Monday, August 21, 2006

The Islamic Revival

As the President retreats from the phrase, Islamic Fascists, let’s consider if that phrase fails not by being harsh but by not going far enough. Like Radical Islam, Fundamentalist Islam, and Militant Islam, these phrases suggest that there are different Islams. Prior terms, like extremists, fanatics, and heretics, suggest that the problem is a few who stray from the mainstream. Last year, I suggested that the term Islamic Revival accurately captures the religious and cultural changes in the Muslim world today. What is the nature of this revival?

During the century of colonial influence, Islam had atrophied into a ritualistic practice that was marginalized by the educated Westward-looking members of these societies. A confident West, triumphant in every realm and morally self-assured, appealed to the best minds in emerging nations while at the same time undermining backward stultifying traditions. The magnitude of this dynamic is evident by the abolition of the Caliphate.

Unfortunately, Muslim nations didn’t choose the liberal model best exemplified by the individualism of the Anglo-sphere but embraced the authoritarian regimes and totalitarian movements closer to Arab and Islamic dispositions. Eventually the failures of these regimes and the self-loathing in the multi-cultural West sparked a return to a vigorous practice of the original Islam. In origin, this is a totalitarian warrior ideology -- an imperialist supremacist creed.

This revival is sweeping the Islamic world. We first noticed its return in Iran followed by Taliban Afghanistan. It’s clear that Saudi Arabia is spear-heading the revival among Sunni Muslims with Iran achieving major successes in Southern Lebanon and among Palestinians. Let’s also remember that Algeria would have elected a fundamentalist regime if the military didn’t stop the elections. And Pakistan not only has the problem of Madrassahs but fundamentalism even pervades the government education system.

Egypt was long considered the most cosmopolitan and moderate of Islamic nations, which by having one of the largest Arab populations dominates Arab culture. Here, too, the Islamic Revival is becoming the dominant cultural force. Even the New York Times can no longer deny the trend. A recent article explains how "Islamism" has supplanted Arabism. The Arab defeat in 1967 was seen as “a punishment from God because we drifted far from the teachings of Islam” and the perceived defeat of Israel by Hezbollah a reaffirmation of the religion.

I argued that the Islamic attack of 9/11 was in essence a religious act reaffirming the religion and galvanizing the faithful. The religious nature of 9/11 was unimaginable to the Western mind. Now, however, even the Times is taking note of this dynamic. Or at least one writer (with a few Arab assistants) has started to notice. Have we finally overcome the politically correct prohibitions? Can we finally say that Islam is the problem?


Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Jason shows why the problem we are faced with is Islam, rather than a particular form of Islam. He notes how a NY Times article demonstrates the reality of his insight.

He then asks "Have we finally overcome the politically correct prohibitions? Can we finally say that Islam is the problem?". I submit that we are not yet near that point. Our political correctness has immunized us to the ordinary rules of analysis.

Suppose, for example, someone were to write that Christianity preaches love (or that Taoism teaches non-intervention). No one would argue that this is mistaken, by bringing up some person or phrase in Christianity (or Taoism) that provided a different perspective. It would be understood that there are predominant views that constitute an outlook, and that there are generally counterviews within any outlook. Yet there is less diversity within Islam than in any other outlook with which I am aware.

*The inability to recognize that Islam itself motivates our enemy, is not the result of a flawed attempt to understand reality, but of a commitment to avoid recognition of the obvious.*

Perhaps at this time, the most that could be accomplished is to point out the important similarities between Islam and fascism: creating an empire, totalitarian control, fanaticism, violence, barbarism, intimidation, fifth columns, propaganda, etc. It may be that only after we are devastated on our own soil, will we acknowedge that our enemy is not a departure from Islam, or extremism, or a form of Islam, or fascism, but is Islam itself.

8/21/06, 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Revival? Or Reformation?

8/21/06, 11:23 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Revival. The phrase comes from a self-reference within Islam itself. The religion is seen as being revived from a dormant phase by a return to the original practice. (See the original message.)

