Remember how Bush and his loyalists were reported as believing that if Iraq, or rather the fiction they described as "the Iraqi people," could be made "prosperous" through the introduction of "free-market ideas," then the lure and appeal of terrorism would be diminished? Remember how Americans were not only to bring "freedom" to "ordinary moms and dads" in Iraq, so that the example of Iraq would serve as a beacon of hope blah-blah and a Light Unto the Muslim Nations, but also to re-fashion the economic system, so that individual enterprise would count and not merely what connections you had in the government? And all that talk about encouraging "entrepreneurship," and those meetings that took place with budding Iraqi "entrepreneurs" in the Green Zone, where young American civilians would explain the mysteries of Adam Smith to those who had always survived by taking their cut of oil revenues which, as in all the other Muslim oil states, were simply the result of an accident of geology, and not of industry or entrepreneurial flair?
Now, there are rags-to-riches Horatio Alger tales to be taken from American history, that might be told to Muslims - although perhaps those stories which, not infrequently, involved people who began in Russia or Eastern Europe, and got their Jacob-Riis start on or near Hester Street, should be downplayed. But the dreamy belief that Homo islamicus thinks like, or can be made to think like, Western man, Homo occidentalis, is an unproven and doubtful assumption.
But "the dream shall never die," as Senator Edward Kennedy used to bloviate. And that is why, in late April, "making good on a promise he made to the Muslim world last year [in Cairo]," Barack Obama a few weeks ago hosted "an entrepreneurship summit" in order "to deepen ties between business people in the U.S. and Muslim countries."
Here is how the event was described in advance:
More than 250 entrepreneurs, educators and investors from 50 countries will gather in Washington Monday for the two-day summit. The goals include finding ways to make economic and social climates conducive to entrepreneurship, and developing the role of businesswomen.
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the administration believes that promoting global entrepreneurship is a vital part of U.S. foreign policy.
"This is not simply an exercise in public outreach or public diplomacy," Rhodes said. "We believe this is the beginning of forging tangible partnerships."
During a June speech in Cairo, Obama said he wanted to forge a relationship between the U.S. and Muslims based on respect and partnerships with the private sector and civil society. Among his goals, Obama said, was to "create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries."
Several administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and White House economic adviser Larry Summers, will participate in the summit. Obama is expected to address the participants on Monday.
Rhodes said the administration will announce specific projects during the summit that the U.S. government will undertake to improve its business partnerships with Muslim nations.
Well, the event that was to bring "Muslim entrepreneurs" to Washington (all travel and hotel expenses paid by American taxpayers) to meet with American businessmen and "make contacts" took place. It hardly matters whether the event was a "success" according to the lights of the American organizers. What it did show the world is that in American eyes, you will get special attention if you are Muslim. Let's leave aside the Constitutional question - can the American government be spending tax money to further "Muslim" entrepreneurs, and thus, in a way that will be clear to some and that others will have to have explained to them, to further the faith of Islam by selectively furthering its adherents?
There is still greater damage to be done by holding such an event. For the certain result of such a ballyhooed meeting is to suggest to non-Muslims in the less-developed world, where help is sought and needed, that it pays to be Muslim. In sub-Saharan Africa, in Asia, including India with its Hindus and Sikhs and Jains, these people will notice that Muslims are being favored. And in Indonesia, where the Christians who constitute 10-15% of the population will similarly notice that Muslims are being favored by the government of the economically most powerful and influential country on earth, people will respond in a variety of ways, none of them good.
