Monday, August 11, 2008

Re: The undefined or misdefined enemy

Lawrence wrote, “Muslims are technically not infidels, but if they don't agree with the 30% they are as good as infidels. They have gone over to the infidel. They have denied their heritage.”

Mark asked, “Do fundamentalist muslims think in terms of "heritage"? I ask because American fundamentalists tend not to think in those terms--each person stands naked before God and each individual has to make a choice for or against Jesus, so the idea of a heritage doesn't make a lot of sense. Do muslims think of Islam as something that is kind of culturally inherited, the way Jews and Catholics tend to?”

Lawrence writes: Since Mohammad is thought to have brought the final revelation to mankind, everyone born is considered to have been born a Muslim. Then as they grow if they come to believe something else, they are considered to be in darkness. A Muslim does not have to make a verbal commitment the way Christians do. If they do the Muslim things, then they are Muslim. Being a Muslim is a lifestyle, not a theology one adheres to. Islamic Fundamentalists like Christian Fundamentalists are impatient with sophisticated theological discussions. They don't like nuance. They want to keep things simple. The slogan "God said it. I believe it. And that's good enough for me," is a Christian fundamentalist slogan that could be accepted by Islamic Fundamentalists as well.

But we who study religion know that Christian Fundamentalism originated with John Darby in the early 19th century. His peculiar interpretations pervaded much of Christianity; such that Christian Fundamentalists today are quite convinced that their beliefs coincide with those of Jesus and the Disciples. Fundamentalists typically haven't heard of Darby and don't realize that their peculiar beliefs had an origination in the 18th century not in the first. Something like that is true of Islamic Fundamentalism as well.

But Christian Fundamentalists represent no danger to society. Some of them might become convinced that Christ is going to return on some particular day; so they’ll go up to some mountain to wait. They might also oppose abortion and gay marriage, but they aren't trying to kill anyone – at least they aren’t in any organized or doctrinal sense. The few that killed abortionists received no support from any Christian Fundamentalist groups. Those guys took the anti-abortionist beliefs into the Twilight Zone. But we have a different situation in the case of Islamic Fundamentalism. Sayyid Qutb and others after him taught that the "Jihad" is vital to the furtherance of Islam. Mohammad advanced Islam through Jihad but then he died and after the work of the Righteous Imams, nothing was done. We need, he taught, to "return" to the original idea of the Jihad.

Darby talked in the same way. The original idea was lost. We need to return to it. In actual fact he and Qutb introduced new doctrines. In Qutb's case he made Islam much more dangerous and violent. In regard to the recent morphing of the term describing the danger he represents, at first "Islamism" was thought to do the trick. It implied a Fundamentalist view of Islam which emphasized not only a simplified version of the religious aspects of Islam, but the political aspects as well -- only in the avowed updating of the political aspects, the "ism" of Islamism they became something that never before existed in Islam. But the discussions of Islamism didn't really hone in on the immediate threat, which was since 9/11 called "terrorism."

But "terrorism" too was an imprecise term because you didn't need to be an Islamic Fundamentalist to be a terrorist. So the term "Jihadist" came into vogue. It is the Qutbist "Jihad" after all that results in what we term “Islamic terrorism"; so let's just refer to that term instead. That way, it was hoped, ambiguity and misidentification could be avoided. We shall focus upon those who are bent upon the Sayyid Qutb "Jihad."

Do the 30% of all Muslims who believe in Sayyid Qutb’s teachings subscribe to this Jihad? By definition they should. If they believe in Islamic Fundamentalism as described by Sayyid Qutb, his theological followers and the Persian equivalents, then they should be willing to either engage in or actively support Jihad. The term has a lot going for it. Those in the West who have been struggling with these issues are finding it more useful than the earlier terms. It specifies that aspect of the enemy that we are most concerned about. It defines him in terms easy to grasp. He, being a "Jihadist," wants to kill us. For the purposes of this war he has initiated, we don't care about his other beliefs. We only care that he intends, one way or another, to kill us. He doesn't have an army. He isn't even in known groups, but that doesn't matter. We know he wants to kill us; so he is our enemy.

