Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Andrew G. Bostom, the editor of the highly acclaimed The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims and of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History. He has published articles and commentary on Islam in the Washington Times, National Review Online, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, Frontpagemag.com, American Thinker, Pajamas Media, The Daily Caller, Human Events, and other print and online publications. He is the author of the new book, Sharia versus Freedom: The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism. Visit his blog at andrewbostom.org/blog/.
FP: Andrew G. Bostom, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Congratulations on your new book, Sharia versus Freedom: The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism.
What inspired you to write this book about Sharia Law and how is it different from other books?
Bostom: Thanks Jamie! I became fascinated (if alarmed) by some excellent polling data reported in the Spring of 2007 resulting from a collaboration between the University of Maryland, and World Opinion Dynamics (and wrote about it here). The survey sample was quite extensive (encompassing some 4000 individuals) and comprised of face to face interviews in local languages of Muslims from Morocco, Egypt, Indonesia, and Pakistan. Data from two questions jumped out at me. The first asked about the strict implementation of Sharia law in Islamic countries. Sixty-five percent of Muslims were moderately or strongly in favor of this proposition. The second was about desire to establish/re-establish the Caliphate (i.e., a transnational Muslim superstate, consistent with the borders established by the jihad conquests across Asia, Africa, and Europe, from the 7th through 17th centuries). Again, 65% of the Muslim sample was supportive of this goal. I began to ask myself a series of questions. How has the idea of the Caliphate been actualized in the past? Why has it survived to this day? Why is the notion of a Caliphate so popular among Muslims, and what are implications of its popularity, for Muslims, and non-Muslims? These questions lead inevitably to Islam’s quintessence, and at the same time far reaching set of guidelines, the Sharia, or Islamic law.
Thus I began to research and write additional essays on many broad themes related to the Sharia, which, when combined with other introductory materials written specifically for the book, including Andrew C. McCarthy’s elegant Foreword, eventually became Sharia Versus Freedom—The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism. But the final and perhaps most important inspiration proved to be a patient, careful reading of Whittaker Chambers’ autobiographical opus, Witness. I discovered that much could be gleaned from Chambers’ witness-martyrdom in the struggle against Communism, sacrificing himself, as he put it, “a little in advance to try to win for you that infinitesimal slightly better chance,” and applied to the modern threat of resurgent Islamic totalitarianism. As described in the book, Chambers’ own brief 1947 comparison of Communism and nascent Islam comported with more extensive, independent contemporary characterizations (i.e., made from 1920-2001) by Western scholars and intellectuals who similarly juxtaposed these ideological systems. I also elucidate in Sharia Versus Freedom Chambers’ understanding that faith in the Judeo-Christian God was conjoined to Biblical freedom. The antithetical conceptions of modern atheistic totalitarianism—epitomized by Communism—and equally liberty-crushing Islamic doctrines are compared. Specifically, with regard to Islam, I discuss “hurriyya,” Arabic for “freedom as perfect slavery to Allah,” and how the God of Islam, the unrelenting autocrat, Allah, engendered, in Palgrave’s words, Islam’s “Pantheism of Force.”
Unlike other treatments of the Sharia, per se, the book moves well beyond a few illustrative “shocking” examples of these ancient Islamic doctrines applied in our era. Sharia Versus Freedom weaves together a very detailed, living tapestry which elaborates the unbowdlerized doctrinal elements of Sharia, while demonstrating the contemporary popularity of Sharia mandates (i.e., via copious polling data from representative Muslim population samples, as well as numerous examples from the legal codes of Muslim societies, and the mainstream Muslim jurists associations advising Muslims who reside in non-Muslim societies), and the consequences of its application across space and time, through the present. The book also elucidates how jihadism, as well as Jew- and a more general non-Muslim infidel-hatred, are intrinsic to the Sharia, while dissecting modern Sharia apologetics, which span the political spectrum. In a final section, the book offers concrete examples of strategies to combat Sharia encroachment, and concludes with a discussion of what Whittaker Chambers’ apostasy from Communism—and the shared insights of contemporary apostates from Islam—can teach the West.
FP: What is Sharia and why is it relevant to US foreign and domestic affairs?
Bostom: According to the most authoritative twentieth-century Western Islamic legal scholar, Joseph Schacht (d. 1969), the Sharia, or “clear path to be followed,” is the “canon law of Islam,” which “denotes all the individual prescriptions composing it.” Schacht traces the use of the term Sharia to Koranic verses such as 45:18, 42:13, 42:21, and 5:48, noting an “old definition” of the Sharia by the seminal Koranic commentator and early Muslim historian Tabari (d. 923), as comprising the law of inheritance, various commandments and prohibitions, and the so-called hadd punishments. These latter draconian punishments, defined by the Muslim prophet Muhammad either in the Koran or in the hadith (the canonical collections of Muhammad’s deeds and pronouncements), included: (lethal) stoning for adultery; death for apostasy; death for highway robbery when accompanied by murder of the robbery victim; for simple highway robbery, the loss of hands and feet; for simple theft, cutting off of the right hand; for “fornication,” a hundred lashes; for drinking wine, eighty lashes. As Schacht further notes, Sharia ultimately evolved to become “understood [as] the totality of Allah’s commandments relating to the activities of man.” The holistic Sharia, he continues, is nothing less than Islam’s quintessence, “the Sharia is the most characteristic phenomenon of Islamic thought and forms the nucleus of Islam itself.” Schacht then delineates additional salient characteristics of the Sharia which have created historically insurmountable obstacles to its reform, through our present era.
Allah’s law is not to be penetrated by the intelligence . . . i.e., man has to accept it without criticism…It comprises without restriction, as an infallible doctrine of duties the whole of the religious, political, social, domestic and private life of those who profess Islam, and the activities of the tolerated members of other faiths so far as they may not be detrimental to Islam.
Additionally, Schacht elucidated how Sharia—via the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war—regulates the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. These regulations make explicit the sacralized vulnerability of unvanquished non-Muslims to jihad depredations, and the permanent, deliberately humiliating legal inferiority for those who survive their jihad conquest, and incorporation into an Islamic polity, governed by Sharia.
Thus Sharia, Islamic law, is not merely holistic, in the general sense of all-encompassing, but totalitarian, regulating everything from the ritual aspects of religion, to personal hygiene, to the governance of an Islamic state, bloc of states, or global Islamic order. Clearly, this latter political aspect is the most troubling, being an ancient antecedent of more familiar modern totalitarian systems. Specifically, Sharia’s liberty-crushing and dehumanizing political aspects feature: open-ended jihadism to subjugate the world to a totalitarian Islamic order; rejection of bedrock Western liberties—including freedom of conscience and speech—enforced by imprisonment, beating, or death; discriminatory relegation of non-Muslims to outcast, vulnerable pariahs, and even Muslim women to subservient chattel; and barbaric punishments which violate human dignity, such as amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, and lashing for alcohol consumption.
Following violent Muslim reactions to the amateurish “Innocence of Muslims” video, which depicted some of the less salutary aspects of Muhammad’s biography, international and domestic Islamic agendas are openly converging with vehement calls for universal application of Islamic blasphemy law. This demand to abrogate Western freedom of expression was reiterated in a parade of speeches by Muslim leaders at the UN General Assembly. The US Muslim community echoed such admonitions, for example during a large demonstration in Dearborn, Michigan, and in a press release by the Islamic Circle of North America.
