Benghazi and Willful Sharia Blindness

(Note: This speech from Andrew Bostom was part of the panel discussion “U.S. Foreign Policy and the Influence of Shariah Doctrine” at The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, Hillsdale College, Washington, D.C., on November 13, 2012.)

J.B. Matthews, who renounced a career as a Communist front operative to become one of the world’s foremost anti-Communist authorities on such groups, observed in his 1938 Odyssey of a Fellow Traveler:

“It cannot be denied that Communists and their sympathizers object not only to a denunciation of Communism but also to a calm and critical examination of its principles and practices. Strange as it may seem, Communists denounce those who merely cite the things of which Communists themselves openly boast in their own public statements.”

Matthews’ observations from nearly 75 years ago are apposite to the discussion today because he captures the shared reactions by both advocates of, and apologists for, two totalitarian ideological systems which are eerily similar: modern Communism and still unreformed, pre-modern Islam. Indeed, a humorist contemporary of Matthews had cogently highlighted the striking similarities between Islam and Communism, referring to the Communist creed with this aphorism:

“There is no G-d, and Karl Marx is his prophet.”

Alas, in our present stultifying era, which increasingly demands only a hagiographic view of Islam, even such witty, illuminating aphorisms may become verboten. Witness President Obama’s stern warning during his Tuesday, September 25, 2012, speech to the UN General Assembly, when he proclaimed:

“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

The travails in Libya — and among the broader Muslim Middle Eastern participants in the Orwellian-named “Arab Spring” — demonstrate graphically how enforcing bowdlerized views of Islam, which ignore Islamic doctrine and history, engenders a policy debacle.

First I will summarize the salient features of Sharia, Islamic law, and its appeal as demonstrated by recent polling data from Libya’s North African Muslim neighbors, Morocco and Egypt. Then I will trace briefly how what my colleague Diana West has aptly termed our “Making the World Safe for Sharia” policymaking mindset operated, and continues to prevail, in Libya.

Derived from Islam’s most important canonical texts — the Koran and hadith — and their interpretation and codification by Islam’s greatest classical legists, Sharia, Islamic law, is not merely holistic in the general sense of all-encompassing, but totalitarian, regulating everything from the ritual aspects of religion to personal hygiene to the governance of a Muslim minority community, an Islamic state, bloc of states, or global Islamic order. Clearly, this latter political aspect is the most troubling, being an ancient antecedent of more familiar modern totalitarian systems. Specifically, Sharia’s liberty-crushing and dehumanizing political aspects feature: open-ended jihadism to subjugate the world to a totalitarian Islamic order; rejection of bedrock Western liberties — including freedom of conscience and speech — enforced by imprisonment, beating, or death; discriminatory relegation of non-Muslims to outcast, vulnerable pariahs, and even Muslim women to subservient chattel; and barbaric punishments which violate human dignity, such as amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, and lashing for alcohol consumption.

But is this ancient, brutally oppressive totalitarian system still popular amongst the Muslim masses, particularly within North Africa? In a word, “yes.”

Polling data were released April 24, 2007, from a rigorously conducted face-to-face University of Maryland/ interview survey of Muslims conducted between December 9, 2006, and February 15, 2007. Seventy-one percent of the 1000 Moroccans, and 67% of the 1000 Egyptians surveyed, desired this outcome: “To unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate.” The internal validity of these data about the present longing for a Caliphate was strongly suggested by a concordant result. Seventy-six percent of Moroccan Muslims and 74% of Egyptian Muslims approved of the proposition: “To require a strict [emphasis added] application of Sharia law in every Islamic country.”

Libyan “rebel” spokesperson Mustafa Abduljalil, born in 1952 in Al Baida, one of the first cities to rise against Qaddafi, studied law and Islamic jurisprudence in Benghazi before embarking on a legal career that culminated in his appointment in 2007 as Qaddafi’s “minister of justice.” A foreboding Wikileaks memo from February 27, 2010, revealed:

“In the course of the discussion of the Criminal Code, Abduljalil abruptly changed the subject from freedom of speech to the ‘Libyan people’s concern about the U.S. government’s support for Israel.’ He averred that Libya cares deeply about Muslims everywhere, and about Muslim countries. In his view, the root cause of terrorism stems from the perception that Europe and the U.S. are against Muslims.”

By August of 2011, Abduljalil’s “vision” for Libya was apparent in his championing of Libya’s draft constitution whose salient feature was Part 1, Article 1, which stated:

“Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).”

Following Qaddafi’s removal, a Sunday October 23, 2011 pronouncement by Abduljalil, now the leader of Libya’s Transitional Council, reiterated the overarching general role of Sharia, and included this specific example:

“He [Abduljalil] also announced the annulment of an existing [secular] family law that limits the number of wives [a] Libyan [male] can take, contradicting the provision in the Muslim holy book, the Quran (i.e., Koran 4:3), that allows men up to four wives.”

Thus “liberated” Libya appeared bent on reinstituting Sharia-based polygamy, in pious conformity with Koran 4:3.

Simultaneously, in late October 2011 reporter Sherif Elhelwa confirmed that the al-Qaeda flag was aloft on the Benghazi courthouse. Several months later during a trip to Libya in early 2012, Elhelwa noted the al-Qaeda flag was still flying atop Benghazi’s courthouse, but more importantly, he ventured to the jihadist flashpoint of Eastern Libya, Derna, to expose Libya’s Sharia enforcers. Unofficial Derna leader and local al-Qaeda head Abdel Hakim Al-Hasadi proclaimed:

“If you establish the Sharia, we’re with you. We’re your soldiers. We’re ready to die alongside you if you establish Sharia law.”

