Ali Eteraz On The History And Future Of Islamic Reform

Ali Eteraz, with whom I’ve had a bunch of interesting and useful discussions, has a piece up at Comment is Free at the Guardian – the first in a series on ‘The roots of Islamic reform’.

Since 9/11, “Islamic reform” has become an all-purpose phrase: equally a western impulse to protect itself from Muslim violence and a humanist notion aimed at assisting voiceless Muslims. It has also been espoused by Wolfowitz and Blair in service of their neo-colonial ambitions. Yet, the politics of Islamic reform are part of a much larger debate about power: one that goes to the heart of Islam, and connects back to western foreign policy.

Now for me, this is the 100% interesting question – because there are a set of competing belief sets within Islam today – as Islam explores its reaction to modernity – and our future relations with Islam will depend largely on the which belief set winds up as dominant.

I have argued for some time that there are a range of outcomes in the collision between Islam and the West; many people (including many commenters and posters on this blog) are suggesting that we are war with Islam – I’ll suggest that there aren’t nearly enough dead people for that to be the case. If Islam as a whole was at war with the West (or vice versa), we’d see many, many more people dying in Southwest Asia, India, the Middle East,Africa, and Europe than we do. Neither do I think that inside every Muslim is a suburban Californian waiting for the right social environment to come out.

An expansionist but nonviolent Islam is something we can live with – but an expansionist and violent Islam may not be. Understanding how Islam will evolve and how we in the West can promote the former and discourage the latter is an important issue, and I’ll suggest one worth a lot of study and thought.

Because if we can’t make that happen, the only lever we will have is power.

99 thoughts on “Ali Eteraz On The History And Future Of Islamic Reform”

  1. A.L. — can you take a look at the second sentence in your second-to-last paragraph? I think you inadvertently switched *former* and *latter*.

    “An expansionist but nonviolent Islam is something we can live with – but an expansionist and violent Islam may not be. Understanding how Islam will evolve and how we in the West can promote the _latter_ and discourage the _former_ is an important issue, and I’ll suggest one worth a lot of study and thought.”

    [ Good catch–typo fixed (“former” & “latter” switched in the post). Thanks! — Marshal Festus ]

    As always, an interesting post on a very important topic.

  2. Armed Liberal: “An expansionist but nonviolent Islam is something we can live with – but an expansionist and violent Islam may not be.”

    I agree that we have to “live with” Islam on some terms, because it’s not about to vanish. (Rather, in demographic terms, vanishing is our problem.)

    But I have a problem with what you may, possibly imply about the terms of our mutual habitation of the globe alongside those committed to the maintenance and expansion of a system that implacably aims at our subjugation and at global domination.

    I suspect that the sorts of aims that would fit the slogan “we have to live with Islam!” would be counterproductive at best and disastrous at worst.

    Only, it’s hard to say, because the phrase “live with” is so vague.

    Armed Liberal: “Understanding how Islam will evolve and how we in the West can promote the latter and discourage the former is an important issue, and I’ll suggest one worth a lot of study and thought.”

    (ignoring the “former” / “latter” thing…)

    Islam is sufficiently domineering and absolute in its demands that persistence in the aim of getting along with it rather than lessening it eventually comes down to appeasing it on terms so flexible and giving that you end up promoting it, which is what you seem to advocate here, and what I think is counterproductive if not catastrophic.

    Promoting Islam is a bad idea.

    Why are you not and why are others concerned by terrorism not advocating promoting Wicca? – non-violent Wicca of course. Let me suggest, first because there’s no need to, because it is not a threat, and second because it is not violent, so that promoting non-violent Wicca is a meaningless goal.

    When you advocate promoting a system because it is a threat and an enemy – and this is what it comes down to – this is vain appeasement. The system will not be appeased. It can’t be. It will only become stronger.

    Armed Liberal: “Because if we can’t make that happen, the only lever we will have is power.”

    This is obscure. You do not say what “levers” you have in mind other than power, and it’s a strange formulation anyway because a “lever” is power. And you say “make that happen,” which sounds admirably positive and practical, but you are meditatively ambiguous and vague on what “that” is.

    Just for a joke, imagine:

    “An expansionist Borg that’s willing to assimilate us without violence is something we can live with, but an expansionist and violent Borg may not be. Then again, I’m only saying it may not be, not that it would not be, after all, who knows, who knows?”

    “Very well: make it so!”

    (Efficient Star Fleet personnel leap to their duties and “make that happen”.)

    Or:

    “Understanding how the terminator will evolve – I assume of course that it will evolve and that “evolution in action” isn’t what it’s imposing on its victims – and how we can help it achieve its goals without its needing to resort to violence is an important issue, and I’ll suggest one worth a lot of study and thought.”

    “Thank God, a solution! OK, men: make that happen – right now!!”

  3. I’ll suggest that there aren’t nearly enough dead people for that to be the case.

    I’d certainly like for this to be the case–but how to tell if that’s what it is, or if it’s just sitzkrieg?

  4. Just as a mental exercise, let’s try dropping the adjectives: no “implacable”, no “violent”, no “peaceful” and so on.

    Should we promote Islam?

  5. Guys, I’m confused – the former I cite as supportable is “expansionist but nonviolent” while the latter is “expansionist and violent” – what am I missing?

    And yes, I’m happy to accept an expansionist and nonviolent Islam, just as I don’t mind an expansionist and nonviolent LDS represented by the kids in ties riding bikes through my neighborhood, or the expansionist but nonviolent Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to my door. Another set of people walking around handing out literature doesn’t bother me much.

    The whole killing and threatening thing has to stop, though – or else we’ll have nothing but power and our power is vastly greater than theirs.

    A.L.

  6. AL-

    bq. …an expansionist and violent Islam may not be.

    Sir, by their own words no we cannot UNLESS we submit. I will suggest for Islam to be violent and expansionist means the death or submission of the rest of us and is the status quo of today’s world. *I will NOT* live with that choice. I prefer they do not live with it either. (Yeah, I mean to say exactly that.)

    bq. An expansionist but nonviolent Islam is something we can live with…

    Now that I want to see. An expansionist anything that is nonviolent. First time in the history of the world , I believe. That a religion, political methodology or anything could be wanting to expand in the world and not be violent. I think expansionist is the quid pro quo for violence. Or I may just be finally, inextricably insane. Had to happen someday. I think I know what you tried to say, but…

    The Hobo
    “On the road again..”

  7. Let me pose it this way. The problem is not that Islam is fundamentally violent, but that only violent Islam is of any interest to the non-Islamic world.

    Of interest to those who oppose it, of course, but the portions of the left and the right who sympathize with the Islamists do so precisely because of their violence and intransigence. The creed itself means less than nothing to them; it is the militant challenge to the status quo that they like, and the violence (both rhetorical and actual) against America and Israel.

    So what would the peaceful expansion of Islam in this country look like? If it really happened, maybe with a healthy assist from multi-cult cretins in government and academia, it would be a perfect nightmare for the left once the fun of shoving it down people’s throats wore off.

    But that it extremely unlikely to happen. What would happen instead is more compounds and enclave communities, and more organizations like CAIR.

  8. “The whole killing and threatening thing has to stop, though – or else we’ll have nothing but power and our power is vastly greater than theirs.”

    That’s where you’re wrong. First, we also routinely kill and threaten to kill, so any moral superiority on this issue is moot. Second, you don’t seem to be considering the many myriad ways “power” can be projected and used for political and social gain. I’ll just toss off a few. The power of conviction. The power of threat and intimidation. The power of self-sacrifice. The power of desperation. All of these can be used as weapons very effectively in our modern world. And of course we do not have a monopoly on their use…in fact, they are all effective weapons against us. David and Goliath, Achilles, etc. and so forth.

    Our recent military escapades have not diminished these threats or even tried to address them. Homeland security is a sham and a farce. On the contrary, it seems we have made them worse and left ourselves even more vulnerable.

    The first step is to overcome the irrational fear that muslims are going to kill us. So far, the threat they currently present to our well-being barely registers as significant, even at 10x greater than it has been or is likely to be in the future.

    Get over it.

  9. AL —

    Two major problems.

    1. Islam is violent and aggressive and expansionist. It always has been, and always will be. For a variety of reasons to do with kin networks, structure of big-man-ism, polygamy, and so on, Islam never changes, has not changed, and never will change. It will always be Mohammed galloping along a trench lopping off heads. Raping the widows and daughters of the men he killed.

    Muslims are not merely colorful Episcopals. Osama and Mohammed Atta are the true faces of Islam.

    2. Even if by some magic wand Islam could be made less violent it would still be fundamentally at odds with America and Americans.

    Which of these are acceptable in the US: hatred inciting violence against Christians and Jews, polygamy, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, honor killings, oppression of women, or death for apostasy?

    We can’t live with Islam, as such the role of modern communications and technology in shrinking the world (and world growth in wealth) makes conflict inevitable. One that will result in violence in the extreme in our part.

    IMHO Wretchard’s Golden Hour is already done. Merely the last portions of the Sitzkrieg until we see our own Fall of France (likely the UK this time).

  10. Alan:

    The first step is to overcome the irrational fear that muslims are going to kill us.

    I guess those 2996 people on 9/11 will have to give up the irrational belief that they’re dead.

    The next time it could be a nuclear weapon, if not here then a city somewhere in the world.

    The good news, which you’ve already figured out, is that you are statistically unlikely to be one of the victims. Whoopee for you.

    Even better, since you’ve reduced everything to the sludge of Moral Equivalence, it’s moot to you who blows up who, so you don’t even have to feel bad about it.

  11. #5 from Armed Liberal: “Guys, I’m confused – the former I cite as supportable is “expansionist but nonviolent” while the latter is “expansionist and violent” – what am I missing?”

    You’re missing the point that Carl Von Clausewitz made when he said: “The conqueror is always a lover of peace; he would prefer to take over our country unopposed.”

    You’re missing the difference between peaceful freedom and the yoke of subjugation being fixed upon your neck entirely without resistance and thus without violence.

    #5 from Armed Liberal: “And yes, I’m happy to accept an expansionist and nonviolent Islam, just as I don’t mind an expansionist and nonviolent LDS represented by the kids in ties riding bikes through my neighborhood, or the expansionist but nonviolent Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to my door. Another set of people walking around handing out literature doesn’t bother me much.”

    You’re missing the point that Islam divides the world into two camps: the camp of Islam and the camp of war, of unbelief and evil; and that Islam aims unalterably to secure its own permanent and universal domination over the camp of war.

    You’re missing the point that the goals of Islamic expansionism carry different implications from the goals of, say, Amway’s expansionism. It is not just a new, additional choice, like a new brand of cosmetics on the market, rather it is an end to many choices, particularly the choice to abandon Islam freely and without concern about the consequences if you choose to do so.

    Islamic domination is a serious, serious business. It implies in practice and ultimately in law the end of equality of dignity, rights and social standing for non-Muslims. Islam imposes a hierarchy, and Islam and Muslims must dominate. There is Islamic law regarding this – lots of it.

    You’re missing the difference between being a free Aussie woman in your own country, where extensive dignity for women has been accepted since Queen Victoria created the nation by giving assent to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, and the lack of security and lack of dignity of being “uncovered meat” where Islamic values hold sway, and you are missing the cumulative effect of many, many points of insecurity and indignity and second class citizenship (at best) of this nature.

    You’re missing the long term effects of religiously cultivated hatred and horrible behavior, if the hatred is permanent and pervasive, in the way that Islam’s hatred of what is un-Islamic is permanent and pervasive.

    You’re missing the steady decline and cultural destruction of subjugated peoples.

    Tyranny is not less tyrannical because nobody resisted its installation.

    #5 from Armed Liberal: “The whole killing and threatening thing has to stop, though – or else we’ll have nothing but power and our power is vastly greater than theirs.”

    We continue to disagree on that.

  12. Noooobody expects the muslim inquisition. Our secret weapon is suicide attacks and oil.

    No! Our two secret weapons are ruthlessness, suicide attacks, and oil.

    No! Our three secret weapons are female domination, ruthlessness, suicide attacks, and oil.