Previously, the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (subsequently renamed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC])—the largest voting bloc in the UN, which represents all the major Muslim countries, and the Palestinian Authority—had sponsored and actually navigated to passage a compromise U.N. resolution insisting countries criminalize what it calls “defamation of religion.” Now the OIC—via its Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu—is calling for a specific ban on speech allegedly impugning the character of Islam’s prophet, which he termed “hate speech.” Ihsanoglu accompanied his demand with a thinly veiled threat of violence should such “provocations” recur:
You have to see that there is a provocation. You should understand the psychology of people who revere their prophet and don’t want people to insult him,…If the Western world fails to understand the sensitivity of the Muslim world, then we are in trouble…[such provocations pose] a threat to international peace and security and the sanctity of life.
Though the language of the OIC “defamation of religion” resolution has been altered at times, the OIC’s goal has remained the same—to impose at the international level a Sharia-compliant conception of freedom of speech and expression that would severely limit anything it arbitrarily deemed critical of, or offensive to, Islam or Muslims. This is readily apparent by reading the OIC’s supervening “alternative” to both the US Bill of Rights and the UN’s own 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, i.e., the 1990 Cairo Declaration, or Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam.
The opening of the preamble to the Cairo Declaration repeats a Koranic injunction affirming Islamic supremacism (Koran 3:110, “You are the best nation ever brought forth to men . . . you believe in Allah”); and its last articles, 24 and 25, maintain [article 24], “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia”; and [article 25] “The Islamic Sharia is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration.” The gravely negative implications of the OIC’s Sharia-based Cairo Declaration are most apparent in its transparent rejection of freedom of conscience in Article 10, which proclaims:
Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion, or to atheism.
Ominously, articles 19 and 22 reiterate a principle stated elsewhere throughout the document, which clearly applies to the “punishment” of so-called apostates from Islam, as well as “blasphemers”:
There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Sharia.
Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Sharia.
Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Sharia.
Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.
Existing mainstream Islamic institutions and their ongoing efforts in North America are facilitating this global Sharia agenda, as evidenced by the following:
- Data (compiled here) from an April 2001 survey performed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) revealed that 69 percent of American Muslims in America affirmed that it was “absolutely fundamental” or “very important” to have Salafi (i.e., fundamentalist Islamic) teachings at their mosques, while 67 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “America is an immoral, corrupt society.” Another poll conducted in Detroit-area mosques during 2003 found that 81 percent of the respondents endorsed the application of Sharia law where Muslims comprised a majority of the population.
- The trial involving the Texas Holy Land Foundation’s funding of terrorism revealed an internal Muslim Brotherhood statement dated May 22, 1991. Written by an acolyte of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi — the Brotherhood’s major theoretician, lionized Qatari cleric, popular al-Jazeera television personality, and head of the European Fatwa Council — the document, entitled “An Explanatory Memorandum On the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” is self-explanatory: “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 by the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
- A scholarly study by Mordechai Kedar and David Yerushalmi published in The Middle East Quarterly, “Sharia and Violence in American Mosques,” looked at 100 mosques randomly selected across the U.S. in order to test the hypothesis that Sharia adherence within mosques (including, among many other factors, gender separation, clothing, male facial hair, jewelry, strictness on shoulder-to-shoulder alignment during prayer, etc.) would correlate with incitement to jihadism. This key summary finding was highlighted by the authors: “51 percent of mosques had texts that either advocated the use of violence in the pursuit of a Shari’a-based political order or advocated violent jihad as a duty that should be of paramount importance to a Muslim; 30 percent had only texts that were moderately supportive of violence like the Tafsir Ibn Kathir and Fiqh as-Sunna; 19 percent had no violent texts at all.” Thus, 81 percent of this statistical sample representative of U.S. mosques were deemed as moderately (30 percent) to highly (51 percent) supportive of promulgating jihadist violence to impose Sharia.
- A provisional inquiry, “Shariah Law and American State Courts,” evaluated 50 appellate court cases from 23 states that involved conflicts between Sharia and American state law. There were examples of American judges accepting “input” from Sharia in rendering judgments, included an odious, widely publicized New Jersey ruling that upheld Sharia-sanctioned marital rape. Appellate court intervention was required to reverse this ruling in July 2010: Western legal norms prevailed over Sharia — with the presiding judge soberly concluding that the Muslim husband’s “conduct in engaging in nonconsensual sexual intercourse was unquestionably knowing, regardless of his view that his religion permitted him to act as he did.” Completely ignored at the time of these New Jersey proceedings was the fact that marital rape is not recognized as criminal, but rather is sanctioned by a fatwa of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America. (see below) Moreover, David Yerushalmi provided another clear, didactic example of the need for American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) legislation to block such efforts. He described in brief an appellate court decision from Maryland, cited in the Center for Security Policy Study, where:
The court enforced a Pakistani Sharia court’s judgment of custody in favor of the father even though the mother had argued that she was not provided due process because had she gone to Pakistan to contest the case, she could have been subject to capital punishment for having a new relationship with a man not sanctioned by Sharia.
Yerushalmi then summarized the salient facts of the case and appellate court ruling*, as follows:
The Maryland appellate court ruled that since the woman could not prove she’d be executed had she gone to Pakistan to litigate custody in the Pakistan Sharia Court, which is a national-state court in Pakistan, her failure to go to Pakistan and take the risk of execution precluded her from making the void as against public policy argument. ALAC would have provided the Maryland appellate court the legislative clarity to have reversed the lower court’s outrageous decision (emphasis added).
- Investigations of textbooks widely used in the New York City area Islamic schools, as well as the Islamic Saudi Academy of Fairfax, Va., discovered the promotion of Sharia supremacism, including sacralized disparagement and hatred of non-Muslims, especially Jews. When questioned for a New York Daily News story in 2003, Yahiya Emerick, head of a Queens-based non-profit curriculum-development project for the Islamic Foundation of North America, defended the language in these books, denying they were inflammatory. Emerick opined, “Islam, like any belief system, believes its program is better than others. I don’t feel embarrassed to say that. . . . [The books] are directed to kids in a Muslim educational environment. They must learn and appreciate there are differences between what they have and what other religions teach. It’s telling kids that we have our own tradition.”
- The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America’s mission statement maintains that the organization was, “founded to provide guidance for Muslims living in North America. . . . AMJA is a religious organization that does not exploit religion to achieve any political ends, but instead provides practical solutions within the guidelines of Islam and the nation’s laws to the various challenges experienced by Muslim communities. ” It is accepted by the mainstream American Muslim community, and regularly trains imams from throughout North America. Notwithstanding this mainstream acceptance, AMJA has issued rulings which sanction the killing of apostates, “blasphemers,” (including non-Muslims guilty of this “crime”), and adulterers (by stoning to death); condoned female genital mutilation, marital rape, and polygamy; and even endorsed the possibility for offensive jihad against the U.S., as soon as Muslims are strong enough to wage it.
- Finally, as reported by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), one of the largest mainstream U.S. Muslim organizations, in its 2010 ICNA Member’s Hand Book, openly acknowledges being the American branch of a global jihadist phenomenon referred to as the “Islamic Movement.” The 2010 Hand Book observes that branches of this movement “are active in various parts of the world to achieve the same objectives. It is our obligation as Muslims to engage in the same noble cause here in North America.” These efforts will culminate in the (re-)creation of a transnational Islamic superstate, the Caliphate, under Sharia law — the united Muslim ummah (community) in a united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah in accordance with the laws of Sharia.
FP: Tell us about Sharia courts in the United Kingdom and their significance.
Bostom: A December 2, 2010 Pew poll documented strong support for hadd punishments in Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, and Nigeria:
About eight-in-ten Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan (82% each) endorse the stoning of people who commit adultery; 70% of Muslims in Jordan and 56% of Nigerian Muslims share this view. Muslims in Pakistan and Egypt are also the most supportive of whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery; 82% in Pakistan and 77% in Egypt favor making this type of punishment the law in their countries, as do 65% of Muslims in Nigeria and 58% in Jordan. When asked about the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion, at least three-quarters of Muslims in Jordan (86%), Egypt (84%) and Pakistan (76%) say they would favor making it the law; in Nigeria, 51% of Muslims favor and 46% oppose it.
