On The Difficulties With Islam
One of the most difficult things to understand for people, who are not religious or are indifferently so, is how those who are seriously religious think. Americans who, mostly, are either irreligious, only vaguely religious, or indifferent, usually can't begin to understand serious Catholics or Protestants or Jews. That is simply a fact. Islam, which is even more foreign to American tastes, is nearly incomprehensible to almost anyone who has not studied it. That is not to say many people don't think they know something about Islam. They are, however, mostly wrong in their imaginings. Islam is as malignant now as it was 500 years ago. The difference is that then Christians understood it better.
My own background and professional work have permitted me to study both a modest amount about Islam as well as about the Islamic countries of the Mideast. Further, since the kind of information generally available through mass media sources is invariably incomplete and, unfortunately, not always completely accurate, I am assuming it's reasonable to provide some information to family and friends who might be interested.
I do this with the understanding that there is no way to include a mass of sophisticated and subtle nuances in a short communication, nor do I have any pretense that my analysis is exhaustive. Further, any short communication must gloss over a wealth of historical information as well as selectively expand elements, which seem crucial to the discussion. I do, however, assert that to the best of my professional understanding, what I am presenting is reasonably accurate. I will not attempt to describe Muslim theology (except for selected matters which I shall note) since it is not generally germane to the discussion. Further, there are about 100 sects of Muslims, so clearly they cannot all be discussed. However, nearly all share a vision of, at least, distaste for the West, so for the purposes of this communication they can be combined.
Perhaps the best known to Americans in recent times are the Sunni. Essentially orthodox in belief and practice, Sunnis comprise the dominant sect of the entire Arabian peninsula and control the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. They are also the dominant group in Afghanistan and Pakistan, though there are pockets of Shia in both places.
Shia Islam (followers of Ali, the close relative of Mohammed who they feel was deprived of becoming the second leader of the faithful and was assassinated) is inimical to the Sunni. The Shia are dominant in Iran, in the Shatt al Arab southern marshes of Iraq, and exist in pockets in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Wahabi are a very minor sect who have come to fame because they are the favorite of Osama bin Laden. They are an extremely rigid group, even by Muslim standards.
Finally, the Sufi are a group strongly influenced by Hindu thought and not actually recognizable in their American form as Islamic. They are indeed so otherworldly that they do not share much of the animosity to the West characteristic of other Islamic sects.
Religious animosity between Muslim groups and between Islam and other religions is superimposed upon and intertwined with ethnic tensions in the area.
Ethnic relations in the Mideast and Central Asia are themselves so complex they seem a caricature. Here religion intertwines with ethnicity to provide an ever-changing, potent, and explosive mix. Take as only one example the plight of the Kurds. The Kurds are a transhumance herding and agricultural group, which has never been able to secure formal title and sovereignty over a recognized homeland. They live in an area bound by southeast Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, and southern Azerbaijan, and there may be 25 to 30 million of them. It may seem a great injustice that there has never been a coherent international drive to grant the Kurds a national homeland. The Kurds themselves say, "The mountains are our only friends." But if these deserving people were granted a homeland, here is something like what would very likely happen.
Turkey would immediately destabilize, since though the Turks do not admit there are any Kurds in Turkey (they call them "mountain Turks"), about one-third of the population of Turkey is Kurdish and they predominate in the entire western half of Turkey. The disassembly of Turkey would generate disorder in southeastern Europe as the Greeks could then with some degree of impunity attempt territorial aggrandizement against them. At a minimum Greece would try to regain Crete. The de-stabilization would extend into the Balkans as the Albanians would then be deprived of the understood protection of their Turkish friends. The same would happen to the pockets of Muslims in the western parts of what was once Yugoslavia.
The Armenians (who are Christians) would at once realize the possibility of reclaiming their old homeland around Lake Van. The massacre of the Armenians by the Muslim Turks during the First World War era (which was what drove them from Lake Van in east central Turkey) was what emboldened Hitler to feel he could exterminate the Jews with impunity later since, he noted, no one tried to stop that massacre of 800,000 Armenians and no one even remembered it 20 years later. By the way, the massacre of the Chaldean Catholics and the Assyrian Catholics at this time were other examples of Muslim "tolerance."
