The real Islam
Responding to breaking news of the thwarted Jihadi attacks against a dozen commercial flights from Great Britain to the United States this week, President George W. Bush did the unthinkable: He described the would-be killers in accurate terms.
"The recent arrests that our fellow citizens are now learning about are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," the President remarked.
Key words: "Islamic fascists".
Nearly five years since September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush has finally dropped his politically correct gloves and called the enemy of the West by the descriptor it deserves. This enemy is exclusively Muslim, and it has a modus operandi and worldview consistent with other forms of fascism.
Predictably, America's Islamic lobby was quick to object. "We have to isolate these individuals because there is nothing in the Koran or the Islamic faith that encourages people to be cruel or to be vicious or to be criminal," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Muslims worldwide know that for sure."
In a recent article in Jurist, Ali Khan of the Washburn University School of Law echoed Awad. "It is becoming fashionable for elected officials in the Anglo-American world, notably in the United States and the United Kingdom, to employ abusive language involving Islam," he wrote. "Phrases such as 'Islamic terrorism,' 'totalitarian Islam,' 'crimes of Islam,' and 'Islamic fascism' are freely used, with sadist disrespect, to condemn real and imagined terrorists who practice the faith of Islam."
Is it possible, then, that by equating the doctrine and practice of Islam with the acts of a radicalized few, President Bush is blurring these lines?
Not according to Daniel Pipes, historian of Islam and director of the Middle East Forum. The President, he says, is "identifying not Islam the religion, but a radical form of Islam." Indeed, how many times have we heard presidential speeches laced with language about the "religion of peace" and our commonality as "people of the book"? Such language allows Awad and Khan to take comfort in the knowledge that Islam is good, but that terrorism -- which doesn't in any way represent Islam -- is bad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's recent address to the U.S. Congress certainly reflected the President's heretofore clear distinction between terrorism and Islam. In that speech, the prime minister spoke of the war in Iraq as "a battle between true Islam, for which a person's liberty and rights constitute essential cornerstones, and terrorism, which wraps itself in a fake Islamic cloak; in reality, wages a war on Islam and Muslims and values, and spreads hatred between humanity. Wherever human kind suffers a loss at the hands of terrorists, it is a loss of all humanity."
So, is our fight against terrorism or against Islamic fascism? To wit, is Islam peaceful, or intrinsically fascist?
The answers couldn't be clearer. Terrorism is not an enemy; it's a tactic. Muslim examples aside, terrorist tactics have been adopted by groups as varied as Northern Ireland's IRA, Colombia's FARC, the Shining Path of Peru, West Germany's Baader-Meinhof Gang, Italy's Brigate Rosse, Spain's Basque ETA, and our homegrown Symbionese Liberation Army. Mostly separatists and leftists, none of these groups viewed terrorism as an end in itself, but as a means to another, political end.
Unlike terrorism, Islam is an ideology bent on territorial expansion and political domination. These traits, along with iron-fisted socioeconomic controls, are the essential characteristics of fascism. When this expansion requires violence, Islam turns to jihad, and within the context of jihad, terrorism is an acceptable tactic. According to Pipes, "Islam is a political religion in a way that none other is. There are many elements within the religion and the history of Islam that suggest there is a dynamic of conquest." Pipes continues, "There is something inherently expansionist about Islam. Jihad is expansionist warfare."
Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, coined the term "Islamofascism," and he compares it other forms of fascism: "Islamofascism similarly pursues its aims through the willful, arbitrary, and gratuitous disruption of global society, either by terrorist conspiracies or by violation of peace between states. Al-Qaeda has recourse to the former weapon; Hezbollah, in assaulting northern Israel, used the latter. These are not acts of protest, but calculated strategies for political advantage through undiluted violence." Schwartz continues, "Fascism was totalitarian; i.e. it fostered a totalistic world view -- a distinct social reality that separated its followers from normal society. Islamofascism parallels fascism by imposing a strict division between Muslims and alleged unbelievers."
When we look to the deserts of the Middle East at the founding of Islam in the early 7th century, such a picture is clear. At that time, increased trade across western Arabia created unprecedented wealth, resulting in the rise of new urban centers that directly challenged traditional tribal structures and loyalties. These urban centers quickly came to represent a different set of interests from the tribal communities, and a period of internecine conflict and social upheaval ensued.
In this context, the prophet Mohammed offered an alternative: the oma, the community professing the exclusive divinity of Allah, the moon god of polytheistic Arabia, and Mohammed as Allah's prophetic voice. In creating the oma, Mohammed and his followers forged an inextricable merger of politics and religion. To this day, there has never been a separation -- a "Reformation" -- in Islam. This is due to the very nature of the oma, which must not only be defended militarily, politically and economically -- but also expanded. Mohammed's efforts to reconstitute the basis of authority and organization in Arabia -- from polytheism to a political monotheism, from cities and tribes to the oma -- made Islam's expansionism a certainty.
Allah, the moon god and supreme deity of the pre-Islamic Arab pantheon, served Mohammed's expansionist cause well. Contrary to the claims of Islam, Mohammed did not introduce the idea of Allah to Arab peoples in the 7th century; a fact well established by such renown Islamic scholars as Columbia's Arthur Jeffery, Harvard's Henry Preserved Smith, Oxford's Kenneth Cragg and the University of Edinburgh's W. Montgomery Watt. This Allah was married to his feminine counterpart, the sun goddess Allat, and together they had three daughters, the goddesses Al-Lat, Al-Uzza and Manat. A host of less gods and sub-deities completed the Arabian pantheon. Today, it is no wonder that the crescent moon -- the symbol of the moon god and his cult -- adorns the flags of Muslim states, sits atop mosques and minarets, or that Muslims fast during the month beginning and ending with the appearance of the crescent moon (Ramadan). Indeed, the symbol of ancient Arabia's moon god is the symbol of Islam itself.
The cult of the moon god was particularly strong in Mohammed's tribe, as well as in the strategic religious and trade center of Mecca. Drawing on these traditional beliefs, along with their accompanying loyalties and acceptable practices among devotees of the moon god, Mohammed and his oma were able to mount a serious and sustainable challenge to the status quo of Arabian power.
Like other forms of fascism, Islam's expansionist impulse would involve violence, subjugation to the state, and conformity to the ideology of the system. As Mohammed writes in the Koran, "Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection (Surah 009.029)." Further, Al Bukhari records Mohammed as saying: "I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah'."
If this is what Islam is all about -- fascist expansionism and totalitarianism -- where do moderate or liberal Muslims come from? In short, they come from the same place that liberal Christians and Jews come from. Confronted by the 18th century Enlightenment and its heir, modernism, all religious expressions have found themselves influenced by the ideas and ideals of secular humanism. As Muslims integrated with the West and the West came into increased contact with the Muslim East, Islam experienced the same synthesis. Consequently, liberal Christians, Muslims, Jews and atheists, all under the influence of modernism, confess the same essential creed: The intrinsic equality of human beings, a basic commitment to man's reason, the supremacy of the individual, and man's innate goodness in the state of nature. Thus, like liberal Christianity or Judaism, liberal Islam isn't Islam at all; it's an entirely different religion.
In the end, any realistic assessment of Islam must accept "fascism" as a term that is far more descriptive than pejorative. In his remarks on the hurtful nature of the term, Professor Khan said that if anyone is "using the label in this broad sense, and thus accusing Islam and not merely the militants, they should say so."
Well, we're saying so.
And regarding the "deafening silence" of Islamic leaders and adherents in the United States who never condemn the slaughter of innocents by their fellow Muslims, we invoke the inimitable words of President Bush the week of 9/11: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."