Ominously, such irredentist attitudes are shared to an alarming extent by an important Muslim immigrant community in the West—British Muslims. For example, a poll of six hundred British Muslim college students revealed that one-third support killing in the name of Islam, while forty percent want to the Sharia to replace British law.
And Sharia indoctrination of British Muslim youth begins well before college entry. A BBC Panorama investigation has revealed the presence in Britain of forty “weekend schools” attended by some five thousand Muslim children aged 6–18. These schools teach the British Muslim youth who attend them, for example, traditional Islamic motifs of Jew-hatred and mutilating Sharia punishments—as per the Saudi National Curriculum—under the rubric of “Saudi Students Clubs and Schools in the UK and Ireland.”
The BBC revelations validate prescient warnings made almost two decades earlier by the late respected British scholar of Islam, Dr. Mervyn Hiskett, in Some to Mecca Turn to Pray (the title deriving from the poem Hassan’s Serenade by James Elroy Flecker [d. 1919]). Hiskett noted then (i.e., in 1993) the prevailing opinion among leaders of the British Muslim community that unless Muslim immigrants to Britain were allowed unrestrained access to Islamic law, Sharia, in all aspects, Britain was to be regarded, Dar-al-Harb, or the House of War, that is, the target of jihadism. Citing what he characterized as “a more urbane but some may consider ominous statement of the Muslim intention to brook no opposition,” Hiskett quoted Zaki Badawi (d. 2006), a Muslim scholar and former director of the Islamic Cultural Center, London, who was made an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) in 2004, and also appointed by the Duke of Castro as a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Francis I. Incidentally Badawi, an Egyptian Muslim, never became a British subject although he had lived in the country for more than thirty years and had received all manner of honors there. Badawi opined,
A proseltyzing religion cannot stand still. It can either expand or contract. Islam endeavors to expand in Britain. Islam is a universal religion. It aims at bringing its message to all corners of the earth. It hopes that one day the whole humanity will be one Muslim community, the “Umma.”
The “urbane,” “moderate” Muslim Badawi’s “vision” for British society—so recently deemed unthinkable—now seems eminently plausible, as Britain appears well on its way to full integration into the obscurantist Muslim umma, rife with traditional Islamic Jew-hatred, and all other aspects of Sharia-sanctioned, totalitarian barbarity.
Hence 16-years later (circa 2009), there were sixteen main Sharia courts around Britain, located in Birmingham, Bradford, and Ealing in West London. These institutions were “complemented” by more informal Sharia-based tribunals—the think tank Civitas asserting that up to eighty-five tribunals currently exist in Britain.
A window into the mindset of these Sharia courts and tribunals was provided during a public discussion of the issue of marital rape. Crowing with pride (in a March 2010 interview), president of the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain, Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, maintained,
No other Sharia council can claim they are so diverse as ours because other Sharia councils, they are following one school of fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence]. Ours is diverse—we are hanafi, shafii, hanbali . . . we have Bangladeshi . . . we have Pakistani, we have Indian, we have Palestinian, we have Somali scholars on our board.
Of course since Koran 2:223 states that women are “tilth” to be “cultivated” (or “plowed”) by men, contemporary mainstream, institutional Islam sanctions marital rape. Not surprisingly then, as reported in the UK Independent (October 14, 2010), Sheikh Sayeed, affirmed this view during his March 2010 interview with The Samosa. Sheikh Sayeed was in fact responding to an inchoate effort at modernizing the contracts which govern Muslim marriages in Britain. The good sheikh, representing Britain’s main Islamic Sharia court, promptly published a rebuttal of the contract, which included a statement on sexual abuse. He opined in the March interview:
Clearly there cannot be any “rape” within the marriage. Maybe “aggression,” maybe “indecent activity.”
He further rejected both the characterization of nonconsensual marital sex as rape, and the prosecution of such offenders as “not Islamic.” Sheikh Sayeed, who came to Britain from Bangladesh in 1977, also brazenly expressed his Sharia supremacism and accompanying disdain for Western, that is, British law, stating “to make it exactly as the Western culture demands is as if we are compromising Islamic religion with secular non-Islamic values.”
Sayeed reaffirmed these sentiments to the UK Independent: “In Islamic Sharia, rape is adultery by force. So long as the woman is his wife, it cannot be termed as rape.”
Michael Nazir Ali (1949–) was the first bishop of Raiwand in Pakistan’s West Punjab (1984–1986), who emigrated to become the first non-white diocesan bishop in the Church of England. During September 2009, he gave up his English Bishopric to work full-time in defense of beleaguered Christian minorities, particularly within Islamdom. Nazir Ali commented aptly (during August, 2011) on this dangerous proliferation of Sharia courts in Britain from his unique, firsthand perspective on the impact of the Sharia in the Indian subcontinent, and now in his adopted British homeland with its burgeoning population of Muslims émigrés from that vast region:
To understand the impact of Sharia law you have to look at other [i.e., Islamic] countries. At its heart it has basic inequalities between Muslims and non-Muslims, and between men and women. The problem with Sharia law being used in tribunals [in Britain] is that it compromises the tradition of equality for all under the law. It threatens the fundamental values that underpin our society.
But for those (like Bill O’Reilly) who naively—and smugly—proclaim such phenomena are absent within the Muslim communities of North America, consider the mainstream Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America’s (AMJA’s) response to the specific query, “Is there a such thing as Marital Rape?” AMJA opining on this question, issued fatwa number 2982 on May 30, 2007, by the AMJA Online Jurisprudence Section, which stated:
In the name of Allah, all praise is for Allah, and may peace and blessing be upon the Messenger of Allah and his family. To proceed: For a wife to abandon the bed of her husband without excuse is haram [forbidden]. It is one of the major sins and the angels curse her until the morning as we have been informed by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). She is considered nashiz (rebellious) under these circumstances. As for the issue of forcing a wife to have sex, if she refuses, this would not be called rape, even though it goes against natural instincts and destroys love and mercy, and there is a great sin upon the wife who refuses; and Allah Almighty is more exalted and more knowledgeable.
An ocean apart from Britain—now a recognized Western hotbed for “Islamic fundamentalism”—the same Sharia-sanctioned misogynistic bigotry prevails in a mainstream North American clerical organization openly advising US and Canadian Muslims.
FP: Why the denial about Sharia amongst Islamic Studies professors, the mainstream media, the Left in general, etc? How do you explain it?
Bostom: Unfortunately, denial about the Sharia is not confined to the Left, or the Left-dominated academy, and includes conservative luminaries—from well-known journalist “pundits,” to policymakers and academics. But the academic Left is particularly illustrative of this ubiquitous problem.
Wael B. Hallaq, former James McGill Professor of Islamic Law at McGill University (and currently the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University), has acknowledged that a “fundamental feature” of traditional Islam’s resurgence,
is the constant and consistent popular call to restore the Sharia (which he identifies as “the religious law of Islam”). . . . The call dominates the discourse of modern Muslims, and the tracts, pamphlets and books expounding this call are legion.
Hallaq further maintains that,
During the past two and a half decades, this call has grown ever more forceful, generating religious movements, a vast amount of literature, and affecting world politics. There is no doubt that Islamic law today is a significant cornerstone in the reaffirmation of Islamic identity, not only as a matter of positive law but also, and more importantly, as the foundation of a cultural uniqueness. Indeed, for many of today’s Muslims, to live by Islamic law is not merely a legal issue, but one that is distinctly psychological.