    No wait! Our four secret weapons are ignorance, female domination, ruthlessness, suicide attacks, and oil!

    Our five secret weapons are economic failure, ignorance, female domination, ruthlessness, suicide attacks, and oil!

    Noobody expects the muslim inquisition!

    Seriously. There are mau-maus in africa who’re trying their best to take over the whole world. They do female genital mutilation, slavery, initiation ceremonies with self-mutilation and menstrual blood, not to mention literal cannibalism. There aren’t as many of them as there are muslims but once they take over subsaharan africa they’ll go after north africa next and then they’ll try to march through the middle east. They’re even worse than muslims, they just don’t have as much of a head start and they don’t have oil.

    What’s that? You say the british wiped them out when they did suicide attacks against machine guns? But that’s their secret weapon!

    Nooobody expects the Mau-Mau inquisition! Our secret weapon is suicide attacks and everybody thinks we were wiped out!

    No, our two secret weapons are ruthlessness, suicide attacks, and everybody thinks we were wiped out.

    No, our three secret weapons are female domination, ruthlessness, suicide attacks, and everybody thinks we were wiped out!

  13. J. Thomas #13 —

    Granting that your characterization of mau-maus is correct and complete: how about David Blue’s question in #4?

    Should we promote mau-mauism?

    Given the ambiguities of we and promote, how about:

    * Do you think the U.S. Congress should pass legislation that enables immigration of more mau-maus to the U.S.?
    * Should the President implement executive policies that encourage it?
    * Should citizens contribute time and money to charitable organizations that welcome mau-maus, and have our towns and cites adapt to make them more amenable to the mau-mau way of life?

    Randall Parker argues “no” to all of the above, and more, in “this 2005 post.”:http://www.parapundit.com/archives/003104.html (As a bonus, he also refers to “being-hit-on-the-head lessons)”:http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~ebarnes/python/argument-clinic.htm In Huntingtonesque “Clash of Civilization” terms, Parker sees the Islamic Menace much more in the eye-rolling spirit of J. Thomas than in the existential-threat terms of David Blue.

    But his answer is “no” nonetheless.

  14. A.L.’s point can be considered this way. Is it possible for there to be a written or issued by a unified clerical body a reformation in Islam?

    Jim Rockford stick to the subject at hand. That monsterous behavior is not universal in Islamic countries nor codified in the Koran.

  15. Glen; I don’t think a bedwetter philosophy serves any of our interests well, except to increase the statistical likelihood of the very things that are causing your paranoia. Interesting irony, no?

  16. _I’m happy to accept an expansionist and nonviolent Islam, just as I don’t mind an expansionist and nonviolent LDS represented by the kids in ties riding bikes through my neighborhood,_

    What if the LDS the kids were promoting was a racist ideology? In the U.S., I suppose one could fight bad speech with good speech. But the U.S. has strong liberal institutions and almost everyone is liberal (in the broad meaning of liberalism)

    In weak nation-states with unresolved ethnic divisions, claims of communal superiority are likely to beget violence even if the claims are nonviolent in form. So I don’t think its sufficient to make peace with an expansionist and nonviolent ideology if its spreading intolerance and hatred.

  17. I have argued for some time that there are a range of outcomes in the collision between Islam and the West; many people (including many commenters and posters on this blog) are suggesting that we are war with Islam – I’ll suggest that there aren’t nearly enough dead people for that to be the case. If Islam as a whole was at war with the West (or vice versa), we’d see many, many more people dying in Southwest Asia, India, the Middle East,Africa, and Europe than we do.

    I have to agree with that, which is why I disagree with the whole idea that Islamic reform will ever be part of the war against terrorism. If we believe that the religion of Islam is not the problem, reform of Islam can’t be the solution.

    We are at war with a political supremacist group, a group that some people call Islamism, some call Salafism and some people call ‘terrorism’. That group consists of terror-supporting states like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the U.A. E. and the Sudan; it also consists of smaller paramilitary groups that are funded by these states, like Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, Fatah al-Islam and Jamaat ul-Fuqra, which are based worldwide, including in America. This political supremacist group is supported by financial organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood. Their “non-violent” propaganda wings, including the Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, are also based worldwide.

    People join this political supremacist organization for the same reason people joined the Nazi party, the KKK, the mafia or the commies. ‘White power’, Aryan supremacy, being a made man or ‘helping the oppressed’ may have been part of the recruitment propaganda, but for the most part, people join these groups because they believe membership will give them legitimacy, money and power. And some think it might be fun to kill people.

    Reforming the religion of Islam would have the same effect on the Islamist political movement as reforming Italian culture would have on the mafia. Zilch.

    So, if there’s no connection between the religion and the current political supremacist movement that is sponsoring terrorism, why would any Muslims promote the idea of ‘reform’? To quote Willie Sutton, because that’s where the money is.

    Since 9/11, the neocons and the left, the Islamophobes and the Islamophiles have been promoting the idea of ‘rerforming Islam’ as a way of preventing war. While the average Muslim is smart enough to know that this is a waste of time, they’re also smart enough to realize that there’s money and career opportunity in ‘reform’ of Islam. Thus a completely non-productive industry is born.

  18. A.L., What type of Islam the West has to learn to live with will not be, in the end, up to the West to decide, or even to influence, in my opinion. The West has lived with a violent, expansionist Islam for 1,500 years now; just as the Islamic world has managed to live with a violent, expansionist West. Alot of people outside the West, in Africa and Asia, e.g., speak Portuguese, French, Spanish and, of course, English….just as a lot of people in Africa and Asia and Europe pray towards Mecca several times a day. There have been ebbs and flows, gains & losses, on both sides. What is going on today is nothing new–at least nothing new to the extent that any dynamic is likely to be shifted as a result of it.

    In my opinion, as I have said here before, the spike of Islamic fundamentalism in recent years is a reaction to the encroachment of western values via modern technology and globalization in traditional Islamic areas. It’s a backlash to slow, steady but inevitable change. I don’t think that either Islamic or Western Civilization is under any serious threat by the other. Both will exist for centuries to come, though the borders may shift. The difference is that in the future these borders will not be geographic but defined by more personal and mental spaces. How many people in Europe wear headscarfs, e.g., and how many people in Indonesia listen to rap, or how many people in Nigeria vote to be ruled by sharia law. I think that some muslims feel that Islam is losing this psychological battle with wesern ways and they are trying to reverse the tide or at least hold the line (to mix metaphors). (On the fringes of this minority are the terrorists and killers, the desperate, the romantic, the criminals, etc.) I’m not convinced that their visceral assessment, however, is an accurate one.

  19. mark: _I don’t think that either Islamic or Western Civilization is under any serious threat by the other. Both will exist for centuries to come, though the borders may shift. The difference is that in the future these borders will not be geographic but defined by more personal and mental spaces._

    I think you have just predicted that in the conflict between Islam and liberalism, that liberalism will win. No wonder they hate us.

  20. mary, it seems to me that the political supremacist group you define as the enemy draws its legitimacy from religion. Perhaps not Syria, but if this was just a conflict with Syria, it wouldn’t be worth much ink.

    I do not think the conflict is mutual. It is a conflict between liberalism and Islam.

  21. PD, I’d like to think that liberalism will win over time but I am not that confident about it. I do think liberalism will make some gains–in fact, has been making gains. However, I don’t think those gains will ever translate into “victory.” The conflict between the west and islam is about as eternal as you can get without leaving earth (or prose).

  22. mary, it seems to me that the political supremacist group you define as the enemy draws its legitimacy from religion.

    Yes, they do, just as the Mafia draws its legitimacy from Italian culture. Just as the Fascists draw legitimacy from European dreams of cultural superiority.

    But it’s also true that reforming the culture has no effect on criminal or supremacist political organizations, because those organizations are formed to grab what they can and to crush anything that gets in their way. They don’t need the support of 1 billion Muslims. They just need the support of a few petro-billionaires.

    Westerners who support Islamic reform also don’t take into account the fact that Islamist supremacist groups also draw their legitimacy from anti-colonialist guilt tripping and government alliances with terror-supporting states. If we’re going to try to reform anyone, we should probably start with ourselves.

  23. Alan: If the shoe fits, wear it… if you are “grown up”, I mean. Your point remains if you elide the slur. The points are what we try to foster here.

  24. Alan, I’ll be stronger – I don’t like slurs on my threads. I welcome strong challenges to the points people make here – in posts and in comments – and if you can make those challenges while showing some respect for the other people here, welcome. If not, take a hike. Actually, if not – I’ll see that you take a hike.

    I trust that I’m being perfectly clear?

    A.L.

  25. David Blue (#12) – No, I don’t think I’m missing the point; I have Orthodox Jewish friends who consider me more than a little unclean, and fundamentalist Christian friends who are very sad that I’ll be going to Hell. I manage to coexist with both in spite of their distaste for the way I live and subtle (or less than subtle) suggestions for improving it – because I don’t worry for a second that they will do me harm when I tell them no.

    Islam can divide the world into good and bad all day long as far as I’m concerned – and most Muslims that I know here in the US do exactly that. But they stop far short of supporting converting by force, or the good Christian model of “kill them all, God will take His own…”

    It’s those Muslims who don’t show a willingness to stop there that are a problem. And as I’ve noted often in the past, it’s a weird amalgam of fundamentalist Muslim and Romantic Western thought that is a particularly dangerous binary agent.

    A.L.

  26. AMac, I know almost nothing about Mau-Maus, and most of what I’ve seen came from british propaganda about them. When she read my comment my wife did a quick web search and said she didn’t see anything about cannibalism and the female circumcision was just something those societies did and it had nothing to do with the MauMaus.

    Look at Robert M’s question: _Is it possible for there to be a written or issued by a unified clerical body a reformation in Islam?_

    They have no unified clerical body and they have no provision for one. Christianity started with a few key phrases like “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church” and developed the catholic church which inherited the Mithras hierarchy and stamped out heresies and ruled for over a thousand years. Islam just doesn’t have that, they’ve been as schismogenic as protestant christians their whole history.

    So I’d figure, we don’t want to get them to band together against us.

    Like, when we started having racial upheaval in the USA, the Black Panthers were among the closest to advocating violence. And we suppressed them pretty thoroughly. But we didn’t try to suppress blacks generally, which might have resulted in a great big Black Panthers group.

    And when Hitler went after jews, he went after everybody who seeemed jewish to him. A whole bunch of people who barely recognised each other’s existence started thinking of themselves as a group, even as a nation. Hitler did more to create a concept of unified judaism than any zionist could. He did more for zionism than any zionist could. We sure don’t want that for militant islam.

    So I say, go after the ones who break laws and “subtly discourage” the ones who’re particularly interested in doing violence this year or in the next few years. Do nothing against muslims who aren’t clearly doing that. Don’t “promote” them above christians or buddhists etc, because that wouldn’t be consistent with our laws even if we wanted to do it.

  27. Getting back to:

    Understanding how Islam will evolve and how we in the West can promote the former and discourage the latter …

    It may be that when dealing with such a huge event as an Islamic Reformation, both violent and peaceful tendencies are inevitable. Knowing which current is which, and which should be promoted at any particular time in order to achieve the best possible result, is probably a game that only God can play without getting killed.

    Islam, like Christianity before it, is at odds with the modern world. It is not only the violent jihadist who is at odds, but the peaceful Muslim who cannot see how his religion is compatible with life in a free and pluralistic world community. Only the Saudi princes are at peace, because they can lay on the beach and play both sides of the game by cell phone.

    And like Christianity before it, Islam has three choices: It can try to dominate the modern world, withdraw from it, or accommodate itself to it.

    The Christian Reformation produced such an accommodation, most importantly by severing church and state. That was not what all reformers wanted – theocracy and separatism were tried as well – but that is the tendency that survived. And it survived partly because the “moderate” Christians occasionally put down the theocrats and the separatists with a heavy dose of violence.