Some will simply be resentful. They will think that the American government is behaving bizarrely in favoring those who do not and, as Muslims, cannot, wish our Infidel nation-state well, with its Constitution that is flatly contradicted by the letter and spirit of the Shari'a. Muslims cannot wish Infidels, that is, the Americans who built America and 99% of its current citizens, well - though that would not prevent them from pocketing, without reciprocating gratitude, whatever handouts or help Americans may offer them in a spirit of gullible and confused generosity, the gullibility and the endless generosity often going hand in hand. With such things as this American-organized and American-sponsored summit for Muslims only, there will be those who will decide that perhaps there is something to be said either for becoming a Muslim (if, say, in sub-Saharan Africa, one is wavering between Islam and Christianity as both faiths make their appeal) or at the very least, for taking on a Muslim partner who can then - like so many of the scams involving government contracts awarded on an affirmative-action basis - attract from the Americans, as Muslims, the largesse, sympathy, and entrée to American businesses that Muslims are apparently to be offered but others are not. So here we are, implementing policies that signal that we not only do not think Islam is a retrograde force that naturally hinders economic activity and development, but that we intend to favor Muslims over others.
This sends a signal, one that may make Muslims happier, but will win us no hearts and minds, for they are unwinnable if Muslim. But it may make Islam more attractive, and more powerful. Is that the result the American government wishes? Is that the result that you wish as an American taxpayer, and hence as someone who is paying for such things as this Muslim-American Entrepreneurial Summit, or whatever the damn thing is called? Or do you rather wish to protest to high heaven that such things are being so foolishly done, as if we had not squandered trillions enough in vain attempts to achieve exactly the wrong goals in Iraq and now in what has been slyly called "the Greater Middle East" - extending its eastern border, apparently, all the way to include Afghanistan and Pakistan, that is, all the way to China?
Is it a good idea at this moment in world history to make people around the world think that to be a Muslim is a positive good, that it will make it more likely that the richest and most economically dynamic country in the world will take an interest in you and help to promote you? Won't such a policy tend to make Islam a more attractive option for those who don't really give a damn what they call themselves, and make local Muslims more attractive as possible business partners, even if they contribute very little? What's next? A kind of international Affirmative Action, where big contracts in the West are deliberately given to Muslim-owned or Muslim-operated companies, just so as to keep Muslims happy, and free of all the economic worries that might lead to bad behavior on their part, as they took out their economic distress on Infidels?
And there is another objection. The people who think that by giving money, say, or providing contacts to Muslim entrepreneurs, we will somehow win them over, make them less deeply believers in Islam itself, are misunderstanding Islam. Muslims are not grateful for the receipt of Infidel funds. They take it as their due. There is no example, in all of the countries where Muslims have received Infidel aid - not in Aceh after the tsunami, not in Pakistan after the earthquake, not in Egypt after all the tens of billions that have steadily been transferred to it, not in Jordan, not in the "Palestinian territories" - there is no example, even one, of some Muslim being deeply, truly, permanently grateful. Why, even the Iraqis are ungrateful, although they have seen the Americans spend two trillion dollars to remove a monstrous regime and then, on top of that, to try to keep the country together and even to bring to it "reconstruction" and prosperity - attempts that have largely failed because of the behavior and attitudes of Iraqi Muslims, which among other things have led to the forced departure of almost half of the country's Christians who, though they constituted 3% of the population of Iraq, also made up about one-third of its professional class, of doctors, engineers, professors, and others.
The reason that there is so little entrepreneurial activity certainly has nothing to do with poverty. Vast amounts of capital slosh around the Muslim world, for since 1973 alone the Muslim oil states have received, as revenues from the sale of oil and gas, more than thirteen trillion dollars. They have been the recipients of the largest transfer of wealth in human history. What amazes, then, is that in the nearly four decades - two generations - that have passed since the great fourfold increase in oil prices (and for decades before the Saudis, Kuwaitis, and others had already been receiving tens of billions, though not yet trillions) Muslim states have been completely unable to get off near-total dependence on oil and oil revenues. Every effort, including those that used up many billions of dollars, such as the Saudi attempt, now abandoned, to create a viable agricultural component to the country's economy, have led to failure. In Muslim states it is possession of power, control of the government and the military, that allows one to get one's hands on the nation's wealth, and to seize it for one's own sake, and for one's own family and one's own tribe. That is what has happened in every single Muslim Arab state. Wealth is not something you work for. It is something that others, preferably Infidels, somehow magically create, and that you, the proud Muslim and even prouder Muslim Arab, have a right to take.