However, being a champion of the “postcolonial,” pseudo-academic drivel popularized by the late Edward Said, Hallaq, as an axiom, of course blames Western imperialist bogeymen, almost exclusively (if mindlessly) for this intrinsic Muslim—and Islamic—Sharia “revival” phenomenon. When also lamenting the extent to which such an Islamic revival could adopt “indigenous modernism,” Hallaq, rather perversely, again indicts so-called Western colonial “hegemony”—not the intrinsic totalitarian nature of the Sharia itself.
How does one explain the persistence and breadth of Hallaq’s mindset, which extends, albeit less commonly, to those on the political Right? Robert Conquest, the preeminent scholar of Soviet Communist totalitarianism, in his elucidation of Western vulnerability to totalitarian ideologies, wrote that democracy itself is “far less a matter of institutions than habits of mind”—the latter being subject to constant “stresses and strains.” He then notes the disturbingly widespread acceptance of totalitarian concepts among the ordinary citizens of pluralist Western societies.
Many in the West gave their full allegiance to these alien beliefs. Many others were at any rate not ill disposed towards them. And beyond that there was . . . a sort of secondary infection of the mental atmosphere of the West which still to some degree persists, distorting thought in countries that escaped the more wholesale disasters of our time.
But Conquest evinces no sympathy for those numerous “Western intellectuals or near intellectuals” of the 1930s through the 1950s whose willful delusions about the Soviet Union, “will be incredible to later students of mental aberration.” His critique of Western media highlights a cultural self-loathing tendency which has persisted and intensified over the intervening decades, through the present.
One role of the democratic media is, of course, to criticize their own governments, draw attention to the faults and failings of their own country. But when this results in a transfer of loyalties to a far worse and thoroughly inimical culture, or at least to a largely uncritical favoring of such a culture, it becomes a morbid affliction—involving, often enough, the uncritical acceptance of that culture’s own standards.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich delivered a singularly astute and courageous address July 29, 2010. Reactions to that speech across the political spectrum (here, here, here, and here) whether immediate or delayed, illustrate the contemporary equivalent of what Conquest appositely characterized as mindslaughter—a brilliantly evocative term for delusive Western apologetics regarding the ideology of Communism and the tangible horrors its Communist votaries inflicted. What did Newt Gingrich have the temerity to discuss? In defiance of our era’s most rigidly enforced cultural relativist taboo, Gingrich provided an irrefragably accurate, if blunt, characterization of the existential threat posed by Islam’s living, self-professed mission—to impose Sharia, its totalitarian, religio-political “law,” globally.
With vanishingly rare intellectual honesty and resolve, Gingrich described how normative Sharia—antithetical to bedrock Western legal principles—by “divine,” immutable diktat, rejects freedom of conscience, while sanctioning violent jihadism, absurd, misogynistic “rules of evidence” (four male witnesses for rape), barbarous punishments (stoning for adultery), and polygamy.
Sharia in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world, and the underlying basic belief which is that law comes directly from God and is therefore imposed upon humans and no human can change the law without it being an act of apostasy is a fundamental violation of a tradition in the Western system which goes back to Rome, Athens and Jerusalem and which has evolved in giving us freedom across the planet on a scale we can hardly imagine and which is now directly threatened by those who would impose it.
Moreover, Gingrich warned about efforts—deliberate, or unwitting—to represent Sharia as a benign system.
So let me also be quite clear that the rules are radical and horrific. I think again it’s fascinating that even when people go out and do polling and they say to, for example, Muslims in general, do you believe in Sharia, they don’t then explain what Sharia is. Sharia becomes like would you like to be a Rotarian and it sounds okay.
Gingrich’s frank portrayal of the existential threat Sharia represents—whether or not this totalitarian system is imposed by violent, or nonviolent means—was accompanied by a clarion call for concrete measures to oppose any Sharia encroachment on the US legal code.
Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence. But in fact they’re both engaged in jihad and they’re both seeking to impose the same end state which is to replace Western civilization with a [radical] imposition of Sharia…The fight against Sharia and the madrassas in mosques which teach hatred and fanaticism is the heart of the enemy movement from which the terrorists spring forth. It’s time we had a national debate on this. One of the things I’m going to suggest today is a federal law which says no court anywhere in the United States under any circumstance is allowed to consider Sharia as a replacement for American law.
Reminiscent of Conquest’s earlier assessment of Leftist apologists for Communism—and anticipating reactions to his own speech, albeit from “See No Sharia” cultural relativists not confined to the Left—Gingrich also wondered,
How we don’t have some kind of movement in this country on the left that understands that Sharia is a direct mortal threat to virtually every value that the left has is really one of the most interesting historical questions and will someday lead to many dissertations being written.
The ensuing vitriolic, if predictable, attacks (here, here, here, and here) on Gingrich, and/ or anti-Sharia state legislative initiatives his speech tacitly endorsed (i.e., in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Tennessee), mirror analogous diatribes from Western Communist sympathizers and witless sycophants during the Soviet era. Past as prologue, George Orwell trenchantly characterized this particular aspect of Western pro-Communist mindslaughter, and the attitudes it engendered toward those deemed “rabidly anti-Communist.”
The upshot is that if from time to time you express a mild distaste for slave-labor camps or one-candidate elections, you are either insane or actuated by the worst motives. In the same way when Henry Wallace is asked by a newspaper interviewer why he issues falsified versions of his speeches to the press, he replies: “So you must be one of those people who are clamoring for war with Russia.” There is the milder kind of ridicule that consists in pretending that reasoned opinion is indistinguishable from an absurd out-of-date prejudice. If you do not like Communism you are a Red-baiter.
FP: As regular Frontpagemag.com contributor David Solway observes in his endorsement of your book, “…some heretofore immaculate scholarly figures come in for their lumps.” One of those critiqued is the neoconservatives’ ultimate sage of Islam, Bernard Lewis. What are your specific criticisms of Professor Lewis, and how do they relate to the book’s thematic presentation?
Bostom: Now 96 years old and still active, multiple deserving tributes to Bernard Lewis’ career as a scholar, and public intellectual, were written in celebration of this remarkable nonagenarian (see here and here, for examples), coinciding in 2006, with his 90th birthday. I began expressing my concerns with Lewis’ scholarship in a lengthy review-essay (for Frontpage) on Bat Ye’or’s seminal book Eurabia—The Euro-Arab Axis, published December 31, 2004. Over the intervening years—in the wake of profound US policy failures vis a vis Islamdom at that time, and subsequently, till now—this disquietude has increased considerably. As I demonstrate in Sharia Versus Freedom, Lewis’s legacy of intellectual and moral confusion has greatly hindered the ability of sincere American policymakers to think clearly about Islam’s living imperial legacy, driven by unreformed and unrepentant mainstream Islamic doctrine. Ongoing highly selective and celebratory presentations of Lewis’s understandings—(see this for example) —are pathognomonic of the dangerous influence Lewis continues to wield over his uncritical acolytes and supporters.
In Sharia Versus Freedom, I review Lewis’s troubling intellectual legacy regarding four critical subject areas: the institution of jihad, the chronic impact of the Sharia on non-Muslims vanquished by jihad, sacralized Islamic Jew-hatred, and perhaps most importantly, his inexplicable 180-degree reversal on the notion of “Islamic democracy.” Lewis’ rather bowdlerized analyses are compared to the actual doctrinal formulations of Muslim legists, triumphal Muslim chroniclers celebrating the implementation of these doctrines, and independent Western assessments by Islamologists (several of whom worked with Lewis, directly, as academic colleagues) which refute his sanitized claims.