    Christianity survived this process because it took naturally to democracy, with which it shared a common heritage in the Greeks. It also succeeded in separating itself from the state because it had a long institutional history of its own, and both reformers and counter-reformers came to understand that religion and politics had corrupted each other by mingling. Luther and others gave the separation a firm theological and philosophical basis. And Christianity fostered the notion of individual conscience which allowed it to survive hostile environments. As Shakespeare said, “Every man’s duty is the king’s, but every man’s soul is his own.”

    It won’t be so easy for Islam. Islam has never been a church. For its inception it was a doctrine tied to the destiny of people and states. Mohammed deliberately dispensed with the notion of a separate clergy that counters the worldly power of princes. In Islam, power and spirit are one and the same.

    Islam is a child of Christianity, particularly of the Monophysite Christianity that spread through Arabia before Mohammed. Mohammed radically simplified and stream-lined it. Besides jettisoning Christ, he got rid of the Holy Spirit, which in Christianity is the foundation of conscience and the impulse to do good rather than evil. In place of the Holy Spirit is submission and obedience to a historical destiny that does not distinguish between the worldly and the divine. The idea of individual choice, of maintaining a conscience separate from the world around you, is suppressed in Islam.

    How those problems can be reconciled between Islam and the rest of the world is up to Muslims to decide. It is their own future that they may decide, not the future of the planet.

    If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain.

  28. #28 from Armed Liberal: “David Blue (#12) – No, I don’t think I’m missing the point…”

    I don’t think you’re particularly inclined to miss the point, and and I wouldn’t have answered you that way except that that’s exactly how you asked it. Just fillin’ in the blanks in the form provided, no offense intended.

  29. Glen: _It may be that when dealing with such a huge event as an Islamic Reformation, both violent and peaceful tendencies are inevitable. Knowing which current is which, and which should be promoted at any particular time in order to achieve the best possible result, is probably a game that only God can play without getting killed._

    There is probably very little that a non-Muslim can do to influence another religion’s reformation. I would say thought that if one group of Muslims thinks that its religious goals can be achieved by attacking Americans, I think its in America’s best interest to identify and isolate that group. I think the U.S. military has a fairly sophisticated break-down on the various strains of Muslim thought for the very purpose of identifying potential friends and enemies. (Can’t find it though)

  30. Glenn,

    I take issue with your contention that Christianity is incompatible with the modern world. The modern world, in fact, arose in large part from Christianity. Contrary to popular opinion, medieval Europe was nothing like a theocracy. The church and state were often mutually supportive, but they were often at loggerheads, even violent loggerheads, as in the Italian civil wars Dante mentions in the Inferno. Chaucer’s Canterbury tales makes often vicious fun of clerical figures, and it’s no coincidence that Chaucer lived and worked at the English court. It all goes back to Christ’s injuction to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”

    And the Reformation hardly severed Church and State: see Church of England, New England Puritanism, Protestantism in various German states.

    Modern science also arose largely from Christianity. The Catholic church’s idea that God’s works can be studied to understand God is the beginning of modern science. Reformation Protestantism, with its doctrine of “solo scriptura” was, in fact, a step backwards. It’s no coincidence that Descartes was trained by Jesuits or that most of the early enlightenment figures (Leibnitz, Pascal, Locke, Newton) were devout Christians. The myth of the enlightenment as a revolution of reason that threw off the shackles of religious superstition was largely the creation of certain 18th century figures, especially Voltaire and the Philosophes.

    I do, though, agree that Islam has no such traditions and is therefore unlikely to go through anything analogous to our reformation or enlightenment.

  31. Fred:

    I take issue with your contention that Christianity is incompatible with the modern world.

    That was not my contention. I was talking about the Christianity of 500 years ago, which was divided by east-west schism, growing nationalism, and warring princes.

    The success of the Reformation was to create a template for individual Christian life, a sort of survival kit, that allowed Christians to live a life both of faith and normalcy in spite of the ravages and changing fortunes of politics.

    You are correct that church and state were not everywhere severed. I said that the dominant tendency was their separation. The theocratic states founded in Europe by Calvin and Zwingli did not survive. Puritanism had a longer life, but passed away. The union of church and state in England was not a historical success, it just wasn’t enough of a disaster to ruin England.

  32. I usually don’t agree with Maty’s perspectives (if this the Mary I’m thinking of), but on this thread I think she is seeing clearly and accurately (see #25 especially).

    The problem really has little to do with a rejection of modernity by “Islam”. Islamic societies make full use of all that modern technology and accumulated knowledge has to offer. This is in evidence everywhere from Saudi Arabia to Iran to Indonesia.

    Nor is the problem is the problem attributable to a Koranic command to spread Islam through “conquering” infidel lands (as some here suggest). Even Bin Laden not only knows that this is – practically speaking – an impossibility, but the evidence for even a desire to do so is completely lacking in modern times. True, Islam was expansionist in the past, but was this due to religious doctrine or more typical motives? I say the later. Certainly all other major non-Islamic cultures were at least as expansionist during the same time frame.

    Finally, the problem is not due to Islam hating us for our freedom.

    Overwhelmingly, the majority of Jihadis trained in Al Qaeda camps and similar settings never commit and act of terrorism, per se (e.g. flying airplanes into buildings, suicide bombings). Instead, Jihadis are inclined to defend Islamic people where they are perceived as being threatened/under attack by infidels (e.g. Chechnya, Bosnia/Serbia).

    This, to me seems fairly reasonable. Again, they are not training to invade the US and destroy our religious freedom and put Islam in its stead.

    Unfortunately, there are different notions of what constitutes an “attack” on Islamic people as well as when and what to do something about it.

    Which leads us to Bin Laden and 9/11……the motivations leading to the problem of terrorism against the US, Israel and their interests is best explained exactly as Bin Laden and other terrorist and Jihadis state; *terrorism is being implemented because of disliked US/Israeli policies in the Islamic world* (note: this is in no way to be taken as a justification for Bin Laden or anyone else. It is simply an explanation of why a very small segment of an otherwise generally peaceful population has declared war against the US and Israel). These policies are seen as an attack on Islam. Ditto, the behavior of “apostate regimes” like the Saudis.

  33. Avedis, just for completeness, consider the possibility that Bin Ladin and his inner circle really do want to create a single government of all muslim nations and expand its borders as far as they can, while working to eliminate the USA as a world power and eventually conquer us.

    And that they are not pushing their secret agenda, but instead claim goals that many or most arabs/muslims agree with, goals that sound fully reasonable to arabs and muslims.

    I have to figure that this is possible, just as our own neocons may have extreme goals that most americans would disagree with but they try to hide those goals and publicly say things that sound more reasonable.

    Now, does it matter if that’s true? It would clearly matter the other way. If a cabal with secret goals were to take over the US government and send the US military to achieve goals that most of the public wouldn’t agree with, that would be tragic.

    But if a privately-funded group that doesn’t actually have much money left were to have secret goals that don’t fit their public goals which many people agree with, would it matter much?

  34. _I take issue with your contention that Christianity is incompatible with the modern world._

    I contend that there have been branches of christianity that were incompatible with the modern world. They mostly haven’t thrived, though some — like the amish — are doing pretty well.

    I once visited a rich pentecostal church where one of the members told me his father belonged to a pentecostal group that said it was sinful to wear a necktie. He didn’t elaborate on that, but clearly if you can’t wear a necktie you can’t do a job that requires you wear a necktie. They cut themselves out of the sort of jobs that would require them to do modern sins, and so they were a congregation of farmers and blue-collar workers. The man who told me the story was, of course, wearing a necktie.

    To my way of thinking, christians who believe that evolution is incompatible with christianity have a form of christianity which is somewhat incompatible with the modern world. But that one doesn’t have to cause them a whole lot of trouble. Just like people who insist the world is flat don’t have to be navigators — they can just get in an airliner and get out when it lands and they never have to notice how they got there.

    Christianity is a dynamic religion with a whole lot of variation. There have been versions that were incompatible with the modern world and most of them are gone while christianity as a whole continues to thrive. That’s how it ought to be, and that’s how it is.

  35. JT, “Avedis, just for completeness, consider the possibility that Bin Ladin and his inner circle really do want to create a single government of all muslim nations and expand its borders as far as they can, while working to eliminate the USA as a world power and eventually conquer us.”

    I have considered that and have rejected it as a possibility.

    Bin Laden would be a ridiculous crazy fool if he set such a goal. Nothing in his past suggests that he is irrational or deluded. Irrational and deluded fools are not capable of successfully calculating strategic moves and carry them out. A crazy fool would have made a mistake by now and would have been capture or killed.

    In fact, his actions have closely matched his words. Basically, Bin Laden’s history shows him to be a man of his word.

    Furthermore, Bin Laden’s stated motivations are the same as several terrorist figures’ and groups’. If there really was some insane secret agenda to conquer the world – destroying the USA in the process – then I would think that by now that at least one of the lunatics adhering the agenda would have accidently or on purpose spilled the beans. But that has happened. The most you get from these people is the destruction of Israel; again, not because of Israel’s religion, but because of what they are perceived to be doing to Muslims (e.g. killing, stealing land, starving, etc).

  36. bq. #5 from Armed Liberal: “The whole killing and threatening thing has to stop, though – or else we’ll have nothing but power and our power is vastly greater than theirs.”

    One question, who is doing the threatening here? Us or them?

    I think that they are the ones doing all of the threatening and I do not believe the West takes well to them.

  37. #18 from mary: “If we believe that the religion of Islam is not the problem, reform of Islam can’t be the solution.”

    This logic is flawless.

  38. “One question, who is doing the threatening here? Us or them?

    That is part of my point and (I think) A.L.’s as well.

    If you ask them, they will tell you, in all sincerity, that we (and our proxy Israel and friend the apostate government of Saudi Arabia) are threatening them. And they will point to just as much – if not more – evidence as you can for your reverse point. And the as much as Americans get all teary eyed over 3,000 dead on 9/11, they will enumerate many times that number dead muslims as a result of US policy and get just as teary eyed.

  39. Humorous post.

    “An expansionist but nonviolent Islam is something we can live with… ”

    Consider Saudi Arabia, occupied by US military forces.
    Consider Egypt, supported and politically sustained by US aid.
    Consider Jordan, supported and politically sustained by US aid.
    Consider Pakistan, supported and politically sustained by US aid.
    Consider Iraq, militarily invaded by and at war with the US.
    Consider Afghanistan, militarily invaded and continued war involving the US.
    Consider Iran, militarily surrounded and threatened with war by the US.
    Consider the Central Asian Republics, beneficiaries of US aid and host to US military bases.
    etc.

    Expansionist Islam? What a joke. Their nation states are thoroughly saturated with US military and economic power. If anything, analysts should be considering the poor returns from current US policies toward Islam, not the pesky threats of a few rogues from a brand name of Islamic militancy.

  40. I usually don’t agree with Maty’s perspectives (if this the Mary I’m thinking of), but on this thread I think she is seeing clearly and accurately (see #25 especially)…
    …terrorism is being implemented because of disliked US/Israeli policies in the Islamic world (note: this is in no way to be taken as a justification for Bin Laden or anyone else. It is simply an explanation of why a very small segment of an otherwise generally peaceful population has declared war against the US and Israel). These policies are seen as an attack on Islam. Ditto, the behavior of “apostate regimes” like the Saudis.

    avedis, if you’re going to base your argument on mine, you might try reading the whole argument. I didn’t say that terrorism had anything to do with whether Islamists are happy or not happy with our foreign policies. I said:

    People join [the Islamist] political supremacist organization for the same reason people joined the Nazi party, the KKK, the mafia or the commies. ‘White power’, Aryan supremacy, being a made man or ‘helping the oppressed’ may have been part of the recruitment propaganda, but for the most part, people join these groups because they believe membership will give them legitimacy, money and power. And some think it might be fun to kill people.

    Before the 9/11 attacks, when we were treating the Islamic world with peace, love and understanding, al Qaeda recruited approximately 20,000 jihadis. These jihadis launched violent attacks against Africans in Kenya, launched a war in the Sudan that wound up killing millions and the launched another war that turned Somalia into a government-free dump. Al Qaeda inpired Taliban murdered tens of thousands of “insufficiently Islamic” people in Afghanistan.

