Last Friday, Islamic member nations of the United Nations Human Rights Council rejected as un-Islamic a resolution condemning violence against women. The Kuwait News Agency reported that “the rejections include the paragraph, which gives women ‘the right to control matters concerning their sexual lives as well as their reproductive health without coercion, discrimination or violence.’”
It is likely that this rejection had as much or more to do with the idea that women should be protected from coercion and violence as it may have had to do with any pro-life concerns. After all, the Qur’an directs men to beat disobedient women (4:34), while Islamic law allows for abortion at least early in the pregnancy: the Muslim scholar Sayyid Sabiq explains that,
“abortion is not allowed after four months have passed since conception because at that time it is akin to taking a life, an act that entails penalty in this world and in the Hereafter. As regards the matter of abortion before this period elapses, it is considered allowed if necessary.”
The idea that it is un-Islamic for women to have the right to be free from coercion and violence is revealing of the mindset underlying the entire Islamic understanding of morality. Muslims and non-Muslims often tell us that Muslims hate the West for its decadence, its immorality, its lasciviousness, which they contrast unfavorably with the supposed morality and uprightness of the Islamic world. Often this boils down to a Muslim critique of Western “freedom,” especially as Bush and Obama pursued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan ostensibly to bring Western-style freedom to those countries.
Nasreen Bibi stepped out without her husband’s permission one time too many.
Islamic law forbids women to leave the home without permission from their male guardians, and Nasreen had repeatedly infuriated her husband, Muneer, by flouting this rule.
Muneer considered it an insult. She was humiliating him. She was shaking her fist in the very face of Allah. It could not be tolerated. It must not be tolerated. The last time it happened, he waited for her to come home. When she finally did, he began quizzing her about where she had been.
He did not find her answers satisfactory. There was no telling where she had been, or what she had been doing. He told her – ordered her – to lie face down on the ground. The he ordered her to recite the Six Kalimas, phrases from the Quran that express fundamental elements of Islamic faith. There is no God but Allah Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. I bear witness that no one is worthy of worship but Allah, the One alone, without partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger. Glory be to Allah and Praise to Allah, and there is no God But Allah, and Allah is the Greatest. And there is no Might or Power except with Allah. And so on. Nasreen, no doubt terrified by this time and aware of what was to come, complied. As soon as he was finished, Muneer began swinging his axe. Raining blow after blow on Nasreen’s prone body, he killed her, and he didnt stop hacking even then. He cut her body to pieces, and threw the pieces into nearby fields.
Terry Holdbrooks Jr. is a former Guantanamo guard who, he says, was so impressed with the faith and perseverance of the detainees that he converted to Islam in 2003. Now he makes a living traveling around the country telling dubious and lurid tales of Guantanamo tortures for the Muslim Legal Fund of America, and explaining why he converted. “I had all the freedom in the world,” he says. “But I was waking up unhappy while these men were in cages, smiling and praying five times a day.”
For Holdbrooks, the contrast couldn’t have been more stark. Before his conversion (and for some time after it, until he rededicated himself to Islam), he was drinking, smoking, using drugs, and indulging in promiscuity – in other words, he was a relatively typical, rudderless early twentieth-century American male. The Army gave him an honorable discharge in 2005 for a “generalized personality disorder.” But then he renewed his Islamic commitment, and, according to the New York Daily News, “found discipline in prayer.”
Discipline. The Islam4theWorld website explains: “Islam is a complete way of living. Unlike other religions, Islam is not a religion consisting of a few rituals, which are to be practiced occasionally. Islam covers every aspect of life.” This is no exaggeration. The Union of Islamic World Students elucidates exactly how Islam covers every aspect of life:
Islam has rules of etiquette and manners covering every aspect of life. These are applicable for the whole society, the old and the young, men and women. These manners cover even minor acts such as entering or exiting a bathroom, posture while sitting and cleaning oneself.
