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anti-Islamism vs Islamophobia

Reader comment on item: Why Chris Christie Will Never Be President of the United States
in response to reader comment: Pipes on the "moderate" Aga Khan

Submitted by lucretius (Poland), Sep 4, 2011 at 05:50

As for the (to my mind absurd) allegations about Rick Perry's supposed support for Islamism, I suggest the readers consult another article in the American Thinker, which addresses the claims repeated here directly:

http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/09/governor_perrys_islam_connection.html

What I want to discuss here myself is a more general issue: the crucial difference, as I see it, between the views of scholars like Daniel Pipes, who are anti-Islamists but not enemies of Islam itself and people like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who are exactly the latter.

In fact, I used to subscribe to both Pamela's and Robert's blogs but stopped, when I decided that they, inadvertently of course, work for the cause that they believe themselves to be opposing. Before I started reading their blogs, I had assumed that the word "islamophobia" was an invention of pro-Islamist propagandists and their leftist fellow travelers intended to discredit those who oppose and warn about the real dangers of Islamism, but now I reluctantly came to the conclusion that, while in the main the word is indeed used for this purpose, nevertheless the phenomenon is a real one and both Geller and Spencer illustrate it very well.

The basic difference between an anti-Islamist and an Islamophobe is that the former accepts that a non-expansionist, peaceful Islam, not based on Sharia, can exist and in fact has existed at various times and in many places in history. It is easy to give examples, one of which is Poland, where a small community of Muslim Tatars has lived since the 17-th century, not only peacefully and under secular laws but showing great devotion to the Polish national cause and state.However, according to an Islamophobe this sort of thing is essentially impossible and the only acceptable Muslim (if one exists at all) is one who actually denounces his religion and in particular Muhammad.

This sort of reasoning leads to the absurdity of considering even the Bahais, who are the most persecuted minority in the Islamic world (much more so than the Jews) and who have their main religious center in Haifa, Israel, as some sort of "stealth jihadist", even though they can't possible not be aware of the fact that a jihadist victory would mean physical for the Bahais. Exactly the same applies to the Ahmadis, the Ismailis and even the Israeli Druses. The latter, who have served with great distinction in Israeli armies from the beginning of the State of Israel and do not even consider themselves Muslims are still suspect because they are an off-shot of Islam and like all religions derived from Islam, revere Muhammad.

According to the Islamophobe view, a Muslim, or even a Bahai, in order to prove himself trustworthy has to accept that Muhammad was a pedophile pervert and a callous murderer. Once he has accepted that view, how can he go on calling himself a Muslim or even a Bahai?
Would you demand of a Catholic that he accepts that virgin birth and resurrection are impossible and still remain a Catholic? Does not a Catholic have a right to be offended when this sort of demand are made of him?

Let's consider briefly the Aga Khan's criticism of the Pope's Regensburg lecture. In the lecture Pope Benedict quoted the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, rhetorically denying any value to Islam :

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

As the Pope made clear, the quote was not his own view. As for myself, I do find some truth in this quote (made by a man involved in a desperate struggle for survival against early expanding Ottoman empire) but how could possibly a Muslim accept this view or be happy with it? In fact, it is impossible to say, whether Islam brought only "evil and inhuman" things to Muslims, just as it is not possible to say whether the conquistadors brought only "evil and inhuman" things to the Mexicans, since without them there would be no Mexican in the modern sense at all. No doubt, Islam in its early aggressive stage brought a great deal of evil to non-Muslims although it was not unique in this respect. The crusades are sometimes mentioned in this context and it is correctly pointed out that there were really a delayed reaction to Islamic expansion. But there are also the other, later and usually forgotten, northern crusades, agains the pagan Lithuanians and Prussians that lead to the disappearance of the latter, achieved in a way quite similar to the pattern of many Muslim conquests. Whatever was evil and inhuman about Islamic expansionism and fanaticism it was by no means unique to it.

In any case, I see no reason to criticise the Aga Khan for being unhappy with the Pope's undiplomatic speech - anyway before further clarifications were made. Certainly, there is no record of the Aga-Khan demanding that such speech (or even things more offensive to Islam) should be banned. He did call for voluntary restraint on the part of non-Muslims, which is exactly the same thing many Christians ask for when Jesus is concerned. There is a huge difference between asking and demanding in such cases.

As I have already mentioned, my own private view of Islam (and not just Islamism) is not positive*. But I do not demand of Muslims to embrace it in order to consider them as allies agains Islamists. To people like Geller and Spencer there seems to be no difference between Ahmad Shah Massoud, who fought the Taliban for years before September 11, who tried to warn the West about Al Qaeda when nobody was paying attention, and who murdered by Bin Laden agents on the eve of the attack on the Twin Towers and Bin Laden himself. To me, and I think also to Daniel Pipes, this sort of thinking is both totally wrong and very counterproductive.

*As for my own view of Islam it is close to that of Alexis de Toqueville:
I studied the Kuran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. So far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion more to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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