“Nobel laureate: Don’t ‘muddle up’ terrorism with Islam,” by Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press, September 2, 2016:
Nobel Peace Prize winner Wided Bouchamaoui urged people everywhere on Thursday [September 1] not to “muddle up” terrorism with Islam.
The Tunisian businesswoman, who co-founded the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet which won the 2015 peace prize, said Muslims who practice their faith calmly and respectfully are “victims of a semantic problem” when “terrorists” are described as “Islamic terrorists.”
In other words, don’t ever describe terrorism as “Islamic terrorism,” because that will make the good, moderate, Muslims, the ones who do not engage in or support terrorism, feel bad, make them the real victims. And who knows what they might do in response?
In 2015, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to four Tunisian groups that had been engaged in a “national dialogue” to head off violence between the secularists and the Islamists in Tunisia. The reason such an effort succeeded in Tunisia, while failing everywhere else in the Muslim Arab world (think of the continued violence in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, which began with the “Arab Spring”), is that the Arab secularists have always been strongest in Tunisia, and once the French left, the redoubtable Habib Bourguiba and his Destour Party took power. Bourguiba was careful to constrain the forces of militant Islam in Tunisia, fearing a relapse back into the medieval Muslim mire. The French-educated Tunisian elite gave him their full support; his successor Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, though secular also, was extremely corrupt, and it was that which undid his rule. This gave the Islamic party of Ennahda a chance to share power, but after some terror attacks by Muslims even more extreme than those in Ennahda, a convinced secularist, 89-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi, was voted in, as a representative of the French-educated and secular Tunisian elite. They have been among the main beneficiaries of France’s mission civilisatrice, and wanted to ensure that Tunisia would not relapse into a medieval Muslim mire.
Ms. Bouchamoui, having insisted that “we should call a spade a spade,” as she told the U.N. General Assembly’s high-level forum on “The Culture of Peace, proceeded to call a spade a pitchfork: “A terrorist is a killer, a murderer, a criminal and I would even say an imposter who is manipulating Islam.”
What does this mean? It means that this distinguished member of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, that was cited by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for making a “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia” after the Jasmine Revolution of 2011, remains, despite all these accolades, and her presumed “moderation,” an apologist for Islam. For how do these “terrorists” manage to “manipulate Islam”? Do they make up violent verses in the Qur’an that really aren’t there? Do they make up stories about an aggressive Muhammad and falsely ascribe them to an “authentic” collection of Hadith? How exactly do these terrorists “manipulate” Islam? Bouchamaoui doesn’t say. And she can’t, because the “terrorists” – from ISIS on down – are scrupulous about quoting textual authority for their acts. It’s the “moderates,” trying to convince Infidels that Islam is not a threat, who are the ones engaged in textual manipulation.
Bouchamaoui said Tunisia is still considered “the exception” to the Arab Spring because it has been able to avoid conflict and to promote dialogue and compromise. It has also been able to promote democracy and is taking steps to counter “terrorism,” she said.
She fails to answer the obvious question: why is Tunisia the “exception” to the Arab Spring? Isn’t it because the secularist heritage of Bourguiba and his Destour Party remained strong enough to stare down the Islamists, and to recover from the overthrow of Ben Ali (whose crime was not secularism, but corruption), and to suppress the would-be Islamists, retake power, and put Tunisia back on its secularist track? .
After deadly attacks in Tunisia and elsewhere carried out by extremists, she said “it is absolutely crucial to review and reconsider the solutions the international community can provide to the complex issue of terrorism in order to stem as best as possible the evil.” But she fails to follow the obvious trail: what ideology is it that prompts these acts of terrorism? Is Muslim terrorism really so complex an issue? Doesn’t it have a long history, that unsurprisingly shows us that the True Believers take seriously the command to “strike terror in the hearts” of the Infidels? And even Muslims who become “decadent” in their Western ways can make up for it, cleanse themselves of that decadence, precisely by engaging in Jihad, which is not something Westerners understand, determined as they are to believe that a “bad Muslim” (one who drinks alcohol, or eats pork, or doesn’t go to the mosque) could not then become a Jihadist. Of course he could, thereby making amends for his previous behavior, by now killing Infidels, which is the surest guarantor of attaining Paradise.
Beyond the immediate victims, Bouchamaoui said “terrorism seeks to strike public opinion, to intimidate it by instilling a climate of fear and terror — and they have achieved this in some places.”