In A God Who Hates, Wafa Sultan has a passage on the contempt for work in Islam, which she also connects to the pre-Islamic tradition of the raiding-party, one which continued under Islam:
[Islamic] teachings did not emphasize the importance of work. The concept of work in Islam was confined to nomadic migration, raiding, booty and the struggle for survival. Islam promised its followers rivers, fruits, wines and milk, but it did not encourage them to sink wells, grow fruit or raise livestock.
In citing this passage, Mary Jackson has asked readers to "contrast this with the New Testament, in which people are found fishing (even if they leave their nets), sowing seeds (even if on stony ground), watching their flocks by night (if interrupted by an angel), planting vineyards (even if grudgingly in the case of those hired in the morning), and separating wheat from chaff. Raiding and booty is not part of the picture. The closest the New Testament comes to a raid is the parable of the Good Samaritan. If that story had got in the Koran, the praise would not have gone to the Samaritan who helped the traveller, but to the thieves who attacked and robbed him, and there would have been advice on how to share out the spoils."
This kind of observation should not raise the objection that it is unkind; the only question to ask is: Is it true? Look at Saudi Arabia, with its millions of foreign wage-slaves, with the Americans and Europeans at the top, followed by the South Korean contractors and Lebanese Christian teachers, and the Indian and Pakistani day-laborers, and the domestics, some of whom double as sex-slaves forced to do their master's bidding, from India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and other Asian countries.
The word "Inshallah" that appears in almost every other sentence uttered by Muslims among themselves needs attention. It is not merely a verbal tic. It is a constant reminder that things happen or do not happen "God willing." And, repeated and believed, that phrase helps to keep vividly before Muslims the notion that Allah will do what he does, following his own whims, and it is not for Muslims to reason why. At any moment, Allah may will this or will that, and then all your plans will go agley. Why try, or why try very hard, in a universe with a whimsical and all-powerful Allah, subject to no physical and certainly to no moral laws, and to whom appeal cannot be made by prayer, for Muslim prayers are not supplications, as with Christians, but rather, they are occasions to demonstrate absolute mental submission to Allah and his dictates? Indeed, Muslims never question the morality of those dictates. The only thing that they may discuss is the degree of "authoritativeness" of the textual authority - Qur'an, Hadith, Sira - that is quoted. If a passage of the Qur'an is quoted, is it one of those that has been contradicted by a later passage in the Qur'an, and so is subject to the doctrine of naskh, or abrogation? If it is a Hadith, is it a Hadith assigned a high rank of authenticity by the most respected muhaddithin, Al-Bukhari and Muslim? If it is a detail in the life of Muhammad, who has written to make clear what the exact circumstances were, or what other passages exist in the other two main texts that shed light on details of the Sira, as the Sira sheds light on the Qur'an and Hadith, and the Hadith on the Qur'an and Sira?
The accounts of Western travelers used to include that phrase "Oriental fatalism." But as we can see, from the experiences of Japan, China, Korea, and now India, the "fatalism" in question is not really "Oriental" or "Asian." It is, rather, Muslim. It is Muslims who, despite the most fantastic sums, sums that have bought them everything conceivable, still cannot - and will not, I am certain - be able to create modern economies. Why should Saudis, Kuwaitis, Emiratis try if they have the oil wealth? Why should Egyptians, Jordanians, "Palestinian" Arabs try, if they can rely on endless aid, from Infidel governments, and from such Arabs-only outrages as UNRWA, start to acquire the habit of hard work? These are the lands of the Shisha, the hubble-bubble pipe, and of trictrac, the games of backgammon, and of other games that occupy the men who spend their days in the cafes and hookah-palaces of Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, and other Arab cities (less so in the Gulf), while at home their wives, chattel-slaves of one sort or another, breed and look after the brood.
