Ideology and Religion

by Rebecca Bynum (April 2009)

Many commentators today take note of the similarities between Communism, Nazism and Islam, but they fail to explain that the reason this is true is because all three are manifestations of an essential philosophical materialism. While Communism is derived from economic determinism and Nazism is a subset of racial determinism, modern thinkers tend not to consider the materialistic nature of Islam because it originated so long ago, before the age of science and the rise of the idea that there is nothing above the material world, or that matter is the source of all else. Westerners also tend to think of religion as being focused on the spiritual or super-material (on life, the animator of matter, and on higher meaning and values) rather than on the material alone which naturally tends toward death. This reality often goes unrecognized in the current embrace of scientific secularism, but it is there.
Something else detectable in the attempt by non-Muslims to define and delineate Islam is the tendency of many people to concentrate solely on its ideological dimensions, never venturing to discuss what might be called its purely religious aspects, even while conceding that the ideology and religion of Islam are linked or even inseparable. Western society as a whole seems to have lost the ability to discuss religion objectively and indeed many otherwise learned people are not able to define religion at all. They thus become confused in the face of the Muslim definition of religion as ritual (the five pillars). This in turn gives rise to the idea that “religious” Islam is benign while “ideological” or “political,” “militant,” “Islamo-fascist,” “radical” etc., Islam or “Islamism” is dangerous. After all, the rituals of Islam do not directly threaten us, so what difference does it make if people believe Muhammad was a prophet undertake to follow his prescribed rituals - reciting the profession of faith (shehada), fulfilling the five prayer rituals a day (salat), paying the tax to support other Muslims (zakat), observing Ramadan, going on pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) - or believe in his description of heaven and hell? The over-riding assumption is that all religion is merely a comforting fantasy for some and ideally should be confined to the personal realm, brought out only on certain occasions such as birth, death or marriage. The thinking currently in vogue is that religious Islam can be so confined and thus rendered innocuous. Western secular governments are currently betting our lives and freedom on this assumption.
However, the religion of Islam displays characteristics which serve to divide Muslims from the rest of humanity and to keep them at a permanent disadvantage which no amount of diplomacy nor economic aid can assuage.
1)      It divides the world uncompromisingly into believers vs. unbelievers
2)      It views non-Muslims as permanent aggressors
3)      It requires territorial sovereignty
4)      It consistently elevates the material over the spiritual
5)      It suppresses and subverts the natural moral nature
6)      It serves as a replacement God
7)      It views women as inferior
8)      It is a complete system of control, enslaving the individual materially, mentally and spiritually
9)      The penalty for criticizing Islam (blasphemy) or leaving Islam (apostasy) is death, thus rendering reform unlikely
10) It devalues and suppresses individuality in favor of the collective
11) It inculcates a stifling fatalism
12) Its reason for existence lies solely in its own perpetuation

Islam does all these things as a highly materialistic religion. It focuses the minds of believers so exclusively on the material world that it eventually drives a wedge between the believer and his own spiritual nature, that is, his contact with the realm of value, and he confuses material obedience to Islam with pursuit of the good. When Muslims speak of the inner or “greater jihad” they are referring to the struggle to place their duty to Islam above their own natural and personal inclinations. The greater jihad is the struggle to conform to Islam and it is only within the Islamic system, in the Islamic world-view, that this can be seen as making Muslims “better people.” An illustration of this is revealed in the attitude of would-be female suicide bombers' families interviewed by Kevin Toolis on Britain’s Channel 4:

“'If I had known what Ayat was planning I would have told the Jews. I would have stopped her,' said Ahmed Kmeil, her father.

'In our religion it is forbidden for a girl's body to be uncovered even at home. How could a girl allow her body to be smashed to pieces and then collected up by Jews? This is absolutely forbidden.'

Even Manal's family (Manal is the woman who lured these women into becoming suicide bombers) insisted that female suicide bombing is wrong.

'With a man it's different. For us, a girl can't show her leg or wear a short T-shirt. How can you then be a good Muslim woman and expose your body to the world?

What Manal was doing recruiting those girls was wrong,' said her mother Nadia Saba'na.

But what was shocking was none of the families of the would-be female suicide bombers expressed outrage about the innocent civilians their daughters would have killed.