The same site then approvingly quotes a hadith in which “one of the polytheists” ridiculed the Muslims, telling one of them: “Your prophet has taught you everything, even the manners of going to the toilet.” The Muslim, however, affirmed that that was indeed true:
Yes, the Prophet forbade us from facing the Qibla [the direction toward Mecca] when urinating or relieving oneself. The Prophet asked us not to use the right hand when cleaning ourselves and to use at least three stones for cleaning.
Islam, indeed, has a rule for everything that a human being could imaginably do, with the horrifying punishments of hellfire awaiting those who fail to observe them. So why would a smokin’, tokin’ American boy choose a belief system in which everything he does is regulated, and he has to devote the bulk of his time learning the arcane rules of Allah for brushing his teeth, trimming his beard, and how many stones to use when going to the bathroom?
Last Wednesday, the Islamic jihadist Mujaheed (formerly Michael) Adebolajo, his hands scarlet with the blood of the British soldier he had just brutally murdered on a London street and still holding the tools of his murder, approached a television cameraman and calmly began explaining himself.
In the course of his explanation, Adebolajo invoked the Qur’an’s ninth chapter (Surat at-Tawba), which enjoins Muslims to make war against and subjugate Jews and Christians, declaring: “we are forced by the Qur’an, in Sura At-Tawba, through many ayah [verses] in the Qur’an, we must fight them as they fight us.” He added: “I apologize that women had to witness this today but in our lands women have to see the same.”
“Our lands”? Adebolajo’s parents are Nigerians who immigrated to England in the early 1980s. But he meant neither English nor Nigerian lands, of course; Adebolajo converted to Islam around 2003, and that meant that in his mind he was no longer English, if he ever was. Islam supersedes everything else, demanding a loyalty above national allegiances and even ties of kith and kin. The Qur’an commands Muslims to “be good to parents” (17:22). However, even in that relationship, the overarching principle is that Muslims must be “hard against the unbelievers, merciful one to another” (48:29). This includes unbelievers of one’s immediate family: The Muslim holy book specifically forbids believers from being friendly with their non-believing relatives and non-believing clan:
O believers, take not your fathers and brothers to be your friends, if they prefer unbelief to belief; whosoever of you takes them for friends, those—they are the evildoers. Say: “If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your clan, your possessions that you have gained, commerce you fear may slacken, dwellings you love—if these are dearer to you than God and His Messenger, and to struggle in His way, then wait till God brings His command; God guides not the people of the ungodly” (9:23-24).
Explains the renowned Qur’an commentator Ibn Kathir:
Allah commands shunning the disbelievers, even if they are one’s parents or children, and prohibits taking them as supporters if they choose disbelief instead of faith.
The Qur’an emphasizes not only that a Muslim must turn his back on his kinsmen and have nothing to do with them if they are unbelievers, but that he should not even pray for them:
It is not for the Prophet and the believers to ask pardon for the idolaters, even though they be near kinsmen, after that it has become clear to them that they will be the inhabitants of Hell (9:113).
Last Friday, an Afghan journalist named Mustafa Kazemi posted on Facebook a harrowing story about an eight-year-old girl in the Khashrood district of Nimruz province in Afghanistan, who was sold off into marriage to a mullah in his late 50s, and who bled to death on their wedding night.
It was one of many such tragedies in a land that little notes nor long remembers such deaths. An eight-year-old girl sold into marriage and dead after a brutal sexual assault that her body could not withstand is no more noteworthy than a pack animal that collapses under a too-heavy weight. It’s time and money wasted, that’s all. Forget about it. Get another one.
Indeed, the day after Kazemi posted his account, pro-Sharia lawmakers in Afghanistan blocked a proposed Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women, which would have set criminal penalties for child marriage. Pro-Sharia legislator Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada denounced the law as un-Islamic, explaining: “Whatever is against Islamic law, we don’t even need to speak about it.”