Such a move could in the process lead to a new war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh, since the Azerbaijanis would not view such a move with sympathy, as it would likely involve the incorporation of southwest Azerbaijan. It is not clear that the Turks or the Kurds would accept this potential Armenian action with equanimity either. They would fear the long withheld retribution of the Armenians, or at the least continuing guerrilla warfare in the region. This would be disturbing to the Bulgars and Russians as well; it's their neighborhood and they have many interests in the region.
Also, while the Kurds in Iran might be delighted with the new homeland, there is no reason to assume the Iranians in general would be since it would entail taking a piece of Iran. Meanwhile, Iran would doubtless be tempted by the subsequent weakening of Iraq (the northern third of Iraq is essentially a "Kurdistan" if you will) to undertake some adventure against it. Perhaps they might wish to dislodge the Shatta al Arab and its Shia population from Iraq. The de-stabilization of Iraq would be of great advantage to Syria in any eastward expansion it might wish to undertake. Further, weakening Iraq would remove a continuing anxiety from Kuwait, thus limiting Kuwait's need to maintain good relations with the infidel Americans. Ditto for Saudi Arabia. In both countries it is very likely that Wahabist groups and even parties would come to high levels of activity to fish in these troubled waters.
Under these conditions, it is difficult to believe that Iraq would fail to use weapons of mass destruction to hold onto those lands, the loss of which would reduce them to a minor power at best.
This minimal scenario doesn't begin to exhaust the situation, of course, but you get the idea.
The Fox And The Scorpion
Multiply this by perhaps 20 or more cases and the instability of the region can become clearer.
That every man's hand is turned against every other is well exemplified by the old Arab proverb, "My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the world."
Another well-known Mideast parable is commonly adduced to show the depths of the problem. The fox and the scorpion came to a riverbank. Both wished to cross. The fox could swim but the scorpion could not. The scorpion asked the fox to give him a ride, offering a reward if he would. "How do I know you would not sting me on the way?" asked the fox. "Impossible," said the scorpion, "I would then drown." Convinced, the fox agreed. Halfway across, the scorpion stung the fox. As the dying fox sank beneath the waves, he gasped, "Why did you do it?" The scorpion replied as he drowned, "This is the Mideast, what did you expect?"
Antagonisms are in part fueled by religious differences within Islam, but many conflicts exist between Islamic neighbors who profess identical Islamic sectarian beliefs. What tends to unite the Mideast (and indeed all of Islam) is a generalized antagonism of varying degrees toward everyone else in the world, a hatred especially directed toward the West.
There are at least six significant elements of any serious answer to the question, "Why does Islam hate us?"
These six reasons are based upon the nature, teachings, and practice of Islam, the memory of the Crusades and other conflicts with the West, shame and anger at the decline of Islamic nations and their incompetence in the modern world, anger at French and British imperial actions in the region, disgust with what is seen as a morally depraved West led by the United States, and the existence of the state of Israel.
1) Fundamentally, Islam is at least ambivalent on the matter of violence against non-believers as a doctrinal matter. On the more benevolent side are general understandings derived from the Quran (which Muslims believe consists of the revelations provided to Mohammed by God). Others actually transcribed the Quran for him because Mohammed could not write or read. About a fifth of the Quran is incomprehensible in any language and no one knows what it means. This complicates a straightforward analysis of the document. Further, the hadiths (additional sayings) as well as what is embedded in the sharia (the Muslim equivalent of common law supposedly providing religiously based solutions to practical problems of governing) constitute the basis of Islam. Within this body of work is a general attitude that "people of the Book" (Jews and Christians) are to be treated tolerantly, and even with respect by Muslims. This is distinct from the overall hatred of pagans, which has no amelioration.
Indeed at certain times and in certain countries Jews and Christians were permitted to rule their own "quarter" of various Islamic cities. They, of course, were taxed where Muslims were not, but life was not impossible for these "people of the Book," though the oppression they felt was real.