They did not seem to be particularly concerned about their daughter's death. What they were worried about was pieces of their daughter's body being exposed to strangers, or worse still, to Jews. They saw everything through this false prism of 'honour'.”
The pursuit of value, and the identification with value that is the mark of true religious living is entirely absent here. Islam recognizes nothing higher than itself and in effect acts to replace the spontaneous, ever-changing, ever-growing spiritual reality of super-material value, or God, or Life, with the dead letter of Islamic doctrine. The Islamic believer is not enjoined to make the effort to adjust to living reality in a slightly better way, to react to others in a slightly more compassionate manner, or to love others a bit more freely, as is the purpose of religious living as we know it in the West. Rather, the Islamic believer is enjoined to submit to and obey Islam which is presented as the expressed will of God, indeed, the only will of God for man in perpetuity. This results in the gradual divorcement of the believer from his own moral and spiritual nature; therefore, the most devout may also be the most amoral, allowing neither mercy nor natural human feeling to interfere with Islamic obedience. The arch terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is an example.
During their years in a Jordanian prison, inmates remember Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in his Afghan dress weeping uncontrollably in the courtyard whenever he knelt to pray.

Abu Musab cried constantly. He was very emotional, almost like a child," said 35-year-old Yousef Rababaa as he recalled the young militant.

Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born one-time street thug who is now the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, is remembered as a gentle man obsessed with Islam's past glory.

His intense loyalty, his former cellmates say, went hand in hand with a fanatical adherence to his religion.

He dreamed of an Islamic utopia where people would relive the puritanical lifestyle of the faith's early founders.

"Abu Musab would be as preoccupied with writing letter after letter to his old mother as spending long hours reciting the Koran," said Rababaa.

I submit this is a portrait of a man in the process of burying his soul. He is making the decision to undertake violent jihad and to show no mercy to the enemies of Islam just as Islam requires of its true believers - not an easy thing for any human being to do. Al-Zarqawi went on to become the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, to personally behead Nicolas Berg for the video camera, to orchestrate numerous suicide bombings, oversee a few more beheadings of Western hostages and generally to do everything in his power to defend Muslim land from the infidels, including seeking to ignite a civil war between the Sunnis and the Shi'a of Iraq (whom he also saw as infidels). Zarqawi's jihad ended when he was killed by allied forces in June of 2006.

Still, most commentators have great difficulty openly discussing the religious motivations of fanatical Muslims. Like Melanie Phillips in her Londonistan, in his new book entitled United In Hate, Jamie Glazov refers only to Islamism and like Matthias Kuntzel, ties Islam’s current antisemitism to Nazism and even to communist agitation. Like most modern analysts, he feels comfortable discussing ideology, which in the case of Communism can mimic some aspects of religion, but is not a religion itself. He calls leftist ideologues “true believers” in a fashion which implies his discomfort with religion as such.
Glazov discusses the psychological tendency toward individual self-abnegation by submergence in the collective and the longing for death and destruction among former Communists who became some of Islam’s chief defenders in the West. Michel Foucault and Lynn Stewart are examples, but he does not describe this tendency as a manifestation of atheistic materialism.
Furthermore, Glazov unwisely refers to our military action in Iraq as a “liberation,” which effects have already resulted in the increased oppression of women and religious minorities, especially Christians, as Islam has again taken center stage in that unfortunate and beleaguered land. Glazov’s parents were refugees from the Soviet Union and so he naturally sees the world as divided between the free and the unfree in a purely political and ideological sense. It is not surprising that he views Islam through the same lens.
A living icon from the Russian dissident and refusnik community, Natan Sharansky, spoke at Vanderbilt University recently where I was able to speak with him briefly. I told him that I thought he didn’t go far enough in his analysis of the “fear society” and “doublethink” and asked him if he ever thought about extending this analysis to Islam itself instead of stopping with dictatorships and the political realm. He replied that he didn’t feel he had time to study Islam and wouldn’t feel comfortable analyzing it unless he became an expert which he believed would require many years' study. He maintained that the elections in Iraq showed that democracy can work in Muslim countries and that we are making a mistake in not supporting the “dissidents” in Egypt and Saudi Arabia in their bid to overthrow these despotic regimes. He thought fear of the Muslim Brotherhood was sold to the West by Mubarak and that fear of “instability” was likewise peddled by the Saudis. He said Mubarak used the demonization of Israel the way all dictators make use of an enemy – to suppress dissent and consolidate power at home. Sharansky argued we should work for more democratization in the Muslim world, the implication being that this would alleviate hatred for Israel in the region. As to the election of Hamas, he said that was regrettable, but described them as having an “ideology that doesn’t recognize our existence.” He never mentioned religion.

