Sign in or
|Version||User||Scope of changes|
|Dec 4 2010, 10:54 AM EST (current)||kamala_kamala|
|Apr 30 2009, 10:19 AM EDT||kamala_kamala||15 words added, 1 word deleted|
Key: Additions Deletions
April 30, 2009
Reza Aslan is becoming a star. His second book, How to Win a Cosmic War, went on sale last week. To celebrate, he made his fifth appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
An Iranian-born American Muslim, Aslan is handsome and hip. His photo on the book's jacket highlights his meticulously messy hair in an off-center portrait. He jokes with the Daily Show crowd about his fantasy of becoming "Angelina Jolie's Boy-Toy."
His Web page links to a MySpace fan page run by self-described "groupies" that feature photos of Aslan that would get GQ's attention. He's even represented by the same agency that represents Johnny Depp.
And the message this celebrity-in-the-making delivers is so comforting, so welcome in this era of hope and change. Aslan, you see, has figured out how to defeat Al-Qaeda, and in this book he tells us all how.
Bin Laden is fighting what Aslan terms a "cosmic war" against the United States and the West, a "religious war" (p. 5), where "God is believed to be directly engaged on one side over the other." (p. 5)
Aslan's solution for America? "...there is only one way to win a cosmic war: refuse to fight in it." (p.11)
But if the US should "refuse to fight" this cosmic war, what should be done instead? For Aslan, the answer couldn't be simpler: one, focus on "promoting democracy" (p. 166) throughout the Middle East; and two, address the "legitimate grievances" (p. 11) of Muslims around the world, especially Palestinian Arabs and European Muslims. This effort:
may not satisfy Osama bin Laden and his fellow cosmic warriors, whose sights are set beyond this world. But it will bring their cosmic war back down to earth, where it can be confronted more constructively. It will take away [their appeal] and loosen the ties that have bound so many young, disaffected Muslims together under a master narrative of oppression and injustice. (p. 11)
Sounds great, right?
The "democratic fervor" (p. 162) Aslan writes so positively about (and encourages the US and West to support) is in fact Islamist fervor.
Islamists are Aslan's protagonists:
Islamist parties throughout the Muslim world have consistently shown that ... they can evolve into responsible political actors committed to democratic ideals of human rights, women's rights, government accountability, the rule of law, pluralism, and judicial reform. (p. 167)
Aslan gushes further:
... while Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hizballah work to address ... socioeconomic needs, populations throughout the region will continue to throw their support behind the Islamists--as well they should. (p. 166, emphasis added)
In particular, Aslan focuses on the Muslim Brotherhood, which has had immense success in gaining popular support across the Muslim world including Egypt, where it was founded; in Gaza, via the Brotherhood affiliate Hamas; and in Jordan, where the Brotherhood operates as the Islamic Action Front (IAF).
To make the case that the Islamists are worthy of the West's support, Aslan walks his readers through an elaborate and convoluted exercise to separate the ideology of these Islamists from bin Laden and his ilk. The Muslim Brotherhood are "Islamists," you see, and bin Laden and Al-Qaeda are "Jihadists." And Islamism "may in fact be the antidote to Jihadism." (p. 168)
But Aslan's efforts are either ignorant or deceptive.
His explanations of Islamic history and doctrine are simply inaccurate, and he misrepresents the stated goals and relationships of Islamist groups today. And to tie this fantasy together, he presents one illogical argument after another.
Put simply, the Muslim Brotherhood's "Islamist" objectives--in their own words--are hardly different from bin Laden's: nothing short of Islam reigning supreme around the world, with strict Sharia (Islamic Law) replacing "man's law" everywhere, where non-Muslims are tolerated only as second-class, inferior citizens.
A Brotherhood document from 1982 titled "Towards a worldwide strategy for Islamic policy" states that their goal is to "establish an Islamic power on the earth," and to "support movements engaged in jihad across the Muslim world ... everywhere on the planet."
And for the Brotherhood, the US is part of this plan. An internal Muslim Brotherhood memo from 1991 makes this clear:
The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions... It is a Muslim's destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes...The Brotherhood's ideology differs from Al-Qaeda in tactics and timing, but not in goals. Al-Qaeda chooses terrorism and urgency. The Brotherhood chooses elections and patience. Different means, same end.
But Aslan apparently can't be bothered with such inconvenient facts. How fitting that Aslan's "day job" is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story--or an upcoming TV appearance?
