When I got on the plane last night, the flight attendant greeted me in Turkish. It had been a week since I'd heard anyone speak Turkish. The moment she said hello to me, I had a warm feeling. It wasn't just the familiar sound of Turkish; it was her sweetness, which is so typical of Turkey. They'd given me a center row seat; I'd asked for a window seat. I asked if she could help, and she said yes, of course, she'd make sure I was happy. It was the way she said it--she was so typically Turkish in her obvious desire to make sure a guest was happy.
When the plane landed, I felt, "Oh, good, I'm home." Everyone knows that feeling.
I'm an American citizen, not a Turkish citizen. I'm certainly not an Israeli citizen. I don't speak a word of Hebrew. My Turkish is primitive at best, and like everyone in Turkey, I'm frustrated constantly by the country even as I adore it. I've been an expatriate for so long that I don't feel completely at home anywhere anymore. But I've been living here for a long time, and now my internal homing beacon points, generally, toward Istanbul.
It's unbearable to me that the formerly close relationship between Turkey and Israel has been injured so deeply. It makes no sense strategically, for Turkey or for Israel. And it makes no sense culturally. These countries have far more in common than they realize. They are both new nation-states--remember, the Turkish Republic is almost as young as the state of Israel, both products of the upheavals of the first half of the 20th century, and both deeply insecure on the world stage because of it. They are both multi-ethnic democracies. One has a Muslim minority; the other a Jewish minority; both are remarkably tolerant in a region not known for tolerance; both are secular states; both face similar security concerns in a dangerous region. Both are struggling to figure out how to reconcile the concept of a secularism with the piety of its citizens; both are countries with young, vibrant, populations. Both countries have universal conscription, and not one mother in either country is happy to pack her son off to the army. I'm not pointing this out because I'm corny and sentimental: It's just a fact.
The Turks you've seen in the videos howling about their longing to be martyrs for the jihad? They are not the majority, you've just got to trust me. It's a country of some 70 million people; any country this big will have its nuts. These nuts have a terrific media strategy, so they end up looking like the real face of Turkey. They're not. Ordinary Turks don't have a media strategy. They have jobs--oftentimes hard, demanding jobs--and families.
I might add that both countries desperately need a mute button. On the plane last night I was going nuts: All I wanted was a bit of quiet after a long week, and the guys in the aisle behind me just wouldn't shut up. It doesn't matter whether they were Turkish or Israeli, when it comes to making noise, they're interchangeable. They could have said everything they needed to say quietly, without disturbing everyone around them, but that concept just doesn't compute--not in Turkey, not in Israel. The cultural similarities between Israelis and Turks vastly exceed the dissimilarities, in so many ways.
I heard not one word of malevolence toward Turkey in Israel--just deep sadness and bewilderment. Many people I spoke to fondly remembered vacations in Istanbul and Antalya.
I did hear something that makes me insane with frustration: A sentiment to the effect of, "What's the point of trying to explain our point of view to the Turkish people? They hate us now."
They don't. That's an understandable siege mentality talking, but it's not reality. There are certainly some people in Turkey who hate Israel. There is a much larger number of people who don't know much about Israel and don't think much about Israel, but who would be well-disposed to the country if they knew more about it.
This relationship just has to be repaired. If there's anything I can do to help, I'll try. Turks, if you have questions about Israel, ask me. Israelis, if you've got questions about Turkey, ask me. It doesn't have to be this way; it's a pointless tragedy that it is, and it breaks my heart.
You'll never manage to convince me that this is the way it must be. I know far too much about Turkey and about Israel to believe it.
Prompted by Harlech's question, I want to offer some thoughts about why we're having a serious debate in America now about the Muslim Brotherhood's aptitude for "moderation."
I should say that his comment seems to have annoyed quite some number of Ricochet members, but I appreciated it. I have a better sense now of what many outside of the small community of American Ikhwan-watchers must be thinking: "Surely the people who are calling the Muslim Brotherhood moderate, or otherwise benign, couldn't be that wrong? They are, after all, experts, no?"
Those of us who follow the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood closely keep smacking our foreheads in bewilderment at these blithe pronouncements, unable to comprehend how this could be a matter of debate at all. There are serious debates to be had about the Ikhwan, but they're not debates about whether they're moderate. They are debates about how powerful they really are--in Egypt, for example--and what their strategy is apt to be at a moment like this, which appears to have caught them by surprise as much as it has everyone else. These are questions worthy of debate and difficult to answer.
That we're having a serious discussion, however, at high levels of our foreign policy establishment, about whether the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate should be seen not as a sign that those who say they are might be right, but as a symptom of a pathology in our foreign policy apparatus. It's important to recognize just what has happened to our intelligentsia--our experts, in other words--and to evaluate what they're saying in this light.
One part of it, a plain fact that's poorly appreciated but demonstrably true--not a conspiracy theory at all--is that the Saudis and other Gulf regimes have poured breathtaking amounts of money into American universities and think tanks since the 1970s. The Saudis spend $4 billion per annum to promote a particular view of Islam. This exceeds the Soviet Union’s budget for foreign subversion during the Cold War. A mind-boggling amount goes to funding America's top-tier universities, and of course this has an influence.
Now, I am not claiming that the Saudis have made explicit conditions for the receipt of this money, but I am certainly claiming that people are human. I'm not pure. Ricochet has financial backers, too, and you sure won't find me going out of my way to criticize them. When you're talking about Saudi money, though, it doesn't just all balance out in some big marketplace of competition for influence--they have enough to make whole university departments appear overnight. Or disappear, a fact that will weigh particularly on the mind in a recession.
Let's look at just one example--Georgetown. In 2005, Georgetown accepted a $20 million donation from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose money was contemptuously rejected by Mayor Giuliani in the wake of the September 11 attacks. This was used to finance Georgetown's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. (Muslim-Jewish understanding wasn't a priority, I guess.) What does it do with this money? Well, for example, it hosts symposiums such as this one, in 2007: “Islamophobia and the Challenge of Pluralism"--co-host, CAIR.
In 2008, Representative Frank Wolf asked wrote to Georgetown to ask whether “the center has produced any analysis critical of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for example in the fields of human rights, religious freedom, freedom of expression, women’s rights, minority rights, protection for foreign workers, due process and the rule of law.” Georgetown president John DeGioia didn't answer the question directly, but said instead something quite important:
Our scholars have been called upon not only by the State Department, as you note, but also by Defense, Homeland Security and FBI officials as well as governments and their agencies in Europe and Asia. In fact, a number of high ranking U.S. military officials, prior to assuming roles with the Multi-National Force in Iraq, have sought out faculty with the Center for their expertise on the region.
Do you see what might ensue from this? Mitchell Bard has provided the most patient and detailed account I've seen of the amount of money flowing from the Gulf to our universities in The Arab Lobby, which I reviewed here--behind the firewall, alas. That's a book that should have forever put paid to the idea that it's the Israel lobby running the show, but that idea, alas, dies hard.
So let me point out something that happened recently at Georgetown that should give you a feel for things. This past week, Anwar Ibrahim visited Georgetown for a discussion titled "Revolution and Democracy in the Muslim World." He argued there--and this was widely reported in the media--that the United States shouldn't fear the Muslim Brotherhood. It should rather "engage them," because it was "crucial to support peoples' choices in the Islamic world."
First let's start with the assumption that the Muslim Brotherhood is the peoples' choice in the Islamic world. That alone is an insane and unsupported assertion; we have no evidence of this. A lot of Muslims I know are terrified of them. The idea then goes cheerfully unchallenged in conventional wisdom, although I dare say these Malaysian women would find the idea quite remarkable.
But that's not even the main point. The main point is the way Georgetown billed this speaker. Do you not feel it would have been minimally responsible, since the media covered this event and policy makers no doubt paid attention to it, for Georgetown to have mentioned that where the Muslim Brotherhood is concerned, Anwar is not neutral? That he himself co-founded the IIIT, a major Muslim Brotherhood think tank in the United States? Don't you think it might be relevant to note that the Justice Department named the IIIT as unindicted co-conspirators in a crucial terrorism-financing case involving the covert channeling of funds to Hamas through the Holy Land Foundation? Or perhaps they might have mentioned that the survivors of September 11 sued the IIIT for “rendering material support to radical Islamism?” None of this is a secret; it has been widely reported.
Anwar's affection for and ties to the the most influential Muslim Brotherhood cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, are also extremely well-known to those paying any attention at all--that would be "Hitler didn't finish the job" Qaradawi; that would be "I encourage the mutilation of women's genitals" Qaradawi; that would be "Rape victims should be flogged" Qaradawi; that would be "Kill pregnant Israeli women because their unborn children are future soldiers" Qaradawi. And Anwar's anti-Semitism is so notorious and vulgar that the B'nai Brith has begged US officials to cut ties with him. Wouldn't you think Georgetown would be wary of inviting such a speaker to present the views of "moderate Muslims" about the Muslim Brotherhood?
