Islam, My Islam

In March of the year 633, less than a year after the death of the Prophet, the army of the first caliph crossed the boundaries of Iran. The leader of this army was Khalid benel Walid and he commanded eighteen thousand men. In Iraq he fought against the army of the Persian governor, Hormuzd. This so-called “chain battle” ended in a victory for Islam. in less than a year half of Mesopotamia belonged to the caliphs.


The second Syrian campaign followed. Again Khalid led the army and vanquished the superior army of Byzantium at Jarmuk. The knowledge of this mighty victory reached Abu Bakr as he upon his deathbed. Abu Bakr had only ruled for two years and everything he had done was merely carrying out the plans and intentions of the Prophet. “Muhammad’s shadow fell upon the earth through Abu Bakr” said the biographers of the latter. The only thing he did of his own accord was the creation of the form of the state and that, after all, was also in keeping with Muhammad idea. Islam was to be an elective monarchy. Abu Bakr knowing how to exclude Ali and his people, ordered that Omar the most energetic of the Muslims, was to be his successor


Omar was the St. Paul of Islam. He gave to the idea of a State of God definite outlines and far reaching form. Finance, government, justice, all the elements which Muhammad had merely indicated, were created and developed by Omar. Surrounded by the mohajirun and the ansar in Medina, Omar ruled over a gigantic empire. His active past when he had been a smuggler, merchant and soldier was of great use to him now. He was versed in questions of government and he decided everything himself even the smallest matter. He ruled for ten years, without rest or pause. His armies moved victoriously into the land of the unbelievers. At Kadissia, in the heart of Iraq, decisive battle took place between Persia and Islam. The battle raged for three days. On the fourth night, “the night of woe, “the Arabs won the upper hand. When they were about to pursue Persians, one of the Muslims cut off the trunk of the Persian lead-elephant. The pain transported the animal into a frenzy and it charged the Persians and was followed by all the other elephants. A panic burst forth in the ranks of the Persian troops. Rustem, the regent of the Persian kingdom, was slain in battle and the tiger skin ornamented with diamonds, the imperial standard Iran, fell into the hands of the victors.


The way to Persia lay open. The fires of Zoroaster burned for but a few years longer. The. waves of Islam put them out. In the year 651, deserted by all, Jesdegerd III, the last emperor of Iran, fell at the hands of an assassin. “For us the Arabs were nothing but beggars and vagabonds. God willed that we were to know them as warriors, “were supposedly his last words.


The victory of Islam over Syria and Palestine was even more rapid then that over Persia. It was only with great difficulty that the old Emperor Heraclius could defend the Holy Land of the Christians and the city of Jerusalem. The Muslims advanced on all sides. In the year 636, the sick dying emperor left the Holy City. He carried the Holy Cross with him and no longer thought rescue. Only a few years later, Omar, dressed in poor clothing and mounted on an old red-haired camel, and surrounded by victorious generals bedecked with gold, entered into Jerusalem. On his right rode the Patriarch of Jerusalem and Ornar gave orders that he was to protect the Christians. As a matter of fact, not a single inhabitant of the city of Jerusalem was killed because his faith.


When the crusaders vanquished the city centuries later not a single Muslim, woman or child,

spared. A terrible blood bath crowned the victory of the crusaders. When Jerusalem had been conquered by Islam, Omar built a great mosque on the site of the old temple. This became the third holiest mosque in Islam.


This, of course, is the Dome of the Rock, the al-Aqsa mosque which dominates Jerusalem’s Temple

Momit and has done so since sixty years after the death of Muhammad. Noah Richier, in his review of

Kana Makiya’s novel, The Rock (Pantheon, 347 pages, $40 Canadian) (“Upon this rock he built his

book,” National Post, 3 January 2002) writes (without giving his sources): “The mosque was built over the ruins of Solomon’s temple, razed by the Romans under Titus in AD 70. The site, an indication of

Christian contempt for Jews at the time was a garbage heap, one that had deliberately been allowed to accumulate for several hundred years. Ka’b [al Ahbar, a Jewish convert to Islam ‘ authentic but lit-tie-known historical figure who accompanied the victorious Caliph Omar to Jerusalem from Medina,’]

Makiya writes, was able to determine the exact location the Rock [‘...the site of Abraham’s near-sacri-flee of Isaac, of Adam’s landing in the world and of Muhammad’s ascension from it; it is the place, in the mythologies of all three great religions, where Heaven and Earth ‘meet...’] by finding the most injurious refuse of all, the place where women’s menstrual rags had been discarded.”


The conquest of Egypt was equally rapid. Amr ben el Asi, the poet, diplomat, and satirist, advanced with four thousand men into the valley of the Nile. The population received him with shouts of joy for he brought them liberation from the sectarian conflicts and from the burden of taxes. Alexandria alone made an attempt at resistance. When Heraclius had died and the Byzantine court began to quarrel bitterly about his heir, the cunning Arabian poet was able to enter the brilliant capital of the great Alexander victoriously.


The conqueror of Alexandria, the proud Amr sent long reports of the brilliance of his victory to the barbaric desert city of Medina. He wrote: “I have conquered a mighty city with twelve thousand amusement places and forty thousand Jews.”


The vast amounts of gold and wealth which now poured in from all sides to the court of the caliph changed nothing in his patriarchal mode of living. Omar was not penurious. As a matter of fact he enabled the new aristocracy of Medina to enjoy an excellent and carefree existence. Pensions and grants were distributed among the faithful. The caliph himself was satisfied with the bare necessities of life. The puritanical teachings of Muhammad had taken root in his soul. So, for example, the only reason why he deposed the great warrior Khalid ben el Walid who had won many victories for Islam, was because he did not lead a moral life. When he heard that Saad, the conqueror of Persia, wished to build himself a castle at Kufa, he wrote to him. “I have heard that you wish to build a palace like those of Chosroes. Have you perhaps the intention of placing a guard at the doors o fyour palace so that the petitioners who come to you may be kept out?” When this letter was received, the palace was destroyed. If a -general, who had just won some important siege, appeared bedecked with some of the precious jewels that were part of the conquered booty, the caliph would pick up a stone from the ground and throw it at the general in anger. Discipline, modesty and prayer were to be the virtues of the new State.


In politics, Omar applied the inflexible principle of tadfil, the pre-eminence of the pious ansar and mohajirun over the rest of the community of the faithful. Only those who had lived side by side with the Prophet were worthy of ruling the new State. Under the caliphate of Omar the widespread family of the ansar and, the mohajirun became the government clique of the new State. Generals, prayer leaders and provincial governors came from their ranks, they received the major portion of the booty and they regarded-the State of God as the sole domain of the auxiliaries of the messenger of God. Those in search of wealth and booty who had joined up with Muhammad, anyone who had participated in the desert pillaging under Muhammads leadership, or those who had been wounded cit Badr or Ohod, could now lead a parasitical life protected by pious memories.


God, wealth, and rewards of all sorts were the wages of the pious. The ancient ideas of the Arabian aristocracy were completely changed. The noble families of Mecca which had failed to join the Prophet at the proper time were ground into the dust. The community of the pious ruled over the gigantic state, over the wealth, and over the army. The believing Medinese looked with contempt at the newly-converted gentlemen of Mecca, the former enemies of Badr and Ohod. Apparently the power of Mecca had been crushed for all time. in addition, the pious of Medina had the greatest of advantages, they could choQse the leader of the new State, the caliph, out of their own ranks. Slowly the members of the ruling caste of Medina were changed into parasites living on the State treasury. Only a few realized how great a responsibility rested upon their shoulders upon the death of the Prophet. Most of them knew that they could now secure rich reward for the sacrifices they had once made. Omar was one of the few who continued to lead Islam along the way of the Prophet and to develop the idea which had once excited Muhammad.


When Omar became the victim of an attack by a Christian worker in 644, he did not name his successor  but upheld the idea of an elective monarchy. Six of the oldest associates of the Prophet were to elect a new caliph out of their ranks.


The choice of the six wise men was not a happy one. They elected Osman, the son-in-law of the prophet. Osman was old, pious, easily influenced and thoroughly unsuited for executive duties. However, he merits attention because it was due to him that the Koran was brought into its final shape. He collected the verses of the divine book and deleted much which the inhabitants of Medina would have liked to have preached as God’s words. Many of his fellow citizens disliked him because of this.


To say that the biographies of Muhammad are rife with understatement of this kind would be some-

thing of an understatement in itself If true, this seems an admission that the Koran, after the death of Muhammad, suffered the same fate which many suras of the Koran level at the Jewish Torah—that the scriptures were “sold for a mean price.” Or that, at the very least, the text is corrupt through significant omissions dictated by this singular figure in Islam’s history. Presumably, deleting verses from a divinely-inspired work like the Koran goes far beyond the likes and dislikes of the citizenry of Medina. They “liked” various verses that Osman deleted and “disliked” him for doing so? Matching understatement with understatement: it will certainly be interesting to discover what Osman chose to excise of the Word of God when all is revealed on the Last Day.


Old Osman was the tragic turning point of Islam. He too believed in the idea of a State of God, in the eternal equality of men, and in the governing of the puritanical, pious Republic of God by the pupils of the Prophet. And yet it is his fault that the State of God did not retain its original character for hundred of years.


Osman came from a fashionable house in Mecca. He was a blood relative of the Ommaya and, like the Prophet, loved Mecca, the city of his birth. And his love for Mecca culminated in his love for his ancient and noble family. When his reign began, more and more of his down-trodden, poor and disdained relatives came from Mecca to Medina. They were all pure, full-blooded Ommayas. The old man could not withstand the influence of his relatives and he believed them when they said that they were convinced Muslims.

