Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"Islamophobia" and Islamic radicalism

I have previously blogged about the question of when the critique of politicized radical Islam turns to anti-Muslim bigotry.

Now, I have two recent articles on the topic: my column in Reason, which covers some of the same ground as the blogposts, and a Boston Globe column on Oriana Falacci, recently profiled in The New Yorker.

Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there has been much debate about the threat that Islamic extremism poses to the West—and about when concern over such extremism turns to anti-Muslim bigotry.

Such labels as "bigotry" and "Islamophobia" are often indiscriminately slapped on all outspoken critics of fanatical Muslim radicalism. But the real thing does exist.

For an example, one can turn to a profile of Italian writer and journalist Oriana Fallaci by Margaret Talbot in a recent issue of The New Yorker. Fallaci, who rose to fame with her fearless reportage from danger zones and her gutsy interviews of famous and infamous public figures, has more recently drawn attention—and, in the eyes of many people, become infamous herself—with two polemics against the Islamic threat, The Rage and the Pride and The Force of Reason.

Fallaci, who is currently facing legal charges of defaming Islam in Italy, has many defenders who describe her as a passionate anti-Jihadist unfairly accused of racism. Yet her recent writings do have an unmistakable whiff of racism, indiscriminately lumping together radical Islamic terrorists and Somali vendors of fake designer bags who urinate on the street corners of Italy's great cities. Journalist Christopher Hitchens, himself a strong polemicist against radical Islamic fundamentalism, has described The Rage and the Pride in The Atlantic magazine as "a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam." He has noted that Fallaci's diatribes have all the marks of other screeds about filthy, disease-ridden, sexually threatening aliens.

The New Yorker profile reinforces this impression. Talbot, whom some conservative bloggers have accused of smearing Fallaci either out of liberal soft-headedness or even out of envy toward Fallaci's passion and moral conviction, actually treats her subject with a lot of respect. She is well aware, for instance, that Fallaci's concern about the deep-seated problems in much of Islamic culture today, including in some immigrant Muslim communities in Europe (the treatment of women, the resistance to modernization, the religious intolerance, and anti-Semitism), is amply justified. But some of Fallaci's own words as quoted by Talbot are quite damning.

About Muslim immigration, she tells Talbot: "The tolerance level was already surpassed fifteen or twenty years ago... when the Left let the Muslims disembark on our coasts by the thousands." She rejects the idea that there can be a moderate Islam or moderate Muslims: "Of course there are exceptions. Also, considering the mathematical calculation of probabilities, some good Muslims must exist. I mean Muslims who appreciate freedom and democracy and secularism. But... good Muslims are few." She claims, in a rather blatant distortion of history, that since its birth Islam has had a unique propensity among all religions to slaughter or enslave "all those who live differently."

The planned building of a new mosque and Islamic center near Siena enrages Fallaci so much that she promises Talbot that, if she is alive at the time of its opening, she will blow it up: "I do not want to see this mosque—it's very near my house in Tuscany. I do not want to see a twenty-four-metre minaret in the landscape of Giotto. When I cannot even wear a cross or carry a Bible in their country!"

These are ugly words, based on the bizarre assumption that the West must respond to religious intolerance in many Muslim countries with religious intolerance of our own.

Despite its manifest problems, Islamic culture today is not monolithic. There are regions, such as Bosnia, where the Muslim populations are modern and moderate; there are progressive and reformist forces within Islam. In the United States, where the social and economic structures are far more flexible and more conducive to the integration of immigrants than in most of Europe, Muslim radicalism has not been a serious problem. (In the United States, all Muslim protests against the publication of the infamous Danish Mohammed cartoons have been nonviolent.)

The problems posed for the West, from within and without, by radical Islamic fundamentalism need to be honestly addressed. But if this response turns to anti-Muslim bigotry—which on some "anti-jihadist" websites turns to defending Slobodan Milosevic's genocide against Bosnian Muslims —it will leave us with little reason for hope. Fallaci's passion ultimately leads to a dead-end.


I have to say that on this topic, I find myself saying something I never expected: I agree with James "I Root for Hurricanes" Wolcott, who takes issue with some pro-war bloggers' defense of Fallaci. It gives me no joy to say this. I have always admired Fallaci for her very real bravery and the sheer power of her personality as a magnificent eccentric, an emancipated woman of a mold that predates modern feminism. But many of her comments in the New Yorker article -- which I believe gives Fallaci's achievements and courage their due -- are rather vile,, not just about Muslims but gays and Mexicans; and there is no way of getting around that.

I also happen to agree with Wolcott on this story. A mentally ill man who happens to be of Muslim background and to have a Muslim name shoots a man in a movie theater (then puts down the gun and waits to surrender to the police), and some conservative bloggers jump to the conclusion that it was a terrorist act (or "A Jihad of One"). This despite the lack of the tiniest shred of evidence that the shooting was religiously or politically motivated, or in any way different from other violent acts by other troubled individuals. (The real issue in this particular incident, as a Baltimore Sun report indicates, may be the difficulty of forcing a person into psychiatric treatment unless they have been formally recognized as a threat to themselves or others -- a threshold that may be impossible to met until the person actually does commit a violent act.) This is simply wrong, not to use a stronger word.

By the way, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch has replied to my columns and has also challenged me to a debate, in which I have no intention of engaging. I will, however, reply to two points.

On the subject of Fallaci's failure to distinguish between Islamic terroists and " Somali vendors of fake designer bags who urinate on the street corners of Italy's great cities," Spencer has this to say:

There are several problems with this. One is that the Somali vendors and other Muslims in the West have not made any serious attempt to root jihad terrorists out of their ranks. Another is that such people as Young's Somali vendor do exist, and while they are not members of terrorist groups, they are manifesting disrespect for the country and culture to which they have come. Is Fallaci wrong to be indignant about that? Such disrespect, of course, stems from the same sources as jihadism: contempt for the infidel and for jahili society, the non-Islamic society of ignorance and impurity. Thus one feeds into the other.
Point one: If Spencer or Fallaci know of any instances of terrorists in the ranks of Somali street vendors, let's have them.

Point two -- public urination as a mini-jihad -- doesn't really merit an answer, but I'll answer anyway. Apparently, in the world according to Spencer and Fallaci, peeing on street corners and in other public places is a behavior peculiar to Muslim immigrants. (Has either of them ever been to New York?) As it happens, I have travelled in Italy a lot and have seen a lot of the Somali street vendors. On two occasions, I have seen men urinating in the street. Neither of them was a Somali or a Muslim.

Spencer also challenges my assertion that "Christian doctrine for centuries mandated Christian rule by force," and writes:

She should produce such a doctrine, but she can't, because it doesn't exist.
Oh yeah? Well, how about the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), which codified the idea of heresy as a high crime? See, also, this article in First Things in which conservative Catholic Michael Novak discusses Thomas Aquinas' view of heresy as a capital crime. (Aquinas recommends toleration for the religious practices of Muslims and Jews, but so does Islam with regard to Jews and Christians.) Novak quotes historian David Abulafia on the religious codes of the time:

Heresy, indeed, is presented as treason. Those who deny the articles of the Catholic faith implicitly deny the claims of rulers to derive their authority from God. They are enemies not merely of God and of the souls of individuals, but of the social fabric. Their questioning of religious truth involves a questioning of the monarch's command over the law; as enemies of the law, they are its legitimate targets, and the position of primacy accorded to legislation against heretics is thus entirely proper.

Sounds a lot like "Christian rule by force" to me.

According to Spencer, I'm a "dhimmi," a term traditionally used to denote Christians and Jews who lived under Islamic rule and enjoyed certain rights but were relgated to second-class status (and nowadays used by certain "anti-jihadists" to denote any non-Muslim they regard as too soft on Islam). Well, considering JihadWatch.com puts Bernard Lewis, the eminent historian of Islam who warned about the danger of Islamic radicalism all the way back in 1990, in the same category, I think I'm in good company.