On the other hand, it is a formal teaching of Islam, and repeated by any number of informal teachers, that the world is divided into the "land of peace" (Dar El Islam) and the "land of war" (Dar El Hare). The "land of peace" is that area controlled by Islam. In the "land of war," which is everywhere else in the world, violence against the inhabitants is not only tolerated but encouraged. Everywhere in the world at present that Islam and any other religious group are in contact, whether in the Philippines or Indonesia, through Malaysia, into Pakistan through the Mideast and into east Africa and all across the Sahel to Nigeria, given the opportunity, Muslims oppress, murder, violate, and destroy non-Muslim peoples. This is incontrovertibly so and such actions are supported by Islamic clergy everywhere. It is important to remember that this violence is religiously embedded within Islam and existed from its origin.
Further, this idea of "Dar El Islam" includes a kind of Muslim "Brezhnev Doctrine" (the late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev doctrinally expostulated that once a country had fallen to Communism, it could never be allowed to revert to any other form of government). The Muslim equivalent is that there are such things as Muslim lands and they are sacrosanct. They may never be allowed to become Christian (or Jewish) and the holiest places (Mecca and Medina... indeed the entire Arabian peninsula) must remain free from the contamination of even short-term visits by infidels. The extreme form of this belief is found in the Wahabi sect of Islam to which, unsurprisingly, Osama bin Laden belongs, as we noted.
This Holy Land is holy by virtue of being the homeland of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the great prophet Jesus of Nazareth and his mother, the great Myriam. Islam holds all these personages in great respect. Jesus is thought of as the penultimate prophet prior to Mohammed (who they believe was the last prophet and the messenger of God). However, the fact that Christians consider Jesus to have been the Christ and the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, in short, God, is considered blasphemous beyond belief.
Indeed, Islam is best understood as a Christian heresy (arguably a form of Arianism) since Mohammed took most of his ideas from Christianity. He turned violent against Christianity when he discovered that he could not convert Christians as readily as he would have liked. Indeed Mohammed's idea of "The Book" as a mystically holy thing probably derived from the fact that he was illiterate and had great respect for the competence of Christians and Jews whom he saw reading their "Book." He attributed their success to their "Book."
Mohammed himself in the Quran urges violence against Christians. He approved of and himself solicited assassinations, which he considered justified if it furthered the cause of Islam. The Quran considers religious war (jihad) to be a religious duty when there is a good chance of success, and it may not be shirked. The Quran, indeed all of Islamic thought, is filled with warfare and violence as the appropriate way to expand the religion by forced conversion. Those who do not believe as Muslims do are considered vile enemies. Remember, Mohammed himself fought both offensive and defensive wars against just about everyone with whom he came into contact. His Hejira, or journey from Mecca to Medina (A.D. 622), is the date from which the Muslim calendar begins, and it was precipitated by violence. (As a side note, the Muslim calendar differs significantly from the Julian one altered by Pope Gregory. It has 354 days only and the present year is [if I remember correctly] 1422 in their reckoning.)
This continual violence is justified by the Quran, the hadiths, and traditional practice. There is an especial hostility toward Christians who now are classed as polytheists for their belief in a trinitarian God. While it is true that in the Quran there are benevolent "love thy neighbor" passages, these are. more or less uniformly derived (scholars tell us) from that early period of Mohammed's life when he feared that he and his followers might be exterminated. At that point he urged alliances with and moderation toward people of other faiths. Once he was assured that there was little chance of his religion being wiped out, he changed his tune. In the Quran those later passages of vituperation and hatred toward others are termed by scholars "the sword verses" and they include blood-curdling exhortations to do violence to others, especially Christians and Jews. Here are two examples:
Quran (2:191) "kill the disbelievers wherever we find them."
Quran (5:34) "slay or crucify or cut the hands and feet off the unbelievers, that they be expelled from the land with disgrace and that they shall have a great punishment in the world hereafter."
These and similar comments among the hadiths are not meant allegorically. It is well to remember that Mohammed himself led military adventures and he was by no means a pacifist.
