Smooth-talking Prince Hassan, patron and host of Bernard Lewis (a picture of Lewis in Hassan’s tent can be found, placed with deliberate pride, on one of Lewis’ recent books), likes to talk about the “Arabs” and “the Arab,” in nicely-inflected British English. And he, rather than his thick-necked nephew, has become the true inheritor of the “moderate” mantle — not to be confused with any immoderate keffiyeh — of his brother, “plucky little king” Hussein. But from time to time the mantle, used as a mask (wrapped around the face, covering everything below those liquid brown eyes), drops, and Hassan appears, the real Hassan, defender of the Faith, and of the Sunni Faith.
Well, here he is. He wants, as do the rulers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Americans to stay and protect the Sunnis and prevent what the Americans, if they have any sense left, will not try to prevent. One piquant detail: Hassan tells us that the Kurds are Sunnis. Yes, they for the most part are. But so what? Their resentment and even hatred of the Arabs, and especially of the Sunni Arabs who have ruled over them, more than makes up for the fact that they share “Sunni” Islam with the Sunni Arabs.
What Hassan simply cannot recognize, any more than the Sunni Arabs in Iraq can recognize, is that the Kurds want out. They’ve had it with the Arabs. Au ras-le-bol. And if they’ve had it, so have many non-Arab Muslims, such as the most advanced Berbers, in Algeria, in other parts of the Maghreb, and in France itself. The small organization of maghrebins laiques (secular Maghrebins) in France appeals mostly to Berbers, not Arabs. And that makes sense. For the Berbers, like the Kurds, have another identity, an ethnic one, that plays against, rather than as “Uruba” or Arabness, merely reinforces, one’s sense of oneself as a Muslim and nothing but a Muslim. And the creation of an independent Kurdistan will inspire those other non-Muslim Arabs. For Infidels, and for those non-Muslim Arabs, that is a Good Thing.
We want to press the matter home. We want to show how indifferent the Arabs are to the wellbeing of non-Arab Muslims. And Prince Hassan has done just that in his bland remark about the Kurds being “Sunnis” — and therefore he wishes that their numbers should be toted up, by the world that counts, in the column of Sunnis. But he ignores Al-Anfal, the Sunni-led massacre of 182,000 Kurds, and all the other mistreatment of the Kurds by the Arabs.
In the same way, the westernized secularized Kanan Makiya, who now teaches at Brandeis, ignores what needs the most attention. In a recent article he is described as trying to figure out “what went wrong” in Iraq. He has apparently made the mistake of other advanced, westernized, secularized, long-in-exile Iraqis, who simply did not know, or refused to recognize, the violence, the aggression, the habit of mental submission, the ingrained inshallah-fatalism, that characterize the Iraqi masses, because those masses are Muslims, raised in a society suffused with Islam. That is something that the most unrepresentative “representative” men coming out of those societies, such as Chalabi and Makiya, do not themselves recognize. And what’s worse, they mislead the largely ignorant policymakers in the West, including those who believed, with Bernard Lewis, that Iraq the Light Unto the Muslim Nations could in fact be created, and who foresaw that the “liberation of Baghdad will make the liberation of Kabul look like a funeral procession,” and who even today refuse to confront their own part in misreading Iraq, and misleading the American ignoramuses and naifs, on their messy messianic mission. All that Iraq should mean for Americans and other Infidels is a place to exploit the natural fissues, sectarian and ethnic, in the Islamic world, so as to weaken the advance of the worldwide Jihad. Yet these are the fissures which Prince Hassan so tellingly cannot quite comprehend, as he ignores the ethnic fissure: the Kurds who correctly want to be free of the Arabs after all that the Arabs during the entire history of modern Iraq have done to them — stealing their oil, stealing their land, and massacring them by the hundreds of thousands.
Makiya wrote a book about the Kurdish massacres. He couldn’t understand, in that book, the silence of so many. Why didn’t other Arabs in Iraq protest? Why was he, Kanan Makiya, virtually the only one? Why, he might have further asked, didn’t the Arab League protest? Why didn’t any Arab head of state protest? Why was there silence about the massacring of the Kurds?
But the greatest failure of Makiya in that book is his apparent inability to recognize that the indifference or even approval of other Arabs is no mystery. It is as one with the Arab indifference to the cultural and linguistic imperialism of the Arabs in Algeria, who would deny the Berbers their rights to preserve and use their own language and their own folkways. It is as one with the support given, and interference at the U.N. and other forums run by, the Arabs — all the Arabs in the Arab League, without exception — for the massacre by Arabs in the Sudan of those perceived to be non-Arab Muslims in Darfur.
In a sense, both Prince Hassan (who fails to see why the Kurds should not be included in the column of “Sunni Arabs”) and Kanan Makiya (who has failed to see why the Arabs outside Iraq never protested the massacre of the Arabs) show the limits of those “moderates,” who, no matter how outwardly well-spoken or seemingly Western in their ways, in the end cannot dare to examine Islam. This is what it does to the people who, through no fault of their own, are born into it and swim in societies suffused with it: even a Makiya or a Prince Hassan cannot begin to see that Islam is, and always will be, a vehicle for Arab imperialism — as the Kurds of Iraq, even the “Sunni” Kurds of Iraq, and so many other non-Arab Muslim victims of Arab Muslim oppressors, can testify.