And if they did invite him--out of the sense, perhaps, that universities should promote open debate, even with radicals--wouldn't you think they'd signal something to the media about their guest's intellectual pedigree by means of a word such as "controversial," or "Islamist," or anything, really, but "respected internationally as a leader in interreligious dialogue?"
And you know, Anwar isn't just a one-time guest. He's a distinguished visiting researcher at the university--at the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
Do you see how crazy this is? Do you see why our experts might be a bit confused? I want to take pains to say that Georgetown still produces important and valuable scholarship, and that I don't believe this is a plot or a conspiracy. But I do think it's a culture--a culture in which you don't point certain things out or ask too many questions, and at a certain point you don't even realize how strange it is that you're not, because extremism has come to seem mainstream.
It's only one part of the explanation, but it's an important part.
More By Claire Berlinski:
I'm reading and watching a very great volume of (appropriately) anguished commentary on the Middle East that seems to converge on these questions: Are we now looking at the prospect of the entire region from the Nile to the Indus falling into the hands of committed Islamists, and if so, is there anything we can do to prevent this?
My answer to the first question is "Goodness, I hope not," and to the second, "I don't know." But I do have a modest suggestion for my government: Before trying to answer these questions, try to figure out who the dangerous Islamists are. You can't formulate any kind of intelligible policy if you have no idea. Here's a hint: No one says, "Hi Obama, my name is Ralph, and I'm a dangerous Islamist."
No, you have to look them up on Google.
What disturbed me so much about that article by Bruce Riedel is that he's a former intelligence officer. I try to reassure myself that no matter how oblivious people are in general and Obama in particular seem to be about the Muslim Brotherhood, there must be a cadre of dedicated professional analysts sitting there in Washington actually reading the stuff these guys say and thinking about the history of this region and saying to themselves, "You know, they might really mean this. We should be worried." And maybe there is--maybe Riedel is really out there, in terms of mainstream intelligence community views. But I worry very much that really and truly, such views could now be informing policy, in which case, we have no hope of getting it right. (We may have no hope no matter what, but if we don't grasp anything about what's going on, getting it wrong is assured.)
Take this business with Gannouchi in Tunisia. I just don't know if my government is any better-informed than Reuters and MSNBC, who two days ago came up in all seriousness with this sentence: "Ghannouchi is a respected Muslim scholar who went into exile in London in 1989. Now 69, Ghannouchi is widely considered to be a moderate who believes that Islam and democracy are compatible." Nothing else in that article suggests that Reuters understands anything about Ghannouchi or his affiliations. That alone worries me; the idea that it might also be true of the entire American policy-making apparatus terrifies me. I know that at one point we were well aware that Ghannouchi is bad news (we refused to give him a visa to enter the US), but do the people in power now grasp that this guy is a major Islamist headache?
So, Ghannouchi gets off the plane, and the predictable happens. Anyone paying attention to this?
A group of people who showed up yesterday at the airport in Tunis to peacefully protest the return of the leader of the Islamist movement Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, chanting slogans such as "yes to Islam, no to Islamism," were attacked by his supporters, thousands of which had gathered in the arrivals area at the airport. A young Tunisian, Mehda Barsaoui, wrote to the newspapers about the incident today, saying that "we were treated like unbelievers, Zionists, young irresponsible people and that one day Allah will judge our mistakes". Ennahda supporters started with insults and switched to physical attacks, said the young man, not only ripping the signs held by their rivals away from them, but also "slapping a woman and attacking another two friends". "This is the freedom of expression of the Islamists," wrote Barsaoui, "beating demonstrators and slapping women who were not in their place, since they should be at home taking care of the household chores."
If you knew that Ghannouchi is not, actually, "widely considered a moderate," that news at least wouldn't come as a complete surprise. I don't know what we can do, but Rule Number 1 says "Don't be surprised by things that really should not come as a surprise."
So how did I know from word one that Cootchie-Cootchie-Ghannouchi was bad news? It's not because I've got some kind of crystal ball. It's because I looked him up on the Internet and saw a few names and acronyms that mean bad news and they pretty much always mean bad news. Everyone in policy-making should know these names and think bad news when they see them. But I'm just not sure they do.
The names and acronyms are related to the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi finance. Ghannouchi and Qaradawi are tied through the European Council for Fatwa and Research, and more to the point, Ghannouchi is one of the founding members of WAMY, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. The acronym WAMY means bad news.
Here's what Reuters should have grasped about WAMY: A youthful history of involvement in WAMY is not like a youthful history of involvement in competitive chess. When you see "was a member of WAMY, was a founder of WAMY, was a trustee of WAMY," just translate that as massive future headache.
WAMY was one of the major organizations founded by the Saudis in the 1960s to spread Wahhabism; Stephen Schwartz has described it not entirely hyperbolically as the Saudi equivalent of the Hitler Youth. In the 1960s and 70s, the Saudis gave refuge to Muslim Brotherhood elements from Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, and Syria. Many were given prominent positions in large Wahhabi proselytization organizations, like the Muslim World League, al-Haramain, and WAMY. (All of those names should be well-known. We should never, ever be taken aback when someone connected to those organizations turns out to be not-so-moderate after all. That's predictable.)
These groups have been repeatedly implicated in financing terrorism around the globe, from Bosnia to Somalia to India. Osama bin Laden's brother, Abdullah bin Laden, used to be WAMY's treasurer. The direct link between WAMY and Al Qaeda is al-Haramain. One step.
The Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs chairs the secretariat of WAMY; the group has received huge amounts of Saudi money. It still has offices around the globe, and even the most cursory examination of its output will show you what it is--it publishes incendiary anti-Semitic and anti-Western propaganda, and openly supports violence. Its offices in Virginia have been a major target of the FBI's post-9/11 investigation into Islamist groups suspected of funding terrorism, so I know someone in our government does appreciate this, but are they communicating with the people making foreign policy? I just don't know.
None of this stuff is secret, but none of it will be the first thing you learn about WAMY if you do a Google search--you'll come to this. You just need to look maybe four, five entries down on Google to figure out the rest of the story. It's not so hard.
So Ghannouchi is one of the founders of WAMY, and that is a really important clue about what he believes and how he'll behave. By the way, Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, another one of our great moderate hopes--Google his name and see how often he's described this way--was a trustee of WAMY, and WAMY is, not coincidentally, closely linked in America to the IIIT, the Muslim Brotherhood front group co-founded by Anwar in Virginia.
Know who else was involved in WAMY as a youth? Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs recently published a very detailed report on Turkey, the global Muslim Brotherhood, and the Gaza Flotilla. I'm sure it will be completely overlooked. But the discussion of WAMY is quite comprehensive. Some highlights:
The recently disclosed U.S. diplomatic material provides a context for understanding Erdogan’s ideological ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood network, ties which this report has documented date back to Erdoğan's affiliation in the 1970s with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) ...
Since its inception, WAMY has always had a close relationship with the Global Muslim Brotherhood, and it was at WAMY where El-Helbawy said he met former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Anwar Ibrahim, and Tayyip Erdoğan, the current Turkish Prime Minister. Al-Helbawy told the reporter that all “got their start at WAMY. ... "
Prime Minister Erdoğan appears to have maintained his ties with the Global Muslim Brotherhood that date back to his time at WAMY. Former Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Madi Akef told an Egyptian magazine in 2005 that he knew both Erdogan and Erbakan well from when he had lived in Turkey and described both as “good friends.”
In June 2008, the Associated Press reported that Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, a former WAMY colleague with many ties to the global Brotherhood, took refuge in the Turkish Embassy following a police investigation into sodomy allegations. The AP report cited a senior AKP member as explaining that several embassies offered to shelter Mr. Ibrahim, but Anwar chose the Turkish mission “because of his close ties with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.” In addition, a 2006 Lebanese media article reported that Prime Minister Erdoğan was “an acquaintance and business partner” of Sheikh Yassin Abdullah Qadi, a Saudi businessman blacklisted by the United Nations for funding terrorism. ... Mr. Qadi had close ties to the US Muslim Brotherhood through his ownership of a large block of the shares of Ptech, a Texas software company whose employees had further ties to terror organizations.
Ptech had an interlocking board membership and other ties to the SAAR Foundation, a now-defunct network of Islamic organizations located in Northern Virginia, which was raided by the Federal government in March 2002 in connection with the financing of terrorism. The leadership of the SAAR foundation, in turn, was largely the same as that of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), an important part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.
It's not really a "conspiracy," because that suggests that someone is trying hard to hide these connections. No one is. It's all pretty much right out there. It's just that we can't be bothered to think about them.
Should we conclude from this that anyone involved with WAMY in his youth is necessarily someone with whom the West can never do business? Of course not. For all my reservations about Erdoğan, I do of course recognize that there's a very big difference between Turkey under the AKP and Iran. Erdoğan is in fact an extremely pragmatic politician who responds very much to domestic sentiment and international pressure. But a failure to appreciate that Erdoğan does indeed come from a particular ideological background and that this may be relevant to understanding, for example, why the AKP lent its support to the Gaza Flotilla, is just foreign-policy suicide.
