This article by Graham Fuller bespeaks an attempt to identify with the enemy that goes beyond all reason. Graham Fuller’s selective historic memory astonishes. He writes about European imperialism, but European “imperialism,” such as it was, did not exist until two, or at most three centuries ago, and by that time, Islamic imperialism (and within it Arab imperialism) had been going strong for a millennium, subduing vast lands and transforming peoples.
It did so first through cultural and linguistic imperialism, with the adoption of Arabic names, the Arabic language, the need to adopt Arab mores and customs or at least look to Arabs as the ideal, and second, with the indifference, or hostility, toward any pre-Islamic past. How many Pakistanis visit, or care about, Mohenjo-Daro? How many Muslims in Pakistan or Bangladesh or India or Indonesia have the slightest interest in the Buddhist and Hindu monuments, statuary, legacy of the pre-islamic histories of their own lands? How many have any interest in those pre-islamic histories in any way akin to the interest in Western Christendom in pre-Christian pagan antiquity? That interest has always been present but was cultivated especially since the Renaissance.
What did Islam bring, or what did Islam destroy, by way of artistic expression, the encouragement of music, the encouragement of literature of all kinds — and not merely the literature of Belief, or the panegyrics (and denunciations) of rulers, in the Mutannabi-style, with the real literary achievements being, as in the case of Persian poetry (Hafiz, Sa’adi, Firdowsi, Khayyam), because the poets ignored or violated the rules of Islam. They were not good Muslims, in the strict sense, and thank god for their poetry, and for the survival of Persian literature, that they were not.
Fuller’s historical sense, and knowledge, judging only by this remarkable (in a bad sense) article, is thin. His sympathy-for-the-devil approach appears based on a misunderstanding, or ignorance, of history.
And he overlooks not only how the Islamic conquests did such damage to the individual cultures being effaced or erased, and to the narrowing of possibilities for artistic expression. There is also the development, or the failure to develop, science, and before science, the attitude of mind that makes science possible. The habit of mental submission that Islam encourages does not stop at the madrassa or mosque, but affects all of life. The Allah of Islam is not subject to rules or laws; he is a whimsical god, and it is the duty of the Believer to be the “slave of Allah” and not to reason why, but just to accept his whims. The Christian god is different, for He sets in motion the universe according to laws that may be studied without doing violence to Christian doctrine. Newton was a great revealer of those laws, and a devout Christian, who never saw a conflict between his work in discovering those laws and in his beliefs as that devout Christian. See the studies of Father Jaki, see Tim Huff’s comparative study of the development of science in the West and its lack of development in Islam — a study the mere existence of which provoked the hysteria of George Saliba, who teaches “the history of Arabic [sic] science” at Columbia, and doesn’t like such questions even being raised.
Nor does Fuller mention what happened to the tens of millions, or hundreds of millions, of non-Muslims who lived in the lands conquered by Islam. He’s so hell-bent on praising Islam for its sheer wonderfulness in allowing so many to resist the terrible European imperialists (those imperialists who brought, inter alia, hospitals and schools, languages that were the languages of science and modernity, the very idea of the individual) that he ignores, and doesn’t have a word to say about the 60 to 70 million Hindus killed by Muslim rulers. He has nothing to say about the destruction of tens of thousands of Hindu and Buddhist temples and temple complexes, the complete elimination of Greco-Bactrian civilization in Afghanistan, the forcible conversion — on pain of death — of so many, and then the subsequent subjugation of all non-Muslims, those who were not killed or did not convert, as either members of Ahl al-Kitab (“People of the Book”), or as honorary members (those Zoroastrians in Persia, those Hindus in India, who were too numerous to kill, and too useful as Jizyah-paying dhimmis not to keep alive, indeed to keep for a while from converting to Islam so that they would, as dhimmis, continue to pay the Jizyah, on which payments, the Islamic state so heavily depended).
Not a word about the “dhimmi,” nor about the collectivism of Islam. A thoroughly modern guilt-ridden Western man, apparently, is Graham Fuller, whose views on “European imperialism” (one half expects him to come out with phrases about “post-colonial hegemony”) are comically one-sided, and who appears not to realize that for a thousand years before the European powers had begun their colonial efforts, the forces of Islam had been colonizing in a much more thoroughgoing and ruthless way. They had set about, in most places with considerable success, to destroy the non-Islamic cultures, civilizations, histories, of all those whose lands they conquered.
But Graham Fuller is not much of a historian. Nor does he appear to think that there is something called “civilization” — with its art, its science, its history, its modes of thought — one that the Western Imperialists, at their very worst, never sought deliberately to destroy the way the Muslim supremacists did, and do. Not a historian, and not a cultivated man. What is he? Oh, I almost forgot. He’s a former bigshot in the C.I.A. Someone who not only is not alarmed by the resurgence of Islam under Erdogan, and the slow relentless undoing of the Kemalist constraints, but who regards it as “Turkey’s return to normalcy.” A Healthy Thing. A Good Thing.
