Understanding The Resurgence Of Islam

by Hugh Fitzgerald (July 2007)

"The Islamic nation now faces a great phase of Jihad, unlike anything we knew fifty years ago. Fifty years ago, Jihad was attributed only to a few individuals in Palestine, and in some other Muslims areas." -- Saudi cleric Dr. Nasser bin Suleiman Al-'Omar, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on April 19, 2006.

Why are things different now? The doctrine of Jihad wasn't suddenly invented in the past fifty years. It's been the same, more or less, for 1350 years. It had fallen into desuetude, but did not, and could not, disappear. What happened to make things so very different? Well, some might point to the end of "colonialism." They might note that the French, after forty years in Morocco and Tunisia, withdrew from both by the mid-1950s, and from Algeria in 1962. They might note that the British garrisons in Aden and elsewhere along the Persian Gulf had been withdrawn, largely for financial reasons (Philip Larkin wrote a poem about it with the memorable line about "the Light Horse of LSE"). They might note the withdrawal of the British from India, and the creation of an Islam-centered state, in what was then West Pakistan (now Pakistan) and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). But that is not the main thing.

No, the main things which permitted the Jihad to be more than a dim and unattainable (because completely impractical) notion, save in the case of the immediate, local, small-scale Lesser Jihad against Israel, were three:

1) The money weapon provided by the OPEC oil bonanza. Inshallah-fatalism prevents Arab and Muslim countries from economic development. But  they managed to acquire gigantic sums in the only way they possibly could -- by the accident of geology. Since 1973, the Arab and other Muslim-dominated oil states have received ten trillion dollars from the sale of oil and gas to oil-consuming nations, the greatest transfer of wealth in human history. The Muslims did nothing to deserve this, though many took the oil bonanza as a deliberate sign of Allah's favor. With that money, however, they were saved from their natural poverty, the poverty that, when the Infidels have been reduced in number, or booted out of Muslim societies, so that the Jizyah no longer can be relied on (though it has been revived, trans-nationally, as foreign aid, or even -- as the Bumiputra system in Malaysia -- revived within Muslim countries with large non-Muslim populations, or can even be seen in the enormous drain of the claims made on Infidel welfare systems by the Muslim migrants who have come to take full advantage of everything that Infidel taxpayers will supply. But poverty, based on inshallah-fatalism, is the natural state of Muslim peoples. 

What did they do, for example, with that ten trillion dollars in OPEC money that they received over the past one-third century?  They bought hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Western arms, and with those arms, paid a whole network of middlemen, bribes-givers and bribes-takers, and Western hirelings not only working in arms sales, but also in the business of supplying other goods and services to the suddenly rich oil states. The money became the fabled "wealth" weapon of the Jihad, by which boycotts, and bribery, and the dangling of profitable contracts contributed to creating a vast and loyal constituency among some very influential and meretricious people in the capitals of the West.

How else have they spent it? On wage-slaves, foreigners who come to do all the work. On palaces for the corrupt ruling families and their corrupt courtiers. Play your cards right and you may share the wealth, even if you are not a prince, princeling, or princelette of the Al-Saud family, but a lowly Bin Laden from Yemen, working your way up as a contractor, or a Khashoggi and so many others like him whose "business" began by his being the middleman in arms deals. And there are so many fixers and middlemen in the Arab Gulf states and Saudi Arabia -- for that is how the large fortunes are made. On armaments -- hundreds of billions of dollars in arms, going to the Muslim states, which are the biggest buyer of foreign arms, year after year, in the world. And mosques, in London and Rome and Paris, and all over the Western world (and the Islamic world too). And madrasas. And campaigns of Da'wa, or propaganda, through generous donations. And Stinger missiles, and guns, and all sorts of things for the training camps in Afghanistan for the Taliban (also helped by generous Saudi donations). As well as the armies of Western hirelings bought up directly or indirectly -- public relations experts, former government officials (especially diplomats), journalists, academics. See the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, see the assorted King Abdul Aziz professors and Guardian of the Two Noble Sanctuaries Professors, see the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, see Durham, see Exeter, see Georgetown, see the Edward Said Professorship (Rashid Khalidi, discovered after a "nationwide" search).

2) Almost at the same time as the oil bonanza, the countries of Western Europe allowed millions of Muslim migrants -- Pakistanis in England, Turks in Germany, Algerians in France, Moroccans in Spain, Indonesians in Holland, and then assorted mix-'n-match Muslims from all of these places and others, to enter and to settle and to bring their wives, and to have children, children suddenly taken care of, by the free medical care of the Infidel nations, and the free schooling, and the subsidized or free housing, and the attempts, ever greater, ever more frantic, to somehow "integrate" a population that is almost entirely and incurably hostile, because its belief-system, that suffuses the societies and minds of Muslims wherever they are, had taught them to be hostile to the Infidels, no matter what those Infidels may have provided them, no matter how desperate to win their loyalty those Infidel nation-states may have been, unaware that Muslim loyalty according to the tenets, attitudes, atmospherics of Islam, must be given only to fellow Believers, fellow members of the umma al-islamiyya. This was simply not understood, as the older generation of Western scholars of Islam died or retired, and were replaced by new people, people who were very often Muslims themselves, but even where not Muslim, were by their mental formation inclined to favor Islam and the Arabs, not least because of a diseased sympathy for all those who might be seen as members of the Third World, which one might have thought would be a difficult trick for plutocrats in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the U.A.E., Libya, and so on to pull off, but pull it off they did.