We in the West are a ponderous civilization. Turning us about is something like turning an oil-tanker and we aren't going to do it for frivolous reasons. Is there a sail-boat out there? Well that's his tough luck. Are there whales or dolphins in the way? Too bad. Are their Greenpeace people out there with harpoons? What a joke.

And that is where we are now. The Jihadists are out there with harpoons and most here in the West aren't taking them very seriously. We want to go on as we are -- business as usual -- not mussing any of our "rights" or worrying too much about these guys who after all aren't very different from any other crackpot we've known. Yeah there was 9/11, but before that one of our home-grown crackpots, Timothy McVeigh did quite a bit of damage; so what's the difference -- not a big deal.

And that is the crux the matter at the current time. There are two schools and you are in one or the other depending upon how you view this crux. One school assumes that they are not a serious threat. Those in this school include Edward Said, John Esposito, Gilles Kepel, Olivier Roy and Francis Fukuyama. But others see the growth of Fundamentalist Islam and an increase of Jihadism and are worried. That school includes Bat Y'eor, Oriana Fallaci, Bruce Bawer, Claire Berlinski, Mark Steyn, David Selbourne, and Christopher Hitchens. It is too soon to tell which position is correct. However, from a military standpoint, one can do no better than hope for the former and prepare for the latter, and it is this preparation that I have been concerned about.

If the former people in the previous paragraph are correct, then we don't really need to mess up our legal system, because they will not be any more of a threat than the Timothy McVeigh crowd. In fact we may as well go back to treating them as criminals -- as we did in response to the first twin-towers attack.

And if the latter people are correct, well let the Jihadists do something really spectacular so we can get everyone's attention and then we’ll worry about making laws. The problem with that viewpoint is that we know that there are Jihadist groups that would love to do something really spectacular to this nation. Al Queada for example was reported at one time to be seeking “suitcase nukes.” One can read about this endeavor in George Friedman’s America’s Secret War. And if that happens, if some group succeeds in a way that will make Osama bin Laden proud; then there will be recriminations here in the U.S. Why didn’t we know they wanted to do this? And if we did know, why didn’t we take steps to stop them? Why did we dawdle? Why didn’t we prepare? But I am not quite so worried about these inevitable recriminations as I am about military readiness. We are behaving foolishly in the face of a vicious enemy. And he is not merely “over there.” He is not merely “alien.” He is, some of him, a citizen of this nation as well, a denizen of America, and we have been so indoctrinated by the ACLU and other Left-Wing organizations that we are unwilling to do anything about him. The problem with that is that if he does something really inexcusably rotten, blatant and visible, there will be people taking the matter into their own hands. This is one of the reasons the Second Amendment was written. If the Government can’t protect us, then we will protect ourselves.

It may very well come to locals taking the law into their own hands, but it probably won’t happen in the U.S. first. This is what Clair Berlinski was concerned about in regard to Europe. She didn’t see Europe becoming Islamic as Bat Y’eor and Oriana Fallaci feared. She saw the European governments with their Left-wing penchant for self-deception avoiding action and allowing the situation to become intolerable. She worried about a violent backlash against Muslims.

This too is something I worry about here. If we sit on our hands and can’t decide to do anything because we don’t like the words we are calling Jihadists and we aren’t quite sure we can do anything about Jihadists who are American citizens, we could be on the road to destruction. But fortunately for us, Europe is much further along that road than we are. On the other hand, we are living now in the era of Nicolas Sarkozy; which is a good thing. Maybe Sarkozy’s election implies that some Europeans are waking up. It may mean that a significant number in France want to turn things around before it is too late.

Jihadist Islam has natives; just not our sort. Mohammad never created borders; that was something done later on by Europeans. There is only the “Ummah” and all Muslims are native to that. It does no good to insist that they play by our rules and obey the borders we Europeans created. They have their own way of looking at these matters.

Further on the subject of the “Ummah.” The idea of “pan-Arabism” was an early form of a secularized Ummah. Nassar, the founder of Baathism, advocated pan-Arabism. While all areas conquered by Islam became the land of the Ummah, the Arab portion was considered holier and better than the outlying regions. Muslims debate these matters. There is no justification for thinking Arabs super-Muslims, except that there is evidence that the many Arabs think of themselves that way; so “pan-Arabism” would have been the creation of the Ummah in Arab lands.

Lawrence Helm

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