by Hugh Fitzgerald (February 2010)
Islam is not a hieratic mystery, where only the initiated, a special priesthood, can possibly understand. It is, rather, sufficiently grasped by more than a billion people, who save for a handful, have been born into it, and have grown up in societies suffused with it, societies where it is impermissible to question Islam, to ponder whether its directives make moral or intellectual sense, and where any open display of questioning is punished, and any open admission of apostasy can result, in many cases, in a death sentence carried out not necessarily by the Musliim state, but left up to the informal meting out of Muslim justice by Believers quick to take offense.
The books upon which Islam rests – the Qur’an, believed by Muslims to be outside of history, exempt from any historical study (which can be punished), Uncreated and Immutable, in the first place, and the collections (the more authoritative the muhaddithin responsible for the collecting, the better) of Hadith, that is, the written record what Muhammad said and what Muhammad did, and finally, the Sira, that is the biography of Muhammad, which of course overlaps the Hadith considerably (and may have been woven out of the Hadith, or vice-versa). Together the Hadith and the Sira constitute what is called the Sunnah, that is, the manners and customs of the earliest Muslims, that offer a gloss or guide to the meaning of the Qur’an, and to the way a Musilim should behave. While there are those who claim that the way out for Muslims is to somehow jettison – how could they? – both the Hadith and the Sira, and – as one young Turk , Mustafa Akyol, a self-consciously Brave Young Reformer, likes to say – keep only the Qur’an, that is, rely on “sola scriptura.” (Akyol is not alone in trying to assimilate terms taken from the history of Christianity and the Reformation and misleadingly apply it to the case of Islam.)
These books are easily available. You can find them on-line, a click away, and can find on-line as well hundreds or thousands of websites, in English or in other European languages as well as in the languages most associated with Islam and Muslims (Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, various forms of Bahasa), where Muslim clerics answer questions about the rules of Islam from inquiring Muslims. Usually what is asked about are the rules about clothing, sexual acts, property, food. Seldom is there any questioning of what, for Infidels, is the most important matter: how do Muslims view Infidels, and what do they see as the rights, and proper position, of Infidels. But you can certainly find strong statements from Muslim clerics, Saudi clerics, Egyptian clerics, Iranian clerics, all over the place. And there is nothing to prevent you from dropping in. It’s true, some of the names are off-puttingly foreign. And if you are the kind of person who cannot make it through “War and Peace” because of the Russian names and patronymics you cannot keep straight, then you might have some initial difficulty – think just of such words as “Hadith” and “Sira,” or “dhimmi” and “Jizyah” and what barriers to mental entry they pose to so many. And there is also the question of the sheer uninterestingness of it all, as any Total Belief-System, once you have discovered its extent, is in its details horribly uninteresting. Or just imagine having to read through a recital, before every hadith, of the isnad-chain – the chain of oral transmission of the particular story, right back, if possible, to the time of Muhammad, with all the various human links on that chain, as A said to B said to C, solemnly imparted, when we all know, if we are non-Muslims, what a large amount of fantasy and make-believe went into the claims for these isnad-chains and their solemn studiers.
But you can read them, can read all about them.
And you can read, you now have easily available, and transmittable to others -- often on-line -- the most important Qur’anic commentators, jurisconsults, historians of the world of Islam – those who fixed the faith in amber more than a millennium ago. It’s all there.
And you have available, as well, the great Western scholars of Islam, who wrote at a time (roughly until 1970), when Arab money had not yet bought up so many academic departments and centers and subverted the freedom of Western scholarship, at a time, that is, when one could study and write without any inhibitions or fears about the contents of Islam. Such names as C. Snouck Hurgronje, Joseph Schacht, David Margoliouth, Georges Vajda, Arthur Jeffrey, Henri Lammens, Samuel Zwemer, St. Clair Tisdall, come to mind, and there are many other scholars, from every country in Europe and from the United States too, whose books and articles can be found and read. Many have been reprinted (especially in inexpensive Indian editions), others are on-line or to be found in large libraries. There should be no mystery.
But mystery about Islam there still is. Why should this be so, and what are the consequences of the failure of many in the West to learn about, or to know about, or to make sense of, the Total Belief-System of Islam?
