Skip to comments.Saving Islam from bin Laden [Christopher Hitchens]
Posted on 09/05/2002 7:40:10 AM PDT by aculeus
In Nigeria a young woman sits holding a baby and awaiting a sentence of death. The baby is the main, if not indeed the sole, evidence against her. The baby is proof positive that the young woman has engaged in sexual intercourse. The form that the appointed death sentence will take is death by stoning, death in public, death that will make a crowd of participants into killers and the baby into a motherless child.
Why is this happening? It is happening because the Islamic forces in the northern regions of Nigeria want to impose sharia law, the primitive Muslim code of mutilation and retribution. Do the religious authorities propose to inflict this code only on members of their own congregation, who share the supposed values and taboos? No they do not. They wish to have it imposed also on Christians and unbelievers. This they already do in the regions of Nigeria that have fallen under their control.
But they also want to extend sharia to the whole of Nigeria, where Islam is still a minority religion and where the society is emerging with some difficulty from a lousy period of military dictatorship. In the sanguinary sectarian rioting that has resulted, portraits of Osama bin Laden have been flourished by the Muslim militants.
Now perhaps somebody will tell me how this - the stoning, the disregard of pluralism, the stupidity and the viciousness - connects to the situation in Gaza, or would help alleviate the plight of the Palestinians. Quite obviously, the clerical bullies in Nigeria are doing this because they think they can. Their counterparts in Malaysia and Indonesia, who want to declare absolutist Islamic republics in countries celebrated for their confessional and ethnic diversity, are not reacting to any "grievance" or suffering from any oppression. They simply think it obvious that the true word of god is contained in one book, and that further reflection is not only unnecessary but profane.
Why should this be our business? Well, a year ago I would have said without expecting to be contradicted that the answer to that was self-evident. There is a civil war raging within the Muslim world, where many believers do not wish to live under sharia any more than I do. This war has been at an incandescent pitch in Algeria, for example, for more than a decade. It is smouldering but still toxic in Iran, in Egypt, among the Palestinians and now in some of the major cities of "the West".
But the extremist and fundamentalist side in that war has evolved a new tactic. By exporting the conflict and staging it in Europe and America, it hopes both to intimidate and impress those who are wavering. This simple point was made, you may remember, in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania about 12 months ago, and we can be entirely certain that it will be rammed home to us again.
The most notorious manifestation of the other side in this two-front war is of course al Qaeda, which combines all the worst features of a crime family, a corrupt multinational corporation and a fascist gangster operation. I personally think we owe its demented militants a favour: by doing what they did last year they alerted the whole world to something that was hitherto only dimly understood.
And by taking their own insane ideology seriously, they ruined the chance for some more cautious and tactical fanatics to take over the Pakistani state, including its thermonuclear capacity, from within. They also embarrassed and isolated the equivalent faction within the oligarchy of Saudi Arabia.
Paradoxically, I think the world is a less dangerous place as a consequence of September 11, 2001. Until that day, we had been suffering severely from "under-reaction" to the most lethal threat to our civilisation.
This does not mean that a danger of "over-reaction", or mistaken diagnosis, does not exist. We are on the "right" side of this civil war in one way, because we have no choice. It is impossible to compromise with the proponents of sacrificial killing of civilians, the disseminators of anti-Semitic filth, the violators of women and the cheerful murderers of children.
It is also impossible to compromise with the stone-faced propagandists for Bronze Age morality: morons and philistines who hate Darwin and Einstein and who managed, during their brief rule in Afghanistan, to ban and to erase music and art while cultivating the skills of germ warfare. If they would do that to Afghans, what might they not have in mind for us? In confronting such people, the crucial thing is to be willing and able, if not in fact eager, to kill them without pity before they can get started.
But can we be sure we are on the "right" side of the Islamic civil war in the second sense? The holy writ on public stoning for sexual "offences" actually occurs often in the Bible and nowhere in the Koran, and much of the Islamic world is now in the position that "Christian" society occupied a few centuries ago. It has been widely discovered that you cannot run anything but a primaeval and cruel and stupid society out of the precepts of one rather mediocre "revelation". Muslims want to travel, to engage with others, and to have access to information and enlightenment (to which they have already made quite majestic contributions).
I am sure many people make the assumption that the United States, which is actually the world's only truly secular state as well as in some ways the world's most religious one - is on the side of those Muslims who want to practise their religion but otherwise neither to impose it or to be stifled by it.
