So whom do you want to believe? Do you want to believe those who claim, such as Charles Krauthammer, that there is “Islam” and then there is “Islamism” and there is vast and therefore comforting difference between the two – though that difference is never really adequately discussed in detail – and we must never forget it?
What do others, aside from Charles Krauthammer, have to say about Islam and “Islamism”?
Ibn Warraq has repeatedly said that he has no idea what “Islamism” may mean. For Ibn Warraq, the real distinction is between the ideology of Islam and some of those who call themselves Muslims, that is, adherents of the ideology: “There are moderate Muslims. Islam itself is not moderate.”
This lapidary formula points to a truth: that the texts of Islam, if not only taken literally — and they are taken literally, that is the whole point – but also taken to heart, create people who are, to appropriate a line of Shakespeare, toward Infidels (and not infrequently toward each other), “savage, bloody, rude, not to trust.”
Wafa Sultan, who has thought long and hard about the matter, says repeatedly that “there is no difference between Islam and Islamism.”
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has thought long and hard about Islam and Kemalism and everything in-between, angrily says that “there is no difference between Islam and Islamism.”
C. Snouck Hurgronje, Joseph Schacht, Antoine Fattal, Henri Lammens, K. S. Lal, Ignaz Goldziher, Sir William Muir, St. Clair Tisdall, Arthur Jeffrey, Samuel Zwemer, Georges Vajda, David Margoliouth, all appear never to have believed in something called “Islamism,” because not once, in their tens of thousands of pages of learned works on Islam, do they ever use the word “Islamism.” Nor do any of the other great scholars of Islam. Not once in her works on Iran does A. K. S. Lambton ever use the word “Islamism.” Not once in his books on Turkey, or in any of his other works, did Bernard Lewis ever use the word, or ever adhere to the phony concept, of “Islamism.” And just as S. D. Goitein, after his decades of research and study of the Cairo Geniza contents, became far less sentimental about Islam when he recognized the full weight of the dhimmi status, as one can see in his introductory remarks to “A Mediterranean Society,” even Bernard Lewis, as lucid as ever, appears at 93 to have begun to understand what the Jews living in Arab lands endured under Islam. See a recent appearance by him in Israel, which suggests a similar new and deeper understanding, the one which he earlier rejected, when he actively worked, behind the scenes, in Israeli academic circles, against Bat Ye’or.
Marie-ThÃ©rÃ¨se Urvoy (French Islamologist, Director of Studia-Arabica.net) says: “There is no Islam and Islamism. There is the Texts [Radical] and People [Radical or Moderate].”
So whom shall we trust? Shall we trust Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Magdi Allam, Nonie Darwish? Shall we have faith in the understanding of Islam by such scholars as C. Snouck Hurgronje, Joseph Schacht, Arthur Jeffrey, Henri Lammens, and all the others who never ever felt there was such a thing as “Islamism” and never once used the term?
Or shall we put our trust in Charles Krauthammer, and those in whom he apparently puts his trust on such matters?
Those in the West who use this formulation betray their own insufficiencies of mind, and their own grasping at straws of their own mental construction.
The point is this: Islam really is a dangerous ideology. So why aren’t all Muslims dangerous? What needs an explanation is not, as all our experts appear to think, why there are these “violent extremists” and what it is that makes them so, when Islam itself is so full of tolerance and peace and so on? Bush was bad on this, full of messianic sentimentalism. Obama is not full of messianic sentimentalism but is far far worse in his identification with, sympathy for, and defense of, those who fit, in his mental grid, into the category of the “Non-Western Victim.” This is a deep worldview that some of us did not recognize in time, and did not understand. But everything he does that touches upon Islam, including the continuing cruel mistreatment, even tormenting, by the Obama Administration, of the government and people of Israel, is based on a complete acceptance of the Arab narrative about “the Palestinian people” that ignores completely the Jihad without end against the Infidel nation-state of Israel.
What needs to be understood are the various reasons that this or that group of Muslims, or this or that individual Muslim, does not apparently take the texts and tenets of Islam to heart. There are many explanations for why this or that Muslim chooses not to take Islam to heart. None of them should provide comfort to intelligent and wary Infidels.
Here are just three:
1) Ignorance of what is in those texts. If you are an illiterate villager living in a remote part of Afghanistan, you may not know these texts. But the question is: what happens to you once you learn, through the radios and televisions and even computers made available by generous infusions of Western aid – perhaps even supplied directly by those Western Infidels – and you are subject to the full texts of Islam, presented to you by those who do not mince words?