Spencer wants to debate me, apparently, in order to demonstrate that he knows more about Islamic teachings and history than I do. And he probably does. However, I know bigotry when I see it, and Spencer's argument about public urination as a manifestation of the Muslim peril seals the deal as far as I'm concerned. I notice that JihadWatch.com issued no invitation to a debate to Bernard Lewis when targeting him for their smear. For Spencer vs. Lewis, I would definitely tune in.

So I won't be debating Spencer on his site, though I have to say I was highly amused by one of his commenters who suggested that my deplorable views on "Islamophobia" are due to the fact that (1) I'm a non-Jew (which would come as a big surprise to my Israeli relatives -- and, by the way, isn't this argument merely a reversal of the idea that Jewish commentators can't be fair when writing about Islam or the Middle East?), and (2) I'm a woman, and a lot of women secretly yearn for male power, and hence I am probably drawn to the male dominance represented by Islam. (Which is so true.)

Meanwhile, for the scary reality of Islamic radicalism and intolerance, see this collection of excerpts from textbooks produced by our friends the Saudis. (Hat tip: Joe Gandelman.)

And here is an interesting article on the History News Network by Michael Furnish, assistant professor of Islamic history at Georgia Perimeter College in Dunwoody, GA. Furnish castigates several politically correct myths about Islam, including the myth that Islam is an essentially and profoundly peaceful religion hijacked by terrorists. He notes that violent radicalism does have roots in Muslim theology; but he does not deny the existence of other, more peaceful strands in Islam. Writes Furnish:

Islam is where Christianity was before the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and then the Enlightenment led the West to divorce religion and state, thereby removing (mostly) the threat of religious-based warfare. As a fellow monotheist with Muslims, I pray that the moderate strands within Islam win out over the more fundamentalist ones, allowing that civilization to follow suit. And for we in the West to help with that, we need to open our eyes to the reality of the harsher aspects of Islam and Islamic history. Anything else is simple—and dangerous—self-deception.
Very true; but honesty about the harsher and darker aspects of Islam and Islamic history is not the same as tarring all of Islam with the same brush and denying that the moderate strands even exist.






45 comments:

Rainsborough said...

Bravo!
Coulter, Fallaci, and the right-wing bloggers to whom Ms. Young alludes say things about Muslims and Islam which are false, scurrilous, and racist in the sense that they attribute to Muslims an essential character. These things also, as it happens, serve to confirm what Islamist recruiting sergeants say about the West and western values and about Christendom, and thereby to aid their efforts. Purporting to warn us of the menace, these bigots do the devil's work and only increase the dangers we confront.

Revenant said...

things about Muslims and Islam which are false, scurrilous, and racist in the sense that they attribute to Muslims an essential character.

Islam is not a race, it is a religion, and to a lesser extent a culture. There is nothing morally wrong or bigoted in attributing an essential character to either a religion or a culture. Religions and cultures usually DO have an essential character -- that's how we identify them as being distinct from other religions and cultures.

Fallaci just happens to be incorrect in her appraisal of Muslims, and may also be influenced by the fact that the Muslims she is exposed to usually ARE a different race than her.

Purporting to warn us of the menace, these bigots do the devil's work and only increase the dangers we confront

And women who wear skimpy clothes do the devil's work of causing rape, I suppose?

Committing murder because someone insulted you is always wrong. Committing murder because someone from the same culture as your victim insulted you is even worse. It is, therefore, ridiculous to attempt to blame harsh language for murder. The fault lies entirely with the murderers, who lack the moral values necessary for living in a free society.

Joan said...

Point one: If Spencer or Fallaci know of any instances of terrorists in the ranks of Somali street vendors, let's have them.

Point two -- public urination as a mini-jihad -- doesn't really merit an answer, but I'll answer anyway. Apparently, in the world according to Spencer and Fallaci, peeing on street corners and in other public places is a behavior peculiar to Muslim immigrants. (Has either of them ever been to New York?) As it happens, I have travelled in Italy a lot and have seen a lot of the Somali street vendors. On two occasions, I have seen men urinating in the street. Neither of them was a Somali or a Muslim.

Cathy, if these are the best rebuttals you can come up with, it's a good thing you have declined to debate.

Your first response is off-point, and I'm sure you know it. The point was, whether or not the street vendors themselves are terrorists, the vendors are part of the Muslim community that harbors and in some cases encourages terrorists. They are doing nothing to out existing terrorists and prevent the recruiting of new ones. In this way, they are part of the problem.

Your second response is simply ridiculous -- your anecdotal experiences of public urination in Italy are supposed to carry any weight? I agree with Fallaci that such disrespectful acts are harmful to the fabric of society, anywhere they occur, either in NYC or in Italy. Just because you've never seen a Muslim in Italy peeing on the street doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

...and just because Fallaci has seen it doesn't mean they're the only ones who do it (indeed, she made no such accusation) -- but again, they're part of the problem.

I won't defend Fallaci's comments re blowing up mosques and all the rest of it -- there is no defense possible. That said, you need to sharpen your debating skills if you're going to tackle a subject like this. You're not doing yourself any favors offering such weak replies.

mabman said...

I suspect that the average Somali street vendor is trying his or her best to earn a living, stay out of trouble and perhaps raise a family. They may not be doing anything to "out" terrorists, but then again, would we if we were in their place? Interfering with violent people is a good way to end up dead, and no one knows that better than a Somali. They aren't part of any valid argument for or against Islam as a whole - they're simply convenient straw people for Fallaci to rant about.

Yes, public urination in cities is disgusting and shouldn't be condoned, but as I suspect you know, that wasn't Fallaci's point at all. She was using limited personal observations to make sweeping, specious generalizations about practictioners of a major religion. Cathy's response is exactly as pertinent as Fallaci's original comments, simply by showing that this entire line of "reasoning" is profoundly stupid, no matter which side you take.

Anonymous said...

There is a germ of truth in the claim that "since its birth Islam has had a unique propensity among all religions to slaughter or enslave 'all those who live differently.'"

Historically, religious intolerance within a polity is the norm, not the exception; Socrates, after all, was tried for heresy. However, conquest of neighbors to impose a religion by force (as opposed to an imvasion for other reasons merely blessed by the gods) is the exception; the innovator who came up with the concept first was Muhammad.

The idea, of course, did then spread to followers of other religions -- but only after significant contact with Islam. Half of Christendom had been conquered by jihad long before the first-ever Crusade; the conquistadores who spread Christianity by force in the Americas were from a Spain that didn't finish throwing off Muslim rule until 1492.

The result is that jihad would logically be harder to eradicate from its native Islam than from religions like Christianity, where it is a borrowed concept at odds with the basic doctrines of its scriptures.

Rainsborough said...

Fallaci says:
"Of course there are exceptions. Also, considering the mathematical calculation of probabilities, some good Muslims must exist. I mean Muslims who appreciate freedom and democracy and secularism. But... good Muslims are few." She claims, in a rather blatant distortion of history, that since its birth Islam has had a unique propensity among all religions to slaughter or enslave "all those who live differently."

I'm not wedded to the term "racist," which is abused and overused. But I am saying that Fallaci and others attribute to Islam and to Muslims an essence which misses the unsurprising diversity of the movement. "Muslim = evil" is in their book true enough for all practical purposes, including, in some of their books, being possessed of fundamental human rights against mistreatment of various sorts.

This characterization is false and scurillous.

This broad brush also smears those Muslims who are potential opponents of the Islamists. My assumption is that the smear angers them and increases their hostility to the West and their willingness to accept or tolerate Islamism.