Again, why does she never use the words “Islam,” “Islamic,” or “Muslim”? This theme, the same one John Kerry has been pitching, is that we should refuse to publicize acts of Islamic terrorism (“that’s what the terrorists want”), and instead keep quiet about these terrorist acts. If they don’t get the publicity they are said to seek, terrorism will level off. Where is the evidence for this? Isn’t it more likely that an insufficiently informed public, one not aware of the full extent of Muslim terrorism, will not support new security measures that need to be taken, may even come to believe that the whole business of Muslim terrorism is “exaggerated beyond belief” and there’s really nothing to worry about, if only those intolerable “racists” and “Islamophobes” would just shut up? When Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announces that terrorist attacks are foiled “all the time” and news of them never reaches the public, we know that the Muslim threat is already being grossly under-reported. When you misinform the public as to the scope of the threat, that public may misjudge the security measures that might need to be taken. The public needs a full and fair account of the terrorist threat, rather than attempts to minimize it so as “not to scare people.”
The Nobel laureate said she and others intend to join forces to fight “extremism,” which she said knows no borders. But that is true of only one kind of “extremism” – the very one she doesn’t want to name. The I.R.A. set off bombs only in Northern Ireland and the U.K. The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka limited their attacks to Sri Lanka. The Baader-Meinhof Gang limited itself to West Germany. The Red Brigades attacked only in Italy. The only kind of “extremism” that “knows no borders” is Islamic extremism. For the field of battle is everywhere that the Infidels have not yet been subdued. “It [‘extremism’] must be considered as a priority of the U.N. agenda on the culture of peace and non-violence,” Bouchamaoui said.
Stressing the importance of international action, she said, “I would like to urge each and every one of you not to muddle up terrorism (with) Islam.”
But it is not “muddling up terrorism (with) Islam” that is the problem; it’s the refusal of so many in high places, including certified “Muslim moderates” like Ms. Bouchamaoui, to state publicly the obvious connection between the texts and teachings of Islam and Muslim terrorism. It is Ms. Bouchamaoui who, having pocketed her share of a Nobel Prize for Peace, turns out to be, disappointingly, a Defender of the Faith, claiming – as so many others do – that the Muslim killers “have twisted” (or “misunderstood”) “a great religion,” “muddling up terrorism” (with) Islam when these terrorists Have Nothing To Do With Islam,
By referring to terrorists as Islamic, Bouchamaoui insists,”confusion is created in people’s minds between the Muslim faith and a team of Jihadists who are prepared to blow themselves up by killing innocent people.” In other words, even where a team of Jihadists are prepared to blow up innocents, whatever else you do, don’t refer to those terrorists as connected to Islam, because that creates “confusion in people’s minds.” What “confusion” is that? Are we incapable of distinguishing between those Muslims who take the Jihad to heart, and act upon it, from those who do not? The only “confusion” that arises comes from such remarks as those by Ms. Bouchamaoui, who refuses to concede that terrorist acts by Muslims are mandated by the Muslim faith. Isn’t what we endure now the worst possible kind of “confusion,” where we are inveigled into believing nonsensically that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam; and that no one should be uncharitable enough to bring up the little matter of what is in the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira, for fear of making things “worse”? And where we are uncertain of the true extent of the Muslim terrorism, because Jeh Johnson tells us that plots are thwarted all the time, and the public never learns of them. How, one wonders, could things be made even “worse”?
Tunisia is doing all right on its own, “a year of success for its democratic transition,” but Bouchamaoui doesn’t recognize that it was the strength of the secularist forces, a legacy from the Bourguiba period, who managed to stand fast against Rachid Ghannouchi’s Islamist Ennahda Party, that explain this success. That is, in Tunisia, the secular class is sufficiently numerous and powerful to hold the Islamists in check. But there is still the effect on Tunisia of the conflict in neighboring Libya and its “disastrous management.” “We are very much paying a very high price,” says Bouchamaoui, “for the instability in Libya. It affects our country every day, and our neighboring country [Libya].”And where does the instability come from in Libya, if not from the various Islamist armed groups in Libya, and especially from the forces of the Islamic State in Sirte, which even has Boko Haram fighters now in its ranks? And then there is the instability resulting from the constant infighting by a half-dozen other Islamic groups, some tied to Al-Qaeda and some to the Muslim Brotherhood, and including Ansar al-Sharia. These are the sources of the “instability in Libya” that affects neighboring Tunisia, and which Bouchamaoui chooses not to name. She might have said that Libya’s hope lay in the secular militia of General Khalifa Heftar (a possible savior of Libya from the Islamic groups and local militias still fighting), who could be Libya’s Bourguiba, and that Tunisia, and possibly Sisi’s Egypt, and the Western powers, should be helping him to secure Libya, to give secularism a chance. She did not. Instead, she simply said that while 2015 was a year of success for Tunisia’s democratic transition, it was also “ a terrible year for Tunisia and the world” because of extremist attacks, uncertainties, and “a lack of vision.” All very vague, for still she manages not to mention Islam, or name those Islamist militias in Libya.