Likewise, the failure to appreciate that Anwar comes from the same background--indeed, was even more heavily invested in it than Erdoğan--represents some kind of "I want the West to die" willful blindness. Ghannouchi is only "widely considered a moderate" by people who don't think this kind of background means anything. Yet all the evidence is that it is an extremely good predictor of future political attitudes and behavior. And why wouldn't it be?
Anyway, if anyone in our government needs some help learning how to use Google, I'm standing by and happy to explain it. (Diane Ellis is also really good at explaining how to do complicated things with a computer.)
Call anytime; it's the least I can do for my country.
If the Muslim Brotherhood and Ennahda end up governing or playing a large role in the governments in Egypt and Tunisia, there's a pretty good chance it won't look like Iran circa 1979. Here's why.
The model for both of these movements--explicitly, in the case of Ennahda--is the AKP. What they will probably wish to do above all, at first, is reassure. They don't want a civil war that they'd lose; they don't want to rule by terror; and they won't have to. They know things will go much easier for them if they lead with temperate, inclusive, tolerant rhetoric and campaign--above all--on the economy. They'll talk so much about the economy and democracy that the Western media will rise up as one and say, "Look, why are you so worried? They're moderates. All that radical stuff is in the past. They just want the same freedom to practice their religion they would have in the United States, and wow, look at those growth rates! Tigers!" In power, they will focus intensely, like the proverbial laser-beam, on creating the appearance of economic growth. (Long term growth? Heck, who knows if tomorrow will ever come?) There will be no fulminating anti-Western rhetoric (except on special occasions), no hand-choppings, no stonings. Everyone will heave a big sigh of relief.
We won't see anything all that alarming until these parties have solidly established themselves in all the organs of the bureaucracy, the military and the judiciary. By then they'll have figured out exactly how to win elections that look pretty free and fair: They'll get a lot of help from the world's best professional political advisers.
Then we'll see subtle things, little feelers--they'll wait to see if anyone in the rest of the world cares; they'll notice that no one does (since they're so busy being grateful that these governments haven't yet introduced floggings and stonings). Women will slowly disappear from public life, but it will happen so gradually no one will really be able to pin it on them, and besides, it's just women. In Egypt they'll co-opt some very prominent Copts who will go out and shill for them, talking about the terrific reforms they're putting in place to improve their status (until the shills quit in disgust, but that won't get much media play overseas).
They won't rip up the peace treaty with Israel. That's stupid. They don't need that kind of hassle. You don't stay in power by bringing disaster upon the heads of the people you propose to govern, and of course they realize that what people actually want are jobs, not an apocalyptic war with Israel.
But right before every election--and yes, they'll hold them--something odd will happen (a strange incident involving a ship full of unusually violent humanitarian aid workers, for example). Games like this have a terrible potential to get out of hand, so yes, we should worry about this. And these governments won't do much on the diplomatic scene to stop Iran from, for example, swallowing other Middle East countries whole, or acquiring nuclear weapons. Not that they did much before, but they'll do even less. The consequences of this won't seem that bad until the day Iran announces it's a nuclear power. (But who knows, maybe by then the Iranian regime itself will have collapsed--you've got to admit we just don't know which governments are going to fall next.)
The good news: I predict this won't happen overnight. If I'm right, that gives the Egyptians and Tunisians who don't love this vision of the future a lot of time to organize and come up with a better alternative. If they want to know how to do it, they've got a great model in the Turkish opposition. Just look at everything they've done, and do exactly the opposite.
The opposition here could easily be in power if they weren't so utterly determined to lose. There's nothing that magical about the AKP, they're just a reasonably competent political party running against a sea of incompetent ones.
So, don't despair yet.
More By Claire Berlinski
This is an important article by Tuvia Tenenbom on the role played by Al-Jazeera in fomenting these uprisings.
Al-Jazeera understands the power of pictures. It was a marvel to watch how it used this power after Ben Ali fled Tunisia. Al-Jazeera got its hands on a couple of soldiers who kissed demonstrators, plus two policemen who were seen crying -- or almost crying -- during the same demonstration. This video was shown again and again and again and again, creating the feeling that the "Army and Police are with you. Keep on going, Tunisians!" Once Al-Jazeera decided a situation was so, it could be made a reality. No one could argue: it was Democracy in the Making!
But in all the tumult, no one remembered to ask: "Why is Al-Jazeera not championing democracy in Qatar?" -- where Al-Jazeera is owned by the rulers there.
I don't entirely agree with her analysis: These events have paradoxically been contingent (in the sense that they were triggered by a series of coincidental events) and overdetermined (in the sense that the pressures on these regimes have been so enormous, for so long, that in conjunction with the growth of access to new media they were at some point bound to collapse.) Al-Jazeera is just one part of the story--demography, Twitter, Facebook, Wikileaks, the spread of the ideal of democracy (for which we can take much credit, for good or ill), the age of the dictators in question and the youth of the populations of the countries in question; rising global food prices--these and many other factors are all part of the story. But yes, Al-Jazeera has been playing a very key role, and not necessarily a salubrious one.
Al-Jazeera should not be excoriated: It's a superb, highly professional news gathering organization without which we'd have almost no in-depth television news coverage of the Middle East. The problem is not that they exist, it's that they're the only ones who exist. No one else is offering an equally compelling, in-depth counter-narrative. American broadcasters have simply given up on covering the region in a serious way.
I've written about this with alarm before:
The disappearance of international news is a long-term trend in the U.S., dating back at least to the late 1960s and particularly marked since the end of the Cold War. A number of studies suggest a roughly 80 percent drop in foreign coverage in print and television media since then. But the trend seems to be accelerating, a fact that should alarm citizens of any country that aspires to global influence—or to survival, for that matter.
Received wisdom holds that covering international news costs too much in a recession. But it shouldn’t. The cost of living is generally lower overseas. What do you need to cover the news besides a journalist, a pen, a notebook, and a computer with an Internet connection? The explanation that professional foreign correspondents have been displaced by amateurs is likewise incomplete. Bloggers, it’s true, now report some domestic stories better than the mainstream media do. But in Turkey, most bloggers insist perversely on writing in Turkish, and consequently almost none of what they write enters American consciousness. So American news consumers haven’t substituted their consumption of professional reporting from Turkey with a better, cheaper product. The results of a recent Pew survey suggest what’s really putting foreign correspondents out of business: isolationism among Americans, the survey found, has reached its highest level in 40 years. Foreign coverage doesn’t sell because there’s no demand.
I don't have any good solutions to this problem. I believe in a free press and free markets, and if there's no market for foreign news coverage, I certainly don't think the government should step in to finance it--although I do note that if it doesn't, and if the government of Qatar does, it will be the Qatari government who decides how the world will perceive this region, not ours.
The media mediates, and right now everything Americans know about the rest of the world is being mediated through sources that simply don't have the best interests of Americans at heart, nor do they cherish the values Americans most hold dear. I watch Al-Jazeera because no other broadcaster comes close to providing this kind of coverage, but I'd be delighted to have a real alternative.
By the way, anyone understand Arabic? It would be very interesting to know exactly how Al-Jazeera's Arabic coverage differs from its English coverage.
More By Claire Berlinski:
I've proposed here that I believe Americans' lack of familiarity with the Muslim Brotherhood, its aims and its reach is a national security emergency. Without understanding exactly what the Brotherhood is and which figures and groups are associated with it, American citizens can't properly read between the lines of many significant news stories. They can't recognize what certain events--bland perhaps on the surface--signify, and cannot properly appreciate the ramifications of what are now major debates in US foreign policy, such as whether the Muslim Brotherhood should be "engaged" in Syria, or "brought into the political process" in Egypt.
They don't grasp what it means that groups associated with the Brotherhood in Europe and America have come to define the parameters of the West's debate about its relationship with Islam, that Brotherhood groups advise the White House and the media about "What Muslims think" and what we in turn must think of Muslims, while Muslims of diametrically different views--who are horrified by the Muslim Brotherhood--have been marginalized from this debate to the point that many doubt their very existence.
Without understanding the history of the Brotherhood and the ideology of its seminal thinkers, it is too easy to dismiss as wingnut paranoids those who are properly near-hysterical about the prominent role of politicians and lobbyists with Muslim Brotherhood connections in America--as, for example, Andrew Sullivan does here.
The idea of a sinister Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy sounds on the face of it to Americans, who don't know this history, like delusional babbling about fluoride in the water. Except, as I hope I've demonstrated to your satisfaction, it isn't. This really is a powerful, radical political movement that seeks to bring into being throughout the globe a kind of society none of us would wish to live in, and which has had, particularly thanks to a firehose of Saudi financial support, success in doing so beyond its founders' wildest hopes.