Thus when discussing key doctrinal aspects of jihad, for example, the concepts of harbi, from Dar al Harb (“domain of war”, i.e., lands not yet conquered and Islamized by the Muslims), or jihad martyrdom, Lewis’s analyses are incomplete or frankly apologetic. Lewis ignores the fact that unvanquished non-combatant “harbis” from outside the “domain of Islam” were chronically subjected to merciless and murderous rampages in full accord with the classical doctrine of jihad—a doctrine major, widely popular contemporary Muslim legists, including Muslim Brotherhood “Spiritual Guide” Yusuf al-Qaradawi, still expound to this day. Lewis also (rather disingenuously) conflates jihad homicide martyrdom operations—sanctioned and celebrated by the Sharia as the noblest path to eternal Islamic paradise—with Islam’s prohibition against suicide for depressive melancholia. Not surprisingly then, unlike scholars who specialized in the history of the jihad conquests across Asia, Africa, and Europe—such as Moshe Gil, Speros Vryonis, Dimitar Angelov, Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq, and K. S. Lal—Lewis’s rather superficial surveys avoid any details of the devastation these brutal campaigns wrought. As copiously documented by both proud Muslim historians and the laments of non-Muslim chroniclers representing the victims’ perspective, jihad depredations resulted in vast numbers of infidels mercilessly slaughtered—including noncombatant women and children—or enslaved, and deported; countless cities, villages, and infidel religious and cultural sites sacked and pillaged, often accompanied by the burning of harvest crops and massive uprooting of agricultural production systems, causing famine; and enormous quantities of treasure and movable goods seized as “booty.”
The late Orientalist Maxime Rodinson (d. 2004), a contemporary of Bernard Lewis, warned forty years ago of misguided modern scholarship effectively “sanctifying” Islam:
Understanding has given away to apologetics pure and simple.
Lewis’s bowdlerized 1974 summary portrayal of the system governance imposed upon those indigenous non-Muslims conquered by jihad is a distressing, ahistorical example of this apologetic genre.
Deriving from Koran 9:29 and its classical interpretation by Koranic commentators and Muslim jurists, alike, the “pact of subjugation, or “dhimma” (now more commonly known as “dhimmitude,” the coin termed by Bat Ye’or) was and remains a discriminatory, Sharia-based system imposed upon non-Muslims—Jews, Christians, as well as Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists—vanquished by jihad. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished dhimmis, and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches, synagogues, and temples; inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; a requirement that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims, including Zoroastrians and Hindus, wear special clothes; and the overall humiliation and abasement of non-Muslims. It is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Sharia. The writings of the much-lionized Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazali (d. 1111) highlight how the institution of dhimmitude was simply a normative and prominent feature of the Sharia:
[T]he dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle. . . . Jews, Christians, and Majians [Zoroastrians] must pay the jizya [poll tax on non-Muslims]. . . . [O]n offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]. . . . They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells . . . their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddler-work is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths . . . [dhimmis] must hold their tongue.
The practical consequences of such a discriminatory system were summarized in A. S. Tritton’s 1930 The Caliphs and Their Non-Muslim Subjects, a pioneering treatise on the status of the dhimmis:
[C]aliphs destroyed churches to obtain materials for their buildings, and the mob was always ready to pillage churches and monasteries . . . dhimmis . . . always lived on sufferance, exposed to the caprices of the ruler and the passions of the mob . . . in later times . . . [t]hey were much more liable to suffer from the violence of the crowd, and the popular fanaticism was accompanied by an increasing strictness among the educated. The spiritual isolation of Islam was accomplished. The world was divided into two classes, Muslims and others, and only Islam counted. . . . Indeed the general feeling was that the leavings of the Muslims were good enough for the dhimmis.
Yet over four decades after Tritton published this apt characterization, here is what Bernard Lewis opined on the subject (in 1974):
The dhimma on the whole worked well [emphasis added]. The non-Muslims managed to thrive under Muslim rule, and even to make significant contributions to Islamic civilization. The restrictions were not onerous, and were usually less severe in practice than in theory. As long as the non-Muslim communities accepted and conformed to the status of tolerated subordination assigned to them, they were not troubled.112
As I describe in Sharia Versus Freedom, the assessments of two other highly esteemed 20th century Western Islamologists—Professors Ann Lambton and S. D. Goitein—who were Lewis’s contemporaries and colleagues, make plain that his flimsy apologetic on “the dhimma” does not represent a consensus Western scholarly viewpoint. Brief samples of their conclusions are provided below:
[Lambton] The humiliating regulations to which [dhimmis] were subject as regards their dress and conduct in public were not, however, nearly so serious as their moral subjection, the imposition of the poll tax, and their legal disabilities. They were, in general, made to feel that they were beyond the pale. Partly as a result of this, the Christian communities dwindled in number, vitality, and morality. . . . The degradation and demoralization of the [dhimmis] had dire consequences for the Islamic community and reacted unfavorably on Islamic political and social life.
[Goitein]: [T]he Muslim state was quite the opposite of the ideals propagated by…the principles embedded in the constitution of the United States. An Islamic state was part of or coincided with dar al-Islam, the House of Islam. Its treasury was mal al-muslumin, the money of the Muslims. Christians and Jews were not citizens of the state, not even second class citizens. They were outsiders under the protection of the Muslim state, a status characterized by the term dhimma, for which protection they had to pay a poll tax specific to them. They were also exposed to a great number of discriminatory and humiliating laws. . . . As it lies in the very nature of such restrictions, soon additional humiliations were added, and before the second century of Islam was out, a complete body of legislation in this matter was in existence. . . . In times and places in which they became too oppressive they lead to the dwindling or even complete extinction of the minorities
Lewis’s conception of Islam’s doctrinal antisemitism, and its resultant historical treatment of Jews, is a sham castle which rests on two false pillars. These glib affirmations, which amount to nothing less than sheer denial, are illustrated below:
In Islamic society hostility to the Jew is non-theological. It is not related to any specific Islamic doctrine, nor to any specific circumstance in Islamic history. For Muslims it is not part of the birth-pangs of their religion, as it is for Christians… “dhimmi”-tude [derisively hyphenated] subservience and persecution and ill treatment of Jews . . . [is a] myth.
There is voluminous evidence from Islam’s foundational texts of theological Jew-hatred: virulently antisemitic Koranic verses whose virulence is only amplified by the greatest classical and modern Muslim Koranic commentaries (by Tabari [d. 923], Zamakshari [d. 1143], Baydawi [d. ~1316], Ibn Kathir [d.1373], and Suyuti [d. 1505], to Qutb [d. 1966] and Mawdudi [d.1979]), the six canonical hadith collections, and the most respected sira (pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad, by Ibn Ishaq [d. 761 ]/Ibn Hisham [d. 813], Ibn Sa’d [d. 835 ], Waqidi [d. 822], and Tabari). The antisemitic motifs in these texts have been carefully elucidated by scholarship that dates back to Hartwig Hirschfeld’s mid-1880s analysis of the sira and Georges Vajda’s 1937 study of the hadith, complemented in the past two decades by Haggai Ben Shammai’s 1988 examination of the major anti-Semitic verses and themes in the Koran and Koran exegesis, and Saul S. Friedman’s broad, straightforward enumeration of Koranic antisemitism in 1989. Moshe Perlmann, a preeminent scholar of Islam’s ancient anti-Jewish polemical literature, made this summary observation in 1964:
The Koran, of course became a mine of anti-Jewish passages. The hadith did not lag behind. Popular preachers used and embellished such material.120
Notwithstanding Bernard Lewis’s hollow claims, salient examples of Jew-hatred illustrating Perlmann’s remarkably compendious assessment of these foundational Islamic sources, and their tragic application across space and time, through the present, are detailed, with copious documentation in my The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, and summarized in Sharia Versus Freedom.
