Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald discusses the New York (New Duranty) Times’ puff piece last Sunday on Rahmatullah, former Taliban spokesman and current Yalie:
Let us suppose that this former defender of the Taliban has a complete change of heart. Let us suppose he comes to realize that the Taliban was awful, that his role in supporting it was itself intolerable, that equality for women is necessary and desirable, that the Taliban’s worst features were a bad thing, and so on.
Let’s assume Rahmatullah changes. It is doubtful that he could ever give up Islam altogether, and that means he is not giving up a lot. His comment about rational Western, non-Muslim man is truthful, and his observation that in Afghanistan everything comes down to religion is also truthful. But what will he make of that observable truth? What might he himself throw out of his mental baggage? Might he come to believe that the very idea of “Jihad” to spread Islam is wrong? Might he even come to the conclusion that perhaps Islam is not so wonderful, and that the brainwashing of the Taliban was simply an extreme form of the ordinary brainwashing that those born into Muslim societies must endure, and which has such a remarkable and long-lasting effect? And would he ever conclude that he, and others born into Islam, have a perfect right to cease to believe, to no longer call themselves Muslims?
Well, let’s pretend that all of this could happen. Let’s pretend, in other words, that he could come to accept the very notion of the equality of Believer and Infidel (the division that underlies all of Islam), and that, further, he could somehow make his way to the notion of freedom of conscience. It could happen.
And then? Then what? What is the lesson to be learned? Is the lesson to be learned that if you take the Taliban equivalent of the Wild Boy of Aveyron, the boy supposedly taken in infancy by wolves, and raised by them (see Roger Shattuck’s book), and then take him and give him the best that the Western world presumably has to offer, a Yale quasi-education, then he, Rahmatullah, will find his way to civilization, will leave behind his Taliban ways, and perhaps the rest of his Islam-based comprehension of the universe, and accept the animating ideas of Western Man, ideas that too many Western men now take for granted? Let’s suppose he did. Then what? What is the significance of what is, in fact (and this may be the most amusing part of all), a tacit recognition by the Times of his primitiveness, and of the need to “save his soul” (every bit as much as the Reverend George Fortune, of Shona-Grammar fame, or other missionaries in the African bush). And suppose it worked? Suppose at fantastic expense ($100,000 or so), this one soul were to be saved, by getting him to see the world differently by being plucked out and given every chance (chances not available to the children of many non-Muslims in this country, who are so boring, well, so ordinary, compared to the exotic former Taliban spokesman, Rahmatullah). Then what?
Shall the Infidels of this world take, as their task, to do the same for other Muslims? And how many of the world’s 1 billion Muslims would be offered the kind of thing offered to this boy, who has taken a place that might also have been filled, for example, by a poor immigrant from Siberia, or one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan, for there is only so much money and attention and time to go around? Is that our task? The Infidel Man’s Burden? That is what we are now doing with our $450 billion in Iraq (and Afghanistan) — trying to make these countries (despite Islam, which reinforces despotism and inshallah-fatalism and susceptibility to violence, to aggression, to conspiracy-theories) into places that are acceptable in a way that only Turkey, after 80 years of sustained and systematic Kemalism imposed from the top down, has yet managed among Muslim states to achieve.
And this assumption of the Infidel Man’s Burden takes place at a time when we in the Western world are being subject to every kind of internal challenge by Muslims, especially in Western Europe, to the laws, customs, manners, understandings that make the West the West. Everywhere in the Western world the large-scale presence of Muslims has created lives, for the indigenous Infidels, that are much more unpleasant, much more expensive (the expense of all that monitoring, all that extra security everywhere), and much more physically dangerous. Ask the Jews of Paris, who turned out in force for a march in memory of Ilan Halimi two days ago. Ask Geert Wilders or Jyllands-Posten cartoonists or Will Cummins or, for that matter, Magdi Allam and Ayaan Hirsi Ali about the security details assigned to them.
We can’t rely on this one-by-one saving of Muslim souls from Islam. We don’t have the time. Da’wa and demographics are against us. We don’t have the money. We are not doing things properly. Our leaders, our Great and Good, are not thinking properly. They have to start.
As for The New Duranty Times, the story of this student — the Wild Boy of Aveyron for our times — not only committed great errors, but in committing those errors, lost a chance to enlighten its hapless readers about Islam.
For example, the writer (Chip Brown) tells us that “the international image of the Taliban was increasingly dominated by the Vice and Virtue busybodies who were checking the lengths of beards and thrashing women with leather straps and herding crowds into the Kabul soccer stadium to witness lashings, amputations, and executions.”
