|According to non-Muslim politicians these Taliban members have nothing to do with Islam. |
[original caption by D. Pipes]
Why Politicians Deny Islam's Role - Daniel Pipes, PhD
Prominent non-Muslim political figures have embarrassed themselves by denying the self-evident connection of Islam to the Islamic State (ISIS) and to Islamist violence in Paris and Copenhagen, even claiming these are contrary to Islam. What do they hope to achieve through these falsehoods and what is their significance?
Summarizing these statements, which come straight out of the Islamist playbook: Islam is purely a religion of peace, so violence and barbarism categorically have nothing to do with it; indeed, these "masquerade" and "pervert" Islam. By implication, more Islam is needed to solve these "monstrous" and "barbaric" problems.
But, of course, this interpretation neglects the scriptures of Islam and the history of Muslims, seeped in the assumption of superiority toward non-Muslims and the righteous violence of jihad. Ironically, ignoring the Islamic impulse means foregoing the best tool to defeat jihadism: for, if the problem results not from an interpretation of Islam, but from random evil and irrational impulses, how can one possibly counter it? Only acknowledging the legacy of Islamic imperialism opens ways to re-interpret the faith's scriptures in modern, moderate, and good-neighborly ways.
Why, then, do powerful politicians make ignorant and counterproductive arguments, ones they surely know to be false, especially as violent Islamism spreads (think of Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and the Taliban)? Cowardice and multiculturalism play a role, to be sure, but two other reasons have more importance:
First, they want not to offend Muslims, who they fear are more prone to violence if they perceive non-Muslims pursuing a "war on Islam." Second, they worry that focusing on Muslims means fundamental changes to the secular order, while denying an Islamic element permits avoid troubling issues. For example, it permits airplane security to look for passengers' weapons rather than engage in Israeli-style interrogations.
My prediction: Denial will continue unless violence increases. In retrospect, the 3,000 victims of 9/11 did not shake non-Muslim complacency. The nearly 30,000 fatalities from Islamist terrorism since then also have not altered the official line. Perhaps 300,000 dead will cast aside worries about Islamist sensibilities and a reluctance to make profound social changes, replacing these with a determination to fight a radical utopian ideology; three million dead will surely suffice.
Without such casualties, however, politicians will likely continue with denial because it's easier that way.
How the Middle East Differs from the West - Asher Susser
British Middle East historian Malcolm Yapp notes that Middle Eastern societies are not societies of individuals - they are societies of groups. In Western societies, people organize politically as individuals. In the Middle East, you belong to a group - your extended family, your tribe, and your religious denomination. So you are, first and foremost, a Muslim, or a Jew, or some kind of Christian - Maronite, Greek Orthodox, or Greek Catholic. If you're Muslim, it makes a huge difference if you are Sunni or Shiite or something else like the Alawites or the Druze.
The Americans invaded Iraq with the belief that it was a society of individuals and so would coalesce into democratic political parties which would vie for power. But the groups went to war with each other, which was only to be expected. Westerners saw Facebook and Twitter in Egypt but didn't see the Muslim Brotherhood.
The story in the West was that the secular liberal intelligentsia were taking over Egypt. Then the commentators were shocked when the Muslim Brotherhood walked all over everybody. And the only people who are going to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from walking all over everybody are the military, not the secular liberals.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University.