Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald wonders if Shi'ite Muslims are really as wonderful as many American analysts seem to believe:
News item: “Britain has accused Iran of responsibility for explosions which have caused the deaths of all eight UK soldiers killed in Iraq this year.”
This would be Iran, the Islamic (Shi'a version) Republic of Iran, which the British have just accused, the Iran whose Shi'a are not quite the same though not entirely different from the Shi'a in Iraq. And those Shi'a in Iraq constitute the Muslims whom in recent times quite a few people have insisted are 1) wonderful in all respects or 2) simply wonderful or 3) slightly less than simply wonderful 3) not wonderful at all but probably better than the Sunnis or 4) we can live with them.
There was Tom Friedman, who with his usual modest tone nominated Al-Sistani for a Nobel Prize, until his attention was no doubt drawn to the inclusion of Infidels as "najis" (or "unclean things") on the list at Sistani's official website. Then Friedman, as he does so often, simply silently dropped that little bit of idiocy without owning up to it, or discussing why he was wrong. There is Suleyman al-Kosovi, known to Infidel armchair strategists (well, standing up from that armchair whenever the lecture fee is temptingly high enough, and there are plenty of those) as a "moderate" Muslim because they are looking for those moderate Muslims in all the wrong places -- among Muslims themselves, instead of among by-now pretend-Muslims, the "Muslim-for-identification-purposes" Muslims. Yet even the latter are not the best guides. The best are such straight-talking apostates as Ibn Warraq -- but they are the best among those who continue, for reasons that still deserve to be pondered, to call themselves "Muslims" even though they see right through, and beyond, the whole thing -- even through the reasons why they themselves refuse to give up the need to identify themselves as "Muslims" or, another favorite, "culturally Muslim."
There have been, among so-called Conservatives (these are the people much-enamored of the word "conservative," as in "Conservatives think" and "Conservatives should support" and "Conservatives understand" -- it is all at that level, expressed in that way, and there is nary a Burke among them), the kind who write at My Weekly Standard. These include a few resident "Islam experts" who have been great promoters of the Shi'a as Good Guys. There is – he was alluded to above -- the comical fellow with the baleful influence, the quintessential sufferer from Weiss-Schwartz Syndrome, whose Muslim name (when you convert to Islam, you get to choose a special Arabic name along with the Secret Decoder Ring that comes with every three-volume boxed-set of Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira) ends in the toponymic al-Kosovi. There are a few others who at the same place have similarly have been singing the praises of the Shi'a, and who will never be able to see that it is in the Infidel interest to see that Islam itself, not Wahhabi Islam, nor Sunni Islam, but Islam itself, that needs to be divided and demoralized. They will never be able to recognize how bewitched they have been by the charm and sweet reasonableness of such thoroughly secular Iraqi exiles as Ahmad Chalabi, Ambassador Francke (Rend al-Rahim), Ayad Allawi, or other Shi'a who, in their long exile in the West, became or at least could assume the identity of thoroughly Western, non-Islamic, men and women, nor realize that encounters with such unrepresentative people should not be used to form the basis for decisions about very large numbers of people. Unrepresentative men should be understood as such, and that "unrepresentativeness" can only be apparent if one possesses some information about the history of Iraq, and more importantly, the nature of Islam, its tenets, attitudes, and atmospherics. Policy that is based on unrepresentative individuals from this or that country or belief-system, is likely to reflect the interests of those individuals. Like the "secular" Turks who wish devoutly to have Turkey admitted to the E.U., even though they secretly are well aware of the strenght, and permanence, and danger that Islam poses to the Infidels of the E.U., these Iraqis have had their own fish to fry, but needed America to supply the frying pan, and the fire, and at times, it seems, even the fish.