That means that more girls like the eight year old in the Khashrood district will continue to suffer. For few things are more abundantly attested in Islamic law than the permissibility of child marriage. Islamic tradition records that Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, was six when Muhammad wedded her and nine when he consummated the marriage:
The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death) (Bukhari 7.62.88).
Another tradition has Aisha herself recount the scene:
The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became Allright, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, “Best wishes and Allah’s Blessing and a good luck.” Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah’s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age. (Bukhari 5.58.234).
Muhammad was at this time fifty-four years old.
Some slaves prefer slavery: “A prominent Saudi female activist,” Emirates 24/7 reported recently, has come out against the decision by Saudi Arabia to lift its ban on women driving cars.
Rawdah Al-Yousif complained that campaigns to give women the right to drive ,
continue despite the clear response by the rulers of this country that any decision to allow women to drive cars is up to the community not to just 3000 people or to some articles in newspapers or online. I hope there will be no decision to allow women to drive at this stage because we have first to respect the wish of the people and the society…Women are also not ready yet to bear their responsibility and leave their homes at a time when news of blackmail against the women are widespread.
Ah, yes. Women are not yet ready to bear their responsibility, just as we heard in the antebellum South that black Americans were not yet ready to bear the responsibilities of freedom, or in the Jim Crow South that they were not yet ready to bear the full responsibilities of citizenship. This is a common argument that oppressors make to justify oppression; it is unusual to hear it offered by one of the oppressed themselves.
Yet Rawdah Al-Yousif is the prime mover behind a recent campaign in Saudi Arabia called “My Guardian Knows What’s Best For Me.” This involved, according to Emirates 24/7, “sending letters to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in which women confirmed their full support for an Islamic approach in administering the Kingdom.” Al Yousif expressed her “dismay at the efforts of some who have liberal demands that do not comply with Islamic law (Shariah) or with the Kingdom’s traditions and customs” and railed against what she characterized as “ignorant and vexatious demands” to abolish the guardianship system.
“Peace will come,” Golda Meir once famously remarked, “when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us.” The obstacle to peace was not actually Arabs as such, but Muslims who had imbibed Islam’s doctrine of jihad and hatred of non-believers and primarily Jews — a hatred so intense that it drives people to prefer death (and murder) to life. And as we have seen recently with the monstrous grandstanding of Mama Tsarnaeva, this hatred is passed on in some Muslim families – and Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is by no means the only mother from hell.
Islamic supremacists avowedly and proudly love death. Jihad mass murderer Mohamed Merah said that he “loved death more than they loved life.” Nigerian jihadist Abubakar Shekau said: “I’m even longing for death, you vagabond.”
Ayman al-Zawahiri’s wife advised Muslim women: “I advise you to raise your children in the cult of jihad and martyrdom and to instil in them a love for religion and death.” And as one jihadist put it, “We love death. You love your life!” And another: “The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death.” That was from Afghan jihadist Maulana Inyadullah.
Ultimately, this idea comes from the Qur’an itself:
“Say (O Muhammad): O ye who are Jews! If ye claim that ye are favoured of Allah apart from (all) mankind, then long for death if ye are truthful.” — Qur’an 62:6
This love of death is instilled in children. A Muslim child preacher recently taunted those he has been taught to hate most: “Oh Zionists, we love death for the sake of Allah, just as much as you love life for the sake of Satan.” This young man’s mother was probably much like the quintessential mother from hell, Mariam Farhat, or Umm Nidal (mother of Nidal), a Palestinian parliamentarian who died in March. No one more fully embodied the Hamas ethos — and the ethos of infanticide that permeates contemporary Palestinian culture as a whole — than Umm Nidal, a mother who willed the death of her own children and the children of others.
