Friday, December 04, 2009

Islamic, Islamist, Baloney

Three Islamic academics, Hayri Abaza, Soner Çağaptay, and Kayvan Chinichian, have written an article for a Turkish newspaper beseeching nonMuslims to “Please, Call us Islamic.”

“Substituting the term Islamic for Islamist incorrectly brands all Muslims as Islamists. In the name of political sanity, we ask you, please call us Islamic because Islamism is an ideology we do not share.”

It works this way: If we all stop referring to Islamists as Muslims, we will contribute to “separating Islam from Islamism so as to diminish the power of the latter.”

I might consider this, if I believed at all that what empowers jihadism and terror attacks has a single thing to do with what Western commentators say about Islam. (I note this exception: when we drop our guard and reassure one another that Islam is safe and peaceful, jihadist attacks increase). I believe the evidence shows jihadism is being driven by the mosques, by the imams, by the radical preachers and the spiritual advisers in the Muslim community, here and abroad. There is also a lot of evidence jihadism is being driven by the Koran and the nature of the Islamic religion itself. What we nonMuslims say has nothing to do with it.

I can appreciate that adherents of a religion don’t like being defined wrongly, or misnamed by outsiders. Especially by outsiders who have somewhat of a bone to pick with the insiders’ religion. But the approach of these writers leaves too much unaccounted for.

For instance, take that simple formula they offer that “Islam is a religion and Islamism is an ideology.”

This means, if we hew strictly to its stripped-down terms, that Islam and Islamism can and must be separated as two unlike things, even two unrelated things. The distinction requires us to stop referring to Islamists as Muslims.

But the statement, “Islamism is an ideology” leaves far too much unexplained. Most of the notroious ideologies of our age have been secular--communism, fascism, nationalism, environmentalism. There have been no religions associated with them, with the exception of environmentalism, which is reviving what it imagines to be ancient pantheism.

But Islamism is a religious ideology. It is dedicated to the imposition, by force, of a particular religion, Islam, on the entire world. Even the writers of this article admit that Islamism is “a modern anti-Western political ideology rooted in Islam.” The concept of Islam to Islamists is as necessary to its ideological fabric as the concept of the nation is to nationalists, or the concept of communal misery is to communists. And because Islamism is rooted in Islam, it's not such an easy matter to “separate” Islam from Islamism. The difficulty the Muslim community in Europe and North America has explaining the distinction to the rest of us is a major factor in nonMuslim mistrust toward global Islam.

But as Abaza, Çağaptay, and Chinichian see it, if we won’t sequester Islamists from Muslims by distinguishing “Islamic” from “Islamist,” then what we’re really saying is “that only Islamists are authentic Muslims and that non-Islamist Muslims cannot be real Muslims.”

No, really, we’re not saying either of those two other things. And they do not follow, either lby logic or syntax, that we are saying them, no matter how often this non sequitur is repeated.

(I don’t know why it is that, when it comes to Muslims as a set, people simply forget the meaning of human language. Wasn’t there a time in this country when someone could say, “the car that caused that accident was a Ford,” without having someone cluck their tongue and lecture us that not all Fords cause accidents, or that not all accidents are caused by Fords?)

While I recognize some value in defining the term, “Islamist,” calling a terrorist or terror groups “Islamic” is a valid description that’s either correct or not. The statement that a given attacker was Islamic says no more about who else is or isn’t a real Muslim than my calling Nancy Pelosi “Catholic” means only morally-compromised, pro-abortion political harpies are authentic Catholics. The acknowledgement that Pelosi’s a Catholic means only that, for good or ill, even if she’s a bad Catholic, she's got the credentials and the rest of the Catholics are stuck with her. And it follows that the deranged religious sensibilities of the likes of Pelosi and Kennedy and Kerry and Granholm and Cuomo, require that other better-grounded Catholics, like Bishop Tobin, have to work harder to explain to outsiders what the Church really stands for. That can't be helped. But that’s a job for Catholics to do, not outsiders.

Just so, Muslims are stuck with Nidal Hasan, Ahmadinejad, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Whatever else these guys are, no one’s ever going to buy it that they’re not Muslim. And it shouldn’t be put up to we infidels to sort out if they’re authentic, inauthentic, or “real Muslims.” That’s for Muslims to do, if they can.

And Muslims haven’t been willing to do it. Not really do it.

Frankly, I don’t have an opinion about who is or isn’t an authentic Muslim, or what authentic Islam is. Our job here isn’t to declare who’s a genuine Muslim, or to define what is or isn’t authentic Islam. Our job is to call attention to a threat we’re facing from a large, and very aggressive global army of enemies who define themselves as soldiers of Allah, embarked on a jihad to spread Islam over the whole world, including over my street and yours. If these self-described Muslims die in the act of telling us their bloodthirsty acts are done to punctuate the greatness of Allah, who am I to say they’re not authentic Muslims? They think they are, and they aim to kill me because I'm not. Close enough.

In my view, the problem isn’t too many nonMuslims unwittingly ascribing “the ideology and crimes of Islamists to all Muslims.” The problem is too few Muslims making a persuasive case that they really do despise Islamists as hijackers of their great and peaceful religion. In spite of a dearth of evidence of widespread Muslim contempt for jihadists, it's still too easy for Abaza, Çağaptay, and Chinichian here to say that, “A majority of Muslims are not Islamists and the violent crimes of Islamists would be enough for them to be considered un-Islamic.”

Why would be? If being considered un-Islamic by a majority of Muslims were enough, wouldn’t Islamism soon die out--in Saudi Arabia, in Pakistan, in Iran, in Turkey, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, in Syria, in Gaza, in Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon, in the caves of Kandahar, in the mosques of Londonistan, and in the no-go Muslim enclaves of Sweden, and on and on, and on?

The unwitting pundits that Abaza, Çağaptay, and Chinichian are complaining about are not ascribing the ideology and crimes of Islamists to all Muslims. What they/we are doing is ascribing the ideology and crimes of Islamists to Islam. If Islamism truly is not Islamic, then the case has yet to be made by the only people who can make it--Muslims. Please don’t ask us to make it for you.

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