George Bush in his public pronouncements has been careful to draw the same distinction I have. Like me, he condemns murder but does not number murderousness among the attributes of Islam.

Revenant said...

She claims, in a rather blatant distortion of history, that since its birth Islam has had a unique propensity among all religions to slaughter or enslave "all those who live differently."

Well, calling it a unique propensity is certainly false. Claiming that Islam as historically been much more inclined to slaughter and enslave those who think differently, on the other hand, is arguably true. And claiming that the teachings of Muhammed favor slaughter and enslavement more than those of any other major world religion is certainly true.

It is also worth considering that when someone refers to "Islam", the are not necessarily referring to all the religion practiced by people who call themselves Muslims. In many cases they are referring only to those people who practice the religion revealed to Muhammed. For example, Indonesia ostensibly has something like 170 million Muslims, but most of them practice forms of Islam that Muhammed would have condemned and beheaded them for. Saying "Muslims believe in conquering their neighbors and converting them to Islam" is much like saying "Jews don't work on Saturdays" -- while perhaps false for most of the ostensible practitioners of the religion, it is true for most of the ones who follow the revealed will of their God.

My assumption is that the smear angers them and increases their hostility to the West and their willingness to accept or tolerate Islamism

I would suggest that if mere harsh language is enough to encourage a person to accept and tolerate Islamist murderers, that person cannot have honestly thought the murder of innocents by Islamists was wrong in the first place. In other words, the only Muslims Fallaci might drive to terrorism are those for whom her remarks were correct in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Yes, lets all support Muslims and Islam and to hell with the poor non-Muslims who live in Islamic dominated countries who suffer things we will never know in the west (let's hope our great-grandchildren don't as well), terrible things!
How about putting a miniscule amount of the energy you spend defending Muslims on that topic Ms. Young!
Here's some info about non-Muslims plight for the last 10-20 years in Indonesia to get you started: (Warning: Graphic photos)
http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Senate/9388/index2.html

And remember, Indonesia is one of the places in the Islamic world that non-Muslims have it better!
The truth is that Islam as a political and social ideology is sick and flawed, look wherever Islam takes over, it turns into a sort of hell on earth...especially for those who do not accept Islam, whether they be moderate Muslims or non-Muslims. The truth is that Muhammed was a 7th century warlord, pedophile, theif and caravan raider...this the truth, whether it offends Muslims or not is beside the point. And if you, Ms. Young, wish to silence my criticism of Islam and Muhammed and those who see to be like Muhammed, then try, but the truth is the truth and people know in their heart what Islam is and what is does to Muslims.

Anonymous said...

Reading this main post is like being taught how the square peg will fit the round hole, its makes no sense

standardised denial of historic and continued jihad through the muslim world i'm afraid

and i would sincerly beg the author to read up a little bit more about islam before entering the fray against those that have that knowledge

Luke said...

Cathy,

An American economist once observed that the world is a big place and you can find fifty examples of almost anything. Anti-muslim bigotry would seem to be a case in point, at least among public figures.

As for moderate Muslims who publically speak out against radical Islam, there number is also vanishingly small, at least based on all the news reports that I have been able to find.

Why have there have been no truly massive demonstrations by Muslims -- including American Muslims -- against Osama bin Laden or Islamic terrorism in general?

Of course this may be because such people are afraid to speak out or be seen publically demonstrating in this manner. This would be pefectly understandable if their Muslim identity is more nominal than real, which is no doubt the case with the vast majority -- the silent majority? -- of so-called moderate Muslims.

Why risk your life for something you don't even care very much about?

In other words, the definition of a moderate Muslim would seem to be, with a few exceptions (Sufis for example), a Muslim who doesn't take her religion very seriously.

But the problem is with those who do take their religion very seriously. Why is that? Well, my guess is that it has something to do with the fact that the founder of their religion was a gangster in his relations to the outside world.

It is of course true that organized Christianity has sometimes been violently intolerant to the same degree as Islam. But the religious authorities of the Catholic church, for example, were never able to point to the example of Jesus to justify such behavior. That makes a world difference wouldn't you say?

The bottom line is that we need to distinguish between Muslims (ie, people who happen to have been born in countries in which the official religion is Islam) and the religion of Islam itself, which is a system of beliefs and practices.

The word "Islamophobia" confounds this distinction, making it easy to tar those who have a rational fear of the religion of Mohammad as anti-Muslim bigots.

In other words, your post would have been better titled "Anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamic radicalism." Of course then it would not have been so controversial, and the number of comments would have been smaller.

Thanks for listening. I know your intentions are good.

jack said...

Very true; but honesty about the harsher and darker aspects of Islam and Islamic history is not the same as tarring all of Islam with the same brush and denying that the moderate strands even exist.

Moderate "Muslims" there are for sure as they choose to ignore as you call the harsher or darker aspects. Moderate "Islam" is no such animal as it cannot ignore dismiss or even reform. Ask a Muslim please.

Revenant said...

Why have there have been no truly massive demonstrations by Muslims -- including American Muslims -- against Osama bin Laden or Islamic terrorism in general?

I'm skeptical of the existance of the alleged "nice Muslim majority", too, but what would be the point in protesting against something that is already illegal? You don't see massive anti-abortion-clinic-bombings in the USA, either, not because Americans like blowing up abortion clinics, but because the people blowing them up are already being hunted down.

The only point of a protest would be encouraging pro-terrorism governments to become anti-terrorism. Assuming for a minute that such protests would have any effect at all (have they ever?), no terror-supporting government allows freedom of assembly.

One thing about "moderate Muslims", though -- I'm not too enthusiastic about "moderate" Islam, if "conservative" means "wants to kill me". What I want is liberal, reform, namby-pamby Islam -- not some form of Islam that tries to strike a balance between "living in the 21st century" and "drowning the infidels in a river of their own blood". :)

Synova said...

-- I'm not too enthusiastic about "moderate" Islam, if "conservative" means "wants to kill me". What I want is liberal, reform, namby-pamby Islam --

Yeah, what he said. :-)

Kab bin Ashraf said...

Cathy,

You state:

"Aquinas recommends toleration for the religious practices of Muslims and Jews, but so does Islam with regard to Jews and Christians"

False, on any reasonable definition of toleration. Canonical, mainstream Islam, following the final policy toward Jews and Christians laid down in Sura 9, which is enshrined in Islamic tradition and law (and has been so for nearly 1400 years), legislates obligatory communal violent jihad against Jews and Christians until they accept (a) Islam---they convert to Islam and agree to pay zakat, etc., or failing (a), they accept (b) dhimmitude and pay the jizya head tax to the Muslim authorities and agree to live under Islamic law. If they refuse to accept the conditions of dhimmitude, and refuse to accept Islam, they must be fought and killed, and the women and children are to be enslaved (if they do not happen to be killed during the jihad). Muslim men are permitted to have sex with the captive/slave women.

Nearly all Muslims believe, or think they should believe, the Koran. (The exceptions are the radical reformers who admit to some problems in the Koran...these people generally live under the threat of being assassinated). Belief in the whole Koran is a basic tenet of Islam (2:2). The Koran's final policy is not one of tolerance.

9:29. "Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."

Hundreds of verses condemn non-Muslims to the hell-fires.

98:6-7. “Lo! those who disbelieve, among the People of the Scripture and the idolaters, will abide in fire of hell. They are the worst of created beings. (And) lo! those who believe and do good works are the best of created beings.”

[Note, Allah does not accept the good works of non-Muslims. Nothing can avail them. Islam is the only acceptable religion 3:85]

This policy could be dismissed as hateful superstitious nonsense, but unfortunately canonical Islam is not merely a "religion" but is also a political, legal, militaristic system which demands that Allah's laws be implemented and enforced on earth.