Under the protection of Osman, the Ommaya once again dared to appear in public. They were sorry for their sins. The caliph could not help himself and appointed his nephews as governors of the provinces and gave them other political power. This meant his decline. The pious executive caste in Medina felt the ground slipping away from under them. The worst enemies of the Prophet, the sons of Hind, had come into power. The pious mohajirun and the ansar did not wish to share their. rule over Islam with them. It was almost as bad as sliding back to heathendom that, only a few years after his death, the Prophet ‘ bitterest enemies should have leading positions in Islam. A storm of indignation arose in Medina and destroyed the caliph.


When Osman had been elected it had been expected that he would make the usual speech of acceptance. Many people had come together in the mosque and respectfully made way for the venerable Osman as he went up to the pulpit. Osman remained there for half an hour looked at the crowd and did not say a word. Finally the faithful became impatient and after prolonged hesitation, the feeble old man in the pulpit brought forth a daring sentence: “Every beginning is difficult.” Much to the surprise of the crowds, he left the pulpit after having said these words, and went home.


It now appeared that not only the beginning was difficult for old Osman but that his end would be more so. One day a number of Bedouins appeared before his house and reviled him because he had permitted the Ommaya to come into power. They then entered into his room and pressed him to abdicate. Although Osman was a weak person, he knew how to keep his dignity. Without paying any attention to the intruders he kept on reading in the Koran. Without any further ado he was murdered. The few Meccans who tried to defend him were forced to flee from the city.


The pious clique of Medina now gave the office of caliph to their worthiest representative, Au,

the cousin of the Prophet, the leader among the faithful. And so for the first and last time, the

dream of the Hashim was fulfilled in Islam. A cousin of the Prophet received Muhammad inheritance. Three times Au had been prevented from ascending the throne but he had never ceased looking upon himself as the rightful heir. The caliphs, who had taken the throne from him, sought

to indemnify him richly. His wealth was great and the more it grew the larger was the number of

the followers who gathered around him. Now, when it was a question of safeguarding their power against the Meccan usurpers, the faithful crowded around him. In the provinces of the new empire

where Ali had sent the most pious of the Medinese as governors, he was refused recognition.

Aisha, the mother of the faithful, set out against him at the head of a large army. Civil war became

an actuality in Islam. In a bloody conflict, known as the “battle of the camels,“ All came out victoriously over the rebels. Aisha was taken prisoner and brought to Medina with all honours.


That’s pretty much the extent of the detail you can find on Aisha’s attempt to defeat All for the caliphate. Clearly, however, she had come a long way from the teenager who had lost her necklace in the sand.


When All was ready to take over the office of the caliphate, a new name appeared on the horizon of Arabian politics. The name was that of Moawia ibn Abu Sofran, the governor of Syria. Everything that the pious executive caste in Medina hated was personified in Moawia. He was a Meccan, and Ommaya, and the son ofAbu Sofyan and Hind. It was only through Osman weakness that he had secured a leading position in the government. His piety was more than questionable, and his hatred of the Medinese limitless. On the other hand, Moawia was a born aristocrat who was accustomed to rule as well as to the cunning of ruling. He incorporated in himself all the traits of the Koreish and was now reaching out his greedy hands toward the throne of the caliphate.


The courageous and pious Ali was not an equal match for him. Near Sifia on the Euphrates, Moawia met the army of the ansar and the mohajirun. The army of Ali was far superior to that of the insurgent. The battle lasted for three days and Ali was victorious. Thereupon the army of Moawia bound copies of the verses of the Koran to their lances and this evidence of piety was enough to bring the army of the pious to a halt. Ali did not dare to wage war against the word of God. He consented to negotiations and came out second best. On the great battlefield of Sifia the idea of the State of God was defeated through the trickery of an Ommaya.


Once more the idea of the Prophet attempted to oppose the sober world of politics. On the battle field of Sifia, a party of the very holiest to whom the idea of a just State of God was sacred, separated itself from the army of Ali. “We wish to set out upon the path of God, “ they said, and they were known as Kharidjites, that is, the wanderers. In the turmoil of the civil war they were soon the only ones who retained the pure faith. In spirit and in deed they were the direct descendants of the Prophet.


It is at this point that the text betrays itself as Sunni by nature, the centerpiece of which is always that

being a direct descendant of the Prophet is invariably more a matter of spirit, self-declaration, piety and intent. As opposed to, you know, being an actual descendant of the Prophet. Don’t take my word for it. See for yourself the blithe and remote disinterest with which the Sunni text deals with the subsequent demise of Muhammad’s chosen successor, the one he called “my satrap, my vizier” [“satrap” from the Greek and Latin satrapes, literally “protector of the dominion” and “vizier” from the Arabic wazir, “a high executive officer in a country or Empire”]:


On 21 January, 661, Caliph Alifell at the hands of a fanatic. Without dfflculty Moawia took over the caliphate, the leadership over Ihe world of the hated Hashimites. It is one of the most ironic facts in history that it was the house of the Ommaya, the most bitter opponents of Muhammad, which drew the greatest amount ofprofit out of the work of the Prophet. For with the ascent of the Ommaya the caliphate became hereditary.


Three movements sought to save the idea of a free State of God. First it was the Kharidjites, the noblest among the faithful, then the pious clique of Medina which was greedy for power and finally, the direct heirs of the Prophet, the descendants of Ali. All three movements were drowned in blood by the first two caliphs of the Ommaya. The democratic puritans of Islam, the last representatives of the pure faith, the Kharidjites, fought fanatically. They were decisively opposed and finally almost completely annihilated. Only a few succeeded in preserving the idea which had led them on for future generations.


An equally tragic fate awaited the fellow-fighters of the Prophet. In the moment, when the army of the new caliph was approaching Medina, they regained their courage. Honourable old men, mohajirun and ansar, threw themselves into the fray with youthful ardour. Suddenly they all recalled the time when the Prophet led the battles in person. Rarely had anyone fought with such fanatical eneigy and hatred as at the gates of Medina. The old men had perhaps forgotten the art of living honourably but they did know how to die heroically. The steps of the great courtyard of the Pmphets mosque became more and more covered with the blood of the oldest friends of the messenger of God. Despite the heroic defence, the caliph was victorious. His riders ued the mosque as a stable for their horses.


Is it just me, or does it seem more than a little odd that a text written by a Muslim would deal so... disinterestedly...with the son of Muhammad’s sworn enemy using the Prophet’s Mosque as a stable? If that doesn’t seem odd to you, then what about the short shrift which is given


The grandchildren of the Prophet, the sons of Ali, Hasan and Hosain, also fell in the hopeless battle with the Ommaya. The host of the Alides was destroyed, the schia Au—the party of All— was excluded from  the throne for all time. However they never desisted throughout the entire history of Islam to fight for their rights. Even today the name of Moawia or that of Jesid, his successor is considered the worst possible curse on the lips of a pious Shiite.


And what about on the lips of a pious Sunni Muslim? is the question that leaps to my mind. Here, it seems to me, is revealed that peculiarly bloodthirsty Arab capacity for maintaining loyalty to Islam and to the murderous Koreish simultaneously, reflecting—again——Osama bin Laden’s bland assertion that “When people tee a strong horse and a weak -horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” While part of them aligns itself with Muhammad and with Islam—the “strong horse” which prevailed in his lifetime over the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula—even so does the unscrupulous and bloodthirsty Arab nature peek through, aligning itself with the son of Abu Sofyan and Hind, Moawia ibn Aba Sofyan who, in his turn, became the “strong horse” and the first Islamic/Koreish hereditary emperor, the caliph, whose life—and whose successors’ lives—was filled with wealth, palaces, pompous ceremonies, feasts, orgies, wine and beautiful women as the Shadow of God on Earth, the Governor of the Messenger of God.


The really interesting thing, to me, is that for all practical purposes the history of Islam stops with the assumption of power of the Ommaya.  Clearly, there are many stories to be told but the eradication of Ali and his sons and the usurping of their place by Moawia meant that there are really no further developments in Islam until the year 750 when the Ommayans were supplanted by the Abbasides—the descendants of Muhammad’s uncle, El Abbas.  You know, the one Muhammad found completely reprehensible and who had converted to Islam at the last possible moment before the fall of Mecca?   Arguably, there were no significant developments even years later when Turkish tribes—whose leaders ultimately took the caliphate for themselves—forced their way into the Muslim empire.  Nor were there any significant developments when the caliphate was taken away by the Mongols (“Chulagu, the Mongolian wolf of the steppes, conquered Baghdad, pulled the mantle of the Prophet from the shoulders of the caliph and trod the relic into the ground.”)  In this I see, again, God’s sense of humour:  If all that remained of the Islam which had been introduced into the Arabian Peninsula by God’s Last Messenger and Seal of Prophets—besides the five pillars (acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and Muhammad’s prophethood, prayer, the zakat, the hajj, fasting in the sacred month) and the Koran—was a taste for enormous piles of loot, rich surroundings, wine, women, song, brutal conquest, a vague ecumenical tolerance for Jews and Christians and a respect for libraries and universities, well (I picture God saying) we hardly need a Jesus or a Muhammad to run the show, now do we?  Hey, Muslims, have I got a caliph for you!  His name is Genghis.  Genghis?  Show these nice Muslims how you do it in the real Orient!  Nor were there any significant developments as the Turks fashioned themselves into the Ottoman empire and took the caliphate back from the Mongols.  In fact, the only really significant event in the history of Islam—from the time that Moawia ascended the throne of the caliph and made it a hereditary position—in my view, was the dissolution of the caliphate by Mustapha Kemal, better known as Atatürk (“Father of the Turks”) in 1924.  To quote from a recent article by Alexander Rose:


Atatürk overthrew the pitiful remnants of the Caliph and Empire after the Great War and almost single-handedly designed, founded and governed a modern, secular state.  When he had finished, there were few signs of religion left in Turkey that were not strictly supervised by his Ministry of Religious Affairs.  The radical madrassas [the same brand of Islamic religious schools which proved a breeding ground for the Taliban—“talib”  literally means “students”] were shut down, mullahs were subject to civil control and Islam was officially disestablished.  As a result, and despite several impositions of martial law and the appearance of Islamic [political] parties, Turkey remains a secular, Western-minded democracy with a Muslim population.  In fact it is the only such state in existence.