What is your reaction? Do you recoil in horror? Do you say: that’s it, I had no idea, I’m out of Islam forever? That is not what has been happening. The “radicalization” of which people in the West speak is nothing more than Muslims, formerly not fully apprised of what the texts of Islam say, becoming more aware of them. And in doing so, because they are already keenly aware that they are “Muslims” (that’s the side of humanity, that’s the team they are on), they can do no other but do what Muslims are taught to do, think what Muslims are taught to think – even if, personally, they would wish those texts and tenets were otherwise.
2) A “moderate” Islam that is “moderate” because the Muslim group or individual in question possesses another identity that works against his Islam. For example, if you are a Kurd, and keenly aware of the mass-murdering of Kurds by Arabs in Iraq, you may be more incensed about your treatment by fellow Muslims, and the Muslims par excellence, the originators and “guardians” not only of the Two Noble Sanctuaries but the “guardians” of Islam itself, the Arabs. If you are a Berber, and you live in the Kabyle region of Algeria, or in Morocco, or even in France, you might resent the Arabs, with their cultural and linguistic imperialism, their attempts to squash the use of Tamizight, their attempts to snuff out Berber culture, and even their attempts to arabize – they did it before the French arrived, and they’ve done it with a vengeance since the French left – what remains of the Berber population. And that awareness may make you a less enthusiastic, i.e., more “moderate,” Muslim than you might otherwise be. And the same is true for other non-Arab Muslims, that is, those who most keenly have felt, or feel, the Arab yoke, and gradually come to understand all the ways that Islam is, has been, and will be a vehicle of Arab supremacism.
3) You may live in the Western world, and enjoy its peace, its mental and other freedoms, its prosperity, its art and its science, its (compared to Muslim states) well-ordered societies where people are citizens, and possess rights that cannot be ignored — in short, all the blessings of an advanced and necessarily non-Muslim civilization. But if you remain a Muslim, for whatever reason – conviction, filial piety, fear of what other Muslims will think or do – you are a permanent threat to the non-Muslims whose generosity and way of life you have benefited from so much. You do not recognize the reasons for that advanced civilization, as Nonie Darwish points out in Now They Call Me Infidel, and far from being grateful for the tremendous privilege of living, and even acquiring citizenship, in one of the advanced Western countries, you wish to undo them, to lay claim to them for Islam, even though that will simply reduce the place you now enjoy to what you fled from. Unlike refugees from the Nazis, who did what they could to alert the countries that gave them refuge to the dangers and evils of Nazism, unlike refugees from the Communists, who felt they had a duty to warn the West in which they found refuge of the dangers and evils of Communism, those who come from the various wretched Muslim lands, made wretched politically, economically, socially, intellectually, and morally, by Islam itself, almost all of those who arrive come with Islam, undeclared, in their mental baggage, and become Defenders And Spreaders of the Faith. The only ones who do not do so, who behave as did the refugees from the Nazis and the Communists, are those who, having been born into, and raised within, societies suffused with Islam, nonetheless manage to take advantage of the mental and other kinds of freedom the West makes possible, and in exercising that freedom, and in pondering the nature of Islam, come to conclusions about it that lead them, just like refugees from the Nazis and from the Communists, to start to warn us, as best they can, about the evils and dangers of Islam and a rising Muslim population. The list of such people is growing and growing. There is Ibn Warraq, with Why I Am Not A Muslim. There is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, with
Infidel. There is Nonie Darwish with Now They Call Me Infidel. There is Wafa Sultan, with A God Who Hates. There is Magdi Allam, with Vincere La Paura and Kamikaze Made In Europe and Diario all’Islam and, with Roberto Gritti, Islam, Italia – Chi sono e che pensano Ii musulmani chi vivono tra noi. There is Ali Sina, there is the late Anwar Sheikh, a Pakistani who lived in Wales and wrote the important Islam: The Arab National Religion.
