Youssef Ibrahim, an Egyptian-born American reporter for the NYT and the Wall Street Journal, wrote a remarkabe op-ed for the New York Sun on the nature of the Islamist threat to Muslims and “infidels” alike. (Hat tip Antidhimmi)
America and Islam: Collision Inevitable?
BY YOUSSEF IBRAHIM
June 19, 2006
In its war on terror, America is unquestionably on a collision course with Islamic fundamentalism. The question is how far Islamic fundamentalism is from a collision with Islam itself, as interpreted today by the vast majority of ulemas, imams, theocratic schools, and many of its 1.1 billion followers.
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the world has learned a great deal about politicized Islam, which has spawned Islamic fundamentalism, jihad, and jihadis. And it has become clear that Islam needs a serious self-examination.
The rejection of others – which is a basic foundation of Islam that is built into Islamic texts and practices – makes it impossible to divorce the religion from the violent impulses it inspires.
Would that this were clear to many. Speak with a religion major at a major American university, and you’ll probably hear that Islam is fundamentally different from Islamism and Jihadism, that the terrorists had hijacked the religion… you get the idea. My question to Mr. Ibrahim and to everyone: To just how many people has this “become clear”? How often has anyone heard anyone say that the basic foundation of Islam is the rejection of “others”?
Here are some important reasons why Muslims need to re-evaluate where religious practice ends and tyranny practiced in the name of Islam begins.
1.While Islam may appear a tolerant religion in many verses of the Koran, that tolerance is highly conditional on the submission of others to Muslims’ collective will. The holy book is full of references to those who are not Muslims as “infidels.” The Koran speaks in incredible detail of the need to do battle with infidels, to isolate them from the masses of believers, and to persist in efforts to convert them. Thus, as the Koran repeatedly states, the good practice of Islam cannot be limited to the worship of God or service to society. It must encompass spreading the faith, even at the edge of the sword.
2.Virtually all Muslims, including self-described moderates and liberals, believe what the Koran and the Hadith affirm: that Islam was God’s final monotheist revelation. As such it supersedes, indeed cancels out, all previous revelations. It follows, then, that those who belong to any other faith are in need of conversion. In its much venerated and often quoted Sura 9:29, the Koran specifically defines those who are not Muslims and live under Muslim rule as “Dhimmis,” people who under Islamic law “must surrender to the pacts contracted between non-Muslims and their Muslim conquerors.” That concept should absolutely be revisited and revised by Muslim scholars if we are to believe they want peace. The burden of proof of tolerance falls heavily on the nation of Islam.
This strikes me as a critical point. The NYT recently ran an adulatory article about “moderate Muslims” in America. No wonder Ibrahim had to go to the Sun to publish this piece despite decades of work for the Times. It concluded with these remarks by Imam Zaid Shakir, one of the two featured “moderates.”
He said he still hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law, “not by violent means, but by persuasion.”
“Every Muslim who is honest would say, I would like to see America become a Muslim country,” he said. “I think it would help people, and if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be a Muslim. Because Islam helped me as a person, and it’s helped a lot of people in my community.”
Now I am not questioning Mr. Shakir’s sincerity in saying that his conversion to Islam has done him good, that it helped him; nor that it can, has and will help others. But the idea that therefore the US should become a Muslim country, that one size fits all, strikes me as the most outrageous megalomania, particularly given the abysmal record of Muslim societies. This is a man who once cheered the Taliban. He claims to have changed, to have given up his violent ways. But apparently, the terrifying examples of “Muslim countries” like the Taliban and Iran (to take a Sunni and Shii example), have not even dented his commitment to the theocratic principles of Islam. This is “moderation” only in comparison with the violence of the Taliban, not anything that we would understand as moderate and tolerant. My guess is that Shakir has more in common with Tariq Ramadan than with Youssef Ibrahim.
As for the journalist who wrote this up, either she is abysmally ignorant of what this remark means — that any Muslim who is honest with you about his or her desires, is engaged in the treasonous endeavor of wanting to overthrow the constitution of the United States — or she (and her readers) are so relieved to find someone that sounds moderate, and so incredulous that such an endeavor would ever succeed, that she is willing to throw it in as a toss-off line at the end of her paean of praise.
3.The aggressive demarcation of Muslims and infidels runs through all Islamic religious texts and speeches communicated to the faithful in millions of mosques across the globe. It is accompanied by much lament over the loss of Spain and chunks of Europe once part of the Muslim empire. The whole notion that Islam is an umma, or nation, unto itself that cuts across borders and comes before nationalities, bears the seeds of menace. Indeed, Muslim immigrants in Western nations are encouraged by their preachers to prevail in their societies and “spread the faith.”
Islam as practiced today in virtually all Muslim countries does not fashion itself merely as a spiritual value, but as a conquering force with a need to dominate – not so far from the next step of Islamic fundamentalist theology, which motivates jihadis.
In millennial terminology, Ibrahim is pointing at the tendency of millennial apocalyptic scenarios (i.e., the means by which the corrupt and evil world is transformed into the millennial kingdom) to turn from transformative to cataclysmic. It’s only one step from Dawa (conversion through preaching) and Jihad (conversion by the sword), and that step most often comes when Dawa no longer works… then our moderate preachers cease to be Mr. Nice Guy. (There’s an amazingly apologetic book on the Wahhabis (Wahhabi Islam : From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad) by a “post-Orientalist” which emphasizes that the Wahabbis are not unrelentingly violent, they believe in trying Dawa first.)
This overwhelmingly hostile orientation, relayed to the faithful by texts and preachers, has led to Islamic regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which is barricaded in deep isolation but uses its huge wealth to export reactionary Wahhabi ideologies to the world, setting up madrassas, mosques, and theological seminaries across the globe.
In Europe, America, Canada, and Australia, it has been easy for Muslim fundamentalists to take over Muslim immigrant communities because Islam promotes confrontation with others. Mosques, religious schools, and the imposition of the veil are tools of domination, not assimilation.
These issues must be dealt with. Much of the task falls to Muslim scholars in Muslim nations, and the work is imperative. Darkness, fear, and xenophobia are the understudy of terror.
The West does not have to bend backward. Indeed, it is time to push back – at the edge of the sword, if need be.
How does a religion which, for over fourteen centuries, considered the uncovertable infidel as to be killed or dominated, which has profoundly dysfunctional relations with the autonomous religious “other,” come to terms with a world in which getting along with the “other” is part of the basic elements of civil society?
No wonder as globalization has become more intense, Muslim reaction has gotten more violent. Not to get millennial about this, but the world has until 2076, the year 1500 in the Muslim calendar, to get Islam to at least begin the momentous shift from imperial to civic modes of interaction. As Ibrahim suggests, it’s primarily the work of Muslims, but those willing to do the work need help from us, and that means we push, we ask hard questions, we embarrass the apologists and strengthen the real moderates. Of course that means telling the difference between demopaths and moderates. No easy task, no more urgent one.