69 million page views

Islamist Linguistics (or) A Tisket, A Tasket

Reader comment on item: Teach Arabic or Recruit Extremists?
in response to reader comment: Interesting analysis by Abu Nuwas

Submitted by Abu Nuwas (Saudi Arabia), Oct 21, 2008 at 09:51

I appreciate "Geno M"s comments to my posting.

He states: "Al-Qaeda, while tactically weakened, represents the spearhead of the Islamist legion whose prime objective is to destabilize Western powers in furtherance of sharia."

This is true as it far as it goes. Problem is, it doesn't really go very far. It is also incomplete. Let me explain.

The dream of establishing a world-wide umma based on sharia law is as old as Islam. Most western commentators appear to be under the impression that this was all somehow started by Bin Laden & Co. or, if they are avid readers on the subject, that Sayyid Qutb and his near contemporaries, were the originators of the movement.

But a close reading of Islamic history will show that Islam from the earliest days of its existence has looked upon Christianity (and thereby the West) as its most formidable enemy, physically, intellectually and spiritually.

True, Al-Qaeda (as a symbol or idea) is the current "spearhead" in this ageless confrontation, but in the modern world, I consider the Islamist threat a "Petomkin" challenge. It appears to be there, but it is a really hollow creature without a chance of surviving. It can do damage, to be sure, but I just can't see it as an "existential" threat to the dominance of the West in the same way Russia is.

I have written elsewhere that the idea that Islam could ever become the dominant or even a significant cultural force in present day Europe as some thinkers believe (Bruce Bawer, for one) is totally untenable. The idea reads good and sells books, but it is pure science fiction.

The basis of my belief in the impotence of the "Islamist Threat" springs from my conviction that Islam itself – not just "Islamism" – is a dying institution. If by Islam one means the religion and the civilization (which is what I mean), then really Islam has been dead for centuries –since as far back as the 13th century following the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols, at least in my estimation.

In short, Islam or Islamism or whatever you want to label it as, is not the powerful, world force challeniging the very existence of the West, as exemplified by 9/11. Instead what it is is a civilization dying in a most horrible way, thrashing about in desperation and agony as the lights go out for it. 9/11 was not the beginning of a "new" confrontation. It was the last dying gasp of a pathetic creature disintergrating before our very eyes and going out with a bang.

"Geno M" also states: "Finally, while I concur that Arabic is endemically linked to Islam, this should not dissuade anyone from seeking to master the language. Because our key enemies rely on Arabic as their 'matris lingua" it is both useful and imperative that we develop proficiency equal to the challenge at hand"

Because this is getting to be an extremely long "posting" I'll just say a few words on the subject of Arabic here.

If one is so inclined to dedicate his life to fighting "Islamism" in whatever capacity he can (a laudable goal, I might add, despite what I have said so far), then learning the language of the "enemy" is indeed a formidable tool to have.

But the fact is the "threat" no longer comes from the Arabic speaking world in the sense I'm talking about.

The vast majority of intended , thwarted and/or successful operations (bombings, killings, etc.) done in the name of "Islamism", directed agains the West, have originated and have been carried out by non-Arabic speaking terrorists in recent years. Most of them, in fact, (including those in Britain), have been performed by people with ties to the Indo-Paki-Afghani world.

That is to say, they were URDU speakers to whom Arabic is as alien a language as it is to an Irishman.

Despite the fact that Arabic is the "Latin" of the Moslem world, most Moslems, including those in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan (not to mention Iran), cannot order a cup of coffee in Arabic.

Yes, they use it to "read" the Koran and so on and to chant this and that, but only about 1 in 1000 actually understands what he's saying when employing Arabic to perform his religious duties.

Therefore, and I'll end here, to fight Islamism, it would be far more useful to be fluent in Urdu than Arabic. It's as simple as that.

------------------------------------------------

Which brings up a question I've been asking myself for a while…..I wonder how Bin Laden is getting along within his mountain stronghold. Is he fluent now in Dari or whatever language those tribesmen he's with speak?

(There are about 6 major tribal "dialects" in his area). They certainly don't speak Arabic (nor English……..a language, by the way, in which Bin Laden is fluent).

And guess what language these tribesmen use to communicate with each other when they don't speak the same language? You got it……Urdu. Guess what language is used in Indian and Pakistani movies shown in Afghanistan? You got it again….Urdu. Guess what language the President of Afghanistan uses when communicating with tribal leaders whose dialect he doesn't speak? You got it again.

Submitting....

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".

Comment on this item

Mark my comment as a response to Islamist Linguistics (or) A Tisket, A Tasket by Abu Nuwas

Email me if someone replies to my comment

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".

See recent outstanding comments.

Follow Daniel Pipes

Facebook   Twitter   RSS   Join Mailing List

All materials by Daniel Pipes on this site: © 1968-2022 Daniel Pipes. daniel.pipes@gmail.com and @DanielPipes

Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum.Daniel J. Pipes

(The MEF is a publicly supported, nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Contributions are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Tax-ID 23-774-9796, approved Apr. 27, 1998.

For more information, view our IRS letter of determination.)