Why Islam Is Not The Enemy, and The New Mid-East
[ part 1 here ] [ part 2 here ] [ part 3 here ] [ part 4 here ]
We do not war against Islam, nor should we. Let’s begin with the practical side. As I said early on, almost a billion and a half people call themselves Muslim. Stop right now and think about that number. If even one percent of Islam took up arms against the West, it would create an army number 14 million strong. Islam counts in its numbers a great many brilliant minds, including scientists in medicine, mathematics, engineering and chemistry. That is, a corps capable of creating WMD and their delivery systems in very short order. If such an army were formed and competently led, the resulting war would be more destructive and precipitous than anything history could show in our past. Spread around the globe as Muslims are, they would also be capable of launching coordinated raids in literally every first-world country, so that the conventional notion of battlefields and fronts would become meaningless. Such operational capability, as it happens, is exactly what the Jihadists have hoped to create. Yet, for all their planning and efforts, it has not turned out that way at all. One of the ironies of the Jihdists is that their very aggressiveness comes from a deep-seated cowardice, a fear that they are already losing. I exchanged emails this week with some Muslim colleagues, who explained that the angry protests against the Danish cartoons of Mohammed rise from a feeling of helplessness. “There is a belief, and it is popular, that the United States is attacking Islam by taking away one Muslim country at a time” he wrote. I explained that we are fighting a war against Terror rather than Islam, and emphasized the protection given to Mosques and Muslim clerics, but the Jihadists, as you might expect, continue to paint themselves as victims of Infidel aggression, and as defenders of Islam, instead of acknowledging the brutality and evil of their doctrine. But it is also telling, that the removal of the Taliban and the regime of Saddam Hussein are creating such disquiet and worry among the Jihadists. Because the Jihadists know, and fear, the power of personal freedom and the identity which is crated by the exercise of open discussion. This is why they fear ‘freedom’, to the point that editorial cartoons must be shut down and entire governments threatened for the offense of letting people make up their own mind. I have read the Quran, many times, and there is little in it that can be claimed to justify murdering children, as the Jihadists have done so often for more than a generation. Certainly nothing in the context it presents. Small wonder so many of the protestors hide their faces. They fear Allah might see them as they are, hiding behind the pretense of the faith.
I am not saying that I believe in Islam. As it happens, I am a Protestant Christian, so my faith and mind both convince me that the way of Islam is not true. Yet I am also a believer in freedom of choice, and I am an individualist. I recall that although Jesus was an observant Jew, when He chose to praise a man for faith, he praised not a fellow Rabbi or priest, but a Roman Centurion. His example of the loving neighbor who pleases God, was a Samaritan. Even if your belief is false, your heart can be true, and your faith pleasing to God through the character of your soul. It is the doctrines which we have problems accepting, not the faith. As readers have noted, anyone who personally knows Muslim believers, finds that many of them are quite humble and peaceable, unlikely to raise their voice, much less act in anger. Some readers have observed that this is most common in parts of the world where Muslims are a small minority, but it is also true that we do not see such violence in Maylasia, where Muslims are the majority, or in most parts of Pakistan, or in Egypt, or in Jordan, and so on. The many images we see all tend to come from urban centers of large cities, and they are supported or sponsored by radical groups. It occurs to me that another reason these mobs hide their faces, is because so many of them might be like American protesters, unemployed except to show up at “spontaneous” rallies and feign outrage at the West. The doctrines do not come from the Quran, but are Sharia, which is to say they are the conventional wisdom of the Imams in a given place and condition, and those interpretations some times reflect the prejudice of the men who deliver them. It is, therefore, these doctrines which need correction, not to Western values, but in reflection of Islam’s better ideals. Anwar Sadat was a Muslim, and a man of peace. The ink-stained women who voted in Iraq are Muslims, and women of courage. The students in Iran who have demanded reform from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ‘s regime are Muslim, and men of valor. Ahmadinedjad speaks for Islam in the same way Tookie Williams spoke for Dr. Martin Luther King; falsely.
So, if they are basically good people, why haven’t Muslims risen up against Jihadism, why has there not been a wave of outrage against this manipulation of their faith for such malice? Well, in a word: History.
Take Slavery, for instance. Nowadays we take for granted that owning another person is morally abhorrent and should be illegal with very harsh penalties in any country, period. Yet for literally thousands of years Slavery was a common and legal practice, present in every country fortunate enough to enjoy a measure of wealth and power. It was a status symbol. It was so prevalent, that Christ Himself did not waste His time decrying it, except to warn slave owners to be accountable, and slaves to be obedient. The few people who challenged the practice were largely ignored, or when inconvenient put down.
Take the Reformation of Christianity. I’m not saying, at all, that Christianity is morally the same as Islam, yet I am all to well aware that the catholic Church in Europe was guilty of some very nasty excesses, what with prohibition against lay people reading the Bible on their own, and against personal ownership of Bibles. I recall reading of arrests and trials and tortures of innocent people, for the purpose of advancing the fortunes of favored individuals and punishing their enemies. I recall the histories of indulgences granted by the Church, manipulation of governments and heavy tax burdens levied on the people with no choice but to endure it. These injustices lasted for centuries with very few dissenters, and small wonder – the Church hired men to devise means of torture, to literally wrack confessions from malcontents and so suppress any thought of revolt. Few men indeed had the courage to speak up during those years.