Just think of that organization -- UNRWA - now entirely staffed, save for a camouflaging collaborating figurehead at the top, entirely by Arab Muslims. This is an organization that enrolls any local Arabs who want to get on the U.N. dole and can make the flimsiest of cases that they are "Palestinian" (formerly "Arab") refugees. UNRWA consumes fully half of all the sums set aside for "refugees" in the entire world, and does this more than sixty years after the conflict in which, it is said (not quite accurately), that those refugees were created. The actual refugees, of course, are only the half-million Arabs who left Mandatory Palestine in the months prior to and during the conflict started by the attacks of five Arab armies on Israel in an attempt to snuff out its young life, thus becoming, or seeming to become in the moral confusions of some, "refugees." The Jewish refugees - the nearly 900,000 Jews who fled the pogroms and intolerable existences in Arab-ruled lands - Yemen, Libya Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia and, a little later, Algeria - also leaving behind tens of billions of dollars in property, between 1948 and the early 1950s, are much more truthfully described as refugees, because they fled certain persecution. The Arabs who left "Palestine" were leaving a war zone, one created by the actions of the Arabs themselves. Had there been no war declared, the Arabs would still be living where they lived.
But the point is not the phoniness, and the seeming permanence, of the "Arab refugee," but rather, how amazing it is with all the tens of billions that have been spent by Western governments to support UNRWA, and to support Arafat and now his loyal henchman Mahmoud "No-One-Here-But-Us-Accountants" Abbas, the Arabs are still incapable of creating modern economies, and are, in the "West Bank," greedily grabbing whatever they can get from the Americans, the Europeans, and the Israelis, who have foolishly decided that creating "prosperity" among the local Arabs is an intelligent Israeli goal, a way of showing the Gazan Arabs what might be theirs - Israeli, American, European aid of every sort - if only they would transfer their allegiance from the Fast Jihadists of Hamas to the Slow Jihadists of Fatah. But that is not true prosperity; the Arabs on the "West Bank" have merely become masters at getting aid from every Infidel in sight, including the Israelis whose destruction, albeit on a different time scale, and using different tactics, they so ardently desire.
Hatred of Bid'a is rooted in Islam. If a Believer starts to allow for "innovation" in economic matters, if Believers start to talk about "doing things in a new way," you are courting danger from those who take Islam seriously, because they are keenly aware that all the truths that anyone needs are in the Qur'an, and those who talk about doing things in a "new way" might begin to see even Islam "in a new way," and that would never do. The impulse must be crushed, and those promoting "the new" ostracized or punished.
How can a conference, or a thousand conferences, on Muslim Entrepreneurship possibly undo the effect of this hatred of Bid'a, and this omnipresence of the idea of inshallah-fatalism? It is true that in the West, there are a few Muslims who have, in very narrow fields, those requiring the most technical kinds of prowess but not anything requiring a wider view or deeper intellectual skills, have managed, here and there, to take part in technology companies. There are a handful of those who, having left the world of Islam, have been able to conduct scientific research that they never could have engaged in in the lands dominated by Islam. Some of these people no doubt recognize the reasons why they could not do what they now do in their countries of origin. But most are unwilling, or perhaps psychologically unable, to connect the dots of economic and scientific backwardness with the effects of Islam itself as an ordering of the mental furniture. Still others may, while benefiting from their ability to enjoy the mental freedom of non-Muslim societies, do not wish to recognize publicly, out of filial piety or fear, what they obscurely or fully sense. There will never be many as brave and laser-like in their understanding as Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Magdi Allam. These are unusual people: the exceptions, and not the dreary rule.
But let's get back to that summit, with all the attendant attention, and expense, and general brouhaha as part of the effort to show the Muslims of the world that not only do we have any qualms about the ideology of Islam, but we are going to go out of our way to do everything we can to make Islamic countries and peoples just as well off as possible, and part of that effort is the encouragement of Muslim entrepreneurs.
I haven't seen the list of attendees, and I don't know who they are, or what their plans are, or whether or not some have doubtful connections or have made statements that, if known, would certainly be cause for alarm. But there is one attendee, Isabel Romero, about whom I did read in a Spanish paper, El Pais. You can find a Spanish-language article about her, and her evident delight with her attending the Washington "summit" for Muslim entrepreneurs, here.
