Is Islam The Enemy? #2—No!

[First published in April 19, 2006] Building on the article that I just posted, “Is Islam The Enemy?,” in which I quoted from the Boroumand sisters, I would like to address a critical question, “In the context of our War on Terror, is Islam the enemy?”
First, I should reveal my own biases. I am not a Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim or an adherent of any standard religion. I am not a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, a liberal or a conservative. Fundamentally, I am a secular freedomist. My approach is like that of a hypothetical anthropologist from Mars who is trying to evaluate earthly matters without favoritism, a man from Mars who believes, based on empirical evidence, that the solution to many of humanity’s problems is democratic freedom.
By “enemy,” then, I mean anyone who is in violent opposition to such democratic freedom. So the question becomes, “Is Islam the enemy of democratic freedom?”

Now, when we read about the third class citizenship of Muslim women and their victimization in “honor” murders; Muslims dancing in the street, joyful over 9/11 attacks on America; the repeated sing-song of “Allah Akbar” (“Allah is the Greatest”) while Muslims murder “infidels;” the absolute anti-Semitism and barbarism in the speeches of public Muslim figures, coupled with genocide against Jews; Muslim judgments under Shari’a law that homosexuality and conversion to Christianity are capital offenses; Muslim intolerance of all that is non-Muslim; death threats against those who criticize Islam, or who simply express their opinions; the anti-American, anti-Israeli screeds of many Muslim leaders; and the seeming lack of moral outrage among the vast majority of Muslims over terrorists murdering human beings by the hundreds, destroying mosques with their bombs, even murdering fellow Muslims…..Enough. Doubtless, much more could be added to this litany of grievances, and to cast Islam as the enemy might seem to be only common sense. But this would be to mistake cultural epiphenomena for the real terrorist enemy.

I need to be perfectly clear here: Culture consists of the patterns of behavior, beliefs, religion, norms, and mores of a people, and what we are seeing in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa is attachment (or even reversion) to the Islamic culture of the middle ages. There is nothing strange about this, except that it is happening today, in what Westerners consider a more modern, rational and secular age. After all, if one studies the history of Christianity during the centuries before the Renaissance, Reformation and Age of Enlightenment, one sees largely similar cultural epiphenomena: mistreatment of women as third class citizens; mass murder in God’s name, especially of Jews; rigid and absolute belief in religious precepts; negative attitudes toward science and secularism; self-righteous intolerance of differences; and the murder by religious authorities of anyone who expressed independent thought or criticism of the Catholic Church. 

I will call those Muslims whose culture is rooted in the Islamic middle ages traditionalists. These comprise a large number of today’s Muslims, many of whom are active and visible. Islam and its precepts reside at the center of their lives, thus their culture clashes with modernism, secularism, and today’s moderate Christianity
Those Muslims who are aligned with violent and terrorist Islamic groups I will call Islamofascists. They are fighting for political, not religious, power. And in this battle, they have hijacked Islam, since it provides justification, both for their terrorism and for their political goals. They have been heavily influenced by fascism and by Marxism-Leninism, and their goal is a totalitarian world in which they rule and control all—society, economics, Islamic culture, and the minutest family matters. The rule of these Islamofascists would closely resemble the rule of the former Taliban in Afghanistan. 

Islamofascists are the enemies of all Middle Eastern governments except one—Iran. And that is because the government of Iran is controlled by a gang of Ayatollahs who are themselves Islamofascists and who support and supply Islamofascists throughout the Middle East. The methods of these Islamofascists are the same methods the world witnessed in fascist and communist controlled countries during the last century—Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot conducted terrorist campaigns against their own peoples, with mass murders in the millions.

By invoking Islam’s most holy sayings, by exploiting the traditionalists’ fear of Western cultural hegemony and by fanning the flames of anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment, Islamofascists have misled many traditionalists into supporting and joining them, even to the extent of becoming suicide martyrs for the cause. And they have misled Westerners into believing that the Islamofascists represent Islam.