I've made the case that the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood, Qaradawi, is a particularly vile figure. What I've noted about him should be well-known by every American of voting age, just as it is well-known by every American that Osama bin Laden is a vile figure. Qaradawi is not the whole of the story, but he's enough of the story that his name should be politically radioactive. His name and face should be instantly recognizable--part of our pop-culture discourse, synonymous with "something creepy, dangerous and repulsive." He should be the subject of jokes on late-night comedy shows. If photos turn up in the news showing one of our allies or political advisors with his arm around Qaradawi, it should have the psychological effect of seeing the subject of that photo in full Nazi regalia. Yet how many Americans would even recognize his face? Not many, I suspect.
Herewith a Qaradawi photo gallery. Forward these around, and draw your own conclusions about men who shake his hand, embrace him, share a podium with him, and give him awards.
Exhibit A: a little love-fest between Qaradawi and one of the West's favorite moderates, Anwar Ibrahim. Ibrahim co-founded the IIIT, a Brotherhood front organization in the United States. I don't read Malay, but I'm handy with Google Translate. Anwar seems to have found this meeting with Qaradawi most engaging:
Assertiveness he emitted when talking about the greedy policies of President Bush to attack and conquer weaker nations. He also voiced the call for a new administration led by President Obama to focus on combating poverty and providing education.
However Sheikh Yusuf explains the establishment of Ittihad Ulama '(Association of Scholars' World), which he led on the administration of President Obama to ensure the availability of a dialogue with American conditions to stop the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as justice of the Palestinian people.
He continued to encourage me to continue efforts to strengthen international collaboration and the establishment of the firm explains.
I doubt much is getting lost in translation. "We are convinced," write prominent fools Paul Wolfowitz and Al Gore, that Anwar "is committed to the values of pluralism, tolerance and freedom that are needed for Malaysia to flourish." If I am dubious, I shall, predictably, be charged with Islamophobia--a word invented by the IIIT to meet just such a contingency.
Here we have the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and Qaradawi in a moist embrace. Very much in love, those two! Such a photo should mean eternal social ostracism for Livingstone among his crowd, shouldn't it? That's a proud man of the Left, there, with his tongue practically down the throat of a man who would see homosexuals stoned.
How does this add up? How did we get here?
There is an answer to that question. It's not rhetorical. We got here through the Brotherhood and its associated organizations. Here are the names of a few groups that should ring everyone's Qaradawi-bells: He's the head of them all, or a trustee, or somehow closely associated with them:
President—The European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), Dublin, Ireland
President—Union of Good (an umbrella group of charities that includes Turkey's IHH)
Founder and President—IslamOnline.com (perhaps the most popular Islamist web site on the Internet, and goodness--they've got a branch in Washington DC, in the National Press Building! Right next to the National Press Club!)
Chairman (in absentia)—Board of Trustees of Islamic American University
Faculty member—Islamic American University (IAU)
Founder and president—International Association of Muslim Scholars (IAMS), Dublin, Ireland
Trustee/Teacher—Muslim American Society (MAS)
Trustee/Teacher—Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
Board of Advisors—Institute for Islamic Political Thought in the UK
Dean—Islamic Department at the Faculties of Shariah and Education in Qatar
Chairman—Islamic Scientific Councils of Algerian Universities and Institutions Affiliations with Shariah Finance
Chairman—Shariah Advisory board of Bank Al-Taqwa, a Nassau- Bahamas registered Islamic bank which was declared a designated terrorist entity by the US Department of the Treasury in 2001 and closed down
Chairman—Shariah Advisory Board, Qatar Islamic Bank
Chairman—Shariah Advisory Board, Qatar International Islamic Bank
Member—Shariah Advisory Board, First Islamic Investment Bank of Bahrain.
Oh, it goes on, and on, and on, it's too tiring to list them all. It just goes on and on. It's not some crazy conspiracy theory--it's a reality that no one concerned is even trying much to hide. These are groups associated--proudly, openly, demonstrably, not in fantasy--with the Muslim Brotherhood. Should such groups be advising the White House, invited to it at all, ever, or given implied authority by journalists to speak on behalf of the rest of America's Muslims?
To the right, Qaradawi with Barrie Osborne, the producer of the Matrix. They're working together to make a movie about Islam, financed lavishly by the Qataris.
Wouldn't you think right-thinking men and women in Hollywood would wish to run from this association? To worry about their reputations if their association with Qaradawi was made public? No! Because no one knows who Qaradawi is and no one, apparently, cares.
Does Hollywood realize what Qaradawi thinks of them? Can't anyone there read? Surely they know how to watch a video, if nothing else?
It's almost funny, isn't it? Maybe that's what they think, over there in Hollywood--that this is a hilarious parody. That this Qaradawi fellow is a comic genius.
Barrie Osborne, please, believe me: You are the dangerous purveyor of filth he's talking about. That's not comedy. He's serious. He is deadly, deadly serious.
More By Claire Berlinski:
I've brought up the Muslim Brotherhood quite a few times on Ricochet. As I've written before, I find it unfathomable, a true national security emergency, that the words "Muslim Brotherhood" mean so little to most Americans. I've been blaming the media, but I am the media, so perhaps it would behoove me just to do something about it.
This week I'll write a multi-part series about the Brotherhood, after which I expect all of America to understand the history and evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, to be able to write a short essay about the key aspects of its ideology, to recognize the names of prominent figures in the Brotherhood and the names of Brotherhood-linked or inspired movements and groups (particularly those in America, and particularly those whose spokesmen keep showing up on the nightly news), to appreciate the reach of the Brotherhood today, to understand contemporary policy debates about the Brotherhood, and to be able to state succinctly why all of this matters to you. There will be a test at the end. All of America is expected to take it.
The Society of the Muslim Brotherhood--the Jamaat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, or the Ikhwan, for short--was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al Banna. A decade later, it had a million active followers and sympathizers in Egypt alone.
The first thing you must grasp about Brotherhood is its ideology: Its goal is the establishment everywhere of an Islamic state governed by Sharia law. In al Banna's own words, it seeks "to impose its laws on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet." Its motto: "God is our purpose, the Prophet our leader, the Qur'an our constitution, Jihad our way and dying for God's cause our supreme objective." Clear enough?
The Brotherhood's essence is immoderate: It is at its core unremittingly anti-secular, anti-Semitic, anti-democratic and anti-Western. It has fractured; there are divisions within it; like all movements it is comprised of individuals, some of whom are pleasant--but basically it has not changed. It was not moderate then and it is not moderate now. To the extent that al Banna rejected violence as a strategy, he did so only because he viewed it as an ineffective strategy so long as the movement was outranked by superior force--a strategy apt to result in the movement being crushed, which would be counter-productive.
Here is al-Banna in his own words on the concept of jihad. He rejects every verse or interpretation of the Koran that could be interpreted as "moderate" in favor of the most extreme verses and interpretations:
Many Muslims today mistakenly believe that fighting the enemy is jihad asghar (a lesser jihad) and that fighting one's ego is jihad akbar (a greater jihad). The following narration [athar] is quoted as proof: "We have returned from the lesser jihad to embark on the greater jihad." They said: "What is the greater jihad?" He said: "The jihad of the heart, or the jihad against one's ego."
This narration is used by some to lessen the importance of fighting, to discourage any preparation for combat, and to deter any offering of jihad in Allah's way. This narration is not a saheeh (sound) tradition: The prominent muhaddith Al Hafiz ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said in the Tasdid al-Qaws:
‘It is well known and often repeated, and was a saying of Ibrahim ibn 'Abla.’
Al Hafiz Al Iraqi said in the Takhrij Ahadith al-Ahya’:
‘Al Bayhaqi transmitted it with a weak chain of narrators on the authority of Jabir, and Al Khatib transmitted it in his history on the authority of Jabir.’
Nevertheless, even if it were a sound tradition, it would never warrant abandoning jihad or preparing for it in order to rescue the territories of the Muslims and repel the attacks of the disbelievers. Let it be known that this narration simply emphasises the importance of struggling against one's ego so that Allah will be the sole purpose of everyone of our actions.
Other associated matters concerning jihad include commanding the good and forbidding the evil. It is said in the Hadeeth: "One of the greatest forms of jihad is to utter a word of truth in the presence of a tyrannical ruler." But nothing compares to the honour of shahadah kubra (the supreme martyrdom) or the reward that is waiting for the Mujahideen.
It's all like this, with al Banna. (No, it is not like this with all Muslims, unless you agree with him that those Muslims who believe fighting one's ego to be the greater jihad are "mistaken." Note that he himself believes that "many Muslims today" believe this.) But al Banna is the echt item--a radical who seeks to impose upon the world a religious tyranny by any means necessary:
we will not stop at this point [i.e., freeing Egypt from secularism and modernity], but will pursue this evil force to its own lands, invade its Western heartland, and struggle to overcome it until all the world shouts by the name of the Prophet and the teachings of Islam spread throughout the world. Only then will Muslims achieve their fundamental goal and all religion will be exclusively for Allah.
The second thing you must grasp is the approach al Banna advocated: to work slowly and patiently to politicize religion from the bottom up. The Brotherhood is sometimes described as “non-violent,” which is nonsense, it’s plenty violent, but this idea comes from al Banna’s observation that violence was only one tool in the toolkit, and shouldn’t be used when other tools would work more effectively.