Or what of America’s history? Before Martin Luther King, there were a few other black activists, but few indeed spoke up for their legitimate rights between 1865 and 1964. And few white men indeed, ever rose to shout down the evils of the Ku Klux Klan. How many protested for the equal rights of women to vote and to hold equal jobs prior to the 1920s? How many people put their ideals to the test, and stood for justice when it was unpopular, or was perceived to be? Should we decry all that George Washington did, or Benjamin Franklin, because they allowed Slavery to endure? Shall we condemn Teddy Roosevelt, even though he fought for the rights of the Black man, because he opposed the rights of Asians and against women? Shall we deride FDR, because his attention to the Depression and the Fascists took his attention away from Civil Rights and equal pay? If we give these honored men their due for the good they did, then should we not also be willing to consider the difficulty and stakes which the Muslim faces?
The Muslim perspective is greatly different from the Western one, but it should be understood. Al-Jazeera, for example, is a joke by reasonable standards for journalism, but they represent the Arab world reporting actual events. Even when they hide the motive and character of events, the fact that actual events are being reported is a step forward. We should not call this a finished product, but we should understand where the medium used to be. Muslim politics is an even weirder brew, with religious imprecations applied to otherwise –secular issues, in order for leaders to be seen as humble yet in control. This is not very different from the practices used by the Sultans and Sheiks in the past. As for Sharia, it really comes down to a consistent and static code of law – the horrid decisions we used to see from the Taliban, and the most recent excrement coming from Iran this week, are the common reaction from thugs. Far more reflective of Islam’s traditional teachings are the verdicts coming down in Iraq and Afghanistan, which generally punish only intent to harm, and the only death sentence is a suicide decision made by pointing a rifle at a Marine. It is important as we move forward, to differentiate between the Muslim faith and the Jihadist’s plans. There is no need to point a rifle at a man because he points his prayer rug to Mecca; but there is no reason to hesitate shooting a terrorist because he claims he speaks for Mohammed. In time, more and more Muslims will support the right course, but the historical model is for Muslims to wait and see who wins.
This brings us back to the case model of Afghanistan and Iraq. Franky, Ahmadinejad is very upset at the US-led invasion of Iraq because he had hoped that Iran could invade Iraq and lay the foundation for an Arab Superstate. Instead, he has the worst of threats at his very doorstep – a nation of free-thinking Muslims, with fresh experience from a tyrant in their memory and dreams of their ideals in their heads and hearts. This is very similar to what the Nazis must have felt when they realized the US Third Armored Division had freed France (yes, I know the British helped, but for some reason no British general was feared by the Germans the way they dreaded Patton), or if France had suddenly acquired the spine and mind of Churchill. Worse, the resolve shown by President Bush in spite of complete cowardice on the part of the Democrats, and quisling complicity by the MainSquirm Media, is showing results in Middle East elections and in opinion about the mission. So why can’t we predict exactly when the war will be won, or pinpoint a scoreboard of where we are? Michael Yon said it best:
“This may not be the war some folks had in mind a few years ago. But once the shooting starts, a plan is just a guess in a party dress.”
Michael Yon has also explained the Bush Doctrine in succinct fashion, though I know he was talking about a specific incident.
“three more shots through the front hood, the universal sign for “stop.”
I’d like to see us start taking that tactic as a diplomatic measure in a certain number of situations. Just to avoid, hmm, possible future misunderstanding of our intent and resolve?
It boils down to this. There are a lot of ways we could screw this up. All it takes is a Clinton or a Kerry in the White House, and we will pull out of the Middle East rather than consolidate what has been paid for in such bloody cost. All it takes is a sufficient number of RINOs to put their silk-suited interests ahead of the nation’s future. All it takes is a nation which trusts the lies of the MSM instead of getting the straight facts. Scary, that. But the trend is promising. Americans are proud of our nation, who we are, what we stand for. And they trust the men who fight for our nation far more than the elitists who sneer at a code of “Duty, Honor, Country”. And more and more they vote for a party that, however imperfectly, stands for more than getting by and playing by someone else’s rules, for an ideal that we make a difference, and that there is a purpose to our identity which requires strength and diligence, on a road to bettering the world as a whole.
The Middle East is, some say, impossible to change. That is a malicious lie. The Middle East has been in constant change for well over a half century, and the only question is choosing its direction. Millions of people with dreams and hopes deserve the chance only America can offer, and that includes people whose voice cannot be heard while madmen steal the stage and pretend that a merciful God demands blood and horror. There will be a new Middle East, and it depends on the will of the American people, executed through the President and the Congress and the American military, to ensure that the fleeting but substantial promise we see shall not be lost. With a stable Iraq and Afghanistan, the proof of democracy in the Arab world will be irrevocably established, and the opportunity for an alliance of moderate and democratic republics will be well underway. Under such conditions, a Jordan/Iraq/Afghanistan/Lebanon/Kuwait alliance is distinctly foreseeable, with benevolent relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Emirates. The governments which now support the Jihadists will be as much the pragmatic outcasts as they are the moral minority, and the futility of violence will be clear to them to such a degree that only the most insane could deny it.