The author of this Salon piece is Haroon Moghul, who is fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, Fellow at the New America Foundation, Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, and the Alfred Rosenberg of the “Islamophobia” movement. Back in the early years of the National Socialist movement in Germany, Rosenberg’s The Myth of the Twentieth Century was second only to Hitler’s Mein Kampf in giving an intellectual veneer to the Nazis’ thuggery and Jew-hatred. Rosenberg was a principal architect of the National Socialists’ anti-Semitism, race theory, claim that Germany had a right to huge expanses of territory in Europe, and rejection of Christianity, and was respected in Nazi Germany as one of Nazism’s foremost intellectual godfathers.
Moghul is the Alfred Rosenberg of the “Islamophobia” movement because the service he performs for it is similar to that which Rosenberg served for Nazism: while gutter thugs such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are the new Brownshirts, concentrating on smearing, defaming and marginalizing of foes of jihad terror, Moghul takes a high road (if there can be anything like a high road in this dirty enterprise), attempting to invest the idea of “Islamophobia” with some actual intellectual substance. Since the concept of “Islamophobia” is designed to shut down thought and intimidate people into not thinking, this attempt is foredoomed — as I showed here in connection with one of Moghul’s earlier efforts. Moghul is not as crass, crude, or thuggish as CAIR, but ultimately they’re two sides of the same coin: Moghul is just a Brownshirt in a suit and tie, attempting to shout down all who dare raise the slightest critical voice regarding jihad terror.
In this piece, he excoriates Graeme Wood for daring to suggest in The Atlantic that the Islamic State has something to do with Islam, contrary to today’s state dogma. The only thing he doesn’t do, as we shall see, is refute any of Wood’s substantive points. Comments interspersed below.
“The Atlantic’s big Islam lie: What Muslims really believe about ISIS,” by Haroon Moghul, Salon, February 19, 2015:
Imagine a group of people who rape. Enslave. Maim. Murder. Ethnically cleanse. Extort. Burn. Behead. But then imagine this—they don’t lie? Can’t lie. Won’t lie. That’s what Graeme Wood’s recent Atlantic essay, “What ISIS Really Wants,” really wants us to believe.
That a movement that has earned the world’s nearly universal opprobrium for its grotesque violence and wickedness is nevertheless honest in describing why it does what it does. I beg to differ. The only Muslims who think ISIS represents Islam, or even Muslims, are ISIS themselves.
Well over three thousand Muslims have gone from Western countries to join the Islamic State. We never saw this with al-Qaeda or any other jihad group. If the Islamic State is misrepresenting Islam, and “the only Muslims who think ISIS represents Islam, or even Muslims, are ISIS themselves,” why is this happening? That is the question that neither Haroon Moghul nor Barack Obama nor any other apologist for Islam who claims that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam has never addressed.
That’s the first thing everyone needs to know about “the Islamic State.” And the second? If you want to know why ISIS exists, don’t bother searching Islamic texts, or examining Islamic traditions. The real reason ISIS happens is because of what keeps happening to Muslims.
There we go again: the ever-present Muslims-are-victims narrative. The Islamic State only exists because non-Muslims are being bad to Muslims. The idea here is to wring more concessions from the West to Muslim countries, with the claim that these concessions will stop the jihad. They won’t, of course.
The Incomparability of Civilizations
There’s almost no comparison between Islam and the West. For one thing, Islam is a religion. The West obviously is not. But even the countries of the world that are Muslim-majority don’t compare to the West. For all this fearful talk of a global Muslim Caliphate, it’s the West that has made real progress in creating transnational institutions.
There’s no Muslim counterpart to the European Union, the Schengen Treaty, NATO, the G-20—a Western initiative—or the many bilateral and multilateral agreements and processes that make the West what it is. Nor is this exclusively a mark of the Muslim world: You think China, Brazil or India enjoys the alliances we do? The kinds of integration that make our societies so prosperous and powerful?
The world’s Muslim-majority societies are remarkably diverse—much more so than the West, I’d argue.
Really? Which one has a President from a racial or ethnic minority? In which ones do non-Muslims enjoy full equality of rights with non-Muslims, including the right to proselytize that Muslims enjoy? In which are women absolutely free not to wear the hijab or some other covering without any fear that she will be propositioned, called a whore, menaced, threatened, or even killed? In which ones can gays live openly as gays without fear of police harassment and worse?
Which is all fine, in theory, until you get to the practice. These very different peoples are going through our equivalent of the dark ages, the consequence of centuries of colonialism, occupation, authoritarianism and extremism.
Note that it’s everyone else’s fault. The world’s Muslim-majority societies would be pristine paradises of diversity, multiculturalism, tolerance of love were it not for centuries of colonialism, occupation, authoritarianism and extremism. This echoes the jihadis’ habit of blaming everyone else for every atrocity they commit: they killed the Jordanian and Japanese hostages because the Japanese and Jordanians wouldn’t play ball, they killed the 21 Coptic Christians because of some imaginary “Crusade,” etc. It’s always the other guy’s fault — this is a hallmark of Islamic supremacist analysis.
