ISLAMIST FUNDAMENTALISM CLARIFIED: Enter the Satirist Mark Steyn
- Radical Islamist fundamentalism, full of fascist-like hatred of democracy, free markets, democratic rights as understood in the US Constitution, secularism and the rule of secular law, women's rights and equality, and religious freedom for all . . . a rapidly spreading series of movements throughout Islam and especially the Arab world that, with its paranoid fantasies about Jew-dominated cabals operating globally and using the US and Israel and duped Arab and western governments, have made big inroads into the psychically unhinged, economically backward, and increasingly alienated Arab masses, in particular to the large ranks of unemployed young men;
- Islamo-fascist terrorist networks that have extensive ties --- financial and otherwise --- to these radical fundamentalist movements, often fronting for them in the form of Islamic charities as in the Brooklyn mosque recently uncovered by US intelligence last week that funneled tens of millions of dollars raised in this country alone to Al Qaeda . . . with Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamis Jihad, and Hamas (to name the most prominent of these Islamo-fascist terrorisms) all increasingly interacting with one another;
- Rogue states, ruled by cruel and ruthless dictatorships that are full of anti-Western and anti-US tendencies and sympathies for some or all of these terrorist movements --- including financing and arming them one way or another --- and simultaneously are actively engaged in developing, deploying, and likely using through terrorist auxiliaries weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, chemical, or biological.
Three of the four main roguers here are Islamo-fascist regimes: clerical-fascism in Iran of the Shia fanatical sort (which has antagonized and alienated most of the masses over its 24 year reign); secular fascism led by a malignant, mass-murdering megalomaniac in Iraq -- a grandiose, high-stakes risk-taker seething with vengeance and manic overwrought ambitions to go down in history as the greatest Islamic statesman in history since Mohammed; and the secular if more humdrum fascist Mafioso gangster regime in Syria . . . likewise blood-soaked and supporting actively terrorist movements that have killed large numbers of Americans. The fourth rogue state, of course, is North Korea, an old line Stalinist totalitarian system led by a brutal mass-murdering clique of coldhearted killers, who have destroyed the North Korean economy, encouraged most likely mass starvation to bring down its population in size, and have no export capacity whatsoever save missiles and increasingly likely nuclear warheads . . . its brinksmanship-playing government anxious, if it can get away with it, to sell those missiles and warheads to any give buyer with mega-bucks at its disposal. You don't have to be a genius to figure out which terrorist movements, led by billionaires at times (bin Laden) and supported by Islamist fundamentalists around the world, might be eager to get their hands on these weapons.
Starting our analysis of the Huntington thesis by looking at a recent column by the incomparable Canadian satirist Mark Steyn who lives in New Hampshire--- from which, in a variety of newspapers, he fires off repeated sallies aimed at the heart of politically correct pieties and fatuity, always with a mixture of humor and accurate hard-hitting observations --- may seem a strange beginning, oddly wayward in its conceptual thrust. Well, yes; but only at first glance. Be patient; the logic behind it will soon be clear. For Steyn, more than anyone in the journalistic world, has never held back in his attacks on radical Islamist fundamentalisms as an enemy of everything that our civilization values as ideals.
More specifically, these militant, broad-based movements blend caustic hatred of the West and of western liberal values and institutions --- democracy, women's equality, secular government, the rule of secular law, religious freedom, free markets, and the scientific spirit --- with jihad fervor and barreling hot-wire fervor that lead them to energetic financial, moral, and political support of the various Islamo-fascist terrorisms in the Middle East and elsewhere . . . including the main ranks of recruitments for these terrorist movements: Al Qaeda, Hezbollah (tagged as a greater threat to the US than Al Qaeda itself by Richard Armitage, our Deputy Secretary of State), Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Abu Sayaf in the Philippines, the Taliban recently routed in Afghanistan but with strong roots in parts of Pakistan still, Indonesian fundamentalist terrorism that carried out the slaughter in Bali recently (most of its leaders trained in Taliban Afghanistan), Chechnyan terrorists, Al Ikhwan (the far-flung remnants of the Muslim Brotherhood established in the 1920s), and on and on, large numbers of fanatical smaller terrorist groups all inspired by various kinds of what Steyn rightly calls Islamo-fascism.
At the heart of the radical Islamist revivalism, as with the fascisms of the interwar period --- especially Nazism --- is the fantasized paranoid belief that their enemies and the cause of their national failures and troubles are an all-powerful but vulnerable secret cabal dominated by Jews. Preached endlessly, not least through access to the state-controlled media in almost all the Arab countries, this malevolentm hate-infused belief assures the Islamic peoples --- almost all of them living in failed states and backward economies ruled by despotic and corrupt Mafioso-like combines that rely on the secret police for their ultimate staying-power --- that their backwardness, misery, and emotional and mental confusions are the result of a world-wide conspiracy of world Jewry and the United States (almost always depicted as run by Jews) and Israel, along with the rest of the duped Christian West, together with Russia and Hindu India and (much more gently) the no-less duped local Arab governments. The reason for the gentler messsage here? Obviously, as you'll see, the double-dealing Arab leaders who tolerate and let the fundamentalist haters use their state-run media for propaganda purposes have simultaneously be ruthless in destroying any fundamentalist movement on their home soil that threatens their own stablity and corrupt, dictatorial rule.
Jews and the US, together with their allies --- including duped Arab leaders siding with the US --- are further depicted as dominating globalizing capitalism and seeking to destroy Islam, a religion according to the revivalist fanatics that is destined to rule all the world, and for which rule all Muslims are obligated to struggle with Jihad fervor. These enemies, it's repeated ad nauseam, are responsible for the economic misery and backwardness that pervade the Arab world and almost all other Islamic countries . . . just as they explain, in paranoid conspiratorial terms, why Islam (which is a religion that should be globally dominant) is presently transiently weak and lacking in world-wide influence. A return to the roots of some fantasized Golden Age of Islam (roughly 700 – 1200), spiritually purified and inspiring the redesign of Islamic societies before it spreads globally, is the longed-for, desperately sought solution: that, and the destruction of Islam's viciously demonic enemies --- Jews, Israel, the US, their Western and Indian allies, and their Arab dupes.
IMPORTANT FOLLOW-UP CLARIFICATION: Jihad as Holy War, The Two Zones of War and Peace in Islam
Yes, important . . . to dispel confusion, whether spread deliberately or not. Specifically, when non-fundamentalist Muslims --- still the majority in the world as you'll see (not least in the US) --- claim that Islam means "peace", something they've been inculcated to believe since childhood, they err in two respects. Islam, as any unabridged dictionary will immediately show --- Webster's, the Oxford (back to the mid-19th century when they first appeared) --- means "submission" or "obedience", not peace. As for peace, it is supposed to follow from a non-Muslim people submitting to obey Allah and recognize Mohammed as his Prophet. More concretely, Islam --- in all its four main branches of legal traditions, back to Mohammed himself --- divides the world into two zones:
dar al-Islam, the Islamic world where peace prevails among the true-believers . . . along with subordinate and tolerated groups, Jews and Christians traditionally (no others) that submit to Islamic rule and never challenge it; And
dar-al-harb, the world of the non-believers who are entangled in endless war . . . including, again in all the four major Islamic legal traditions, with the peaceful world of Islam itself.
Since Islam, again back to Mohammed, is supposed to be the only truly revealed religion, it is supposed to be universalistic in its ambitions, and the two territorial zones of Islam and the impure non-believing rest are always theoretically at war. In turn, war --- violent jihad
to defeat the non-believers and spread Islam (yes, there are other meanings of the term, but the Koran itself, especially Mohammed's revelations, are filled with dozens of exhortations to holy war for this purpose) --- is the ultimate means for spreading Islam and incorporating perversely stubborn peoples into the true religion. ONLY when the entire world submits to Islam will there be peace.
Note two points right off.
, Christianity, another proselytizing religion, also spread by conquest . . . back to the conversion of Constantine, the Emperor of Rome in the late 4th century. And of course the Crusades and later the forced conversion of the peoples of the Americas (especially in Hispanic Latin America) show how religious fervor can easily turn into violent crusading fervor. For that matter, historically, Jews were far more tolerated and better treated in Arab and other Islamic societies for 14 centuries than throughout most of the history of the Christian West.
That said, a powerful secular spirit began to overtake the more advanced Western countries in Northwestern Europe and in France in the 17th and 18th centuries and became eventually the basis of political rule and democracy. The US was officially the first secular state: no state-church, Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox (all of Europe had state-churches, even if they lost influence, until the 20th century; and in the Catholic Latin areas, clerical and non-clerical struggles were fierce and often violent right down through the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s).
What does secularism mean?