Once again, it is illuminating to juxtapose Lewis’s attempt to deny the existence of antisemitism in Medieval Islam with the conclusions of his academic colleague S. D. Goitein, based upon the latter’s thorough philological and historical analyses of the primary-source Geniza documents (a cache of religious texts, documents, and letters, from Cairo, Egypt, which sheds light on the condition of Jews during “classical” Islam). Thus, in the specific context of the Arab Muslim world during the high Middle Ages (circa 950–1250 CE), Goitein’s seminal analyses revealed that the Geniza documentary record employed the term antisemitism,
in order to differentiate animosity against Jews from the discrimination practiced by Islam against non-Muslims in general. Our scrutiny of the Geniza material has proved the existence of “antisemitism” in the time and the area considered here.
Goitein cites as concrete proof of his assertion that a unique strain of Islamic Jew-hatred was extant at this time (i.e., up to a millennium ago)—exploding Lewis’s spurious claim of its absence—the fact that letters from the Cairo Geniza material,
have a special word for it and, most significantly, one not found in the Bible or in Talmudic literature (nor registered in any Hebrew dictionary), but one much used and obviously coined in the Geniza period. It is sinuth, “hatred,” a Jew-baiter being called sone, “a hater.”
Incidents of such Muslim Jew-hatred documented by Goitein in the Geniza record come from northern Syria (Salamiyya and al-Mar’arra), Morocco (Fez), and Egypt (Alexandria), with references to the latter being particularly frequent.
Pace Lewis’s complete misrepresentation of Islamic antisemitism (as well as his whitewashing of the creed’s jihadism, and related imposition of dhimmitude), here is but a very incomplete sampling of pogroms and mass murderous violence against Jews living under Islamic rule, across space and time, all resulting from the combined effects of jihadism, general anti-dhimmi, and/or specifically anti-Semitic motifs in Islam: 6,000 Jews massacred in Fez in 1033; hundreds of Jews slaughtered in Muslim Cordoba between 1010 and 1015; 4,000 Jews killed in Muslim riots in Grenada in 1066, wiping out the entire community; the Berber Muslim Almohad depredations of Jews (and Christians) in Spain and North Africa between 1130 and 1232, which killed tens of thousands, while forcibly converting thousands more, and subjecting the forced Jewish converts to Islam to a Muslim Inquisition; the 1291 pogroms in Baghdad and its environs, which killed (at least) hundreds of Jews; the 1465 pogrom against the Jews of Fez; the late fifteenth-century pogrom against the Jews of the Southern Moroccan oasis town of Touat; the 1679 pogroms against, and then expulsion of, 10,000 Jews from Sana’a, Yemen, to the unlivable, hot and dry plain of Tihama, from which only 1,000 returned alive in 1680, 90 percent having died from exposure; recurring Muslim anti-Jewish violence—including pogroms and forced conversions—throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, which rendered areas of Iran (for example, Tabriz) Judenrein; the 1834 pogrom in Safed, where raging Muslim mobs killed and grievously wounded hundreds of Jews; the 1888 massacres of Jews in Isfahan and Shiraz, Iran; the 1910 pogrom in Shiraz; the pillage and destruction of the Casablanca, Morocco, ghetto in 1907; the pillage of the ghetto of Fez, Morocco, in 1912; the government-sanctioned anti-Jewish pogroms by Muslims in Turkish Eastern Thrace during June–July 1934, which ethnically cleansed at least 3,000 Jews; and the series of pogroms, expropriations, and finally mass expulsions of some 900,000 Jews from Arab Muslim nations, beginning in 1941 in Baghdad (the murderous “Farhud,” during which 600 Jews were murdered, and at least 12,000 pillaged)—eventually involving cities and towns in Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Syria, Aden, and Bahrain, and culminating in 1967 in Tunisia—that accompanied the planning and creation of a Jewish state, Israel, on a portion of the Jews’ ancestral homeland.151
Journalist David Warren, writing in March 2006, questioned the advice given President Bush “on the nature of Islam” at that crucial time by not only “the paid operatives of Washington’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the happyface pseudo-scholar Karen Armstrong,” but most significantly, one eminence grise, in particular: “the profoundly learned” Bernard Lewis. All these advisers, despite their otherwise divergent viewpoints, as Warren noted, “assured him (President Bush) that Islam and modernity were potentially compatible.” None more vehemently—or with such authority—than the so-called “Last Orientalist,” nonagenarian professor Bernard Lewis. Arguably the most striking example of Lewis’s fervor was a lecture he delivered July 16, 2006 (on board the ship Crystal Serenity during a Hillsdale College cruise in the British Isles) about the transferability of Western democracy to despotic Muslim societies, such as Iraq. He concluded with the statement, “Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us.” This stunning claim was published with that concluding remark as the title, “Bring Them Freedom Or They Destroy Us,” and disseminated widely.
While Lewis put forth rather non sequitur, apologetic examples in support of his concluding formulation, he never elucidated the yawning gap between Western and Islamic conceptions of freedom—hurriyya in Arabic. This latter omission was particularly striking given Professor Lewis’s contribution to the official (Brill) Encyclopedia of Islam entry on hurriyya. Lewis egregiously omitted not only his earlier writings on hurriyya but what he had also termed the “authoritarian or even totalitarian” essence of Islamic societies.
Hurriyya, “freedom,” is—as Ibn Arabi (d. 1240) the lionized “Greatest Sufi Master,” expressed it—“perfect slavery.” And this conception is not merely confined to the Sufis’ perhaps metaphorical understanding of the relationship between Allah the “master” and his human “slaves.” Following Islamic law slavishly throughout one’s life was paramount to hurriyya, “freedom.” This earlier more concrete characterization of hurriyya’s metaphysical meaning, whose essence Ibn Arabi reiterated, was pronounced by the Sufi scholar al-Qushayri (d. 1072/74).
Let it be known to you that the real meaning of freedom lies in the perfection of slavery. If the slavery of a human being in relation to God is a true one, his freedom is relieved from the yoke of changes. Anyone who imagines that it may be granted to a human being to give up his slavery for a moment and disregard the commands and prohibitions of the religious law while possessing discretion and responsibility, has divested himself of Islam. God said to his Prophet: “Worship until certainty comes to you.” (Koran 15:99). As agreed upon by the [Koranic] commentators, “certainty” here means the end (of life).
Bernard Lewis, in his Encyclopedia of Islam analysis of hurriyya, discusses this concept in the latter phases of the Ottoman Empire, through the contemporary era. After highlighting a few “cautious” or “conservative” (Lewis’s characterization) reformers and their writings, Lewis maintains,
there is still no idea that the subjects have any right to share in the formation or conduct of government—to political freedom, or citizenship, in the sense which underlies the development of political thought in the West. While conservative reformers talked of freedom under law, and some Muslim rulers even experimented with councils and assemblies government was in fact becoming more and not less arbitrary.
Lewis also makes the important point that Western colonialism ameliorated this chronic situation:
During the period of British and French domination, individual freedom was never much of an issue. Though often limited and sometimes suspended, it was on the whole more extensive and better protected than either before or after.
And Lewis concludes his entry by observing that Islamic societies forsook even their inchoate democratic experiments,
In the final revulsion against the West, Western democracy too was rejected as a fraud and a delusion, of no value to Muslims.
Writing contemporaneously elsewhere, Lewis concedes that (with the possible exception of Turkey), following the era of the French Revolution, 150 years of prior experimentation with Western secular sovereignty and laws in many Islamic countries, notably Egypt, had not fared well.
[T]he imported political machinery failed to work, and in its breakdown led to the violent death or sudden displacement by other means of ministers and monarchs, all of whom had failed to replace even the vanished Sultanate in the respect and loyalties of the people. In Egypt a republic was proclaimed which in some respects seems to be a return to one of the older political traditions of Islam—paternal, authoritarian Government, resting on military force, with the support of some of the religious leaders and teachers, and apparently, general acceptance. Perhaps that is an Islamic Republic of a sort.