In spite of what canonical mainstream Islam dictates, there are moderate Muslims and Spencer has never denied that. But moderate Muslims have had 1400 years to reform their religion, to remove from canonical Islam such features as the death penalties for apostasy, blasphemy (or any expressions deemed threatening to Islam), adultery, and homosexuality; they have failed to abolish the institution of dhimmitude; and have failed to abolish the policy of religious-ideologically motivated warfare. They have also failed to abolish slavery, womens' subjugation, and laws that permit rape under various circumstances. They have failed to deal with the hundreds of verses of hatred toward non-Muslims. Clearly, we need to pursue the task of directing hard but fair criticism at Islam until the appropriate changes occur, whether moderate Muslims are up to the task or not.


Rainsborough,

You're painting with a rather broad (and indeed, libelous) brush yourself:

"...the right-wing bloggers to whom Ms. Young alludes say things about Muslims and Islam which are false, scurrilous, and racist..."

I challenge you to find a single direct quote from Spencer himself (the main target of Ms. Young's most attacks, to which you refer) about Muslims or Islam that is false, scurrilous, or racist. Racism is a pretty serious charge. (It seems to me from your posts that you are not sure what constitutes racism). Either substantiate your charges against Spencer, or do the honourable thing and retract it and submit an apology to Spencer.

Rainsborough said...

Does Islam (the Quran and other authoritative scriptures and writings and pronouncements) sanction the killing of the innocent and the use of state power to conquer non-Muslim countries and to discriminate against non-Muslim residents?

Spencer says it does. Many Muslims say it doesn't. Spencer says these Muslims aren't orthodox. Some of them say they are and some agree they aren't.

Though Spencer says liberal and moderate Muslims start any debate with radicals at a grave disadvantage because the authoritiative texts are against them, they believe otherwise.

But none of this much matters. What matters is whether they want to kill us and whether those who don't provide support to those who do.

What matters is how many Muslims believe, as the recent Pew poll puts it, that "violence against civilian targets in order to defend Islam can be justified." Given many respondents' understanding of "to defend," the numbers are disturbingly high, adding up to to hundreds of millions.

But they are also quite volatile over time and quite variable between countries. (And the percentage is highest in Nigeria, which suggests better estimates of real danger are possible.)

And majorities in every country surveyed answer "rarely" or "never."

I draw three conclusions.
1. A majority of Muslims don't favor killing us or forcibly converting us.
2. Even if they did, their capabilities to effect such a desire are limited.
3. Assertions by westerners that any true Muslim just must favor killing us or that Islam is an essentially evil religion are inaccurate and counterproductive, tending to increase the number of Muslims who want to kill us or who support them.

Revenant said...

Does Islam (the Quran and other authoritative scriptures and writings and pronouncements) sanction the killing of the innocent

By western standards, yes. From an Islamic perspective, no. What Islam does redefine the concept of "innocent" to, for example, not include non-Christian/Jewish people who refuse to convert to Islam. Hence, as an atheist, I am subject to death under Islamic law.

and the use of state power to conquer non-Muslim countries

Islam supports the use of Islamic power against non-Muslims. Governments can either support this, avoid interfering in it, or oppose it; in the latter case the government is considered an enemy of Islam.

and to discriminate against non-Muslim residents?

Yes, non-Muslims are considered second-class citizens, required to pay tribute to the Islamic authority, and forbidden from attempting to spread their faith among Muslims.

Many Muslims say it doesn't.

One should never underestimate the ability of religious people to find in their holy books only those ideas which they want to obey. Civilized society frowns on many of the ideas in the ancient holy books of the various world religions, hence followers of those religions frequently ignore the contents of those books when it suits them. Note, for example, how many Christians have somehow convinced themselves that the god who taught that homosexuals were to be murdered on sight now has no problem with gay people at all.

Really, though, if you have any doubts on the subject, shouldn't the fact that Muhammed is (a) almost universally considered the perfect Muslim and (b) on record as having led conquering armies to impose Islam through military force, enough in the way of empirical evidence?

And majorities in every country surveyed answer "rarely" or "never."

Do you have a link to those polls? Because, for example, I can think of at least a few polls I've seen suggesting that majorities of several Arab Muslim nations support the Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. For that matter, how is it reassuring to hear that most Muslims think the murder of innocent civilians in the name of their religion is "rarely" justified? Civilized modern people fall strictly into the "never" category, thank you very much.

Assertions by westerners that any true Muslim just must favor killing us or that Islam is an essentially evil religion are inaccurate

I don't see how that follows from any of your assertions. Just because most of the world's Muslims don't follow the religion's teachings very well doesn't mean those teachings don't exist. Few Christians turn the other cheek when attacked -- but Jesus nonetheless told them to.

Rainsborough said...

Have Islamic nations initiated more wars than others in recent years? And if they did, was it for religious reasons? Iraq invaded Kuwait, but not for religious reasons. Egypt twice initiated war against Israel. (Clearly in 1973, virtually in 1967.) But neither war was begun by an Islamic regime for Islamic reasons.

Where are the jihadist wars Mohammed calls for? None come to my mind, but it's aging--which have I forgotten?

I know that the Ottomans conquered Moldavia in 1538. Has an Islamic regime won one since?

Are to worry that gleams of restoration of the Caliphate in their eyes, they are on the march again?

For my part, it's hard to choose whether those bloggers and Pentagon planners who envisage the Caliphate restored or the Islamists hiding in caves in Waziristan, planting IEDs in Iraq planting bombs on Madrid subways who dream they've taken the first step--it's hard to choose who has a more distorted perception of what we should fear.

Rainsborough said...

http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=253

But I've no doubt that in the context of the Israeli-Palestinean dispute, Muslim support for killing the innocent rises. Of course, their belief that Israeli forces kill more innocent Palestinians than do Palestinians innocent Israelis is probably numerically correct.

I find what you said about us westerners absolute abhorrence of kiling the innocent rather odd in light of Bill O'Reilly's recent citation of Malmedy as somehow suggesting that our GIs and Marines should be forgiven for their deeds. (I forbear to mention certain officeholders whose understanding of the law of war tends to blur distinctions I regard as both right and useful.)

My concern is with Islamists who will attempt again to kill thousands of Americans, or again plant bombs in Bali or Madrid, and with those who would support them in their endeavors. If the Quran sanctions their endeavors, that would be unfortunate. I believe that a majority of Muslims hold otherwise, and want to do what I can to increase their number.

I trust we are agreed with the president that whatever the essence of Islam, it is not evil.

John Sobieski said...

Cathy,

Why don't you read "The Legacy of Jihad" by Andrew Bostom? Have you read that or anything by Trifklovic?

Have you read the Traveler?

If you don't have 'time' to read the Quran, read the Cliff's notes -

http://www.amberpawlik.com/IslamonTrial.html

I know it is hard for a liberal leftist to overcome denial. It takes time to flush all the lies out of the brain.

Hey look at what Servier said about Muslims in the early 1900s before PC/MC bound and gagged rational thought about Islam =
http://musulmanbook.blogspot.com

Revenant said...

Have Islamic nations initiated more wars than others in recent years?

I'd like to point out that, much as the atheist in me would love to believe otherwise, being devoutly religious doesn't mean you're stupid. Virtually all the Muslim nations of the world are located adjacent to nations which are either (a) more powerful than them (e.g. Russia, China, India), (b) under the protection of the United States (e.g. Israel), or (c) already Muslim. So the fact that Islamic nations haven't initiated any wars of religious conquest lately is hardly surprising.

Egypt twice initiated war against Israel. (Clearly in 1973, virtually in 1967.) But neither war was begun by an Islamic regime for Islamic reasons.

You forgot the 1948 war, which also involved various other Muslim states. Syria, Jordan, Lebannon, and Iraq also invaded Israel at that time. Which subsequent events you wish to blame on Israel and/or those nations isn't worth arguing over, as a case could be made that either side is the aggressor.