Isabel Romero is a native of Spain, born Christian, but a convert to Islam. Her husband is a Christian from Madagascar, who has not converted with her. That means she converted out of conviction rather than out of a desire to please a Muslim husband. That is itself noteworthy, and disturbing, as are all cases of Adult-Onset Islam.
She is, she claims, more of an "activist" for Islam than she is an "entrepreneur." And her cause is encouraging the production of Halal products in Spain, not so much to be exported abroad but, she says, for the Muslims in Spain who - she claims - now number two million. Indeed, when she meets with the interviewer for El Pais, they go to Almudain, a halal restaurant, or at least one as close to strictly halal as can be found in Spain, that is located in the Old Jewish Quarter, La Juderia, in Cordoba. I presume that such a place has been established partly to cater to the Muslims who come from all over Europe and the Middle East too - why, just the other day a group of 120 Muslims from Austria arrived at the cathedral of Cordoba, which has not been a mosque for more than a thousand years, and, facing Mecca, began right there to prostrate themselves and offer Muslim prayers, an act correctly understood by many in Europe as one not of religious piety but of religio-political aggression, a kind of planting of the flag (as La Salle did near the Mississippi, claiming vast territories for the King of France, in 1683). And no doubt at Almudain, Isabel Romero's restaurant of choice, there are Arabs who come to Al-Andaluz to see the scenes of their once (as they see it) and future (as they hope it) glory. They can revel in their myth-making about the glories and tolerance of Islamic Spain -- much exaggerated -- and they can regard with satisfaction the new mosque that has opened in Granada, right by the Alhambra, and other mosques, too, all over Spain, paid for by rich Arabs. Isabel Romero wants to encourage such halal places; she wants to do everything she can to help Islam grow in Spain. That's understandable. But what is not understandable is why the American government should attempt to curry favor with her, or attempt to help her. The American government has a stake not in ensuring the success of this Isabel Romero, but in helping the Spanish, and the French, and the Dutch, and the British, and the Italians, and the Belgians, and the Swiss, and the Danes, and the Swedish, and the Norwegians, keep their countries from becoming places where the Muslim presence, and Muslim demands that grow pari passu with that presence, constantly increases. The American government does not understand why it is a mortal threat to Americans if Europe succumbs to Islam through deployment of the Money Weapon, campaigns of Da'wa, and demographic conquest. And a cohesive Muslim community can, long before it becomes even one-third of the population, help silence many, and through the threat of violence, and through the even more effective means of spreading mental confusion, can undo the historic heart, and birthplace, of the West. And without Europe, the United States will be much lonelier in the world, and the psychic damage to those who think of our country as more than its GDP will be incalculable.
The American government should not wish to encourage the spread, and success, of halal food production and restaurants such as Almudain in Spain. It has a stake, rather, in aiding the Spanish people to discourage such things. Do those who make policy in the American government believe that a continually increasing Muslim community, one that has no difficulty finding a mosque because they are allowed to be built, with outside, chiefly Saudi, money, everywhere, and no difficulty leading a Muslim life because such people as Isabel Romero are there to push for making halal foods widely accessible, is in furtherance of our best interests as a nation and a civilization?
And do we want to help Muslims in Spain to grow and thrive? Why? Spain is high on the To-Do List of those Muslims - many Muslims - who not only recall the lands which were once under Muslim control, but give priority to recovery of those lands for rule by Muslims. Why should the American government wish to encourage such an entrepreneur, to help him find funding or make contacts? And those who have been observing up close know that those who convert to Islam include a much higher percentage of those who are fanatical in their Islamic faith than are those who, through no fault of their own, are simply born into the faith and are raised in societies suffused with Islam, from which they cannot extricate themselves with ease. Only sometimes, in the mental freedom and relative physical security of the West, do some dare to distance themselves from the Islam that was theirs by inheritance and not choice.