Stop right there. Notice how one sentence is given over to the Taliban regime and what it did. It starts with the problem of “image” — the “international image of the Taliban” — which already deflects attention from what they did. It was not an “image” problem. There was no hint of the Taliban merely having their sins exaggerated and their presumed virtues ignored. Why use that distracting phrase about an “image problem” at all? And why use the word “busybodies” to describe the Vice-and-Virtue police who merely enforce the strictest strictures, as strictly as they can — but what strictures? The strictures of Islam. The strictures that forbid, for example, music, so that the wedding-singers are banned. The strictures against activities that do not promote Islam. In Islam, sports of a martial cast, because they prepare the young for the Jihad, are allowed — wrestling, archery, etc. But those that do not enforce martial sensibilities are generally forbidden. Was the banning of kite-flying, one of the few things available to poor Afghanis, simply a Taliban whim, or did it have support in Islam? The author should have told us. He did not.
And when he tells us that crowds were herded in to a “Kabul stadium to witness lashings, amputations, and executions,” he goes entirely too fast. How many thousands of people watched as women accused of adultery, for example, were not merely “executed” but stomped to death until they were just small puddles of flesh and blood? Give us the full story. Don’t be so quick. Don’t just race through it, the way some people in their reporting, or even in books, about World War II, would simply, in the old days, give a sentence or a paragraph about the “destruction of the Jews.” Not so fast, buster.
And later on we read that “if part of being a good Muslim means always telling the truth, as he was raised to believe, he was learning how hard it is to be virtuous and a government spokesman at the same time.” This is simply stated. Yet there is example after example of Rahmatullah, as a spokesman for the Taliban, displaying all the art and craft of Taqiyya, the religiously-sanctioned dissimulation, to protect the Faith by lying about either its contents, or about what he himself believed. This doctrine originated in Shi’a Islam (as a way of dealing with persecuting Sunnis) but is now commonly employed by Sunni Muslims in their dealings with Infidels, for as Muhammad said (and Muhammad is the Perfect Man), “war is deceit.” And Jihad is war, and participation in Jihad to spread Islam until it covers the globe, until it “dominates and is not to be dominated,” is a duty, sometimes only collective, sometimes individual, of every Believer. One sees examples of such rhetorical trickery in Rahmatullah’s debate with Harold Koh of Yale Law School (now the dean), who to his credit would have none of it.
The New Duranty Times’ coverage, or failure to cover, Islam is by now world-famous. Take a look in the search engine for stories here about “The New Duranty Times.” And just today, both the title and the story by Craig Smith about the French police harrying those who would distribute pork soup is couched in such terms as to make us think that the organizers are deliberately attempting to offend, in equal measure, Muslims and — of course — Jews. But though a quote is carefully adduced to show anti-Jewish sentiment from one of the soup distribution’s far-from-gentil organisateurs (for they are opposed, you see, to the deux-rives Club Mediterranee that Dominique de Villepin and others until recently saw as the future of France, and Europe, together with their putative natural allies, the Arab Muslims of the Maghreb — as if it merely an inland sea, and not an inner belief-system, separated the two), the whole thing was clearly directed at helping the French poor, not Muslim immigrants who are regarded by those distributing the soup as a menace, a weight, a drain on France. Not all of the people handing out the soup are pleasant. So what? Does everyone have to be perfectly wonderful, well-educated, tactful in expression, in order to express fears about, or opposition to, the Muslim invasion of France or of Europe? Why? If that were so, no war of self-defense could ever be fought.
But I’ve saved best for last. It is this (on p. 90 of the Sunday Duranty Magazine):
“That spring and summer of 2001, from a Western perspective at least, Mullah Omar and the hard-line Taliban seemed driven by a perverse desire to pile folly upon folly. In May, having blown up the Buddhas, hounded girls from school and implemented laws and practices that in some cases violated the principles of Islam, they took a page from the Nazis and proposed that non-Muslims wear identity labels on their clothes.”
Now read those two sentences. They are emblematic of everything that is wrong with this article, everything that has been so wrong for decades but especially in the last few years, when there is no excuse, in the coverage, in the sense of responsibility, of the editors and writers and reporters at The New Duranty Times.
Let’s go through those two sentences bit by dismal bit, shall we?