Then there are the corrupt, sometimes tyrannical, dictators who rule the various Muslim regimes—Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and so on. Decades ago these regimes were moving towards modernization and democratic reform, but after Khomeini’s 1979 revolution in Iran, they were besieged by Islamofascists whose goal is totalitarian, Leninist revolution. The dictators of the Middle East fought back with a counter-ideology of nationalism, coupled with a savage terrorism of their own, that preserved their political power and the benefits of their associated elites. Through absolute control over the economy, society, and culture, particularly education and the mosques, these dictators made common cause with the traditionalist Muslims against the Islamofascists. This was a war of a different kind, a war that pre-9-11 Western realists participated in by deciding not to weaken such regimes through demands for reform, and by deciding to support them with economic and military aid.
Finally we must consider a most important group of Muslims, the moderate, liberal, nonradical Muslims whom I will call modernists. These are the critics of the traditionalists, the Islamofascists and the dictators. They favor modernization and acceptance of the best of Western culture.
Few modernists have been willing to speak out in Muslim countries, because they risk arrest or execution. Often their statements will, of necessity, appear to support the traditionalists or the dictators, despite the fact that these two groups are their enemies. How many of these brave Muslim modernists reside in the Middle East? No one knows.
Most of the modernists we hear from live in Western countries, such as France, Britain and the United States. These modernists expressly believe in human rights and democracy, and some claim the support of silent, frightened majorities in their countries of origin.
Among Muslims, there are then four groups relevant to the War on Terror–the traditionalists, the Islamofascists, the dictators and the modernists. These groups are engaged in four overlapping struggles: that of the traditionalists to maintain their cultural-religious values and beliefs against modernizing forces from within and Western cultural hegemony from without; that of the Islamofascists who wish to conquer all and achieve absolute world power; that of the dictators and their associated elites, who struggle to hold onto power and benefits; and that of the modernists, who struggle to survive in a hostile environment and whose desire it is to bring Muslim countries, and Islam itself, into the modern age.
In conclusion, the traditionalists are not our enemies, as they mainly want to be left alone to worship and live as they choose. The ruling dictators are not our enemies, since the West provides critical support against the Islamofascists who would overthrow them. And, it is not the modernists who are our enemies, as they generally support Western democratic ideals. The true enemies of democratic freedom are the Islamofascists, whose ideological homeland is Iran.

The policies that flow from this analysis are clear:
1./ We must contain, and ignore when possible, the traditionalists and traditional Islam. Although traditional Islamic culture may outrage liberal democratic sensibilities, Islam by itself is no danger to the national interests of the Western democracies. Provided we can buy sufficient time, the reformation and transformation of traditional Islam by modern science, global technology, communications, business, and a growing educated Muslim middle class, is inevitable.
2./ Since democracy will tend to speed reformation of the most regressive aspects of traditional Islamic culture, we must do everything possible to encourage democracy in the Middle East. Islam does not stand in the way of democracy, as is evident from surveys taken of Muslim opinion. (Please see my blog, HYPERLINK “http://freedomspeace.blogspot.com/2006/01/muslim-arabs-favor-democracy.html” “Muslim Arabs Favor Democracy”.) Some Muslim liberal democracies already exist—Mali, Senegal, Ghana, Benin, and Indonesia—and with the advent of democracy in the Middle East dictators will no longer hold sway.
3./ We must do everything possible to empower the modernists, who are our allies in the War on Terror. We must avoid condemning everything Islamic, which might deliver them into the hands of their domestic enemies, the traditionalists and the dictators. The modernists can offer evolving Islamic societies a better future than any other group.
4./ Only the Islamofascists are the true enemies of democratic freedom. And, as the Boroumand sisters so eloquently demonstrated, Islamofascism is not so much an Islamic excrescence as it is an inheritor of the worst of the 20th Century—fascist and Marxist-Leninist ideologies that spawned totalitarian regimes responsible for the murder of millions of their own people. Islamofascism must be exposed as the evil that it is, and we must be committed to fighting and destroying it, just as we disposed of the evil ideologies of the past century.
In the context of our War on Terror, our enemy is Islamofascism, not Islam.

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