Maybe he’s been talking to Mustafa Akyol. He certainly has not been convinced by the best people, the secularists, in Turkey. Nor does he realize that what makes Turkey “vibrant, strong, dynamic, etc.” is not Islam, but the constraints on Islam that Ataturk systematically put in place.
He’s impressed, is Graham Fuller, with Rend al-Rahim, with whom he co-wrote a book, just as Paul Wolfowitz was so impressed with other charming, westernized, thoroughly secular Shi’a-in-exile, such as Ahmad Chalabi and Kanan Makiya. In his career he has gotten a lot of mileage out of those two Harvard degrees — but so what? Lots of mediocrities get two or even three degrees from Harvard — and knowing “Russian, Chinese, Turkish, Persian, Arabic” — but at what levels for each?
He’s gone native. He’s come to identify with the Islamic view of history. Oh, not the view of Khomeini and the good doctors of Qom. Not the view of the Saudi imams. But the view of those mustafa-akyolish people who pretend that there is nothing wrong with Islam, that compared to the history of European imperialism the conquests of Islam were happy ones, uniting peoples, and later making them strong enough to resist European imperialism. That Islam itself has been a vehicle for Arab supremacism, that Islam itself has led to the destruction of so much art, so many monuments, so much “diversity” of the kind that should count, and has led to the discouragement of interest by so many in their own pre-Islamic pasts — all this is not part of what Graham Fuller sees. He is now “in academic life.” It’s amazing how these people — former politicians or intelligence agents, it hardly matters — somehow always manage to find posts, when so many solid scholars are left in the lurch. No doubt he is serving as a “consultant” to all kinds of groups, including those that no doubt welcome his islamisant views.
Well, his “great” and “guiltless” civilization of Islam business is pure Saidism. Possibly Graham Fuller has been so busy with his deeds of derring-do, and keeping up his Russian, and his Chinese, and his Turkish, and his Persian, and his Arabic, that he hasn’t noticed that Said has been systematically dismembered, beginning with Bernard Lewis (see “The Question of ‘Orientalism'”) and ending, for the final nail in the coffin, with Ibn Warraq’s “Defending the West.” But Graham Fuller is not very interested in defending the West. He’s interested in Defending Islam.
It doesn’t surprise me that he has so much contempt for the secularists in modern Turkey, now under assault by Erdogan and his followers and collaborators (including Fethullah Gulen). It doesn’t surprise me that in 1988 he was insisting on the need for a “Palestinian state,” because in Graham Fuller’s world, Islam is a benign force. And no doubt, in any case, his palpable lack of sympathy for the West extends to, or for all I know begins with, a palpable lack of sympathy for Israel’s attempts to resist, as best it can, the Lesser Jihad being conducted against it, and that has no end, and will not be appeased by the creation of a “Palestinian” state. Rather, the appetite for Jihad will be whetted rather than sated by this “two-state solution” (we know it must be a solution, because otherwise why would so many people call it a “solution”?).
One of the complaints about the C.I.A. is the mediocrity of its personnel. We who were raised on tales of clever spies, such as Sidney Reilly (see the biography written by the son of Bruce Lockhart, or, on other side, Richard Sorge), keep wishing for men of that caliber. We keep hoping that behind the scenes, they are in fact there, on our side. But it is not the stealing of secrets that is now most necessary, but analysis. And in the C.I.A., the very minimum one can require is that the employees have a good sense of two things. The first is knowledge of what it is they are defending and protecting. I don’t have the feeling, in reading this Apologia pro Vita Islamica, with its bits of Said, and bits of Frantz Fanon, and bits of every two-bit anti-“Imperialist” and pro-Islamic propaganda of the last half-century, that Fuller grasps that meaning, and feels keenly the superiority of that West to the lands of Islam. And the second thing, also palpably lacking in Fuller’s article and in other material by him, is an understanding of the full meaning of Islam for artistic expression, free and skeptical inquiry, solicitude for the individual and the free exercise of conscience — the kind that Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ali Sina, Ibn Warraq have. And they have it not from going native but from being born and raised within Islam, and then being able, in the West, to compare and contrast. These things escape Fuller. They are apparently beyond his narrow ken. He does not feel, along the pulse, does not see, in his mind, the full meaning, and therefore the full menace, of Islam.
How many more such people as the melodramatically man-in-black (shades of Tony Judt) outfitted two-harvard-degrees knows-Russian-Chinese-Arabic-Turkish-Persian Graham Fuller are there still in the C.I.A.?
Find them. Fire them. They are security risks.