Al-Qaeda in Libya: A PROFILE” was an August 2012 report prepared by the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, a Pentagon program office, within a month of the murderous 9/11/12 attacks which left 4 dead: U.S. Libyan ambassador Christopher Stevens, two heroic former U.S. Navy Seals (Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods), and a U.S. Air Force veteran (Sean Smith). The report emphasized how al-Qaeda senior leadership working via a large, powerful, and well-established jihadist infrastructure in Libya — including, prominently, Ansar al-Sharia, the group believed responsible for the Benghazi consulate attack — sought to capitalize on the U.S. and NATO-supported insurrection which toppled the Libyan despot Qaddafi and to fulfill its goal of making Libya part of an eventual transnational caliphate.

A sizable, ominous Ansar al-Sharia public rally during June 2012 was highlighted in the August 2012 Pentagon report, which also noted the unwillingness of Libya’s Sharia-supporting central government to contend with these ostensibly “more radical” avatars of Sharia supremacism. With resigned sobriety, the Pentagon report emphasized how such jihadist/al-Qaeda discourse resonates among a significant swath of the Libyan population. Finally, the Pentagon report’s EXECUTIVE SUMMARY raises serious questions about the callous inattention to security for U.S. diplomatic and ancillary personnel in Benghazi, and more importantly, the abysmal “See No Sharia” failure of imagination regarding overall U.S. policy in Libya, which has abetted the most fanatical jihadist movement extant – al-Qaeda itself. The report concluded:

“Al-Qaeda has established a core network in Libya, but it remains clandestine and refrains from using the al-Qaeda name. … Ansar al-Sharia, led by Sufian Ben Qhumu, a former Guantanamo detainee, has increasingly embodied al-Qaeda’s presence in Libya, as indicated by its active social-media propaganda, extremist discourse, and hatred of the West, especially the United States. Al-Qaeda adherents in Libya used the 2011 Revolution to establish well-armed, well-trained, and combat-experienced militias. … The al-Qaeda clandestine network is currently in an expansion phase, running training camps and media campaigns on social-media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube. However, it will likely continue to mask its presence under the umbrella of the Libyan Salafist movement, with which it shares a radical ideology and a general intent to implement sharia in Libya and elsewhere.”

And one of the apparent U.S. avatars of this grossly misbegotten policy is now its most prominent victim cum “martyr” — namely, Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Diana West brought to my attention two profoundly disturbing classified cables written by Stevens during 2008, which capture this warped mindset. Stevens made a pilgrimage to Eastern Libyan Derna, the longstanding, proud hotbed of jihad which was a hub of the aggressive late 18th through early 19th century North African Barbary jihad campaigns against the U.S. Moreover, even in the absence of strict Sharia compliance, anthropologist Evans-Pritchard’s 1949 characterization revealed how the Muslim Bedouin of Eastern Libya “compensated” for their less than assiduous fulfillment of the ritual requirements of Islam by their zealous commitment to jihad. Here is Evans-Pritchard’s description:

“It would [also] be a questionable judgment to assert that the Bedouin of Cyrenaica [Eastern Libya] are not religious because they do not pay the same attention to outward ritual as do townspeople and peasants, for piety and holiness, as we have often been admonished, are not the same. … Perhaps the Bedouin make up for their shortcomings by their enthusiasm for the jihad, holy war against unbelievers. They consider that they have fulfilled their obligation under this head in ample measure by their long and courageous fight, formally declared a holy war by the Caliph of Islam, against the Italians, French, and British. A Bedouin once said to me when I remarked how rarely I had seen Bedouin at prayer: ‘(But) we fast and wage holy war.’”

The 2008 cables reveal a Stevens cavorting with the very Libyan Muslim denizens of Derna who were proudly sending their sons to be homicide bombers, etc., in Iraq attacking, and killing or grievously wounding U.S. troops there, at the highest per capita rate of any location in Islamdom. One memo is more than sympathetic to this hotbed of jihadism, it is almost reverent (Stevens repeats uncritically their self-characterization as being like Bruce Willis in the movie Die Hard — even titling his cable as “Diehard in Derna”) — and one can perhaps see, as Diana West suggests, the germ of the idea for the strategy ultimately employed to overthrow Qaddafi spearheaded by jihadists like Stevens’ “colleagues” in Derna.

The horrific, depressing spectacle of our great nation’s willing exploitation by violent Sharia supremacists brings to mind a remarkably candid assessment by the 18th century Moroccan Sufi “master” Ibn Ajibah from his Koranic commentary, a work I was made aware of by my colleague, Dr. Mark Durie. Describing unabashedly the purpose of the humiliating Koranic poll tax of submission for non-Muslims brought under Islamic hegemony by jihad (who become so-called “dhimmis,” as per Koran 9:29), Ibn Ajibah makes clear the ultimate goal of its imposition was to achieve what he called the death of the “soul,” through the dhimmis’ execution of their own humanity:

“[The dhimmi] is commanded to put his soul, good fortune and desires to death. Above all he should kill the love of life, leadership and honor. [The dhimmi] is to invert the longings of his soul, he is to load it down more heavily than it can bear until it is completely submissive. Thereafter nothing will be unbearable for him. He will be indifferent to subjugation or might. Poverty and wealth will be the same to him; praise and insult will be the same; preventing and yielding will be the same; lost and found will be the same. Then, when all things are the same, it [the soul] will be submissive and yield willingly what it should give.”

Cynically ignoring Sharia doctrines and practices that permanently endanger the life, liberty, and property of non-Muslims, U.S. policymakers — epitomized by the murdered Libyan Ambassador Stevens — have sacrificed U.S. lives, and our nation’s soul.