Moreover, Lewis viewed this immediate post–World War II era of democratic experimentation by Muslim societies as an objective failure (again, with the possible exception of developments, at that time, in Turkey), rooted in Islamic totalitarianism, which he compared directly (and unabashedly) to Communist totalitarianism, noting their “uncomfortable resemblances” with some apprehension.
I turn now from the accidental to the essential factors, to those deriving from the very nature of Islamic society, tradition, and thought. The first of these is the authoritarianism, perhaps we may even say the totalitarianism, of the Islamic political tradition. . . . Many attempts have been made to show that Islam and democracy are identical—attempts usually based on a misunderstanding of Islam or democracy or both. This sort of argument expresses a need of the up- rooted Muslim intellectual who is no longer satisfied with or capable of understanding traditional Islamic values, and who tries to justify, or rather, re-state, his inherited faith in terms of the fashionable ideology of the day. It is an example of the romantic and apologetic presentation of Islam that is a recognized phase in the reaction of Muslim thought to the impact of the West…[T]he political history of Islam is one of almost unrelieved autocracy. . . . [I]t was authoritarian, often arbitrary, sometimes tyrannical. There are no parliaments or representative assemblies of any kind, no councils or communes, no chambers of nobility or estates, no municipalities in the history of Islam; nothing but the sovereign power, to which the subject owed complete and unwavering obedience as a religious duty imposed by the Holy Law…Quite obviously, the Ulama [religious leaders] of Islam are very different from the Communist Party. Nevertheless, on closer examination, we find certain uncomfortable resemblances. Both groups profess a totalitarian doctrine, with complete and final answers to all questions on heaven and earth; the answers are different in every respect, alike only in their finality and completeness, and in the contrast they offer with the eternal questioning of Western man. Both groups offer to their members and followers the agreeable sensation of belonging to a community of believers, who are always right, as against an outer world of unbelievers, who are always wrong. Both offer an exhilarating feeling of mission, of purpose, of being engaged in a collective adventure to accelerate the historically inevitable victory of the true faith over the infidel evil-doers. The traditional Islamic division of the world into the House of Islam and the House of War, two necessarily opposed groups, of which—the first has the collective obligation of perpetual struggle against the second, also has obvious parallels in the Communist view of world affairs. There again, the content of belief is utterly different, but the aggressive fanaticism of the believer is the same. The humorist who summed up the Communist creed as “There is no God and Karl Marx is his Prophet” was laying his finger on a real affinity. The call to a Communist Jihad, a Holy War for the faith—a new faith, but against the self-same Western Christian enemy—might well strike a responsive note.
Six decades after Lewis made these candid observations, there is a historical record to judge—a clear, irrefragable legacy of failed secularization efforts, accompanied by steady grassroots and institutional re-Islamization across the Muslim world, epitomized, at present, by the Orwellian-named, “Arab Spring.” The late P. J. Vatikiotis (d. 1997), Emeritus Professor of Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), was a respected scholar of the Middle East, who, contemporaneous with Lewis (a SOAS colleague), wrote extensively about Islamic reformism throughout the twentieth century, particularly in Egypt. Focusing outside Turkey and Pakistan on the Arab Middle East (i.e., Egypt, the Sudan, Syria, and Iraq), Vatikiotis wrote candidly in 1981 of how authoritarian Islam doomed inchoate efforts at creating political systems which upheld individual freedom in the region:
What is significant is that after a tolerably less autocratic/authoritarian political experience during their apprenticeship for independent statehood under foreign power tutelage, during the inter-war period, most of these states once completely free or independent of foreign control, very quickly moved towards highly autocratic-authoritarian patterns of rule. . . . One could suggest a hiatus of roughly three years between the departure or removal of European influence and power and overthrow of the rickety plural political systems they left behind in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and the Sudan by military coups d’etat.
Authoritarianism and autocracy in the Middle East may be unstable in the sense that autocracies follow one another in frequent succession. Yet the ethos of authoritarianism may be lasting, even permanent. . . . One could venture into a more ambitious philosophical etiology by pointing out the absence of a concept of ‘natural law’ or ‘law of reason’ in the intellectual-cultural heritage of Middle Eastern societies. After all, everything before Islam, before God revealed his message to Muhammad, constitutes jahiliyya, or the dark age of ignorance. Similarly, anything that deviates from the eternal truth or verities of Islamic teaching is equally degenerative, and therefore unacceptable. That is why, by definition, any Islamic movement which seeks to make Islam the basic principle of the polity does not aim at innovation but at the restoration of the ideal that has been abandoned or lost. The missing of an experience similar, or parallel, to the Renaissance, freeing the Muslim individual from external constraints of, say, religious authority in order to engage in a creative course measured and judged by rational and existential human standards, may also be a relevant consideration. The individual in the Middle East has yet to attain his independence from the wider collectivity, or to accept the proposition that he can create a political order.
Unlike Vatikiotis, Bernard Lewis has ignored these obvious setbacks. Remarkably, Lewis, as evidenced by his current volte-face on the merits of experiments in “Islamic democracy” has become a far more dogmatic evangelist for so-called Islamic democratization, despite such failures!
Consistent with Lewis’ admonition, “Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us,” the US military, at an enormous cost of blood and treasure, liberated Afghanistan and Iraq from despotic regimes. However, as facilitated by the Sharia-based Afghan and Iraqi constitutions the US military occupation helped midwife—which have negated freedom of conscience and promoted the persecution of non-Muslim religious minorities—“they,” that is, the Muslim denizens of Afghanistan and Iraq, have chosen to reject the opportunity for Western freedom “we” provided them, and transmogrified it into “hurriyya.” Far more important than mere hypocrisy—a widely prevalent human trait—is the deleterious legacy of his own Islamic confusion Bernard Lewis has bequeathed to Western policymaking elites, both academic and nonacademic.
FP: The final section is entitled, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sharia?” Please summarize how you address this pressing question, and your conclusions.
Bostom: On May 12, 2011 a US Army “Red Team” issued an unclassified report which sought to explain the burgeoning rash of murderous attacks (which over the next 15-months escalated even further, still) by Afghan National Army (ANA) members on US and other NATO troops. The most salient point remained blatantly ignored throughout the feckless conduct of our mission in Afghanistan, till now, as exemplified, glaringly, by current US Forces Afghanistan commander General John Allen’s heinous August 23, 2012 remarks. General Allen maintained that Ramadan fasting, combined with operational tempo during the summer heat, were the drivers of these most recent killings of his own troops by Muslim ANA soldiers! Contra Allen’s willful blindness, the Army’s Red Team report inserted (as item 40), this definitive comment amongst 58 other comparatively trivial recommendations:
Better educate US soldiers in the central tenets of Islam as interpreted and practiced in Afghanistan. Ensure that this instruction is not a sanitized, politically correct training package, but rather includes an objective and comprehensive assessment of the totalitarian nature of the extreme theology practiced among Afghans.
Unflinching, honest education on Islam, absent any delusive, or manifestly disingenuous cultural relativist prattle about the creed, and its totalitarian religio-political law, remains the most important defense in our armamentarium against encroaching Sharia. Properly explicated and understood, the threats posed by Sharia supremacism, both foreign and domestic, may then be confronted rationally.
Ex-Communist apostate Whittaker Chambers (circa 1947) compared the violent fanaticism of the twentieth century’s secular totalitarian systems adherents, to the votaries of Islam. The modern totalitarians expressed “new ideas” which were “violently avowed,”and “the hallmark of their advocates was a fanaticism unknown since the first flush of Islam.” Sharia Versus Freedom demonstrates that Chambers’s passing comparison has doctrinal and historical validity, which comports with serious modern assessments by other former Communist and non-Communist intellectuals alike (i.e., in chronological order, by Bertrand Russell ; G.K. Chesterton ; Arthur Koestler ; Jules Monnerot ; Bernard Lewis ; Karl Wittfogel ; Ernest Gellner ; and Maxime Rodinson ). Sociologist Jules Monnerot made very detailed and explicit connections between pre-modern Islamic and twentieth-century Communist totalitarianism in Sociologie du Communisme. The title of his first chapter dubbed Communism as “The Twentieth-Century Islam.” Monnerot elucidated these two primary shared characteristics of Islam and Communism: “conversion”—followed by subversion—from within, and the fusion of “religion” and state. Citing Stalin (circa 1949) as the contemporary personification, Monnerot elaborated on this totalitarian consolidation (“condensation”) of power shared by Islam and Communism, and the refusal of these universalist creeds to accept limits on their “frontiers.” He further observes that to those who did not accept their ideology, or self-proclaimed “mission,” Communism—and Islam before it—were viewed as imperialistic religious fanaticisms. Finally, Monnerot (invoking Ernest Renan [d. 1892]) underscores how incoherent Western intellectual apologists for totalitarianism—whether Communist or Islamic—promote the advance of these destructive ideologies.
Moreover, the seminal 20th century ideologue of Islamic revival, Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi, writing in 1960, validated Monnerot’s comparison from a pious Muslim perspective.
A state of this sort [i.e., an Islamic state] cannot evidently restrict the scope of its activities. Its approach is universal and all-embracing. Its sphere of activity is coextensive with the whole of human life. It seeks to mould every aspect of life and activity in consonance with its moral norms and programme of social reform. In such a state no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. Considered from this aspect the Islamic state bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states.
Collectively, these observations suggest that the strategies employed to thwart some of the dangers of Communist totalitarianism, might also be applicable to the struggle against totalitarian Islam.
Chambers’s pellucid formulation of the Communist threat—whether covert or overt—was rooted in his thorough doctrinal and experiential understanding of Communism. In Witness he states,
No one knows so well as the ex-Communist the character of the conflict, and of the enemy. . . . For no other has seen so deeply into the total nature of the evil with which Communism threatens mankind.
Mirroring the ex-Communist apostate Chambers, vis-à-vis Communism, Ibn Warraq, the contemporary Muslim apostate, combines a highly informed, profound appreciation for his adopted Western civilization, with a deep understanding of the doctrinal and historical threat Islam poses to the West. Warraq’s books and essays have critically examined Islam’s origins, tenets, and history. His scholarly 2003 analysis of apostasy in Islam—illustrated by extensive, poignant testimonies from modern Muslim apostates—remains a landmark work documenting this unresolved global human rights tragedy. More recently. Warraq produced an expansive, breathtaking overview of the West’s contributions to art, literature, and philosophy, which was combined with a sound debunking of post-modern, anti-Western charlatanism, epitomized by the sorry “oeuvre” of Edward Said.
Warraq’s insights, and the shared revelations of Muslim freethinkers Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Wafa Sultan presented in Sharia Versus Freedom, expose the nature of totalitarian Islam, while helping formulate rational strategies to combat its threats. Their concerns are validated domestically by accompanying analyses of mosque surveillance data, and the authoritative advice proffered by the mainstream Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) to both imams (during formal AMJA-sponsored educational training programs), and ordinary Muslims (via public fatwas).
In brief, the landmark “Sharia and Violence in American Mosques” study provides irrefragable evidence that 81 percent of this nationally representative sample of US mosques—consistent with mainstream Islamic doctrine, practice, and sentiment since the founding of the Muslim creed—are inculcating jihadism with the goal of implementing sharia here in America. AMJA’s fatwas and other publications make plain that it too promotes application of traditional Sharia mandates—antithetical to US constitutional law—and the seditious replacement of our legal code with Islam’s totalitarian system, via jihad.
Four specific examples of push back (three suggested; one completed) against domestic the Sharia supremacist agenda, are discussed:
- Subpoenaing a group of AMJA jurists to testify before Congressman Peter Kings’ Committee on Homeland Security and have them repeat verbatim, and then explain, under cross-examination, their Sharia-based, seditious advice to North American Muslims.
- To combat warped, Islamophilic educational indoctrination at the high school, community college, and freshman/sophomore major college levels, families/students should purchase the single volume Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam (also reproduced and available as The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam). The Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam remains an unequaled—and unbowdlerized—reference work, which includes all the articles contained in the first edition and supplement of the nine-volume classic Brill Encyclopaedia of Islam, pertaining, in particular, to the religion and law of Islam.
- A minor, but deeply symbolic edit to the Naval sea burial ceremony protocol for eligible Muslim members must be performed. Specifically, the final verse (v. 7) of the Fatiha (the Koran’s brief opening prayer), has to be eliminated. While the first 6 verses celebrate Islam without reference to other faiths, v. 7 is an eternal curse upon Jews and Christians (as confirmed by 13 centuries of authoritative, mainstream Koranic exegesis, to this day). Thus, uttering v. 7 at a solemn, interfaith Naval funeral ceremony, attended by predominantly non-Muslims, especially Christians, is a blatant, gratuitous rejection of America’s core values of religious tolerance, and an affirmation of bigoted Sharia supremacism.
- The 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2:1 on Thursday, May 26, 2011 (in GEORGE SAIEG, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF DEARBORN; RONALD HADDAD, Dearborn Chief of Police), that Dearborn, and its police department, violated the free-speech rights of a Christian evangelist by barring him from handing out leaflets at an Arab-American street festival last year. The majority opinion of Justices Moore and Clay included a keen observation revealing how these judges understood the sharia-based objections to non-Muslim proselytization which motivated Dearborn’s attempt to abrogate Pastor Saieg’s freedom of speech—mainstream Islam’s continued rejection of freedom of conscience:
Saieg also faces a more basic problem with booth-based evangelism: “[t]he penalty of leaving Islam according to Islamic books is death,” which makes Muslims reluctant to approach a booth that is publicly “labeled as . . . Christian.” R. 48 (Ex. A: Saieg Dep. at 75). Saieg believes that evangelism is more effective when he can roam the Festival and speak to Muslims more discreetly.
Following the issuance of the verdict, Pastor Saieg’s intrepid attorney, Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center, made these apposite remarks, which all who cherish our unique Western freedoms must heed, and support:
Everybody should be pleased. Dearborn is getting a pretty strong reputation as being the enemy of the First Amendment. As long as they keep passing these draconian restrictions that violate the rights of everyone, we’re going to challenge them.
Finally, when opposing jihadism overseas, American policymakers must radically alter their See No Islam/See No Sharia mindset, and heed the lessons of Japan’s World War II era defeat and reconstruction. Central to both efforts—first defeating, and then reconstructing Japan—was a complete delegitimization and disenfranchisement of Japan’s religio-political state religion, post–Meiji Restoration (1868) Shintoism. Our policymakers ignored this paradigm in Afghanistan and Iraq, midwiving illiberal Sharia states, allied with their axis of jihad co-religionists from neighboring Pakistan and Iran, against the US.
We have a moral obligation to oppose Sharia which is antithetical to the core beliefs for which hundreds of thousands of brave Americans have died, including, over 6600 now, in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined. There has never been a Sharia state in history that has not discriminated (often violently) against the non-Muslims (and Muslim women) under its suzerainty. Such states have invariably taught (starting with Muslim children) the aggressive jihad ideology which leads to predatory jihad razzias on neighboring “infidels”—even when certain of those “infidels” happened to consider themselves Muslims, let alone if those infidels were clearly non-Muslims. That is the ultimate danger and geopolitical absurdity of a policy that ignores or whitewashes basic Islamic doctrine and history, while however inadvertently, making or remaking these societies “safe for Sharia.”
FP: Andrew G. Bostom, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
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