Editor’s Note: Starting today, Robert Spencer’s weekly PJ Lifestyle article analyzing stories on Jihad terror from a cultural perspective will appear on Mondays, our day focused on family, parenting, motherhood, fatherhood, and relationships. With this shift in publication date also comes a change in angle. A broader picture of the motives behind the 4/15/13 Boston terror attack is beginning to come into greater clarity. Who radicalized these once American young men? The picture that has emerged is one common throughout the Muslim world: sons drink in the hate and anti-Americanism as they would mother’s milk. The disturbing proclamations of mama and papa Tsarnaev make clear that these were not two sons led astray by malevolent outside influence.
So on Mondays Robert will explore the relevant Jihad stories of the week through a family-centric lens, considering male-female dynamics in the Muslim world and the Koran’s influence on defining the ideals of masculinity and femininity. What does Islam proscribe for how to raise children and maintain a family? What can Muslim parents in America do to make sure their sons do not become Tamerlans and Dzhokhars? And what are other parents like the Tsarnaevs secretly doing right now to prepare their children for the glory of martyrdom? How does one raise a future Jihadist who loves death more than Americans love life? I look forward to seeing Robert explore these subjects and hope you will join us each week at PJ Lifestyle.
- David Swindle
In the movie Prizzi’s Honor, Jack Nicholson plays mafia hitman Charley Partanna, who is known as “Straight-Arrow Charley, the All-American Hood” for dutifully and unquestioningly carrying on the family business in which he was raised. And as more details emerge about the family of Boston Marathon jihad bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, it’s increasingly clear that they, too, were just carrying on the family business: jihad.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is proud of her boys. She insists that they didn’t set off the bombs in Boston, and that in fact, the whole thing was staged. The bombings, she said, were just a “really big play” featuring “paint instead of blood.” Consistency is not her strong suit, for she also said: “What happened is a terrible thing but I know my kids have nothing to do with this. I know it, I am mother.” She claimed that her sons were targeted because they were Muslim, and said: “America took my kids away from me. I’m sure my kids were not involved in anything.”
The bombers’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, struck a tone more of grief than accusation. He assured the world: “I am not angry at anyone,” although he hinted that he also accepted his wife’s conspiracy theory when he added: “I want to go find out the truth.” Go, that is, to the United States, although plans for the trip have since been scrapped due to the possibility that he and/or his wife could be arrested if they do come here. “I want to say that I am going there to see my son, to bury the older one. I don’t have any bad intentions.” He added reassuringly: “I don’t plan to blow up anything.”
Just as Hitler loved his dogs, Tamerlan Tsarnaev loved his mama. Just before getting into a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts, he called her on his cellphone and gave her the news:
The police, they have started shooting at us, they are chasing us….Mama, I love you.
PJ Lifestyle Editor’s Note:
This is Part 11, the conclusion, of Volume 1 of Robert Spencer’s Jazz and Islam series. Yes — Volume 1 does imply the intent for Robert to return to this subject again in the future so we can someday produce a Volume 2. As the Islamic War Against Freedom has intensified and arisen again into the foreground of public consciousness, Robert and I have decided on a new cultural angle through which he will seek to illuminate each week’s dark, confusing stories of jihad terrorism. I won’t reveal the secret yet of just what Robert’s new focus will be. But perhaps this astounding article today revealing the troubled story of a lost young man who poisoned his mind with deadly ideas will provide a hint of what’s to come…
– David Swindle
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who along with his brother Dzhokhar murdered three people and wounded nearly 200 more with twin bombs at the Boston Marathon, was a musician. John Curran, Tamerlan’s boxing coach, recalled: “He also played the piano very well.” The Lowell Sun reported that “Tsarnaev also studied music at a school in Russia and played piano and violin.”
As late as 2010, according to Gene McCarthy of the Somerville Boxing Club in Massachusetts, Tsarnaev was still playing:
“I brought him to the registration” for a boxing tournament, “and while he was waiting in line, he saw a piano and was playing classical music like it was Symphony Hall.”
However, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that “in the years before the Boston Marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell under the influence of a new friend, a Muslim convert who steered the religiously apathetic young man toward a strict strain of Islam, family members said.”