But in any case, I strongly disagree with your assertion that those wars were fought for non-Islamic reasons. The Muslim hostility to Israel makes no sense except on religious grounds. Yes, Egypt et al have used attacks on Israel as a way to increase popular support and deflect internal pressure, but it only works because their people are Muslims.

those bloggers and Pentagon planners who envisage the Caliphate restored

I'm not sure what bloggers you're talking about, as few people fear the restoration of the Caliphate. What we fear is those people who would like to restore it. They can't possibly hope to succeed, but they could kill a lot of people trying.

I find what you said about us westerners absolute abhorrence of kiling the innocent rather odd in light of Bill O'Reilly's recent citation of Malmedy as somehow suggesting that our GIs and Marines should be forgiven for their deeds.

I have no idea what you're talking about, since I don't watch O'Reilly. If he said killing innocent people was good then he's an evil man. If he said soldiers should be forgiven for mistakenly killing innocents then that's something else entirely. I would also suggest that if the majority of the Muslim world is as rational and peaceful as Bill O'Reilly, we're all in a hell of a lot of trouble. :)

http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=253

A few notes about that poll:

(1): Less than half of Egyptian and Jordanian Muslims, and less than a third of Nigerian Muslims, believe that violence against innocent civilians in defense of Islam is never justified.
(2): As recently as a year ago, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden enjoyed majority support in at least a few Muslim nations. The decline in support is likely due to AQ's having killed mostly Iraqi Muslims in the past year.

I trust we are agreed with the president that whatever the essence of Islam, it is not evil

I think the essence of Islam is hostile to human freedom -- most major religions have this problem, but it is the worst by far in Islam. So no, I don't think I'm willing to concede that the essence of Islam is not evil. Which doesn't mean that Muslims are necessarily evil, of course -- but I dont draw a distinction between stripping me of my freedom for the sheer evil glee of doing so, and stripping me of my freedom because God loves me and wants me to live a certain way.

Rainsborough said...

I was mistaken, the last Muslim conquest in Europe and its environs wasn’t Moldavia in 1538, it was Crete in 1669 (followed by the rout of the siege Vienna in 1683, after which it was downhill for Islam).

According to her publisher, the premier historian of the “loss” of Crete finds “that that no sharp divide separated the Venetian and Ottoman eras because the Cretans were already part of a world where Latin Christians, Muslims, and Eastern Orthodox Christians had been intermingling for several centuries, particularly in the area of commerce.” But she does find that Eastern Orthodoxy was strengthened at the expense of Latin Christianity.

It seems that even seventeenth-century Muslims failed to read the Quran correctly.

Revenant said...

It seems that even seventeenth-century Muslims failed to read the Quran correctly

I'm not sure why you're equating "got their ass kicked by Europe" with "peaceful", but whatever.

But yes, you are correct that the Muslim minority in Crete, which would have been crushed by the Christian majority had it caused trouble, mysteriously forgot about that whole "Islamic superiority" thing. :)

Rainsborough said...

I'm sure it's true that hostility (to call it by a polite name) to Judaism had a lot to do with the 1948 and has a lot to do with Islamic opposition to Israel. But so also does the notion that Israel is a western colony planted in their midst. Anyway, I agree that the denial of legitimacy to the Israeli state is rooted in large part in hostility to Judaism.

It--or its continuance--is also attributable to the prolonged occupation of the west bank and the obstacles thrown up by Israel to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. In this dispute, the United States has usually taken Israel's side. Arabs and Muslims who are offended by the Israeli and American stance aren't necessarily unreasonable or fanatical. They aren't to be understood as taking instructions from Mohammed.

I know that 1948 looks to us like a clearcut instance of a war of aggression. But surely we can see also that it wasn't entirely unreasonable of the Arabs to see it otherwise. At the beginning of the era of decolonization, territory that should be (as they (unreasonably?) saw it) ruled by Arabs was being seized by others. Anyway, again there do exist entirely secular/nationalistic considerations motivating war.

No actual wars begun by the fanatical Muslim.

But "he is WARLIKE"--would go to war if only he had the opportunity.

OK, then, what's the evidence (arms spending, stirrings up of hatred) that the regimes in predominantly Muslim countries are warlike and are chafing at the bit, eager for opportunities of conquest? And that this warlikeness is rooted in Islam?

And if it is so rooted, what are we to say of the Irish Republican Army? Was its embrace of terrorism rooted in Catholicism? If the existence of Muslim terrorist organizations proves Islam is terrorist in essence, did the existence of the IRA prove the same of Catholicism? And were the ordinary Catholics who finally got fed up and reined the IRA in bad Catholics and the IRA men good ones? (Rushdie made this point last night.)

Must a true Muslim hate freedom and democracy? I read in Wikipedia that Ataturk's "reforms were enthusiastically welcomed by the Turkish people." These reforms I think we would agree on balance increased the freedom of the Turkish peoples. It's quite true that many Muslims regard Ataturk as an apostate, and that he secularized Turkish governance. Nevertheless, under Ataturk Turks didn't cease their Muslim beliefs and practices.

I understand also that in Indonesia most Muslims are appreciative of the value of freedom.

One may agree with the Islamists that read rightly the central tenets of the Islamic faith are inimical to freedom and democracy. I stand instead with the Indonesian and Turkish Muslims who find their faith no obstacle to freedom and democracy. Stipulate that Islam is evil in its essence. To protect our interests, we still have to inquire whether this group of Muslims or this Islamic country threatens our interest, and inquire how best to shape Muslim behavior so as to reduce the threat.


For Bill O'Reilly's revelatory mangling of history, see
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHUGCkROwJE
But note that the Fox-provided transcript has been rewritten.

Kab bin Ashraf said...

Folks,

There's no question that there are moderate Muslims, and again, Spencer doesn't deny it.

(I see Rainsborough is in no hurry to admit he/she was wrong about Spencer. As for Coulter, I won't defend her; but Spencer is a careful scholar who makes precise statements that are backed up by lots of research. Incidentally, Spencer is reporting on the opinions of the majority of mainstream Islamic scholars today, and through history; he is not simply giving his own interpretation of the scriptures. As for Rainsborough's rainbow-like views of Turkey and Indonesia, I can only suggest that he actually read about these states before commenting further. That is to say, there are far more Islamic restrictions, official and unofficial, than he realizes).

Without comprehensive survey results and without more exacting questions, it is difficult to know what percentage of Muslims are moderate. And how do we define moderate? I would not define this on the basis of terrorism approval, but rather on such issues as the approval of the implementation of sharia law (and to what extent), attitude toward non-Muslims, attitude toward the verses of hate in the Koran, etc.

Re, those PEW polls. They are woefully inadequate. It's good to have them...there's not much in the way of anything better at the moment, in guaging Muslims' and non-Muslims' opinions on terrorism, etc., but there are some key limitations.

For example, the questions re approval of terrorism against civilians do not specify Muslim versus non-Muslim civilian deaths. (Recall that some Jordanians last November protested publicly against the al-Qaeda attacks against the hotel in Jordan. The primary victims were Muslims. There is not much in the way of protest when the targets are non-Muslims). When Muslims read such a question, they are perhaps taking into account deaths of Muslim civilians (indeed, at least in the past decade or so, it is primarily Muslims who are the victims of Islamic terrorist groups). In any case, separate questions need to be asked re non-Muslim vs Muslim victims.

