Islamism: An Invented Concept
The controversy raging in intellectual and political circles about the distinction between Islamism and Islam grows more acrimonious by the day. I have argued in articles and books that the debate is essentially nugatory and that Islamism and Islam are fundamentally identical. Some have taken vehement exception to my thesis and have not scrupled to launch sometimes defamatory and often highly critical barbs in my direction. I have recently come across a grammatically challenged Facebook post in which the writer affirms that I am missing what is staring me in the face, namely the myriad moderates who are waging battle against Islamist forces, for example, the Kurds -- who are the only people “really taking to [sic] ISIS.” (The writer seems as cavalier in articulating his prose as he is feckless in developing his ideas.)
The fact is, the Kurds, heroic as they may be, are not fighting for freedom, equality, the rights of assembly and unfettered expression, habeas corpus or the institution of impartial justice as we know them in the West; they are fighting to survive the onslaught of a terrorist militia seeking to destroy them. They are engaged in an intra-faith conflict that is a perpetual feature of the Islamic world. We should not forget that the Kurds, too, are Muslims. I recall reading maybe nine or ten years ago an essay by Mario Vargas Llosa on the Muslim incursion into Germany. He told the story of a young German woman attempting to flee her abusive Muslim partner, who as it turns out was a Kurd intent on asserting his religiously sanctioned male dominance. At the time I was more interested in Llosa than in Islam, but his essay was an eye-opener. Llosa, regrettably, has since gone politically correct, joining with the likes of Daniel Pipes and my poorly informed Facebooker in calling, as Vida Latina reports, “for support to moderate Muslims, who resist fanaticism.” Where these teeming populations of “moderates,” presumably a significant portion of the 1.6 billion member umma, are to be found escapes his attention entirely.
It is quite astonishing to contemplate how deeply compromised and even obtuse many observers have become in their otherwise justified objection to what the Facebooker termed “theocratic fascism” (a category that would include evangelical Christians and orthodox Jews, thus once again letting Islam off the hook). The situation is deteriorating even as we speak. The so-called “economic migrants” and displaced refugees swarming the borders of Europe constitute the latest Muslim push into the West, on the one hand consisting of (let’s call them) “welfare migrants” who will deplete state budgets and create housing turmoil, and on the other of an army of incendiaries that will burn, rape and plunder what remains of a liberal civilization. And when one considers that significant numbers of camp-and-shelter inmates have gone missing and are now on the loose somewhere in Europe, it doesn’t take a brasserie to figure out what is brewing.
The torrent of Muslim migrants into Germany, to take a particularly conspicuous example, has led to a 65 percent increase in criminal activity. The fate of the small German town of Sumte, population 102, soon to be home to 750 Middle Eastern and African migrants, is literally over the top, but 50 would be enough to change the face of the community forever. Such scars cannot be healed. In Sweden violent crime has increased by 300 percent, as Ingrid Carlqvist and Lars Hedegaard report, since the time “the Swedish parliament unanimously decided to change the formerly homogenous Sweden into a multicultural country.” (There are now 55 no-go zones in Sweden.) In the Netherlands, 50-70 percent of former asylum seekers live on permanent welfare. Prison statistics for Muslims are through the roof in most European countries with Muslim immigrant populations. In Denmark alone, among the most peaceful of European countries, the crime rate differential of Muslims to non-Muslims is on the order of 450 percent.
Most western countries with a rump population of Muslims will experience different levels of social, cultural and economic distress, ranging from insistent legal demands to acts of terrorism. Parasitism, violence, political and religious fanaticism, the fostering of hate speech legislation, the proliferation of no-go zones, the re-uniting of families that will bloat the influx to even more unmanageable proportions, the insinuation or imposition of Sharia law (according to a Pew Poll analysis, one billion Muslims worldwide favor Sharia), high-casualty attacks like the recent Paris atrocity—Islam is a delivery system that fires multiple warheads. And it is happening before our very eyes and with the willing complicity of our preceptorial betters, aka the political class, the intellectual clerisy, the corrupt academy and the media camarilla. It should be recognized, too, that these constituencies are given free rein by the widespread ignorance, complacency or timorousness of those they purport to serve.