    Islamists have been terrorising Hindus in India for decades. They’ve been attacking Russians, Thais, Africans and Europeans for years.

    Claiming that these attacks are based on our foreign policy is bogus tripe lifted directly from al Qaeda propaganda. These attacks have nothing to do with American or Israeli foreign policy.

    They attack us because they want what we have and we are in their way.

    And what on earth do you mean by the ‘apostate regime of Saudi Arabia’? All powerful Saudis are hardcore Wahhabis. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be in power. Was this ‘apostate regime’ thing also lifted from an al Qaeda press kit?

  41. The day of reckoning for Islam as we have known it may come sooner than you might think.

    A number of experts and bloggers have noted over the years that Muslim populations, particularly in the West but even in the Muslim world itself, are beginning to take on a significant Western characteristic: declining birth rates. The linked article says that Islamic supremacism has only about a 25-30 year window – a single generation – in which to expand its domain before demographic changes severely deplete its supply of fighting-age Muslim men. It also provides a laundry list of causes for this demographic decline, but they boil down to just one word: modernization. What will happen to Islam, and Islamic supremacism, after that window closes? None of us will likely live to learn the final answer to that, let alone to see the end of the global war, but by 2040 we should have a very good idea of how both will turn out.

  42. _Islamists have been terrorising Hindus in India for decades. They’ve been attacking Russians, Thais, Africans and Europeans for years._

    _Claiming that these attacks are based on our foreign policy is bogus tripe lifted directly from al Qaeda propaganda. These attacks have nothing to do with American or Israeli foreign policy._

    You could make a similar argument about us. We’ve been invading latin america for centuries, so when we opposed communism it had nothing to do with communists or communist policy….

    People with different cultures tend to be fractious and not get along, and there’s no one immediate reason for it. But there can be an immediate reason for a particular conflict. Whatever the inner circle of al qaeda really believes, the arguments that resonate with other muslims are the ones they publicise.

    Just like US politicians might believe something cynical but tend to take positions on things like abortion based on what they think their voters want. Lots of muslims are concerned about our expansionist military policies, and also some are concerned about our invasive TV and such.

    _They attack us because they want what we have and we are in their way._

    We could mostly ignore them except they’re sitting on oil we need.

  43. _The linked article says that Islamic supremacism has only about a 25-30 year window – a single generation – in which to expand its domain before demographic changes severely deplete its supply of fighting-age Muslim men._

    This assumes that their chance depends on lots of cannon fodder. That approach hasn’t been working in recent years. Having lots of extra mouths to feed and heads to educate has been more of a liability than an asset. And these days a large poorly-trained army is like a holding pen for a slaughterhouse, unless all they have to fight is another large poorly-trained army. That could change as the oil goes away, I guess.

    How else could they win? If they’re fanatical enough that could make a big difference. If they do suicide attacks and we don’t, because we’re too weak and greedy, would that let them win? Hardly. Unless we get so apathetic we can’t bring ourselves to stop them, and in that case we’d lose to *anybody*.

    They could win by being sneaky enough? Sneak in a few hundred nukes and destroy all our major cities? And our SLBMs would then — what? Follow their programming and attack russia?

    They could win by immigrating and saturating our population and destroying our culture from the inside? No, they’d have a long way to go to catch up with the hispanics if that’s a threat.

    Maybe they could proselytise and win a whole bunch of converts? But muslims have made essentially no converts in the USA except among blacks.

    This thing is a fantasy. There are probably some muslims who want to take over the world for their religion. There are definitely some christians who feel that way, but they’ve been pretty ineffective except to the extent that the USA is christian. I don’t think it matters much what those muslims want. But the fantasy has taken over so many US minds that it’s far, far more a threat to us than muslims are.

  44. Mary, “Before the 9/11 attacks, when we were treating the Islamic world with peace, love and understanding, al Qaeda recruited approximately 20,000 jihadis.”

    Ok, I guess you are the Mary I was thinking about and I guess I still can’t ever agree with you.

    The above quote is silly. Peace? Love? Understanding? We were militarily and economically occupying their holy lands. Please see #44 from Mark P. as a good overview.

    I mean think about it for one minute.

  45. “And what on earth do you mean by the ‘apostate regime of Saudi Arabia’?”

    That is the term that Bin Laden and other similar characters use for the government of Saudi. For example, one beef AQ has with the Saudi govt is allowing the US to establish military bases and to occupy.

    If you had actually read what these AQ characters are saying – and not what some US politician or PC pundits are saying they’re saying, then you would not have asked the above question.

    This is the problem. Everyone wants to hold an opinion without learning the facts first- this is especially a major barrier to understanding issues when they involve foreign cultures and are emotionally charged due to events like 9’11. Worse, opinions at their most cynical – always seem to reflect some pre- established agenda. On the more benign end of the scale the opinions are merely projections of one’s own thinking and rarely bear a resemblance to the external reality.

    Again, I strongly recommend that everyone interested in this topic read – not just selectively, but the entire body of available material – what Bin Laden and other terrorists are saying and have said.

    You will find they are remarkably consistent and cohesive and coherent.

  46. Avedis, You have a rather broad definition of “occupy.” Yes, we had troops in Saudi Arabia, but they were a minimal number kept as far away from the population as possible. They had no influence on Saudi society or government policy (remember all that cooperation we got investigating Khobar Towers). They were there to protect the Saudi oil fields from being snatched by Saddam Hussein if he ever got the ability back, and they left as soon as Saddam was overthrown. Now if just having troops in a particular place equals occupation, then you’re right, but that’s a rather ideosyncratic definition of occupation.

  47. _Yes, we had troops in Saudi Arabia, but they were a minimal number kept as far away from the population as possible._

    I’m not clear how many there were or how fast we could build up. More important, lots of saudis weren’t clear on that. It was good we tried to keep them away from the population, but I remember interviews at the time with US women soldiers who claimed they were having an effect on saudi women. Just by being armed women in uniform driving around with equal rights. We might have been better off if we could have reduced the interactions with saudi civilians even more than we did.

    _They had no influence on Saudi society or government policy (remember all that cooperation we got investigating Khobar Towers)._

    As we saw, they influenced saudi society just in the knowledge they were there, and likely more. The saudis were trying hard to keep out various forms of contraband like pornography, and wherever our soldiers interacted with saudis there was the chance to smuggle such things.

    Hard to tell about government policy. There was a question how much loyalty the saudis had for their rulers. At one point a group of pilgrims had taken over mecca and declared an insurrection, and some of the saudi military was incompetent or disloyal about rooting them out. They got a loyal competent unit that did it, but it caused some speculation that it took so long. So, suppose that saudis thought US forces there might be partly intended to put down coups and such. If that turned out to be true, the royals would have us to put down their population (which might be yearning for democracy or something) and also to the extent the royals depended on us they’d accomodate us on government policy.

    I’m not saying that was happening. But I am saying that it might look plausible to many saudi citizens that it was happening. And from my perspective I don’t see how to prove it wasn’t happening if it wasn’t.

    Back in the day, the soviets mostly didn’t keep many troops at all in eastern europe apart from east germany, but whenever something happened they really didn’t like they invaded and fixed it. Poland, czechoslovakia, hungary, etc. Technically they weren’t exactly occupying those countries, but the effect was pretty similar. How much was the saudi government acting as our puppet, depending on us to prevent a revolt? I don’t see a lot of evidence in either direction.

    The best evidence I see that it wasn’t so is that after we moved the troops out there hasn’t been a revolt yet. On the other hand, if there is a revolt and we put it down with ready troops stationed in kuwait and iraq, that would be evidence the other way round.

  48. J Thomas #54 sez:

    It was good we tried to keep them away from the population, but I remember interviews at the time with US women soldiers who claimed they were having an effect on saudi women. Just by being armed women in uniform driving around with equal rights. We might have been better off if we could have reduced the interactions with saudi civilians even more than we did.

    Saudis didn’t want US troops out of Arabia because Americans were _interacting_ with them. They wanted US troops out because Mohammed said in the Koran to drive all the Christians and Jews and non-Muslims out of Arabia. The same Saudis who feel that way also think the same way about American and other contractors in country working in the oil fields. It doesn’t have anything to do with US policy.

    On another theme, the Christian Reformation was mostly peaceful because Christ was peaceful, not because Reformations are. The Islamic Reformation has already happened. The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) started it. Sayed Qutb wrote it down. And Al Qaeda is its revolutionary vanguard. As Mohammed formed Islam in an orgy of bloodletting, so its reformation is bloody and awful.

    [Blockquote fixed – David Blue]

  49. If you had actually read what these AQ characters are saying – and not what some US politician or PC pundits are saying they’re saying, then you would not have asked the above question.

    I knew that was a quote from bin Laden – that’s why I knew you got it from his propaganda. Have you ever heard of the term ‘rhetorical question?’

    This is the problem. Everyone wants to hold an opinion without learning the facts first- this is especially a major barrier to understanding issues when they involve foreign cultures and are emotionally charged due to events like 9’11.

    Since you know so much about foreign cultures, what do you know about Saudi government support of Al Haramain? What percentage of Saudi citizens support bin Laden’s goals? What do you know about the trouble out of Nejd, Saudi destruction of Jannat al-baqi and the Muslim world’s reaction, how Jack Philby worked with Ibn Saud to gain Saudi ownership of Mecca and Muslim opinions about Saudi control of the holy places?

    Which country supplies the car bombers in Iraq? Which country pays al Qaeda’s bills?

    And when you read al Qaeda’s press releases, do you ever wonder if people who join a supremacist paramilitary group whose goal is to murder innocent civilians might be capable of making stuff up?

  50. People with different cultures tend to be fractious and not get along, and there’s no one immediate reason for it.

    Saudis have been financing madrassas in Pakistan for decades. Tribal students in these remote madrassas plan careers fighting the infidels in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Southeast Asia. The reason why these particular people are (and have been) “fractious” is because they are trained and paid to be. They’ve been raised to believe that infidels aren’t human anyway. A career killing these non-humans is probably more appealing to them than goat herding.

    Lots of muslims are concerned about our expansionist military policies, and also some are concerned about our invasive TV and such.

    If they don’t want a war they shouldn’t start one. If they can’t grasp that simple logic, there’s not much we can do.

  51. Yeah, J. Thomas, the Saudis had us there to protect them from the democratic yearnings of their people. Gimme a break. The point I was making was that having troops in a particular area does not in itself amount to occupation unless you seriously define occupation down. By the most common definition I’m aware of “occupation” means using the troops you’ve got in a place to run it, like we did in Japan just after WW II or in Iraq from 2003-2005. Or like the Germans did in most of Europe between 1939 and 1945.

  52. Not just that but occupiers dont generally vacate the nation for no apparent reason (if you buy into the occupation logic anyway) and leave the nation billions of dollars worth of bases.

  53. The problem, avedis, is that the AQ ideologies tend to say one thing in English and another in Arabic.

    By coincidence, the author of the Al Queida Reader “had a piece on the web yesterday…”:http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=8ytztvdt6sy6x5p550p2m258myk1c1nm

    Surprisingly, I came to discover that most of these had never been translated into English. Most significantly, however, the documents struck me as markedly different from the messages directed to the West, in both tone and (especially) content.

    It soon became clear why these particular documents had not been directed to the West. They were theological treatises, revolving around what Islam commands Muslims to do vis-à-vis non-Muslims. The documents rarely made mention of all those things — Zionism, Bush’s “Crusade,” malnourished Iraqi children — that formed the core of Al Qaeda’s messages to the West. Instead, they were filled with countless Koranic verses, hadiths (traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), and the consensus and verdicts of Islam’s most authoritative voices. The temporal and emotive language directed at the West was exchanged for the eternal language of Islam when directed at Muslims. Or, put another way, the language of “reciprocity” was exchanged for that of intolerant religious fanaticism. There was, in fact, scant mention of the words “West,” “U.S.,” or “Israel.” All of those were encompassed by that one Arabic-Islamic word, “kufr” — “infidelity” — the regrettable state of being non-Muslim that must always be fought through “tongue and teeth.”

