So said an imam in a sermon in the Middle East last Friday. How easy will it be to reform Islam? Amir Taheri in this New York Post piece (thanks to Fred Van Ackerman) also notes that “one theme of these sermons is that Bush’s call for free elections and reform in the Muslim world amounts to ‘an act of cultural aggression.'” This is the epicenter of the ideological conflict, and unless or until it changes, we will see more war.
The pan-Arab nationalists are angry at Bush because, toppling Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in Baghdad, he destroyed the illusion of a “strongman” leading Arabs to unity and socialism. “It may take a generation before anyone talks of Arab unity without being laughed out of the room,” says columnist Ahmad Rabii. “Those who dreamed of an Arab superpower will never forgive Bush.” The pan-Islamists also dislike Bush, but for different reasons.
They see his talk of democracy as an attempt at preventing them from establishing their “ideal Islamic” system based on the Shariah rather than elections.
Bush’s “Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative” is seen by Islamists as “a plot to impose a Western model.”
“The Muslim world is not a blank sheet on which Mr. Bush could draw what he likes,” says writer Walid Abi-Merchid, who would vote for Kerry if he could. Opposition to Bush’s plans for democratization in the Middle East is put even more dramatically by Muhammad Shariatmadari, a mullah of Arab origin now acting as an advisor to Iran’s “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenehi.
“Bush is trying to develop an American Islam,” Shariatmadari says. “He thinks that Americans will not be safe in their homes until the Muslim world is dominated by pro-U.S. governments.”
That view is echoed in sermons preached at mosques throughout the Middle East, Europe and the United States in recent weeks with an eye on the forthcoming American election.
One theme of these sermons is that Bush’s call for free elections and reform in the Muslim world amounts to “an act of cultural aggression.”
“Our Prophet did not run for office in any election,” the sermon says. “He did not win any political debate. [Instead] he won the war against the infidel.”
A deep-seated fear of elections is one key feature of the Islamist political psyche. The Koran includes a chapter entitled “Parties” (Ahzab), to warn against splitting the Umma (the community of the faithful) into rival political groups vying for power. “Kerry’s recent statement that he would abandon Bush’s democracy campaign in the Muslim world will please many Islamists,” says the novelist Rubee Madhoun.