Essentially, the loss and eventual disappearance of clerical authority over politics, economic life, and eventually, as science and secular learning through mass education spread, in culture too. It doesn't mean necessarily that people lose religious faith. It may, and in fact that is the case throughout almost all of West Europe, where the churches, Protestant or Catholic, are virtually empty on Sundays. In the US, however -- another big difference with West Europe --- religion has grown in influence, and about 50% of Americans are members of evangelical Protestant churches alone.
, Islam --- unlike the Christian West --- has never developed an official political or legal tradition of secularism. Many Islamic states may not pursue Islamic law and in their practices, political or legal, steer clear of such Islamic law, but that is not the same thing as a constitutional guarantee of secularism, secular tolerance, equal treatment of women, and equal treatment of non-Islamic minorities (all the small Christian communities are under siege from fundamentalist revivalism, often violent, everywhere in the Arab world: especially in Lebanon and Egypt, with the largest Christian minorities). Similarly, as is manifestly the case, the pro-American regimes in the Gulf Region, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia (three former French colonies with unusually good relations with the US), the foreign policies of the governments aren't influenced in the least by the traditions of Jihad and war against the non-believers.
That said, there has never been, to repeat, any official secular tradition in the Islamic world save in Turkey. And even in Turkey, but especially elsewhere in the Islamic world, the new, rapidly powerful fundamentalist upsurge has renewed the traditional doctrines, always there, always in the background, of the view that the world is divided into two zones --- the true-believers, and the recalcitrant and belligerent warring non-believers, all impure, all kafir
, who must be either converted by violent holy war (Jihad, in its strictest core meaning, despite other meanings) or destroyed. Why the lack of a secular legal, constitutional, and political tradition in Islam save Turkey? Quite simply, for the same reason as we'll see that the 1.2 billion Islamic peoples have a total GDP smaller than Spain's, with 40 million people, that there is no stable constitutional democracy anywhere in the Islamic world save, perhaps, for Turkey with 65 million people, and that the 280 million Arab peoples have translated fewer books from abroad in the last 1000 years --- 1000!
--- than tiny Spain does in one year . . . Spanish itself being spoken by 500 million people in the world. That reason is the huge built-in resistance to modernizing forces in Islam, especially in its core Arab states . . . a subject that we will return to in a few moments.
Observe that the best writings on the traditions of Jihad, dar-al-Islam and dar-al-harb, and the treatment of subject Jews and Christians --- dhimmitude ---are in the books and articles by the Egyptian-born Bat Ye'or, now a British citizen: you can go to her website for references: Bat Ye'or
I will republish a brief article of hers on these subjects that appeared in the National Review last summer (mainly because the link no longer exists for some reason:
July 1, 2002, 8:45 a.m., The National Review
Jihad and Human Rights Today
An active ideology incompatible with universal standards of freedom and equality.
By Bat Ye'or
Human rights and the concept of jihad are two incompatible ideas. In Judeo-Christian societies, the concept of human rights is based on the biblical interdiction against killing, and the equality of all human beings. Though it has religious roots, this notion of human rights evolved mainly from the 19th century in a secular European and American framework. It then acquired a universal character, proclaiming the equality of all human beings and the inviolability of their natural human rights. But it was only after World War II that this concept became the core of an international legal system, as a tool to prevent political abuses and to protect civil populations from genocidal policies.
Other major civilizations — including the Chinese, Hindu, and Islamic — have also conceived legal systems which protect the rights of their citizens. However, in the Islamic case, specifically, the 54 Muslim countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference have conceived their own human-rights charter, contained in the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.
This document states in its preamble, and in articles 24 and 25, that all its provisions are in conformity with the sharia, the religious Islamic law, which has primacy. Moreover, it proclaims that God has made the Islamic community (umma) the best nation — and, hence, its role is to guide humanity. We can see here the differences between the Cairo Declaration and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which does not refer to any religion or to the superiority of any group over another, but stresses the absolute equality of all human beings.
The institution of jihad belongs to a religious, Islamic domain, outside the realm of Western universalism and secularism. These two domains do not meet. Secular laws can be changed, abrogated, or ameliorated, but jihad regulations are believed to express divine commands. By definition, human beings can neither discuss nor scrutinize the divine will, and so those jihad obligations — attributed by the theologians to Allah — place jihad in the domain of faith. I would like to emphasize strongly that jihad is a special domain of Islamic law. Not all Muslims know it, and many reject its ideology. It would be a great mistake to believe that each and every Muslim identifies with the jihad-war ideology.
The ideology of jihad was formulated by leading Muslim theologians and scholars from the 8th century onward. Their voluminous writings make clear the notion of jihad as a holy war of conquest. Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (d. 966), for example, stated,
Jihad is a precept of Divine institution... We Malikis [one of four schools of Muslim jurisprudence] maintain it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah, except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them...
Jihad ideology separates humanity into two hostile blocs: the community of Muslims (Dar ul-Islam), and the infidel non-Muslims (Dar ul-Harb). Allah commands the Muslims to conquer the entire world in order to rule it according to Koranic law. Hence Muslims must wage a perpetual war against those infidels who refuse to submit. This is the motivation for jihad. It is based on the inequality between the community of Allah and the infidels, as was re-emphasized in the Cairo Declaration. The first is a superior group, which must rule the world; the second must submit. The current relevance of this ideology is apparent, and disturbing.
For example, Al-Muhajiroun, an Islamist newspaper in London, published an article on January 27, 2001, which declared:
Upon the establishment of the Islamic State, the whole world will potentially be Dar ul Harb since the foreign policy of the Islamic state is aimed at conquering the world... Once the Islamic State is established anyone in Dar ul Harb will have no sanctity for his life or wealth hence, a Muslim in such circumstances can then go into Dar ul Harb and take the wealth from the people unless there is a treaty with that state. If there is no treaty, individual Muslims can even go to Dar ul Harb and take women to keep as slaves.
Such an attitude assumes that the infidels have no rights and are totally dehumanized. It breeds hatred and contempt and has led to historical negationism, and the destruction of non-Muslim cultures. Moreover, such views are not confined to the most radical Islamists. They were confirmed in the Proceedings of the Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research, held in 1968 (General Organization for Government Printing Offices, Cairo, 1968), and regularly since then by eminent Islamic scholars. These authoritative pronouncements have recapitulated the theory of jihad in a manner completely consistent with the Al-Muhajiroun statements.
The theory of jihad against the infidels is composed of two parts: the ideology, and the military institutions aimed at implementing this ideology. According to these rules the infidels without a treaty have no rights at
all: they can be deported, reduced to slavery, abducted for ransom, or killed. Women and children can be taken into slavery. Infidels can be spared by a temporary treaty which should not go beyond ten years. The treaty must conform to Islamic rule and serve Islamic interests, hence a ransom should be paid. The infidels who submit to Islamic rulers are given a pledge of security against the rules of jihad, so long as they accept a condition of humiliation, and of total inferiority to Muslims.
Jihad is therefore a genocidal war, according to the modern definition of genocide. It encourages terrorism against civilians and does not differentiate between innocent civilians and soldiers. All infidels without a treaty of protection can be killed. Jihad does not recognize universal human rights, for there is no equality between Muslims and infidels, and no reciprocity between Muslims and infidels in legal matters. Jihad warriors do not accept that either the Geneva Conventions or the conventional rules of war have any validity for them.
Jihadists have associated the notion of a reward in paradise with the practice of killing infidels. Killing at war was, and still is, practiced by all societies. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, wars, because they imply the acts of killing, are hateful and peace is praised. In the jihadist ideology, it is war that is praised, along with the killing of the infidels. Tragically, jihad ideology will not disappear soon. It is shaping the minds of a generation of young Muslims in many countries. Jihad ideology is a well-constructed system, created after the death of the prophet Mohammed. It has remained alive and well since then — except under secularized Muslim governments like that of Turkey, after the Kemalist revolution. It is delusional and dangerous to maintain that this ideology is rooted in social deprivation, backwardness, injustice, or despair. Moreover, paying subsidies to suspend global jihad terrorism is tantamount to paying a tribute to terrorist states, and buying one's own peace and security as temporarily ransomed privileges — instead of living by the principles of universal human rights, which proclaim the inviolability of every human being. Societies that pay a tribute to survive are destined to disappear.
— Bat Ye'or (www.dhimmi.org) is the author of three books on jihad and dhimmitude, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam (1985), The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (1996), and Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (2002). This essay was written in collaboration with Andrew G. Bostom, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Brown University School of Medicine.
Some Minor Differfences in Islamist Fundamentalisms
To return to our main theme now, radical Islamist fundamentalisms vary slightly in their substantive messages. At their core, though, the differences are minimal.