    …over to you, avedis…

    A.L.

  54. I think its critical to be aware of what OBL has to say, but it is foolish to substitute his recitation of history for the real facts.

    The U.S. has had troops and bases in Saudi Arabia since shortly after World War II. This was part of a mutual defense agreement that waxed and waned over the years. My father-in-law was stationed there in the 50s. OBL’s fixation on the build-up to oust Saddam has a personal component.

    Also, its been said upthread that the troops were stationed in Holy Land. That is true if you accept OBL’s religious interpretation. The mandate is to expel the Mushrikken from the Penenensula. _Mushrikken_ is usually defined as polytheists, not Christians or Jews. Umar subsequently expelled Jews and Christians only from the Hijaz (Western Arabia).

  55. Its also interesting that we take seriously this Holy Land nonsense unblinking when it comes to Muslim demands (much less OBL)

    Now if somebody claimed that the _true_ Zionists’ (far more ancient) claims to Holy Land (and the ethnic cleansing involved) were points that at the least deserved addressing and at most compromise… well just the idea that civilized people should validate this kind of crime by giving it serious consideration would have the world in an uproar (rightly so).

  56. _Saudis didn’t want US troops out of Arabia because Americans were interacting with them. They wanted US troops out because Mohammed said in the Koran to drive all the Christians and Jews and non-Muslims out of Arabia._

    Whole populations don’t usually do things for one single reason. What you’re saying is a whole lot like saying the USA didn’t want to get rid of Saddam because of his WMDs, we wanted the oil.

    Whatever else was going on, interacting with foreign troops was bound to be an irritant and we were right to reduce the interaction as much as we reasonably could, if you agree we wanted to keep our troops in saudi arabia (for whatever reasons we had them there) more than we wanted to encourage cultural ferment in arabia.

    _On another theme, the Christian Reformation was mostly peaceful because_

    Stop right there. We appear to have had some kind of convergence of alternate histories, and you’re coming from a world where the christian reformation was mostly peaceful. I’d be interested in how things worked in your world, but it doesn’t have much to do with my world’s history.

  57. _Yeah, J. Thomas, the Saudis had us there to protect them from the democratic yearnings of their people. Gimme a break._

    Say that Bin Ladin started a revolt and didn’t win quick, but the issue was in some doubt. Would the saudis ask us for military help, away from their holy cities? If so, would we provide it? It doesn’t seem all that implausible to me, assuming there _was_ a serious revolt that had a chance against the saudi royals’ weak military.

    Whether the yearning to get rid of the royalty was democratic or not — I guess we could let them win and then find out how democratic they were. Or we could claim ahead of time that they weren’t democratic at all and then crush them and then afterward say what a good thing it was we crushed them since they were undemocratic bad guys.

    _The point I was making was that having troops in a particular area does not in itself amount to occupation unless you seriously define occupation down._

    I agree. You’d have to define it down at least to the point you’d say that eastern europe was occupied. And it isn’t obvious that we were ready to do even as much as the USSR did in eastern europe. Hard to prove we weren’t, hard to prove we were. I can understand saudis who wanted to make sure we weren’t ready either to threaten the saudi government or to support it against its people.

  58. J Thomas – there’s a key and obvious issue you’re missing. If we had installed the Saudis and managed them – then we’d be occupying them. But they were running the area before we had any involvement with them (albeit with British assistance) – but it’s ridiculous to compare the House of Saud (which probably has more influence over our government than we do over theirs) with the Allied Control Council in Germany or McArthur in Japan. Those were occupations. Did the Society Union occupy Poland, Hungary, or Czechoslovakia? Yes. Did they occupy Yugoslavia? Not so much.

    The distinction between those histories and the history of Saudi Arabia seems so obvious not to bear mention…

    A.L.

  59. _I think its critical to be aware of what OBL has to say, but it is foolish to substitute his recitation of history for the real facts._

    Agreed. What he says resonates with a lot of muslims. That’s worth noticing. But Bin Laden doesn’t get all that much support from it.

    “world public opinion poll”:http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/apr07/START_Apr07_rpt.pdf

    But Bin Laden doesn’t get all that much support from it.

    “pew poll”:http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?PageID=833

    (Incidentally, this study implies there’s something going on with nigerian muslims that’s probably worth a closer look. It says that christians don’t think nigerian muslims support bin ladin as much as nigerian muslims think they do. Usually the nonmuslims believe that muslims in their country support Bin Ladin far more than muslims in that country claim.)

    If we need to pay attention to muslims at all, then we need to pay attention to what they believe and what they want. What we choose to do about that is something else, but we at least need to get a sense of where they stand.

    Bin Ladin has said he wants things that a lot of muslims want. Whether or not he really wants those things, a lot of muslims do want them.

  60. AL, it looks like you *are* ready to define occupation down, but not quite far enough to talk about our troops in saudi arabia as occupation.

    I personally wouldn’t define it down as far as you do. But my point is that I can understand people who’d want to define it down farther. If there were more chinese troops protecting the USA than there were in the whole US military, and they were in easy reach of DC, and our government consistently did what the chinese wanted on the issues they particularly cared about, and our government had pretty much lost transparency, I might think of us as occupied.

    The saudi government doesn’t have enough transparency for me to be certain they have more influence on us than we have on them. With their lack of free speech I don’t know how loyal their population is to them or whether there’s a significant revolt brewing.

    Imagine that al qaeda started a revolt against the saudi government, and it looked like it might succeed — most saudis didn’t take sides and the small minority supporting al qaeda was doing better than the small minority supporting the royals — and now imagine that Bush didn’t allow US troops to support the saudis when the saudis asked for us to.

    Would that be grounds for impeachment? (I’d think so, though I think there are sufficient grounds already.)

    And yet, intervention to prop up a nontransparent, democracy-hating monarchy is just the sort of thing we usually wouldn’t want foreign armies to do anywhere. And it isn’t at all implausible that we’d do just that in saudi arabia.

  61. I think its one thing to acknowledge what people want, another to accede to it (which few advocate), but another still to validate it- which some Westerners (Professor Cole I would say) do advocate.

    Arabs in particular style themselves great traders, but their style and goals are different than the Western way. Westerners have a tradition (whether it is largely adhered to or not) of at least giving the appearance of seeking a win-win in negotiation. That concept is foriegn to many cultures- the winner is the guy that fleeces the other guy and the loser is the loser, period.

    That starts with simple concepts like establishing mutual agreement on facts. Westerners seek clarity (‘we both want this so here is why my proposals is good for you’) while Arabs seek to enhance their position by dictating the terms in a way favorable to them, whatever the reality.

    The first check is here- one Western school of thought is to establish the terms first while another insists that in the interests of moving on with the negotiations we should accede to the validity of their point of view (after all, they dont really believe it so we’re not actually losing anything). But doing this is an admission of weakness. It _will_ be harkened back to at some point and payment demanded for it.

    The problem with this misunderstanding is that the Westerner may think the issue is set aside and will ultimately disapear in the interest of the larger deal being forged ahead with. To the Arab this is their ace in the hole to be brought out just before the signatures go on the dotted line.

    Look at the way the Palestinians have negotiated over the years and tell me the above doesnt play itself out over and over again.

  62. _”If there were more chinese troops protecting the USA than there were in the whole US military, and they were in easy reach of DC, and our government consistently did what the chinese wanted on the issues they particularly cared about, and our government had pretty much lost transparency, I might think of us as occupied.”_

    Aside from the transparency issue you might have just described the US relationship with Canada- moreover the transparency doesnt apply to Saudi Arabia because they never had a transparancy to lose.

    Better question, how has the behavior of the Sauds materially changed since US troops entered the region? Their support of terrorism sure hasnt suffered, so either we are lousy occupiers or not very concerned with self-preservation.

  63. A.L. #61, This guy who wrote the article is also selling a book that contains – according to him – new insights into AQ. His providing new insights is the reason you should buy his book (he says). You are using excepts from a sales pitch to attempt to make a point. Very bad practice, Questions; have you actually read Ibrahim’s book to verify that it actually makes the case he says it does? What is the assessment of the porputed scholarship by respected authorities?

    What Ibrahim is proposing is different than what experts – like CIA AQ expert “Ananomous” who wrote “Through Our Enemies Eyes” says (in fact he – Michael Schraurer (sp?) – agrees with me and he has certainly been priviledged to translations of all of Bin Laden’s (and others) material.

    At this point I will consider your link to be of the same quality of counter argument as your comparing your high school’s record keeping to theat of the DoD.

    However, it does not surprise me that Bin Laden would refer to the Koran and certain interpretations of certain passages because he does seek religious legitimacy; requires it really. Muslims are very devout people in general.

    Now the Koran would not speak about US policy towards the region because the US didn’t exist when the Koran was written. Instead, general statements pertaining to infidels (and so on and so forth) must be extracted to gain the religious legitimcay that Bin Laden seeks.

    All leaders of non-atheistic groups engage in this sort of selective (and often twisted) application of ancient texts to modern situations. So I don’t think that Bin Laden’s doing so is in any way, shape or form a reflection on Islam in particular.

    At a ridiculous level; Football players even pray to god for victory before the big game. Does this mean that the christian god is a football fan? No. People just tend to seek religious affirmation in their activities. Nothing unique to Islam or Bin Laden.

  64. avedis – yes, I’ve read the book; I’ve also read Qutb – which I’d suggest for anyone who wants to talk about the intellectual roots of this issue.

    That’s why I don’t see it as a simple colonialism/liberation dichotomy as Bin Laden and AQ present in their Western-friendly English commentary.

    Back to you again…

    A.L.

  65. _At this point I will consider your link to be of the same quality of counter argument as your comparing your high school’s record keeping to theat of the DoD._

    He wasn’t talking about DoD, he was talking about a state-run national guard. Two state-run national guard organizations, from texas and alabama — among the ones that would be natural candidates for the most incompetent and most corrupt wrt long-term record-keeping.

    If there ever were any TANG records that would make Bush look bad, it makes sense they’d be deleted as a favor to his father. And if they got past that, it’s hard to believe they’d survive Bush’s term as governor of texas.

    If they survived both of those, that’s a real strong sign of incompetence for texas record-keepers.

    On the other hand, DoD might have very good records. But would they be available after 4 years of Bush presidency? Maybe they will become available sometime in 2009.

    Anyway, there could easily be as much incompetence in record-keeping for a state national guard as for a high school.

  66. I don’t know, A.L. you’ve read the book and I haven’t. But here’s an excerpt (the “secret speaches never before translated”) from the book. Looks to me like the same grievances are enumerated to the Islamic population.

    Also, this was posted in Al Quds.

    I remain unconvinced at this point that Ibrahim has done anything more than translated and edit passages so as to make his point; which seems to be very Islamophobic and racist (hence his popularity with the “faster pleae” NRO crowd).

    Praise be to Allah, who revealed the Book [Koran], controls the clouds, defeats factionalism, and says in His Book: “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them–seize them, besiege them, and be ready to ambush them” [9:5]. And prayers and peace be upon our Prophet,Muhammad bin Abdullah, who said: “I have been sent with the sword between my hands to ensure that no one but Allah is worshipped–Allah who put my livelihood under the shadow of my spear and who inflicts humiliation and scorn on those who disobey my commandments.”

    Never since Allah made the Arabian Peninsula flat, created its desert, and encircled it with seas has it been stormed by any force like the Crusader hordes that have spread in it like locusts, consuming its wealth and polluting its fertility. All this is happening at a time in which nations are attacking Muslims in unison–as if fighting over a plate of food! In face of this critical situation and lack of support, we are all obliged to discuss current events, as well as reach an agreement on how [best] to settle the matter.

    No one argues today about three well-established facts, known to everyone; we enumerate them as a reminder, so that the one remembering may remember.

    1. For over seven years America has been occupying the lands of Islam in its holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula–plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead with which it fights the neighboring Muslim peoples.

    While some people may have argued in the past over the realities of the occupation, all the people of the Peninsula now acknowledge it. There is no clearer evidence than America’s ceaseless aggression against the Iraqi people–all launched right from the Peninsula, though its rulers collectively refuse having their land used for this end. But they have been subdued.