Citing Bernard Lewis as his sole authority, Sharansky likewise could see no contradiction between democracy and Islam and stated that we must not fight against “identity” itself, but rather work with moderate Muslims in a democratic setting. He repeatedly referred to Indonesia and Malaysia as examples of moderate Muslim countries. By doing so, he seemed unaware of the resurgence of Islam going on in Muslim nations world-wide. The most recent poll numbers asking about the Islamic goals of al Qaeda
revealed that 81% of Egyptians agree with the goal to require a strict application of Shari’a law in every Islamic country.” Pakistanis were similar at 76 percent. Indonesians expressed approval at 49%. It is likely that the Muslim Brotherhood, which poses the only really effective opposition in Egypt today, would readily take power if genuinely free elections were held there, elections recommended by Mr. Sharansky and also, not surprisingly, by the Brotherhood itself.
When asked whether they agree with another al Qaeda goal “to keep Western values out of Islamic countries,” majorities in Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan all said they did (88% in Egypt, 76% in Indonesia, 60% in Pakistan).[3] For “Western values” one might well read “liberal democracy.” And as Hugh Fitzgerald has repeatedly pointed out, the Shi’a of Iraq supported democracy, not because they see it as a superior system of governance, but because they viewed it, correctly, as the easiest way to seize power. Iraqis voted in overwhelming majorities along sectarian and ethnic lines. The Shi’a are the majority in Iraq, therefore Shi’a political parties won.

Here is the latest (2008) Freedom House
report on Iraq (7 is the lowest score):

Political Rights Score: 6
Civil Liberties Score: 6
Status: Not Free

is plagued by pervasive corruption. The problem has seriously hampered reconstruction efforts, and it is estimated that 25 percent of donor funds are unaccounted for. A leaked U.S. State Department report in 2007 stated that anticorruption commissions had little enforcement capacity, the judiciary was extremely weak, and officials were subject to intimidation by Interior Ministry officers and extrajudicial militias. Iraq was ranked 178 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index.

"Legislation passed in 2006 criminalized the ridicule of public officials, and a number of Iraqi journalists have been charged with the offense.
"Academic institutions operate in a highly politicized and insecure environment. Hundreds of professors and intellectuals have been assassinated for voicing their opinions or encouraging dialogue, or for sectarian reasons. Large numbers of educated Iraqis have fled the country, although the more stable Kurdish region has benefited from an influx of skilled individuals seeking refuge there.
"Judicial independence is guaranteed in the new constitution. The Higher Judicial Council (HJC)--headed by the chief judge of the Federal Supreme Court and composed of Iraq's 17 chief appellate judges and several judges from the Federal Court of Cassation--has administrative authority over the court system. In practice, however, judges have come under immense political pressure and have largely been unable to pursue cases involving organized crime, corruption, and militia activity.
"There is a critical lack of centralized control over the use of force in Iraq. Insurgents, militias, and criminal gangs, many with ties to government forces, were responsible for the mistreatment and killing of thousands of civilians in 2007.
"Public security for women remained a major problem in 2007. Women who held jobs, attended university, or went out in public unveiled were frequently harassed, and in some cases killed, by radical Islamist groups of both major sects."[4]

One is forced to ask the question, if we remove a dictatorship from people who are not free, either mentally or spiritually, because they are held in thrall to Islam, can this be described as liberation? Can head-counting ballots be described as democracy?  And cannot these well-meaning people who promote democracy-for-all be exploited even as democracy itself is exploited, by Islamic groups for the purpose of seizing power?