There are Shi-ite radicalism (in power in Iran since 1979), Wahhabi Sunni radicalism spread around the world, like Shia Iranian militancy, by oil money --- in the Wahhabi case by the double-dealing Saudi Mafioso royals as a cover for their own fabulous wealth while Saudia Arabia's per capita income, despite trillions of dollars of oil sales since the early 1970s, is one third of what it was 20 years ago, with 30% unemployment among men --- the Muslim brotherhood, an early 20th century fundamentalism still with its influence on various imams and terrorist movements, Taliban fundamentalism that still has lots of followers in Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan (very close in its xenophobia, hatred of outsiders, paranoid fantasies, contempt for women's rights, and fanatical vitriol directed at the notion of democratic rights and secular rule, to Wahhabi Sunni fundamentalism . . . one reason for the mutual attraction of bin Laden and Mullah Omar), and numerous crackpot offshoots. All these Islamist movements, however, are feeding on the psychic dislocations and misery and frustration that sizzle among the Arab masses, who will be 500 million in another generation, ever younger . . . and adding to the ranks of unemployment, poverty, and furious discontent: the fodder of terrorist movements, now and in the future.
It is the Islamo-fascist terrorisms that, drawing on fundamentalist recruits and financial aid --- including the use of Wahhabi charities fronting for terrorism, like the Brooklyn Mosque just uncovered last week (tens of millions of dollars funneled to Al Qaeda), never mind Saudi oil money --- have been at war with the US for decades now. Yes, decades . . . ever since the late 1970s and the Shi-ite revolution in Iran. The outrages and mass-murder of 9/11 were only the latest of a series of bloody attacks on Americans at home or abroad. Cruise ships hijacked by Islamo-fascists and killing passengers in the early 1980s; US diplomats murdered in several places; a UCLA professor, the head of the American University in Beirut, killed in the early 1980s; nearly 230 US marines blown up as peace-keepers in Lebanon in the early 1980s; the effort in 1993 to blow up the World Trade Center; the bombing of US military barracks in Saudi Arabia three years later; the bombing of the USS Cole three years later in Yemen; the earlier bombing of the US embassy in Kenya. All terrorist attacks, all by Islamo-fascist networks, all dealt with lamely or feebly . . . with the Clinton administration not even having the excuse of the Reagan and Bush-Sr administrations of dealing mainly with the cold war. And of course the unprovoked attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 1991, with thousands of casualties and billions of dollars in costs. Were they to get weapons of mass destruction and use them effectively --- chemical, biological, nuclear --- they could kill millions. If they could, they would exterminate all Americans and, upon hearing the news of successful exterminating attacks, they would no doubt fall to their knees in trembling elation and thank their deity for the blows struck for justice and Islam's return to the center of the universe as they understand it.
Radical Islam in Deeper Perspective
The symbols and message of hatred and fervent struggle along with hope and a renewed sense of meaning and pride of chiliastic nature that fundamentalist revivalism throughout the Islamic world inspires and spreads by propaganda have attracted large followings in the Islamic world. Not least because it explains not just the misery, backwardness, corruption, and despotic rule of Islamic societies, but also --- maybe even more important --- makes sense of the pervasive psychic dislocations shot through with frustration, resentments, and envy that mark the Arab and other Islamic masses, their traditional societies unhinged unremittingly for decades now by globalizing forces they don't understand and that their elites and leaders have never mastered.
Globalization, of course, isn't new. It started with the world-wide expansion of the overseas European empires in the 15th and 16th centuries, along with the subsequent scientific, industrial, and nationalist revolutions of the 17th – 19th centuries, that created a Euro-centered world and spread European capitalism and rule. European imperialism spread, moreover, exactly as Islamic imperialisms had mushroomed and rapidly overrun Christian and other civilizations from the late 7th century until the 16th century: by the use of superior military and sea-power, clerical missionaries, administrators, and merchants, specifically in four waves of expansion from a little south of Paris at one point across all of the Balkans and Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Persia, India, Russia, and into Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Specifically,
*by the Arabs in the Christian Levant, Christian North African, and the Iberian peninsula (reaching as far as 100 miles south of Paris in 724, where they were repelled at Tours) by the Arabs; simultaneously eastward and overrunning the Persian empire quickly too;
*then by the Tatars, Mongolian-Turkish peoples, that invaded and ruled Russia for over two centuries until their disintegration in the 15th century;
*then the conquest of the Arab states and the Christian Balkans and Greece by the Ottoman Turks, who ruled them for over 4 centuries until the beginning of the rebellions in the Balkans by the Greeks in the 1820s and later the other Christian countries there (and the Arabs in WWI, thanks to the British and the French defeat of Turkey, Germany's ally);
*finally the conquest of India by more Turkish-Mongolian peoples, led by Timur initially, that ruled over resisting Hindus in the 16th and 17th century (and formally for centuries after), until the arrival of the British late in that century and afterwards.
In the present, to put all this in tangible, up-to-date terms, there are are 1.2 billion Muslim peoples, living in 57 states in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia (compared to about 2 billion Christians, with evangelical Christianity, contrary to what Muslims claim, the fastest growing religion in the world . . . not least in tropical Africa).
The largest number of converts to militant Islamist fundamentalism are found in failed Arab states. Essentially, that means all of the Arab states --- 22 in number, totaling 300 million people (half under the age of 15) who will soon, in 15 years, be about 500 million in number and even younger in average age. All these states, without exception, are despotic and corrupt to the core; the ruler stays in power until he dies, either naturally and handing over power to his son (succession struggles are common in Arab history, not least among brothers out to kill one another) or through a coup or revolution that brings to power another dictator and his clique. All these states depend for their stability on the secret police and repression, which varies in the degree of cruelty and barbarous brutality: far worse in Iraq and Syria (nicely supported by the European Union and France, save for Britain over Iraq), where mass-murdering Baathist regimes inspired by Nazism and Stalinism rule; much less violently in the small Gulf states and Tunisia and Morocco; with Egypt and Algeria and Jordan in between. Lebanon is a failed state carved up into 50 armed militias that have spent most of the last 30 years killing one another; the Sudan has pitted a ruthless Arab military government until recently in a sustained campaign of genocide and slavery directed at the Christian and pagan black Africans in the south (the war ended thanks to US influence just recently); Libya is a nightmarish state run by a crazed kook, Colonel Khadaffi, until recently a terrorist supporter. Slavery, besides being openly practiced on a wide scale in the Sudan and Muritania (a poor backward Arab state west of Morocco), exists throughout the Saudi peninsula as well, and in Islamic parts of tropical Africa in the North.
All these states ---whether the most murderous or the least violent (the latter all small in size) --- are crammed with unemployed, alienated, and bewildered young men . . . tens of millions, with no prospects and ripely eager for a politically and religious message that provides them with a new, emotionally charged sense of identity, meaning, and purpose in life that makes sense of their raging frustrations and anger and explains how the Golden Age of purified Islam, justice, and Islamic global rule will be restored through violent struggle. It is precisely that message and its attendant apocalyptic symbols full of chiliastic violence that attracts people to militant Islamo fundamentalism . . . including, as was the case with fascist movements in Central and East Europe in the 1930s, a new community of the true-believers and social services. The symbolic appeal can't be over-stressed. The religious symbols, prophecies, and politically kinetic, wild-eyed fantasies shot through with wrought-up paranoia --- which traces the sources of the converts' misery back to the machinations and malice of Islam's alleged enemies singled out earlier: above all Jews, Israel, the US, and their dupes ---- are what inspire the recruits to the ranks of the Islamo-fascist terrorisms that flourish throughout the Arab world and increasingly in other Islamic countries. Destroy the enemies through jihad fervor, including terrorism, and a purified, renewed Islam will surely prevail and bring about the reign of Islamic justice in the existing Islamic states while spreading its glories and restoring Islam to its fantasized ancient global dominance.
Nothing more startlingly illustrates the failures of almost all Islamic states, especially in the Arab world, than two statistics that figured in the UN Arab Human Development Report 2002
Spain, with 40 million people --- and far from being the most prosperous of the EU countries --- has a larger GDP than all the 1.2 billion Muslims living in 57 states. More astonishing still, Spain translates more books each year from abroad than the 300 million Arab people have done in the last 1000 years. That's no error: over the last millenium of 10 centuries!
How many fundamentalists are there in the Arab states?
Remember, there are about 1.2 billion Muslims in the world (about 2 billion Christians, the fastest growing religion, contrary to what Muslims claim, in the world --- especially in tropical Africa now), and 300 million Arabs, 95% Muslim (overwhelmingly Sunni).