    2. Despite the awful devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people at the hands of the Crusader-Jewish alliance, and despite the astronomical number of deaths–which has exceeded 1 million–despite all this, the Americans attempt once again to repeat the horrific massacres, as if the protracted sanctions imposed after the brutal war, or the fragmentation and devastation, was not enough for them.

    So now here they come [again] to annihilate what is left of this people and humiliate their Muslim neighbors. [6]

    3. Now if the Americans’ purposes behind these wars are religious and economic, so too are they also to serve the Jews’ petty state [Israel], diverting attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and the murder of Muslims there. There is no better evidence of this than their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region–such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan–into mini—paper states, whose disunion and weakness will guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal Crusader occupation of the Peninsula.

    All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on Allah, His Messenger, and the Muslims. Ulema throughout Islamic history are unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty whenever the enemy tears into the lands of the Muslims. This was related by Imam bin Qudama in al-Mughni; Imam al-Kisa’i in al-Bada’i; al-Qurtubi in his commentary; and the Sheikh of Islam [Ibn Taymiyya] in his chronicles, where he states: “As for defensive warfare, this is the greatest way to defend sanctity and religion. This is an obligation consensually agreed to [by the ulema]. After faith, there is nothing more sacred than repulsing the enemy who attacks religion and life.”

    On that basis, and in compliance with Allah’s order, we hereby issue the following decree to all Muslims:

    The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies–civilians and military–is an individual obligation incumbent upon every Muslim who can do it and in any country–this until the Aqsa Mosque [Jerusalem] and the Holy Mosque [Mecca] are liberated from their grip, and until their armies withdraw from all the lands of Islam, defeated, shattered, and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the Word of the Most High–“[F]ight the pagans all together as they fight you all together” [9:36] and the Word of the Most High, “Fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and [all] religion belongs to Allah” [8:39].

    And the Most High said: “And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and on behalf of those oppressed men, women, and children who cry out, Lord! Rescue us from this town and its oppressors. Give us from Your Presence some protecting friend! Give us
    from Your Presence some defender!” [4:75].

    By Allah’s leave we call upon every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah’s order to kill the Americans and seize their money wherever and whenever they find them. We also call on Muslim ulema, leaders, youths, and soldiers to launch the raid on the Devil’s army–the Americans–and whoever allies with them from the supporters of Satan, and to rout those behind them so that they may learn [a lesson].

    Allah Most High said: “O you who have believed! Respond to Allah and the Messenger whenever He calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah comes between a man and his heart, and that it is He to whom you shall [all] be gathered” [8:24].

    Allah Most High said: “O you who have believed! What is the matter with you? When you are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, you cling so heavily to the earth! Do you prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, in comparison to the Hereafter. Unless you go forth [and fight], He will punish you with a grievous torment, and put others in your place. But He you cannot harm in the least; for Allah has power over all things” [9:38—39].

    Allah Most High said: “So do not lose heart, nor fall into despair. Have faith and you shall triumph” [3:139].

    Sheikh Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden
    Ayman al-Zawahiri, Commander of the Jihad Group in Egypt
    Abu Yasir Rifa’i Ahmad Taha, Egyptian Islamic Group [7]
    Sheikh Mir Hamza, Secretary of the Organization of Islamic ulema in Pakistan
    Fazlur Rahman, Commander of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh

    This statement is more commonly known as The World Islamic Front’s Declaration to
    wage Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders, issued February 23, 1998, in the Arabic
    newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

  67. …..and that being said, to return to my point about the universal perceived necessity of tying some form of religious authority to justify one’s actions, here’s George Bush (our Armed Forces Commander in Chief) sounding an awful lot like Bin Laden, “I am driven with a mission from God’. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did. And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me….”

    Power hungry aggressive people always try to tie themselves to religious validity. That’s why Pope and King always stand side by side and why our wise and judicious founding fathers intended a separation of church and state. A separation that, apparently, is tenuous at best.

    So what if Bin Laden does this? He would have no traction if it wasn’t for the perception of a % of the Islamic population (and a small % at that) that he is not only correct, but that the problem is serious enough to act on.

    Muslims are devout. If Bin Laden’s attempts at religiously based validity were taken seriously, then we would be attacked on a daily basis; there are simply that many devout muslims in this country or capable of entering this country.

    The fact that this isn’t happening means that the religious motivation isn’t there. Islam is not at war with us.

    Instead we have a handful of pissed off intelligent, clever, capable fanatics who use whatever means necessary to justify their actions and to entice others to join their cause.

    What, exactly, is their cause? Obviously it is just what they say it is. To expell western and eastern (non-islamic) influences from their region and to re- establish an islamic caliphate – wherein, incidentally, Bin Laden would be the main man.

    Ok, good luck, asshole. That’s a mission impossible enough. Even he knows that. The overthrow of the rest of the non-islamic world? Not even in Bin Laden’s wildest long term day dreaming.

  68. “If there were more chinese troops protecting the USA than there were in the whole US military, and they were in easy reach of DC, and our government consistently did what the chinese wanted on the issues they particularly cared about, and our government had pretty much lost transparency, I might think of us as occupied.”

    _Aside from the transparency issue you might have just described the US relationship with Canada- moreover the transparency doesnt apply to Saudi Arabia because they never had a transparancy to lose._

    But the canadians don’t seem to be at all concerned about US troops invading them. We have a good relationship; mostly they do what we tell them to but when it’s something they really care about we let them do it their way.

    It doesn’t matter that saudi arabia never had transparency, the point is it doesn’t have that now and anybody who’s guessing what kinds of influence the saudi government responds to just has to guess. You can tell me your guess is right and all the saudis ought to agree with you. But it’s still your guess and many of them don’t agree.

    _Better question, how has the behavior of the Sauds materially changed since US troops entered the region? Their support of terrorism sure hasnt suffered, so either we are lousy occupiers or not very concerned with self-preservation._

    They’ve consistently pumped enough oil to keep prices low, except for the embargo and until very recently. Recently they started pumping low-quality oil with the implication that this is what they have left.

    Of course we haven’t noodged about a little terrorism — a few embassies and soldiers getting blown up was no big deal to our government. Plenty more diplomats and soldiers where those came from. 9/11 was a big deal, a giant media event, but that resolved optimally for Bush.

    The only really significant change I see in their behavior is this recent failure to increase pumping rates. I don’t know what it means.

    Their very politely asking us to get our troops out of their country could be another change. I tend to doubt it was significant. Probably they didn’t want the appearance that we were either controlling them or that they depended on us to help them stay in power — completely apart from any reality they didn’t want it to look that way.

  69. avedis – you’ve just changed the basis of the argument. The issue at hand is whether the radical Islamists are motivated by what we’d consider ‘sane’ issues – like the desire to get colonizing troops (assuming arguendo that there are colonizing troops – which I don’t support) out of Saudi Arabia or get a Palestinian state – which are issues which we can negotiate over in practical terms, or if they are arguing against modernity and the West, in which case they can never get what they want.

    It’s not about how they use religion.

    A.L.

  70. Oh…well maybe I got off track, but I swayed there by others here.

    To directly offer my perspective, Bin Laden wants infidels and anyone who doesn’t see Islam as he and his buddies do, out of the region and himself (preferably) or his buddies ruling over the region in accordance to their interpretation of Sharia.

    They do not want to expand Islam over the globe and across the US. They’d be happy if it happened, but it is not within their scope.

    Why do they feel motivated to accomplish this? Probably, ultimately, for none of the above reasons (including those stated by me). Maybe the root cause is rough potty training, I don’t know. Whatever it is it is born of the same psychic energies that impell great men of history to do what they do for better or worse, good or bad.

    Closer to the surface, the important thing to keep in mind is that the most ostensible motivation is not a Koranic commandment to kill infidels wherever they can be found, but the desire to for ever reverse the history of colonialism that began with the crusades.

    MInd you, I am not making excuses. Our enemies must be killed whatever the history or justification is.

    I’m just saying that by understanding we can make informed choices in the future and we will better understand the consequences that we will have to pay when we make a given choice.

  71. “history of colonialism that began with the Crusades” – interesting, that.

    “The Crusades were a series of military conflicts of a religious character waged by much of Christian Europe during 1095–1291, most of which were sanctioned by the Pope in the name of Christendom.[citation needed][1] The Crusades originally had the goal of recapturing Jerusalem and the sacred “Holy Land” from Muslim rule and were originally launched in response to a call from the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire for help against the expansion of the Muslim Seljuk Turks into Anatolia.” – from “Wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades .

    The Arabs didn’t control Jerusalem and the Holy Places – because the Arab nation was founded in Medina in the 6th Century.

    So how far back do you want to go, or can only Western powers be colonialist?

    A.L.

  72. The Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem died out because Europeans failed to colonize Palestine. People went there to see holy places, do penance, and fight Saracens, not to settle.

    Take away all the holy places and it’s not exactly the French Riviera.

  73. _The issue at hand is whether the radical Islamists are motivated by what we’d consider ‘sane’ issues – […] or if they are arguing against modernity and the West, in which case they can never get what they want._

    No, that can’t possibly be the issue at hand. We can’t negotiate with those people because they don’t control any governments anywhere to negotiate with. Negotiating with radical islamists is like negotiating with palestinians — no real government, nobody who can speak for them, nobody who can make deals.

    But unlike the palestinian situation where for a very long time the israelis have done everything they could to keep the palestinians from having a government that could speak for them, attempting to install corrupt governments that palestinians wouldn’t follow. Radical islamists aren’t running any government anywhere because they haven’t yet been strong enough to take over any muslim nation.

    You might as well ask whether libertarians are motivated by sane issues.

    If you care about radical islamists taking over governments, then it might be useful to look at what muslims generally want — because those are the issues that radical islamists might use to take over. And it would be most useful to look at the things they want that involve us, because those are the ones that we have choices about.

    So for example if muslims are concerned that their economies haven’t done as well as they’d like, we *could* look at how to improve their economies. We’ve had 60 years of experience showing that we either don’t know how to develop underdeveloped economies or else we don’t want to, but we could try. We could point out that apart from problems of natural resources invasive governments are one of the worst problems. (Syria and egypt are famous for their bureaucracies, given a labor surplus they hire lots of bureaucrats who interfere with everything and slow down business.) Could we do much to solve that for them? The education problem is not so bad — given a rel chance to make money people will usually learn what it takes. Do we even have a big priority to help muslims develop strong economies that would rival ours and would use a lot of oil? Maybe that’s their problem.

    On the other hand, a whole lot of muslims care about our wholehearted support for israel against palestinians. They’d like us to be evenhanded. It can be argued that they don’t care all that deeply, really. Just like a lot of people claim to really care about abortion but hardly anybody bombs abortion clinics, they don’t care all that deeply either. A whole lot of muslims would like us better if we because an honest broker for israel. But there’s no way in hill we’d do that because it isn’t a sane issue for _us_. That one isn’t negotiable we’re going to support israel come hill or high water.

    There are something like half a dozen “sane” issues that a lot of muslims care about — I gave a link to a poll that went over that — but we happen to *disagree*. And rather than discuss the issues we prefer to say that radical islamist don’t really care about the issues, really they want everything so there’s no point in doing anything except war against them. Which is the one position we could take which could get them enough support to take over a government….

  74. Armed Liberal, you’ve made a couple of substantial points I haven’t really addressed and that deserve at least explicit acknowledgment, and since it seems you’re still participating in this thread it’s not (in effect too late for me to front up, so I will.

    Also, I think we’re talking past each other to some extent, and I’d like to clarify what we’re both really saying and reduce “talking past” to a minimum. (And I would be happy if you would say, yes I’ve understood you or no I’m not getting it – and if you have to say it’s the latter, I will not be offended.)

    To begin…

    You frame the conflict as a possible but not actual conflict between violent Islam and modernity and the West.

    I on the other hand see Islam in actual conflict with the House of War, with unbelief. I’m not seeing “modernity” as a player at all.