And those millions, now tens of millions, of Muslims in the West have made that West fearful, have inhibited the freedom of its governments not only in domestic but in foreign policy -- as one can see from the recent behavior of the French in being so fearful of committing a few thousand troops to Lebanon, where they might be forced to behave in ways that would antagonize the ever-ready-to-riot Muslims within France. There are now tens of millions of Muslims aggressively pursue demands for changes in local laws and mores, in every way -- in dress, in family law, in separation of men and women, in the rights which individuals can possess (freedom of speech, free exercise of conscience). They are prepared to exploit the freedoms, political and civil, created by and for the Infidels. Muslims have shown that while the Infidel political system is antipathetic to them (for it locates political power in the consent of the governed, and not in the will of Allah, expressed in the Qur'an as glossed by the stories in the Hadith), they do not hesitate to exploit it. Nor do they hesitate to exploit the very guarantees of rights that they would, if they came to dominate, do away with.

3) Technological advances in the Western world have made it much easier to disseminate the Call to Islam to Infidels, and the full message of Islam to Believers worldwide, and furthermore, to offer propaganda -- often of a kind that Infidels find appalling but that apparently work on Believers (who would have thought that decapitation videos would be eagerly exploited as recruitment tools for those seeking others willing to actively participate in violent Jihad?).

Without audiocassettes, with his taped sermons urging violence, Khomeini might never have been able to conquer, from Neauphle-le-Chateau in France, so many hundreds of thousands of fanatical followers in Iran. Without videocassettes, and then the Internet, and then the satellite television channels, Arab and Islamic propaganda, of the kind seen on Al-Jazeera and Al-Manar, would not have been so powerful. No longer can simple pious Muslims live in villages, completely unaware of their duties save for the five canonical daily prayers -- now the whole of Islam is far more readily available to them, with consequences both for Muslims, and for the Infidels, that are as yet unappreciated.

And those who argue that the existence of such new technology also makes it possible to influence Muslim minds so that some will have their faith weakened, have not been able to show how any Western government has dared to broadcast the kind of information about the connection between the political, economic, social, and intellectual failures of Muslim societies, and Islam itself. Indeed, one discovers that deep behind enemy lines, Muslims are watching not the regular Western channels, but insisting on getting their news -- in Dearborn as in the East End of London, as in the banlieues of Paris and Lyon and Marseille, from Al-Jazeera: willingly, Arab Muslims limit themselves to Arab Muslim propaganda, for only that is "telling the truth."

Thus the use of satellite channels to disseminate hatred of the Infidels and Infidel controlled nations -- chiefly, but by no means only, Israel and the United States; Denmark has come in for its share, and France for banning the hijab in schools. Any Infidel state or people can expect to be the subject of such a campaign at any time if they dare not to yield to Muslim demands for changes in Infidel rights and laws. And finally, the use of the Internet -- a creation of Infidels, exploited by Muslims to wage a war of dominance and subjugation against those very Infidels.

Islam is naturally totalitarian -- a total belief-system. If, here and there, in the centuries without technological advances and the wealth with which to exploit those advances and thus without the ability to spread the full doctrines of Islam throughout both Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, Muslims were able to live as Muslims without necessarily being fully aware of, much less always following, at every step, the doctrines of Islam, today is different. The full undiluted message of Islam, now constantly available to those who might once have been ignorant or unobservant Muslims, reminding them that the full teachings of Qur'an and Hadith are a mere click away, and making the same undiluted message available to Infidels suffering from various degrees of disaffection with the modern world, the West, Kapitalism, The System, Amerika, call it what you will, and who, instead of engaging in intelligent criticism of that undeniably disturbing Western world, and becoming intelligent meliorists, instead throwing it all over for the mental security of those who prefer to have a Total Regulation of Life, a Complete Explanation of the Universe, and the model of a seventh-century Arab, who may or may not have existed (that doesn't matter, for Muslims believe he existed), as uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil. For the mentally lazy, for the psychically marginal, for those yearning to suppress their own individuality in either a Nuremberg Crowd or the umma al-islamiyaa, well --Islam's the thing. It's the perfect thing, if mental submission, and being Part of a Group, is what appeals to you. Individualists, and all those who like to think and to question rather than to have all the answers handed down from on high, where Allah Knows Best, need not apply.