Madeleine Albright is another example of such a mind-set. Like Natan Sharansky, she also spoke at Vanderbilt University and employed the usual business-speak that has become a staple in modern politics and diplomacy. She seems accept an idea pervasive, among politicians and diplomats, that we have total control over the dynamics of Muslim countries and that their reactions are always the result of something we do, which is something within our control.
The notion that the world of Islam might have its own inculcated world-view and that this has nothing to do with what infidels might do is beyond her. She uttered the usual banalities, “We must project smart power” and “be creative in convincing the various factions in Iraq of their shared stake in their common country.” She also thought we “need a better strategy and a comprehensive approach that will respond to the aspirations of the Afghan people” and worried that we “risk creating more terrorists than we can defeat.” Who could disagree? But her most egregious comment was that “ultimately this is a clash between those who truly believe in the tenets of their faith and heretics who want to turn this upside down.” And furthermore, we need to “destroy the fiction that the U.S. is hostile to Islam.”
This idea that we can control the Muslim world through supporting the ill-defined "moderates" and convincing the majority of our good intentions, makes Albright a natural dupe for Muslim organizations seeking to control U. S. foreign policy. She called for for “leaders who will guide the global marketplace of ideas” and seeks to do the much of this guiding herself through her involvement with an organization called the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project.

In her statement before the U.S. Committee on Foreign Relations Feb 26, 2009, Albright repeated a common talking point put forward by Islamic organizations that Muslim terrorists are betraying the “true Islam”:

Western media are full of references to Islamic terrorism. But what does that mean? We do not portray the Oklahoma City bombing as Christian terrorism, even though Timothy MacVeigh (sic) thought of himself as a Christian. MacVeigh was guilty of mass murder – and there was nothing Christian about it. The same principle applies with Islam. When Muslims commit terrorist acts, they are not practicing their faith; they are betraying it.
As Frank Gaffney writes[5]:

A playbook for the [Muslim Brotherhood] can be found in a publication issued last Fall by the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project that is being aggressively promoted to the Obama administration and Congress by a number of its non-Muslim participants. Notably, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently effusively presented the Project's book entitled Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Former Congressman Vin Weber did the same at Grover Norquist's weekly meeting of conservative activists last week.

Underwritten largely by George Soros' and other left-wing foundations, Changing Course seems to reflect predominantly the recommendations of groups the government has established are Muslim Brotherhood fronts, such as the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.  Both are represented in the Engagement Project's "Leadership Group." Accordingly, its book calls for:

·         "engagement with groups that have clearly demonstrated a commitment to nonviolent participation in politics" (read: the Brotherhood);
·         "not equat[ing] reform with secularism, nor...assum[ing] that reformers who advocate some form of Shariah as the basis for the rule of law will inevitably abuse human rights or adopt anti-American policies";
·         "not supply[ing] additional ammunition to extremists by linking the term ‘Islam' or key tenets of the religion of Islam with the actions of extremist or terrorist groups";
·         Launching "an education program comparable in scale" to "the more than $7 billion" invested in the "post-Sputnik U.S. commitment to math and science education" to "education on Islam and Muslims, sustained over a decade or more, focused on teacher training and curriculum in middle and high schools, and colleges."

The assumption by Albright, Sharansky and many others that we in the West can guide, direct, instruct and control Islam through the method of "engagement" is a dangerous one. The assumption by Muslim groups like the Brotherhood is that they can guide, direct and control Western power through the infiltration of its institutions and the willing partnership by people who know effectively nothing about what they are dealing with, but assume that the good Islam, the religious Islam can somehow be separated from the bad, political Islam. All Muslim Brotherhood related organizations are actively upholding and promoting this false assumption. This is easily achieved because no one wants to criticize Islam as a religion.

In the struggle so far, the Brotherhood is winning hands down.

[1] Toolis, Kevin “Face to face with the women suicide bombers” The Daily Mail Feb. 7, 2009
[2] Reuters, April 7, 2005 retrieved from Jihad Watch
[3] World Public, “Public Opinion in the Islamic World on Terrorism, al Qaeda and U.S. Policies,” February 25, 2008
[4] The Freedom House Iraq Report, 2008. These excerpts from the report were taken from View From The Right.
[5] Gaffney, Frank “Shariah’s Brotherhood” Center for Security Policy, March 16, 2009


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