Monday, September 24, 2007

Sabotaging moderate Muslims

Guess who wrote this?
"Islamist fundamentalist groups, which have concentrated virtually all their efforts on recruitment and consolidating forces, fear the open door from which the winds of independent thought might shake their unity of rank. Thus, their members have been left to create the contours of the fundamentalist dream on the basis of ancient works of jurisprudence. As a result, they have become even more rigid than their leaders and have come to form a powerful pressure group within the movement that not only hampers their leaderships' ability to proclaim fresh ideas but also restricts their leaderships' manoeuvrability, which is one of the essential prerequisites for any drive to attain a dream. What remains, then, is the vast ability to cause problems, bring down disaster on others and generally obstruct progress and development. "
 
Was it a Zionist Islamophobic Neocon? An advocate of war of civilizations? If we believe some Western whitewashers of Islamist fanaticism, only such people would write bad things about the nice Islamists like the Hezbollah, the Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood Group (see for example, Islamism: Perception versus Reality )
But in fact, it was written in Al Ahram newspaper, by Salah Eissa. In Muslim societies troubled by Islamist (or Jihadist) extremism, there is a growing movement of justifiable alarm and disillusionment with the extremist views and the narrow and reactionary concepts of society that these groups want to impose. Where "Islamist" or more properly "Islamic" political parties have succeeded democraticaly, in countries such as Turkey, they have abandoned, at least temporarily, the ambition of imposing Sha'aria law on all of society.
 
Paradoxically, in the West, the Islamist fanatics have recruited a coterie of apologists, who insist that any criticism of Islamism is "Islamophobia," and that Westerners had better learn to love restriction of intellectual life, persecution of homosexuals and repression of women in the interests of dialogue and multipluralistic liberal values. This paradoxical acceptance of an ultra-reactionary movement by "liberals" threatens to sabotage the efforts of moderate Muslims to return their societies to sanity, and to find a reasonable and progressive path between the corruption and failure pan-Arabist dictators and reactionary sheikhs on the one hand, and the threat of totalitarian religious societies posed by Islamists.
 
Ami Isseroff
 
 
Islamist inertia
In shutting the door to change, difference and reason, contemporary Islamist movements bind themselves to a mummified past, writes Salah Eissa*

Since 1979, when the Iranian revolution succeeded in toppling the peacock throne and founding an Islamic republic, "The Islamists are coming!" has been a cry that voiced the hopes of some and the fears of others.
 
For Islamist groups across the Arab- Islamic map, the Iranian revolution rekindled dreams of a victory of their own, even though these groups still suffered the after effects of successive waves of assault waged against them by Arab nationalist regimes from the early 1950s to the mid- 1970s. Not only did these campaigns throw Islamist groups into organisational disarray, and most of their leaders into prison, they also succeeded in turning the majority of the Arab public against them while luring it to the Arab nationalist model which seemed poised to realise their social and national aspirations.
 
Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the Arab defeat in the 1967 war, the credibility of the Arab nationalist project waned and its popularity dwindled. By the time of the Iranian revolution, Islamist groups had just begun to emerge from their cocoons and present themselves as the alternative to all preceding national revival projects, as the untried path untainted by disaster and defeat.
 
Since then, all signs indicated that the Muslim fundamentalist movement was marching relentlessly forward. A military coup paved the way for their seizure of power in Sudan. They were steadily gaining ground in the parliaments in Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Algeria and, indeed, they won sizeable majorities in legislative elections in Palestine and Turkey. Their mounting popularity across the Arab world was also reflected in their growing, if not controlling, presence in many civil society organisations, notably in the occupational syndicates.
 
One factor that facilitated this progress was that some governments allied themselves with moderate Islamists in the hope of obstructing the danger of radical fundamentalists that espoused the use of violence. Some political parties and movements also pursued the same tactic, if for different ends, such as to combine forces against a common external enemy (the US and Israel) or against a domestic adversary (dictatorial regimes) or merely to hitch up with the Islamist trend in order to win more votes in the polls.
 
The West, spearheaded by the US, was alarmed at this development, in spite of the fact that it was instrumental in fostering it. The West had worked assiduously to destroy Arab nationalist governments that were once a bulwark against the fundamentalist tide. It also enlisted Muslim fundamentalists in its fight against communism. This alliance reached its zenith in the war to liberate Afghanistan from Soviet occupation and came to a reverberating close with the events of 11 September 2001.
 
But is the march of Muslim fundamentalists towards power in the Arab world, whether they succeed by coup or through democratic processes, irreversible? Has the civil state ended as a phase in political evolution and must we ready ourselves for a theocratic state?
 
The answer to these questions is affirmative if we judge solely by the balance of power between Muslim fundamentalists and other political forces. But it quickly moves to the negative once we take a closer look at the contradictions within the greater Islamist movement itself and unearth a number of weak points that could hamper its progress and perhaps thwart its goals entirely.
 