Finally, Islam has as a tenet of faith that the fate of all men (Kismet) is predetermined. I do not mean to imply some simplemindedness on the part of Islamic theologians and scholars. They have dealt with the complex problems of the equivalent of grace and free will with great sophistication. Nonetheless, there is a well known "escape hatch" in Islam from the doom of Kismet. If you die killing or trying to kill an infidel, as we noted, you are assured of a paradise of earthly delights, chief among which is the availability of unlimited sexual access to desirable young women. It takes little imagination to understand the appeal of this to warrior-aged young men who are nonetheless sincere in their desire to do good and achieve Paradise.
Remembering With Anger
2) The memory of the Christian Crusades to recover the Holy Land for the usage of Christian pilgrims and the defeats of Islam at Lepanto and Tours as well as the loss of Spain by the end of the 15th century. This memory has at least two dimensions. Muslims remember with anger that the Crusades were an attempt to undo the military, social, and religious conquest of the Holy Land. In an early expression of the Muslim "Brezhnev Doctrine," it was felt inappropriate for Christians to be allowed control over any part of the Holy Land. They also remember with pride that Muslim superior military capacity over the long haul drove the Crusaders away.
It is a further matter of pride that Islam at that time comprised a group of related cultures which were very advanced in the arts, architecture, the sciences, and medicine in comparison to Christian Europe. The West derived a great deal of learning from Islam during this period. Of course the West expanded upon this knowledge and it atrophied among the Muslims. This also irks Muslims. There is a general sense that: "We were far greater than the Christians, and we defeated them." There is also a festering anger at the losses symbolized by the great battles noted above and deep puzzlement over how this change in fortune could have come about.
What Muslims do not recognize, and what most Western "intellectuals" simply don't know at all (because political correctness has completely bowdlerized historical studies), was that the Crusades were initiated as defensive wars. Islam had spread by the sword and threatened the Eastern Roman Empire with extinction. The battles of Lepanto and Tours were victories desperately needed to prevent the figurative and often literal extermination of Christians by an exceedingly violent and intolerant Islam.
If the Quranic support for murderous hatred toward "infidels" and the rankling anger at the failures of Islam militarily after the Crusades up to the 16th century provide a theological and historical basis for anti-Western thought, the absolute and relative weakness and decline of Islam from 1500 to the 20th century provides a more immediate anger for Islam.
Impermissible In Islam
3) Islamic countries have shown themselves incapable of modernization, certainly in its more benevolent forms and they are dependent upon the "Christian West" for science, technology, and medicine. Not only that, but to add insult to injury, the very dates used in international commerce are based upon a calendar derived from the birth of Jesus. Mohammed is ignored. Even worse, the West gives so little thought to the world of Islam that they know lime about it, don't take it seriously (or didn't till recently), and have a series of denigrative stereotypes about it, which bite all the harder since the stereotypes are so obviously close to reality.
No Western country would dream of sending its graduate students to an Islamic country for specialized training in the sciences or medicine. The very suggestion brings a smile to the Western face, and it causes Muslims to grit their teeth, especially since they know that they must send their best graduate students West to learn anything useful.
There is a tremendous ambivalence here. Many educated Muslims wish that they could bring the blessings of representative government to their respective countries. But there is little or no chance of that since those countries are ruled by despotisms often not even cloaked with a fig leaf of putative democracy. Moreover, any attempt to bring modern ideas to Islam is met with the violence of "The Muslim Street."
Islam and street violence are all but synonymous. Ignorant, even illiterate, but certainly uneducated, Muslims who are easily whipped up to fear "Western pollution" have overthrown any number of proto-modern Muslim governments. The classic example is the late Shah im Shah of Iran.
It is impossible to overstate the significance of this. It is something every Muslim man feels in his bones. I emphasize "man" because, of course, women are not allowed to have any political ideas in the strict forms of Islam. This tradition is nonetheless sometimes honored in the breach, vide: Benazir Bhutto, the recent prime minister of Pakistan, or Megawatti Sukarnoputra, president of Indonesia, who holds her position (and her life) tenuously by virtue of selecting a violently Talibaniform second in command. The world of Islam is stuck with the fact that many of the cultural elements of the West, which are responsible for the achievements of the West, are impermissible in Islam.