It's the perfect belief system for all those who are disaffected and whose only idea of a way out is yearning to be free by becoming part of a Collective. And the habit of submission, and of mental submission, is not the only characteristic of Fascism that Islam exhibits. For more on this, see Ibn Warraq’s article “Islam, Middle East and Fascism” and read of how closely Islam meets the criteria, as once offered by Umberto Eco, that define Fascism.

Fifty years ago, one hundred years ago, the Muslim world was obviously weak, without resources, facing an obviously much more powerful and self-confident West. Those who recognized this and wished to do something about it, were the ones who pushed "reform" in the sense of greater constraint on Islam, and the granting of rights closer to what had been granted in the West to individuals. But the extent of that "reforming" impulse has often been exaggerated, and furthermore, it was undertaken by those who wished not to jettison Islam, but to rescue it from what they took was certain decline, and possibly fall, in relation to that West.

The most important such reformer was Kemal Ataturk, who as a result of Turkey's loss of the Ottoman Empire and obvious weakness, put in place a series of measures designed to constrain the political and social role of Islam in Turkey. But Ataturk could do this only because Turkey was toppling, and he as a war hero, capable of great ruthlessness, could reasonably present himself as impelled -- as he was -- by nationalist fervor as well as by doubts about Islam. Kemalism essentially replaced the myths of Islam with a mythological cult of The Turk, who had supposedly always inhabited Anatolia and to whom the credit for everything, practically back to the Hittites, should be given. And even before Ataturk's death in 1938, the cult of Ataturk, which became much greater after that death, was an obvious substitute for the cult of Muhammad as The Perfect Man, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil. Primitive masses needed a replacement cult, and they were given it. Islam remained, always present, never quite yielding, and of course it has come back in Turkey with a vengeance, to the alarm of the West, and to those genuine secularists in Turkey who did not realize that the only way to keep Islam down was, from time to time, to employ the methods that only the Turkish army could, and used to, employ. "Democracy" in Muslim Turkey will not do it.

Those like Abduh and Rida were not quite in the Ataturk mode, but rather something like those Communists who wanted not to replace Communism, but to permit it to avoid the rigidity, say, of Suslovian apparatchiki, in order not to jettison Communist rule but to preserve it. But that spirit of Islamic reform was a result only of perceived Muslim weakness.

These three developments make it impossible for the Arabs and other Muslims to begin to make the connection of their own failures, with Islam itself. Not a single Western government has pointed out --- perhaps not a single Western government realizes -- that the inshallah-fatalism with which Islam is instinct, explains the failure of these rich oil states, after 33 years (and before that there was already enough wealth derived from oil for a generation to have idled through), to create anything like modern economies, surely needs to be said, to Muslims, and to Infidels who might be inclined to believe that they are somehow to be blamed (the usual inapposite invoking of "colonialism" and that "post-colonialism" that has no sell-by date, still can convince some) for the poverty of some Muslim countries. And the continued payment of foreign aid by Infidels to every Muslim country or entity -- Pakistan, Egypt, the "Palestinians" -- is merely a disguised Jizyah, and of course should long ago have been abandoned, and the responsibility for helping fellow members of the umma have fallen to the fabulously rich Saudis, Kuwaitis, and other rich Arabs.

What can the Western world do? It cannot assume the kind of blithe optimism -- that incautious, and dangerous optimism, of someone such as Paul Johnson, who though he recognizes what Islam is all about, is perhaps simply too tired to want to figure out how to deal with the problem, for that would require all kinds of mental effort, and prefers to think, with a wave of his hand, that somehow Muslims -- despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite the fantastic hold Islam has over so many people no matter what is done by Muslims, prompted by Islamic teachings -- will “collapse into secularism.” Johnson has no evidence for this. All he has is a hope. The kind of hope that used to be called, and should still be called, a forlorn hope.

Jihad itself is not new. It is very old. It is permanent. One cannot end it. Those who wish to survive as Infidels, who wish that the most primitive adherents of primitive and fossilized belief-systems not be permitted to overwhelm other, superior peoples and civilizations, those who think they have some kind of duty to preserve their own civilizational legacy, will not be comforted by Johnson's attitude but rather, given his reputation for political steadfastness and sense, feel a certain alarm.

We can work to undo the conditions -- the oil wealth, the unchecked Muslim presence in the Infidel lands, and the exploitation of Western technology by Muslims -- that have made the worldwide Jihad (with many local expressions and theatres of conflict) a reality. Undoing the past thirty or forty or fifty years, so that Muslims may continue to work for Jihad but with much of the menacing wherewithal stripped from them -- that should be the collective goal of all intelligent and informed Infidels.

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Hugh Fitzgerald contributes regularly to The Iconoclast, our Community Blog. Click here to see all his contributions, on which comments are welcome.