    So we have different ideas on what casualties are relevant to Islam’s menacing aggressiveness. You see casualties in the West (and to modernity) as relevant. I expect Islam, at war with unbelief, to attack weak targets by preference. I see attacks on and ethnic cleansings of Hindus in India, Animists and Christians in Africa, Buddhists in Thailand, and so on, as relevant. I see them as demonstrating Islam’s character, and as showing what will happen to us if we let Islam obtain positions of advantage sufficient to move us into the relatively easy target category. I don’t think it matters at all whether Muslims obtain the necessary leeway by violence or by peaceful means.

    So unless someone pops a nuke (which I do not expect, as I think the use of radiological weapons is far more likely) you are likely to continue to see casualties as too low to justify calling the situation warlike, and I am going to see ample casualties to justify seeing the situation as warlike. Neither of is is failing basic arithmetic, but we have different models and thus different ideas on what data is relevant.

  75. If you care about radical islamists taking over governments, then it might be useful to look at what muslims generally want — because those are the issues that radical islamists might use to take over. And it would be most useful to look at the things they want that involve us, because those are the ones that we have choices about…So for example if muslims are concerned that their economies haven’t done as well as they’d like, we could look at how to improve their economies…On the other hand, a whole lot of muslims care about our wholehearted support for israel against palestinians.

    ..but you just posted a fairly well-written bit about mau-maus and why Muslims are not a threat to us.

    You were right. Muslims as a religious and economic force are weak. If they did decide to issue threats for some reason, there would be absolutely no reason to give into extortionate demands, because (to paraphrase Mark Steyn) the military and economic power of the Muslim world combined makes Belgium look butch.

    You’re contradicting yourself here

  76. Muslims as a religious and economic force are weak

    oops – that should be “Muslims as a military and economic force are weak”. They do have a lot of influence in the religious sphere.

  77. #82 from J Thomas at 8:06 am on Sep 28, 2007
    _So for example if muslims are concerned that their economies haven’t done as well as they’d like, we could look at how to improve their economies. We’ve had 60 years of experience showing that we either don’t know how to develop underdeveloped economies or else we don’t want to, but we could try._

    You’re stuck in Marxist assumptions about economics first, last, and in-between.

    We know how to do this and have since the US Constitution and Bill of Rights were written. Read the “Federalist Papers”:http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Federalist_Papers . But it depends on muslims establishing a rule of law that applies to everyone. It needs to include the right to personal property and complete confessional freedom. It has to be substantially different from Sharia and the “tribal society with consanguineous marriage”:http://www.consang.net/index.php/Global_prevalence under a despot that it presumes. We can’t make them do this unless we overthrow their governments, and apparently the US wouldn’t do it in Iraq when it did overthrow a government.

  78. I have to agree that “there is not enough blood on the carpet” is as sensible a reason as anybody could give for saying this is not war. I disagree, and I disagree on the way you reach low casualty counts, but this is still sensible reasoning and has nothing in common with irrational denial.

    On to the next point…

    Armed Liberal:

    “An expansionist but nonviolent Islam is something we can live with – but an expansionist and violent Islam may not be.”

    There are at least two very different kinds of nonviolence we may be talking about.

    (a) There is the nonviolence of the Amish, that goes all the way to the roots of their religion, and is culturally stable, pervasive and permanent. It doesn’t matter how advantageously they may be placed in a given area, their “go” conditions for implementing supremacists policies, intimidation, conversions under threat and so on will never be met as they’re not in a state of latency till any such collective actions are indicated. And as far as I know, there are no other Amish which the usual Amish regard as their co-religionists who have dissenting views on non-violence.

    (b) Then there’s the nonviolence of unarmed Master of Magic settlers peacefully moving into one’s territory, peacefully building their little enclaves (and of course peacefully excluding ones own settlers from the immediate area), peacefully fortifying, and peacefully inviting in such extra personnel as their foreign friends may send: zombies, werewolves, ghouls, wraiths – that sort of thing. You can tell yourself this doesn’t have to come to violence all you like, but the system doesn’t work that way.

    That’s just a game of course, but there are real ideologies that work much the same way. The example I regularly give is the gung-go Stalinists down at the Communist book shop. Are they at war with us? Of course not. Would I advocate pointless rudeness to them? Never. If they had a position of sufficient advantage, would they set up a system that as the world’s experience of Communism shows would inexorably have certain consequences, like gulags? Of course they would, and they’ll tell you that this time it would be fine.

    Fortunately their “go” conditions aren’t being met, and in the long run, unlike Muslims, they lack the means to pass on their deadly ideology to a numerous future generation.

    However, if they were a permanent force, like a major religion, with the staying power (and other forms of power) that that implies, they would also be a permanent threat, no matter how non-violent they were.

    We may be talking past each other when we talk about “non-violent” Islam without clarifying exactly what kind of “non-violence” we have in mind and see as realistic.

    If you see expansionist but “(a) for Amish” non-violent Islam as a realistic prospect, I’ll just say what I’ve said to you before: sure, wonderful, I’ll gladly co-exist with it once it’s a demonstrated fact, but show me.

    The bare allegation that “(a) type” nonviolence is possible for Islam, in plain contradiction to the life and dreadful example of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), in plain contradiction to Islamic law, to Islamic culture, to Islamic history – that bare assertion is not worth much.

    Show me the global, deep-rooted, theologically legitimate and culturally entrenched non-violent Islam, and then we can talk further on how well we will get on with it.

    If you think the “or else” in Islam is something that is at worst bolted to the side of it but that can be unbolted, while I think that menace and coercion are intrinsic to the system of Islam (literally “submission”) I do not see how we can get past that demand for demonstration. There’s no other way to resolve the difference of opinion.

  79. But from your point of view, the demand to “show me!” must seem strange, as you already see the demonstration I ask for: according to your casualty count, Islam is not at war with modernity and the West – which still leaves a lot of room for improvement, but which means that you are looking at an overall picture quite different from the one I am looking at.

  80. Armed Liberal:

    “An expansionist but nonviolent Islam is something we can live with – but an expansionist and violent Islam may not be.”

    From my point of view, the implementation of sharia throughout Australia, brought about peacefully by legal means, would be a perfect example of “expansionist but nonviolent Islam”.

    It would then happen that an Aussie Abdul Rahman would be offered the choice to revert to Islam or be torn to pieces and killed in the worst way. But it would not be right to call that violent any more than any other case of the application of a legal death penalty is violent. So this would be the peaceful fruit of the peaceful expansion of Islam.

    If it needs to be spelled out, I’m averse to this “expansionist but nonviolent Islam”.

    (And of course the Koran promises Muslims that through jihad they will establish the universal domination of Islam no matter how averse people like me are to that.)

    I am seeing the threat partly in terms of the piecemeal expansion of a system that is unfriendly to all but limited and inferior rights for those who stubbornly reject Islam, and not purely in terms of how many bodies hit the floor on a given day.

    (There is another topic where the numbers are big enough that I do think it’s all about numbers of deaths … but that’s not this topic.)

    But what do you mean by “expansionist but nonviolent Islam”?

    If you think it won’t draw in its train consequences that ought to make you averse to it, why do you think that?

  81. David – when I was in college, I convinced the university to build a kitchen so I could start a food and dining coop. Jewish students pitched the notion that the kitchen should be built as a kosher kitchen, and because we couldn’t agree on operating rules, they wound up getting their own kitchen a year later.

    I had no issue with that then, and would have no issue with an Islamic group getting a kitchen or prayer room – if a Catholic group could have one too. Those are reasonable accommodations, as are the accommodations made by people in neighborhoods here in LA that turn Orthodox – as the retailers change their offerings to meet the demands of the new residents.

    But California law trumps Jewish religious law, and a couple that divorces has the option at all times to behave according to their shared religious values or to turn to civil law – without violent consequence.

    If Muslim groups in LA lived the same way, why would I object? If mulim kids walked my neighborhood, handing out pamphlets about the Quran and hadith, and inviting me to services (as the kids from the local megachurch do) what do I care?

    Clearer?

    A.L.

  82. “If you care about radical islamists taking over governments, then it might be useful to look at what muslims generally want — because those are the issues that radical islamists might use to take over.”

    _..but you just posted a fairly well-written bit about mau-maus and why Muslims are not a threat to us._

    [….]

    _You’re contradicting yourself here._

    No contradiction. If we care, the things to care about are the levers that radical islamists could use to take over muslim governments. It isn’t that important what the radical islamists themselves think in their innermost hearts any more than it mattered what nazis or bolsheviks or neocons thought — they all wanted to take over and consolidate their power and extend it as far as it would go, and the details about their secret intentions beyond that weren’t very important for stopping them.

    We don’t have to care. One possible reason to care is the oil. People say oil is fungible and anybody who sells it will sell it to us. But that doesn’t have to be true. For example, they might choose to sell it to china for hard currency, and then we can buy as much from china for dollars as the chinese choose to sell to us.

    One possible response to that problem is to make oil less important. We desperately need cheap alternative energy, and we aren’t doing enough to find it. And it’s possible that muslim nations don’t have as much oil as we think they do. They report reserves with no independent verification, and their reported reserves decide their status in OPEC. They have every reason but one to lie about that — the one exception being that the more oil they claim they have the more likely somebody will choose to conquer them for it.

    But then if we don’t care what they want, we probably don’t have much reason to put our military there. The oil may be largely fraud. And what else is there? There’s the strategic location. West of india, southwest of china, south of russia. If there’s going to be a big war involving russia china and/or india and we want to be in the middle of it, the middle east is a good place to be.

    And our military might be on the edge of using more oil than it can secure for us. This link may not be reliable but it’s the only one I’ve seen on the topic:

    “link”:http://www.energybulletin.net/29925.html

    If we don’t care what they want, why would we care whether they have democracy? A democratic government will do its best to get them what they want….

    We don’t have to care what they want at all, but to me the argument for ignoring them completely is a lot stronger than the argument for fighting them without noticing what they want.

  83. #90 from Armed Liberal: “Clearer?”

    Not really.

    Courtesy and strategy are different things, and they operate at different levels.

    It is fine for a male leader of a nation to say to the female leader of another nation “you go first” when it’s a matter of seating or something like that – in fact I’m all for it – but it would be unacceptable to play “you go first” with issues of national interest on the same ground.

    There are always gray areas, but on the while it’s desirable to get clear what level one is talking about.

    What level are you talking about?

    In terms of the manners of the modern West, it’s vital to demonstrate the virtue of tolerance, and in principle that’s fine, though there are great problems in the details, with who has to show tolerance and who doesn’t, and who is entitled to tolerance – indeed full acceptance – and who isn’t.

    From the point of view of demonstrating tolerance, why should you care indeed? You shouldn’t care – and it’s important that you not care. And this is good, tolerance is fine manners.

    But when one talks about “expansionist Islam”, allegedly non-violent or not, it is quite unclear that one is talking only about things that don’t spill over to the strategic level.

    On the strategic level the picture is different.

    There is ample evidence before your eyes that Islam is the sort of thing the world, and more importantly our nations, would be better off with less of rather than more of.

    That is quite different from saying a state of low level chronic war exists. The standard of evidence is lower, and I think the existing evidence meets that lower standard easily. Do you disagree?

    If the evidence is that what we should want is less Islam and not more Islam, then we should order ourselves socially to have less of Islam and not more of it, if Islam is a sufficiently consequential, a sufficiently important thing to justify the minor but unwelcome effort.

    I think there is ample evidence that Islam is important enough, consequential enough, that whether there is more or less of it ought to be a matter of public policy. Do you agree?

    As a matter of policy and strategy with a view to the long term, and not as a matter of individual courtesy and demonstrating tolerance, is Islamic expansion the sort of thing we should be indifferent to?

  84. We don’t have to care what they want at all, but to me the argument for ignoring them completely is a lot stronger than the argument for fighting them without noticing what they want.

    It would probably be in our best short-term interests, but not in our long-term interests.