As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my interest in Islam—like my interest in Judaism and Christianity—is almost exclusively confined to its foundational sacred text. I have (at best) only a cursory interest in the histories of the three great monotheistic religions.  I have read bits and pieces about Atatürk—it became one of those names that I kept running across for a week or so after reading Mr. Rose’s article—but nothing particularly “in-depth”.  It does seem to me, however, that it might be worth a more thorough examination of how…exactly…Turkey was able to achieve the daunting task which now confronts much of Europe and (to a lesser extent) North America: the assimilation of a significant fundamentalist Islamic population into a modern secular state without jeopardizing or disenfranchising the unique Islamic character of that population or infringing on theirs or anyone else’s basic freedoms.  That is, if Turkey and 20th-century Turkish history aren’t dominating discussions in the European Union (er—is Turkey even in the EU?) on what to do—and what not to do—to smooth cooperation between Brussels, the European governments and the Nation of Islam, then I think the EU is missing a good bet.  But, then, it wouldn’t be the first time, would it?  Of course, it might also require a certain open-mindedness about Draconian measures if that was what was required and prove to be a non-starter in a largely leftist-liberal-socialistic world with a surpassing fondness for good omelets inextricably bound up with a pathological squeamishness about ever! under any circumstances! breaking an egg.  A letter by George Gavlas in the National Post indicates that Atatürk’s victory was “paid for by the British, French and Americans in exchange for oil exploration concessions…His victory included [the] slaughter of Christians, mostly Greek and Armenian, and expulsion of the rest.  But the fact that both his victory and stay in power were funded from Christendom (the U.S. Secretary of State was on loan from and returned to Standard Oil) may have played a part in his secularizing of the government, much as the House of Saud pretends to keep a lid on it today.”  “It” referring to Wahabite Islam?  The wholesale slaughter of religious groups—genocide—is not something I would include in the making of national “omelets”—or a viable means of accommodating Wahabite Islamic constituencies within that national “omelet”.   Leaving those courses of action entirely to one side, is there anything we can learn from Turkey?  Hard for me to judge, since the only other lengthy article on Turkey that I have in front of me was written by Norman Stone of The Spectator—with a decidedly secular tone;


      A notion has gone the rounds that Islam was persecuted in Turkey.  Not so.  Kemal Ataturk was very careful never to criticize it in public, though in his cups he apparently said that there was something wrong with a religion that allowed the pattern of the day to be dictated, down to the smallest details of personal hygiene, by a Bedouin from a millennium-and-a-half-earlier. 


    Leaving aside that Muhammad was a Meccan and not a Bedouin:


   He [Ataturk] did suppress the Muslim brotherhoods—the tarikats—on the grounds that they were centres of obscurantism (all those women wrapped in black, like umbrellas); only one survived—the Mevievis, which was the least puritanical.  It was against the law for clergymen of any denomination to appear in clerical garb in public, unless they were setting about their business, and even the papal nuncios dressed in suits. 


     If by “setting about their business,” Mr. Stone means “conducting actual religious services within the confines of a place of worship,” then I think that’s a particularly useful requirement, effectively eliminating the possibility of using the “mystique” of clerical garb to weigh in the balance in political street demonstrations and other non-religious activities.

      Amir Taheri made a few very useful observations which, I believe, can assist in understanding how this problem of accommodating fundamentalist Islam has so few precedents to be used as guidelines:


     Islam represents the second largest religious community in the European Union and North America.  This is a new situation in history.  For the first time, large number of Muslims have voluntarily opted to live under non-Muslim rule.  There is no historic model for co-existence between Muslims and non-Muslims in a society where Muslims do not hold exclusive political power (there are models for the reverse case, where non-Muslims lived under Muslim authority).  Under Islamic law, travelling to lands not ruled by Muslims was forbidden (haram) except to ransom Muslim hostages.  The reason is that lands ruled by non-Muslims are regarded as “House of War” (Dar al Harb) that must be fought until they submit to Muslim rule.  Later, travelling for trade was allowed but still regarded as “reprehensible” (makruh)


    Short interpolation:  Islam divides all human behaviours into fardh (mandatory, unavoidable), sunna (good, but optional), mubach (indifferent acts, bringing neither reward nor punishment) makruh (reprehensible, but not forbidden) and haram (sin, forbidden).  When Islam was at its height one distinguished, as an example, whether the wearing of gold rings was sunna or mubach and when a copious meal ceased being mubach and became makruh.


      The current consensus among Muslim jurists is that Muslims can live in lands ruled by non-Muslims provided they use their presence to further the cause of Islam. 

     The Egyptian theologian Muhammad Ghazzali has put it this way: “Muslims can live under non-Muslim rule as long as they do not forget that they are Allah’s missionaries, and, if needed, His soldiers.”  More radical Islamists go further.  “I would rather die than settle in a Western state,” bin Laden says.  “It is a shame for Muslims to settle in non-Muslim societies and suffer that indignity unless they use their presence to further the cause of Islam and speed up the end of the infidel’s rule.”

    In other words, Muslims may live in non-Muslim societies only as Islam’s Fifth Column in the context for global domination.

    All this, of course, leads to divided loyalties, theopolitical schizophrenia and ethical confusion.  Thus the first task of Muslim communities in the West is to decide the terms under which they live in countries where they have chosen to settle.  These terms cannot be agreed upon in a religious context.  It is unlikely a majority of Westerners will convert to Islam any time soon, although there is no reason why peaceful attempts at persuading them should not continue.  At the same time, the Ottoman system of millah, under which different religious communities could live under their respective separate laws, cannot be imposed in the west today.  Terms can only be spelled out in a secular political context.  Western societies are democracies where power belongs to the people, not to any divinity.


     This requires, to me, a hair-splitting disagreement with the secular Mr. Tahieri.  The British Crown rules Dei gratia Regina (the initials D.G.R. on British Commonwealth coins) “By God’s grace, Queen.”  The United States’ pledge of allegiance includes the words “one nation, indivisible, under God, having liberty and justice for all”.  The American “In God we Trust” is displayed prominently on all U.S. currency (and is a Koranic phrase, by the way) and God is mentioned as having pre-eminent sovereignty in both the American and Canadian constitutions (despite the best efforts of those fun-loving socialists, the NDP, to remove His name).  The establishment of God’s sovereignty over a democratic nation then allows all remaining power, all free will decisions, to reside in “We, the people” by God’s implicit permission.  To the doubtful among you, I’ll point out that the instinctive American reaction to the horror of 11 September was to sing—spontaneously and en masse—“God Bless America” rather than the official national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.


     Thus, the Muslim citizens of the Western states can, and to some extent already do, have a share of political power.  Muslims in the West should accept democracy, not as an ideology but as a method of government, and regard secularism not as an enemy but as the chief guarantor of their rights as a minority.  That would require an end to an ethic that, rather than being concerned with right and wrong, divides the world into Muslim and non-Muslim…Muslims in the West should clearly and unequivocally demarcate themselves from those who have reduced Islam to the level of an ideology in pursuit of political power.  We in the Muslim world have a new word for them, “mutuaslim,” which means “those who twist Islam for their own ends.”


     Mr. Tahieri presents himself as almost too easy a target.  From the standpoint of an Orthodox Muslim he is far more guilty of the charge than they are.  It is he who desires to reduce Islam, the prescribed way of life “in the path of God” to a mere ideology submissive to secular political power.  In those countries where Orthodox Muslims are in the minority, the majority is always going to supersede Muslim beliefs and aspirations simply by out-voting them.  Since there is no precedent in Islam’s 1400 year history for submitting itself to the dictates of the collective joint will of Muslims aligned with non-Muslims, it is Mr. Tahieri and those Muslims who share the secular Western sensibility to which he (self-evidently) leans who “twist Islam for their own ends.”  Personally?  I share Mr. Tahieri’s faith in democracy, so long as it is enacted under God’s explicitly acknowledged sovereignty (knowing the malignant opposition this sentiment engenders, I suspect that God contents himself with even the most minimal of acknowledgements of that sovereignty:  His name being retained in Canada’s constitution) since I believe that democracy is the only political system under which each individual man’s free will, his God-given free will, remains free—and because democracy will always progress on the side of individual’s right to make free choices.  As an example, I support a “woman’s right to choose,” even though I think abortion is self-evidently wrong.  That is, I whole-heartedly endorse any man or any woman’s fundamental human right to go to hell in the handcart of his or her own choosing.


     Western Islam should train its own imams (prayer leaders), rather than accept the employees of various despotic Muslim governments with their hidden agendas.  Western Islam should also make a distinct contribution to developing Islam’s canon law and culture in general.  This is all the more imperative because the bulk of original research in all aspects of Islam, both as faith and as civilization, now takes place in the West.  Rather than listening to semi-literate mullahs and muftis in Tehran, Cairo or Mecca, Western Islam must encourage and develop its scholarship and “export” a modern, humane and progressive narrative to the rest of the Muslim world.


   I think the mullahs and muftis of Tehran, Cairo and Mecca saw ample evidence with the Second Vatican Council—and the resulting convulsions within Christianity’s largest traditional bastion—of what a great religion subjects itself to when the “New World tail” is allowed to wag the “Old World dog” in just the fashion Mr. Tahieri describes.  Whatever problems I see in modern Islam (and I see no shortage of problems in modern Islam) I don’t think the solution is to found in fashioning some variation on North American Muslims In Touch With Their Inner Child Saving the Gay Whales. 


    Those Muslims who wish to demarcate themselves from the mutuaslim must stop contributing to bogus charities set up for terrorist purposes and forbid fundraising for them at their mosques and places of business and education.


