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Sharia States: Totalitarian to the Core

A review of Dr. Andrew G. Bostom's seminal Sharia versus Freedom: The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, now available.

by
Alyssa A. Lappen

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October 26, 2012 - 10:47 pm

He draws largely from historical sources. Bostom cites 19th century academic William Gifford Palgrave, for example, who traversed Arabia’s then virtually unknown heart disguised as a Muslim physician. Palgrave observed and studied Islam in situ, and describes its divine law (sharia) as “a pantheism of force,” with god acting as “a tremendously sympathizing autocrat,” very “jealous of his creatures,” delighted by making them all his complete slaves. [iii] And he was hardly alone in deriving a negative assessment of Islam from primary experience and Islamic sources alike. As Bostom previously observed:

Repeatedly for 100 years, between the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries, important scholars and intellectuals — for example, the historians Jacob Burckhardt, Waldemar Gurian, and Karl Wittfogel, philosopher Bertrand Russell, [modern analytical psychiatry founder] Carl Jung, Protestant theologian Karl Barth, sociologist Jules Monnerot … [pre-eminent Islamic law scholar] G.H. Bousquet, and even the contemporary Western eminence grise on Islamic civilization, Bernard Lewis – have all referred to Islam as a despotic or totalitarian ideology.

Like Bostom’s two previous landmark studies on Islamic jihad and antisemitism (Legacy of Islamic Jihad: Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims and Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History), his third adds significantly to our knowledge base. Often, contemporary scholars contend that Islam grew hateful upon absorbing Nazi anti-Semitism in the 20th century. Yet Bostom shows, even in the Nazi era, intellectual luminaries saw the truth as quite the opposite. Like “Islam of old,” Barth warned in 1939, National Socialism’s political experiment promised to those willing to participate; but when resisted, it could “only crush and kill.” Nazism, he wrote, was best understood as “a new Islam, its myth a new Allah and Hitler as this new Allah’s Prophet.”

Muslim totalitarianism across the ages

A host of important Muslims, across time, thought likewise. Totalitarian terror, for example, pervaded “heavenly,” peaceful Andalusia. Spain’s purportedly enlightened Um ayyad conquerors were notoriously brutal, observed historian Evariste Levi-Provencal (1894-1956). They established strict Malikite Sunni doctrine, championed “jealous orthodoxy” and “fiercely opposed innovations”; their totally “immobile doctrine suspected and condemned in advance for the slightest attempt at rational speculation” (p. 368). In 1914, Miguel Asin Palacois saw Muslim Spain in the same light, as had Cordovan Muslim al-Kinani (d. 901), a student of “scholar of Spain par excellence” Ibn Habib (d. 853). When walking outdoors, al-Kinari noted, Jews were required to wear patches bearing the image of an ape, and Christians, patches picturing a pig. In about 1000, Muslim jurist Ahmed ibn Said ibn Hazm (of Hispanic Christian descent) reported that an infidel who did not pay his annual “head tax” (jizya) risked execution or sale into slavery, and put his entire coreligionist community at risk of losing their “protection.” Muslim rulers could impose the same penalties for “public outrage against the Islamic faith,” e.g. exposing a cross or wine jug (pp. 368-375).

In Granada, Jewish viziers appointed to protect their community were assassinated between 1056 and 1066. After the murders of Samuel ibn Naghrela and his son Joseph, a fiery anti-Jewish “ode” by Muslim jurist and poet Abu Ishaq filtered through Muslim Granada. Very possibly, the hateful “ode” incited the Muslim pogrom that then annihilated Granada’s entire Jewish population of up to 5,000 — as many or more than the number of Jewish people reportedly killed during the First Crusade’s pillage of the Rhineland some thirty years later (pp. 176-177).

Ottoman Turkey 400 years later similarly fostered totalitarian Islamic dogmas. Molla Khosrew (d. 1480) — celebrated writer, Hanafi jurist and cleric to Sultan Mehmed II — rested his jihad directives on them. Religious obligation (fard al-kifaya) requires jihad and one must “begin the fight against the enemy, even when he [the enemy] may not have taken the initiative to fight,” Khosrew instructs. Early on, he reasons, Mohammed allowed Muslims only self-defense, but later on:

He ordered them to take the initiative at certain times of the year, that is, at the end of the haram months, saying “Kill the infidels wherever you find them.” (Q: 9:5) He finally ordered fighting without limitation, at all times and in all places, saying “Fight those who do not believe in God and the Last Day” (Q: 9:29) (p. 178).

Fast forward 500 years to 1948, when English-speaking Arab League Office member Aboul Saud described Islam to investigative journalist John Ray Carlson:

You might describe Mohammedanism as a religious form of State Socialism. … The Quran gives the State the right to nationalize industry, distribute land, or expropriate the right to nationalize industry, distribute land or expropriate property. It grants the ruler of the state unlimited powers, so long as he does not go against the Quran. The Quran is our personal as well as our political constitution (p. 256).

An interview with the late Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al Banna led Carlson to conclude average Egyptians “worshiped the use of force,” given that “terror was synonymous with power.” This also explained both the sensational rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the near universal popularity of Nazism in Egypt.

Strict dogma survives and thrives

The 1918 demise of the Ottoman empire and dissolution of the last Islamic Caliphate hardly assuaged Islamic totalitarianism. Rather, Muslim fervor rose to reestablish a new and stronger translational religious superstate — and with it rose individual and Islamic societal yearning for a totalitarian, sharia-based cultural regimen, including discriminatory governance of non-Muslims.

A 1979 treatise on jihad warfare by Pakistani Brigadier S.K. Malik reflected the bedrock Islamic ideas as had others centuries before. Published in Lahore, the book was prefaced by former Pakistan advocate general Allah Bukhsh K. Brohi:

Islam views the world as though it were bipolarized in two opposing camps — Darul-Salam (Islam) facing Darul-Harb — the first one is submissive to the Lord in cooperating with God’s purpose … but the second one … is engaged in perpetuating defiance of the same Lord. Such a state of affairs which engages any one in rebellion against God’s will is termed as “Fitna” [which] refers us to misconduct on the part of a man who establishes his own norms and expects obedience from others, thereby usurping God’s authority — who alone is sovereign (p. 201).

Hanafi judicial school founder Abu Hanifa (d. 767) designed the bifurcated Muslim worldview, which others widely distributed too, including Muslim historian and Quranic commentator Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d. 923) in the Book of Jihad. Al-Tabari includes Abu Hanafi (and followers’) extracts “affirming the impunity with which non-combatant ‘harbis’ — women, children, the elderly, the mentally or physically disabled — may be killed” (p. 62).

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