This little love affair with Shi'a Islam, which requires ignoring much about it, and seeing Khomeini as a sport (a sport who was deeply revered by tens of millions of Iranians), is encouraged by the most moderate, plausible, and articulate of Shi'a Muslims in Amercian residence. These are not so much "Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only" Muslims, but that other category that comes so close, "Muslim-for-identification-and-ethnic-pride-purposes" only. These are such Shi'a Arabs as Fouad Ajami and Kanan Makiya. They see right through the hideous Edward Said. They even see right through much of Islam. But they cannot jettison it, cannot write about it as, for example, Ibn Warraq can and does. Why? It is clear that the understanding that Islam, Islam "in a cultural sense," Islam "as the Arabs' gift to the world," has a peculiar hold on many Arabs that it does not necessarily have on all non-Arab Muslims. Anwar Shaikh, Irfan Khawaja, Ali Sina, Ibn Warraq are all either Iranian or Pakistani in origin. Apostates from Islam among Arabs often seem to require another faith, a stronger faith, to dislodge and replace Islam -- that of Christianity. For the Iranian and Pakistan apostates, it is enough that Islam is what it is, and no longer commands belief.
It is doubtful if Fouad Ajami or Kanan Makiya, though they might publicly describe themselves as atheists (Makiya has done so), would further describe themselves as apostates from Islam. They can't do it. They are as yet unwilling to investigate (Makiya even angrily returned a book by Bat Ye'or that had been given to him, treating its history of dhimmis as an abomination) Islam, its tenets as widely apprehended, its Jihad-conquest, the history of the treatment of non-Muslims, in time and space, wherever they were subjugated by the forces of thse acting in the name , and prompted by the teachings, of Islam. Only with great anguish could the most advanced Shi'a admit that even the supposed cultural achievements of High Islamic Civilization, lasting only for a few centuries after the initial Arab conquest, were largely the result of borrowing, or of Christian and Jewish translators, and that as those non-Muslims were converted to Islam, or otherwise marginalized in Islamic society, they ceased to be a fructifying influence -- which helps explain the collapse of that "great culture" we hear so very much about in the most exaggerated forms. These facts some Arabs who have little taste for Islam simply cannot allow themselves to investigate, much less discuss, much less possibly accept: it would be too painful. And since both Ajami and Makiya are Shi'a, they may allow themselves to believe that Shi'a Islam (Kanan Makiya likes to recall his pious Shi'a grandmother, and how kind and wonderful she was -- and no doubt she was, but that was because she had not fully taken in all of Islam, as Makiya apparently will not admit or recognize) is somehow better and less aggressive than Sunni Islam. Shi'a Islam does have that self-flagellation during Ashura, that identification with the martyred Ali, that willingness, perhaps, therefore to suffer, even at the hands of the Sunni -- but of course that does not prevent the hatred for the "najis" Infidels, which -- to the extent that one takes Shi'a Islam seriously, one must accept and act upon. Just because Ms. Nafisi and Fouad Ajami and Kanan Makiya are all fine fellows, because they are all no doubt atheists, does not mean that Shi'a Islam should not be seen for what it is.
Save for the Kurds, whose independence should be backed to the hilt (and we have ways to make acceptance of their state acceptable, if not palatable to, the government and people of Turkey), there is not a great difference between Sunni and Shi'a. Let them go at it. Stop holding them back. Stop pretending that some kind of "Iraqi" battalions can be fashioned -- what battalion, with what mixture of Sunni and Shi'a, attacking what group? It is simply not possible to imagine Shi'a being supported by Sunnis in putting down a Sunni group, or vice-versa. Nor can one imagine Kurdish soldiers willingly participating in an "Iraqi" army attempt to suppress the Kurds. This cannot be solved by the American officers who are wasting their time and risking their lives remaining in Iraq to undo not only the effects of recent years, but of Saddam Hussein's campaigns against the Shi'a that predate the 1991 massacres, and of the Shi'a resentment for 80 years of Sunni rule (a resentment already apparent in Gertrude Bell's day, and expressed in her "Letters"), and of resentments and hatreds that predate the existence of the United States by -- oh, about a thousand years.
History, anyone? History can be fun. In Washington, the ill-informed grand panjandrums, living their lives of hectic vacancy, really ought to put down the latest Book-of-the-Month-Club selection, and stop reading about John Adams, and try a little Islam and Dhimmitude or The Myth of Islamic Tolerance or The Legacy of Jihad. It would do some good.