   Some Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”


    Gender apartheid should be abandoned not only because it is wrong but also because such a move will demarcate them from the mutuaslim.  Today women have virtually no presence in the leadership of Islamic societies and associations in the West.  And this in spite of the fact that three Muslim countries have already had female prime ministers.


    On the contrary.  I believe that capitulating to knee-jerk feminism would define them as mutuaslim: that is, as North American Muslims in Touch With Their Inner Child Who See Men and Women as Interchangeable Saving the Gay Whales.

     “And it is for the women to act as they (the husbands) act by them, in all fairness; but the men are a step above them.” (sura “The Cow” 2:228)

     “Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God hath gifted the one above the other, and on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them.” (sura “Women” 4:38)

     Which brings us to Wahabism.

      The antithesis of  the success of the Turkish experiment would have to be the 18th century Islamic innovation known as Wahabism, which has been described by reporter Isabel Vincent as a “harsh and puritanical subset of Sunni Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia.  The sect is named for Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahab, a reformer whose descendants worked to unify the Saudi kingdom.”  According to Earle W. Waugh, a professor of religion at the University of Alberta, “Wahabism rejected other types of Islam and its reformist leaders imposed a puritanical order on the tribes they conquered.  Unlike other Muslims, the Wahabis said they would base society strictly on the Koran.”  To whatever extent it was unlikely (in the extreme) that this might be achieved in the 18th century, it is (speaking as a frequent reader of the Koran) a complete impossibility in the 21st.   There are just far too many developments in our civilization which were undreamt of in the 7th century, the time to which Wahabism seeks to return the Nation of Islam.  To pretend that suras of the Koran directly address such disparate concepts as, say, trade unionism, in vitro fertilization, cloning, land expropriation by civil authorities, televised courtroom trials, et al is to, in my opinion, stretch the interpretation of religious texts to the breaking point and beyond—and places an unwarranted and disastrous level of power in the hands of those doing the interpreting, in my view, the inescapable problem and a recipe for implicit disaster in any theocratic government structure.  It would be comparable to trying to run the state of Israel purely on the basis of the Law of Moses as outlined in the Torah—an approach to day-to-day living which has long been abandoned by all but the most devout, ultra-Orthodox Jews—or the Vatican attempting to ban Catholics from participating in any behaviour unless it is specifically stated in one or more of the Gospel accounts that Jesus had participated in the same behaviour.  To be fair, the Koran is far more wide-ranging and specific in its guidelines and is (consequently) more open to the imposition of this kind of society-wide interpretation than is either the Torah or the Gospels, but, as I say, that degree is miniscule when measured against the myriad complexities of modern life.  Since my own life far more closely resembles that of a Wahabite Muslim than it does a typical North American, I am not unsympathetic to the idealism which I believe underlies Wahabism. In a real sense, al-Wahab was the Martin Luther of Islam, restoring the purity of the original impulse of the faith and taking a resolute and courageous stand against the centuries of impurity with which Islam had become infected.   Wahabism was, I’m sure—in the context of the 1700s—a breath of fresh air when compared with the decadent excesses into which the caliphate had undoubtedly degenerated by that time.  Essad Bey’s biography of Muhammad—which I have quoted so extensively in this series of articles—proved to be, in fact, a Wahab propagandist vehicle (albeit only in the last six pages), a fact which assumed greater significance only when I reread it after 11 September in preparation for writing these essays:


        Abd el Wahab declared war upon official Islam.  He fought the sultan-caliph and the learned additions to and the lying alterations made upon the unique words of the Prophet.  He believed in the Koran, held to the words of the Prophet and defended the pure, unspoiled, basic idea of Islam.  At his side stood the dynasty of Ibn Saad [Ibn Saud] a noble Arabian family who created a Wahabite state in Nejd with Darija as its residence.  The State of the Wahabites declared war on the ruler of the faithful, the Sultan of the Osmans [the Ottomans]. This declaration of war resembled that of Muhammad against the Emperor of Byzantium.  A dwarf confronting a giant.  After a few preliminary victories—the Wahabites even occupied Mecca for a time—the army of the Turks became victorious and it had not been expected otherwise.


     This sort of revisionism really is mother’s milk for Islamic demagogues.  I’d be willing to bet that the victory of the Turks actually came as a very big surprise to all concerned on the Wahabite side of the conflict and that, up until the Turks prevailed, the Wahabites, seeing themselves as favoured by God, firmly expected to steamroll their opponents, no matter how many of them there were, echoing the military victories of the Prophet, Abu Bakr and, particularly, Omar. 


     Ibn Saad was decapitated in Stambul [Istanbul] as a rebel and a heretic.  But his heirs, together with the rest of the Wahabites, founded a small principality in Nejd in which the original, unchanged teachings of the Prophet were elevated to maxims of state.  Of course no one in the world of Islam bothered about the State of the Wahabites, about their true teaching, and about the spirit of the Islamic basic ideas which they revived.  For two hundred years nothing was heard of them except that they lived according to their teaching and maintained their community unimpaired.

    When the world war was over, the caliph had been driven away and Islam had fallen into a faint, there suddenly and unexpectedly arose out of the deserts of Arabia, out of the distant er-Riad [Riayd], Abd el Asis ibn Saad, the master of the Wahabites, who called himself King of Nejd.  No one knew who Ibn Saad was.

    He is the only Muslim ruler in the world who has maintained the pure word of the Prophet, who has given it new life and new strength.


     I’m trying to keep these interpolations to a minimum but, since this is really one of the touchstones of this series of articles, I’m interrupting again.  This is, from what I can see, a uniquely Arabic approach to religion.  In 1936 (the copyright date of the book) it would be hard to imagine even the most radical, the most extreme Jewish or Christian partisan of any Jewish or Christian sect daring to describe a flesh-and-blood human being, a contemporary, as the “only Jewish figure in the world who has maintained the pure word of Moses” or  “the only Christian ruler who has maintained the pure word of Jesus Christ”.   And yet this kind of demagoguery (a term I never use lightly) is commonplace in Islam.  In fact, as the rest of this excerpt (I think) plainly shows, describing it as demagoguery actually verges on understatement!


     When Ibn Saad was still a boy, the dynasty to which he had belonged had been expelled out of er-Riad by the neighbouring race of the Raschid.  Young Saad collected a troop of twenty men, travelled through the desert to er-Riad, stole his way into the palace of the Raschid, and slew the sleeping sultan and so regained the power over Nejd for himself and his tribe.  With this act, his rise began which, in the course of time, made him ruler over two-thirds of Arabia, protector of the holy places and the most important man of present-day Islam. 

    Together with the faithful Wahabites he attacked Mecca, drove out the shereef, occupied the Kaaba in 1925 and became the most popular man in Islam.  Today, Abd el Asis ibn Saad is the ruler of Hijaz, Assyria and Nejd.  He is the religious and spiritual leader of the Arabs. 

    Ibn Saad repeated the deeds of the Prophet.  He recalls God’s words to mankind.  And these words proved themselves to be sufficiently alive to create and rule a state in the twentieth century as they did in the seventh.  Ibn Saad created a religio-social brotherhood called Ichwan.  This Ichwan movement supports the Wahabite empire today.  The teaching of Ichwan is pure Islam, just as the Prophet and the Kharidijites had preached it.  Ibn Saad does nothing that the Prophet would not have done and fulfills all the duties which the Prophet fulfilled.  Every luxury: music, theatre, coffee, even tobacco, are forbidden in the empire of the Wahabites.  Every word of the Koran is law and the slightest misinterpretation is heresy.  The equality of mankind in the eyes of God has been reintroduced practically.  Monotheism is law.  Adoration, even the veneration of the Kaaba, the holy stone, is forbidden to the Wahabites.  The sober, straight, only way of truth, the way the Prophet trod, is known to them. 

    On this way Ichwan only knows of two things:  prayer and exercise.  Prayer and exercise, in which prayer is exercise and exercise is prayer, created the land of the Wahabites and gave life to the dying body of Islam. 

   The incomparable thing about the ascetic teaching of Ichwan is that it knows no intolerance.  This accounts for its all-embracing position in the world of Islam.  Shiites, sunni, even Jews and Christians are tolerated by Ichwan.


     “Even Jews and Christians.”  As long as they don’t play music, try starting a theatre, buying coffee or using tobacco.  But apart from that?  “No intolerance”. 

     As I say, the book is copyrighted 1936.  Evidently when God got an advance copy, He just couldn’t resist indulging his omnipotent sense of humour.  Two years later, the House of Saud struck oil beneath the desert sands of Saudi Arabia (the only country on God’s green earth, so far as I know, which is named after one family), oil which, in time, would bring into the arid kingdom a tidal wave of wealth which would dwarf the totality of loot which had been accumulated by every caliph since Moawia.   A snapshot of a number of members of the Saudi royal family—including Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz—is featured on the second page the National Post for 26 October 2001.  I’m not sure how much praying Ibn Saad’s descendants are doing these days, but I feel safe in saying that the “exercise” half of Ichwan went out the window a few years back.

     It is exactly the total humourlessness of (let us call a spade a spade) extremist Islam that so invites its deflation through humour and I am sufficiently grounded in my secular North American background to succumb to the temptation (it’s like shooting ducks in a barrel), even as my better nature (or what I regard as my better nature) recognizes (or believes that it recognizes) the sharper point concealed within God’s little jape.  “You are not an heir of Muhammad, nor an heir of Abu Bakr, nor an heir of Omar.  If you were the heir of the Prophet and his companions which you purport yourself to be, you would—no matter how much wealth was generated by your oil reserves—be living as a pauper.  You would wash and mend your own clothes and live in a humble dwelling passing your days ‘striving in the path of God’.  The mere idea of possessing anything beyond a few simple necessities would be abhorrent, anathematic to you. And you would give every penny of your indescribable wealth to the poor.”     