Nobody knows the precise number of followers. The despotic Arab states --- all relying ultimately on secret police rule, which varies only in the degree of brutality and cruelty (far worse in the French-German-Russian supported Iraq and Syria than elsewhere, save in the Sudan where American influence has led to the end of the bloody terror directed at Christian and pagan black Africans, never mind their enslavement) --- will not permit scientific surveys. Worse, faced with rising fundamentalist support, the corrupt rulers resort to double-dealing treachery with us and with the radical militants: they tolerate the fundamentalisms, even allow them to spread their messages and communal organizations by catering to their paranoid fantasies in their state-controlled media as long as these are directed outward against the conspiratorial demons: Jews, Israel, the US above all, and once and a while neighboring Arab states. Any effort, however, to direct their enmity at the existing regime --- as in Egypt or elsewhere --- leads to immediate and crushing secret police terror to destroy them. What then? Well, once the limits of their hatred are established, the despotic secret-police ruled Arab states, to repeat, give the fundamentalists ample access to their state-controlled TV, radio, and newspapers (never mind mosque sermons), allowing, even encouraging them as diversions from the political and economic failures at home, to preach their messages of hatred: of Jews, Christians, Israel, the US. As Dennis Ross, our former Mid-East envoy for 10 years who tried to shepherd the Oslo peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority noted right after 9/11's mass-murdering outrage, the first thing the US should be doing is to force the Arab governments to shut down those hate-machines.
That said, some US specialists, John Esposito --- one of the handful of the most influential scholars on the Middle East these days (at Georgetown), and an apologist for radical Islamic fundamentalisms that, he has long claimed, would somehow ignite democratic revolutions in the Middle East --- was willing to say when he was interviewed on US television after 9/11 that the fundamentalist followers in the Arab world were in the 40-50% range. It was of course only an estimate.
Just to clarify, a sidebar note: Esposito does have good contacts with fundamentalist Islam, for which he has long been an apologist, making it hard, given his influence in the Middle East Scholars Association, to come to terms with the hatred, vitriol, anti-western, xenophobic animosities that flourish in militant fundamentalist circles throughout the Islamic world, and their links to terrorism. Attacked by Martin Kramer, a gifted Middle East studies expert with appointments in this country and Israel, in a book that shook up the entire Middle East studies establishment in this country after 9/11 for complacency and apologetic defense of the indefensible in Islam akin to the "useful idiots" who always apologized for and defended totalitarian communism during the cold war --- Ivory Towers in the Sand, which has been discussed at length in the popular press because of its importance --- Esposito and his students and like-minded colleagues were thrown on the defensive suddenly and have come up with lame excuses that they were actually more critical than they appeared in their writings before the terrorist attacks on the US. Really?
Even one of the most influential scholarly figures in the Middle East Studies Association, similarly attacked by Kramer --- Richard Bulliet of Columbia --- admitted when he was interviewed about the scholarly tussles that Ivory Tower in the Sands ignited in the months after 9/11 agreed that the discipline has been infected with "wishful thinking" even though he claimed Kramer exaggerated.
Enter Steyn, and His Article about Jihad Fervor in Nigeria Recently over the Miss Universe Beauty Contest:
Steyn's hard-hitting sarcasm and telling points about Islamo-fascist fundamentalism --- his accurate term for radical Islamism and its political program, complete with paranoid fantasies, militancy, belief in violence, and Jew-hating racism --- are on display in this article published last fall (and reprinted at the end here). Because a private journalist ventured an opinion that radical Imams in Northern Nigeria, a hotbed of Islamist militancy these days, huge communal riots broke out in which rampaging Muslims went beserk, pulling women and children out of cars who were Christians and, burning them alive. That started retaliatory riots after 100 or so Christians and dozens of Churches were burned, which in the onslaught between Muslims and Christians and Nigerian troops led to 500 people being killed. And all because Nigeria wanted to hold a Miss World Contest, plus a journalist's observations; nothing more. We are dealing, it appears, with unhinged, very angry people in Muslim countries or regions.
In his article, Steyn also clarifies the threats of assassination -- issued in Fatwas by this or that offended Muslim --- that now hangs over him, as well as over Salmon Rushdie, the great Indian writer now a British subject against whom the chief Ayotollah of the clerical-fascist regime in Iran, back in the late 1980s, issued a death sentence Fatwa on the offending Muslim novelist. He survived assassination by going into hiding with hiding with British secret service protection. Years later, the Fatwa was relinquished, and Rushie now lives in New York. (Recently, some Imam somewhere revived the Fatwa: it makes it mandatory for true-believers to carry out the assassination of the Muslim heretic.)
Islamo-fascism: The Term Explained
Steyn's and others' use of the term Islamo-fascism is no misuse of the concept of fascism itself. The Buggy Prof has written on this before here at this web site (go to the archives table on the home page, click on war on terrorism, find the article on fascism). It will help, though, briefly to clarify the accuracy of the tag for Islamist fundamentalisms and the terrorist movements associated with them . . . this time by citing the works of two gifted writers, Fouad Ajami at John Hopkins and the investigative reporter, David Brooks
 Ajami's Views on the Nazi Origins of Saddam Hussein's Mental World
One of the most gifted of contemporary scholars of the Arab world, Fouad Ajami --- praised a few months ago by James Woosley, our former CIA head and outspoken critic of CIA and other intelligence failures recently, as one of the handful of observers who didn't conform to pc-orthodoxies and foresaw the disasters of Islamo-fascist terrorism --- has been criticized for exactly the same reason by the pc-mediocrities in the Middle East Studies Association and, even more than criticized, excoriated, by the terrorist-sympathizers among Arab students here and abroad. The criticisms and assaults have been all the more vehement and vicious precisely because Ajami, like Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes and David Pryce-Jones (the British novelist and essayist, reared in Tunisia: CLOSED CIRCLE: An Interpretation of the Arabs
discussed at the very end of the buggy prof's commentary here), has pinned down the home-grown causes of Arab backwardness --- economic, social, intellectual, scientific, and political; including the pervasive despotism, corruption, and winner-take-all power struggles in all 22 Arab countries --- that collides with the pc-supported self-pitying and culture of blame-shifting, conspiratorial thought, and scapegoating of foreign devils for the numerous festering ills that afflict the Arab world.
Nor is that all. Ajami, born in Lebanon, can be considered an apostate --- a convert to the secular liberalism of America, and bought off by the devils themselves, Jews being the favorite scapegoat that you can find on the more radical pro-Palestinian and other radical Arab online sites.
In a Wall Street Journal
op-ed, "Two Faces, Two Terrors,"
easily accessible (if you subscribe, alas), Ajami sets out by now familiar views to those of you who know his writings . . . updated, however, to bring them into line with the new coercive diplomacy aimed at Iraq and Saddam Hussein, now the last-ditch great savior-hero of Islam and Arab honor and pride, even though Saddam, as he shows, draws his ideological support from Nazism, not fundamentalism Islam. Leninism, especially the one-party totalitarian state it created, also inspired the pioneer ideologues of the Arab Baath Party. No surprise. Leninism was Mussolini's model for his fascist movement (Mussolini and all the initial leaders of the Italian fascist party, which took power in 1923, were former socialists who then moved away from class-warfare to have-not states struggles, in extreme nationalist ways, against the have-powers, the US, Great Britain, and France). In turn, Mussolini's success in Italy was a formative influence on Hitler's emerging Nazi party, which took power a decade later in Germany.
Nazism, by the way, is the short-hand for the NSDAP: German Workers National Socialist Party, the stress on a state-dominated socialism (as in the Soviet Union, especially under Stalin), with an effort to rally badly divided societies, not least along class lines of a violent sort, around a common program of extremist nationalism, violence against others, a glorification of war, contempt for bourgeois compromise, anti-Marxism, and imperial glory. And fascisms, including Nazism, played on the hatred of capitalism that flourished on the left and far right in Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Belgium, and France.
Two things distinguished the Nazis: they added virulent racism from the start, unlike Italian fascism; and Hitler and his party governed a far more disciplined, powerful country (in WWII, there was, by contrast, a large anti-fascist partisan movement that grouped Communists, liberal Catholics, socialists, and liberals).
II. David Brooks on the Nazi Origins of Baathist Ideology,
and Saddam Hussein
A remarkably concise, well-researched article on the origins of the Iraqi (and Syrian) Baath Parties – and the Nazi inspiration – is attached here at the end. In the National Review last week, and by a talented writer and investigative journalist, David Brooks. Recall too that the appeal of Nazism isn't confined to the Baath parties of Iraq and Syria. The Mufti of Jerusalem, the spiritual head of the Palestinians, was a fervent Nazi believer and lived in Berlin during WWII, hobnobbing with Hitler and the other Nazi leaders. After his return to the Middle East, he inspired Yasser Arafat and Gamiel Nasser (the pan-Arabist dictator in Egypt after 1954 who lost the 1956 and 1967 wars to Israel).
" Saddam's Brain: The ideology behind the thuggery" From the November 11, 2002 issue of The Weekly Standard
by David Brooks
III. The Spiritual Head of the Palestinians in the 1930s and 1940:
The Mufti of Jerusalem, His Fervent Nazism, His WWII War Crimes in the Balkans.