The Brotherhood is vastly more sophisticated, in this sense, than al Qaeda. In Egypt, the Brotherhood created what has effectively been a shadow government, a state within a state, to redress local social grievances and channel economic and political discontent into Islamism. The Brotherhood built (and builds) schools, sports clubs, factories, medical clinics, an entire welfare service network. It had (and still has) specific branches charged with targeting specific segments of society--a bureau for peasants, a bureau for workers. It had (and has) dedicated units for domestic propaganda, for liaison with the wider Islamic world, for press relations. Al Banna created what was and remains an extremely sophisticated political organization, analogous in many ways to the Comintern.
He also created a paramilitary organization--one that stole weapons, trained fighters, formed assassination squads, created sleeper cells in the army and police, and waited for the order to begin an outright campaign of terror, assassination, and suicide missions. Then, as now, idiot Westerners looked at the Brotherhood, nodded sagely, and said, "Well, the people love them because they build soup kitchens. Surely that's very admirable."
The third essential thing you must grasp is that the Brotherhood formed an active alliance with the Nazis. There was a natural ideological affinity, obviously--Jew hatred, authoritarianism, an enthrallment with violence and a common hatred of the British. But the transformation of affinity to alliance had very distinct historic consequences; it is precisely why we keep seeing a form of anti-Semitism that reminds us of the Third Reich in the Islamic world today: It comes directly from the Third Reich. The Nazis and the Muslim Brotherhood worked together to create Arab translations of Mein Kampf (translated as My Jihad), to translate anti-Semitic cartoons from Der Sturmer, and to adapt images of the Jew from "Enemy of the Volk" to "Enemy of Allah."
No, this kind of anti-Semitism is not simply the ancient nature of Islam, no more than it it is the ancient nature of Christian Europe--Nazism is a historically unique ideology and unique evil. This stuff we now see in the Islamic world looks like Nazism because it comes from the Nazis.
Let's begin with that. Tomorrow we'll explore the development of the Brotherhood in the postwar era. As a homework exercise, I leave it to America to identify lobby groups and think tanks in the United States that are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and to note ways that these groups have recently shaped public discourse on matters of national security.
If you fail the test, don't blame the media--I'm doing my best, here.
Salim Mansur, about whom I've been meaning to write for some time, kindly sent me a link to his interview with the Investigative Project on Terror:
Mansur, a Muslim born in India, made a powerful case that the U.S. government and Western mainstream media ignore the real danger to Muslims around the world: terror, intimidation, repression and genocide committed by their fellow Muslims.
The point he makes next is one I make all the time, though I have the sense I'm shouting into a wind tunnel:
The U.S. government and the media help facilitate this skewing of priorities, Mansur said, one which benefits Islamists at the expense of ordinary Muslims.
The Obama Administration is sending "a confused message," by courting Islamist groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) while shutting out non-Islamist Muslims.
According to Mansur, these groups, frequently quoted in the media as representatives of American Muslims, are often linked with radical organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result, Americans haven't heard "clear, unambiguous, categorical" denunciations of suicide bombings from U.S. Muslim organizations attacks since September 11. These Muslim groups have also failed to speak out clearly against Sharia and the repression of women in the Islamic world.
"Neither CAIR nor ISNA–nor any of the other [Islamist] organizations, as far as I know, have come out and said that we as Muslims in the West have a different perspective on the question of Sharia…and we're going to revise it," he said.
Most Americans, I think, will recognize the name CAIR. The rest form something of an acrostic soup in their minds, though they should be household names--kind of like the TSA, another acronym for which we can ultimately thank the same people.
Genuinely moderate Muslims (once again, yes, they exist, and yes, there are many of them) are struggling desperately to make themselves heard over the roar made by these groups, which are lavishly funded by the Saudis and connected--ideologically, historically, and financially--to the most despicable extremists in the Islamic world. The extremists to whom they're connected, not to put too fine a point on it, want Muslims like Salim Mansur dead. They want you dead, too. And these groups have succeeded in setting the political and cultural agenda in the West to a degree that should shock any thinking person.
The word "Islamophobia" is a nice example. Many of you, I'm sure, have felt a wash of annoyance upon hearing the word used to dismiss your concerns about what are obviously very real pathologies in the Islamic world. I find myself particularly vexed when the word is applied to me; for God's sake, I'm sitting here in the heart of a city of 20 million Muslims, why would I be here if Islam itself gave me the vapors? The phrase "some of my best friends are Muslims" is more than a cliche in my case; most of my best friends are Muslims, all of my neighbors are Muslims, and the way I live my life would make no sense at all if I had a phobia--an "irrational intense fear" as the dictionary has it, one characterized by an "excessive and unreasonable desire to avoid the feared stimulus"--of Islam. I'd be like an arachnophobe hanging out in the woodpile, now, wouldn't I?
I have a rational fear, however, of political Islam, particularly the Wahhabi and Iranian revolutionary strains, which pose a very real threat not only to me and to the West, but--as Mansur very correctly points out--an even greater threat to my friends and neighbors.
Now here's a point you might deeply consider: The neologism "Islamophobia" did not simply emerge ex nihilo. It was invented, deliberately, by a Muslim Brotherhood front organization, the International Institute for Islamic Thought, which is based in Northern Virginia. If that name dimly rings a bell, it should: I've mentioned it before, and it's particularly important because it was co-founded by Anwar Ibrahim--the hero of Moderate Islam who is now trotting around the globe comparing his plight to that of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, a former member of the IIIT who has renounced the group in disgust, was an eyewitness to the creation of the word. "This loathsome term," he writes,
is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics.
In another article concerning the many moderate Muslims whose voices have been drowned out by Saudi-financed Muslim Brotherhood front groups, Muhammad describes the strategy behind the word's invention:
In an effort to silence critics of political Islam, advocates needed to come up with terminology that would enable them to portray themselves as victims. Muhammad said he was present when his then-allies, meeting at the offices of the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Northern Virginia years ago, coined the term "Islamophobia."
Muhammad said the Islamists decided to emulate the homosexual activists who used the term "homophobia" to silence critics. He said the group meeting at IIIT saw "Islamophobia" as a way to "beat up their critics."
Really imagine that scene: a bunch of Islamists admiring how astutely the queers--people who in their ideal world would be served with the lash or hanged--had portrayed their critics as mentally disturbed. Brilliant. Let's take a leaf from them and then kill them. The association of anti-Islamism--the noblest form of liberal anti-totalitarianism--with gay-bashing rednecks in the grip of a psychosexual panic was not just one of those linguistic accidents of history, in other words. These guys were sitting there in Virginia and really thinking about the best way to exploit the weaknesses of the Western psyche. They came up with this word--and admit it, it's clever; I challenge you to find a better one if you want to yank the West's chain--and they marketed it with petrodollars, and now it truly does drive public discourse and policy the world over. I was asked when I was recently on a Turkish television news show whether the Tea Party was "Islamophobic." That's what they're hearing here in Turkey, thanks to the IIIT. It's not an indigenous Turkish concept, I assure you.
The fact that the IIIT was co-founded by Anwar Ibrahim, who is now on trial for sodomy--something of a homophobic charge, that--would be almost hilarious in its just-deserts irony if Anwar hadn't succeeded in portraying himself as the moderate darling of Muslim moderation whose plight should now trouble the liberal conscience of the West, no matter his own role in exploiting it. Read the linked interview in full, if you have the time, and consider its many implications. Put your favorite parts in the comment thread.
This is another case--like the revelation that we've poured money into "secret" negotiations with some schmuck pretending to represent the Taliban--where our foreign policy incompetence is almost unimaginable. (It's perfectly understandable to me when Turks say to me that this must all be an elaborate conspiracy and subterfuge, since everyone knows Americans aren't that stupid. If only they were right.)
So Anwar Ibrahim-- our moderate man in moderate Malaysia--is the moderate man behind this Orwellian effort to render the West incapable of objecting even verbally to political Islam. The gift of "Islamophobia" is just the beginning of the story. Researcher Rachel Ehrenfeld has written an outstanding investigative report about Anwar and the support he's received in the West. It's enough to make you weep.
She sent it to me in PDF form. I've read it. It is long, and it requires patience--she's combed through a tremendous amount of documentary evidence, court filings, financial records, tax returns; she's laboriously traced the whole sad sordid network. It probably represents months of research on her end. It took me a few hours carefully to read it. By the end you're not in much doubt.
But you have to be willing to spend a few hours reading really to grasp the situation--and apparently, the world's a bit short on time and just not that curious. Easier just to take Paul Wolfowitz's word for it: Anwar is "one of the most wonderful human beings in public life anywhere," he gushes. It's men like him, he says, "who will lead change throughout the Muslim world." Unfortunately, at this rate, he's right.
Where is Ehrenfeld's report, you ask? Where can you read it? You can't. It's never been published. Not much of a market for that kind of work, I'm afraid. Too Islamophobic.