“That spring and summer of 2001, from a Western perspective at least [why this clause that simply reflects, and promotes, a dangerous relativism in readers’ response?] Mullah Omar and the hard-line [“hard-line” in what sense? In the sense that they wish to fully, rather than incompletely, have lives ruled by the dictates of Islam? Or “hard-line” for some other reason? The epithet needs either to be removed, or to be explained. As it now stands, it sets up in readers the idea that this Taliban consists not only of unpleasant characters, but of people who are not unpleasant because they are merely insistent on following all, and not merely some, of the dictates of Islam — i.e. they are insistent on being fully-observant Muslims] Taliban seemed driven by a perverse desire to pile folly upon folly. [–¦a perverse desire to pile folly upon folly” — or simply a desire to do what for 1300 years Muslims have been doing everywhere, which is to destroy, or to vandalize so that they are no longer objects of reverence, all statues. Just read Qaradawi, quoting Muhammad, who would not enter a house with “dogs or statues.” Find out why the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed. What texts, what tenets, made them do it? Don’t merely reduce it all to an inexplicable and “perverse desire.”]
“In May, having blown up the Buddhas” [two giant statues, important to everyone interested in the world’s artistic heritage, blown up, the blowers-up prompted by nothing more, apparently, than a “perverse desire to pile folly upon folly”], the same Taliban, prompted by that “perverse desire” that could not be sated, “hounded girls from school.” [Is it possible that there is something in the Islamic texts that might explain this, as it might explain the inability of women in Saudi Arabia to leave their homes without a male chaperone, or the inability of women in Iran and Sudan and Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan to be free of the chador, the burkha, whatever it may locally be called?]. They “implemented laws and practices that in some cases violated the principles of Islam.”
Now let’s take a breather. Look at the last phrase above: that phrase is simply thrown in, just after the business about the blowing up of Buddhas, and the hounding of girls from school, neither of which is attributed or connected in any way to Islam. But this next phrase suggests, in fact, that they are connected to, or attributable to, the tenets and attitudes of Islam, for this phrase refers to other things that were done and that the writer, Mr. Chip Brown, regards as “laws and practices [not the destruction of the Buddhas, not the hounding of the girls from school} that in some cases violated the principles of Islam.”
I know what you are all thinking. You are now waiting to hear, Gentle Reader, what those “cases” that “violated the principles of Islam” are? You think Chip Brown, given the time and space for the cover story in the Sunday Magazine Section of The New Duranty Times, is now going to tell you about the “laws and practices” put in place by the Taliban that “in some cases violated the principles of Islam.”
But you will be disappointed. For not a single such case, not a single such practice, is offered in evidence by Chip Brown. Apparently not a single one of the many careful, thoughtful editors, editors of the text as a whole, editors who checked the other editors, and the line editors, never thought to ask, never thought this would be place to put in for the edification of readers even one or two examples to illustrate this assertion that “in some cases” the “laws and practices” were in violation of Islam. We still don’t have any idea what those might be. We await clarification from The New Duranty Times.
And then, as the last nail in the coffin of the alarmingly slimming-down (Craigslist and the Internet perhaps being able to inflict more damage on The New Duranty Times than all of us who have been so infuriated at its failure to measure up, over so many years) New Duranty Times — alarming to the owners and staff, not to us who regard its travails with glee — there is this: “they took a page from the Nazis and proposed that non-Muslims wear identity labels on their clothes.”
Stop right there. “They took a page from the Nazis.” Did they now? So there is nothing in the 1350-year history of Muslim conquest of non-Muslim lands, and subjugation of non-Muslim peoples, that ever required identifying marks on the dwellings, or the persons, of non-Muslims? What about the blue belt, the zunnar, traditionally required of Christians? What about the yellow identifying mark of Jews, that came not from Adolf Hitler but from the Court of Haroun al-Raschid in Abbasid Baghdad? And what about the turbans of different colors, assigned early on, as early as the 9th century by the Baghdad Caliph Mutawakkil? (That swirling minaret of sand that stands next to the bombed mosque of Al-Askariya is named after Mutawakkil.)
Chip Brown apparently is completely unaware that non-Muslims, dhimmis, had to wear identifying garb. What about all of those many editors who should have been going through such a major piece with a fine tooth comb? They were, every man or woman jack of them, so ignorant of Islam that they had no idea that the dhimmis, the non-Muslims permitted to stay alive under Muslim rule, had to wear identifying garb — either the wide cloth belt, the zunnar (blue for Christians, yellow for Jews), or the identifying scrap of cloth on the clothes, the “ghiyar,” or both? Why is it that people who choose to write on a subject that requires a knowledge of Islam feel no need to learn about Islam? Wouldn’t one have thought that the editors of The New York Times would, given all the discussion of Islam, and given the failure of that paper even now to print even one of those famous Danish cartoons even as it continues in seemingly unselfconscious fashion to prate about freedom of speech (a subject on which The New Duranty Times has lost the moral right to proffer an opinion, much less preach to anyone, until it manages to show a reasonable sampling of those cartoons) take some care at least in this particular?