His Influence on Yasser Arafat
A long commentary by the buggy prof on this subject was sent to his listserver last fall. You can access a good summary of the Mufti's biography and influence . . . including his role in organizing for Hitler a Muslim SS-Division in Bosnia that fought alongside the Nazi Croatian State of the Ustashas . . . responsible for killing almost a million Serbs and almost all the small Jewish population in their parts of Yugoslavia. Note the picture of the Mufti reviewing the SS Bosnian Muslim volunteers in 1943. The Mufti later fled to Egypt to escape deportation to Yugoslavia for war crimes and genocide:Mufti-Hadjar
(The site is run by a Canadian Christian group.) There, in Egypt, he had a big influence on Yasser Arafat, his pupil. They became so intimately close that the Mufti later claimed, falsely --- words in many Arab circles, it appears, are magical and have no bear on reality --- that Arafat was his nephew.
IV. Arab Rhetoric, The Subordination of Truth to a Facade of Honor
On Arab rhetoric and truth-telling and its tenuous connections with reality --- especially when questions of family and individual honor and shame are at stake, where matters of truth and falsehood are deliberately subordinate to the maintenance of a public posture of dignity, honor, prestige, and (for the rich and politically influential) power --- see the astute insights of David Pryce-Jones . . . a British novelist and journalist who was born and raised in Tunisia, and knows Arab history, culture, and personal life better than almost any westerner. Wait, tell you what: at the very end of the long commentary being unfolded here, right after Mark Steyn's article, the buggy prof will reprint another of his listserver commentaries, this time on Pryce-Jones and his important book, Closed Circle
. In the meantime, here is the matchless analysis he published last November in The New Criterion
, an important journal of cultural criticism from the moderate conservative center, entitled "Retreats into Fantasy"
Nothing better illustrates the denial of reality when it conflicts with hopes, dreams, aspirations, and above all honor and the avoidance of shame in Arab life than the systematic refusal, rife throughout the Arab countries, that Muslims didn't carry out the 9/11 attacks --- rather Jews, or the CIA, or more likely both since Jews are thought to dominate the world and the US. Last year at this time, to get down to specifics, the Gallup poll reported that over 60% of Arabs in 10 different Arab countries denied that Muslims were involved in the attacks that were carried out six months earlier. Gallup
Then, last September -- a year after the attacks -- a new poll carried out in Egypt, the largest of the Arab countries by far (65 million), showed that an even larger majority denied the reality of Muslim involvement.
Along with the flight into fantasy and the subordination of truth to honor and prestige goes something else, no less startling: a chronic tendency to explain all complex and unfavorable developments by means of conspiratorial theories . . . a long-lived tradition rooted in 1400 years of autocratic life, with no rule of law, no transparency in the decisions of sheiks or kings or Ottoman rulers or later European rulers, no accountability either, and the widespread mistrust and cynicism anyway along tribal-clan lines. Plus, lest we forget, winner-take-all politics: there can only be one potentate in charge of everything, along with his cronies. In such circumstances, the only way to challenge him and those sharing his spoils is to destroy them by violence. Hence rulers in the Arab countries remain there for life, until they die and a son succeeds (often in bloody struggles with his brothers) or he's killed in a coup and a new clique takes power. Such politics, reinforced by tribal-clan divisions and radical zero-sum political struggles, combine with the wider norms just mentioned to encourage a paranoid conspiratorial view of complex developments. The widespread belief that something called internatiuonal Jewry masterminded the 9/11 attacks on the US --- allegedly with Jewish workers in the World Trade Center warned in advance --- is testimony to just how far-reaching mental contortions in the Arab world can go to bring reality into line with high-pulsating emotional and ideological needs. Even important members of so-called friendly Arab governments have repeated the lie --- as, for instance, did the Saudi Interior Minister, a high-up royalist Prince, in December 2002. Saudi
It is hardly idiosyncratic, this conspiratorial ideology.
Two other things nail fantasized conspiratorial views to widespread Arab mental life, making it hard to challenge:  widespread illiteracy and educational backwardness, and  state-controlled censorship in all the Arab states of TV, radio, newspapers, books, and even religious sermons delivered by Imams on Fridays,
The pervasive state-censorship in all 22 Arab countries that turns the media into instruments of propaganda, including the access to them by fundamentalist crackpots and their paranoid ideologies of conspiracy and hatred, is too well-known to need elaboration here. It varies only in the degree of virulence and secret-police surveillance, little more. When it comes to the US, no one less than our chief envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross --- remember --- called the Arab media hate-machines that the double-dealing Arab despotic leaders use as a way of diverting frustrations and resentments in their personal lives, aggravated by home-grown failures one and all, outward and toward the US. He said that the first thing we should demand of these dictators, most of the allegedly friendly to the US, is to turn off those hate-machines.
As for illiteracy
, the Arabs are quite simply the most illiterate people in the world . . . more so than even the much poorer tropical Africans. Everywhere in the 22 Arab countries, illiteracy is over 50%. And their schools are notorious for inculcating memory and respect for authority, and little else. There were, it's true, some exceptions at one time, but the western-oriented intelligentsia and scholars trained here and in Europe --- some my own students --- have either been forced into exile or killed off or silenced since the early 1980s, thanks to the double-whammy of fundamentalist attacks and the growing repression in Arab political life. (A good book on the conspiratorial tendencies is Daniel Pipes, THE HIDDEN HAND: MIDDLE EAST FEARS OF CONSPIRACY
(Palgrave, 1995). head of the Middle East Forum.
Note something striking that follows. Specifically, one of the direct consequences of this subordination of truth-telling and truth-testing in Arab life to honor and shame and related considerations is the backwardness of Arab militaries, especially compared to Israel --- a small, modern, technologically advanced country. See the fascinating analysis of these two problems in Arab armies by Colonel de Atkine, an American officer who tried to train the officer-corps in several countries: again and again, he found that intelligent junior-level officers would NEVER, even when he encouraged them, to explain in the presence of senior Arab officers what went wrong in the previous training excercise . . . a commonplace in all Western militaries. In the end, he found the only way he could even get the junior and mid-level officers to speak up was to feed them questions that were bereft of any criticisms. See Colonel de Atkine
Are there exceptions to these cultural tendencies?
Sure. No culture in complex societies beyond the size of tribes, tribal-clans, or maybe small city states like those of the ancient Greeks (50,000 citizens, plus women and slaves) produces homogenous people . . . and so yes, there will be a certain diversity of outlooks and maps of the world and value-laden blueprints for living --- all the stuff of culture, which deals with whats' mysterious, beautiful, threatening, good or bad, and efficient; and hence how to think, judge, and do things as some anthropologists put it. If there weren't differences among individuals, there wouldn't be a clash at the heart of Islamic societies, above all Arab societies, that pit those who want to join the modern world and those who, attracted to fundamentalism amid their mental dislocations and emotional upheavals, have thrown their lot in with revivalist fantasies and conspiratorial world-views. No one, though, should minimize the challenges of creating democratic institutions, a rule of law, accountability of leadership, and a spirit of compromise and tolerance that are essential to effective democratic societies of the sort we live in . . . any more than they should expect rapid industrial development to implant itself in Arab life, itself dependent on effective and transparent financial and business and legal and regulatory and educational institutions, proper incentives, effective governmental policies, and administrative agencies that don't see the purpose of government in fleecing the population and burying it in red-tape.
All that granted, any optimism about cultural changes in Arab life must be heavily tempered.
In particulasr, autocratic rule over 1400 years in length, recent dictatorships, and secret-police control of the media and education, combine with startling illiteracy and cultural norms learned in infancy and childhood and reinforced repeatedly, that limit the number of independent, free-thinking, well-educated people in the Arab countries.
Add to this the growing repression of intellectual life practiced rigorously by all the Arab dictatorships --- even by less vicious governments than Iraq's or Syria's or Libya's or Sudan's, say in Tunisia and Morocco and Egypt and Jordan; add too the pincer movement of intellectual life practiced no less energetically by fundamentalist thugs and Imams --- including threats, assassinations, and other means of intimidation . . . and there are fewer independent voices that speak out these days than was the case 40 years ago. This is especially so in the once vibrant intellectual life that flourished above all in Beirut and Cairo, where the American University (in both cities today still) produced most of the existing Arab intellectual and technocratic elites. If they're lucky, they fled and went into exile.
Those who have remained --- such as the middle class professionals and businessmen who joined together in Egypt in the mid-1990s to try challenging the Mubarak dictatorship --- have been silenced or routed or become in most cases lackies of state-controlled propaganda.
Enter Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations
Back to fundamentalism, particularly how Samuel Huntington --- despite some problems with a pathbreaking book that all such pioneer efforts are bound to encounter --- was the first to explain and clarify its violent threat.