    The oil revenues which have swamped the Saudi royal family in unimaginable wealth through most of the last century and which will, presumably, continue to swamp the Saudi royal family through most of this century have only further emphasized the disparity between the reality of their self-evident nature as (let us again call a spade a spade) thoroughly corrupt and venal human detritus and the portrayal of Ibn Saud as an heir of the Prophet Muhammad.  Far from having used its wealth to alleviate the plight of the poor, Saudi Arabia continues to be one of the poorest countries on the face of the earth with much of its population living—quite unnecessarily—at or below a subsistence level (which probably, my Islamic side tells me, just makes them better Muslims).  What is more, the money which the House of Saud does expend in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab world at large goes toward (again, calling a spade a spade) “buying off” and otherwise attempting to financially deflect, divert and distract the fundamentalist Wahabite sect which they were initially responsible for financing (rather like a peculiar “what if”—“What if the Koreish had chosen to finance Muhammad and Islam instead of fighting against them?”—acted out in the real world)  The Taliban, as an example, was largely a creation of American tax dollars and Saudi oil money.  On the American side, the Taliban was a puppet ally and a proxy army in the regional war against the Soviets.  On the Saudi side, the Taliban and the madrassas schools which spawned them constituted an attempt to “relocate” ideologically extreme Muslims (Osama bin Laden was one such exile) to the more remote parts—and, as far as the manifold Saudi Princes were concerned, the more remote the better—parts of the Islamic world, in the hopes of alleviating the pressure those forces were bringing to bear on the corrupt and despotic Saudi regime (by then) straining to maintain the transparent fiction that it represented the living incarnation of pure, undiluted Islam while spending on hotel and restaurant gratuities what John D. Rockefeller used to make in an average week. 

    When God does tell a joke, I’ve noticed, it tends to get funnier and funnier and funnier as you go along.  Of course, it depends on your sense of humour.  It is estimated that 80% of the mosques in the United States are under the supervision of Wahabite imams, exported by the House of Saud.  Wahabi mosques (according to one article I read) are recognizable because they are the most spectacular and ostentatious of the kind, financed as they invariably are by Saudi oil money.  The levels of duplicity multiply.  How could you pretend to be a genuine Wahabite imam—railing against all forms of base materialism—if you’re leading prayers in an ostentatious mosque which the Prophet would have found profoundly and irretrievably repellent?   The anticipated endgame—the pre-ordained “punch-line”—of course, is: how long will it be before all of this catches up with Crown Prince Abdullah and the greed-mongers of his extended family?  How many Wahabite—genuinely ascetic Wahabite extremists—can you exile and how fast can you exile them?  Particularly since 11 September has (to say the least) put something of a damper on the worldwide “demand” for extremist Muslim immigrants?  How long can you distract even the average Muslim in your country from noticing that you have far, far, far more in common with Abu Sofyan and his wife Hind and the fat, smug Meccan merchants of the Koreish than with the Prophet and the ansar and the mohajirun of Medina?  And how long can you keep them from, you know, doing something about it? 

    Of course it is somewhat inescapable at this point for anyone willing to open their eyes and look at the situation that the despotic corruption of the Koreish has very much prevailed in virtually all Muslim countries.  Of all the free nations on the face of the earth (even Zimbabwe qualifies since there is at least the structural illusion of a democracy, which gives you an idea of how low the bar is set—Robert Mugabe can step over it) the Muslim world can boast of exactly zero members.  All Muslim countries are run by fat, smug corrupt Meccan merchant-strongman types like Abu Sofyan.  Complete and total dictatorships.  What is even more repellent:  every one of those venal, corrupt, merchant-strongmen, building palaces and monuments to his own ego, raking in piles of indescribable wealth while the population of his country starves beyond the gilded gates—Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Muammar Gaddafi, King Mohammed—every one of them, I can practically guarantee you, sees himself as the One True Heir of the Mantle of the Prophet.  Or, at the very least, as the successor to Abu Bakr or Omar.  Or, at the point of greatest reduction, the latest incarnation of Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria who defended Acre against the Crusaders.  This is, I believe, the principal reason that the Arab League and OPEC never really manage to agree on anything.   Essentially, wherever the heads of state meet, it is a room full of Muhammad wannabe’s:  “Me!  I’m the Heir to the Mantle of the Prophet!  You must all follow me!”  Each one proposes a different course of action, they all mouth platitudes about Arab and Muslim unity (“Me!  Allah wants you all to unite and follow ME!”) after which—as Jonathan Kay, editorials editor of the National Post so aptly put it in a sidebar piece about the last meeting of the Arab League—“the sheiks key each others’ Rolls-Royces in the parking lot.” (“If you will not follow me, you proto-infidel, then get a new paint-job!”).  This is a point that I think often escapes the leaders of the world’s democracies who keep waiting for some sort of consensus on somethinganything—to emerge among the Arab nations, or at least, for some dominant faction to take shape.  The Arabs—the Muslim world in toto—are also waiting for it to happen.   Note the nature of Essad Bey’s characterization of the career of Ibn Saad:  “…his rise began which, in the course of time, made him ruler over two-thirds of Arabia, protector of the holy places and the most important man of present-day Islam.”  This is what the Nation of Islam is always waiting to see, in the same way that fundamentalist Christians awake every morning anticipating the Rapture, the sudden transfiguration of themselves into a pure spirit state before the Throne of God.  Having, historically, experienced this exponential “rise” with Muhammad and Abu Bakr and Omar, and to a lesser extent with other Sultans and caliphs and leaders, Islam always anticipates the rise of a great leader, behind whom all Muslims will unite to finish the work of the Prophet in converting all the nations of the earth to Islam.  And those most inclined to that belief, those for whom that brand of thinking is a centerpiece of their faith, are the Wahabites and their offshoots and variations.  80% of the imams supervising prayers in the United States are firm adherents of this brand of Islam.  Every Muslim leader who comes to prominence in the world, potentially—in the faith of the Wahabite—could be The One.  The revolution in Iran which brought Khomeini to power in 1979, made him a potential candidate as Heir of the Mantle of the Prophet.  Apart from yet another costly war with Iraq, it never spilled beyond the borders of its homeland and with Khomeini’s death the potential subsided and Iran is now vacillating between the residue of that revolutionary Wahabite spirit of 1979 and the westernization that most of the middle class now recognize as inevitable.  Saddam Hussein attempted to make himself a prominent candidate for Heir of the Mantle of the Prophet (although Hussein would have to be considered the “least Islamic” of the Arab world’s dictators-for-life, for the Saddam Husseins of this world, a brass ring is a brass ring: carpe diem) through technological military strength.  Very much in line with Osama bin Laden’s theory that people will always choose the strong horse over the weak horse, Hussein attempted to use his country’s oil wealth to purchase “strong horse” status.  His theory being, presumably, that if you have the most advanced armaments and the largest army in the Arab world, the gravitational force of that weaponry will cause the rest of the Arab world to fall into line behind you and, ipso facto, the Muslim world will follow suit, drawing the Mantle of the Prophet to you.  Another article by Alexander Rose in the National Post, 16 March of this year (“Iraq: How Big A Threat Is It?”) contains an amazing shopping list of all of Iraq’s known conventional armaments remaining after the Gulf War.  The Gulf War, of course, was in many ways “make or break” for Saddam Hussein.  If you are purporting yourself to be the Heir of the Mantle of the Prophet (or allowing your followers to proclaim you as such) or even attempting to engender the belief that you are the 20th century incarnation of Saladin, that you are a Mighty Slayer of the Jew and Christian Infidel, warfare with the Jew and Christian Infidel is where the rubber hits the road.  Promising the “Mother of All Battles,” a virtual Armageddon and then having the festivities over with in four or five days—with yourself as the “Mother of All Losers”—certainly diminishes the likelihood of your being popularly hailed as the Heir of the Mantle of the Prophet.  As happened to the Taliban in Afghanistan, from a Muslim standpoint, the evidence is irrefutable that you are not The One they’ve been waiting for.  Of course, the fact that Saddam was not deposed or killed mitigates the result (potentially anyway) in Muslim eyes.  An argument could be made that the Gulf War echoed the result of the Battle of Mt. Ohod, where the Koreish had Muhammad and his followers on the run and then when all seemed lost—through a miracle of God—the Muslims were spared, living to fight the second battle of Badr, which they won decisively.  This perception/possibility brings with it its own set of pressures and limitations.  One of the insidious implications of the 20th century “arms race” (which evolved into the Arms Race) for a country the size of Iraq is that each successive “generation” of weaponry trumps the previous generation and the lifespan of a generation of weapons can be measured in years, if not months, at this point.  Iraq’s armaments are “state of the art”—for 1985.  Which, by 2002 standards, means that they are dog-food.  Ronald Reagan’s simple solution to the problem posed by the Soviet Empire was to outspend them on weapons technology, which worked and was a leading factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.  What is often overlooked is that the United States chose not to rest on its laurels but continued to develop and manufacture successive generations of weapons technology. Essentially the Pentagon chose to trump itself…every other year?  Every year?  Every six months?...with successive generations of weapons systems so that the United States now effectively outguns every other nation on the planet by a very, very, very wide margin.  That is, metaphorically, the United States has a .357 magnum and every other country is using sharpened sticks.  The lesson for Saddam Hussein was that you have to use a state-of-the-art weapons system while it is state-of-the-art.  A delay of a year or even six months from the time you take delivery on it means that it is only effective against smaller opponents.  Unless, of course, God actually does favour Saddam Hussein over “The Great Satan” in which case David and Goliath rules apply.  But as I’ve written earlier in this series, I don’t think a theocracy or a socialist dictatorship is something God is going to side with against a vanguard democracy.  I’ll be dealing with what I see as the military responsibilities of the Western Democracies in “Why Canada Slept,” which follows “Islam, My Islam.” 