The New Duranty Times carried a story on May 24, 2001 about the proposals by the Taliban for identifying marks on the clothes of Hindus This was presented by the Taliban as not so much an imposition as “for their own good” — if identified as Hindus, they would not be harassed, so it was claimed, by the religious police. Of course it was nothing of the kind. It went back to the time of Al-Mutawakkil, back to the earliest centuries of Islam and the disabilities imposed on the non-Muslims in the lands conquered by Muslims for Islam.
Surely Chip Brown might have done a little investigation. And if he looked beyond The New Duranty Times, he might have found in Ahmed Rashid’s piece on this Taliban proposal in “The Telegraph,” the correct reference to established (over 1300 years, and counting) practice by Muslims, a practice put paid to only by the pressure and presence, and overwhelming power, of the outside Western (Infidel) powers. Rashid reported as follows:
Taliban officials said yesterday that they would promulgate a religious edict, forcing Hindu women to veil themselves like Muslim women in Afghanistan. Hindu men would be forced to wear special colours or marks on their clothing.
Mohammed Wali, a minister of the Taliban’s religious police, announced in Kabul: “The decision is in line with Islam. Religious minorities living in an Islamic state must be identified.”
A decade ago tens of thousands of Hindus and Sikhs lived in the major cities of Afghanistan, but their numbers have fallen to fewer than 5,000 since the Taliban took over Kabul in 1996. Jews and Christians also lived freely in Afghanistan during the Mujahideen guerrillas’ war against the occupying Soviet army in the 1980s.
The Taliban proposal angered Indian officials. “We deplore such orders which discriminate against minorities,” a Foreign Ministry official said in New Delhi. “It is further evidence of the backward ideological underpinning of the Taliban.”
The drive against Hindus is likely further to isolate the Taliban, which already faces sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. Hindus in Kabul said that wearing an identifying mark would make them vulnerable to further repression by Taliban soldiers and police and would turn them into social outcasts.
This makes sense. This relates what the Taliban did to the only true source of their “laws and practices.” The members of the Taliban didn’t need Hitler or the Nazis to drive out those Christians and Jews who had once existed in Afghanistan. In The Road to Oxiana Robert Byron refers to the Jewish traders in lambskins and wool who were once so prominent in Afghanistan, when Islam was still “village” or “peasant” Islam, not yet reawakened by videocassette, by audiocassette, by satellite channel, even by the Internet — which have now penetrated to the most remote Muslim communities.
But Chip Brown did not know this. He was too busy, apparently, to relate what the Taliban did to their belief-system. Or perhaps he found the task of reading Qur’an (with comprehension, which takes time, and some guidance) and Hadith just too taxing. Besides, just how important could it be?
And possibly that attitude is what explains the gigantic, and embarrassing, failure of The New Duranty Times to make any attempt to make clear to its readers why, for example, so many in Europe, so many hyper-tolerant Europeans oppose Muslim immigration. And that opposition is not made up merely of the kind of semi-fascists whom Craig Smith and others go out of their way to dredge up and present as the “opposition to Muslims” in France or Holland. Remember that ludicrous Homeric epithet, “right-wing,” affixed to that amused and amusing libertine Pim Fortuyn? What made Pim Fortuyn “right-wing”? Was it worry over the Total Belief-System of Islam, the totalitarianism and emphasis on the collective, and indifference to, or even hatred of, freedom for the individual, that is such a distinctive feature of Islam? Could that have made Pim Fortuyn “right wing” in the editorial eyes of The New Duranty Times?
Eventually readers are not going to be able to stand it. Eventually it will not merely be a case of this or that disgruntled group of people, disgusted with the coverage of, say, Israel. Eventually the entire scandal of how The New Duranty Times, and other newspapers, cover — or fail to — and make sense — or fail to — of Islam, and how it connects to the observable demands, and acts, of Muslims, not least in the Lands of the Infidels, in Europe and North America, will simply attract too much attention, and then too much contempt, for the editors to stand it.
When will that be? Will it be next week? Next month? Or will it come very s-l-o-w-l-y, so that in 2010, perhaps, we will begin to read the home truths that clear away confusion, and make clear what seem to be discrete and inexplicable acts, born as Chip Brown says of “perverse desires” to “pile folly upon folly”?
No, it is the editors of The New Duranty Times who have been exhibiting to all of their readers the “perverse desire” to become permanent laughing stocks, as they, in the full light of history and of you, pile folly upon folly.