There is, first, the spirit of the age, and come to think of it, it’s letter too. For this is the Age of Distraction, the Age of Hectic Vacancy. Even the most important issues become merely, somehow, ephemeral, the Insects of An Hour, by being pushed off the television screen, and the radio waves, and the newspaper, by yet another Insect. And we are victims of this. We give our too undivided attention now to this matter, in a trivial and sensationalistic way, and now to that. For a week, the only subject, the round-the-clock subject, may be the earthquake in Haiti. Before that, for a few days, all eyes were on, all commentary was about, Scott Brown and the Election in Massachusetts. Before that, it was the Iranian dissidents in Iran who were just about to topple – doesn’t Right Always Triumph, and usually in time for the News Cycle or at least before we outsiders start to get impatient, and bored? – the black reactionaries of the Islamic Republic of Iran? And then there was Health Care. And the Troubled Asset Relief Program. And some of these come back, according to the media’s Law of Eternal Return, as hours of idiocy at some Situation Room need to be filled, and filled, and filled. And new topics come up, new crises – always a crisis, never a situation that can be ameliorated but always a crisis which in turn is a problem, which in turn can surely be solved, if not one way, then another. The very idea that some things are permanent situations, and that amelioration, a re-dimensioning or cutting down to size of the problem, is the right way to proceed, has become alien to the ways of thought of those who have been media-maddened.
Islam is not only not a mystery, but is fairly simple to grasp. And, like most totalitarian and collectivist faiths, it’s a bore to study. What is not a bore is to examine all the ways that non-Muslims find to avoid finding out about Islam, or all the ways that Muslims perform their trick – and it’s quite a trick – in the Western world to keep all those non-Muslims from finding out too much about Islam. Just imagine yourself as a Muslim, knowing what you know about it, and living in the West, and trying to establish yourself, and other Muslims, so deeply and so rootedly (but without any conceivable loyalty to the legal and political institutions of the Infidel nation-state), and to establish networks of power, to climb steadily within that very nation-state, always taking care to minimize any cause for alarm, and to explain away those hotheads among your co-religionists who are a little too obviously aggressive and, what’s worse, insist on speaking the truth about what Islam inculcates and what they so fervently, without disguise, show themselves to believe.
But if you are not a Muslim, but non-Muslim, obscurely beginning to sense that something is very wrong, something that makes your leaders sound disturbingly pollyannish or pusillanimous or both, and you take the trouble – it isn’t very hard, to study just a bit of Islamic doctrine, and then to findout about the history of Islamic conquest, of many different non-Muslim peoples, over the past 1350 years, from the Iberian Peninsula to the East Indies, you will no longer be surprised at the daily dose of Jihad News, it will all make sense to you. What will not make sense to you is all the other non-Muslims who refuse, who will not, take in what you have taken in, will find every possible excuse to minimize or ignore what you point out. It maddens me, and I’m sure you say it maddens you.
But you have to keep on.
And you have to keep on trying to inform or enlighten others, because the policies in the Western world are all based, now, on willful avoidance of what should be obvious. In the countries of Western Europe, there is appeasement, mostly by governments, in a thousand different ways, of Muslims and their demands and their constant disruptions of life. They wish to change things in Western Europe, they wish to remove all obstacles to the spread, and then the dominance, of Islam. Tariq Ramadan tells you—you can see him on YouTube doing it – that “it’s over” meaning: You can do nothing about this anymore, we are here, here by the millions, and we are here to stay, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Really? Is he right? Aren’t there a thousand things you can do, starting with ending all Muslim immigration, and then enacting a series of measures, and exhibiting a new realism about Islam, that can make it far more difficult for Muslims to live off the Western taxpayers, as so many of them do in the generous welfare-states of Western Europe, and make it more difficult for rich Arabs abroad to send in money to pay for mosques, madrasas, propaganda? Can’t Saudi-funded academic centers be exposed? Can’t those who directly or indirectly are among the Western hirelings of the rich Arabs be exposed, be held up for scorn and ridicule and their lives outside of their shilling for the Arabs and Islam be made difficult? Can’t the sources of funding for campaigns of Da’wa be located and shut off? Can’t mosques where there has been preaching against non-Muslims not merely be warned, but simply shut down? Why not? There are a thousand things which can create an environment far less foolishly, even cravenly, welcoming.
