06 March 2009

A dangerous misunderstanding

On Exit Zero I found a link to this essay, which led to a comment exchange back on Exit Zero which I think deserves a posting in itself -- because it addresses a very widespread fundamental misunderstanding of the Islamic threat:

Me: It’s admirable, and brave, that Gina Khan has come as far as she has after being raised in such a stultifying background. But I notice she does not mention the thing that most stands out about Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s honesty and intellectual courage -- the fact that today she is not a Muslim but an atheist. Hirsi Ali renounced Islam because she realized that Islam -- not “extremist Islam”, not “radical Islam”, not some particular “brand” or “interpretation” of Islam, but Islam itself -- is the problem. She did think at first that the yelling-and-screaming haters who preached in the Muslim community in Nairobi were distorting Islam, but then she looked in the Qur’ân and found that everything they said was actually there.

A Westernized, tolerant, non-misogynist, non-jihadist Islam will always ultimately fail because such a concept is fundamentally dishonest. People like bin Laden and the Taliban are interpreting Islam correctly. Only people like them are interpreting Islam correctly. The Qur’ân and Hadîth are perfectly clear on this point.

Even Westerners who are alert to the jihadist threat tend to shy away from recognizing this, probably because the implications are too frightening. But reality is what it is.

I suspect that Ms. Khan, like most moderate Muslims, is actually not very familiar with the Islamic primary sources. For example, she apparently thinks that the word kuffâr is singular, an error which no one even passingly familiar with the Arabic language would make. Her description of the prophet Muhammad -- who personally ordered aggressive war, mass murder, and slavery, and “married” a 6-year-old -- is even wider of the mark.

It would be nice if Islam could someday evolve into something moderate and humane. But its founder and primary sources rule out that possibility just as flatly as the reality of Hitler and Mein Kampf rule out the possibility of a moderate and humane Nazism.

Mary Madigan: There is no possibility of a moderate and humane Nazism, but, if we were to treat the Nazi problem the way the anti-Koran crowd is treating political Islam, we would be blaming German culture for the current violence and aggression.

And, looking at German history, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea (they also had a lot to do with the development of communism) but blaming all German culture for Nazism or authoritarianism wouldn’t have helped us win WWII. We would have spun our ideological wheels in a worthless effort to destroy or change a culture instead of more efficiently attacking the military and political source of their power.

Besides, as the Marshall Plan proves, it’s easier to reform a culture after you’ve killed the bad guys and dismembered their political infrastructure. Attacking “Islam” while doing nothing to harm their political, military and financial infrastructure is a waste of time.

Me: No, Islam is a belief system, which is to say an ideology, like Nazism or Communism. It is defined by its sacred texts just as Nazism was defined by Mein Kampf and the other pronounce-ments of Hitler. Obviously Islam has permeated the culture of the societies it dominates more deeply than Nazism permeated German culture, because Islam has been dominant there for so much longer. But there are non-Muslim Arabs, Iranians, etc., just as there were non-Nazi Germans even in Nazism’s heyday.

Arab, Iranian, etc., culture existed before Islam just as German culture existed before Nazism, and if Islam can ever be uprooted from those societies as thoroughly as Nazism was uprooted from German society, there’s no reason why they won’t be able to become normal, peaceful societies again. In the meantime, trying to cultivate a moderate, humane Islam is just as futile as trying to cultivate a moderate, humane Nazism would have been, and for the same reason -- the concept is fundamentally dishonest. The primary sources of both ideologies simply exclude it.

Oh, and I certainly don’t advocate “doing nothing to harm their political, military and financial infrastructure”. This problem needs to be attacked on every possible front. But we have to recognize the actual nature of the ideology we’re up against.

8 Comments:

Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Hello Mr.Infidel!

An interesting post. What I find also interesting is where you say at the end about the cultures of some in the middle east as to what they might be like if it were not for following Islam or some similar religion. I find that particularly interesting...because if I recall correctly from what I read year's back...ancient Persia was actually quite a place and example of modern civilisation back then...actually cutting edge to many other's in the world at a time.Look at the idea of agriculture for instance and how so much was rooted over there. I even loved alot of the old Persian Art. I look now... and it makes me wonder...what in the world happened? Well...that speak's for itself I reckon...heh? And what it could be, if not for obstacles dragging it backward's?