Next, there must be a distinction made between different sects. For example, one of the PEW questions asks about approval of bin Laden. Obviously, Shia will generally not approve of bin Laden, because his al-Qaeda is killing Shia. Likewise, even many of the mainstream Salafists (often perjoratively referred to as "Wahhabis") in Arabia and surrounding areas disapprove of bin Laden. Such disapproval does not make them moderate. (One could argue that the Saudi regime is not only more extremist than bin Laden, but much more clever in their methods of spreading Islam and oppressing non-Muslims). If you look at the PEW results for Lebanon, support for bin Laden is very low. On the other hand, their support for the Iranian regime (which is at least as dangerous as al-Qaeda) is likely much higher. Likewise for suicide attacks of civilians: Shia overall will tend to have less favourable attitudes toward them, except where Sunnis and non-Muslims are the victims.

The PEW results also do not deal with soft jihad, which is arguably more threatening to western societies than the violent jihad. This includes the strategic use of political, legal, economic, media, and social policies that consistently protect traditional Islam and reduce the rights and freedoms of non-Muslims and socially progressive Muslims. These soft forms of jihad are directed to get non-Muslims to increasingly conform to Islamic standards and values.

Finally, unless I've missed something, the PEW survey did not even tackle the issue of Sharia (Islamic Law and govenrment). The goal of all the Islamists, of whatever stripe, be they violent or non-violent, is to set up Islamic rule wherever possible (with or without a caliph---this is largely a red herring issue). Although there are differences among these different groups, they all have in common the policy of treating non-Muslims and women as inferior. They also all have in common the harsh penalties (including death) for "crimes" such as public expressions of disbelief (apostasy, blasphemy, sedition against Islam), homosexuality, adultery and fornication. In the long-term, over the next several decades, this is a larger concern than terrorism. (Another way of looking at this, as a non-Muslim, is that you will be living in fear all the time if you live in an Islamic state). There is majority approval of sharia in so-called "moderate" Jordan, as I recall, and approval of partial sharia is approaching 100%. Approval of the introduction of partial sharia in Ontario Canada and in Great Britain, among Muslims is about 35-40%. Another good indicator is opinion on what should be done with the Danish cartoonists. 58% of British Muslims want the cartoonists to be criminally prosecuted and punished. I would also like to see what the approval levels are for the apostasy death penalty. In a country such as Afghanistan, there is probably majority approval of the death penalty for apostasy. Until we have answers on these types of questions, it is difficult to guage what percentage of Muslims are moderate.

Anonymous said...

The Quran on the Origin of the Universe:
The science of modern cosmology, observational and theoretical, clearly indicates that, at one point in time, the whole universe was nothing but a cloud of ‘smoke’ (i.e. an opaque highly dense and hot gaseous composition).1 This is one of the undisputed principles of standard modern cosmology. Scientists now can observe new stars forming out of the remnants of that ‘smoke'.








The illuminating stars we see at night were, just as was the whole universe, in that ‘smoke’ material. God has said in the Quran:

Then He turned to the heaven when it was smoke... (Quran, 41:11)

Because the earth and the heavens above (the sun, the moon, stars, planets, galaxies, etc.) have been formed from this same ‘smoke,’ we conclude that the earth and the heavens were one connected entity. Then out of this homogeneous ‘smoke,’ they formed and separated from each other. God has said in the Quran:

Have not those who disbelieved known that the heavens and the earth were one connected entity, then We separated them?... (Quran, 21:30)

Dr. Alfred Kroner is one of the world’s renowned geologists. He is Professor of Geology and the Chairman of the Department of Geology at the Institute of Geosciences, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany. He said: “Thinking where Muhammad came from . . . I think it is almost impossible that he could have known about things like the common origin of the universe, because scientists have only found out within the last few years, with very complicated and advanced technological methods, that this is the case.”2 Also he said: “Somebody who did not know something about nuclear physics fourteen hundred years ago could not, I think, be in a position to find out from his own mind, for instance, that the earth and the heavens had the same origin.”3

Rainsborough said...

It’s certainly true that the Pew survey’s questions only begin to tap into what we need to know.

It’s also true that Islam and freedom seldom run together. In the 2006 Freedom House survey, only three majority-Muslim countries were rated “free.” Fully half were “not free.” Of the most important Islamic countries, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia, only one, Indonesia, is “free,” and its hold on that status is certainly precarious and probably contentious. Turkey rates only a three (on a seven-point scale) in regard both to political democracy and civil liberties, and that may well be right.

Large fractions of Muslim populations everywhere don’t adhere to liberal values. For instance, forty percent of British Muslims favor sharia (though only piecemeal and in certain circumstances—there are still pubs to be found in Muslim neighborhoods).

Large majorities of Muslims virtually everywhere are extremely hostile to Israel, and would not extend their general disapproval of killing innocent people to Israelis, especially on the west bank.

In Britain, the Muslim community is becoming increasingly separated from the mainstream of society and presumably as a consequence more and more dismissive of liberal values.

The Muslim presence in the world is one it would be foolish not be concerned about and in some of its aspects fearful of.

But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the problem is best understood as centered in the nature of the religion of Islam.

Some say it’s a correct reading of the Quran and of other authoritative scriptures that explains why freedom and democracy languish in the Islamic world. Here’s one reason to suspect that that explanation may not suffice. According to Bernard Lewis, it’s clear as clear can be that Islamic scripture prohibits suicide, including the sort in which many
Muslims currently engage with widespread support in the Islamic community. The religion of Islam prohibits the practice, yet it flourishes. Why? Perhaps because political considerations trump religious ones. At any rate, if the religion clearly condemns a practice most of us would also condemn, and yet it prospers, that suggests that religion isn’t the only source of illiberal beliefs and practices in the Islamic world.

Consider two beliefs. One, that it’s legitimate to use the weapon of the weak, suicide bombing, to get Israel out of the west bank. Two, that the American invasion of Afghanistan wasn’t justified. Both beliefs are widely held among Muslims in Europe and elsewhere, narrowly held among readers of this blog.

Some hold that these beliefs follow from some central tenet of Islam and are an expression the evil essence of that religion, as if those who hold these beliefs had consulted the Quran or hadiths in arriving at them, or is as if the imam who may well have persuaded them of these views had done so. But I doubt that’s how these beliefs were come by, I expect we’d find instead that these political beliefs were instead arrived at in more political ways. These dangerous beliefs are better understood to be a political problem than a religious one.

I say dangerous beliefs, but actually I’m not sure that the second is dangerous at all. Certainly it and its expression fall within the ambit of the sort of speech that must be allowed and protected in a free society.

The second belief expressed as an opinion may well also be entitled to protection. But the shipment of explosives to terror bombers can’t be countenanced, and if not that, one might well infer, also not the transfer of funds to organizations that engage in terror bombing.

Detecting and imprisoning those who engage in violence is the easier part. The harder part is how to, as one warrior against terrorism puts it, “wear down acceptance and approval.” That is a hard one. But I doubt if it helps to assume that the religion of those whose acceptance one wants to wear down necessitates the approval of violence, especially since it doesn’t.

Kab bin Ashraf said...

Rainsborough,

I agree with much of what you say in the above post. However...

Your claim that Islam forbids violence is false. This can be ascertained simply by picking up a Koran and reading it (or reading it for free, with multiple translations, online), with a widely-accepted tafsir (such as al-Jalalayn, also available free online). Going to the other extreme, it would also be false to say that Islam permits wanton, random violence. Islam that is based on the Koran requires that Muslims strive using all available means to spread Islam and make it dominant in the world, to win converts, and, if necessary, struggle in various ways (not excluding violence) to defend or advance Islam. Plenty of Muslims ignore that, like plenty Christians and Jews ignore various parts of their scripture. However, the Islamic establishment does not ignore those parts. Obligatory communal violent jihad, killing of apostates, adulterers, blasphemers, and homosexuals...all of this is permitted according to all major schools of Islamic jurisprudence today, as has been the case for the past approximately 1400 years. Moderate Muslims have had no effect on these official policies.

