Then there is the conservative-traditionalist Islam that has controlled the official positions throughout the Arab world and will now be rooted out by the Muslim Brotherhood if it can. These clerics are not necessarily lovable liberals but they are not advocates of violent revolution or people who fully intend to implement genocide. They viewed the Islamists as heretical and just ignorant, though many have surrendered or gone over to the winning side.
And in some places, notably Indonesia and places in sub-Saharan Africa, a systematically moderate Islam has emerged and run things for many years, though it is being challenged by the Islamists.
One more thing, if the foolish and ignorant governments in many Western countries actually helped real moderates, secularists, assimilationist or acculturating-oriented Muslims, and even conservative-traditionalist ones, perhaps the Islamists would be getting pushed back in the West, especially Europe. Instead, the intellectual establishments and governments often back, coddle, fund, and cheer the radicals.
Imagine being an Italian immigrant to America in the 1930s who hated Mussolini or an anti-Hitler German and being told that the anti-democratic front groups were the real and legitimate representatives of your people! And while the analogy is far from exact (it happened some but nothing like today’s equivalent): the American media romanticizes the pro-Hitler German-American Bund, conceals its fascist antisemitism, and then other people ask: Where are the moderate Germans?
So let’s get it straight: Revolutionary Islamists are real Muslims with a big base of support who want to impose repressive Sharia dictatorships. They draw on actual Islamic doctrine and can argue that their views are legitimately those of the Koran and the other holy texts. They are not a small minority but a growing mass movement that in places either has majority support or can whip the majority into line. Telling the truth about what is in Islamic texts is an intellectual duty. Showing how radicals use these texts is simple scholarly integrity.
But that doesn’t mean that all of Islam is inevitably radical. It doesn’t mean that the revolutionary Islamists are right and all their Muslim opponents are wrong. It doesn’t mean we don’t have courageous allies among Muslims. And they are far more courageous than the posturing Western ignoramuses who romanticize the revolutionary Islamist murderers.
We don’t have to agree on everything but I have met so many such valiant people—as well as people I didn’t like but we recognized our need to cooperate—it would take a long story to tell. But let me leave you with one experience.
I’m lecturing at a university in North America. Of course, I am there as an Israeli; I am explaining Israel and its policies; but I am also explaining that the great battle of our time is that against revolutionary Islamism.
In the front row sits a young man, a graduate student apparently, wearing the biggest Palestinian kaffiyeh I’ve ever seen. As I speak, he nods vigorously. His smiling and evident agreement throws me off more than if he had been heckling me.
At the end of the talk he rushed up and said something like the following: “I’m a proud Palestinian. I want us to have our own free country. And I don’t want those Islamist crazies to keep the battle going for my whole life or turn my country into a nightmarish dictatorship.”
I’ve heard parallel things from Turks and Iranians, Syrians and Iraqis, Egyptians and Tunisians, and others.
OK. One more. I was speaking at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. I was wearing a nice suit and tie. I come out and there is a demonstration of 300? 400? Iranians against the repression of the regime there. I walk over and shout out, in my very limited Persian, “Long Live Free Iran!”
They go crazy applauding. They crowd around me: Am I a European member of parliament?
No, I explain, I’m an Israeli just giving a talk there. Their faces fall. Not one—not one—single European Member of Parliament has come out to join them or congratulate them or cheer them. Not one non-Iranian European has come to march alongside them.
The Westerners only turn out to bash Israel, even if it means cheering Hamas and Hizballah.
Sure, Muslim communities in Europe and America hardly ever renounce terrorism or fight the Islamists or explain to converts that Usama bin Ladin and Khomeini and the Muslim Brotherhood aren’t big heroes.
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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