Zuhdi Jasser is a self-proclaimed devout Muslim and, I believe, an all round good guy. He is a medical doctor and a former lieutenant commander in the US Navy. He founded and heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. He rejects what he calls political Islam. He is a regular media commentator. After the attack in Brussels he correctly pointed out that the problem lies within Islam, as he always does. And again, par for the course, he argued that Islam needs a reformation. At the same time, he expressed “love” for his religion.
I will guess (without too much risk of being wrong): the religion Dr Jasser loves is about moderation, peace and tolerance, and exists separately from the state. But what is his religion? That to me is the mystery. Religions need a scriptural base. Islam has the Koran (the very words of God) and the Sunna and canonical Hadiths (the instructions, doings and reported sayings of Muhammad). I imagine Dr Jasser’s scriptural base is a subset of this Islamic scripture from which all of the nasty bits have been excised. For example, this nasty anti-Semitic bit from the Bukhari Hadith 52:177:
The Hour will not be established until you fight with Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.”
Dr Jasser and others of like mind do not express themselves on this point. On this point we hear only platitudes.
Unfortunately, Jasser and other ‘moderate Muslims’ are part of the problem. They are not part of the solution, however well meaning they may be. They give verisimilitude to the idea that moderate, peaceful and non-political Islam exists, if only it can be extracted from the violence and intolerance within which it is enmeshed. But there is no hope at all of disentanglement on this scale. Nothing of coherence would be left in its wake. It is the apogee of delusion.
It also creates a related delusion, effectively bolstered by President Obama, which will lead to the West’s demise unless it is jettisoned. This is the delusion that we are fighting against ‘radical Islam’. Obama gives this fabrication particular credence because of his refusal to let the words pass his lips. Which means Mrs Clinton can’t either, otherwise he will set the Department of Justice on her and she will rightly go to jail for handling classified emails on her unsecured private server. But that is by the way.
In an irony of ironies, Obama has conservative commentators falling over themselves to condemn his refusal to name the fabricated enemy. Meanwhile, the real enemy, Islam, unadorned with qualifiers, gets a free pass. Islam itself is the enemy – only Donald Trump among the Republican contenders gets close to getting this . The distinction between moderate and radical Islam exists only in the fevered minds of the Western media and most politicians. There is only one Islam. It is encompassed in Islamic scripture.
When I make this point people often cite Indonesia and Malaysia as examples of moderate Islam in practice. Pew published the results of a world survey of Muslims in April, 2013. Seventy-two percent of Muslims in Indonesia and 86% in Malaysia favoured making sharia the law of the land; of those, 48% and 60% favoured stoning for adultery and 18 and 62 percent favoured death for leaving Islam. It is consoling, I suppose, that these percentages, on the whole, are less confronting than in, say, Pakistan (84, 89, and 76 percent); in Egypt (74, 81 and 86 percent) or in Afghanistan (99, 85 and 79 percent).
Hand-severing for theft also appears prominently, a favoured punishment in the Muslim world. Pew didn’t survey what should happen to homosexuals but it probably wouldn’t be pretty. To put it mildly, it is evident that wherever Islam predominates, Enlightenment values are not uppermost in the scheme of things.
It is a cliché of course; but how in the world can you defeat an enemy you will not correctly identify? Whenever and wherever the Islamic scriptures are taught the recipients of this learning are being poisoned; note the text above as one among many hateful injunctions. Sometimes it is quick acting; sometimes so slow that its deleterious effects only show up in future generations. As one of many examples, three of the four men responsible for the London bombings in 2005 were the sons of Pakistani immigrants. As one said on a left-behind video tape:
I and thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe. Our drive and motivation doesn’t come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer. Our religion is Islam, obedience to the one true God and following the footsteps of the final prophet messenger.
As Churchill (The River War) put it, back in 1899: “No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.” And it is resilient to all that the modern world can throw at it. Look online and see the photographs of women living in, say, Egypt and Afghanistan in the 1950s compared with now. As Peter Berger notes in Islam and Secularism in the Middle East:
Islamic revival is very strong in cities with a high degree of modernisation, and in a number of countries it is particularly visible among people with Western-style education; in Egypt and Turkey, for example, it is often the daughters of secularised professionals who are putting on the veil and other accoutrements expressing so-called Islamic modesty.
Terrorists have to be stopped and caught. Terrorist states and enclaves have to be defeated. But all the counterterrorism and military might in the world will not ultimately defeat this scourge. At best it will force it underground, as it did in Turkey under Atatürk; as it ever waits for the time and opportunity to surge again.
Islam is a potent religious ideology whose adherents are obeying instructions from God and his appointed messenger. You don’t get that? Then you can’t ever defeat it, full stop.
And even if you do get it, defeating it now that it is metastasising inside the gates will be a close run thing at best.