But though you do what you can to protect Islam, to misrepresent it as smilingly as you can – and all the meretricious arts of Taqiyya and Tu Quoque are employed, as if by second nature – you also do not wish to endanger your own position in an Infidel society where Muslims still represent only a handful, about 1% of the population (though if CAIR and other groups can act as aggressively as they do with such a small Muslim population, imagine how they will behave if the Muslim share of the population, and its power, increases). You don’t want to have your employment prospects, or your business, suffer, you don’t want to rock too many boats. So that is why you choose to work to promote Islam, work to undo the Infidel society in which you live, without attention-getting violence. You regret, deeply, Osama Bin Laden, not because you are in any disagreement with his goals – you share those goals, you share his views, you share his attitudes, you wish him not to be captured – but because you think there are far better ways to promote the same goals, to achieve, ultimately, the same ends. You think that Tariq Ramadan, not Osama Bin Laden, is the role model for clever Muslims. Indeed, the cleverest will be those who appear, mainly because of their youth and outward appearance and mastery of the local Infidel language, and perhaps with the right degrees, to be the perfect “moderate Muslim.” Indeed, had Tariq Ramadan not in the end left such a large amount of written and spoken evidence of his meretriciousness and his real views, which were then analyzed by highly-intelligent French people (see, for example, Caroline Fourest’s Brother Tariq, which is now in English), he – Tariq Ramadan – would still be in Switzerland or France, but now he has had the Arab countries buy him a chair at Oxford, so he can attempt to work his sinister magic in the English-speaking world. And his eye is on, it’s always on, the United States of America.
The Jihad can be pursued with many instruments. Those who choose violence, and especially those who choose not ordinary qitaal – combat – but rather terrorism, are the ones in the West we describe as those “violent extremists.”
But those who are not “violent extremists” require even more vigilance, as they pursue the same goals, or out of reasons of self-interest perhaps, prudently set them aside for now. But we don’t know for how long they will set them aside. That depends on all kinds of factors, including an absence of personal setbacks that might set someone off and turn a “moderate” into an “extremist” – i.e., into someone who not only takes Islam seriously, but is prepared to act on what it commands against the Infidels.
There are also reasons why those, including some of those who one would have thought would have seen things more clearly, cleave to this construct which misleads — of “Islam and ‘Islamism.'”
Here is a piece published at the website run by Daniel Pipes, of a summary (by Aymenn Jawad) of a debate that Pipes had with Wafa Sultan on December 1, 2009. I have put the key sentence, that explains why Pipes has been so fervent in his spreading of this “Islam and Islamism” notion, one picked up by those who, like Charles Krauthammer, assume that Daniel Pipes couldn’t possibly be steering them wrong:
Mr. Pipes began by emphasizing that he and Ms. Sultan are allies, fighting the same opponents, namely, the Islamists. They agree on the past and present of Islam but disagree about the future. Ms. Sultan argues it cannot change while he believes it can. The idea that Islam cannot change is an essentialist view that ignores how much Islam has changed over history, an aspect that he, as a student of Islamic history for forty years, appreciates. He stressed that many of the requirements of the Shari’a, or Muslim sacred law, are impractical to implement, resulting in what Mr. Pipes has coined as the “medieval synthesis,” whereby loopholes are devised to get around impractical tenets, such as the prohibition against usury.
In the 1800s, with the onslaught of Western influence, the medieval synthesis collapsed, replaced by secular, reformist, and fundamentalist strains. The last of these is the totalitarian mentality that Mr. Pipes describes as “Islamism,” which transformed the religion into a political movement. And while Islamism dominates today, there are even at this bleak moment signs that Islam itself can change. For example, jurists in Turkey recently ruled that women can pray next to men in mosques, a small but important step for women’s rights.
Ms. Sultan began her argument by quoting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who says that there is no “moderate or immoderate Islam. There is Islam; that is it.” She contends that terms like “radical Islam” conceal the true nature of Islam itself–a political ideology. She adds that the aim of Islam is to subdue the entire world under Shari’a. To prove her position, she quoted from the Qur’an; she also argued that the true nature of Islam can be seen in the Sira, or biography, of Muhammad, which, she says, has come to define Islam itself. For instance, Ms. Sultan claims that Muhammad’s actions–such as marrying a 9-year-old and taking many women as concubines –means that there can be no equality for women under Shari’a.
During the question and answer session, Mr. Pipes pointed out that those who argue that Islam itself is the problem leave the West with no solutions, adding that, to truly reform Islam, Western governments must begin to empower genuine moderates. Asked what policies she would adopt toward the Muslim world, Ms. Sultan asserted that Islam can be reformed, and recommended Western pressure on the Saudi king as the surest way.
Mr. Pipes and Ms. Sultan agreed on some specifics, for instance, that Western governments must not welcome non-violent Islamism and should monitor the hate being taught in Muslim schools in the West. Overall, however, Mr. Pipes, while not denying what Islam has been or is, insists that Islam, like other religions, can and will change, whereas Ms. Sultan was more pessimistic.