     Why did George Bush, Sr. and Colin Powell leave Saddam Hussein in power?

      There is certainly no shortage of conventional explanations—with twenty-twenty hindsight—ten years later on.  But most of those explanations have a hollow secular ring to them. From an Islamic standpoint a hollow secular ring to an explanation will always arouse the suspicion that the Hand of God is in evidence.  This, it seems to me, is one of the great failings of the Western Democracies:  their inability to perceive that victory over a Muslim opponent must be absolute and irrefutable.  A partial victory over a pretender to the Mantle of the Prophet can easily be portrayed and then widely accepted as a partial defeat—with the attendant Muslim assumption that total defeat for the infidel is just around the corner. Inshallah.  “If God wills”.

    This is no small point in my argument.  As Jon Lee Anderson wrote in The New Yorker (“After the Revolution” January 28) regarding the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan:


    The mausoleum that adjoins the Ahmed Shah mosque, which is across the street from the governor’s palace, has a special subterranean chamber that kafirs, or unbelievers, cannot enter.  It houses the cloak that is believed to have belonged to the Prophet Muhammad.  On April 4, 1996, when Mullah Omar was declared the Keeper of the Faithful, he took the cloak out of the chamber and, in a dramatic display of hubris, donned it before a crowd of spectators.


    The use of the term “hubris”—“wanton arrogance arising from overbearing pride”—by Mr. Anderson in this context is very Western and, most particularly, very Christian  (although the legions of secular humanists—in whose number I imagine Jon Lee Anderson, as a New Yorker contributor, counts himself—will deny with their dying breath having any relationship to Christianity, the spiritual bonds of two thousand years are not so readily broken by the wilful worldly conceits of the Baby Boom and the invention of pop-up toasters—much as the secular humanist Baby Boom world fervently wishes that wishing would make it so).  The Christianity which is “hardwired” into the spiritual makeup of Mr. Anderson evinces the involuntary horror which surges to the surface at the prospect of anyone, at any level pretending to be a peer of the pre-eminent incarnation of a given faith, which, for Christians and those of Christian descent is Jesus.  This, to me, was one of the primary motivations behind God’s use of the Cross: it discourages (to say the least) the pretence of co-equivalence with Jesus.  To those who sought to follow in Jesus’ footsteps—in the way that Mullah Omar attempts to do with Muhammad:  to assume The Mantle, to be popularly deemed as being on the same plateau, to be perceived as co-equivalent (like John and James’ mother asking that they be seated on the right and left hand of Jesus in the world to come)—to any man so tempted, Jesus said, “…let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  The Cross is what separates the men from the boys.  Before the Cross, Jesus’ ministry—to his contemporaries—must have looked like a pretty cushy gig.  Itinerant preacher, out on the road, hanging out with the guys, hundreds of people mobbing you wherever you go, a lot of them chicks, dazzling everyone with miracles, pissing off the Scribes and the Pharisees.  Not all that different from being a 1st-century Palestine rock star.  No wonder the disciples—before the crucifixion—were always bickering about—and nudging Jesus about—“who would be the greatest of them”.  As one of Robert Crumb’s pseudo-spiritual scam artist characters put it, “I’m God. And I get all the chicks.”  But the Cross puts the story of Jesus on a plateau so elevated above those sorts of petty worldly conceits as to render those conceits beneath notice, to render them spiritually disgraceful, and to tread them into the dust.  Not just at the time, but two thousand years later: spiritually, going willingly to the Cross puts you way, way, way, way, way up there.  Anything less puts you way, way, way, way, way down here.  It would be inconceivable (just to cite the most obvious direct analogy) for the Pope to appear on his balcony at the Vatican with the Shroud of Turin draped over his head.

     This perception, this chasm between the Prophet and his would-be successors doesn’t exist in Islam.  Because the Prophet Muhammad died peacefully on Aisha’s breast, having achieved the conquest of most of the world that he knew, there is no “Cross equivalent” in Islam, no solitary, agonizing “road less travelled,” no Rubicon of faith and courage which one must needs traverse to establish one’s spiritual bona fides.  Islam is much like Second Temple Judaism in that respect.  Before the Diaspora of 70 A.D. the Jews spent a great deal of time waiting and watching for Meschiach to come—the Davidic Messiah, the Branch of Jesse—who would restore Israel to the (let me go out on a limb here) perceived greatness of the Golden Age of King David and King Solomon.  Like water, over time these things tend to seek their lowest level, and at the lowest level, Meschiach came to be perceived as “this really amazing Jew who will show up out of nowhere and unite everyone behind him and with the help of God and his Angels, kick every goy tucchus around the block without breaking a sweat…[this is the sensibility that I’m parodying with the Rabbi character.  Superman, as conceived by Jerry Siegel, is very much cut from the “lowest common denominator” cloth of perceptions of what the nature of  Meschiach would be]…so that we Jews get to be the ones on top and we Jews get to spit on any goy we want and we Jews get to be God and we Jews get all the chicks.”  I’m exaggerating, but only slightly as any decent history of Sabbatai Svi—the seventeenth century Jew who was popularly acclaimed to be the Meschiach for a year or so—would clearly demonstrate.  When he made his presence known, word swept through the ghettos of Europe and masses of Jews sold all of their possessions and began migrating to the Holy Land, on the way out rather gleefully telling their goy oppressors, “Now! Now you are going to get yours, you goyim, you. Our guy, the real guy has come and he is going to give you such a smack!”  Gradually, this sentiment seems to have departed from Orthodox and Reformed Judaism—the restoration of the Chosen People to Jerusalem after two thousand years having virtually eradicated it as a centerpiece of Judaic philosophy.  In fact, so much does the Jerusalem restoration dominate the Jewish consciousness that popular rabbinical opinion of those verses of the Torah and passages in the Talmud which address the issue of the Meschiach (from what I understand) now favour the view that the Meschiach might be the city of Jerusalem itself.  There also seems to be a large constituency that favours the view that Meschiach won’t be an individual, but rather a specific Age when all of the promises will be fulfilled by many individuals, all possessing different missing parts of the puzzle which is our earthly existence.

      But, again, these sorts of perceptions don’t exist in Islam.  In Islam, the Mantle of the Prophet has a very “up for grabs” quality about it.  You can see this particularly in Arab street demonstrations which center on an individual.  While it is going on, all of the participants appear to be both participating and observing.  I’m sure that when Mullah Omar (who had appointed himself the title Amir-ul-momineen, King of all Believers) donned the ancient relic before the assembled crowd that a large demonstration ensued—large and noisy—with everyone chanting “Allahu Akhbar” (“God is Great”).  On subsequent days did the demonstrations get larger and noisier?  Did everyone seem to be abandoning Mullah Omar’s rivals?  Or were the rival factions still skulking at the periphery?  When it comes to popular acclaim, Islam always has the hajj to compare it to:  a period of a few days, annually, when millions of Muslims from around the world descend upon the sacred precincts.  If anyone is ever going to be acknowledged to be the Heir to the Mantle of the Prophet, the “yardstick” against which his own followers will be measured and against which they will, undoubtedly, measure themselves will be the size and the enthusiasm of the crowds at the hajj.  The crowds which surrounded the Ayatollah Khomeini after the Shah was deposed in 1979 and the crowds which assembled on the occasion of his funeral were the only ones in recent memory which seemed to achieve that level of size and enthusiasm and, in the Ayatollah’s case, frenzy.  Temporarily.  And that part is, I think, key.  The unwritten expectation would seem to dictate that the size and enthusiasm and frenzy of the crowds needs to get exponentially larger on an on-going basis.  After all, whoever assumes the Mantle of the Prophet will be expected to conquer the entire world and convert every nation to Islam.  Even as the Taliban positions were collapsing around him, Mullah Omar was issuing proclamations which were posted at a branch of the Foreign Ministry and all other government offices in his native language, Pashto: “You should strictly adopt the Islamic law of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, in every aspect of life, including dress, especially the turban.  Wearing the turban crooked is not acceptable to the sunnah [laws on dress and demeanour].  For 1,400 years we have been wearing the beard and turbans.  Some people say these are new things but it is not true.”  He maintained his absolutism—the final arbiter of such questions as: is it allowable in Islam to wear your turban crooked?—even as it became inescapable to even his most devoted followers that he was definitely not The One.

    It is, in my view, well worth the effort for the Western democracies to keep close tabs on any and all of these individuals who come to prominence—and to be prepared to strike them, quickly and decisively, to demonstrate that this individual is not the Heir of the Mantle of the Prophet, this individual is not favoured by God.  As was the case with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.  They weren’t killed or captured, but they were—visibly and irrevocably—deposed.  That’s all it takes.

     Yasser Arafat has been a going concern in this category for years and years, in my view—dangerously so.  The man has more lives than a cat which, in light of what I’ve been discussing here, is a perception that you really don’t want attaching itself to a Muslim leader.  It’s a little peculiar and it certainly has no direct metaphorical precedent in Islam (although I always picture Muhammad’s greasy, weasel-y Uncle El Abbas as Yasser Arafat) still, the fact that Yasser Arafat always seems to land on his feet no matter what sort of peril he’s in could, possibly, be misread by a people short on potential candidates for Heir of the Mantle of the Prophet.  You’d really be scraping the bottom of the barrel, in my view, but the crowds which surrounded Arafat were always photogenically enthusiastic and Arafat, himself, was one of the first Muslim leaders to understand the value of manipulating the news media in creating and sustaining an image as a potential Heir to the Mantle of the Prophet.  From the National Post, March 30:


   In 1998, one of Mr. Arafat’s subordinates submitted to the Al Kuds newspaper an article comparing the PA chairman to Saladin, the 12th century Muslim conqueror who took Jerusalem from the Christians.  When the editor published the article on Page 3 instead of Page 1, Mr. Arafat’s thugs kidnapped and beat him.