Should the American government let it be known that Europeans who convert to Islam are welcome to attend these conferences? Why? Even if one were to find plausible, rather than - as you and I do - idiotic, such an undertaking as this conference on encouraging Muslim entrepreneurs (and by now there are no doubt Americans specializing in this kind of thing, having smelled that there are foundation grants and government contracts to be garnered), surely the place to encourage them would be in the countries where, because Islam dominates, the rich are merely the well-placed, those who are the courtiers to the corrupt rulers, or the corrupt rulers, and their families, themselves. But that is not the situation in Spain, and the lady in question does not deserve to be offered and special help, by the American government.
No, what the American government should be doing is quite different. It should be allowing itself the freedom of having economists and others analyzing all the ways in which the ideology of Islam is responsible for the economic failures of Islamic peoples and polities. One such is the hatred of Bid'a, innovation, but that is merely part of a larger problem: the encouragement, in Islam, of the idea that the individual does not matter, but is merely a "slave of Allah" whose submission to him must be absolute, and that habit of mental submission is exactly the kind of thing that, in an entire civilization, has economic as well as political and intellectual consequences. Another is that inshallah-fatalism. Still another is the hatred of secular education, and the deep suspicion of education that teaches students to think. Even those who do not send their children to madrasas do not really wish their children to be exposed to the kind of training in free and skeptical inquiry that comes so naturally in the advanced West. And Muslims, so convinced - against all the evidence - of the superiority of Muslims and of their civilization, will only be offended by the presentation of history that they are likely to run across in the West. Shall we change not only our present ways, but our presentation of history, to give to Muslims, as such propagandists as Tariq Ramadan has suggested, "credit" for all of the West's most spectacular achievements, including the Renaissance and, even more absurdly, the Enlightenment? Shall we rewrite history so as not to offend Muslims, in the hope that we can win their hearts and win their minds? How much should we throw overboard in order to keep the mythical raft bearing gifts of Peace and Tolerance afloat?
No, we should learn. We should learn from those who, such as the economist Timur Kuran, have Muslim backgrounds as well as professional training in economics, all the ways that Islam keeps Muslims from economic as from other kinds of development. We should make sure that Muslims, instead of being the recipients of more and yet more kinds of aid (that we do not extend to non-Muslims), are forced to start confronting what Islam itself has caused, and what might have been had the "gift of Islam" never arrived in the vast swath of territories that were conquered by the forces of Islam, containing many peoples who found that with Islam came the attempt at arabization. Just imagine, if you will, what North Africa, where Tertullian and St. Augustine (Monica, his mother, was a Berber) lived, would now look like if Islam had never arrived. It would look like Spain, southern France, southern Italy. Think of what India would look like if the Muslims had never arrived to destroy so much, and to leave, in V. S. Naipaul's famous phrase, "a wounded civilization." Or think of Turkey, had Byzantium not succumbed to first the Seljuk and then the Osmanli Turks, and the destruction of so many churches, and mosaics, and frescoes, had never occurred: why, think of Ravenna, or rather, think of a hundred Ravennas.
You can go from there. You can take that imaginary counterfactual tour, in time and in space, yourself.
But keep in mind that a few weeks ago, you contributed your mite to the care and feeding and the entrepreneuring of a convert to Islam who is now promoting the halal food industry and who is, she declares, not so much an entrepreneur as an "activist" on behalf of Islam. And she was just one of 249 participants in this effort, where inshallah-fatalism and hatred of bid'a, you can be sure, never were mentioned, not even in the quietest of whispers. As with so much else having to do with the Western response, this was a squandering of resources (men, money, materiel, morale). The so very ineffective game being played was the one called "let's deal with Islam without ever finding out about, much less daring to discuss, Islam."
This can't go on. Yet it goes on. Those who presume to protect and instruct us think that the best way to do so is to keep pretending that Islam does not have the effect -- political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral -- on the minds of its adherents that it so obviously does. They have perhaps seen just a bit too much Beckett for their own good. Perhaps they should go to the bookstore and see if they can find something else. They might start with Bat Ye'or's Islam and Dhimmitude, which despite the grimness of the subject and the obvious description of present reality it contains, is - as the display of a mind at work tends to be - not depressing, or discouraging, but curiously bracing.