Nothing could illustrate the clash of different values --- fundamental ones, freedom of expression and artistic creativity in the West (which, I know for sure, some Arabs and other Muslims support) vs religious dogmas that use strict, radically fundamentalist criteria regarding free expression . . . and, with some militant Islamists, leading to death threats or actual homicides as in Nigeria or suicide bombings aimed at cafes, markets, buses, crowded city streets, schools, universities, and religious centers in Israel, or the attacks on Americans in 2001. Are we face-to-face with Huntington's clash of civilization, denounced by bien pensants (smug conventional wisdom types, whether pc radicals or mainstream scholars) as either flatly wrong, or dangerous, or accurate and dangerous, or some combination?
The answer: Huntington, for my money one of the two or three most creative political scientists in comparative politics, developmental politics, and IR for the last 45 years --- as well, I add, in American politics (a brilliant book in the early 1980s) --- erred in seeing the clash of identity issues as occuring ACROSS civilizations, especially represented by a uniform Islam. Instead, as you'll see in a moment, the real clash here unfolding violently at the heart of Islam, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere. He also missed the rapid extent to which post-Communist Russia --- seen as a civilization in its own right (Christian Orthodoxy at its core) --- has been actively seeking to integrate into the Western world. For all that, Huntington was practically the only one in the early 1990s to see how the progress of globalizing forces were undermining traditional values and customs and comfortable if stagnant mental worlds, generating identity backlashes in the Islamic world . . . not least because of the increased impact of American cultural influence with their their powerful reach into the very heart of all societies around the world --- thanks to TV, radio, music, films, books, software, the Internet, the spread of English, and imagined life-styles associated with all this. He also recognized that the more certain backward countries, again Islamic, might seek to become more modern and competitive --- we're talking about Pacific Islam, especially in Indonesia --- the more violent and far-reaching the identity backlashes could me.
Only Francis Fukuyama even came close to noting a similar trend of identity issues at stake in globalization and the triumph of the liberal West over all its foes since Napoleonic France: Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, militarist Japan, and Soviet Communism. But whereas Fukuyama turned out to be complacent about the ease, initially, with which all non-western countries would modernize eventually, especially in creating liberal democratic and market institutions, Huntington was much more pessimistic.
The Real Clash Involving Islam
The accurate way, it seems, to portray the Huntington thesis is to revise it to read this way: a clash of civilizations is being played out in the heart of the Islamic world --- some 57 countries of 1.2 billion people, remember, of which 22 are Arab (300 million).
ONE SIDE OF THE CLASH IS THE MODERNIZING FORCES ASSOCIATED
WITH GLOBALIZATION AND THE TRIUMPHANT LIBERAL WEST
Call these the westernized values of
science and technology and free expression: hence openness to knowledge produced anywhere in the world by scientists and engineers and secular scholars,
market-oriented capitalist institutions that allow for some variety (mainly in state-private sector interactions),
democracy and a rule of law.
women's rights and equality, the abolition of slavery (thanks to the destruction of it by the British and the Americans in the 19th century, with Islam having practiced slavery, including the African slave trade system, for a thousand years longer than the Europeans and the US), and protection of minorities.
True, no western country fully incorporates perfect democratic accountability and responsibility, or a foolproof rule of law, but countries can easily be ranked as approximations of the ideal . . omething social scientists already do, regarding corruption surveys, democratic surveys, human rights observations etc.
In the Islamic world, these values and the globalizing forces connected to them were espoused in earlier generations by, say, intellectuals and some middlemen merchants --- western-trained scholars, some journalists, writers, and businessmen --- and have been effectively embraced by Turkey, thanks to the Ataturk revolution, starting in the 1920s . . . despite very uneven progress on all 5 scores. To a much lesser extent, maybe, Indonesia too (way too early to judge the shift to electoral democracy and a rule of law). And that, essentially, is it.
What happened elsewhere, especially in the Arab countries? In blunt, shorthand terms, there were way too many obstacles that could be overcome byh the early half-hearted modernizing regimes in the Arab world that came to power after WWII. Remember, to clarify: from the late 15th century until 1918, the end of WWII, there were no independent Arab countries anywhere, all of the dominated by the Ottoman Empire save for those countries of North Africa where mainly France and Britain became the colonial masters after the 1840s --- France in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco; Britain indirectly in Egypt after 1880 or so.
In particular, the new Arab regimes, those created by the British and French in the aftermath of WWI in the Levant --- Saudia Arabia, the small Gulf States, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq; with the British reneging on their commitment to create a Jewish homeland in what would now be all of Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan --- were weak and ruled by despots put onto the throne by the two victorious powers . . . though Lebanon, a tiny state with a Christian Arab majority in those days, evolved into a tenuous parliamentary system. They had royal despots had no interest in modenization, and Lebanon developed only partially, especially in Beirut; it would eventually fall into prolonged and massive bloody civil war among more than 50 armed militias in the 1970s and 1980s, dividing mainly Christians and Muslims, but with big internal and violent divisions within each of these larger communities. As for Egypt, and the French and Italian and Spanish colonies of North Africa (Libya, Muritania, plus Algeria and Morocco and Tunisia), they immediately were taken over by mainly royal despots too, though in Egypt a coup in 1954 brought Colonel Nasser, a pupil like Arafat of the Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem and the leading Pan Arabist ofr his day, to power. Corrupt to the core, Egypt stagnated, then eventually came under the control of a typical Arab dictator, now grooming his son for power, Hosny Mubarak, and increasingly repressive ever since the early 1980s. Algeria went into civil war, then was taken over by the military junta that led the colonial struggle against France, then degenerated into a repressive corrupt regime too, with a large-scale bloody civil war involving fundamentalists being waged throughout the 1990s. Morocco is stable and in the hands of a royalist despot; Tunisia, more advanced economically, has a similar form of rule. The oil-rich states, Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the small Gulf States, have squandered trillions of dollars over the last 30 years.
The UN Arab Development Report 2002
--- mentioned earlier --- singles out three sets of failures that explain Arab backwardness, political, economic, technological, and otherwise: lack of democracy, suppression of women (half of human kind), and indifference to knowledge --- scientific, political, philosophic --- produced elsewhere in the world, especially the European countries, over the last 1000 years.
Starting in the 1950s and 1960s, but especially since 1970, the western- oriented scholars and journalists have been either killed, forced into exile, or silenced by increasingly repressive Arab governments from one angle, and by increasingly militant Islamist fundamentalisms from another. Those who survive are either silent, as I said, or co-opted and have become hacks for the despotic regimes
ON THE OTHER SIDE, WE HAVE INCREASINGLY MILITANT, RADICAL ISLAMIST FUNDAMENTALISMS
. . . whether Wahhabi, Sunni-Taliban, Shia militancy in Iran (where the conflict of values and civilizations is especially acute now as more and more young people and the middle classes rebels against the repressive rule of the clerical fascists still entrenched there), and other forms of radicalism that all look to some form of purified militant Islam to prevail, legally and politically, throughout the Islamic world by violence and struggle, including terrorism. The model here, remember, reduces to something like the post 11th-century Middle Ages of Islamic orthodoxies that snuffed out the impressive scholarly openness and inquiry in the Islamic world (especially Arab) until then. Call it Dark Age know-nothing revivalism, despite itsvariations.
Remember, the key appeal of these fundamentalisms to the Arab masses -- including lots of unemployed, frustrated "intellectuals" (university students or grads) --- is rooted in the failures of the existing Arab countries, to stay with them only: state-failures, bad social services, massive corruption and nepotism and tribal-clan clientelism, despotism, and the like; plus economic backwardness --- the total GDP of all 1.2 billion Muslims, remember further, lower than the GDP of Spain with 40 million people at current exchange rates --- and huge gaps between rich and poor (aggravated by conspicuous consumption indulged in by the latter, sometimes carried to wacky extravagant lengths), and either extensive illiteracy -- the worst in the world (worse even than far poorer tropical Africa) -- or poor levels of education, or both.
Aggravating all of this is a widespread sense of frustration, resentment, and raging anger that is rooted, first and foremost, in these political and economic and cultural failures or problems . . . but that is fed further by relentless propaganda and, on another level, the growing power gap between Islam and the rest of the world, not just the West any more, but major parts of Asia and some in Latin America, rapidly industrializing and moving toward democracy. That should not happen according to true-believing Islamists and others, not least because Islam -- unlike Christianity or Buddhism or Hinduism or Confucianism --- was from the start
connected to state and military power and expansion, the formidable Arab cavalry sweeping out of the Saudi desert in the 7th century and quickly over-running the Persian Empire, and Christian Levant, North Africa, and Iberia. Then the conquest by Tatars converted to Islam of Christian Russia for two centuries, then the Ottoman conquests of much of the Christian Balkans, then the Islamic Mughals (Turkish-Mongols like the Tatars) onquering Hindu India in the 16th century.