I also noticed that you, like many others, adopt an indecisive 'some Muslims say this, some Muslims say that' stance, as if to assert that we cannot distinguish, among differing statements, those that overlap most substantially with the core doctrine of the Koran and authentic Hadith, and Islamic jurisprudence. It should also be kept in mind that there is an overrepresentation in the western media of moderate or progressive Muslims. We see lots of Irshad Manji et al. (who many Muslims regard as something like a heretic or apostate); but we don't see a lot of Qaradawi, even though the latter is much more qualified as an Islamic scholar and is much more popular among Muslims world-wide, and his views are much more consistent with those of other Islamic scholars. (Qaradawi supports execution of apostates, homosexuals, suicide bombing against non-Muslim civilians, etc. Even so, he has been caught lying to the western media, saying Jews and Christians are accepted in Islam, then turning around and calling Jews and Christians infidels when addressing an Arabic audience. This kind of duplicity among Muslim spokesmen is very common. That's why it's important to check their statements against the Koran, hadith, and Islamic jurisprudence. In other words, we should not suspend our normal habit of healthy skepticism when listening to or reading PR statements of true believers).

You state:

"According to Bernard Lewis, it’s clear as clear can be that Islamic scripture prohibits suicide, including the sort in which many
Muslims currently engage with widespread support in the Islamic community. The religion of Islam prohibits the practice, yet it flourishes."


Bernard Lewis knows that he was being only half honest. This is seriously misleading. (And on this issue, as well as others pertaining to jihad, it is Spencer, not Lewis, who is the expert). The prohibitions on suicide have nothing to do with jihad. They refer to committing suicide due to dispair, loss, or the usual reasons human beings commit suicide. There are plenty of verses and ahadith which glorify the seeking of death, killing and being killed, in Allah's cause. Allah's cause is fighting to make Islam superior and/or to defend the religion. Once a situation is defined as jihad, then kamikaze-style suicidal attacks are permitted against the non-Muslim opposition.

Lewis' statements are truly ridiculous. Consider an example: Suppose a U.S. soldier dies in making a heroic attack on an enemy position, sacrificing his life to save his platoon. Would the U.S. army then say "Suicide is illegal. We condemn this man's actions"? When Muslim suicide attackers hit civilians, they define the context as jihad and the civilians as guilty of compliance with the policies of a criminal country (enemies of Allah, party of Satan, etc.).

Why? Perhaps because political considerations trump religious ones.

Again, Islam is not merely a religion. It is a political, legal, militaristic system. Islamists--those who take the whole package--use available means to pursue the goal of Islam. Some of these means are political, economic, legal; and other means include violence. There is disagreement among Islamists as to what methods should be used at what time. For example, some Islamists think bin Laden made a mistake with the 9/11 attacks because this drew the infidel world's attention to the significant threat posed by Islam (most specifically, the demographic jihad). They believe that within several decades, most governments (especially in Europe) will be Islamic anyway, so why stir up trouble now and draw attention to this long-term trend?

Suppose that approximately 60% of Muslims at present living in the west are moderate (don't want sharia). However, this 60% is not, and has never been, as influential and powerful as the smaller percentage of Muslims (who I call Islamists) who seek to set up Islamic rule. Most mosques and Islamic organizations are run by Islamists. It should also be kept in mind that policies for a whole country can be imposed by an influential and determined minority. In such instances, unless "moderates" become activists in opposing the actions and policies of the influential minority, that influential minority can reign with impunity. In fact, this is precisely the case now, within Islam in the west. Clerics give fire-and-brimstone speeches urging jihad against the west every Friday, but it is very rare that any Muslim moderates rein them in or report them to the authorities. (Sedition and death threats, etc., are not protected by freedom of speech laws).

Recently (within the past couple of years), in Afghanistan, Iran*, Palestine, Iraq, Muslims elected very hard-line traditional Islamic governments. Indeed, the leadership of Hamas and of Iran's present regime have explicit policies of genocide against non-Muslim populations. What does this tell us about the Muslims who elected them?

*Iran is the odd man out here, because the majority of Iranians do not support Amedinejad, nor his Mullah puppet masters. But it is not uncommon for a party to get elected with a large minority.

Rainsborough said...

"Doesn't necessitate the approval of violence" (I had in mind Madrid, London, New York City) doesn't mean "Islam forbids violence." But "violence" is vague and invites your reading.

Saudi Wahhabism is ugly, volatile, well-financed, and propagated throughout the world. But what concerns me is (a) Muslims who perpetrate attacks like that in Madrid and (b) those who provide them support. What's the evidence as to the number of Muslims who fall into these categories? (Not a rhetorical question, an inquiry.)
"Very hard line" doesn't worry me so long as it doesn't lead to invasions and sponsoring of terrorist acts. How many friends of the Taliban are there in the Afghan legislature?

Yes, Islam has, as a western liberal would put it, political pretensions. But it's also true that only two, or two and a half, Islamic regimes are non-secular straightout theocracies (Iran, Sudan, Hamas half Palestine--though this is surely a less than straightforward case). It may be, as you suggest, that any Islamic regime genuinely representative of its people would be more retrograde than the authoritarian regimes now in power. My concern is whether it will launch wars of aggression and sponsor acts of terrorism, especially in Detroit.

I am also concerned of course about homegrown terrorists. But on the evidence available, I consider myself lucky to live in the United States. The British situation described in the NYT Magazine yesterday seems much more threatening and intractable than the American, and the French may be even worse.

Interesting to learn that Lewis is dishonest figure given to ridiculous arguments, and that an attack in battle against a well-defended position is on Islamic principles morally equivalent to strapping a bomb on oneself and setting it off in a cafeteria.

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

You may recall the story of Jose Padilla also known as Abdullah al-Muhajir, the hapless Puerto-Rican immigrant jailed without trial for 4 years and accused of being an “illegal enemy combatant” while he doesn’t even know how to use a boy scout’s pocket knife…

Well, you’ve seen nothing yet!

What happens when 6 disenfranchised Haitian-American Catholic kids from Miami do karate and jumping jacks in a rusty warehouse, and toy with the idea of converting to Islam?

Well, they may rapidly find themselves behind bars pending trial for “terrorist activities”: Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez calls them a “dangerous Islamic army rising in our midst” no less!

In this, Gonzalez, the architect of Abu Ghraib, is true to the major tenets of the “Bush doctrine”: persecute innocent bogeymen while sucking up to the Saudi paymasters of Islamic terror and their numerous friends for sale inside the GOP and the Pentagon.

In essence, Bush and Gonzalez are re-importing inside the American homeland the practices they’ve experimented in Iraq, a formerly secular Arab country where they made a point of arresting and torturing Westernized Christian and Sunni Baath party bureaucrats while they deliberately brought to power pro-Iranian Islamic terrorists!

Once again I wonder if the Bush administration is doing everything it can to best ensure OBL’s victory…

Revenant said...

6 disenfranchised Haitian-American Catholic kids

Kids? They're in their 20s and 30s. Referring to adult black men as if they were children went out of style a while ago -- didn't you get the memo?

Also, will people who don't know what big words mean please stop using them? "Disenfranchised" means "deprived of the rights of citizenship", not "arrested by the Bush Administration". Jose Padilla has been disenfranchised. The Sears Tower suspects have not been.

Kab bin Ashraf said...

Rainsborough,

Regarding the percentages of Muslims who support terrorist attacks, you already have a crude approximation from the PEW results. It is reasonable to expect that the approval of terrorist attacks against non-Muslims is at least slightly higher than was found in those surveys.