Jazz and Islam, Part 10
When jazz and drug use were in danger of becoming as closely associated a team as salt and pepper, a movement began of jazz musicians converting to Islam – for Islam, according to John Coltrane biographer C. O. Simpkins, “was a force which directly opposed the deterioration of the mind and body through either spiritual or physical deterrents.”
Islam may have saved many prominent musicians from the “deterioration of mind and body” stemming from drug and alcohol abuse, but paradoxically, many of them joined the Ahmadi sect, which is persecuted by Muslims who consider it heretical.
Jazz artists who became Ahmadi Muslims include pianists Ahmad Jamal and McCoy Tyner (a.k.a. Sulieman Saud); saxophonists Yusef Lateef and Sahib Shihab; and perhaps most notably of all, drummer Art Blakey, who after his conversion styled himself Abdullah Ibn Buhaina. He didn’t use his Muslim name professionally, but it was well known among his musician colleagues, who often called him “Bu.”
Jazz and Islam, Part 9
Jazz was more popular than ever in the early ’60s. Then the Beatles exploded onto the American pop music scene, and that was the end of that. Jazz artists who had begun the decade engaging in innovative and enthusiastically received explorations of harmony and rhythm finished it by offering up tired, pale instrumental covers of psychedelic Top 40 hits. Ever since then, many of jazz’s fiercest partisans have spent an inordinate amount of time insisting that jazz is not dead — which, like the claim that “Islam is a religion of peace,” wouldn’t have to be endlessly repeated if it were obviously true.
If jazz is dead, two suspects who should be brought in for some intense questioning are two of the unlikeliest people ever to be thought of as the ones to have administered the coup de grace to America’s foremost native art form: Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am one of the most ardent fans either one of them could possibly have ever had. On my shelves are easily two hundred discs featuring one or (better yet) both of them. Their historical role as towering musical pioneers and composers, improvisers, and virtuosos of the first order is unshakeable. Yet in their own ways, where the vibrant and popular jazz of the 1960s is concerned, they became death, the destroyer of worlds.
John Coltrane took the road less traveled. He became enamored of Ornette Coleman, the great innovator of “free jazz” — and with good reason. Coltrane liberated his sound from the dense chordally based improvisations he pursued with characteristic passion in the late ’50s and early ’60s — first adopting Davis’s modal approach, and then emulating Coleman in exploring improvisations free from harmonic structures altogether.
This statement is attributed to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, and is part of Islam’s general disapproval of the concept of bid’ah, or innovation. The prohibition of innovation refers specifically to new theological ideas — Allah tells the Muslims in the Qur’an that he has perfected their religion for them (5:3), and that’s that.
But all the frowning on theological innovation has fostered a general cultural attitude against innovation of any kind — which is one reason why Islamic states are not generally leaders in technological development or scientific exploration. In the West, by contrast, we generally respect and reward innovation when it leads to new insights and greater efficiency — and are the beneficiaries of a musical tradition that has celebrated innovators from Bach to Beethoven to Louis Armstrong. And there are many others, drastically unsung, who deserve a hearing.
Musical innovation is a tricky thing; one man’s startling and fascinating new musical development is another man’s noise. That’s why musical innovators have implored their hearers to listen without prejudice long before George Michael appropriated the term. And of course what may not appeal to someone at first may get through at some other point; I vividly remember the day when I became so completely absorbed in Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which had never much mattered to me before that, and came down from the mountain dazed and dazzled, not interested in hearing any other music ever again, ever.
The exaltation wore off, of course, as it always does, but the respect for musical innovation, and the resolve to listen without prejudice, remained. And so here are five jazz innovators whose work is usually classified as “avant garde,” which for most people is a synonym for “unlistenable.” I beg to differ. Listen without prejudice.