There is, first of all, no way in which clear and simple title to land is available to the poor in Islam. Thus they cannot turn what they own into capital and become wealthy. Only the capacity to bribe ensures wealth, so there is little upward mobility in Islam. Even if the poor could turn their homes and land into usable capital, the banks in Islam have so many confusing Sharia rules that ordinary investment becomes almost impossible. For example, no interest may be charged under Quranic rules. Islamic rules of inheritance militate against capital accumulation, so passing on wealth is very difficult.
Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of business action are all stunningly limited under Islam. There is no free market and the press is rigidly controlled. Where there is wealth as in Saudi Arabia, it exists solely because of Western investment and there are, incredibly, even in Saudi Arabia large numbers of poor.
Even the minutiae of life are controlled by religious law, not that religious law which is embedded in the heart, but by the equivalent of religious police or bands of whipped-up religious enthusiasts who will bum your shop down if you are accused of some infraction of the sharia. Finally, there are the ubiquitous and infamous madrassas or kindergartens for hate. Here children from the youngest age are taught to be martyrs for the faith and to hate all Westerners, but especially Americans, all Christians, and all Jews.
For those who would like to see modernization, there is little hope. For the masses who see no changes and attribute all evils to the West, there is no hope. For the rebellious clerics who see each of their theocratic experiments collapse, there is no hope. However much like a caricature this sounds, it is nonetheless true that Islamic culture becomes one of bribes and despair and is inherently (as presently constituted) incapable of creating wealth, happiness, or even contentment.
There is no hope, but there is faith and everything is poured into it. Their faith explains their disastrous condition and offers the possibility of heaven if only one dies in battle with infidels.
Drawing Lines On The Map
4) The 1850s and 1921. During Victoria's reign as Queen of England, the British extended a mandate over the subcontinent of India, the northern part of which was Muslim. Indeed the post-World War 11 split of India into West Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), was specifically along religious lines, Hindus and Muslims cheerfully slitting each other throats in what was a classic "ethnic cleansing."
This came about in large part because the British simply drew lines on a map calling the place India. This forced peoples together who had no love for each other. This is very similar to what happened in 1921 when the French and the British simply divided up the old Ottoman Empire into spheres of influence.
It had been easy to generate anti-Ottoman feeling on the part of the Arabs by the famed Lawrence of Arabia and he filled Arabs hearts and minds with dreams of past glory. Their small but important victories over the Ottomans in the Arabian peninsula acted as a great fuel for future attempts at glory.
But the 1921 agreement after World War I truly iced the cake. Once again Western nations simply divided up the Islamic world by drawing lines on the map which created Saudi Arabia (the Saud family was their satrap), Iraq, Syria, what was then called Palestine and trans-Jordan (to become the Hashemite kingdom), Kuwait, the trucial Oman kingdoms, and so on. That this was one available response to the potential chaos of the region is never acknowledged among the Muslims of the area.
The British magnanimously ruled Egypt, the largest of the Arab countries, bringing many of the brightest Egyptian youth to London for education, but continued their references to the Orient (by which they meant anything east of Malta) by epithets such as WOGS (a denigrative for worthy Oriental gentlemen) and the like. And of course British Petroleum did quite well. Arabs were aware of this general disdain for them by the West, and even worse, were aware that it had some basis in reality.
The brightest of Arabs realized that the Western investments in their countries were a vital part of the development that could pull them out of centuries-long mire. But it hurt that it was not Islam doing on its own, and it hurt that these were Christians, and it hurt that these Christians felt such contempt for them. It hurt even worse that the contempt seemed to be deserved. There were a few isolated successes against the West such as the one-sided victory of the Afghans over the British. But the most common outcome was drearier for Islam, as typified by the mad attacks of the Mahddi (Mohammed Ahmed) and his dervishes in the Sudan at the end of the 19th century. Successful for a while (they actually defeated General Gordon at Khartoum), poorly armed massed tribesmen usually attacked the British only to be mowed down in droves. The thin red line was a lot better armed and trained than its opponents in most cases.
So we have the military superiority of me West, the scientific, cultural, social, and economic superiority of the West, and even their assumed religious superiority and the whole thing was hammered down by a series of imperial conquests almost dismissive of Islam as a power or threat, capped both by the 1921 dividing up of the Holy Lands of the Arabian peninsula and Palestine and the final insult of the creation of the state of Israel.
