates is an often underplayed aspect of Islam: its military/imperial nature.  This was not an act of religious vengeance, but rather one of imperial discipline.

Unlike its predecessor monotheistic faiths (Judaism and Christianity), Islam emerged as a militant conquering faith, defined in military and political terms.  The traditional start date given Islam, 622 C.E., marks the date of Muhammad’s flight (retreat) with his armed followers (the umma) to Yathrib (renamed Medina).  Islam attracted pagan Arabs in part because of its demanding martial nature, which appealed to hardened nomadic tribal fighters.  Islam itself means “submission,” and a Muslim is “one who submits,” as Arab warriors were accustomed to doing to a tribal chieftain or warlord. 

Mohammad fought for control of Medina and launched raids on Meccan caravans.  In 624 C.E., Mohammad led his forces against the Meccans and defeated them in the Battle of Badr.  The Meccans counter-attacked, and Mohammad and his followers continued to battle the Meccans and tribes in Medina until he defeated both by 630 C.E.  In the next couple of years he fought and overcame several other Arab clans that challenged Islam’s hegemony. 

Mohammad did not long survive his victories, dying in 632 C.E.  But upon his death, the caliphs (successors) launched a breathtaking series of military campaigns that by the early 8th century stretched from Spain to India.  From its founding, Islam’s identity was closely aligned with the idea of military conquest and political domination.

Thus, Islam began as much as a military/political movement as a religious one.  The first two Muslim dynasties were almost exclusively Arab.  Arab warlords saw jihad as a call not to convert the conquered, but to dominate them.  Conquered peoples were not always treated harshly (particularly if they were Jewish or Christian), but they were given second-class status (dhimmitude), placing them in a subservient status to the conquering Muslim Arabs. 

These purely Arab dynasties did not last long.  After about a century, they were gone.  As Islam developed, it spread beyond ethnic Arabs (becoming especially popular among Turkic tribes) and came to accept (or in some cases demand) converts.  But the idea of dhimmitude never went away, and it applied now to anyone not a Muslim. 

Later, in India for example, after the Islamic conquests, Muslims – mostly Turkish by that time – incorporated the caste structure into their dynastic systems.  This meant that for conquered Indians, converting to Islam would not in most cases improve one’s caste position.  Theoretically, under the tenets of Islam the religion, this should have happened.  But the political won out over the theological. 

The first obligation of a conquered people is to submit to its new ruler.  It goes without saying that submission abjures mockery of the ruler.  Indeed, in any generally authoritarian system, such action is rarely tolerated. 

For Westerners, it is hard to understand why Muslims don’t take satirical depictions of Mohammed with the same savoir faire with which Christians and Jews accept similar mockery of Jesus or Moses.  Some do, but it is fair to say that Muslims, even if they do not as a majority support violent actions against those who mock Mohammad, do not take such actions with the same good humor as other monotheists. 

The attack on Charlie Hebdo, then, is best seen as a political action, by a resurgent Islam that is seeking not revenge for a religious slight (as it is generally depicted and analyzed), but rather to enforce dhimmi status on what many Muslims believe is a subject people.  The brave talk in much of the Western press and political classes, that we will not be intimidated by a few religious extremists, is hollow so long as the mainstream press, European governments, and especially the Obama administration bend over backward to insist that Islam (at least as it has been practiced historically) is “the religion of peace” or “tolerant,” or that Muslims have legitimate grievances against Western societies.   

Perhaps people can argue in good faith over the modern meaning of jihad, but there is no question what it means historically.  And it is facile to claim that Islam is a tolerant religion, with regard to theology or practice.  The very name of the religion belies this.  Ridicule of Allah or his Prophet is not tolerated in Muslim lands.  Why would a Muslim living in France believe that it would be okay there? 

Of course, most offended Muslims in France or England or the United States don’t take violent illegal actions against those who disrespect Islam.  But treating their sensitivities differently from how we treat those of any other confessional group encourages rather than discourages resentment.  Islam is not a religion of the downtrodden, the poor, or the meek.  It is a religion of the warrior – Nidal Hasan, committer of “workplace violence” at Fort Hood, carried “Soldier of God” business cards.  Warriors support and defend the warlord/king.  That’s what the killers in Fort Hood and France were doing.  Not avenging grievances. 

This was not the first attack on Charlie Hebdo.  It was firebombed without casualties in 2011.  That perhaps was vengeance.  But the goal of the recent attack was not resolving a grievance.  It was submission of the dhimmi.  The killers carried out a precision execution of the Charlie Hebdo staff, in the same way a monarch executes those who would strike him.  It was not an act of anger, but one of cold deliberation, meant to be seen that way, so that the other dhimmi will clearly understand both the offense and the punishment. 

Bold talk in the Western press and in the halls of government today about facing down intimidation, when it is done without clear knowing statements pointing at the intimidator, rather than vague straw men like “international terror” or “radical Islam,” is false and useless. 

Islam will either undergo a reformation that will allow it to co-exist with Western civilization (as Egyptian President Sisi recently urged) or seek to conquer, as it has done since its genesis.  The West can either fight (politically and if necessary militarily) or submit.  After all the brave talk is done, Western Europeans will likely get back to the submitting part.  As long as President Obama is in office, and American politicians in concord with the mainstream media continue to favor Islam as a non-Western victim of imperialism, rather than an imperial entity in itself, so will the United States. 

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