Jazz and Islam, Part 7
See last week’s part 6: The Questions Nobody Wants to Ask About ‘Moderate Islam’
The debate over James Holmes’s sanity has raged hotly ever since he murdered twelve people and wounded 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012. But now the controversy can be laid to rest: Holmes is sane. The clearest indication of his sanity came last week, when the Daily Mail reported that he had converted to Islam.
The Mail reported that Holmes is apparently quite devout: he has grown a lavish beard, eats only halal food, prays the obligatory five daily prayers, and studies the Qur’an for hours every day.
Holmes’s conversion reveals that instead of being unaware of what he did, or utterly remorseless, as one might expect of a psychotic or a sociopath, the murders must trouble him a great deal. For it is souls that are troubled — intellectually, morally, spiritually, psychologically — who cast about for some solution to what troubles them, and often find it in religious conversion.
But it is what Holmes converted to that is significant. Had Holmes converted to Christianity, he might have found relief for any remorse he might be feeling for the massacre in the proposition that in Christ his sins, no matter how great, were forgiven; if he had explored Buddhism, he might have focused upon developing right intention, right speech, and right action, and eradicating the illusions that led him to kill in the first place.
Instead, Holmes chose Islam. A prison source noted: “He has brainwashed himself into believing he was on his own personal jihad and that his victims were infidels.”
Tarik Shah is a formidable jazz bassist who has recorded with a number of luminaries, including Pharoah Sanders and Abbey Lincoln. He is also prisoner number 53145-054 at the medium security Federal Correction Institution in Petersburg, Virginia, where he is serving a fifteen-year sentence for plotting to provide combat training to al-Qaeda jihadists. His sad and tragic case points up again lingering questions about Islamic moderation that have never been answered.
In 2004, Shah made the acquaintance of a man he thought was an al-Qaeda member, but who was actually an FBI informant. Shah, a martial arts expert as well as a jazzman, offered to help train jihadis. He made no mistake of his intentions, asking the informant:
You really want to learn how to rip somebody’s throat out? I’m talking about damage to the inside so they drown on their own blood. You give them internal bleeding. It fills their lungs with blood.
Nor did Shah make any secret of his allegiance. Tapes that the FBI informant made of his conversations with Shah show the bassist full of complaints. He disliked having to pay “taxes to infidels.” He was angry with the United States for toppling the Taliban, the “only Islamic government of Afghanistan.” He claimed that non-Muslim Westerners “have been killing Muslims on a consistent basis for almost 200 years. They have been at war with us, which means we are at war with them.”
Jazz and Islam, Part V
John Coltrane and Bilal Philips: two musicians, one famous, the other obscure, but both men who in the course of their lives found themselves at an absolute impasse and underwent a dramatic conversion. And in those conversions, they chose two radically different paths for life and society.
Coltrane changed the sound of the tenor saxophone. When he arrived on the scene, tenor players tried to sound like Stan Getz or Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young or Ben Webster. Coltrane did not, and was at first even derided for the clear, sharp intensity of his tone. After his career and untimely death, however, virtually everyone who has taken up the instrument has tried to sound like John Coltrane.
But an arguably even greater change that John Coltrane made was within himself. In the first rush of success, he was caught up in the jazz musicians’ culture of the 1940s and 1950s, began drinking heavily, and became addicted to heroin. But then, as he recounted later: “During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.”
Jazz and Islam, Part IV
Recently Islamic supremacists in the Egyptian city of Mansoura made a statement: they dressed a statue of Umm Kulthum, the revered Egyptian chanteuse, in a niqab. Proud of their achievement, they sent photos of their handiwork all over the Internet. They should have been hanging their heads in shame.
Their statement was clear enough: they were calling for the imposition of elements of Islamic law mandating that women not go out in public unveiled. That they would choose a statue of “the first lady of Arabic song” to make this statement suggests also that they object to the very idea of an unveiled female singing about secular subjects: they object to her being unveiled; they object to her being female and yet an independent human being in her own right, not just the slave of some man; and they object to her singing about non-religious matters, since the only music allowed in Islamic law is Islamic religious music.