The question is entirely legitimate. Yes, there is a long-established Islamic doctrine of taqqiya--variously translated and interpreted as “precautionary dissimulation,” “religiously-sanctioned deception,” “keeping one’s convictions secret,” “tactical dissimulation,” "holy deception," and "lying." Even if there weren't, any radical with half his wits about him could see that Westerners just adore the word "moderate." The very utterance of the word seems to have a soothing, soporific effect on them. So long as you just keep enjoining the words, "I'm a moderate," a parade of hopeful Western buffoons will assuredly line up on your doorstep with roses and the Barry White mix tapes, eager to embrace you in moist gratitude and admiration even as you face the television cameras and call for their enslavement and destruction. If you do this in a language that your interlocutors haven't bothered to learn, you'll be just fine.
What's more, you can almost always convince the West to do business with you or look the other way if you insist that since you're a moderate, it is important to engage you or support you to stave off the radicals. If you want evidence of this, look no further than what is apparently our new strategy in Afghanistan: cut a deal with Mullah Omar on the grounds that he represents the moderate wing of the Taliban.
So yes, good question.
You can't answer it by saying, "All true Muslims are radicals." This answer is fundamentally unserious and no one concerned with the West's survival should accept it. If you wish to fight this war without all of our natural allies by our side you might also wish to consider renouncing the use of tanks in favor of the outstandingly simple pogo stick. It makes about as much strategic sense.
If you're serious about distinguishing real moderates from faux-moderates, however, here are two quick and easy ways to start. Look for Saudi financing, and look for connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. Both are apt to be opaque--sometimes not very opaque at all, but opaque enough that most people don't notice--and both should immediately raise your suspicions that you're not dealing with a moderate.
The Saudis and the Brotherhood are not the same thing, but they have found each other quite useful:
... broadly speaking, a cross-fertilization of ideas took place between the exiled Brotherhood and the austere teachings of what might be described as the Wahhabi rank and file. That interaction, combined with the new organizational and financial backing of groups like the Muslim World League, would eventually lead to the rise of a new, internationalist form of Salafism. The Brotherhood played a crucial role in shaping this new ideological universe, which is now, in important ways, the dominant cultural force in the Arab Middle East.
The recent position statement of the Muslim Brotherhood's supreme guide, Muhammad Badi', should persuade you that people who hang with the Brothers are not apt to be moderates, no matter what they say.
I'm going to start slowly with the list of American organizations that accept large donations from the Saudis and have close connections to the Brotherhood, because there are a lot, and I'm hoping these names really sink in. The Muslim Students Association was founded by the Brothers. The Council on American Islamic Relations--loads of well-documented Muslim Brotherhood ties. The Islamic Society of North America and Fiqh Council of North America (they're associated): pure Brotherhood goodness, enriched with nourishing Saudi vitamins.
This final observation would have some wry comic value if it weren't so unfunny. ISNA insists on its website that it has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood and "does not accept funding from foreign governments."
On the very same site, it announces the HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal ISNA Fellowship program.
I suppose they think most people won't notice that. Alas, they're right.
Farooq Khan was a Muslim. So were his murderers.
MARDAN, Pakistan — Farooq Khan, doctor to the poor, scholar of Islam and friend of America, represented everything the Islamist extremists hated.
A week ago, two Taliban hit men, disguised in casual clothes and with stubble on their chins instead of beards, climbed the stairs to Dr. Khan’s second-floor office and, as he had lunch between streams of patients, shot him at close range.
The assassination of Dr. Khan, cool and quick, was the latest in what appears to be a sustained campaign by the Taliban to wipe out, or at least silence, educated Muslims in Pakistan who speak out against the militants, their use of suicide bombings and their cry of worldwide jihad.
At least six Muslim intellectuals and university professors have been killed or kidnapped in the past year in Pakistan, each death met with momentary notice in the media, promises of inquiries by the government and then a frightened quiet.
You may consult the late Dr. Farooq on matters of Koranic interpretation here.
I always strictly follow the teachings of Quran, Sunnah, and my conscience in pondering over all the collective issues and problems facing us. In my opinion, the Muslim Ummah needs a comprehensive discussion and consensus on the following issues:
- Status of Women in Islamic Society
- The real instructions of Islam regarding Jihad and Qital
- The true perspective of Islamic teachings in crimes and punishment
- Islamic instructions regarding relations between Muslims and Non-Muslims
The Washington Post asks: Could a deal with the Taliban end the war in Afghanistan?
And then the world asks why there are so few moderate Muslims.
Last week on Uncommon Knowledge, Peter Robinson asked me how to draw the distinction between radical and moderate Moslems. The question is so important that I''ve decided to devote some time to it on Ricochet.
Exhibit A: Mona Eltahawy tells Tariq Ramadan where to shove his burqa.
Bravo, Mona. Now, Tariq Ramadan is often lauded--much like Imam Rauf of Ground Zero Mosque fame--as an exemplary moderate Moslem. If you're unfamiliar with the controversy surrounding him, start with these pieces by Ian Buruma and Paul Berman.
To sum it up in a sentence, Berman believes Ramadan is the "gateway drug" to radical Islam. Whether or not he's right, I note there is no such ambiguity about Mona Eltahawy--and note also that she is a self-described, practicing Moslem. Mona, clearly, is the barrier to radical Islam, not the gateway to it. (By the way, I'll be discussing burqa bans with her this weekend on Bloggingheads TV--I'll let you know when that's up.)
Peter and I were only able to begin discussing this issue on Uncommon Knowledge; and obviously, I have a lot more to say. Here's my position, in brief:
- Yes, there are a lot of Moslems who are moderate, in the sense that they are not implacably hostile to the West, not remotely interested in undertaking activities that threaten Western security or constitutional democracy, nor in fact particularly political at all. In many cases, Moslems who are superficially hostile to the West are not lost causes: The hostility is cosmetic, or fashionable; it goes no deeper than many Americans' vague distaste for the French, and could turn around quite easily upon greater knowledge of, and exposure to, the attractive aspects of Western culture and political life.
- That said, many Moslems (politicians, academics, clerics) believed by the West to be “moderate” are in fact our enemy. They are also the enemies of moderate Moslems. They know and understand the West far better than we know and understand them, and they are winning the propaganda war—winning the war, generally.
- It is as inaccurate and dangerous to US foreign policy to believe that there are no peaceful Moslems as it is to believe that there are only peaceful Moslems. I’ve been living in an Islamizing Europe and in the Islamic world for about twenty years. When told—as I sometimes am—that Islam is inherently so warlike that we have no hope of doing business with the Islamic world, I know immediately that I’m talking to someone who has never set foot in the Islamic world. Likewise, the moment someone assures me that Islam is always a religion of peace, I know I’m dealing with someone who is either completely inexperienced of this region or an outright propagandist.
- If most Americans have no idea how to answer these questions, this is not because they’re stupid. It’s because the Islamic world is huge and vastly complex; the languages spoken in the Islamic world are hard to understand; the cultures of the Islamic world are profoundly alien to the West; and because the Moslems who aren’t peaceful aren’t stupid, either: They lie.
- I’m continually astonished by the unwillingness of the American media to do the difficult investigative and analytical work of figuring out who is who. It’s impossible, literally impossible, to get a deep sense of what’s going on in Turkey from the US media right now, for example—no publication is doing this kind of reporting at the level it needs to be done, and the ideological bias of the mainstream media has reached a point beyond parody.
- Where these issues are concerned, there's no substitute for on-the-ground observation and laborious investigative work--and this is often boring work, like examining the complex networks of financing behind certain political figures and trying to figure out if it means anything that Politician X took a donation from Corporation Y, on whose board serves Cleric Z, who seems to be associated with a chapter of the Moslem Brotherhood in Village K. No wonder no one wants to do it.
But this work is utterly necessary, and someone's got to do it.
To this end, Moderate Moslem Watch will now be a regular series here on Ricochet. In the coming weeks, I'll be discussing so-called moderate Moslems--some of whom you may know, some of whom you may not--and making the case for doing business with them, as genuine friends of the West, or denouncing them as the frauds they are.
Next up: Fadela Amara and Ni Putes Ni Soumises.
The taxi's coming to take me to the airport in about three hours. I just woke up with a start, thinking that I'd overslept, and now I'm afraid to go back to sleep for fear that I will. I'm all packed, and it's the middle of the night, so Ricochet buddies, would you please help keep me awake for the next few hours?
I'll give you something to start with. This reminded me of our earlier conversation about the critical things we just don't notice when we're focussing on something else.