It is disappointing that Bouchamaoui dared not state that those who linked Islam to terrorist attacks were not muddled; that there was indeed an obvious connection, and it was up to those who considered themselves “moderates” to find ways, if such ways can be found, to interpret away the Qur’anic passages that are most dangerous for Infidels, or at least to weaken the power of Islam as a political and social force. It has been done before – it’s exactly what Ataturk did in Turkey in the 1920s and early 1930s (and Erdogan’s undoing of some of Ataturk’s reforms doesn’t mean that Ataturk’s revolution was doomed to ultimate failure, but only that the class of secular Turks he helped create ought to have been more vigilant and ruthless in defending his legacy against the likes of Erdogan), and there is no reason why Ataturk’s example could not be followed by Arab secularists in Tunisia, where the legacy of Habib Bourguiba remains potent.
Ms. Bouchamaoui is herself in the camp of Bourguiba:
Indeed, the political Islamists in Tunisia deny the major role that Habib Bourguiba played in the national movement and in bringing about Tunisian independence. And they detest his secularism. Hence their desire to erase his memory by changing the name of “Avenue Bourguiba” to the “Avenue of Liberty” and posthumously demonizing him, impugning his own antecedents, describing him as ‘a Jew[a charge also levelled at Ataturk], a traitor, an agent working for France, someone who detested Islam and Arabization,’ charges made by, among others, the former minister of higher education, Moncef Ben Salem, in a video dated January 20, 2011.
Meanwhile, what if Ms. Bouchamaoui stopped being a Defender of the Faith, left off her worrying about the “muddling” of “terrorism” and “Islam,” and instead said something like this: “The attempt by Islamists in Tunisia to seize power fortunately failed. With the corrupt regime of Ben Ali out of the way, and Ennahda’s Islamist rule rejected, our people have wisely chosen to return to power a determined secularist, and lifelong supporter of Bourguiba, Beji Caid Essebsi; thus we are again being led by one of Bourguiba’s faithful. We realize, as Habib Bourguiba did, that Islam today has to adjust to the modern world, and we cannot expect the West to continue to endure, in a kind of reverse colonialism, the attitudes and behavior of many Muslims now living in Europe. Muslims should not expect to change the laws and customs of the countries of Dar al-Harb to which they have been so generously admitted. They should be prepared, rather, to show the same respect to non-Muslim laws and customs in Europe as they expect non-Muslims living in our lands to show to our laws and customs.. Meanwhile, in Tunisia, Bourguiba’s legacy needs to be strengthened, and the forces of Islamic fanaticism held in check.”
It’s not really much to ask of her, or of other Tunisian secularists. And she should not confuse matters by inveighing against those who “’muddle up’ terrorism with Islam.” It’s Islam itself that, with its 1400-year history of promoting terrorism in the service of Jihad, that long ago “muddled up” terrorism with Islam. And when Bouchamaoui says that “Muslims who practice their faith calmly and respectfully” are “victims of a semantic problem” when “terrorists” are described as “Islamic terrorists,” she is wrong: the phrase “Islamic terrorists” does not make victims of moderate Muslims, any more than the phrase “white racists” includes all “whites,” or the phrase “Japanese militarists” includes all Japanese. It is a useful phrase, because the prompting for such terrorism is to be found in the Islamic texts, the terrorists in question are all Muslims, their targets are all non-Muslims. Why shouldn’t the phrase “Islamic terrorists” be used? The adjective informs us that these terrorists share an ideology, and that that ideology can be found in Islam’s holy texts, texts we are free to study ourselves, to understand what motivates these terrorists.
In the context of Tunisia, Ms. Bouchamaoui is a secularist on the side of the angels. But she continues to present to the world’s Infidels an apologist’s view of Islam. When she, an obvious “moderate” Muslim, eventually shows herself prepared to publicly discuss the connection between Islam and terrorism, instead of continuing to insist that such discussion merely “muddles” things or, still worse, tell us that Islam is being “manipulated” to justify terrorism (how? With what textual authority?), then non-Muslims will be happy to recognize that Ms. Bouchamaoui has become part of the solution. Until then, however, she remains, though a moderate in the Tunisian context, and despite that Nobel Prize, a disturbing part of the problem.