However, the two regimes that did most to incubate and protect al Qaeda and the Taliban - the Saudi feudalists and the Pakistani military - were and still are on the official "friends and allies" list of the American establishment. The obscurantists and fanatics were nurtured in the bosom of the same "national security" apparatus that so grotesquely, if not criminally, failed to protect our civil society a year ago. And this is to say nothing about the central question of Palestine, where our military and political elite cannot with any honesty state to this day whether it has cast itself in the role of a mediator or a partisan, and has come to be widely and rightly distrusted as a consequence.
I repeat what I said at the beginning: the objective of al Qaeda is not the emancipation of the Palestinians but the establishment of tyranny in the Muslim world by means of indiscriminate violence in the non-Muslim world, and those who confuse the two issues are idiots who don't always have the excuse of stupidity.
However, this does not absolve us as citizens from the responsibility of demanding that our leaders be on the side of justice and of international law, for our own sake as well as everybody else's. And we may often have to uphold this view in spite of the unfavourable conditions - of "fallout shelter" paranoia and obsessive secrecy - that are created by our "own" governments.
There is no argument about the foe, in other words, and no real argument with it: only a settled determination to outlive and defeat this latest barbarism. Discovering friends and allies, discarding false ones and making new ones, will test our cultural and political intelligence to a hitherto-unknown degree. But the very complexity and subtlety of the task is one of the things that makes this war worth fighting.
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.
Hitchens has always recognized the dangers to the world posed by religious fundamentalists whether they be Christian, Judaic, or Islamic. Which makes it so strangely curious that he fails to see the more dangerous global-corporate-socialist statists.
It makes one wonder what it will take for Chris to see the value of ethical-capitalism?
"Let's do it to them before they do it to us."
Because Chris has replaced that old time religion with a utopian vision of a "pure" socialist world. I agree with a lot of what Hitchens says...and I disagree with a lot of what he says, also.
I definitely agree with Hitchen's in that the world should have no pity for fanatics who zealously fufill their perverted religious or political interpretations with violence, barbarism, murder and forced piety/patriotism on the masses. Fanatics who believe that they must enforce their doctrine and lifestyle onto others by way of freedom-denying laws, cruel punishments and killing anyone who disobeys deserve to be exterminated. Individuals and/or religious/political movements that physically threaten Civilization, deny choices, free-will and smother basic human rights deserve to be put to rest in the graveyard of failed ideals.
Logic, free-will, personal choice and talks of peaceful co-existence between fanatics and what they deem to be "non-believers" will never sway their belief that they are doing "God's" or, in the case of a humanist/socialist/totalitarian follower, the "People's" will. The ends always justify the means to a fanatic's way of thinking. Peaceful diplomacy won't cause a fanatic to tolerate what he or she believes is an affront to God or the People. Rather than let God or a half-way decent court system sort it out, the fanatic becomes the jury and judge who mets out "justice" according to their narrow-mindedness and bigotry.
I heartily disagree with Hitchens about Islam having the capability of becoming "a moderate religion." His comparison of Islam's fanatics to Christianity's fanatics of the past lacks a few theological facts.
In the past, Christianity has been perverted by power-hungry men and women who were religious fanatics, no doubt. The Crusades, Inquisition and Reformation were violent historical episodes that fell prey to ignorance, brutality, corruption, intolerance and greed. Jesus Christ would never have condoned the horrors that were done in His Name during those events...no matter how "well-intentioned" and "holy" the supposed goals of the Crusades, Inquisition and blood-soaked battles of the Reformation were meant to be by those involved.
Islam's modern-day fanatics, however, are only following the teachings of the founder, er, prophet Mohammad by carrying out a jihad that allows Muslims to deceive, cheat, loot-from, extort, rape, enslave and murder non-Muslims with impunity until the day that Sharia law holds sway over the entire world. (Not in heaven, mind you, but the everyday world!) That is the end-game for Islam. (Islamic heaven, er, paradise, complete with it's personal orgies and perpetual room service, is the reward for those Muslims who died trying to impose or succeeded in implementing Sharia.)
I would assume that any Muslim who does not sincerely hope and pray for Sharia is not a devout Muslim according to the Koran, Hadith and Imam's who hold sway. A so-called "moderate" Muslim must maintain the appearence of being a devout Muslim and keep his thoughts to himself. Muslims who speak openly of moderation or tolerate (not necessarily condone according to their personal beliefs) freedoms or free-thinking risk being killed by their fellow Muslims for blaspheming the main goals of the Islamic faith.