I recently read a book called "Infidel" of the Hirsi Ali gal. This is quite a read...believe me. It's no wonder or suprise what she went through that she turned out to now think the way she does...and it's not just her...but many more I hear and read. It is an interesting read though, if anyone might be interested in that. But I must warn that it is very graphic in some part...for those who might shock easy or faint hearted...but a read I found educational I reckon.

06 March, 2009 07:03  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Indeed.....Iran, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and so on had a long history of civilization before the Islamic conquest. Even during the first 400 years of the Islamic period there remained a relatively advanced civilization -- because during that time much of the Middle East's population remained non-Muslim, and even among dominant Islamized element, Classical Greek and ancient Middle Eastern ideas remained alive and vigorously competitive with the Islamic ideology. But Islam triumphed and crushed all that in the end.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand this problem. No one who has read it with a clear mind can possibly continue to put this totalitarian, sadistic ideology in the "culture" category alongside, say, Oktoberfest. And yes, part of it (I think I know which part you mean) is gruesome. It's an honest book.

06 March, 2009 07:46  
Anonymous marypmadigan said...

No one who has read it with a clear mind can possibly continue to put this totalitarian, sadistic ideology in the "culture" category alongside, say, Oktoberfest.

Although German culture does have a certain amount of savagery in its history, "Islam" as a culture is probably more comparable to European culture. Putting totalitarian, sadistic Islam in comparison to a culture with a history of pogroms, wars fought for nationalism and ethnic cleansing, the creation of Nazism, Communism and industrialized genocide..shows some sort of equivalence.

There's a reason why our ancestors came to America.

Yes, the culture of Islam should be changed, but I'm more concerned with strategy than ideology. Should we concentrate our efforts on criticizing, harassing, and disempowering all Muslims (men, women and children)?

Or should we concentrate our efforts on criticizing, harassing and dismpowering the politicians, mobsters, paramilitary forces and shariah-compliant financial institutions that are organizing this war against the west?

I vote for the latter, because they are defined as 'the bad guys' by most traditional military/war standards. Targeting the bad guys is how you win wars.

06 March, 2009 11:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Again, comparing Islam -- an ideology -- to German culture is a misunderstanding of the situation. Islam, like Nazism, is an ideological belief system defined by certain written documents and the acts and statements of a semi-divine founder. As such it is distinct from Arabic, Iranian, Turkish, etc. culture, in the same way as Nazism was distinct from German culture.

The essential point remains: Just as the founder and "holy" book of Nazism make a humane and moderate Nazism fundamentally a contradiction in terms, so do the founder and holy book of Islam make a humane and moderate Islam a contradiction in terms. Refusing to acknowledge this won't make it any less true.

Yes, Islam must be combated on every front, as I said. What you seem to be advocating, however, would be analogous to declaring Nazism to be German "culture" and thus an immutable feature of the society, and then fighting only against the Wehrmacht while hoping for the emergence of a "moderate" Nazism and studiously avoiding noticing the fact that Nazism's crimes were rooted in the ideology itself.

It wouldn't have worked, and ultimately it won't work in the case of Islam either. Comparing The Qur'ân to Mein Kampf and recognizing Islam itself as a totalitarian ideology may make the problem seem more frightening and intractable, but it is nevertheless accurate.

06 March, 2009 12:21  
Anonymous marypmadigan said...

Yes, Islam must be combated on every front..

Could you define "every front"?

We haven't fought the Wehrmacht or the SS, we're allied with them. Our state department calls Saudi Arabia a close ally and a moderate force for peace in the middle east. In some ways, our government still cooperates with CAIR, even though they recognize that this is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.

We're allying with some IslamoNazis in an misguided effort to fight other IslamoNazis (and to profit from Islamonazi petrodollars). We can't say that attacking terrorism's military, political and financial infrastructure won't solve the problem because we haven't begun to attack this infrastructure yet.

CAIR lost 90% of its membership after 9/11. If it wasn't for the support of the Saudis and the US government, the organization would have folded. Conservative Kurdish Muslims are our greatest allies in Iraq. If all Muslims were intractable totalitarian enemies this would not be so.