    The (anti-war) writer Paul Fussell once said “evil demands retribution if we are to understand what it means to be human”

    We can’t ignore what the Islamists are doing for the same reason it was wrong for New Yorkers to ignore Kitty Genovese’s cries in that alley. We can’t ignore what the Islamists are doing for the same reason we prosecute criminals for the crimes they commit. Retribution is always necessary – punishment is one thing, but it’s vital to the health of any society to stop criminals from committing more crimes.

    If we let the wolves run wild, the societies they infiltrate will die. Eventually, that will start to affect us. It’s in our own self interest to do the right thing.

    And I agree, not buying so much oil is an important first step. All experts agree that the gulf states are running low.

  85. Mary, if we were actually the world’s only superpower and we could eliminate all injustice in the world without threatening our position, then I’d probably say go for it.

    But we are not. We have to accept that there will be injustices, that bullies will sometimes win for a time — even for a lifetime, that sometimes innocent people get murdered and we can’t stop it. When it’s a matter of calling the police, or even getting out your handgun or butcher knife and standing down a bad guy in your neighborhood, then it’s often the right thing to do. When it’s a matter of rescuing victims beyond your means, not so much.

    “No slave was ever freed, unless he freed himself.” There’s no end to victims to rescue. “Need is a bottomless pit.” We can’t do it all. We can provide a safe place for millions of victims to flee to. We can provide aid for people who want to claim their place but who lack sufficient weapons or training — though that has the risk of creating new bullies. If US citizens want to volunteer to join foreign liberation efforts, we probably won’t in general stop them although the JW Lindh story and a few others show it’s occasionally risky.

    In general, airstrikes don’t promote democracy. What they’re good at is killing people and blowing stuff up, which is likely to actually promote democracy less than half the time. In general, occupying armies don’t promote democracy. They kill people and blow stuff up. And in general, democracy does not eliminate injustice. Done right it reduces the amount of injustice done by the government, which is worth something. And it means the government doesn’t kill people and blow stuff up as often. It’s worth promoting if you can figure out how to actually promote democracy without great expense. Not a cure-all but worth doing.

    I think in general the place for good-guy armies is to stop bad-guy armies from doing really bad things. When there isn’t a specific bad-guy army to fight they don’t do that well.

    _If we let the wolves run wild, the societies they infiltrate will die. Eventually, that will start to affect us. It’s in our own self interest to do the right thing._

    You’re making a moral argument, that we should do the right thing. I say that to the extent “the right thing” depends on results we have an obligation to do “the right thing we actually know how to do”. If you see somebody who’s suffering badly from lack of brain surgery, you don’t have an obligation to perform brain surgery on him unless you know how to do successful brain surgery.

    Our experience so far implies that we don’t particularly know how to do valuable military interventions in muslim nations. We should get a really plausible idea about how to do that before we try it again, if we even decide it would be the right thing to do if we did know how.

    Since the muslim issue involves intolerant people who know they’re right as a central issue, maybe we should use american race relations as a test case. Solve that so that we get real racial harmony, and then we could try to apply the methods that work in the USA on muslim societies.

  86. #93 from mary: “The (anti-war) writer Paul Fussell once said “evil demands retribution if we are to understand what it means to be human””

    That may apply within one’s moral community, but not I think outside it, with true enemies.

    Jihadists are not our brothers, and we are not their keepers. Especially, we are not the keepers of their consciences.

    We don’t owe them any favors. We don’t owe them any punishments. I wouldn’t raise a finger to hurt anyone, to bring any of our enemies to justice, in the American President’s unhappy phrase.

    That whole way of thinking is inapposite.

    The trial of a surviving terrorist from the Beslan school massacre was a bad joke. The Russians ought to have shot him, not put him on trial and given him a prison sentence. The ideas behind the word “penitentiary” have no application to enemies like this.

    #93 from mary: “We can’t ignore what the Islamists are doing for the same reason it was wrong for New Yorkers to ignore Kitty Genovese’s cries in that alley. We can’t ignore what the Islamists are doing for the same reason we prosecute criminals for the crimes they commit. Retribution is always necessary – punishment is one thing, but it’s vital to the health of any society to stop criminals from committing more crimes.”

    I deny that Shamil Basayev is in any meaningful sense a member of our society. He is a true enemy, like one of Genghis Khan’s Mongols, and that’s all.

    #93 from mary: “If we let the wolves run wild, the societies they infiltrate will die. Eventually, that will start to affect us. It’s in our own self interest to do the right thing.”

    It’s in our interest to lessen threats.

    This has nothing to do with moral deserts.

    I don’t care if a Fatah jihadist is lazy and takes bribes while a Hamas jihadist is assiduous in prayers and always good to his mother, or vice versa. It has nothing to do with us. If their moral deserts are unequal, let their god bestow upon his more faithful servant additional virgins after he dies.

  87. _That may apply within one’s moral community, but not I think outside it, with true enemies._

    Let me agree first that there are different moral communities that disagree on a few of the fundamental issues, and relations between these communities are different from relations within one of them.

    Things are easier when these disparate communities arrange not to interact at all. When a member of one such community commits crimes within a different community the usual consensus is that he’s responsible to the foreign community he has offended. If I go to singapore and commit a serious crime there — dropping bubble gum on the sidewalk, say — I can expect to face their punishment. The US embassy may intervene in various ways. They may demand to talk to me to get my version of what I did. They may ask for lenience or even offer sweeteners to get me out of there. But it’s only when our own community decides that the other community is doing something we think is particularly evil that we call for the Marines to protect US citizens in foreign lands. Mostly we agree that US citizens are responsible for following the local laws. If the local laws are something we don’t want to accept we warn US citizens not to go there.

    _The trial of a surviving terrorist from the Beslan school massacre was a bad joke. The Russians ought to have shot him, not put him on trial and given him a prison sentence._

    Decent societies give their members a fair trial. They give foreigners a fair trial too, by local standards. The way they decide somebody is an enemy who doesn’t deserve a fair trial, is by first giving him a fair trial to establish that. Except when the resources just aren’t available to do that.

    This is not so much to preserve the rights of people who deserve no rights as it is to preserve the rights of real citizens. The authorities shouldn’t decide arbitrarily that a citizen is an enemy who has no rights. Better to go through a travesty of a trial occasionally where the issue is not really in doubt, than take a chance on shooting good guys wrongly.

    _It’s in our interest to lessen threats._

    _This has nothing to do with moral deserts._

    I tend to agree with this too. I have the concern that we shouldn’t be crazy. When we decide we have to _eliminate_ a threat that’s actually very hard to eliminate, we could find ourselves spending trillions of dollars for no good result. We can’t hope to eliminate all threats. Some of the things we might choose to do to lessen a threat might instead increase it, or increase some other threat. It takes a lot of care to do that sort of thing right. Hard to decide that sort of thing well with soundbites.

    _I don’t care if a Fatah jihadist is lazy and takes bribes while a Hamas jihadist is assiduous in prayers and always good to his mother, or vice versa. It has nothing to do with us._

    It ought to have nothing to do with us. But we chose to intervene, and so we made it our business. We declared them both our enemy because we decided it was the right thing to do in Mary’s sense. It wasn’t particularly in our interest to do that, but our elected government has the legal right to do things we on average want it to do, that aren’t in our interest.

    Now, when we happen to have enemies, often it’s in our interest to arrange things so they stop thinking they’re our enemies. So for example we try to arrange things to they can surrender, and not make it real hard for them to surrender. In japan we bombed hiroshima and not the imperial palace — we preferred to have a live emperor who could surrender rather than a dead emperor and chaos.

    And when it doesn’t make sense to do a full surrender and occcupation and all that, then it makes sense to arrange hostilities in ways that encourage hostilities to die down. Unless of course we prefer to have some sort of eternal enemy, or we prefer to settle matters by genocide. This is something else that’s hard to plan with soundbites. Done badly such attempts can have unintended consequences.

    _It’s in our interest to lessen threats._

    We have various methods to attempt this.

    1. Reduce the interaction and see if the threat continues to encroach. (If it does, another method is needed.)

    2. Encourage friendly relations that might overwhelm the threat. (This may fail too.)

    3. Tit for tat, measured response. (Needless to say this doesn’t always work.)

    4. Full-out war. (This hardly ever pays off and there’s the possibility of losing everything. Sometimes there’s no better choice.)

    5. Attempt genocide. (When this works it truly eliminates a threat. But communities that do genocide sometimes have resulting problems with other groups later. The nazis got wiped out. The turks are somewhat distrusted because of what they did to the armenians. The chinese are somewhat distrusted for what they did to the tibetans. The spanish still get a little grief for the incas and aztecs and such, and people are occasionally mildly impolite to the USA about the native americans. Genocide has consequences. And it doesn’t always even work.)

    There’s no one way to lessen threats that works all the time. If there was we’d always use it.

  88. Jihadists are not our brothers, and we are not their keepers. Especially, we are not the keepers of their consciences.

    That’s true, Jihadists are the evil we should be fighting. We are fighting approximately .1% of the jihad in Iraq, but we’re not fighting the jihadists in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Europe, Africa and the US. We’re not fighting their financial sponsors or the states that sponsor them. That’s the problem.

    The trial of a surviving terrorist from the Beslan school massacre was a bad joke. The Russians ought to have shot him, not put him on trial and given him a prison sentence. The ideas behind the word “penitentiary” have no application to enemies like this.

    We know that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi and we also know that al Qaeda was funded mostly by Saudi charities like Al Haramain. How many Saudis stood trial for the 9/11 attacks? How many Saudis were mentioned in the investigation of the 9/11 attacks?

    Did we even say an unkind word to these terror-supporters? No. Do we plan to do so in the future? Not as far as I can tell. We call them our core allies in the war against terrorism.

    I deny that Shamil Basayev is in any meaningful sense a member of our society. He is a true enemy, like one of Genghis Khan’s Mongols, and that’s all.

    The Russians killed Shamil Basayev. And it’s worth noting that the people who organize and fund Basayev’s Chechen ‘rebels’ are Saudi. Chechen ‘rebels’ are also supported by an organization called The American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus.

    ACPC’s board of directors is cochaired by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Steven J. Solarz, and Max Kampelman. ACPC members include Richard Gere, Morton Ambramowitz, Geraldine Ferraro, William Kristol, Michael Ledeen, and James Woolsey.

    Both parties in America have decided that the Chechen rebels and Wahhabi terror supporters are part of our society, whether we like it or not. Our alliances with these terror-supporters and ‘rebels’ may benefit our politicians, but in the long run these alliances are, basically, inhuman.

    I think in general the place for good-guy armies is to stop bad-guy armies from doing really bad things. When there isn’t a specific bad-guy army to fight they don’t do that well.

    There are specific bad-guy armies to fight. For whatever reasons, we’re not fighting them.

  89. #97 from mary:

    The Russians killed Shamil Basayev. And it’s worth noting that the people who organize and fund Basayev’s Chechen ‘rebels’ are Saudi. Chechen ‘rebels’ are also supported by an organization called The American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus.

    You’re right, and I should have said “I deny that a Shamil Basayev is in any meaningful sense a member of our society.”

    I’m not concerned with the individual enemy, his fate and his moral deserts. It’s only a question of his role, his military function within the enemy system, and our need to have less of that system.

    #97 from mary:

    Both parties in America have decided that the Chechen rebels and Wahhabi terror supporters are part of our society, whether we like it or not. Our alliances with these terror-supporters and ‘rebels’ may benefit our politicians, but in the long run these alliances are, basically, inhuman.

    Yes, to this, and much else that you say.

  90. Many people talk about the need to reform Islam. Now you can stop talking and start helping.

    With the help of our readers we went through the Koran and removed every verse that we believe did not come from Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. However, it is possible that we missed something, and we could use your help. If you find verses in the reformed version of the Koran that promote violence, divisiveness, religious or gender superiority, bigotry, or discrimination, please let us know the number of the verse and the reason why it should be removed. Please email your suggestions to koran-AT-reformislam.org.

    When we finish editing process, we would like to publish Reform Koran in as many languages as possible. If you could help with translation or distribution of the Reform Koran, please email us at koran-AT-reformislam.org. If you could provide financial support, please visit our support page.

    In Memoriam of Aqsa Parvez.

    http://www.reformislam.org/reform.php

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