Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald discusses the oft-repeated assertion:
We are told again and again, in various ways, that “Islam is not monolithic.” Yes, we know. But we also know that the same passages in the same Qur’an, the Uncreated and Immutable Qur’an, the one dictated by Gabriel and taken down by an Arab amanuensis, are those which all Muslims read as the Word of God. And the Hadith (which is at least as important, to many Muslims, as the Qur’an), were long ago winnowed by the most authoritative muhaddithin, and have been ranked by them (e.g., Al-Bukhari and Muslim, as the two most authoritative of the Sahih Sittah, the six tippety-top ones). And what do those Hadith say about “Infidels” or “Jews” or “Christians” or “polytheists” or “jihad”? We can find out, easily. It is all online.
And we can find out as well what interpretive doctrines may exist — in this case, that of “naskh” or “abrogation” — which permits a reconciling of passages seemingly contradictory, which doctrine, alas, tells Believers that the earlier softer (so-called “Meccan”) verses are cancelled, overruled (just as Plessy v. Ferguson is overruled by Brown v. Bd. of Education) by the much harsher, much more hostile and menacing later verses — e.g. Sura 9. Are we to ignore the canonical texts of Islam because of local differences in food or dress or in the degree of syncretism (e.g. the marabouts of West Africa, or the syncretism of the much-persecuted “Anbangan” — Geertz’s word) among quasi-Muslims?
Not only are the texts the same, but when one examines, for example, the differences between the major sects — Sunni and Shi’a and Ibadi — one finds no difference in the topics that we must concern ourselves with. No difference in the necessity, the rightness, the duty of Jihad to spread Islam until obstacles to its dominance, all over the world, are removed, for Islam is to dominate and Muslims are to rule. That is right. That is just. That is in the nature of things. For all of us were born Muslims, and somehow were raised wrongly, so that when we become Muslims officially we do not “convert” but rather “revert” to Islam. For Western Infidel consumption, Muslims will also speak demurely now not of “reversion” but rather, nominally, of “New Muslims” — use of the word “reverts” would raise awkward questions from Infidels that at this point Muslims would prefer not to answer.
And of course there are not only differences between Sunnis and Shi’a and Ibadi Muslims, but also in the role of a mystic approach — that of Sufis, or those more recent sects deemed doubtful, by orthodox Muslims, such as the Ahmadiyyas (Qadianis), now forced in Pakistan to list themselves on official forms as non-Muslims, or the most interesting group, the followers of the Aga Khan, the Ismailis. I remember those weigh-ins, when the Aga Khan would then be presented with his weight in diamonds from loyal followers — the kind of thing that used to be shown on a Gaumont newsreel, with the plummy-voiced announcer from yesteryear: Time Marches On! And furthermore, there are four schools of Jurisprudence in Sunni Islam — Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and I forget the fourth because I’m having so much fun.
Shafi”i. That’s it.
But here is the main point. They have differences — for example, as to the kinds of hudud, or codes of punishment, to observe. They have differences based, for example, on whether or not Islam has been affected by, its edges worn down a bit by, the presence of a large number of non-Muslims. It is probably true to say that some Lebanese Muslims, because of the Christians, and some Indian Muslims, are less menacing in outlook then those of, say, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or the Sudan. But the teachings that we care about are those which are all about Infidels. And those teachings do not and have not changed.
Of course there are some Muslims who do not subscribe to those teachings. But how do we know who they are? Of the ones who claim to be “moderates,” which ones are and which ones are feigning? Which ones are telling the truth, but may, for reasons having only to do with personal setbacks (it need not be some element of foreign policy, or of politics at all, to trigger a reaction and a return to the full Islam, the Islam which divides the world between Believer and Infidel), become the “immoderate” Muslim who so rightly alarms us? Think of Hanif Kuraishi’s “My Son the Fanatic.” Funny when it first came out, not so funny now. We can’t take that risk. We shouldn’t be expected to.
Besides, we have a duty to preserve or own legacy. We may all be rotten to the core. Many are. But we were handed certain things. Artifacts. Works of art. A tradition of free and skeptical inquiry that might yet allow us to survive. We have no right to simply throw over whatever was created by and for Western civilization, by people — Spinoza and Hume, Michelangelo and Balthus, Jefferson and Lincoln and ten thousand others. Just look at the index alone in Jacques Barzun’s “From Dawn to Decadence” and realize that those names are only a small fraction of those who created the West, and then compare that list with the usual Muslim dozen — Avicenna, Averroes, Al-Razi, etc. For god’s sake, look at the mental desert of Islam, the desertification every which way, the narrow channeling of artistic expression into Qur’anic calligraphy and architecture, with no sculpture, no painting of living creatures, hardly any music (certainly no equivalent to Western church music). Look at how the keepers of the belief-system of Islam discourage, and punish, the efforts of some at free and skeptical inquiry.
You may be willing to find solace in the obvious — that Muslims are not prefabricated beings, identical in language, clothing, food, schools of Muslim jurisprudence, and so on. That is no consolation for me.
Because the Jihad duty remains the same, and the hostility — inculcated by those Qur’anic passages, those Hadith stories, that example furnished by Muhammad. And what do you make of the role of Muhammad, clearly the main figure in Islam, with 83% of the texts devoted to him, 17% to Allah? What do you make of the fact that he married a nine-year-old girl? What “context” would you like to put that in? Are you aware that virtually Khomeini’s first act, when he came to power, was to lower the marriageable age of girls in Iran to nine? Do you know why? And what about the assassination of those who mocked Muhammad — Asma bint Marwan, Abu Akaf? What about the beheading of the 600-900 bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza? The attack on the inoffensive Jewish farmers, tilling their fields in the Khaybar Oasis? Or a hundred other grim details, of that Perfect Man, uswa hasana? What do you make of all that, since there are not various versions of Muhammad which various communities of Muslims accept — there is only one, as there is the same Qur’an, and the same authoritative collections of “authentic” Hadith?
The assertion that “Islam is not monolithic” misses entirely the point. Islam, in everything that pertains to Infidels, is in fact remarkably “monolithic.” And you can test this with the evidence of 1350 years of Jihad conquest. No matter where that conquest took place, no matter whether those conquered were Christians (of all kinds), or Jews, or Hindus, or Buddhists, or Jains, or Confucians, or anything else in this sublunary world, the treatment meted out to those subjugated non-Muslims was always and everywhere quite similar. Oh, a decent ruler, a ruler who was syncretistic, might make a difference. Akbar, for example. But why is gentle Akbar, who removed the Jizyah on Hindus and who no longer massacred them (some 60-70 million Hindus were massacred by Muslims), not revered but rather ignored or reviled by Muslims — precisely for his mildness? It is Aurangzeb and Mahmoud of Ghazni who are revered. And in Iran the Shah and his father tried to, and for a while succeeded, in elevating the status, or at least protecting, Jews and Christians — a protection that is hardly to be seen now that the Shah is gone.
No. Islam is not monolithic. But when it comes to the attitudes toward Infidels, and the observable treatment of Infidels by Muslims, it is disturbingly monolithic enough.
And that is what we, the Infidels, are worried about. And we see no reason to risk our societies, our advances, our art and our science, and our everything, on the slender and entirely foundationless notion that some “reformation” will somehow — how, exactly? — be achieved by Muslims living in, protected from retribution by other Muslims — in the West.
The immutable and canonical texts, the 1350-year history of conquest and subjugation, and the observable behavior of so many Muslims in so many countries today, all tell us otherwise.
No can do.