In honor of Umm Kulthum, therefore, it is a good time to remember and celebrate some women we love, women who led lives and sang songs that were decidedly un-Islamic, and who would have left the world poorer had they forsaken the stage and recording studio, donned a veil, and retired to the inner recesses of the house in order to serve their menfolk. These five women never donned a niqab, and for that we should all be eternally grateful.
The defense of the free world against jihad and Islamic supremacism is a war for joy, a war for happiness, against regimentation that stomps on the human spirit — just as unmistakably as was the war against National Socialist Germany. That makes it also a war for music.
Take it from none other than the Ayatollah Khomeini, who once declared:
Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.
This kind of attitude, not unexpectedly, leads Islamic supremacists to take a dim view of music, and particularly joyful music. The renowned Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb shared the disdain for jazz that was brutally manifested by the Nazis with whom so many Islamic supremacists collaborated. That disdain was wonderfully satirized in the Schickelgruber Lambeth Walk, a wartime-era film short (made during the days when one could still mock the enemy) that provoked in Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels a towering rage. The devil, as Thomas More noted, cannot endure to be mocked.
“Islam,” said Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna, “does have a policy embracing the happiness of this world….We believe that Islam is an all-embracing concept which regulates every aspect of life, adjudicating on every one of its concerns and prescribing for it a solid and rigorous order.”
Al-Banna was enunciating a commonplace. One of the chief elements of Islamic apologists’ polemic against the West is that Islam, unlike Christianity and other rivals, is a complete way of life, one that governs every aspect of the believer’s life, down to the smallest detail. But one detail remains unproven: that having every aspect of one’s life “regulated” is really a recipe for “the happiness of this world.” This is the key question at issue between the proponents of Sharia and the defenders of free societies: whether the human being can and should be entrusted with the right and power to make decisions of his own, or whether it is preferable for him to submit to a total system of control – one so all-encompassing that it tells him how to wear his hair, how to brush his teeth, what clothes to wear, and even how to evacuate his bowels.
Contrasting to this is the philosophy of life that assumes that the human spirit best flowers when it is not subject to such all-invasive control, but is allowed to find its own rhythm and choose its own direction. And that’s why jazz is a foremost expression of the American spirit. Every aspect of the music is not controlled; rather, the players compose it right on the bandstand. The blazing and tragic reedman Eric Dolphy once said, “When you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone, in the air. You can never capture it again.” That is true of all music to a certain extent, even the most carefully scored and coordinated, for every performance is subject to human vicissitudes, particularly when different musicians interpret the same written notation — just compare recordings by two different orchestras of the same orchestral piece to see this. But it is true above all of improvised music, in which each performance comes from the soul (or lack thereof) of every performer, and every aspect of the music is most gloriously and emphatically not regulated.
All composition begins in improvisation, but the composer who is writing a score takes the time to reflect, sharpen, polish, and shape his musical thoughts; the improviser, on the other hand, is walking the tightrope without a net, trying to create something compelling in the moment. If he fails, the music will be dull and uninteresting; if he succeeds, it will be spectacular — as spectacular as the flowering of America and the West when individual rights were respected, and when so many fewer aspects of life were controlled.
Every great improvisation is, therefore, a monument to freedom — one to savor, and to celebrate. It would take a book, or more precisely a library, to catalogue them all and to give each its due, but within the confines of the space we have, here are a few choice monuments to the free and unfettered human spirit:
1. Louis Armstrong, “Dinah,” 1933
Louis Armstrong’s importance cannot be overstated; he practically originated this music himself. Ensemble jazz with short improvised patches arose in the early part of the twentieth century, with Armstrong’s great precursor Jelly Roll Morton laying claim to being its sole “inventor.” But it was Armstrong who had the imagination, the audacity, and the chops to extend his improvisations and make them the centerpiece of his music, making them into much more than the brief elaborations on the melody they had been before his arrival on the scene. This example comes from slightly later than the period of Armstrong’s first flush of inspiration and innovation, but all of his wit, exuberance, and musical inventiveness are on abundant display.
