Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald discusses some prevailing misperceptions of Shi’ite Islam, and their sources:
The “typical representatives” of “Shi’a Islam” known to the editors of My Weekly Standard, and to the U.S. Government, have included such highly typical Shi’a (just the kind you find in SCIRI and DAWA and Moqtada al-Sadr’s ranks, or the ranks of Hezbollah, or of the basiji) as these: Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese Shi’a who has been in the United States for 3-4 decades; Kanan Makiya, scion of a well-to-do Iraqi family, who has been out of Iraq for 2-3 decades; Ahmad Chalabi, scion of a very well-to-do Iraqi family who has been in the West for nearly fifty years; and Rend al-Rahim Francke, an American citizen since 1987, out of the Middle East for the past 30 years at least, a graduate of the Sorbonne and the University of Cambridge.
Ah yes, quite a collection of “representative” and “typical” Shi’a. That is why Reuel Gerecht and company can complacently place their hopes and dreams on the Shi’a without bothering too much about the Islamic Republic of Iran, taqiyya, or the fact that in Iraq it is (for some paradoxically) the Sunni Ba’athists who are in fact are less eager to return to the full-court press of Islam than the party leaders of DAWA and SCIRI — although they are now forced to accept aid from non-Iraqi Sunni Muslims who want even more Islam than do the Shi’a, and hate the Shi’a for being “Rafidite dogs” (i.e. Infidels of the worst kind).
Shi’a Islam is as dangerous to Infidels as Sunni Islam. The belief that it is not is simply one more mechanism for holding out hope that it’s not Islam, it’s just this brand of Islam, which can be “extremist” or “radical” Islam (carefully undefined) or “Wahhabi” Islam or “Wahhabi Salafist” Islam, or “islamofascism” –just season to taste. But Infidels show up on that list of Unclean Things that Shi’a clerics keep. Khomeini and his successors, and assorted ayatollahs and hojatols, are not fans of Infidels. How could they be? Sunni and Shi’a alike read the same Qur’an, with the same bloodcurdling passages. They read (largely) the same Hadith and take as their model the same Muhammad, his life spelled out in the same Sira. Their paths diverged in 661 A.D., after Muhammad had been dead for nearly 30 years. The fury, the rage, the persecution, the warfare — all that is based on Ali and Hussein, and a whole subsequent mythology, or theology, that has nothing to do with a lessening of hatred for Infidels.
Too many in the West have learned about Shi’a Islam, or think they have learned, by being charmed by charmers. Those charmers still will not describe Islam as the source of the Muslim world’s permanent intellectual disarray, its tendency to despotism, its inshallah-fatalism (a substitute for work and entrepreneurial activity), its mistreatment of women and minorities. They simply cannot bring themselves to utter a public word about Islam except, at times, to claim to be freethinkers (as Kanan Makiya has) and then, in the next moment, to become angrily defensive if it is sensed that Islam itself is being attacked.
Extraordinary. The psychology of the “moderate” Muslim, the unobservant and worldly and practically “Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only” Muslim who nonetheless cannot bear to consider that Islam itself is the problem, is what creates such an abyss between those who have seen their way clear — the real apostates, such as Ibn Warraq — and those who just can’t, just won’t. The value of those who just can’t, to us, the Infidels, is therefore, from here on out, far more limited than we have allowed ourselves, heretofore, to believe. We have been content merely with the fact that Fouad Ajami and Kanan Makiya and Azar Nafisi are good guys (or girls), who saw right through and exposed Edward Said. But they just can’t go along the same path with us any longer. Their refusal to analyze Islam limits them.
That’s it. It was nice while it lasted. But now the Infidel world has to find its guides to Islam not from the most presentable, plausible, friendly, articulate, unobservant, Western-educated, and entirely unrepresentative Muslims, whether Sunni or Shi’a, but from the defectors from Islam — just as was done with defectors from Communism, and not the nicest, kindest, most plausible party members, during the Cold War.
A change. A big and necessary change. We were led astray in Iraq. We were prevented from seeing that Islam, the spread of Islam, and the islamization of Europe with or without terrorism, is the problem.
That mistake must not continue to be made. It will be cruel to some to regard them warily, and to take their views as Muslims with assorted grains of sea salt. But there is at stake here something much more important than the hurt feelings of those very nice quasi-Muslims. Much more important.