Perhaps a Reformation would cure Islam of its bloody reputation, both past and present. Somehow I doubt it. Mohammad's teachings and Christ's teachings are at great odds with one another...at least when it comes to how people should be treated here on earth.
Apparently so. Considering Hitchen's opinions of Falwell, Robertson, Mother Teresa, Sharon, Netanyahu, Peres, in addition to Arafat, Hussein, and Bin Laden, he seems to hope the same powers will be brought to bear on fundamentalist Christianity and Judaism as well.
Hitchens has a good grasp on who the bastards are, but has a curiously great difficulty in identifying heroes.
I think we're not supposed to see that man behind the curtain.
I guess the point he's saying here is about his lefty audience - I assume he still meets many of them who think it's all about Arafat. He's got a tough road to go, going by his need to emphasize what seems to me obvious. Lefties have no interest in "facts" unles they support or can be contorted to further an anti-American ideology, or at least, attitude.
Noble of him, though. I wish him good luck. Maybe he'll come to realize that his buddies are the blind ones, despit pretensions otherwise.
I have great hopes for him. For with his wordsmithing abilities combined with the zeal of convert, Hitchens would make one of the most powerful proponents of freedom since Whitaker Chambers.
If Hitchen's leftist buddies ever achieved their goal, (a socialist-style of Sharia) he would be one of the first to be rounded-up and dumped in a gulag to rot or bumped up against a wall and shot. Leftists, like their Islamic "buddies," hate to be told the truth (or have a hypocritical light shone on them) by someone who professess to believe even part of what they believe...
Interesting that everytime nutballs take over a country (Cambodia, anyone?), they turn it into something from Ayn Rand's "Anthem". Has any anti-utopian novel ever been so prophetic?
One would hope, one would wish that it were so. However, I see a great deal of support for Al Quaeda among the muslim masses. This is truly a holy war between Islam and everybody else. If not all Muslims agree with that philosophy, they bear the burden for identifying themselves from the rest.
I agree. I actually respect the guy even though he sometimes annoys me with his atheistic views. At least in this article, he is hoping for moderation from a religion and not some leftist, humanistic dream that mankind has no need to nurture his spirituality.
The article still smacks a little of moral-relativity, especially when Hitchen's compares Christianity to present-day Islam. If Hitchens really studied the world's religions, he would see that most religions (especially modern Christianity) allow its members the freedom to choose and peacefully tolerate other sects so long as its adherents are given the same freedoms. A few religions (like Islam, IMHO) are dangerous to civilization and do not allow for choice, be it for or against a belief in a Higher Being.
I have trouble believing that Islam can be "reformed" without 80% of Mohammad's teachings being thrown out. (Read the end of the Koran, the entire Hadith and study Sharia. You will then understand how it is a near impossible feat to bring Islam kicking and screaming into a modern, civilized society.) The same can't be said of Christianity, Buddhism, Zoarastrism, etc...
Yup. Their near silence condemns them. Only a couple of people who called themselves Muslims have dared to raise their voices in protest against the fanatics without that pathetic tag/excuse of "if America hadn't behaved so badly against Muslims, supported Israel, blah, blah, blah..."
Both are reactions to tremendous social, economic, and technological change. Christianity's excesses led to the birth of (classic)liberal democracy, unprecedented economic freedom, and a rare high level of cultural tolerance. Though it took the rise of the nation-state and geography to bring it about.
Arab muslims have been subjected to several centuries worth of social, economic, and technological change within the space of a few generations. Clearly they are having great difficulty reconciling their antiquated tenets of faith with modernity. Perhaps it will require a "super-state" to "help" them through the transition?
One could get the distinct impression from current events that history is once again repeating itself.
The teachings and accepted traditions of the Prophet Mohammad encourage, rather than condemn barbarity and violence towards non-conformist Muslims and especially the hated Infidels. There is nothing contrary to Mohammad's exhortations (except for a few pretty-sounding surahs at the beginning of the Koran regarding killing innocents, tolerating Jews and Christians or "People of the Book" which Mohammad finally rejected in the end when his quest to conquer and convert them failed) that is not being practiced literally by Osama and his millions of followers, cheerleaders and apologists today.
One can argue the interpretations and translations of Islam on and on. Unless I soon see a majority of Muslims rise up and quell the coming bloodbath, I have little optimism that an Islamic "Reformation" will be a peaceful transition, not harm any innocents or be resolved through diplomatic means...
Not "is", "was". The last time I saw him on CSPAN the interviewer asked him "Do you still consider yourself a socialist". His answer was "No" ... but he still spouts anti-business rhetoric.