Satans, Large Or Small
5) Islam considers much of the civilization of the West to be obscene, barbarous, and degraded.
A puzzle that had to be solved by Islam was how it was that such immensity of power, sophistication, knowledge, and wealth could have been permitted by God to exist in societies which were patently, disgustingly immoral. In the eyes of a Muslim, our society promotes sexual immorality as a way of life.
While the West is putatively Christian, Muslims view with contempt the weakness of the Christian faith in its inability to stem the tide of pornography, homosexuality, bestiality, and every form of sexual degradation known. Muslims point out with horror that these are not merely aberrational behavior, they are embedded in law as rights. That is why one sees the seeming incongruous alliance of the Vatican and Islamic countries in opposing the spread of legalized abortion. This last is seen by Muslims as the inevitable outcome of Western sexual degradation and they have no desire to see its glories brought to them.
It is not an aside to note here that it is the collapse of the political and moral power of Catholicism, overnight as it were, which is the principal component of the weakness of Christianity so despised by Muslims. The collapse of the Catholic intellectuals in the face of the highly questionable Heisenberg principle (the so-called "uncertainty principle" itself opposed by Einstein prophetically in his comment "God does not play dice with the universe") was bad enough. Followed as it was in short order by the irrational application of that idea in the form of the acceptance of relativism in morals signaled a very dark period in the history of Christianity.
Muslims tend to see the culture of the West as a whole cloth. The loss of public morality is seen as a function of other elements of the culture. Few distinctions are made. Freedom, Muslims believe, since it seems to lead to license, is evil. An unrestrained press can say the "wrong thing." So if the West has elevated the position of women (indeed, ever since the Middle Ages this was so), then that must be a bad idea as well. Since Islam formally places women in a subordinate position to begin with, it is no unreachable stretch to the horrendous misogynistic oppression of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Though it is primarily in the areas of morals that Islam finds the West to be decadent, the rejection of the West extends broadly to other areas of intellectual endeavor. Islam also seems overwhelming to reject everything we have learned about economics. Such things as capital formation might as well be ideas from Mars for all the difference they make. They simply know they are poor and the West is rich. That must mean, in their experience, that it has all been stolen from them. The fact that there are a number of equally poorly informed Westerners who repeat tired old Marxist slogans provides Muslims additional justification for their deeply held prejudices about the West and wealth.
How do Muslims explain this to themselves? The answer is clear. Not only is the West aided by devils, its leaders, its very land, and all the people in it have become devils. They are Satans, large or small, but surely Satans. They have been put there to try the children of Islam, the true believers. Hence if they are devils, and that explains their success, then their success itself must be from the devil and all its accoutrements are equally evil. This makes it even easier to reject all of the West (except for military weapons that can somehow be gotten from them) and it is easy to see that one must use the very strengths of the West against the West. Fly its own planes into its own buildings if you cannot attack it any other way. Poison its people who are so foolish in their satanically derived blindness as to allow you to enter their country. Bring hell to these Satans and Allah will bring you victory and Islam will be able to spread.
"Is it not instructive," they ingenuously inquire, "that there are thousands of mosques in the West and no churches in Saudi Arabia?" by way of explaining the greater appeal of Islam. This was precisely the reason offered the Pope when he requested of Saudi officials that Catholic churches be allowed in Saudi Arabia. "There is no need," they said. Obviously, Since it is a capital offense to be a Christian who expresses his faith there. A Muslim can reasonably say from his religious perspective, "Why should we not bum all their churches in Bosnia or Somalia or Nigeria? Why not kill all those who will not convert? It is our traditional way and any compunctions we may have felt are easily overwhelmed by the fact that we are dealing with devils from hell."
Under these conditions of attitude and with the added stimulus of a religious idea which states that martyrdom for the faith is a guarantee of a heaven pretty much like a college boy's dream weekend with endless numbers of Jennifer Lopez look-alikes, how can it be surprising mat calling for a jihad or holy war gets a lot of attention?