     As I say, it’s just a very different world from that of the Judeo-Christian.

     Pardon me?  Oh, sure.  By all means.

     Let’s talk about the Middle East.


Part VI


     From Mark Steyn’s April 18 column in the National Post:


     “The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews,” wrote America’s great longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer after the 1967 war.  “Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem…But everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab…Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms.  But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace.  Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world.”  Thus, the massive population displacements in Europe at the end of the Second World War are forever, but those in Palestine—a mere three years later—must be corrected and reversed.  On the Continent, losing wars comes with a territorial price:  The Germans aren’t going to be back in Danzig any time soon.  But, in the Middle East, no matter how often the Arabs attack Israel and lose, their claims to their lost territory manage to be both inviolable but endlessly transferable.  

     So even the so-called “two-state solution” [Israel and “Palestine”] subscribes to an Arafatist view of the situation.  Creating yet another fetid Arab dictatorship in the West Bank would be, technically, a “three-state solution” and, indeed, [would create] a second Palestinian state [next to the first,] Jordan, whose population has always been majority Palestinian.  It was created in the original “two-state settlement” 80 years ago, when the British partitioned their new Mandate of Palestine, carving off the western three-quarters into a territory called “Transjordan” and keeping the surviving eastern quarter under the name “Palestine.” They did this for two reasons: First, they needed to stop one of the Hashemite boys, Abdullah, from marching on Syria and the best that they could come up with was to halt him in Amman and suggest he serve as interim governor; but secondly, Churchill, as Colonial Secretary, thought the fairest way to fulfill Britain’s pledges to both Arabs and Jews during the Great War was by confining Zionists to a Jewish National Home west of the Jordan and creating a separate Arab entity in Palestine, east of the Jordan.  The only thing he got wrong was the names: If instead of inventing the designation “Transjordan,” if he’d just called the eastern territory “Palestine” and the west “Israel” (or “Judah”), the Arafatist claim would be a much tougher sell.


    This, it seems to me, expresses much of the problem in the Middle East very succinctly.  When Arafat or his underlings—as official spokesmen for the Palestinian Authority—speak of the “occupied territories,” what most of the world assumes they are referring to is the West Bank and Gaza, land seized in the 1967 war.  I think the evidence indicates that this is a false assumption.  I think Yasser Arafat actually believes that the fact that the land which is now called Israel was once called “Palestine” at the time of the British partition means that the state of Israel is, in itself, in toto, an illegal occupation of Palestine.  I think Yasser Arafat further believes that if he is just patient enough, eventually, the United Nations—under sufficient pressure from the European Union and the Muslim bloc—will be forced to, basically, ask Israel to leave.  And if Israel, the entire State of Israel, will not leave willingly, that they will be forced out militarily by the whole world uniting behind Yasser Arafat’s claim.  Crazy?  Of course!  But then, I also believe that Yasser Arafat is certifiably insane and always has been.  How else to explain his rejection in 2000 of the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and control of much of Jerusalem unless that is just plain not what he is talking about?  Again, Mark Steyn, this time from his column of 4 April:


    Any time we talk about the “occupied territories,” we’re doing what the appeasers did in the Thirties—allowing the aggressors to frame the debate.  They’re not “occupied,” they’re “disputed territories.”  The West Bank isn’t “Palestinian”.  The last people to administer it lawfully were the British.  Under the 1947 UN partition plan, it was designated as “land yet to be allocated”.  The Jordanian Army, under the only decent Arab general (Sir John Glubb), seized it in the first Muslim war against the Jews and held it until 1967.  But, in legal and historical terms, it’s not Jordanian or Israeli and it’s certainly not “Palestinian.”  Nor, I submit, should it ever be. 

   The interesting thing about “Palestinians” is that so few of the West Bank Arabs thought of themselves as such before 1967.  It post-dates the founding of the PLO:  Palestine had a national liberation movement before it had a nationality.  Likewise, because the Arab League designated Yasser Arafat as a head of state, we’ve spent 30 years trying to create a state for him to be head of.  Most Arab nationalities—“Jordanian,” “Iraqi”—were created by the British Colonial Office in the Twenties and, although those languid Etonians came up with some evocative and colourful names for their hastily concocted jurisdictions, for the most part they’re comprehensive failures as nation states.  It hardly seems worth adding another bogus polity to the list.


    Yes, exactly.  As long as the Arab and Muslim worlds are wholly and completely dominated by Koreish-style dictatorships, it’s foolish in the extreme to just carve another one out in the West Bank.  The purpose of Western Democracies (although often you wouldn’t know to look at it) is to assist in ending dictatorships and to assist in engendering democracy.  The Palestinian Authority was formed with the express understanding that Yasser Arafat would serve as interim Chairman until Presidential elections could be held in 1999.  1999 was three years ago.  An unsigned editorial under the title “Actually, the world is wrong” points up the ridiculousness of Europe’s approach to the Middle East:


    Scenario:  After rejecting Israel’s offer of an independent Palestinian state, Yasser Arafat empties his jails of terrorists and initiates a campaign of occasional slaughter against civilians.  Solution: To lessen Palestinian “frustration,” Israel must begin a political process with Mr. Arafat immediately. 

   Scenario: Palestinian suicide bombers armed and financed by Iran, Iraq and Syria blow themselves up in restaurants and Passover Seders at the rate of one a day.  Solution:  To lessen Palestinian “humiliation,” Israel must begin a political process with Mr. Arafat immediately.  Also, Israel must take down “humiliating” anti-terrorist checkpoints.

    Scenario:  Israel conducts a largely successful military campaign in the West Bank and collects abundant evidence of Mr. Arafat’s complicity in terrorism; meanwhile terrorist attacks against Jews continue, but at a much-reduced rate.  Solution:  To lessen Palestinian “despair,” Israel must begin a political process with Mr. Arafat immediately.  Israel must also end its military campaign and withdraw all its troops.  Europe should threaten a trade boycott.  Shimon Peres’ 1994 Nobel Peace Prize should be taken away—and given to Mr. Arafat, so he has two.


    If you guessed that I am going to jump (like a rookie with a hanging fastball that snuck out over the middle of the plate) all over the use of such emotion-based terminology as “frustration,” “humiliation” and “despair” to characterize the EU and the UN’s view of the Palestinian Authority’s situation, you guessed right.  Next issue.  But a few more facts, first:

   As Norman Doidge pointed out in his column of 13 April:


   Spooked, America is unwilling to let Israel end Arafat’s reign of terror.  Washington has retreated into approaching him with a kind of primitive behaviour therapy that says, “If he renounces terror” or “if he controls terror,” then we will talk to him.  It is as though all that matters is to get him to say the right words, never mind his intentions; as if no distinction need be drawn between his strategic goal—the destruction of Israel—and a tactical willingness to say he opposes terror (when a lie serves his purpose).


   In everything that I have read about Yasser Arafat—and the clippings concerning him far outnumber all others in front of me as I work, here, on “Islam, My Islam”—the only instance that I can find of him denouncing violence is in his speech to the United Nations in 1988.  As the record of the ensuing fourteen years more than amply demonstrates, this unique, solitary and isolated instance of Yasser Arafat paying lip service to peace has served him well, having (evidently) persuaded the predominantly liberal-left, quasi-socialist governments of the world to not only elevate him to his central rôle on the international stage as Israel’s “partner for peace” but also to award him the Nobel Peace Prize.  Seldom has so much been bestowed upon any individual for so little—particularly given that, in every other action and assertion over a forty-year career Arafat has never so much as pretended to be anything but what he is: a gangster, a terrorist, the inventor of airplane high-jacking as a means of winning public attention, the former leader of Black September who masterminded the murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the 1973 murder of American Ambassador Cleo A. Noel, Jr., his deputy, George Curtis Moore and Belgian chargé d’affaires, Guy Eid during a hostage taking at a reception at the Saudi embassy in Sudan (this one isn’t discussed very much: the commandos demanded the release of Robert Kennedy’s assassin Sirhan Sirhan and executed the hostages when President Nixon refused to negotiate) and, today, the autocratic dictator of the Palestinian Authority.  It is a peculiarity of the secular liberal-left, quasi-socialists who dominate the world stage that they have an insatiable need to establish co-equivalency, most particularly where it does not exist. Israelis—having, some time ago, abandoned liberal-left, quasi-socialist fictions for the rather more useful pragmatism of common sense and its ability to assist in survival—thus require a counterpart (in the skewed perceptions of the secular, liberal-left, quasi-socialists) in what they call (with perfectly straight faces) “the peace process”:  a counterpart, well, you know, a little more secular, liberal-left and quasi-socialist than the Israelis.  Of course it is only the secular, liberal-left quasi-socialists who can then look at Yasser Arafat—a devout Muslim, whose politics (like the politics of all autocratic dictators) lies somewhere to the right of Francisco Franco, whose idea of socialism includes only himself and his immediate cronies—and say, “Yes, well, close enough.”  The Alice Through the Looking-Glass quality that this imposes on the Israelis as a central reality of their national existence, quite frankly, boggles my mind as I’m quite sure that it boggles theirs on a regular basis.  It is worth recalling—as the secular, liberal-left quasi socialists are loathe to do—that the problems of the Palestinians originated with the Arabs, not the Israelis.  As Z. David Berlin puts it in an opinion piece in the National Post (“Would confederation offer a middle way for the Middle East?” 11 May) (the long answer to the question posed by the title, to me, is “no”.):


    Palestinian nationalism grew not so much out of the 1967 Israeli occupation as because pan-Arabism itself turned out to be not very inclusive.  The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the displacement of local populations that went with it…