What you seem to be advocating, however, would be analogous to declaring Nazism to be German "culture" and thus an immutable feature of the society

No, I'm just saying that if, during WWII, American civilians declared that they were going to devote much of their free time and effort to an "ideological war" against the totalitarianism inherent in German culture, they would have wasted a lot of valuable time that could have been better spent doing just about anything else.

But, of course, the people who are trying to sell books, get elected and sponsor lectures about the need for these ideological wars see things differently.

06 March, 2009 15:11  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

We haven't fought the Wehrmacht or the SS, we're allied with them. Our state department calls Saudi Arabia a close ally and a moderate force for peace in the middle east. In some ways, our government still cooperates with CAIR, even though they recognize that this is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.

And we shouldn't be doing those things (although by "we" I mean the West in a broader sense than just western governments). Saudi Arabia and CAIR are hostile forces by any definition and should be treated as such. This is part of the overall struggle.

We're allying with some IslamoNazis in an misguided effort to fight other IslamoNazis (and to profit from Islamonazi petrodollars).

Yes, and we shouldn't be doing that, unless it takes the form of exploiting the internal fissures within Islam (of which there are, fortunately, many) in an effort to get them to destroy each other. I seem to recall posting a comment on your site a while back to this effect, in connection with Afghanistan.

Conservative Kurdish Muslims are our greatest allies in Iraq. If all Muslims were intractable totalitarian enemies this would not be so.

See above. Some Muslims will form alliances of convenience with us in cases when other forces (which may even be rival Muslim groups) seem to them to be a greater threat. That's essentially what the Saudis are doing. We should exploit the leverage this gives us, but not delude ourselves that people with such fundamentally alien values will be allies any longer than they are forced to be so due to fear of a common enemy. (I would make a qualified exception for Muslims so thoroughly secularized that they are not really Muslim in any meaningful sense, such as some elements in the Turkish political establishment.)

I'm just saying that if, during WWII, American civilians declared that they were going to devote much of their free time and effort to an "ideological war" against the totalitarianism inherent in German culture, they would have wasted a lot of valuable time that could have been better spent doing just about anything else.

What I mean is that you keep making a false analogy between Islam, which is an ideology like Nazism, and German culture. I've already explained this several times as clearly as I think is humanly possible. I am not proposing to waste time attacking Arab, Iranian, Turkish, etc. culture, any more than we should have wasted time attacking german culture during World War II. I'm saying we should focus on the evil ideology -- Islam -- just as we focused on the other evil ideology, Nazism.

But, of course, the people who are trying to sell books, get elected and sponsor lectures about the need for these ideological wars see things differently.

I'm not trying to sell anything; neither is Geert Wilders, as far as I know. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was, I think, mostly motivated by a desire to get the truth out. There's probably more money and publicity to be won by echoing the "Islam is basically a religion of peace and the jihdists are a radical minority" scam promulgated by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

I did spend virtually my entire academic career studying Islam and thus have a deep knowledge of its history, character, and sacred texts. That, I think, accounts for why I perceive the problem differently from those who took little interest in the subject before 9/11 and whose knowledge of it is more scattershot.

06 March, 2009 16:17  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Incidentally, I do disagree with Wilders on one point: even if the First Amendment allowed it, I would not ban the Qur'ân. The more people read it and see Islam for what it is, the better.

06 March, 2009 17:20  
Anonymous marypmadigan said...

I'm not trying to sell anything; neither is Geert Wilders, as far as I know. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was, I think, mostly motivated by a desire to get the truth out.

I was referring to people like Robert Spencer and others who are now broadly hinting that we should be allying with the Serbs and other nasty groups in an effort to fight Islamic fascism.

I think Geert Wilders generally has the right attitude (I hope this call for an international First Amendment is proof that he no longer hopes to ban the Koran) but as a political representative with some power, I'd be happier if he was spending more time talking about how we can fight the malign influence of powerful groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudi Royals - and less time criticizing the Koran. If he's elected (and he is gaining popularity) he could actually do something about stupid European foreign policies.

That's basically my criticism with the anti-Koran attitudes. I have no interest in religion, but I do know something about effective strategies for fighting asymetric wars. History proves that divisive culture/ideological wars could potentially alienate allies (who are not necessarily Muslims). Alienating useful allies is not an effective strategy when gathering the intelligence necessary to fight terrorist paramilitary forces.

06 March, 2009 17:39  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home