So now we understand. Pipes does not see how the West can deal with the meaning, and menace, of Islam. He doesn’t know what the West could do if it were filled with people who refused to accept his “Islam and Islamism” distinction, because, he said (according to what was put up at his own website, so must surely reflect accurately what he said – the tape can be listened to online), “those who argue that Islam itself is the problem leave the West with no solutions.”
Again and again I have pointed out here that there is no “solution” to the menace of Islam but the threat can be reduced, the problem not solved but ameliorated, and I have noted, usually when discussing Israel and that idiotic question-begging phrase “the two-state solution” or even “the one-state solution,” as I have tried to make clear there is no “solution” to the Jihad against Israel, but that if Israel is not cruelly pressured into making yet more concessions, it will be able to handle the situation and the Arab rulers able to invoke “Darura” (necessity) for their refusal to go to war.
Americans, with their Yankee can-do rolling-up-their-sleeves spirit, seem to assume that everything in the world can be thought of as a “problem” to be “solved.” It isn’t true. It sometimes is an admirable spirit, and sometimes is frightening in its naivete and in what it betrays of a misunderstanding of so much of what life, including political life, present. There is no “solution” to poverty, but one can ameliorate it. There is no “solution” to certain kinds of human inequality, the result of not Man but Nature, but one can ameliorate conditions for those who suffer from that inequality. There is no solution to anthropogenic global warming – it cannot be stopped at this point – but there are ways to ameliorate the problem.
In the case of Islam (and not “Islamism,” which as a term ought to be ignored or mocked, as you choose), we can manage the situation if we do nothing to prevent Muslims from arriving at certain conclusions, but ideally they will do this on their own. However, we in the non-Muslim world can discuss, among ourselves, all the ways that Islam is a vehicle for Arab supremacism, beginning but not limited to the cultural and linguistic spheres. And we will be overheard, overheard among some of the 80% of the world’s Muslims who are not Arab, and not all of whom are delighted with the ways that they are encouraged to sedulously ape the manners and customs, and even adopt the names, of seventh-century Arabs, forgetting their own quite different histories, cultures, traditions, even languages.
And we can talk amongst ourselves, about what political theory, and view of Man, in Islam, discourages true democracy and encourages despotism – and despotism is the rule, not the exception, in Muslim states. We can talk about how the hatred of bid’a, innovation, discourages novel forms of economic activity, discourages entrepreneurial activity and invention, and we can discuss how inshallah-fatalism works against the concept of hard work. We can talk about the mistreatment in Islam of all non-Muslims and of women, and what that does to a society. We can talk, truthfully, about why science developed in the West and not in the lands of Islam, and we can in detail go through the claims made for the greatness of high classical Islamic civilization and see how many of those who did the translations from the Greek were Muslims, and how many Christians and Jews, and from where the Arabs borrowed paper-making, and the concept of zero, and algebra. And we can analyze, in prosopographic studies (shades of Sir Lewis Namier), name by name, the handful of famous people in Islam, and which ones, such as Rhazes, who were freethinkers, and those who were highly unorthodox Muslims, their work finding acceptance only in the West, but their Western fame has now made Muslims re-claim them as part of Islam’s past greatness.
We can also investigate those famous names of people who, while they bore Arabic names, and used the Arabic language, and are called Muslims, may in fact have been formed mentally in a different sectarian milieu. For the days of civilisational greatness for Islam lasted only a few centuries, that is, while there were still a large number of unconverted Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, and those who were only a generation or two away from being Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. Perhaps the secret that no one has been able to solve, as to why there was this sudden extinguishing of Islamic cultural achievement, has to do with the fact that at a certain point, there were enough semi-forced conversions to the faith of the conquerors, that is Islam, and the Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians lost their fructifying influence.
These are among the things we can do, and that those who cling desperately to the “Islam vs. Islamism” distinction, that is false an dangerous, apparently have been unable to think of on their own. And there are many other things that can reduce the “problem” to manageable proportions, and not force the West to spend much of its time, and a great deal of its money, on this matter when there are so many other things that press upon us. But that is very different from either finding a permanent “solution” or in formulating falsehoods because one thinks only in terms of “solutions” and believes that in order to find that “solution” we must fool ourselves, and fool others, about the nature of Islam.
No, we must not do that.
And there are those quite capable of coming up with ideas — I’ve given dozens and dozens at this site, and so, no doubt, have many of you, in your postings here, or in your private musings.