   I really have to interrupt at this point to mention that the population “displacements” were scarcely comparable.  Basically, the Arab countries seized all property owned by their Jewish citizens and then expelled the Jews—who fled to Israel—and then advised the Arab populations in Israel, the Transjordanians, to get out of the way while they, the Arab countries, kicked Israel’s ass, with the implicit promise that once Israel’s ass had been properly kicked and all of the Jews driven into the Mediterranean, there would be more than enough fig trees, vineyards and other loot to go around for all the Transjordanians who had been inconvenienced.  When Israel, instead, kicked the Arabs’ asses, the Arab countries (Jordan particularly)—rather than opening their borders to the now-homeless Transjordanians—erected the refugee camps which still exist today and said, basically, Sit tight.  We’ll get ‘em next time.  Which of course they didn’t.  So for fifty-four years, these Transjordanians have been “sitting tight” in increasingly more permanent—fifty-four years is fifty-four years—refugee camps in the West Bank.  It’s also worth noting that most Arabs living today in the West Bank (or Gaza) did not get kicked out by Israel.  They moved in—from Jordan, Egypt and, indirectly, every other Arab country you can name.  Since 1994, more than 400,000 Arabs have entered the West Bank and Gaza.


    did not inspire anything like the current frenzy.  In fact, it was not until Black September, when the late King Hussein of Jordan clamped down on the Palestinians in his own country (about 70% of Jordan’s population is Palestinian) that Palestinians began to realize their survival was of no great concern to the neighbouring Arab nations.  This growing feeling of abandonment and helplessness was further exacerbated in June, 1976, when the Syrian ruler, Hafez Assad, launched a major offensive against the Palestinians hunkered down in Lebanon…Displaced Arab populations in refugee camps under Egyptian and Jordanian rule, often referred to as Arab Jews, became Palestinian by default.


   Essentially, Jordan—which was created largely to be a homeland for Palestinians—decided it had enough Palestinians of its own (thank you, very much) and decided to freeze out the Arabs that they had encouraged to abandon their homes and lands temporarily, fifty-four years ago.  In the minds of the Jordanians, it was one thing to promise those displaced Arabs Jewish fig trees and vineyards and houses and lands and quite another to have to make good on the promise with Jordanian fig trees and vineyards and houses and lands (this brings to mind an observation that David Warren of The Ottawa Citizen quoted in a recent column as having been said to him by a Palestinian writer in Bethlehem, “With friends like these, who needs Israelis?”)  Actually, Shimon Peres (presently Israeli defence minister, the Prime Minister who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Arafat) came up with a plan in his 1995 book The New Middle East of a trilateral confederation of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians with the state of Palestine to be established in the Gaza Strip and the joint administration of the West Bank by Israel, the PA and Jordan:


One story going the rounds at the time was that Arafat had approached King Hussein with the joint project idea, suggesting that he and the King alternate as heads of the confederation.  According to Peres, this chutzpah “put an end to the idea of a Palestinian Jordanian confederation.”


     No doubt.  This is what continually amazes me about the secular liberal-left, quasi-socialist approach to the “peace process”.  As I see it, Jordan owes the displaced Arabs a homeland.  Call it Little Jordan, call it Palestine, rename Jordan Big Palestine if you want but I really fail to see where autonomy or a new state comes into the deal.  What role will Arafat play? My personal opinion is that the vital role that Arafat will play in Middle East peace is this:  you take Arafat out in the woods and you put a bullet in his head and leave him there so the birds and the wild animals can pick his carcass clean (call me sentimental if you want, but these are exactly the warm fuzzy kinds of thoughts that come to my mind.  And it’s not just Arafat.  I have the exact same thoughts about all other scumbag, terrorist, sky-jacking, athlete-murdering, diplomat-murdering, autocratic dictator despots). Once Yasser Arafat has fulfilled this vital role then you sit down and begin to negotiate with the Jordanians what part of Jordan the Jordanians are going to carve out of Jordan as a new homeland for the Transjordanians that Jordan encouraged to leave their homes back in 1948.

     But, but—what about “Land for Peace”? I hear you whine (you secular, left-liberal, quasi-socialist, you).  The answer to that, of course, is the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May of 2000.  As Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post Writers Group puts it,


    Indeed, Israel had been in Lebanon for about 20 years.  It was a classic defensive occupation.  Israel laid claim to not an inch of Lebanese soil.  It diverted not a drop of water.  It had no interest in staying.  It was there for one reason: to protect Israel’s northern frontier from various guerrillas—first Yasser Arafat’s PLO, then the Lebanese Shiite Party of God (Hezbollah) [a front for the despotic terrorist government of Syria]—using South Lebanon to attack Israel. 

    Yet for two decades, Israel was hectored to comply with United Nations resolutions demanding Israel’s withdrawal.  In May, 2000 it complied.  To ensure that there could be no possible residual territorial dispute, Israel asked the UN to draw the line demarcating the true Israeli-Lebanese border—the so-called Blue Line—then pulled back behind it. 


    Land for peace, right?  Wrong.  Since May of 2000, Hezbollah’s attacks on the northern frontier of Israel have escalated to a level which exceeds that which prompted the Israeli invasion back in 1982.  In fact, do you remember the Saudi Peace Plan that everyone was making such a fuss about a few months back?  One of the key points of Prince Abdullah’s plan was a demand that Israel withdraw “from the remaining occupied Lebanese territories.”  But, (as even the ordinarily sedate Mr. Krauthammer couldn’t help but italicize) there are no remaining occupied Lebanese territories. 

    At the time of Colin Powell’s latest swing through the Middle East, Steven Edwards had a few astute observations buried in an otherwise unexceptional article headlined “Arabs Keep Up Diplomatic Pressure.” Foremost among these a couple of quotes from unnamed UN diplomats.  The first, a Western diplomat, saying, “It seems like the Arab countries can’t go 24 hours without putting something on the table.”  Followed by an observation from unnamed Arab diplomats that much of their activity is to appease Arab public opinion, “The push for more and more resolutions is for domestic consumption.  It is a way of showing something is being done.  And there is always the chance that the Security Council will fall to its knees and move against Israel.”  “Fall to its knees”.  A singularly Koreish-like approach to international diplomacy.


Pushed primarily by Arab and Muslim countries, the United Nations has spent more of the past 50 years on the Arab-Israeli conflict than on any other regional dispute.

   The Security Council has ruled on the conflict in more than 250 resolutions, which are legally binding.  The count for the General Assembly, where Arab and Muslim countries have little difficulty mustering support among developing countries for the Palestinian cause, is almost 1,000.


   I love this part:


   Pushing for resolutions, declarations and statements that slam or make demands on Israel and corner the United States has been the mainstay of Arab diplomatic activity through the vast UN system for years. 

   This week in Madrid, even the United Nations world conference on ageing found itself sidetracked when Egypt insisted delegates should accuse Israel of “genocide, subjugation and the daily agony that the Palestinians incur.”


   I suppose when you’re busily typing all of these resolutions into your laptop, a Freudian slip or two is bound to slip in.  “Incur” means “to bring on oneself”.  I think the writer meant “endure”.  Anyway, I think it’s obvious that the dispute isn’t really about anything anymore apart from making Israel into a scapegoat for the massive failures clearly evident in the Arab dictatorships in the Middle East.  There is no concession which Israel could make that would end the violence perpetrated against it—or, for that matter, even curtail the mindlessly lunatic propaganda war being waged against it on a daily basis.   As Prince Abdullah said when he unveiled the Saudi “peace plan” at the last meeting of the Arab League, “The time has come for Israel to put its trust in peace after it has gambled on war for decades without success.”  Of course, this is the exact reverse of the reality of the last fifty-four years.  It is the Arab countries, the Arab dictatorships which have gambled on war for decades and the Arab countries, the Arab dictatorships who have no success to show for their efforts.  As Mark Steyn pointed out in a recent column, “Prince Abdullah has no interest in Palestinians: It’s easier for a Palestinian to emigrate to Toronto and become a subject of the Queen than to emigrate to Riyadh and become a subject of King Fahd.”  It’s a telling point.  The Saudi Peace Plan was basically the same as one the Saudis proposed in 1981 and again in 1991: withdraw to the pre-June 4, 1967 borders and the Arab world will make peace with you.  What this presupposes is that the venal and corrupt Arab despots in their various palaces have any influence over their fanatical anti-Zionist, Wahabite minority populations.  I don’t think that they do, any more than Yasser Arafat could actually stop a single suicide bombing even if he were inclined to do so.

    Right.  Getting back to Yasser Arafat:

    In the same way that the secular left-liberal quasi-socialists use Hemingway’s Nobel Prize for Literature to convince themselves that Hemingway was a writer instead of a typist, this same group uses Yasser Arafat’s Nobel Peace Prize to convince themselves that Arafat is a diplomat and a statesman.  Even as the evidence continues to mount and to become irrefutable—that not only has Arafat been “inconsistent in his opposition to terrorism” (the official view of the White House and the State Department)—that he has, in fact, been a relentless proponent and supporter of terrorism still The Washington Post (immediately after the massacre of 26 Israelis at the Passover Seder) editorialized that we need “the leadership of the Palestinian Authority as well as its principal security services” as “the only available instruments for stopping Palestinian terrorism”.  Charles Krauthammer’s reaction:


Good God.  Instruments for stopping terrorism?  They are instruments for aiding and abetting, equipping and financing, supporting and glorifying terrorism, which they call “martyrdom operations”.  This is like arguing at the beginning of the Afghan war that we should not attack the Taliban because they were the only instrument in Afghanistan available for bringing al-Qaeda to heel.  Sure.  But they were allied with al-Qaeda, commingled with al-Qaeda and shared al-Qaeda’s objectives.  They had no intention of ever stopping al-Qaeda.  That situation is precisely the same in Palestine. 


Next issue:  Getting very near the end (God willing).  More on the Middle East, future prospects for the Nation of Islam and concluding thoughts on my own experiences with praying, fasting in Ramadan and paying the zakat

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