“This is an effort that requires credible Muslim voices to work effectively “” especially voices of those, like Fadl, born Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, and known as Dr. Fadil, whose story was told recently by Lawrence Wright in the New Yorker. Fadl helped build the Al Qaeda ideology and now repudiates it for its wanton violence.” — James K. Glassman, under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs
Had James K. Glassman read the report on Fadil with attention and understanding, despite Lawrence Wright’s attempts to offer his own pollyannish gloss about What A Falling-Out There Was In The Ranks of Al Qaeda, he would have seen just from the quotes from Fadil offered, that Fadil was not abandoning Jihad. (Does anyone actually read anything with attention, or did he just accept an Executive Summary of the piece, or ignore the quotes and accept Wright’s misunderstanding of the very evidence he, Wright, presented?) Fadil is all for Jihad. He is simply for Jihad conducted by means other than the terrorism favored by Al Qaeda, because that doesn’t work. It simply arouses the Infidels too early. And what’s more, Fadil finds attacks on Muslim rulers, or rulers who call themselves Muslims, also a bad idea, though perhaps he does so because being inside an Egyptian or a Saudi jail, as so many of those former Al Qaeda ideologues or fighters have discovered, naturally leads to such a conclusion.
No, Glassman accepts, and does not offer a hint of questioning, the banal notion that “there is a war within Islam.” No, there isn’t really. There is a “war — or rather a Jihad — against Infidels.” The duty of Jihad is as old as Islam, and is central, not tangential, to Islam. It is the “struggle” or Jihad to press back the boundaries of Dar al-Islam, to remove all obstacles everywhere to the spread, and then to the dominance, of Islam. Being lazy, J. K. Glassman assumes that the means chosen for Jihad — qitaal or combat — by the early Muslims necessarily remains the only means, and therefore the identifying feature, of Jihad. But qitaal or combat is not the only means. A morning spent with Muslim texts, or Muslim sites online, would quickly demonstrate that Muslims have for many decades discussed all the other means of conducting Jihad that now present themselves.
To repeat myself: there have been several major changes, overlapping in time but distinct, that offer new weapons for those conducting Jihad.
The principal of these is the negligence of the political and media elites throughout the Western world, that allowed them to admit into their midst millions of Muslims and permitting them to settle deep behind what Islam itself tells them they must regard as enemy lines, without carefully considering what this arrival of people who carried undeclared in their mental baggage the ideology of Islam would mean for the future security and stability of Infidel societies. We already know, even now, from seeing what is going on in Great Britain, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, and so on what the arrival of Muslims has meant. We have seen what kind of demands for changes to accommodate Muslim requirements are continuously made, and even when turned down, will forever be remade, because Muslims, Believers in Islam, can do no other. And we can see the pressures, ranging from same-sex or, still worse, Muslim-only same-sex public facilities, and prayer rooms in schools and workplaces and time off for those daily prayers, that so disrupt the rhythm of Western life, and for accommodations in every area — including the most absurd, such as demands that photographs of Muslimah faces on drivers’ licenses and passports should not be required, and so on, or that all crucifixes and other signs of Christianity be removed not from laic France, or the United States, but from the quite different country of Italy. And so on — you can fill up your own mental pages with the list. It goes on and on.
And of course the most sinister demand of all is that Infidels not exercise their own rights, including the right of free speech. Muslims do not accept the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Muslim states instead concocted their own version of this, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights, that simply rips the heart out of the real thing, denying freedom of conscience and free speech and equal treatment of the sexes and of non-Muslims in Muslim societies, and which they have had the gall to present as an “Islamic” equivalent of the real thing, when it actually vitiates where it does not outright destroy, the spirit and letter of the Universal Declaration, or such equivalents, in individual freedoms, as the American Bill of Rights.
There are fights within the world of Islam: fights between Shi’a and Sunni, fights by Arabs to suppress non-Arab Muslims such as Berbers, Kurds, and black African Muslims. There are resentments felt by the poor Arabs and Muslims for the rich ones. There is contempt felt by some of the “northern Arabs” of Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, for the “southern Arabs” of the sheikdoms and, especially, Saudi Arabia — a resentment that may well merely be prompted by the economic disparity, but that is given a sheen of being about the supposed civilizational advance of the “northern Arabs” over the rude crude “desert Arabs” or “Beduin” of the Arabian peninsula.
There are also rivalries for power. Shall Mubarak stay or go? Shall he be succeeded by his oily gucci-loafered scion, or by the less corrupt, but likely more dangerous-to-Infidels representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood? Shall the Alawite dictatorship in Syria remain, or be replaced by a dictatorship of Sunni Muslim officers who, having slaughtered the Alawite generals, and allowed a certain amount of Sunni slaughter of Alawites in every one of their villages, now take over to enjoy the power, and of course the money that, in Muslim societies, is always obtained by the seizure of political power? And what princeling shall reign in this little sheikdom, and which one in that?
Oh, but that’s it. There is no discussion of the Islam as an ideology. There is no attempt to modify, at all, the inculcation of a worldview that teaches hatred of Infidels, out of texts — Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira — bristling with hostility, often murderous hostility toward non-Muslims, and that offer a Total Belief-System that rests on an uncompromising view that a state of permanent war, though not necessarily of open warfare, exists between Believers and Infidels.