Since then, Islam has been hopelessly outpaced by the West and now much of non-Muslim Asia, not least because of its resistances to the modernizing forces that began in West Europe: effective national identity, meritocratic bureaucracies, scientific and industrial revolutions, and --- with tremendous violence and ideological conflicts and massive murderous wars in Europe --- democracy and capitalism on one side and anti-democratic and anti-capitalist fascisms, Nazisms, reactionary clerical fascisms, and Communisms. We've mentioned one result: the total GDP of the 1.2 billion Muslims living in 57 countries is less than that of Spain with its 40 million (at existing exchange rates) . . . Spain itself about 15% below the EU per capita income (itself about 33% below the US's). Another, even more startling stat: the 300 million Arab people in 22 states have translated fewer books from abroad in the last 1000 years than the Spanish, 40 million in number, do each year. In 1000 years? An extraordinary figure that captures just how much the Arab peoples have sealed themselves off from modern science, technology, philosophy, literature, scholarship, and political and legal developments. No less startling, and far more humilitating for the fundamentalists and many of the Arab masses, is that tiny Israel --- a state smaller than Connecticut, with 5 million Jews (and 1 million Arab citizens, the only Arabs anywhere living in democracy and enjoying a rule of law) --- is not only one of the most advanced industrial countries in the world, but far more militarily powerful than all the Arab states combined.
For the moment, forget Israel. Think of India. Think in particular of India's success as a state, and in democracy and industrialization and technology and impressive universities, and compare these successes to Pakistan next door that was created exactly at the same time in 1947 as India and independence from Britain, to see the force of these observations.
To accept then the status quo in the Middle East --- essentially the goal of French diplomacy, now supported by the German moralizing left and Russia --- is to perpetuate the spread of fundamentalisms amid continued economic and political state failure, producing ever greater ranks of potential recruits into Islamo-fascist terrorist movements. That status quo has to be shaken up. Simiiarly, the three Islamo-fascist states in the Middle East actively engaged in WMD programs needed to be either destroyed or forced to change before those weapons slip into the hands of extermination-minded terrorists, wild-eyed with the prospect of destroying tens or hundreds of millions of Americans and Islam's other imagined demonic enemies.
The Wider Political and Cultural Significance of the Imminent Destruction of Saddamite Islamo-Fascism:
The rest, as they say, is current history . . . since 9/11, with the generally half-hearted westernized despotic Arab states --- Egypt, the Gulf States, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and maybe a handful of the more enlightened Saudi princes struggling for power succession now --- having to decide under American pressure where to take a stand on the clash of values and modernizing forces within Islam and the Middle East. Not least, in the conflicts with 1) home-grown terrorists (generally smashed by the despotic and repressive states) AND 2) with Iran, Iraq, and Syria, all anti-western totalitarian or semi-totalitarian states with WMD programs, themselves full of large alienated populations who hate the rulers and the even
more acute and disastrous repression of those regimes.
The wider thrust, even as economically bankrupt Syria will very likely be brought under unrelenting pressure --- a mixture of threats and promised rewards for big changes in their WMD programs, support for terrorism, and hostility to a US mediated Israeli-Palestinian accord --- will be almost certainly to encourage, even force by example and influence, political changes of a modernizing democratic sort and market reforms in the pro-US Arab states . . . as to an extent already exists in the small Gulf States. Saudia Arabia, in the throes of a succession struggle with Prince Abdullah, the most modern-minded reformer in the country a close friend of President Bush, already announcing that the country will begin to reform after Saddam is gone --- with a commitment, evidently, to Bush personally that he will struggle to bring under control the Wahhabi fanatics in the kingdom --- will be a bellweather country here. So will Jordan and Egypt, both capable of political reform. So will Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, the former country hosting a visit by Jacques Chirac --- recently rebuffed almost everywhere in the EU and NATO and East Europe for his hostility to the US --- where he hoped to recoup his fortunes by assuring the Arabs that France was an alternative leader, the great intermediary between the Arab peoples and the West. The response of one high-level Algerian official quoted in the New York Times: Algeria has very friendly relations with the US (also more and more trade and investment) and has no intention of joining an anti-US bloc.
National Post, Dec.5/02
"A fatwa of one's own"
By Mark Steyn
To be honest, I felt mildly envious when I saw Zulf M. Khalfan's
letter on Tuesday. Mr. Khalfan, of Nepean, Ontario, was responding to
David Frum's defence of Isioma Daniel, the Nigerian journalist now in
hiding after remarking that the Prophet Muhammad would have been happy
to take the winner of Miss World for his wife. Mr. Khalfan replied
that, as Muhammad's wives are accorded "an honourable status," it was
obviously grossly objectionable to suggest that a woman who "exposed
herself" -- by wearing make-up and a bikini -- would be an appropriate
spouse for the Prophet.
Fair comment. But then: "Mr. Frum has to understand that it is Muslims
who determine what is objectionable to their religion, not he
dictating it to them," added Mr. Khalfan. "And since he cites Salman
Rushdie, he should know by now the fatal consequences resulting from
ignoring this fact."
Can you believe it? For most of the last 15 months, while I've been
here playing the National Post's Mister Islamophobe, that milquetoast
Frum has been sitting in the White House, presumably cranking out all
the President's dopey "Islam is peace" speeches. He's back in the Post
for barely a fortnight and already he's got his own fatwa? Thanks a
bunch, you ungrateful Nepean Islamists! Where did I go right?
Well, Mr. Khalfan has now "clarified" his original letter on the page
opposite. He doesn't want to kill David Frum. He just wants David to
be aware of how easy it is to provoke other people into killing him.
When Isioma Daniel remarked that Muhammad would have taken Miss World
as his wife, she was correct to the extent that the Prophet seems to
have had an eye for the ladies. But that wasn't really her point. Her
point was more basic, and it was this: Hey, lighten up, Muslims!
Muslims responded by going nuts, rampaging through the streets,
pulling Christian women and children from cars and burning them to the
cheers of the mob. By the end of it all, the dead numbered 500. So no,
Miss Daniel, Muslims won't lighten up, but they'll light you up, if
they ever catch up with you. (I'm in favour of Izzy offering the poor
gal a job at the Post, by the way.)
These days, we're all citing Salman Rushdie but at the time --
February 14th 1989 -- most of us didn't appreciate the significance of
the event. It marked the first time the Ayatollah Khomeini had claimed
explicitly extra-territorial authority. Why he chose an obscure and
for most of us unreadable English novel for his expeditionary foray is
unclear, but the results must have heartened him tremendously.
Rushdie had not set out to offend Muslims: None of the London
reviewers found anything controversial in the book. When British
Muslims and their co-religionists around the world burnt copies of The
Satanic Verses in the streets, BBC arts bores -- including our own
Michael Ignatieff -- held innumerable discussions on the awful
"symbolism" of this assault on "ideas." But it wasn't symbolic at all:
they burned the book because nothing else was to hand. If his wife or
kid had swung by, they'd have gladly burned them instead. Overseas,
they made do with translators and publishers. Rushdie's precious lit.
crit. crowd mostly opposed the fatwa on the grounds of artistic
freedom rather than as a broader defence of western pluralism. That
was a mistake.
In the Fifties and Sixties, Nasserism attempted to import Soviet
socialism to the Middle East: it never really took. A generation
later, the Ayatollah came up with a better wheeze: export Islamism to
a culturally defeatist West. Everything that has become pathetically
familiar to us since September 11th was present in the Rushdie affair:
First, the silence of the "moderate Muslims": a few Islamic scholars
pointed out that the Ayatollah had no authority to issue the fatwa;
they quickly shut up when the consequences of not doing so became
Second, the squeamishness of the establishment: Rushdie was infuriated
when the Archbishop of Canterbury lapsed into root-cause mode. "I well
understand the devout Muslims' reaction, wounded by what they hold
most dear and would themselves die for," said His Grace. Rushdie
tersely: "There is only one person around here who is in any danger of
Roy Hattersley, the Labour Party's deputy leader, attempted to split
the difference by arguing that, while he of course supported freedom
of speech, perhaps "in the interests of race relations" it would be
better not to bring out a paperback edition. He was in favour of
artistic freedom, but only in hard covers -- and certainly, when it
comes to soft spines, Lord Hattersley knows whereof he speaks.
His colleague, Gerald Kaufman, attacked critics of British Muslims:
"What I cannot accept is the implication that it is somehow
anti-democratic and un-British for Mr. Rushdie's writings to be the
object of criticism on religious, as distinct from literary, grounds."