Yes, but only in moderation. Nothing is more stultifying to an alcoholic british socialist than complete abstinence. If he just cuts down to a half-dozen gin and tonics per day, what wonders could he write?
To reform Islam is as possible as it was to reform Nazism. Although Michael Jackson prooves that one can even become a former Negro, the result is too ugly to serve as a role model.
ROFLMAO!!! This is my "Quote of the day" and will stay on my PC's Desktop until I'm fascinated by somebody's equally brilliant aphorism.
Being Irish, I reacted strongly to the word "sobriety" in large print.
Bin Laden..Saddam,..just players in the game...like chess..you lose players.
Saudi Prince money in Lebanon...
Al Qeda in South Lebanon.
Al Qeda strolling the streets of Damascus Syria.
Hezbullah,Islamic Jihad...PLO..and lots of other letter abreviations..all strolling around Damascus..or south Lebanon...its become quite the social event.
U.S. plopped sat photos of Syria resupplying Saddam with ex Soviet bloc nation weapons ,parts and spares on Damascuses desk..no trembling happening here...
Syrias rolling in the hardware as we speak..and letting Saddam drive 150,000 barrels of oil into Syria daily too.[Violating U.N. sanctions..but who really cares?]
Obviously Syria is not scared of the U.S. in the least..or they would'nt be doing this shit right out in the open.
Iranian frequent flyer miles to Syria...Chinese fibre optical technology finding its way into Iraq via Syria..
North Korean technitions sight seeing and assembling missiles in Syria...
Saudi Princes with their money repairing Lebanese electrical stations clobbered by Israel to the tune of millions..and then a tour around Lebanon to work on other deals
All this going on..while we watch Afganistan or Pakistan/India.
One has to wonder if Saudi princes...Iranian Clerics and others are not falling out of their chairs with laughter with all of this .
For me at least....I know why the Saudi talking heads are smiling!
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Reread the article, this time without skipping over parts of it. Hitchens was, quite accurately, comparing the state of Islam today with that of Christianity in the late-medieval and early-modern periods.
Rumpled, drunk, and pissed off is when Hitchens is at his best.
The difference is Christianity grew out of it, Islam for the most part remains mired in the past.
After rereading, I think that Hitchens may be referring to the cultural and interpretational upheavals of Christianity before and shortly after the Reformation. On those points, I would agree with you and Hitchens.
I still believe that there is a great deal of doctrinal differences between the teachings of Christ from the New Testament's first Four Gospels and the teachings of Mohammad towards the end of the Koran and the entire Hadith. So much so, that I don't see an Islamic Reformation (unless a goodly portion of Mohammad's revelations are tossed out) changing the "jihadist" mindset of the Muslim World.
Christ did not endorse violence or forced conversion towards non-believers by His followers. (Although self-defense might be necessary in certain situations.) Nor did Christ tell His Apostles to teach that it was OK by God to deceive, loot from, cheat, extort, rape, enslave or murder anyone who didn't agree with their views. Yes, some of those fore-mentioned acts were committed by so-called Christians during the Medieval Ages, the Inquisition and even after the Reformation. Try as the so-called Christians might, those evil acts had no solid basis for interpretation in the actual tenants set forth by Christ according to the Biblical Scriptures of the New Testament.
On the other hand, the Islamic Prophet Mohammad commands Muslims to do the above-mentioned acts because allah has told Mohammad personally that the acts are OK to do, especially when carried out against the infidels. Unlike the New Testament within the Bible, there is a solid basis within the Koran and Hadith that encourages Muslims to do violent, cruel and hurtful things against human beings, especially those persons who don't agree with their views.
Hey, I'm all for an Islamic Reformation, with the more "moderate" Muslims in the majority. Let's hope that a more "moderate" Islam means that I don't have to spend the rest of my life knowing that there are lots of Muslims out there whose beliefs allow them to harm me, my family, friends and fellow human-beings because we won't kow-tow or convert to their religion.
Again, I'm not very hopeful that an Islamic Reformation will bring about peace between Islam and the rest of the world (which is called "The House of War" by devout Muslims) since I have read the Koran, Hadith and studied Islamic culture. Islam allows Muslims to DECEIVE infidels like me into thinking that Islam is "the religion of peace" until the time comes when the unwary infidels can be ambushed by Muslims into accepting Sharia or else! If the Islamic Reformation happens, I sure hope that the so-called "moderate" Muslims who win know the Western meaning of "moderation." It would be a crying shame if the term "moderation" suffered somehow in the translation...