Jihadists vs. Islamists
According to Aslan, Islamism--the "democratic" movements the US and the West should support, and Jihadism--the "un-Islamic" movement that bin Laden and Al-Qaeda follow, are miles apart in ideology:
- Jihadism is global, Islamism is local
- Jihadism is "transnationalist" and "antinationalist," Islamisim is "nationalist" (p. 30)
- Jihadists are united, Islamist groups are independent
But scratch the surface, and Aslan's analysis falls apart. For example, Aslan lists "Hamas in Palestine" and the "Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt" as Islamist movements that are "disparate." (p. xiv) He ridicules the notion that these two groups have "a common agenda and a shared ideology." (p. xv) Yet the charter of Hamas quickly dispels this claim:
Aslan writes that "Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood ... diligently portrays itself as a nationalist movement with exclusively nationalist ideals." (p. 30) But while the Brotherhood indeed originated in Egypt, the document linked above makes explicit its worldwide aspirations. Further, the Brotherhood's own official web site--that is, its public, English message to the world--confirms a presence in Syria, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Bahrain. The Brotherhood's web site even proudly celebrates the launch of the web site for Italy's Muslim Brotherhood! If their ideals are "exclusively nationalist," someone needs to give their web site editor the memo!
The Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood is a world organization, the largest Islamic Movement in the modern era.
Aslan repeatedly describes the Muslim Brotherhood as prototypical Islamists, which according to his dictionary means that they are "nationalists," with no "transnationalist" aims or intentions. Does he mean to limit the scope of his Brotherhood discussions only to the "Egyptian branch?" If so, why do that? Even the Brotherhood itself doesn't make that distinction on their own official web site. And since the Brotherhood does indeed have worldwide "transnational" goals, doesn't that make them "Jihadists"?
Aslan's pretzel logic is almost comical. "Jihadists refer to suicide terrorism as 'martyrdom operations." (p. 102) Hamas, of course, is the modern master of "martyrdom operations." In 2002, Hamas leader Aziz Rantisi said that "martyrdom operations" were the "only effective tool" of the Palestinians. But according to Aslan, Hamas are not Jihadists, they are Islamists! Yusuf al-Qaradawi also refers to suicide bombings as "martyrdom operations." Qaradawi is a renowned spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. But Aslan repeatedly tells us that the Muslim Brotherhood are Islamists (e.g., p. 166), and of course Islamism is an "opposing rival" (p. 29) to Jihadism!
Even less convincing is Aslan's argument that the Jihadists go to "great lengths to distance themselves from the traditional doctrines of Islam." In Aslan's view, Jihadists show "an almost total disregard for Islamic law," advocating a "base and corrupt rendering" of Jihad doctrine that diverges from "its classical Qur'anic sense." (p. xviii-xix)
Aslan pins the blame for "Jihadism" on ibn Taymiyyah, a 13th century Islamic scholar:
[Jihadism] looks not to the Qur'an for its doctrinal basis but to the writings of the thirteenth century legal scholar Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah. (p. xviii)For one, Aslan credits ibn Taymiyyah with "proposing a strict geographical division of the world into realms of belief (dar al Islam) and unbelief (dar al-kufr), with the former in constant pursuit of the latter." (p. 109)
But the claim that this stark world view of "us" vs. "them" first came from ibn Taymiyyah (more than 600 years after Muhammad's death) is incorrect. According to Yusuf Qaradawi, "one of the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leaders," the dar al Islam/dar al harb split was in fact articulated by Abu Hanifa about 500 years earlier. Abu Hanifa was an early Islamic jurist, eponym for the Hanafi school--one of the four major Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence today.For Aslan, that troublemaker ibn Taymiyyah also
Further, according to American Muslim convert Jeffrey Lang in his 1997 book Even Angels Ask:
Further, according to American Muslim convert Jeffrey Lang in his 1997 book Even Angels Ask:
This legal-political formulation separates the world into two mutually exclusive territories: dar al Islam, the lands ruled by Muslims according to the Shari'ah (Islamic law), and dar al harb, the lands not under Muslim control which must be subjected, by conquest if necessary, to Islamic rule. According to this theory, a perpetual state of war exists between Muslim and non-Muslim territories... (p. 119)But this is no fringe theory that only "crazy Jihadists" believe. As Lang writes, "almost all Muslim religious leaders, however, still uphold the classical dar al Islam/dar al harb concept." (p. 119, emphasis added)
reconceptualized jihad as an "individual obligation" (fard 'ala l'ayn), overturning centuries of consensus among his fellow legal scholars that jihad must be a "collective obligation" (fard 'ala l-kifaya)--a defensive struggle against oppression and injustice that could be authorized only by a qualified imam. (p. 109)This time Aslan impressively combines two falsehoods in just one sentence--i.e., before Taymiyyah came along, (a) there was "centuries of consensus" that jihad must only be a "defensive struggle," and (b) jihad was not an individual obligation but a collective one.
The doctrine of "offensive Jihad"--of proactively "calling" non-Muslims to convert and fighting those who refuse--in fact traces itself back hundreds of years earlier. As quoted in Andrew Bostom's The Legacy of Jihad, Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (d. 996), jurist of the Maliki school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, wrote:
We Malikis maintain that it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them (p. 27, emphasis added)Hanafi jurist Shaikh Burhanuddin Ali of Marghinan (d. 1196) wrote:
If the infidels, upon receiving the call [to Islam], neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax, it is incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is ... the destroyer of His enemies, the infidels... (p. 27, emphasis added)While it is true that offensive jihad traditionally was a collective duty, defensive jihad has long been an individual obligation, again even before ibn Taymiyyah's time. The Hanafi scholars ibn-Nujaym (d. 970) and al-Kasani (d. 1191) both articulated the legitimacy of defensive jihad as an individual obligation.
But ultimately, other than demonstrating Aslan's poor grasp of Islamic history, it's just not very interesting to argue whether the Islamic doctrines that the Jihadists use originated from Taymiyyah in the 13th century or earlier.
More important, as even Aslan concedes, is that "ibn Taymiyyah is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest thinkers in Islamic history," a man of "famed piety," honored as one of the "most supreme legal authorities." (p. 105) How can bin Laden and al-Qaeda simultaneously be "un-Islamic" (p. 6) yet also be driven by one of the most pious, most supreme legal authorities in Islamic history?
Further, as mentioned above, the "stark division of the world into spheres of belief and unbelief" (p. 110) is, according to Jeffrey Lang, supported by "almost all Muslim religious leaders" even today. The doctrine of offensive jihad, and the duty of individuals to fight defensive jihad even without state authority, are accepted by all mainstream Sunni schools.
Israel and Europe
No self-respecting Islamic apologist can leave out the Israeli/Palestinian dispute as one of the "legitimate grievances" that must be addressed to stem the influence of the global Jihadists; Aslan readily obliges. He even shows off his creative writing chops by weaving the narrative of Israeli oppression into the frightening growth of Jihadist influence in Europe as well. To pull this story off, the only casualty is the truth:
Mohammad Siddique Khan was the ringleader of the 7/7 subway and bus suicide attacks in Britain that left more than fifty dead and injured more than 700. Khan was of Pakistani descent but born and raised in England. In the Aslan fantasy, he was a "soft-spoken," "well-adjusted, well-integrated, well-educated youth worker," and a dedicated "husband and father," up until one "decisive moment." On his way back from completing "the Hajj pilgrimage with his wife and a couple of close friends," Khan made a "last minute detour" to Israel, where Khan
witnessed with his own eyes the unbearable weight of degradation carried by a people in no control of their own lives, in no control even of their movements.As Khan passed through a crossing into Palestinian territory, he
saw an old Palestinian man, a native of this dry patch of land, being manhandled by a nervous young soldier... A second soldier, sweating and timorous and just as young as the first, held a rifle barrel against the old man's chest... The old man lowered his head. He was used to this. He did not speak as the soldier rummaged through his belongings. Khan stood by, also saying nothing. But the old man's shame burned hot in his cheeks... in that fateful moment, [Khan's] identify was altered. He was no longer British. He was no longer Pakistani. His sense of self could not be contained by either nationalist designation. He was simply a Muslim... On his way back to Beeston, the mild-mannered youth worker shocked his companions by suddenly proclaiming his new identity and, with it, his murderous intention. (p. 52)As Aslan writes, "there can be little doubt" that Khan's short trip Israel was the "pivot in his journey" that took him from being the well-adjusted/well-integrated/well-educated/soft-spoken/mild-mannered/dedicated-husband-and-father to the "radical Jihadist bent on mass murder."
If this tale sounds far-fetched--that taking a single trip to Israel and witnessing one old man get "humiliated" would turn a perfectly sane European family man into a nut-job terrorist committed to killing his fellow citizens and himself--well, that's because it is.
Khan visited Israel for one day in February, 2003. Almost two years earlier, in the summer of 2001, a British Muslim named Waheed Ali says he flew to Pakistan with Khan, where they were driven to a Taliban camp on the border with Kashmir, where they learned to shoot rifles. Khan and Ali wanted to go fight on the frontline in Bagram, where the Taliban was fighting the Northern Alliance, but they were deemed too inexperienced to participate. (Ali was just sentenced to prison for conspiracy to attend a terrorist camp.)
As one would expect, Khan's turn to radical Islam came even earlier. According to an article based on an interview with Khan's brother, Khan became interested in Wahhabism in the mid-90s, and "in 1999, it seems that Siddique began to consider the step from Wahhabi fundamentalism to a form of jihadism actively committed to violence."
So much for the "Palestinian Humiliation Theory."