The problem with the Muslim fundamentalist project is that it is founded upon the utopian dream of reviving the Islamic state as it existed in its golden era. What is conspicuously lacking in the discourse of proponents of this project is a clear conception of the material means needed to resuscitate that past so many centuries after its death and to revive all the attendant circumstances that had enabled that state to flourish.
 
True, the ability of abstractions to tickle the deep religious grain of the Muslim people is a major reason for the widespread popularity of the fundamentalist project. However, when forced to come down to earth and deal with the difficulties that obstruct its path, or with the brass tacks of rule as dictated by balances of power and the various demands of reality, the project runs out of steam.
 
The fact is that the fundamentalist project has an Achilles heel. It posits a dream of reviving the glory of the Islamic empire but ignores the fact that what enabled that empire to flourish was its openness to other cultures and civilisations. This applies to Muslim jurists and theologians, as long as the doors to dialogue and the exercise of reason in light of the changes and challenges of contemporary reality remained open, furnishing a constant source of inspiration and renovation. Conversely, the decline of Islamic civilisation began when the door leading to the application of reason and independent thought was slammed shut. If their aim is to revive our ancient glory, proponents of the fundamentalist project should first strive to breach the gap between the 4th century in the Islamic calendar, when the door to ijtihad was closed, and the present, so as to be able to formulate a philosophy that suits the times in which we live.
 
But this seems unlikely. Islamist fundamentalist groups, which have concentrated virtually all their efforts on recruitment and consolidating forces, fear the open door from which the winds of independent thought might shake their unity of rank. Thus, their members have been left to create the contours of the fundamentalist dream on the basis of ancient works of jurisprudence. As a result, they have become even more rigid than their leaders and have come to form a powerful pressure group within the movement that not only hampers their leaderships' ability to proclaim fresh ideas but also restricts their leaderships' manoeuvrability, which is one of the essential prerequisites for any drive to attain a dream. What remains, then, is the vast ability to cause problems, bring down disaster on others and generally obstruct progress and development.
 
The danger, therefore, is not so much that "The Islamists are coming," but that they still have the power to obstruct progress towards democracy in Muslim countries.
 
* The writer is editor-in-chief of Al-Qahira weekly newspaper.
 

1 comment:

Muslims Against Sharia said...

"Gradually--painfully gradually--people are beginning to see that islam is the enemy. Period."
The above quote is one of the milder examples of how many Westerners view Islam these days. This quote is a part of the comment to the article titled "Why We Cannot Rely on Moderate Muslims." posted on the Gates of Vienna blog. The article talks about radical Muslims in the West claiming to be moderates. It also brings up very interesting points. "[T]he government and media are avid to find moderate Muslims -- and as their desperation has increased, their standards have lowered.", "The situation is complicated by many factors, including, taqiyya and kitman", and "How can we ever trust assurances from self-proclaimed moderate Muslims when deception of non-Muslims is so widespread, and lying to infidels is an accepted and established way of hiding Islamic goals? The answer, with all its difficult implications, is: We can't."

But that's where the Gates of Vienna is wrong. The main problem is that the term 'Moderate Muslim' is poorly defined. There is a clear distinction between a 'Moderate Muslim' and an 'Islamist' and the distinction is in the ultimate goal. An Islamist believes in Islamic Supremacy. Islamist terrorists and their supporters want to achieve it by waging Jihad. Non-violent Islamists want to achieve it by peaceful and democratic means. The means are different, but the goals are the same: Islamic World Domination. Moderate Muslims do not believe in Islamic Supremacy. For someone not very familiar with the subject, the distinction may be subtle. But in reality, it is the most important, because everything that Democracies hold dear is based on this distinction. This is the Koran vs. the Constitution, Islamic State vs. Secular State, and ultimately, Dhimmitude (Subjugation to Islam) vs. Freedom. I cannot stress enough how important this distinction is!

Now, comes an uneasy task of weeding out false moderates. Hopefully, with a clear definition of a 'Moderate Muslim' that task could be a lot easier. Coming back to the title of this post. Muslim community as a whole is not the enemy. Part of it is. A large part. But not all of it. The next time you ask yourself a question "How can we ever trust assurances from self-proclaimed moderate Muslims?" don't trust their assurances; look at their record. No matter how well false-moderate Muslims such as CAIR or MPAC polished their facades, they have a record. Whether it is their support of terrorism or advocating Islamic supremacy, any Islamist group or figure who's been around long enough, at one time or another has shown its/his/her true face. Just because some government official or some talking head declares someone to be a moderate Muslim, it doesn't make it so. There are several counter-terrorism and Islam experts who keep track of Islamists. Most of these experts happen to be non-Muslim, but there is also a list of moderate Muslims who could be used as trusted sources for these inquiries. The list of those prominent Muslims is posted at the upper right corner of our blog. So now, my non-Muslim friends, when you have the tools to identify REAL moderate Muslims, you can no longer use your ignorance as an excuse to declare that Islam is the enemy.

L.A.