That is what needs to be done in Western Europe, where this talk of “integration” leads to great sums being spent in the belief that if only Muslims could learn the local languages (the better to eat you with, my dear, if you only knew), and what is called the “culture” of the countries they have been allowed to settle within, that they will be able to “integrate.” But surely the question to ask is a different one. If everywhere, in every nation in the Western world, there are many different groups of immigrants, and if everywhere in those nations all immigrant groups exhibit problems, but none of those problems compare to the aggression, and hostllity that is to be found in Muslim immigrants, and if that aggression and determined hostility to all who are not of that group, and especially to the laws and customs of those whose countries those Muslims now live in, countries far freer and better run than the Muslim countries, with their lords of misrule and permanent economic backwardness, continues no matter what welcome and good will and generosity and bending-over-backwardness is displayed by the host country, then one has a right to ask what is it about Muslim immigrants that causes this “failure to integrate,” that we do not see in Chinese or Hindus or Buddhist Vietnamese, or black African Christians? What is it, then, about Islam? As long as this question is not asked, money will continue to be poured into programs to buy off, to win over, to “integrate” in these vain ways that merely give Muslims the tools – language and cultural sophisticiation – that will allow them to better undermine those who provide those tools. Look at how clever, and how dangerous, is Tariq Ramadan, and compare him, say, to Yousuf al-Qaradawi, and the impression the latter makes.
But the same waste, on an even vaster scale, is taking place not within the countries of the West, but in the countries of Islam, where huge sums have been spent, and are being spent, and apparently will continue to be spent, all in a vain effort to try to lessen the threat of Islam – now wrongly understood as a threat limited to those called “violent extremists” when it is the tariq-ramadans of this world who areat least as dangerous, in their pursuit of the goals of the Jihad, as any Al-Qaeda bigshot or bezonian.
The Muslim “extremists” are certainly winning the economic war. It costs a few hundred dollars to keep a Muslim terrorist going in Afghanistan for a year; the average cost of keeping an American soldier there is about a million dollars. In Iraq, the Americans have spent (including the commitments to tens of thousands of seriously wounded soldiers, many of whom will require lifetime care) about two trillion dollars. Stop and think what that amount means. Think about the sums being discussed when it comes to TARP, or Health Care, and imagaine what that two trillion dollars might have done. Or forget all that, and imagine what two trillion dollars could do simply if applied in other ways, to energy projects, and what that could mean in diminishing the main weapon of the Jihad at present – that is, Arab and Iranian oil revenues. Now think of the loss of life, and the using up of war materiel, and the morale problem (see the suicide rate, for example) of soldiers and civilians. And ask if the outcome in Iraq, for the United States and other non-Muslim countries threatened, in various ways by adherents of Islam conducting, in their various ways, Jihad, can conceivably lead to a beneficial result? Why would some modicum or semblance of semi-civilised behavior in Iraq, a government that was better, i.e., more responsive, to Iraqis than are the governments of neighboring Muslim states, be an achievement? Is the situation for non-Muslims now improved – for Assyrians, Chaldeans, Yazidis, Shabaks – or has it worsened? Do you know why it has worsened, that is, why under Saddam Hussein these non-Muslim minorities were safer? What about the sectarian division between Sunni and Shi’a? Is that something the Americans should have been working so hard, losing men, and spending billions, to keep from exploding, to try to paper over, or even somehow to solve? What sense did that make? And what if the Sunnis and the Shi’a could not resolve their differences, what if – as I have continued to maintain for six years – the Sunnis will never accept their new, diminished status, and the Shi’a will never yield any of the power they have now acquired (knowing that they control all the oil of the south, and the Sunnis have no oil in the places where they dominate)? Why is that bad? Why is a source of constant friction between Sunni and Shi’a bad for Infidels, instead of for Muslims? Would it be bad for us if the neighboring countries, Iran on one side, and Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and not Syria but some in Syria, were to supply men, weapons, money to their co-religionists inside Iraq? Why exactly would that be a bad thing? Those who say that such violence or chaos is always a bad thing do not have history on their side, and isn’t the most fashionable phrase nowadays that business of being, or not being, “on the wrong side of history”?
And if the Kurds will not accept, having tasted autonomy in the dozen years when the Americans prevented Saddam Hussein’s Arabs from using air power against them, and continued with that autonomy since the American invasion, going back to being subservient to the Arabs, why is that bad? The Kurds, after all, represent all non-Arab Muslims, who have been so badly treated by the Arabs. The refusal of the Kurds to accept renewed Arab domination, when they suffered so under that Arab rule, with 182,000 Kurds killed by Saddam Hussein, is understandable. And if the goal of the Americans is to weaken the Camp of Islam, then any such refusal by the Kurds should be supported, openly or slyly, in order to help make the point, for the 80% of the world’s Muslims who are not Arab, that Arabs do not treat non-Arabs well, that their cultural and linguistic supremacism (see the Berbers in Algeria) is only part of a program, and that Islam itself – see recent books by Algerian writers emphasizing the “Berberness” of Algeria, a clear signal that something is up, and that something is unhappiness with the Arabs and with Islam – which has always been, and can never be anything but, a vehicle for Arab supremacism.