8/21/06, 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps it both represents a revival of the more fundamentalist sects and a reformation (purification) of the more moderate ones (so as to come closer to the Wahhabi & Sufi fundamentalism, Reformed Qutbism or Muslim Brotherhood Style Caliphate)?

8/21/06, 1:23 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

The first two Wikipedia links use the term 'Salafi.' It is often the preferred term by many of the members of this movement. Salafi is the Islam of Mohammad and the first few rightly guided Caliphs. (What other Islam is there?) This is just original Islam; I’ve used the word 'original' several times in the two articles I wrote. Thus, it is a back-to-Islam movement or a revival of original Islam.

It is certainly viewed, by the participants, as a reformation of today's corrupt disintegrated Islamic societies -- by purging Western influences and returning to the authentic Islam as the founder intended it. This sense of reform is different than the Western notion of progressive reform or modernization.

8/21/06, 2:13 PM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Anonymous asks "how does one explain the sectarian Sunni/Shi'a violence, and inter-Shi'a conflicts (Pro-Iran vs Pro-Iraq)?"

Let us note that each of the Islamic sects views itself as the only true Islam. It has been said that if Islam conquered the world, each sect would fight and destroy the other sects, and if one sect remained standing, there would be war within it.

This is in keeping with an understanding of evil, namely that it is self-destructive. If one Muslim were left standing, he would probably kill himself for being insufficiently pious, or would do so to prove his fealty to Allah. What could a Muslim live for, were there no enemies to dominate?

8/21/06, 2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iraqi Shi'a would be good candidates for democratic rule. They don't follow the "Supreme Leader - Rule of the Jurist" Khomeini brand of Shi'a Islam they follow in Iran. That makes them vulnerable to Sunni extremism, since they don't want a Khomeini style "federalist" Shi'a government or a monarchical centraly controlled Sunni dominated government. They desire a "confederacy" of "local jurists. This is like the old North vs South American Civil War.

8/22/06, 7:12 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Can we finally say that Islam is the problem?

More and more people are recognizing that. Of course, when that position is voiced, along comes some Muslim civil-rights group to object. Yet, these groups never answer satisfactorily if one knows enough about the Koran and the Haditha.

When I tell people about the threat of Islam, I conclude each statement I make with "And I can prove it." If the person to whom I'm talking is interested enough to see my proof, his/her jaw drops. I do my ranting and raving here at home to my family--never to those whom I'm trying to convince. Well, maybe not "never"--rarely. On occasion, I get too wound up, but I'm learning how not to get too wound up. And when people ask me for some good web sites for their own perusal, I often mention this one, not just AOW.

8/22/06, 7:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

al-Sistani is a quietist and preaches non-intervention in affairs of state (like Weingarten's Taoism). He is against the Khomeini inspired veleyaat e faqih.

8/22/06, 7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most Indonesian Muslims are Sunni. But within that population, their appears to be a rather significant split between the modernists and traditionalist.

8/22/06, 7:35 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Facing reality is always the goal. Many Muslims don’t fully practice the religion nor want to return to the original practice. Ideology isn’t sociology. It’s important to make distinctions between full practicing jihadist Muslims and those that are lax, lapsed, ignorant, perfunctory in their practice, selective in their practice, lack the will or nerve, or create a personal Islam in their minds.

But it is also important to remember the potential the lies in the doctrines that comprise the core of the religion. The transition from lax to fanatic can often be triggered by a personal crisis as Robert Spencer documents and Daniel Pipes calls “Sudden Jihad Syndrome.”

While I was skeptical about nations-building in Iraq, I had hoped that the Shiites (who are Arab and not Persian) might be open to a more local variant where the political aspects still remained dormant. Of course, my fears are that once they “feel their oats” they’d extract a bloody revenge from the Sunni Arabs.

The religion is only one aspect of this tribal culture. Here’s how one fellow describes the attitudes among today’s Kurds. The vets coming back from Iraq tell me of the deep hatreds between different demographic groups, sub-groups, tribes, variants of the religious practice, etc. This aspect of the sociology is important but beyond my knowledge. I only wish our political leaders would take cognizance of these facts instead of the politically correct blather that comes from every point on the political spectrum.

8/22/06, 10:05 AM  

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