The Formation Of Israel
6) Israel. The deep appeal of the foregoing receives a further impetus from the fact of the state of Israel. The Balfour declaration by the British government in 1917 in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, agreed in principle to the creation of a Jewish state in what was then called Palestine. But it was not till the post-World War II wresting of that state from the British occupation forces by the Jewish Stem Gang and the Hagganah that the de facto state of Israel was created.
Arabs have fumed that this was yet another example of Westerners drawing lines on a map for their convenience and then forcing Arabs (and other Muslims) to live with it. But there were not a majority of Muslim Arabs in Palestine, according to many observers, prior to the formation of Israel. And indeed there were many Jews and some Christian Arabs living there under the British protectorate. Many resident Arabs left Israel immediately upon the formation of Israel under the impression that Arab Muslim armies would overwhelm the Jews and drive them into the sea, so Arab Muslims might return to a "cleansed" Palestine. However, the Jews, many of whom were refugees from Hitler and Stalin (the rest were native to Israel), fought so well that the Arab armies were defeated then and in a series of later wars.
Many of these Muslims simply lost their homes from having left them and became the displaced peoples we now call the Palestinians. Their existence is the goad and excuse for much Arab violence against Jews and the basis for a number of highly unsuccessful wars of Arab armies against Israel. Neighboring Muslim governments find it convenient not to provide a permanent residence for Palestinians since that would solve the problem and make it more difficult to generate an endless hate against the "Zionist" usurpers.
While the existence of Israel is not the most important irritant for Islam, one element of its significance is that it contravenes the Muslim "Brezhnev Doctrine." It places infidels in the holy places in Jerusalem, it provides an outpost for Western civilization, and perhaps worst of all it is a continuing reminder that Muslims are incompetent to deal with the West. Israel, as small as it is, it is wealthier than most Arab countries, freer than all of them, able to defeat them singly or in coalitions and now supported by the great Satan, America.
It is of interest that the United States has become the great Satan though the United States has been unfailingly generous to Arab nations and Muslim non-Arab nations. It was not as an imperial power that the United States came to the aid of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo. Indeed, it was the UN, which organized the sanctions in place now against Iraq. Somehow, to Muslims they have become American sanctions. In short, the U.S. has become the great Satan because Britain has divested itself of empire and is now more or less impotent without its immensely powerful American ally. Britain is now a "little Satan." Further, it is the U.S. which is the center and the energy source of the culture of the West Ergo it is clearly the "Great Satan."
It is important to realize that Muslims do not use this term "Satans" analogously. Muslims mean it when they say "Great Satan" as literally as devout Catholics believe the Eucharist is the literal Body and Blood of Christ.
Finally, these attitudes are not the province of a few, but of many, if not most, Muslims. Regardless of what you have heard, sympathy for the Taliban and Al Qaeda is widespread, nearly uniform among Muslims. While not all Muslims would go so far as Al Qaeda, their sympathies are a great deal stronger for Al Qaeda than, for example, the sympathies of Irish Catholics in Boston are for the IRA. Irish Catholic clerics continually berate the IRA (while expending no love for the Protestant terrorists of Northern Ireland).
But no group of Muslim clerics (indeed only one or two individual Muslim clerics in the entire world) have strongly condemned Al Qaeda. Most telling of all, to date not one out of the several hundred thousand mullahs on earth has issued a fatwa (condemnation which permits a jihad) against Al Qaeda.
Thus for a complex set of reasons, some of which are political and some of which are historical, but all of which are deeply embedded in their religion and for that reason are very difficult to change, Islam is an enemy of all of us and if it has its way, you and I and our children either will convert to Islam, or we will die. Islam, as now constituted in its popular form, is in fact the enemy of civilization. Our task is to understand this, to recognize that it is difficult to state it openly, and to know that we must strive over the next generation to destroy its terrorist elements, encourage its reasonable ones, and work toward a fundamental change of Islam itself. Admittedly this is a difficult task and will take great determination and there is a real question whether we have the will for it. If we do not, we shall perish.
(Dr. Hippler is a retired research professor of anthropology who has the unique distinction of being the only person ever to serve on the national board of directors both of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Right to Life Committee. He resides in Alaska where he and his wife are home-schooling the youngest of their four children.)
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