Actually, I didn't make a sweeping condemnation of Lewis, as you imply. My point was specifically in response to your claim that Islam forbids suicide, where you cited Lewis as a source. Citing Lewis wasn't appropriate because he is not an expert in that particular area, and what he says is contrary to 1350+ years of Islamic jurisprudence. I have to admit, it's frustrating trying to communicate with you because you resist reading the original sources, yet you seem to have rock-solid beliefs about what is contained in those sources. Thus, you feel comfortable making comments about Lewis' grasp of Koran and Hadith (even though Lewis is not an expert on those sources), even though you appear to have not read those sources. Take my advice: Read the Koran, with tafsir, and read the "Sahih" collections of Bukhari and Muslim ahadith. Then make a judgement on Lewis' knowledge of the Koran. Otherwise, everything you say about those sources is just shooting in the dark. Lewis is an expert on Islam, but that doesn't make him an expert on everything in Islam. Lewis is a historian who does not have a full grasp of the institution of jihad, and does not have a grasp of some aspects of Islamic history. He has also managed to somehow spend his entire career neglecting the topic of dhimmitude. I can say what I said about him, because I've read those texts, and I know for a fact that the verses in the Koran that are typically understood to forbid suicide do not refer to jihad. Therefore, what Lewis said is irrelevant. The verses that do refer to jihad call upon Muslims to "seek death," to kill or be killed for Allah. Several verses and ahadith glorify martyrdom. It's all a test of faith; "Allah" tests believers by making them kill or be killed in fighting the "mischief/corruption" created by non-Muslims. Disbelief is the worst crime in Islam, and this is what Muslims are supposed to fight against (according to the Koran) using whatever means (violent or non-violent) are available and expedient. As I've said, not all Muslims follow this, and not all are even aware of it, but many do follow it.

Why would Lewis possibly say something so silly and misleading about suicide, given that mainstream Islam has always accepted martyrdom as a foundational, core concept? I can only speculate. (I suspect much of what Lewis said in the speech that you cited is just a lot of PR fluff. There are some who believe we should publicly pretend that Islam is a religion of peace--facts be damned). What is clear, though, is that his statements about suicide are simply erroneous. It's as simple as that. And mainstream Islamic scholars (who, unlike Lewis, are knowledgeable of the Koran) approve of suicidal attacks against non-Muslims. The Koran and ahadith approve of kamikaze-style suicidal attacks.

Wahhabism is a problem, but Wahhabism is simply a milder version of original Islam based on Koran and Hadith. It is "Mohammad-lite." Most terrorist groups are not Wahhabis. The Iranian regime is not even Sunni. Islamic history prior to Wahhab was much more imperialistic and violent. (Take a look at what they did to the Hindus). Wahhabism is pretty mild compared to the conduct of Mohammad himself, as reported in Muslim sources.

Your comments about Islam not being political seem flippant. Mainstream Islam is political, because it demands Islamic rule. The Koran demands Islamic rule; everything else is wrong-doing/corruption. This should matter to the people who actually have to live under these regimes, or next door to them. It is unlikely that Islam will ever prevail in the U.S, except in pockets here and there (as we are already seeing in the U.S., Canada, Britain, etc., with Islamic schools, and other schools altering curricula to fit traditional Islamic restrictions. Countries like France, Germany, Sweden, and others, are much worse off).

Focussing purely on "terror" does not make much sense, because terror is merely one of many tactics used in Islam to gain certain subgoals. Granted, it was central to Mohammad's establishment of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula (Mohammad said "I have been made victorious with terror"), but the main problems for non-Muslims today are (a) the slow but steady establishment of Islamic rule in previously non-Muslim countries (in Africa, South-east Asia, Europe, and Russia), and (b) persecution of non-Muslim minorities living in Islamic countries. Plenty of other tactics are being used, which are much more damaging in the long term.

You may only be concerned about occasional bombings here or there, but keep in mind that the main problem is the establishment of Muslim rule. The death penalty for apostasy, blasphemy, homosexuality, adultery, is implemented in several countries. Those that don't implement that penalty often have lesser penalties. For example, in Afghanistan (of today), the are prison sentences for journalists who make statements deemed to be un-Islamic (the jurists are working on bringing in the full penalty--death). Islamic countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, and many others all teach their children hatred of non-Muslims (propaganda that comes straight from the Koran) along with anti-western and in particular anti-U.S. and anti-Israel propaganda. We will be spending the next several decades dealing with the children who were raised on such teachings.

Revenant said...

Kab bin Ashraf,

That was a great summary! Thanks for taking the time to write it.

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

There’s a fascinatingly surreal 2001 WSJ article on the “true signification” of polemical terms such as “Crusade” and “Jihad” where Bernard Lewis pretends to decide once and for all for both Muslims and Christian “Infidels” what is the only proper meaning of both terms according to his authoritative interpretation of Koranic jurisprudence and Canon Law…

Truly Bernie has no shame!

Ironically, throughout the Crusades, all influential rabbis in Eastern Europe as well as Aleppo, Baghdad and Damascus sided squarely with Islam’s (Sunni) “Jihadists” against the conquering Christian knights who had come from Western Europe to “liberate” Jerusalem…

Equally ironically, nowadays, the harshest critics of Islam aren’t found amongst associationists “heathens” (‘al-mushreqeen’ in Ayyrabic) such as Europe’s Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians or Asia’s Buddhist and Hindu communities…but rather in ultra-conservative Protestant and/or Jewish milieus whose Leviticus-based legalistic cum warmongering theology resembles that of Mohammedan fundamentalists.

Long before Bernard Lewis and George W. Bush, American Biblical fanatics such as Dr John Harvey Kellogg (inventor of the famous Corn Flakes) called for abstinence from pork, shellfish, and other foods proscribed as "unclean" in the Jewish Bible as well as from alcohol…

Funny how rightwing observant Protestants and Jews have actually a lot in common with the people they hate!

Revenant said...

Funny how rightwing observant Protestants and Jews have actually a lot in common with the people they hate!

Um, it doesn't exactly take a genius to figure out why Christianity, which was inspired by Judaism, and Islam, which was inspired by Christianity and Judaism, ended up reusing aspects of Jewish religious law. I guess you could say it is "funny", in the sense that it is "funny" how a father and his sons often look kind of similar to one another...

In any case, it isn't Jews and Christians who have particular cause to hate Islam. Islam, after all, singles them out for better treatment than other non-Muslims -- they are still second-class citizens, but unlike, say, atheists, animists, Hindus, et al, they don't generally end up with their heads cut off.

Betsy said...

Unfortunately, many Muslims will not agree with the impressions we have of them. Islam is a religion that calls for peace. Yet it's sad to see how many Muslims break the public's trust of them by their actions which aren't approved by Islam at all.

Evan said...

Were one to replace "islamist" with "secularist" or "atheist", a person would undoubtedly come up with a similar or larger number of people killed or forced into a belief system. The only difference being that both secularism and the worship of money are officially sanctioned ideologies which have "regular" armies and governments to enforce them.

Also, how on earth would one hope to make advertiser revenue by publishing non-sensationalist stories of muslims who'd just as soon have nothing to do with fanaticism? Accounts of beheadings, honour killings and suicide bombings are what drive readership / viewership. Fear of the unknown is a powerful instinct, and has the power to bond people in a benign"us" against a malicious "other" sort of way.

Fallaci knows what she's doing. Appealing to fear and nationalism sells copies and gets bookings for speeches. If tomorrow's spawn-o-satan were decreed to be vegetarians we'd see just as many books and articles come out in praise of eating meat, and people with vegetarian-sounding pen names selectively quoting medical studies to show that vegetables cause cancer, obesity and pubic lice.

Anonymous said...

"No cows are sacred" on your blog headline is a good indication of your own religious insensitivity toward Hindus.

The simple fact is that the Koran, allegedly the word of God, teaches violence and intolerance and Muslims are required to believe it and act upon it. What goes around comes around.

Prejudging someone is wrong, postjudging someone is encouraged. Let Islam and muslims be judged by their deeds.

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