The first post tells why. It may be too little, but hopefully not too late.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Islamism" vs. Occam's razor: Made in West

Dr. Daniel Pipes is a knowledgeable commentator on Islam. His expertise has been sought by policy-makers up to the level of US president. That's enough for me to get interested in Dr. Pipes's opinion, trying to form my dilettante own. Sometimes it is different from his. But first things first.

When America, helped by its few remaining allies, defeated Saddam Hussein, a bloody, bestial and bloated with pride autocrat, it found nothing better than to elect Barack Hussein as President. This is as if to prove that the inevitable associations with Saddam, with Osama, with 9-11, with anything Islam, are of no concern to the home of the brave. The symbolism of this is significant, even though, of course, there is little similarity between the two rulers. If there is any, however (perish the thought), it includes the fact that both have had a relatively thin connection with the religion that provided them with their names.

Saddam was a socialist - of his national kind - and would turn to Islam as a matter of convenience. Just as Islam's founder used to, Saddam used his "religion" to justify his atrocities. Like Muhammad, he had to do that quite a bit, and in his environment Islam generally has wider currency than in the US, being integral part of tradition. While Barack is undoubtedly a socialist of a kind too, his environment gives him much less opportunities to apply his love for the "prettiest" sounds of Islam, and much more for applying the version of Christianity that he was taught by Rev. Wright - the only one he's ever known. Nevertheless, one can't accuse Barack of fully neglecting his "grandfather's" religion. As need be, he recites the Muslim statement of faith, curses those who insult Muhammad, strenuously protects women's "right" to wear hijab, and extols Islamic "learning". Occasionally, he even (mis)speaks  of himself as a Muslim.

Like his predecessor Bush II, he considers Islam "religion of peace" - despite all the proof to the contrary, from the Islamic scripture to the bloody history of Muslim conquest to the incessant and growing terror committed in the name of Islam. Individual and group terror, which has replaced Muslim nations' terror due to their military inferiority, is very successful. The West, ridden with guilt and ashamed of its religion, lacks moral clarity and ideologic spine. In fact, ideology is a curse word. Because of that, the reaction to Islam's terror is the opposite to rational: instead of Westerners' protecting themselves from the carriers of the murderous ideology, as they would from a foreign invasion, more of those carriers are imported to spread it. Just as Israel, under the same post-ideologic Western pressure and wishful thinking, gives up its hard-won territories for nothing in return, the West loses its territorial and ideological integrity to the alien invasion as well. The losses are tangible: Muslim settlers in the West tend to congregate geographically, squeezing out the infidels, and tend not to assimilate culturally. In effect, parts of countries become off limits to their prior inhabitants. This is combined with the political changes resulting from politicians' seeking votes from the growing Muslim block. Progressives - some from ignorance, others from the need to fight the evils of capitalism, yet others simply sharing antisemitism that is so respected in Islam - provide an abundant supply of collaborationists.

The argument is, of course, that it is "Islamism" that is bad, while Islam is as good as, if not better than, Judaism and Christianity. By implication, Islam should be as acceptable to the West as Judeo-Christian beliefs. Muslims do list those beliefs on the same breath: "Jews and Crusaders". They do not, obviously, list Islam on the same breath, supposedly another "Abrahamic religion", nor does anybody with a scintilla of knowledge in the West seriously consider it as another facet of the tripartite system. It does not take much to prove that both "Abrahamic religion" and "Islamism" are Western inventions.

Clearly, even in a culture that fully accepts death sentence not everybody would want to be an executioner. Similarly, it is no proof of Islam's general rejection of terror that not every Muslim is a terrorist. Anybody familiar with Islamic writings and history knows that terror has played a central role in the spread of Islam.  But why not listen to the prime-minister of a Muslim country, elected from a Muslim party - shouldn't he be trusted as a better expert than the Western thinkers when he says there is no "moderate Islam"? In Erdogan's words, "If you say moderate Islam, then an alternative is created, and that is immoderate Islam. As a Muslim, I can't accept such a concept." Then, as behooves a fine logician he is, he goes on to state the opposite to what he said: "Islam rejects extreme concepts. I am not an extreme Muslim. We are Muslims who have found a middle road." Middle - between what and what? If he is not an "extreme" one, what is he if not "moderate", if confused? His point is, anyway, that he is not a terrorist (who said he was?), and that terror cannot be called "Islamic" just as it could not be called Christian or Jewish. Of course, it could - such as when terror is committed in the name of Christianity, as it was during Jewish pogroms in Russia. Terror committed in the name of Islam, accompanied with proclaiming glory to the Islamic deity, Allah, is Muslim terror. The Turkish army chief General Buyukanit puts it succinctly: "There are certain circles that want to add the title of 'moderate Islam' to the Republic of Turkey. The source of such a title does not come from within Turkey but foreign circles."

All these facts, and more, are considered in Dr. Pipes's blog entry of 2004 and its updates - without much discussion of whether Erdogan and other Muslims who reject the concept of "moderate vs. immoderate" Islam are right or wrong. Those facts are also recently revisited in Dr. Pipes's May 2013 Washington Times article "Islam and its infidels: How extremists distorted a religion of millions". There he mentions the same arguments, but as given by his opponents, which is to say the opponents of the division of Islam into "moderate" and "Islamist" that he supports.

Unfortunately, that article presents no support for an entity termed "Islamism" to counter the continuities and consistencies in Islam. Contrary to Dr. Pipes's view, Muslims never needed to "absorb" from Europeans the concept of ideology: Islam has been a totalitarian ideology, by both intent and implementation, from Muhammad's times. Cultural and other achievements listed in the article, the fluctuating proportions of the "extremists", and variation within Islam that includes "quietists", are irrelevant. Variation exists among the followers of any ideology, as humans are thankfully not a eusocial species. After all, Schindler was a card-carrying Nazi too. That is no proof of "moderate Nazism", however.

"Islamism" remains a redundancy invented in the West, however convenient and comfortable it might be to add an "ism" and thus truncate the distribution of individual devotion to Islam's scriptural ideologic principles. Collapsing that dimension into the categories of "secularism", "apologism" and "islamism", as suggested in Dr. Pipes's article, has no foundation in reality, if only because there are no natural/scriptural boundaries between these groupings. "Quietism" of Sufis, so frequently thought of in the West as meditative mystics, wine-imbibing poets and whirling dervishes, did not prevent Shamil Basayev and other Sufis from multiple terror acts, including the mass murder of non-Muslim children in the Beslan school. Hopefully we won't try now to invent "extremist" and "moderate" Sufis - like the rest of Muslims, they obviously represent a continuum. Historically, Sufis, organized into knight-like orders with blind obedience of members to the leader, have been fanatical warriors spearheading Islamic conquest.

Contrary to Dr. Pipes, adding "-ism" to Islam is not at all similar to creating a term like fascism - rather, the analog to "Islamism" would be "fascismism", a clear redundancy. It might be comfortable to think that "Islamism" allows us to fear only "10 to 15 percent of Muslims" rather than all 1.3 bln of them - even though I'd fail to take any comfort in the 10%, especially when it translates into 130,000,000 of vicious "Islamists". There is no need, however, as Occam's razor warns us, to multiply entities when not necessary - and necessity cannot result from our need in comfort. The attempts to reify a novel entity of "Islamism" only show how well religious mimicry continues to serve Islam to mislead the wishfully thinking West.