While throwing darts at the wall, Khan tosses another set of tired arguments to explain the rise of Islamic supremacism (and terrorism) in Europe: it's "discrimination," "Islamophobia," "marginalization," a lack of "employment opportunities, legal representation, civil rights, and educational advantages," "socioeconomic obstacles," and--surprise--"racism" (p. 130) and "racial discrimination" (p. 153) (Mr. Aslan--what race is Islam?)
It's all the fault of the non-Muslim establishment, you see.
Aslan suggests Europe should work to help Muslim immigrants feel "like equal members" of society. (p. 153)
But in fact, many "Islamist" leaders do not want equality for Muslims in Europe; they want supremacism. In 2008, a leading cleric from Hamas (that "Islamist" group supposedly only with "nationalist" aims) predicted that Rome would serve as "an advanced post for the Islamic conquests, which will spread through Europe in its entirety." In 1995, Yusuf Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said, "We will conquer Europe." Qaradawi also once said that "Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and a victor."
Aslan scoffs at authors and political leaders worried about Islamic supremacism in Europe.
Consider Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept, which documents the ongoing Islamization of Europe. Bawer, an American living in Europe since 1998, describes the disturbing trends among Muslims in Europe: oppression and abuse of women; persecution of homosexuals; demonization and attacks of Jews; honor killings, and forced marriage. Aslan mentions the book but dismisses it out-of-hand as one of several books with "histrionic titles" (p. 141) that "fuel" "widespread fear."
Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, the great champion of free speech, and one of the few politicians to speak honestly and forcefully about the Islamic doctrines that Jihadists themselves cite as their motivation, is also dismissed out-of-hand; he's simply a "neofascist." (p. 127)
Aslan sees progress in the UK, where "a slew of British Muslim organizations... have set about defining a uniquely British conception of Islam, which has allowed a new generation of Muslim youth to feel increasingly comfortable exerting both their national and their religious identities." (p. 154)
One such organization is the Quilliam Foundation, a "counterextremism think tank." The Quilliam foundation cites Ali Goma as a "scholastic giant" who is providing them with "ample guidance." Unfortunately, Ali Goma has said that "women in some cultures are not averse to beatings." He also issued a fatwa that condemned sculpting as a "sinful" act and declared it forbidden to display a statue at home. In 2007, Goma said that "Islam prohibits a Muslim from changing his religion and that apostasy is a crime, which must be punished." Hope and change indeed.
How to Win a Cosmic War is an Islamist tract. And it's a slick one, just as slick as its author's publicity photos. Aslan is shamelessly adept at taking words that pacify and please an American non-Muslim audience, and then using them to sugarcoat Islamic oppression and subjugation. One sentence in particular is worth revisiting:
Islamist parties throughout the Muslim world have consistently shown that ... they can evolve into responsible political actors committed to democratic ideals of human rights, women's rights, government accountability, the rule of law, pluralism, and judicial reform. (p. 167)Let's take a look at just one of these "ideals": women's rights.
In Jordan, it was the IAF Islamist party that argued against a law that would bring harsher punishments for the perpetrators of honor killings:
In the heat of the Jordanian debate, this parliamentary coalition of several Islamist groups, most of whom affiliate with the Muslim Brethren, issued a fatwa that declared honor-killings are seen as favorable by Islam; male relatives should punish their female relatives and not leave this duty to the state. Ibrahim Zayd al-Kaylani, head of the Jordanian Islamic Action Front (IAF)'s Ifta ' committee, said that a man who restrains himself from committing an honor killing, leaving this unpleasant burden to the government, "negates the values of virility advocated by Islam." Article 340, Kaylani added, is based on "the Islamic principle that allows a Muslim to defend his honor, property, and blood." Muhammad ‘Uwayda, dean of Zarqa University's Shari‘a College and a member of the lower house, stated that while the Shari‘a does prohibit individuals from taking the law into their own hands, "cases where a man catches his wife committing adultery are the exception." The IAF issued a fatwa to the effect that "canceling Article 340 would contradict the Shari‘a." (emphasis added)
In 2007, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt asserted that women are not qualified to run for president.
When Egypt finally outlawed female circumcision in 2007 after a 12-year-old girl died undergoing the procedure, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt were--according to an Afghan newspaper--"furious about the new legislation, with MP's charging that it 'contradicts with the Islamic jurisprudence and is brought from the West.'"
And when asked in 2006 about the future of women in Gaza, a Palestinian woman who campaigns for the rights of working women said this about the Islamists of Gaza, Hamas:
They don't look at men and women as equal. When they educate women they always say that she has to obey the male in the family... When she wants to get married one of things they teach her is to obey her husband. If she wants to go to work she has to take his permission.Are these the "women's rights" that America should encourage and support?