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Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

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'The Crisis of Islam', Bernard Lewis. A Review.

The old sage has some good advice.

by Ferdinand III

Lewis has spent the better part of 60 years investigating Islam and as a Princeton scholar he must certainly be at odds with his fellow academics for his rather tepid critic of the Islamic 'faith'. Lewis is certainly an expert on the subject, but he is almost as certainly too polite, too diplomatic, and too accepting when he glosses over the ideology behind Islam. His main contribution to our debate today is that he supports regime changing failed Islamic states and is categorically against appeasement or pretending that the Islamic threat is not real. Good for him.

Though somewhat critical of Islam, Lewis is quite sympathetic to Islam's supposed religiosity. He stangely accepts for example, that Islam is a religion and has peaceful intentions and beliefs. He does not equate and emphatically rejects, any link between what he calls 'true Islam' and Islamic terror.

Lewis is of course a beautiful writer and his prose is logical and clear-headed. Yet due to avoiding any real and tough analysis of the Islamic ideology, 'The Crisis of Islam', is a minor disappointment. It is a collection of essays and articles by Lewis, since 9-11, on Islamic terror, and why the Islamic world is in such crisis. For anyone familiar with Lewis' other works, this book covers familiar ground: a brief history of Islam; a description of Islamic empires and caliphates; an overview of the ideology; and commentary on Islam in the modern world and why Muslims have such a difficult time with modernity.

Thankfully and consistent with his past works, Lewis puts the blame on Muslim atrocity on the Muslims – not the Jews and Americans. Lewis also maintains that Islam covering 2 billion people, is too complex and fractured a program to warrant much in the way of generalisation. Muslim terror varies by locale and is premised on varying regional and local factors. Lewis believes that, 'Radical not a single homgoenous movement. There are many types of Islamic fundamentalism in different countries and even sometimes within a single country. Some are state sponsored....the other kind far more important comes from below, with an authentic popular base.'

For Lewis it is this popular radical Islamism that we should most fear – one born of demagogeury; ignorance and blind hatred.

I would humbly submit that the state sponsored terror actually feeds Lewis' popular-mass terror. Without state sponsors, money and arms, a popular-mass produced and based terror movement cannot exist. Popular terror movements such as Hizbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PLO, are all funded by states – and indirectly by the United Nations. Terror needs money and popular movements such as the PLO which serve as political pawns for Arab leaders in their campaigns against the Jews and the West, are only sustained by states.

Lewis also makes the rather absurd claim – with no proof – that 'Islam is one of the world's great religions.' [p.25]. Is it now? Is Islam a religion or was it a moon cult that was resurrected by Mohammed and his clique? Is Islam a religion in the Christian and Buddhist sense or is it a program for paternal imperialism? Is Islam a religion since its founder led 80 odd campaigns of war, slaughtered innocents, delcared that Jews and Christians should be annihlated in the Arabian peninsula ['no two religions in Araby'] and had sex with a 9 year old girl? Is Islam a religion since its holy book the Koran, is full of incomprehensible sayings, bizarre revelations and urging of war and conquest?

Maybe Islam is not a religion but a political doctrine?

In any event Lewis does not back up his claim that Islam is a great religion. He just states it, as a fact. Any cursory comparison with Christianity would reveal that Islam is the polar opposite of the Christian faith. Its doctrine of complete societal control is about as far removed from the teachings of Christ as one is likely to get – only Nazism and Communism would come close. Arab imperialism, buttressed by the fervor contained in the Koran, is hardly addressed by Lewis. Why is Arab imperialism accepted and Jewish defence of Israel for instance, so broadly condemned? Lewis does not say.

Incomparably and helpfully Lewis does outline the history of the more fascistic elements of the Islamic ideology. Wahhabi'ism, starting in the 18th century as a radical reaction to British and French imperialism; the links between Islamic and Arab states with the Nazis and the Soviets; the rise of modern Islamic terror inspired by extreme interpretations of the Koran; this and more is covered in an artful and accessible way by the great scholar.

The spread of radical Islam is fomented Lewis writes, by the fact that, 'most Christian countries have functioning public school systems of their own. In some Muslim countries this is not so, and the Wahhabi-sponsored schools and colleges represent for many young Muslims the only education available.' As Lewis reveals the old intention of the madrassa – as a place for higher learning – has been corrupted to mean a centre of Islamic brainwashing. And the brainwashing starts at a young age – usually around 3 or 4. Many Islamic children only know the Koran, hatred of the Jews and the crusaders and the need to cleanse the world of all beliefs bar that of Islam.

Radical Islamic indoctrination is mainstream in many areas – Gaza, the Palestinian mandate, Pakistan and elsewhere. Lewis should also mention that madrassas are being developed in North America and Europe – Arab language schools [about 20] are now flourishing in the US for instance. Arab-Muslim friendly college courses are now also prevalent. Saudi money is profoundly involved in changing the intellectual debate in the developed countries.

A main theme of Lewis' is that the Islamic world is so fragmented, that many Muslims are just as attracted to, as they are repelled by, the West. It is to these people – moderates i guess they would be called – that we must appeal. How we do this exactly is not explicitly mentioned by Lewis. He seems to suggest that globalisation is equated in the Muslim mind with American imperialism thus making it hard to integrate the Muslim world [in its broad context], into the world's economic and trading system. He does seem warm to the idea of regime change as a necessary though bloody and long term solution to drag Islam into the modern world. As such he is thankfully a supporter of the Iraq war.

This then is Lewis' main contribution to the debate. In his history of modern Islam he notes rather caustically that appeasing Muslims does not work. In a revealing passage on the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis Lewis states [which I had never heard before], that Ahmadinejad and his colleagues only wanted to hold the Americans for a few days. As the US administation fell over itself with noises of appeasement and panic, the hostage takers decided that the a few days was too short. Joyful over US weakness they held the hostages for 444 days. Similar actions of appeasement during the 1980s and 1990s have convinced Muslims that the Americans were weak. Bin Laden called the US a 'paper tiger'. After defeating [and in their minds] destroying the far more formidable Soviet empire, radical Islamists were certain that a weak, appeasing America would be next.

Lewis is a considered and intelligent commentator on Islam. His main beliefs – that war is rather inevitable and that regime change is a consequence of Islamic immaturity and violence – are only controversial amongst the media, the left, and most of academia. Any forthright analysis of history and reality would soberly conclude the same. But on the one issue that perhaps matters most – what is the Islamic ideology really about ? - Lewis remains mute. This is the question that needs to be answered – Is Islam a religion? Should it be protected in the West by the grotesque doctrine of political correctness?

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