Do some of those who call themselves Muslims not always and everywhere put the doctrines of Islam into practice? Of course, and they don’t do so for various reasons. One is because they are not in a position at the moment to do so; their self-interest demands different outward behavior. They may be seeking to live in an Infidel state, or study nuclear energy in a Dutch or German lab, or take a Fulbright to learn all about computer engineering. They may already live in an Infidel land and not wish to draw attention to what the canonical texts of Islam contain, and what, if one still identifies oneself as a Muslim, by this point can legitimately be attributed to such people as their beliefs, unless they declare otherwise and mean it.
And it is so much more important at the moment for so many Muslims to continue to extract as much as they can from Infidels, in the way of still more economic and military aid. Look at the meretricious behavior, accompanied by a steady drumbeat of smiles-and-wiles offers of support, for the campaign “against Al Qaeda” by so many generals and zamindars in Pakistan. Or just look at Iraq, where we have now entered the stage where both Sunnis and Shi’a, and the various groups and parties and tendencies within each of the sectarian camps, tries to ingratiate itself with the Americans, and hopes that those fabulously well-equipped Americans will leave behind, and leave to their particular group or sect, so much of that equipment. And so they keep talking, as Hashimi did the other day, all about the “need for a stronger army.” Hashimi, a Sunni, sees the army, not the police, as the place where the Sunnis who formed the officer corps under Saddam are likely to find their surest power base within the so-called “national institutions” — if they are to do so at all. So he and the others go on about “greater security” — which will, of course, only be insured by the Americans leaving those Humvees, those Bradley fighting vehicles, those tanks with special anti-I.E.D. devices, those guns, that night-fighting equipment, those helicopters, oh, and a few dozen planes would do nicely, and don’t you want us to have a little bit of a navy to patrol off Umm al Qasr and help you contain Iran?
And the American military officers are so self-delighted with the “counter-insurgency strategy.” Take a bow, all you writers of counter-insurgency manuals who have ignored the larger question — the question of what exactly it means that we win, what exactly the “victory” in Iraq is that will weaken the Camp of Islam and Jihad, other than a quite different definition of “victory” that I have discussed here so many times. Take a bow, soft-spoken would-be-novelist thoughtful Col. Nagl. Take a bow, Colonel or is it General McMaster, inventor of the “Ask Your Customer” program, according to which, we learn, American soldiers are asked to treat incarcerated Iraqis as “customers” whose good will they need to earn (“Friendliness Is Job One”). Take a bow, all of you who think that the phrase “in general, insurgencies last ten years” makes any sense at all, instead of being as comical a phrase as “in general, civil wars last 4.7 years” or “in general, wars last 10.3 years.”
James K. Glassman has not, it is clear from what he writes, sat down and studied Islam. He has not studied the texts. He has not understood either the definition of Jihad, nor the varied instruments of Jihad. It was only a quarrel over those instruments that distanced Fadil from the current leaders of Al Qaeda, and not over the concept, or necessity for Muslims to fulfill the duty, of Jihad itself.
How comforting it is, though, isn’t it, not to study Islam, not to study the texts, not to study the commentaries, not to study the 1350-year history of Islamic conquest and subjugation of non-Muslims, who faced either conversion, or death, or at best — if they were ahl al-kitab, People of the Book — the status of dhimmi, which means permanent humiliation, degradation, and physical insecurity.
And how comforting it is not to pay attention to, not to listen with care to, the growing small army of articulate defectors from the army of Islam, as valuable as were defectors from the KGB during the Cold War, such highly intelligent and thoughtful people as Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina. How comforting it is to think it is not a permanent problem, or one that in any case can be solved over there, way over there, in the Middle East, in Iraq, or in Afghanistan, or by “solving” the Jihad against Israel (which has no solution, which is only a situation to be managed, and managed through Israeli deterrence, which is all that keeps, or ever will, keep the peace).
How wonderful not to look closely at what is happening in the countries of Western Europe. How wonderful to think that there is a “solution,” and that what one sees in the behavior of Muslims, directed at Buddhists and Hindus as well as at Christians and Jews, in such places as southern Thailand and southern Sudan and southern Nigeria, in Bangladesh as in Bradford, in Lahore as in London or Lyon, in short, all over, wherever Muslims feel strong enough to push their ways, to force Infidels to accommodate them, is simply an anomaly. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they are rebuffed, but that does not end their eternal desire to promote Islam, for Islam “is to dominate and is not to be dominated.”
Glassman is a product of a certain American time and place. He is limited in his ability to see beyond his assumptions about people or peoples, and about the effect of ideologies. I’m not sure if he is one of those Wall Street Journal marxists who believes that economic wellbeing, or lack of it, explains everything, but I suspect so. He is a believer in the dogma that People Are Essentially The Same The Whole World Over, though not quite with the blatant bomfoggery of the Bush Administration’s sentimental messianism, now slightly muted, of that Light-Unto-the-Muslim-Nations project in the dreamworld of Iraq.
And that Iraq remains, surge and “calm” or not, still a dreamworld, even or especially, for those hardheaded tough-minded “realistic” counter-insurgency experts who are proud of what they have accomplished — like Colonel Bogey who with his men built that bridge over the River Kwai for the Japanese enemy with such care, paying attention to the task at hand but missing the larger picture, the picture outside Iraq, the picture of seeing the essential meaning, and menace, of Islam, and defining “victory” in Iraq only in one way: an end result that will weaken the Camp of Islam and Jihad. And there is only one way — the way I have suggested in many columns — to do that.