A rose by any other name
By Dr. Robert Owens
The main lesson we learn from History is that we don't learn from History. The lack of historical perspective is, I believe, one of the major contributing factors in America's current state.
People don't realize that all of these novel fixes our collectivist leaders are shoving down our throats with regard to health care have been tried multiple times before. Or that they have failed every time.
People don't realize that pre-emptive imperial wars of aggression and suppression have been disguised as endless wars for peace since Sargon the Great marched out of Akkad to found the first known empire.
Running true to form most people, apparently including our national leaders both political and military and the news anchors for the Corporations Once Known as the Mainstream Media, do not realize that ISIS is not an aberration in Islamic History.
Neither are the other forms of Islamic terrorist groups which have plagued the world since the late 1960s when Palestinian secular movements such as Al Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) began to target civilians outside the immediate arena of conflict. These were self-proclaimed secular groups. As pointed out by RAND's Bruce Hoffman, in 1980 two out of 64 groups were categorized as largely religious in motivation; in 1995 almost half of the identified groups, 26 out of 56, were classified as religiously motivated; the majority of these espoused Islam as their guiding force.
Political Islam, as opposed to fundamentalist or neo-fundamentalist Islam, posits a worldview that can deal with and selectively integrate modernity. In contrast, fundamentalist Islam calls for a return to an ontological form of Islam that rejects modernity; groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad are representative of fundamentalist Islam.
Unlike the "secular" national, radical, anarchist terrorism which have been sponsored by states such as Libya, Syria, Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, and behind the scenes by the former Soviet camp, most of the religious Islamic terrorist groups have never been sponsored by states. Many Egyptian organizations emerged from the Egyptian domestic landscape. Algerian groups likewise were not sponsored by foreign states. Hezbollah certainly can be viewed as an Iranian surrogate, but other movements, while open to state assistance, remain operationally and ideologically independent. ISIS is different in that it has declared itself to be a state.
This brings us to the willful disregard of easily accessible knowledge which brings all of our political and cultural leaders to constantly say:
For one thing who are we to judge another's faith? If someone says they are followers of Muhammed who are we to say they aren't? If someone says they are doing their best to live by their interpretation of the Koran who are we to say they aren't?
This is one of the reasons it is so hard to get even the most "moderate" of Muslims to denounce ISIS and the other Islamic Terror organizations. Even if they personally disagree with their theology and their methods there is enough in their declarations of faith that align with traditional strains of Islam. It would be like a Catholic saying a Pentecostal isn't a Christian because they have differing views of the actions of the Holy Spirit in the modern day.
This refusal to admit the Islamic nature of these groups disarms the West. We cannot understand what they want, what they do, or why they have such a strong hold on the lives of so many. Another aspect of our official blindness that prevents us from confronting this clash of civilizations appropriately is the oft repeated mantra that those Muslims who support the radicals is a tiny group, often mentioned at 1%. We are also reminded often that 1.6 billion people make up the Muslim world. If this second figure is correct the tiny minority of the first figure translates to 16 million people.
Sixteen million people willing to fight to the death, blow themselves up, or financially support them is larger than any army ever fielded by Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, or Stalin. Obviously this is a threat that should be taken seriously. It should not be dismissed by ignoring what they say about themselves. Imagine if the leaders of the western democracies had bothered to read Hitler's Mein Kampf and believe that he meant what he said. They could have stopped him when he marched into the Rhineland with no trouble whatsoever. Instead they ignored what he said and fifty million people paid with their lives.
Today we stand in a similar place. We ignored Osama Bin Laden when he declared war on America in 1988 and 1996 with disastrous consequences. Now we are ignoring the inherent attraction of those who claim the Islamic world as their own when we say they are not motivated by their religion. It strips us of the ability to understand them, their objectives, their appeal, and their tactics.
Another disservice our leaders are foisting on us is the other mantra of their secular religion that Islam is a religion of peace. This flies in the face of historical reality. Islam did not initially spread as Christianity did by the power of its message and the blood of its martyrs. Islam spread as a conquering religion. Muhammed conquered Medina and Mecca, forced unity on the disparate Arab tribes before bursting forth from the Arabian Peninsula and spreading through military conquest and forcible conversions.
Rod Dreher in the American Conservative has done a masterful job of asking two important questions, "Is ISIS Islamic? How would we know?" Much of what follows is excerpted from his penetrating analysis.
To take one example: In September, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Islamic State's chief spokesman, called on Muslims in Western countries such as France and Canada to find an infidel and "smash his head with a rock," poison him, run him over with a car, or "destroy his crops." To Western ears, the biblical-sounding punishments—the stoning and crop destruction—juxtaposed strangely with his more modern-sounding call to vehicular homicide. As if to show that he could terrorize by imagery alone, Adnani also referred to Secretary of State John Kerry as an "uncircumcised geezer."
Adnani was not merely talking trash. His speech was laced with theological and legal discussion. His exhortation to attack crops directly echoed orders from Muhammad to leave well water and crops alone—unless the armies of Islam were in a defensive position, in which case Muslims in the lands of Kuffar, or infidels, should be unmerciful, and poison away.
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, "the Prophetic methodology," which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn't actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We'll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State's intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel contends that the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States. Haykel regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous and sustainable only through wilful ignorance. "People want to absolve Islam," he said. According to Professor Haykel, "It's this ‘Islam is a religion of peace' mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam'! It's what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts." Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. "And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else" Haykel continued.
In Haykel's estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. "Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition," Haykel said. Islamic State fighters "are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day" says Haykel.
According to one thought passed along by Rod Dreher what we call "Islamic fundamentalism" or "Islamic extremism" is so hard to defeat because it is so clearly rooted in Islamic history and Scripture. To tell the followers of ISIS that they are "un-Islamic" in their practices when they are doing, or trying to do, exactly as the Prophet and his early followers did, is a hard sell to fellow Muslims. It is also the kind of self-imposed blindness that stops us from effectively knowing what we are dealing with.
If we ignore what we know due to political correctness how will it ever be possible to do what needs to be done? If we refuse to name something does that mean it isn't what it claims to be? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and an Islamic Fundamentalist is a follower of Muhammad no matter what we say or how we say it. There are none so blind as those who will not see, and when the blind follow the blind they both end up in the ditch.
Dr. Robert Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. He is the Historian of the Future and can be found at http://drrobertowens.com © 2015 Contact Dr. Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens