Some readers may recall that I wrote an article recently with the title, Western Intellectuals Need to Study Islam before Making Comments on the Subject. It was prompted by William Buckley’s comments on Islam in the aftermath of the destructive riots in France in November 2005.
I visit the topic again, after reading an editorial in The Wall Street Journal of February 11, 2006 , “Clash of Civilization: The dictators behind those Muslim cartoon protests.” The article began with comments on the violent riots that were going on in the Muslim world over the cartoons that had portrayed Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.
First, I begin with some very worthwhile quotes:
“The Western philosophical tradition is founded on the belief that the execution of Socrates for blaspheming the gods of Athens was an injustice. When British Muslims carry placards reading “Butcher those who mock Islam,” they are making their differences with that tradition depressingly plain.
“Yet mass demonstrations almost never represent mainstream public sentiment in the West. Why then should we take it as given that they do among Muslims? Every society has its silent majorities, but it’s only in democracies that those majorities exercise a decisive influence. If Islamic societies seem premodern and violent, this surely has something to do with the fact that most Muslim countries today are places where there is no democracy; where silent majorities stay silent; where, to adapt W.H. Auden, ‘only the man behind the rifle has free speech.’
“Put simply, what we have witnessed isn’t the proverbial rage of the Arab street. It’s an orchestrated effort by illiberal regimes, colluding with fundamentalist clerics, to conjure the illusion of Muslim rage for their own political purposes. The Iranian mullahs seek to discredit Denmark as it assumes the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council, where Iran ‘s nuclear program is being discussed. The secular Allawite regime in Syria wants to shore up its ties with the Sunni religious establishment, especially now that Bashar Assad’s former vice president has declared a government in exile. The Saudis want to put behind them the latest stampede at the annual Hajj, where some 350 pilgrims were killed.
“There’s a lesson in this for those who would have us believe that what this cartoon conflagration represents is a conflict of civilizations. There is a conflict all right, not between civilizations, but within one, and it pits those who would make Islam barbaric and those who would keep it civilized. In that struggle, the heirs of Socrates and the heirs of al-Farabi must make common cause.”
This closing paragraph ignored the undeniable historical fact that a clash between Islam and the Western world, has been going on for the last 1400 years. An almost monotonous denial of this subject has increased ever since the publication in 1966, of Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of Word Order. However, ignoring or simply wishing it away does not make it disappear. Thus, two weeks after reading the WSJ editorial, I noticed in the Kuwaiti online journal, Tanweer (Enlightenment), an article about the late Egyptian Islamist, Sayyed Qutb and his contribution to the intensity of the clash between Islam and the West! So when an informed Arab source acknowledges this historical fact, why not recognize it!?
I would like to remind Western columnists that of all the major world’s religions, Islam has always been, and is still far more than a religion. One may conjecture that had its founder’s mission been accepted in Mecca , Islam may have remained a purely local Arabian religion. But the Hijra (Migration) to Mecca in 622 A.D. allowed Muhammad an opportunity to become the founder and legislator of a new Commonwealth, the Umma of Islam. After his death in 632, his successors, the Caliphs launched the futuhat, the conquests of the world, impelled by a firm belief in the divine right of conquest! Thus from the early years of the seventh century, Islamic imperialism continued to expand in three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe ! It was finally checked in Europe at the gates of Vienna in 1683, when the Ottoman Turks failed for the second time, to conquer the capital of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Thus, to ignore that aspect of the history of Islam, and its fundamental ideology of world conquest, does not help us face the global challenge of jihadism during the twenty-first century.