As Muslim societies struggle to find their way forward, everything is up for grabs. What kind of government should they have? What role should religion play? How should power be divided? Very little is agreed on. One of them is this: Among an incredibly diverse, astonishingly fractured and contentious community, ISIS is anathema.
Here again: then why are so many young Muslims from the West joining the Islamic State? Because of colonialism?
Many people still ask questions like, “Why don’t Muslims protest ISIS?” Of course, every Muslim institution and organization outside of the region has. As for the Muslims who are closer? Well, put it another way. People in unsafe neighborhoods don’t denounce the gangs who make their lives miserable, at least not if they want to stay alive. They turn to the police–maybe. Unless they don’t trust those police.
Where exactly have Muslims protested against the Islamic State? Recently we have seen hundreds of thousands of Muslims protest against cartoons of Muhammad, and nary a single one protest against the murder of the cartoonists by Islamic jihadists. Moghul has the luxury of knowing that he can make this fantastic assertion and that no one will call him on it, because his fellow propagandists have already floated the idea that Muslims are fighting against and protesting against jihad terror all the time, but the “Islamophobic” media just won’t cover it. This is, of course, absurd: the mainstream media is wholly sympathetic to Moghul and his ilk, and would like nothing better than to have a huge anti-ISIS Muslim protest to highlight. But there aren’t any, so Moghul just claims that there were many and knows he won’t be challenged.
When you’re fractured and fragmented, it’s hard to root out a movement like ISIS, and even harder to rally together when the people on the other side are just as brutal. If not more so. Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Iranian backers have killed more people than the Islamic State has. It’s not an easy time to be Muslim, that’s for sure.
But for every deluded soul ISIS ensnares, or who seeks them out, countless more condemn them, oppose them, reject them or fight them. It’s beyond a stretch to argue that ISIS represents Islam, is grounded in Islam, or justified by Islam. That’s not to say they don’t claim religious mandates, or exploit religion to enable their savagery.
In reality, there is not a single program in any mosque or Islamic school in the U.S. that has a program that teaches against the Islamic State’s understanding of Islam. Why not? There are plenty of Muslims who condemn the Islamic State, but where are those who are actually opposing them or fighting them?
It’s that no one’s buying it.
“Islamic State crisis: ‘3,000 European jihadists join fight’” — BBC, September 2014
Just ask Muslims the world over. Imagine that: actually talking to and hearing out 1.5 billion people who live, identify with and practice this religion. From Sunni to Shi’a, secular to conservative, Islamist to liberal, autocratic to democratic, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his doppelganger of a Caliphate have united the Muslim world like no one else has – against them.
Even al-Qaida, which the vast majority of the world’s Muslims have rejected, condemned and spurned, considers ISIS too violent. This is despite ISIS saying its actions are justified in Islam, or acting in Islam’s name or those faithful to the faith. Though ISIS assembles its rhetoric with bits and pieces of religion, its relationship to Islam is like Frankenstein to a human being, or a zombie to a living person.
Al-Qaeda is a competitor — of course they will run down the Islamic State. But in any case, these are just assertions. We are well into the piece now, and Moghul has not yet addressed even one of Wood’s assertions. Wood, for example, wrote: “Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute….The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam. The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews ‘until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.’ The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves.” Does Moghul refute any of this? No, he doesn’t even try. He just asserts that the Islamic State is not Islamic and demands that you take it on his word. And Salon readers being easy marks, they will.
It might look similar, but it is anything but. ISIS is a monster in Islamic garb. That doesn’t mean I don’t take the threat seriously, or believe that Muslims don’t have a responsibility to fight the language of extremism—and its consequences. For too long we’ve turned a blind eye to real anti-Semitism, authoritarianism, factionalism, sectarianism, patriarchy and privilege.
That’s very, very funny. I eagerly await Haroon Moghul’s first article exploring the roots of Islamic anti-Semitism in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and denouncing it.
This is a war that will take years to fight, and tremendous resources to prosecute. We have to be ready. But in knowing what we’re fighting, let’s not forget why we’re fighting.
Going Abroad in Search of Monsters to Create
And that brings me to my second point. Some folks might accept all of this, but then argue, “If ISIS isn’t Islamic, why do they use Islamic language?” ”Why is Islam alone apparently so violent, so brutal, so terrible?” And that’s a compelling point, except that it doesn’t include any context….
Moghul then devotes the rest of his piece to denouncing Saddam Hussein and the American intervention in Iraq for the rise of the Islamic State. He never does get around to answering his two questions above. And I doubt he ever will. I agree with Moghul that the Iraq war was ill-advised and poorly executed, and has resulted in disaster for everyone involved. And there is no doubt that in many ways it gave rise to the Islamic State. But that in itself does not mean that it is not Islamic, or not working from Islamic texts and teachings to justify its brutality. Moghul here hasn’t refuted Graeme Wood’s Atlantic piece, or made any real case that the Islamic State is misrepresenting Islam. He concludes: “There are more radicals now than there were 15 years ago. We have to combat them, fight them and defeat them. But we don’t need to misrepresent who they are or where they came from, not just because that would be dishonest, but because it would make it that much harder to triumph over them.” With that, I couldn’t agree more — and Haroon Mogul is one of those who are doing the misrepresenting.