I posted a link to our conversation about whether Islam itself is the enemy to my Facebook page. Some of my friends here in Istanbul (who are Moslems, and, as the word "friend" suggests, not my enemy) weighed in with responses that I think confirm my assertion that the Islamic world is not monolithic. In particular, my friend Babür left a long, thoughtful response, which I'll reproduce in full. (I've told my Facebook friends that anything they say on my page is on-the-record, and I've told Babür this in particular, so I'm sure he won't mind):
As a practicing muslim, and as somebody who's undertaken some Islamic studies, I might have a say for the closing remarks of this article:
-To decide whether Islam INSTITUTIONALLY embraces terrorism or not, the exact description and scope of “GENUINE” Islamic beliefs should be concretized first of all,
-I agree with the fact that, implementations of Islam are, unfortunately, as many as the number of muslims,
-Such differentiation upon "personal perceptions" is the misfortune of any mainstream & globalised religion,
-However, this differentiation occurs only in the practical level: the limits of Islamic beliefs - the theory, is all well defined,
-There is only one genuine, unique and clear-cut definition of Islamic beliefs, which is established back in 632 A.D., preserved with a sound application of METHODOLOGY (centuries before the European version of methodology was developed), and has survived so far,
-This set of beliefs is called "Sunnah", and its followers "Sunnis",
-In terms of daily religious activities, the Sunnah have several sub-categories, the practical sects / "MEZHEB"s; which provide Sunnis with a somehow wide range of options to choose from,
-The practical mezhebs are not at conflict with one another at all; one can pray according to "hanafi" mezheb, fast according to "shafi" mezheb, and yet, make his/her donations according to "maliki" mezheb, etc.: the Prophet (sav) has fulfilled his daily actions compatibly with all mezhebs,
-BUT THEN.. where do we locate the "Shia" concept?
-Clearly speaking, the modern Islamic world is divided into some 75 THEORETICAL mezhebs, most of which fall under the "Shia" category,
-The word "Shia" has its roots in the expression "Gulat-i Shia li Ali b. Ebi Talib", meaning "helpers of Ali b. Ebi Talib",
-Ali, the beloved cousin of Prophet and one of the capital masters of muslims - either Shia or Sunnis, has experienced a major political chaos near the end of his life, and naturally, a circle of helpers / political suppliers formed around him,
-The historical development, and thus, main BELIEF categories of these helpers, the Shia, has 4 main phases:
(1) those who favor Ali over Osman as a caliph (ONLY a political distinction),
(2) those who favor Ali over Abu Bakr and Omar as well (a FAR-FETCHED, but still political distinction),
(3) those who favor Ali over Prophet (sav) (the beginning point of BLASPHEMY),
(4) those who favor Ali over God (an EXTREME point of blasphemy).
-The last two phases emerged nearly a century after the death of the Prophet (sav); SO, DURING THE FIRST CENTURY OF ISLAM, THERE WAS NO DISTINCTION OF BELIEFS, BUT ONLY POLITICAL VIEWS,
-Apart from the Shia, some extremist sects also arose throughout the history, like Batinis, Ismailis, Durzis, etc., who are definitely non-muslims,
-So, in terms of beliefs, the modern Islamic world can be divided into three parts: (1) Sunnis, the unique believers, (2) non-Sunnis, but believers, (3) non-Sunnis and non-believers,
-Haven said all this..
How does genuine Islam, the Sunnah, approach terrorism?
Islam ABSOLUTELY forbids even the slightest offense against individuals (either women or men, the young or the old, etc.) who has not attacked Islam and/or muslims in a military fashion; even, military personnel figthing against Islam and/or muslims who ask for mercy during a full scale battle, should not be touched.
-This rule is very, very clear:
The first two warfare of Islamic history, The Battle of Badr and The Battle of Uhud, were of vital importance for the survival of the early Islamic society and thus, the entire religion.
EVEN DURING THOSE WARFARE, the Prophet (sav) applied the above principle with utmost certainty..
-A similar example is The Conquer of Mecca, where, the Prophet (sav) showed TOTAL mercy (involving the entire enemy army), after being oppressed, humiliated, and even subject to genocide for two decades..
-This is the REAL Islamic approach. Any sincere muslim IS OBLIGED TO oppose terrorism, suicide bombing, 9/11 attacks, El Qaeda, etc.
-The knowledge requirement standards enough to make a decree, or “ICTIHAD” were stated by the Prophet (sav) himself. Those fulfilling the standards, the “MUCTEHID”s can alone authorize the Islamic approach to any situation.
-Real muslims do not care about Imam Whatsoever, etc. has said, unless those so-called, often self-declared Imams measure up to be a muctehid..
I later left this comment:
I've just walked down a street filled literally with thousands of Moslems of exactly the kind many people are seriously arguing do not exist. I saw them with my own eyes, as I have every day for the past five years. With so many other questions in the world, why waste time debating this? Book a ticket to Istanbul, spend an afternoon here, have a lovely time, drink some tea, meet friendly, tolerant, warm, welcoming Moslems (mostly), and see for yourself. They exist! They're my neighbors and my friends! Babür, is there anyone at our gym, for example, who would not describe himself as a Moslem? Would any member of our gym endorse terrorism, honor killing, forcing me to wear the hijab, or subjecting me to a dhimmi tax? The idea is so absurd it's beyond discussion -- and yet we're discussing it.
Theo Spark found the conversation sufficiently interesting to link to it in his blog. He described the discussion as a "raging debate." I notice that his post has been picked up at Right Wing News. So now this chat among my friends is a raging and somewhat public debate, I guess.
The odd thing is that the "raging debate" is about whether moderate Moslems exist. That they do is a proposition so easily verifiable that I don't even have to leave my apartment to do it. I can just look out the window.
But no one even noticed the snake pit of controversy embedded in Babür's claim that Shi'a Islam is a heresy.
Now, as people who know the Islamic world well will tell you, that is--what is it Andrew Sullivan calls it?--the money quote. You just watch and see how much more blood is yet to be spilled over that claim.
And no one even noticed it--their attention was elsewhere.
More from Claire Berlinski
Reuel Marc Gerecht, as usual uncommonly intelligent, asks whether Imam Rauf is a "moderate Moslem" today in the New Republic. I agree entirely with his assessment:
If Mr. Rauf has collected monies from individuals or Muslim organizations overseas that preach contempt for infidels, have financially supported religiously militant organizations, or, worse, provided aide to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, then his project, which has been approved by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ought to be cancelled. Any American non-profit organization can tell you exactly whence its money comes. By contrast, it appears that the Cordoba Initiative’s funding has not been cross-checked with financial counterterrorist information within the Treasury Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Central Intelligence Agency. (If it had been, we probably would have heard about it.)
And I note, again, that Imam Rauf's association with the Perdana Peace Initiative makes it hard to believe that this isn't the case. Gerecht continues to ask, "What might be an American definition of a “moderate Muslim?” and offers the following as a rough answer:
(i) a believer who unqualifiedly rejects terrorism against anyone. This is America’s Eleventh Commandment. If a Muslim cannot renounce terrorism against Israelis, that person should not be allowed to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero. Testing for unacceptable deviancy isn’t hard. Just borrow from the former al-Qa’ida philosopher, Abd al-Qadir bin Abd al-Aziz, aka “Dr. Fadl,” who sees Palestinian suicide bombers as destined for hell. Thus: “Do you, Feisal Abd ar-Rauf, believe that Allah damns eternally Palestinian suicide bombers?” “Do you believe that rockets launched at Israeli towns by Hamas and Hizbollah are acts of terrorism, which will bring down upon the perpetrators Allah’s wrath?” Mr. Rauf’s answers ought to be short.
(ii) a believer who embraces the doctrine of “neo-ijtihad,” which holds that Muslims today are not chained to the Qur’anic interpretations and legal decisions accepted centuries ago as canonical. Specifically, a “moderate Muslim American” is someone who unqualifiedly renounces the applicability of the Sharia, the Holy Law, in American society. The “Americanization of Islam” here means that the traditional Muslim understanding of orthodoxy as orthopraxy (it’s not what you believe in your heart—that is between you and God—but how you act, i.e., apply the Sharia, in the public square that matters) is null and void. Thus, women may veil or not veil as they please; a woman’s testimony is equal to a man’s; polygyny is verboten; marriage to a menstruating child is an abomination; accepted corporal punishments—amputations and stonings—are immoral; apostasy reflects bad judgment but isn’t criminal; and Jews and Christians should spiritually no longer be viewed as dhimmis, a properly subordinate species who really don’t deserve the same social status and legal rights as Muslims. Jewish and Christian power in America and Europe isn’t an offense against the divinely-sanctioned natural order; it’s just the product of a long, difficult, and tortuous evolution. The Sharia is a lengthy and complicated corpus that developed over centuries and often constrained the worst instincts of despots. A “moderate Muslim American” would see it in much the same way that a faithful “moderate Jewish American” views the Old Testament and the Talmud: documents of a certain time that contain considerable “divine” wisdom (as well as much looniness) and many imperatives for a good, healthy life.
I agree. An excellent definition. Gerecht concludes:
If Mr. Rauf can so define “moderate Islam,” he may not be as American as apple pie, but he would certainly be as American as much of New York City. Any mosque built by such a believer would honor us all.
I agree with that as well. I would add one more point, namely that Moslems who embrace Gerecht's definition surely do exist. They are not mythological. Assertions to the contrary are ridiculous and undermine the credibility of anyone who makes them. The distinction between radical and moderate Islam is well worth drawing and must be drawn if we are to avoid radicalizing moderates by confirming the propaganda of the Narrative.