Editor’s Note: “Politics is downstream from culture” has been one of PJ Media’s mantras in response to the election. It’s with this direction in mind that I’ve invited my friend, the courageous writer-scholar-activist Robert Spencer, to contribute regularly to PJ Lifestyle. Since May of last year Robert has written a weekly article for PJM, bringing his deep understanding of Islam and Jihadist terrorism to analyze current events. Robert is an exemplary polemicist, but the time has come to reach out and bring his ideas to new readers. And so we introduce today a new Friday feature: Jazz and Islam. Each week Robert will explore the culture, history, values, and philosophy of both, some weeks focusing on Islam, others more on jazz, and often, as with today’s article, a juxtaposition of both. Reader feedback and suggestions are very much encouraged as we continue to develop this new feature.
- David Swindle, PJ Lifestyle Editor
Ultimately, the war between the forces of jihad and the free world is a conflict between individualism and collectivism. Nothing shows that more vividly than each side’s attitude toward music.
“I cannot listen much to music,” Lenin once said. “It excites my nerves. I feel like talking nonsense and caressing people who, living in such a filthy hell, can create such beauty. Because today one must not caress anyone; they will bite off your hand. One must break heads, pitilessly break heads, even if, ideally, we are opposed to all violence.”
Another totalitarian man of peace, Muhammad, is quoted as saying: “Allah Mighty and Majestic sent me as a guidance and mercy to believers and commanded me to do away with musical instruments, flutes, strings, crucifixes, and the affair of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance.”
While Christians face escalating persecution from Muslims in Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and elsewhere, the Catholic Church temporizes, ignores the victims, and plays at “dialogue” with Islamic supremacist groups whose announced intent is to “build bridges” with non-Muslims. Such bridges are really just proselytizing mechanisms to convert them to Islam, not an attempt to engage in genuine dialogue – as the Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb explained:
The chasm between Islam and Jahiliyyah [the society of unbelievers] is great, and a bridge is not to be built across it so that the people on the two sides may mix with each other, but only so that the people of Jahiliyyah may come over to Islam.
And so it was that I was scheduled to appear at a Catholic Men’s Conference in Worcester, Massachusetts, on March 16, until the Roman Catholic bishop of Worcester, Robert McManus, directed that my appearance be canceled. McManus was under pressure from Islamic supremacist groups who were calling and emailing the diocese demanding that he cancel my appearance. I’ve been informed from sources close to the events that they were asked to call the diocese and demand the cancellation by a Boston Globe reporter named Lisa J. Wangsness, who appears to have instigated the entire controversy, although she and her editor deny this.
Abdul Cader Asmal, co-chairman of communications for the Islamic Council of New England, wrote a libelous and hysterical screed to the Diocese of Worcester, labeling me a “hatemonger” and demanding that they cancel my appearance at the conference coming up this March 16. I posted it in full here. The response was immediate. I was given no chance to respond to this tissue of libel. The diocese never contacted me. The rapidity and one-sidedness of the diocese’s reaction was inexcusable — I was tried, convicted, and executed without evidence, without investigation, and without a moment’s thought.
Instead of contacting me or researching what I actually say, Raymond Delisle, spokesman for the Diocese of Worcester, promptly gave this statement to the Globe:
Although the intention of the conference organizers was to have a presenter on Islam from a Catholic’s perspective, we are asking Robert Spencer to not come to the Worcester Catholic Men’s Conference given that his presence is being seen as harmful to Catholic–Islamic relations both locally and nationally.
Charles Jacobs, president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), an organization that does research on Islamic supremacists and what they describe as “false moderates,” informed me that Abdul Cader Asmal is a self-proclaimed friend and supporter of a convicted jihad terrorist, Tarek Mehanna, who is currently serving 17½ years in federal prison for aiding al-Qaeda.