Mr. Kaufman said this a few days after large numbers of British
Muslims had marched through English cities openly calling for Rushdie
to be killed. In the last few months, several readers have e-mailed me
with their memories of those marches. One man in Bradford remembers
asking a West Yorkshire police officer why the "Muslim community
leaders" weren't being arrested for incitement to murder. The officer
said they'd been told to play it cool. The cries for blood got more
raucous. My correspondent asked his question again. The police officer
told him to
"F--- off, or I'll arrest you."
And, most important of all, the Rushdie affair should have taught us
that there's nothing to negotiate. Mohammed Siddiqui wrote to The
Independent from a Yorkshire mosque to endorse the fatwa by citing
Sura 5 verses 33-34: "The punishment of those who wage war against God
and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through
the land, is execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands
and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land. That is their
disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the
hereafter. Except for those who repent before they fall into your
power. In that case know that God is oft-forgiving, most merciful."
Rushdie seems to have got the wrong end of the stick on this. He
suddenly turned up on a Muslim radio station in West London one night
and told his interviewer he'd converted to Islam. Marvelous religion,
couldn't be happier, praise be to Allah and all that. The Ayatollah
said terrific, now you won't suffer such heavy punishment in the
hereafter. But we're still gonna kill you.
Some of us drew from the Rushdie affair a different lesson than Mr.
Khalfan: As bad as the fatwa was, the inability of the establishment
to defend coherently Western values was worse. All those British
Muslims who called openly for Rushdie's death are still around, more
powerful and with more followers.
Mr. Khalfan is being disingenuous. When was the last time a mob of
Jews or Christians or Buddhists tore children from cars and burned
them to death? A while back, I saw Terrence McNally's ghastly Broadway
jerk-off, Corpus Christi, in which a gay Jesus rhapsodizes about the
joys of anal intercourse with Judas. The play was an abomination, and
deserves all the abuse discriminating theatre-goers can heap upon it.
But oddly enough, I didn't feel an urge to slaughter perfect
strangers, to ram a schoolbus, drag the little moppets from it, douse
them in gasoline, and get my matchbook out.
When Mr. Khalfan says that irresponsible journalists "risk provoking
individuals who cannot control their spiritual emotions and cause the
death of innocent people," he's being far more objectionable about
Muslims than me, Frum and that Nigerian woman rolled into one; he's
being more imperialist than any old-school Colonial Officer: He's
saying Muslims are wogs, savages, they know no better, what do you
expect? You've gotta be careful around them, the slightest thing could
set 'em off. Might be a novel, might be a beauty contest.
Sorry, it's not a good enough answer. If that Nigerian mob are really
no more than "pious Muslims," then pious Muslims should be ashamed.
Pious Muslims can follow the murder-inciters of Bradford, the
suicide-bombers of the West Bank and the depraved killers of northern
Nigeria on their descent into barbarism. Or they can wake up and save
their religion. Mr. Khalfan's sophistry won't cut it.
DAVID PRYCE-JONES: CLOSED CIRCLE: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE ARABS (1989, reprinted 2002)
1) Those who have followed our commentaries on the Middle East, the vast
social and political ills that afflict the Arab countries --- and
explain their economic, technological, and intellectual backwardness,
all at a time of demographic explosions --- are by now fully aware of David
Pryce-Jones, the British novelist and essayist who was reared in Tunisia
and knows the Arab world thoroughly, inside-out.
His book, CLOSED CIRCLE: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE ARABS
-- which mingles
his own first-hand observations with an impressive mastery of Arab and
foreign writings on the Arab peoples (including the solid quality of
Arab scholarly work in the years before 1980, when there were still
high-quality scholars at Arab universities) --- remains one of the best
interpretive analyses ever written about the region. And though I've
talked at length about Arab culture, history, and shared mind-sets
(despite diversity across the 22 Arab countries), including Pryce-Jones'
work, it's probably useful to jog your memories again by including this
succinct review put on the Amazon cite by one of its amateur reviewers
(it precedes the article from the New Criterion by Pryce-Jones).
2) In his latest article, "Retreats into Fantasy," The New Criterion
(November 2002), Pryce-Jones sets out a brief historical
analysis of Arab civilization at its height, then its spectacular steady
decline as the Arab leaders and intellectuals and imams turned their
backs on the pivotal intellectual, scientific, and technological
breakthroughs carried out in West Europe starting in the 17th century
and built the modern world, and the consequences for the Arabs that
have inspired the faltering, halfhearted modernization efforts of mainly
military-trained despots and those ideologues who, simultaneously, were
formulating national-socialist ideologies that drew heavily on Nazism
and other fascisms (especially the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq,
Saddam Hussein, Nasser, the Mufti of Jerusalem, and Yasser Arafat),
leaving the Arab countries no less backward by the 1970s and under the
yoke of even more tyrannical dictatorships and secret police rule.
Probably nothing captures the intellectual backwardness and resistances
to modernizing forces than the startling figure in the UN Arab
Development Report 2002 that appeared last spring: in the last 1000
years, the 300 million Arab peoples today have translated fewer books
into Arabic than the Spanish, 40 million in number, do so yearly. Small
wonder that the total GDP of the 300 million Arab peoples and the
remaining 900 million Muslims in 35 other countries (more open to
modernizing forces in Indonesia and Malaysia) is smaller than Spain's as
3) Pryce-Jones strong points in his book Closed Circle and again,
briefly, in this article are his detailed, first-hand knowledge of
Honor-Shame cultures --- not restricted to the Arabs, rather a
particular feature of Mediterranean societies (think of the Sicilian
Mafiosos) and some Asian societies too --- and how shame and humiliation
and affronts or insults to Arab elites and others, real or imagined,
motivate intense resentments and frustration and a burning desire for
revenge at all costs.
What stands out in the Arab world today --- and Iran and the Central
Asian and South Asian Muslim countries --- is the divisions, full of
conflict and violence, in which shame-honor values and social-norms
motivating and guiding much behavior are fragmented along tribal-clan
These divisions reflect the failure in these societies to develop a
common citizenship organized along a shared national identity and
overarching national values and norms inculcated through a variety of
socialization institutions; and you can't understand political life and
the naked winner-take-all political struggles that mark Arab countries
and these Central-South Asian countries too without grasping the
tribal-clan fragmentation, and the resulting despotism, tyranny,
repression, gulfs between rich and poor, and clientelism (which results
in incompetents at almost all levels of authority being appointed
across-the-board in political, administrative, economic, educational,
and military institutions). The same is true of the naked
cult-of-personalities that dominate Arab political life almost
everywhere (moderated in about a half dozen smaller countries).
Saddam Hussein, and his hot-wire ardor for revenge --- through acquiring
weapons of mass destruction and using them --- can't be understood
except against this background.
Nor can Assad's blood-splattered regime in next-door Syria, its Baath
Party history full of Nazi-inspired ideology. Nor the cult-of-Mullah
rule in Iran to the east, nor the Saudi royal-Mafiosos . . . the latter
two, Iranian and Saudi collective rulers using religious fanaticism
(discussed by Pryce-Jones here) to try legitimizing their tyrannical
repression and power- and money-mongering.
Egypt, first under Nasser, now under Mubarak's dicatorship for the last
twenty years is also in the process of creating a new royal dynasty
line, one of his sons being groomed to take control after daddy's death.
Then there's the quack nutbin Qaddafi regime next door in Libya, with
the Algerian military junta a collective leadership that has outlasted
so far a brutal fundamentalist uprising, while ruining the Algerian
economy and finding it impossible to institutionalize an effective
political system of rule. Tunisia has a more moderate despotic king, as
does Morocco, but even the more successful Tunisian rule is becoming
more repressive and gangster-like as the king and his tribal-clan
associates face a dual challenge from the Tunisian middle classes on one
side and Islamo-fascist fundamentalism on the other. Sudan, a kind of
military-ruled nightmare in which the government dominated by Arabs in
the north has been engaged in genocide and slave-trading on a massive
scale against black African Christians and animists in the south, is
like Algeria's government, only more radicalized ---- but in the
process, it should be added, thanks to US executive and Congressional
pressures, to end the civil war and stop tolerating terrorism camps on
4.) And Pryce-Jones notes -- as we have in other commentaries --- that
the failures of the so-called military and despotic modernizers of the
1950s and 1960s, drawing inspiration from fascism and Nazism, have
created a sense of disillusion and resentment that demagogic Islamist
fundamentalists have tapped. Repeatedly, and in part successfully, with
the increasingly repressive Arab regimes seeking to divert the
resentments and other emotional hostility outward, through their media
that caters to fundamentalism paranoia, hatred, and conspiratorial views
(rife in the Arab world, and to be understood against a background of
1500 years of despotic rule by Arabs, Ottomans, European imperialists,
and new Arab tyrants today), all directed against the turnip-ghost
demons . . . especially Israel, Jews, and the United States, though with
Europeans, Christians, and Hindus running a close second in the
demonology of disturbed, Dark-Age theocratic dogmas and propaganda.