We live in a world where, at least in the hands of a real leader, the Islamic State could be a gift. There are two reasons why.
First, IS enables people to see what pure evil looks like – and to remember that there really is such a thing as evil, that not every political actor is simply choosing a different flavor at the ice cream counter, all equally worthy of respect. For many in the world today, this is an important insight.
But there’s another reason, another value of IS: it enables people to see the place to which all other Islamist fascism is headed. When Hamas rounds up “collaborators” and murders them on a Gaza street; when Islamic Jihad sends a woman to her death as a suicide bomber so she can “compensate” her family for having been raped; when the Saudi virtue police send little girls back into a burning school to be roasted alive because they fled the fire without adequate head coverings; when Iranians and Iraqis murder and torture homosexuals; when Palestinian Authority television teaches its child viewers that Jews are descendants of monkeys and pigs, and that these little Arab children should grow up to be suicide bombers who murder Israeli children; when Fatah fighters take over a church, use the pages of bibles found there to clean themselves in the bathroom, and claim the right to own the building because one of their “fighters” died there – when Islamists do these things, they do them because they are driven by the same fascist, hateful, death-worshiping insanity animating the Islamic State. There’s a reason why the Arab states that oppose the Muslim Brotherhood are also the most active in opposing IS: it’s because the leaders of these Arab states know that the Brotherhood and IS are ideologically the same.
Indeed, the Egyptians and the Saudis know what many Americans try so hard not to know: that the Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood wants to subjugate every non-Muslim. In the world. That’s why, around the time founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, Hassan al-Banna explained: “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations and to extend its power to the entire world.”
That clarity, even among Arab nations, leads to this happy thought: maybe, just maybe, the Arab states that oppose IS, and that oppose the Brotherhood, might just perhaps conceivably lead to the discovery in the real world of the most famous unicorn of the 21st century: a courageous, outspoken, moderate Islam, a reformed Islam, an Islam that has abandoned the desire to murder, or subjugate, everyone who doesn’t agree with Islam. Maybe, just maybe, the Arabs who recoil in the face of IS’s rapes and tortures and beheadings can be the leaders of an Islam that is willing to live in peace with people who aren’t Muslims.
It’s a tall order. After all, traditionally the Muslim map of the world has only two regions: dar al Islam, the region of Islam, and dar al Jihad, the region of war. That map will have to be discarded and a new one prepared, with borders between sovereign nations marking the good fences that make good neighbors. As of now, the tolerance taught the West by John Locke has no place in the Muslim world. Maybe the great disgust with IS’s orgy of blood and violation and death will teach the Arab and Muslim world why toleration is a good thing.
The problem for the world right now is that these things can only happen if there is a leader, who sees these things, and is prepared to say them, clearly, to the world. The Americans in office now, who say simply that IS is not Islam, are believed by precisely no-one. The Egyptians, and the Saudis, and many others, know they have a problem precisely because for many Muslims, what IS is doing is indeed the logical conclusion of everything they hear and know and are taught about their own religion. The Brotherhood’s definition of Islam is the definition embraced by many Muslims, regardless of what is said by that famous scholar of Islam, John Kerry.