But the American government cannot see this, cannot think in terms of the Camp of Islam, and weakening that camp in every possible way. It cannot yet bring itself to think of ways to appeal to the Kurds, the Berbers, and many other non-Arab Muslims, to play on the theme of “Islam as a vehicle for Arab supremacism.” It cannot figure out why hostilities between Sunni and Shia in Iraq might have consequences, good for Infidels and bad for Muslim unity, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Lebanon, in Kuwait, in Bahrain (each of which would require a separate discussion). It cannot stop thinking in vague terms about the dangers of “failed states” and worry – absurd worry – over “instability in that region” when a little or even a lot of instability would be just fine, would be a way of using up Muslim money, material, attention, and men, instead of making us, the hapless Infidels, continue to do so.
The domestic polices of “integration” tried in Western
Europe, instead of figuring out why that “integration,” save in a handful of cases where those involved essentially have given up on Islam, and the foreign policies, now slightly less sentimental and messianic, of bringing “freedom” to “ordinary moms and dads” (Bush’s immortal formulation) in the Middle East, both have their source in a refusal to start with the contents, the nature, of the ideology of Islam. And the waste will continue, the tens and hundreds of billions, now being spent in the Western world on increased security and monitoring of Muslim populations, and the trillions that have been and continue to be spent by the Americans, who seem to think, despite all the evidence, that it is still 1948, and they have all the money in the world to play with, in a vain hope to transform Muslim societies sufficiently so that Muslims will, so goes the unstated assumption, no longer be willing to take Islam to heart.
What would make sense is for Western Europeans to rally round Wilders and Pat Condell and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Robert Redeker and Irfan Elshian and Magdi Allam and all the others, living and dead (think of the enormous power of Oriana Fallaci even from beyond the grave, in her enraged warnings about Islam), to see things aright, and no longer to tolerate those who would never tolerate them in a way that we regard as acceptable.
And what would make sense for the American government is to listen to those who have studied Islam, but are not apologists for Islam – they must be non-Muslims, they must – and to make sure that instead of respect automatically being shown to something called a “religion,” that the texts and tenets of Islam are grasped, and the collectivist and totalitarian nature of the Belief-System also understood, so that sensible policies, that will enable a husbanding rather than a squandering of resources –required by the recognition that the war waged by Muslims, taking Islam seriously, against all non-Muslims has no sell-by date, and goes on forever, but the magnitude of the threat can be diminished, the size of that problem decreased in order to make sure there is money, materiel, men, and above all, attention, to devote to something other than Islam. There is climate disruption. There is China, voracious, menacing, and economically aggressive beyond belief. There is the movement of peoples from continent to continent, with all that that implies about the possibility of cultural coherence. There is the breakdown of education, and the taking away of degree (see Ulysses’ speech on Degree in “Troilus and Cressida”), that untunes all important strings. There is the diseased sympathy for those who, simply by living in miserable countries, are said to have a claim not only on our sympathies, but even the right to enter and live within ours, further diluting our sense of ourselves. We are made to feel embarrassed even to have such natural feelings, or to think that our ways, and our civilisational legacy, are not merely different, but better – and at least, they are ours, they belong to us. Nowhere but in the West have so many outside a civilisation been so generously, even naively, taken in. And while the problem of cultural dilution is not limited to Muslims, it is Muslims who uniquely and willfully pose a permanent threat to us and to our own civilisational legacy, a legacy no part of which could, even for one minute, have been produced in the lands of Islam, much less handed down.
Too many think the countries of the West have to accept as inevitable their transformation. No , they don’t. The Muslim invasion of Europe was not inevitable; it only began forty years ago, and only in the last twenty years has it reached an intolerable point. and the dangers of excessive sentimentalism, and a diseased lack of sympathy with the desire for people in the West to keep their countries, and their civilisational legacy alive and not utterly transformed merely by the presence of others who seem to think that merely because they exist, they have a claim on us. They do not.
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