Contributing to Ricochet has been an almost gushy relief for me, and the relief has revealed, somewhat to my surprise--I didn't fully realize it--just how isolated I often feel in Istanbul. I'm sure that comes as no surprise to anyone else; it's fully to be expected, but somehow the obvious often escapes people when it comes to their own lives.
In my daily life, I meet almost no one who shares my fundamental assumptions about the world, who takes it as given that free markets produce more prosperous societies, who assumes that the United States is overall a force for good, who believes that the proper role of government is to defend the realm, make a few important laws, enforce them, and then butt out. I meet few people who view Israel, as we've termed it here, as "a normal country." I meet almost no one who shares my hostility to income redistribution or my belief that the Soviet Union was, indeed, the most evil empire mankind has known. I meet a lot of people who think Che Guevara was a terrific-looking fellow. (I don't think they have a more coherent or ideological view of him, frankly. Beyond that, they don't seem to know a thing about him.)
It's a marvelous relief--and obviously a lot of fun--to have a daily conversation with like-minded people. Again, no surprise. But I'm worried that it poses an intellectual hazard. I notice that because I'm scanning the wires for interesting items to write about for Ricochet, I'm spending more time reading websites where similar points of view are to be found. Nothing wrong with that, except that it crowds out the time I spend reading opposing points of view. This can't be healthy. First, it's too easy to miss the weaknesses in your own thought if no one is arguing with you. Groupthink, we all know, tends to lead to incredible mistakes in judgment. Second, the focus here tends to be on finding fault with opposing points of view, rather than figuring out where the common ground lies. Nothing wrong with finding fault with the opposing point of view, either--has to be done, it's essential--but in the end, we share a country with a lot of people who don't agree with us, and we have to live with them. There's no alternative. It's their country, too.
I get the sense--again, I'm not there, and I don't have my finger on the pulse, so I could be wrong--that America is now more polarized than I can ever remember. There's really a feeling, on the Internet, at least, of two very ideologically committed camps squaring off against each other, proud and swollen with mutual distrust and contempt, uncivil, unyielding, eager to attribute to the other the most sinister of motives, unwilling even to consider that the other might occasionally have a point of view worth considering. This tendency, I'm sure, is self-reinforcing; the more it appears that way, the more committed each side will be to entrenchment, to viewing the other side as radicals and lunatics committed to destroying the country. This can't be healthy, either. The United States is not facing the most extreme threats to its existence it has ever faced, but it is certainly facing extreme threats, and a house divided against itself cannot stand.
So a few questions, ones I think we might ask on a regular basis. Who, on the self-identified Left, do we respect as a basically serious thinker with good arguments to consider? What is he or she writing these days? Which politicians in the Democratic party seem to us to be doing pretty good jobs, jobs we could live with even if we're not completely in agreement with their philosophy of governance? Are there any good policies coming out of the Obama Administration? Unexpected successes? Who, on the cultural Left, would be fun to invite to a dinner party?
I'll start first: Joseph Stiglitz has many important things to say. We ignore his criticism of the IMF, for example, at our peril.
When the IMF decides to assist a country, it dispatches a "mission" of economists. These economists frequently lack extensive experience in the country; they are more likely to have firsthand knowledge of its five-star hotels than of the villages that dot its countryside. They work hard, poring over numbers deep into the night. But their task is impossible. In a period of days or, at most, weeks, they are charged with developing a coherent program sensitive to the needs of the country. Needless to say, a little number-crunching rarely provides adequate insights into the development strategy for an entire nation. Even worse, the number-crunching isn't always that good. The mathematical models the IMF uses are frequently flawed or out-of-date. Critics accuse the institution of taking a cookie-cutter approach to economics, and they're right. Country teams have been known to compose draft reports before visiting. I heard stories of one unfortunate incident when team members copied large parts of the text for one country's report and transferred them wholesale to another. They might have gotten away with it, except the "search and replace" function on the word processor didn't work properly, leaving the original country's name in a few places. Oops.
I'd be very happy to sit down with Joseph Stiglitz and discuss ways to reform the way the world responds to banking crises. I'm sure I'd emerge from the conversation much better-informed.
More from Claire Berlinski
These bans are outrages against religious freedom and freedom of expression. They stigmatize Muslims. No modern state should be in the business of dictating what women should wear. The security arguments are spurious; there are a million ways to hide a bomb, and one hardly need wear a burqa to do so. It is not necessarily the case that the burqa is imposed upon women against their will; when it is the case, there are already laws on the books against physical coercion.
The argument that the garment is not a religious obligation under Islam is well-founded but irrelevant; millions of Muslims the world around believe that it is, and the state is not qualified to be in thebusiness of Koranic exegesis. The choice to cover one’s face is for many women a genuine expression of the most private kind of religious sentiment. To prevent them from doing so is discriminatory, persecutory, and incompatible with the Enlightenment traditions of the West. It is, moreover, cruel to demand of a woman that she reveal parts of her body that her sense of modesty compels her to cover; to such a woman, the demand is as tyrannical, humiliating, and arbitrary as the passage of a law dictating that women bare their breasts.
All true. And yet the burqa must be banned.
I'm going to reply in a new thread (Ed.: the earlier thread is here) because I need more than 200 words to make this point. Judith wrote:
Judith Levy: If I'm not mistaken, the Koran does not explicitly instruct women to cover their faces. It says their head coverings should be long enough to drape over their breasts, and that their clothing should cover them in such a way that their bodies are modestly concealed but that their faces can be recognized. That's what I see here all the time: Arab women with scarves wrapped smoothly around their faces. Their necks, shoulders and chests are covered, but their faces are completely visible. (I often see this worn together with painted-on jeans and high heels, but that's another matter.) The full burqa appears to be more of a tool by which men enforce their control over women than a divinely-instructed means by which women express their devotion to God.
I guess I'm in the ban-the-burqa camp, even though the thought of legislating what people are allowed to wear makes me break out in hives. Still -- demanding the right to completely cover yourself, on dubious religious grounds and in the age of terrorism, is a little too much to ask if you also expect to participate fully in the culture you live in. · Jul 18 at 4:11am
Actually, you can make a serious and persuasive case that the Koran does not even insist upon women covering their heads; and there's no support whatsoever in the Koran for covering the face.
The key passages are these:
24-30 Say to the believers that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; verily, God is well aware of what they do.
24-31 And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts, and display not their ornaments, except those which are outside; and let them pull their kerchiefs over their bosoms and not display their ornaments save to their husbands and fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or what their right hands possess, or their male attendants who are incapable, or to children who do not note women’s nakedness; and that they beat not with their feet that their hidden ornaments may be known.
"O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men). That is better in order that they may be known (to be Muslims) and not annoyed..." (Qur'an 33:59)
Noteworthy is the emphasis on male modesty, mentioned even before female modesty. Keeping in mind, of course, that the Koran is supposed to be untranslatable, there is much debate among Islamic scholars about the meaning of the word "zīna," which is translated here as "ornaments," but can also mean "jewels" or even "clothes." Some argue the proper interpretation is in fact "jewels." The Koran, in this interpretation, would be demanding that women be modest about their wealth--a completely plausible interpretation in view of similar demands in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Then there is this passage:
"Ayesha (R) reported that Asmaa the daughter of Abu Bakr (R) came to the Messenger of Allah (S) while wearing thin clothing. He approached her and said: 'O Asmaa! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to the face and hands." (Abu Dawood)
But this is hadith, not Koran, and this distinction is critical: The Koran is generally held to be infallible, but the hadiths, or commentary, not so much. The diyanet--Turkey's official religious affairs directorate--has made impressive reforms to the hadiths on the grounds that they promote unpleasantness toward women and therefore must be mistaken. (How does a secular country have an official religious affairs directorate? Excellent question! I told you the Turkish Constitution doesn't make much sense.)
All of this said, it's irrelevant. Millions of Moslems interpret these passages to mean that God wants women to cover their heads, at the very least. Some interpret them as meaning, cover everything. Do we really want the state to be in the business of Koranic exegesis? The last thing I want is a government that believes itself qualified to decide what God really has in mind and legislate accordingly. The idea is ridiculous.
It doesn't make sense to ban the burqa on the grounds that the Koran doesn't demand it. Even if it does, so what. The grounds for banning it must be secular.
France's lower house of parliament recently approved a bill to ban the wearing the burqa in public. I've posted a bit flippantly about this before, but in fact it's an issue about which I'm genuinely deeply conflicted. I loathe the burqa with every atom of my being, the more so because I live in Turkey and can see exactly what the garment means, every day--not only for the women who wear it (very few, here), but for the women who don't. They, too--or perhaps I should say, "we, too," since I live here as well--are gravely affected the culture that gave rise to the notion that this garment is a terrific thing. But I just can't be insensible to the religious freedom arguments. Martha Nussbaum recently made what I think is the best case that can be made against the ban. She responds to her critics here.
Do you find her arguments persuasive? If not, why not?