Indeed, the culture that has sustained us for centuries is being breached, infested, eroded and is ultimately on the verge of being brought down by a primitive horde of invaders who represent its antithesis. They still have a long way to go to approximate the performance of the 18th century Emperor of Morocco Moulay Ismail who, as Lyall Watson recounts in Dark Nature, killed an estimated 30,000 people with his own hands and enjoyed the services of 500 wives. Such exploits may be normally unattainable, fodder for the Guinness Book of Records, but that is no source of consolation.
Regarding the effort by most liberals and some conservatives to lay the blame for Muslim violence on something called “Islamism” rather than Islam, it just won’t wash. The aforementioned Facebooker recently published an op-ed in the National Post in which, pro forma, he flogged the usual stable of spavined horses: distinguishing “Islamism” from Islam; slamming the former Conservative government for the eminently sane proposal to screen the tsunami of Muslims entering Canada; and dating the eruption of “Islamist” violence and Jew-hatred to the 20th century, thus revealing an ignorance of canonical Islam and Islamic history as vast as the desert from which it emerged.
Not content with resting on his juniper bush, he proceeds to argue on behalf of “the world’s democratic, liberal, reformist and otherwise moderate Muslim majority”—which from what I have seen over the last decade must live on some other planet in the distant reaches of the galaxy, perhaps the same planet the author lives on. But the real kicker is his assertion that the “Islamist” vanguard “sets its mission as doing what Muhammad did,” following the words and example of the universally revered founder of the religion. Perhaps this is just another of his characteristic misformulations, but it destroys his thesis rather dramatically. The conclusion to be drawn here is that pro-Muslim advocacy in whatever form is inherently fatuous and incoherent.
“Islamism” is an invented concept, like “Islamophobia” (a synonym for a fictitious “hate crime”). It is meant to make Islam palatable, in the same way “Islamophobia” is meant to marginalize and discredit those who know it is not. The term “Islamism” resembles in an obverse way the sort of homiletic pieties one notes on “brainy quote” plaques affixed above urinals in public rest stops, something meant to make us feel good about something else. We may be relieving ourselves, with or without difficulty, but we learn that nature is beautiful and friendship is a blessing.
“Islamism” is merely a word minted to obscure the truth of Islam as a theo-political ideology camouflaging its claim to world domination under the cloak of religious observances and domestic cultural practices, that is, the jihad of the spirit as cover for the jihad of eternal warfare. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali states—and she should know—“Islam is not a religion of peace. It’s a political theory of conquest that seeks domination by any means it can.” Public affairs consultant J. Robert Smith concurs: “The religion of bloody conquest will keep doing what it was built to do by Mohammed centuries before.” Muslim scholars like the respected Tawfik Hamid, who in his recent Inside Jihad labors to rescue Islam from the jihadist “distortion of the Quran,” are beating a dead camel. Hamid’s core assumption in his effort to “refute the violent edicts of Sharia” is conceptually illegitimate, for it rests on the intrinsic salience or presumed sufficiency of mere interpretation, as if the edicts in question were not what they plainly are but are in need of interpretation, or re-interpretation, as if Kill the Infidel consistently repeated in one form or another were not the explicit, non-interpretable command that it is.
Hamid’s attempt to right the balance, “to cooperate rather than fight against one another,” to provide a positive “mainstream-approved Islamic text,” to truncate and revise—in effect, to channel hermeneutics as teleology—is surely a noble though fruitless one. It does not change the later Medinan Koran with its emphasis on jihad, stringent jurisprudence and aggression against the “people of the book” (Jews and Christians), and does nothing to address the vast Intranet of the sacred literature of which the Koran, though primary, is only one of many nodal junctions.
In short, what we call “Islamism” is really a historical dogma based on what I have called the Intranet of Islamic teachings and practices, that is, the adoration of its founding Prophet, the Koran, the Hadith, the Sira, the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, the philosophical archive, and the sounding trumpet of jihad. In other words, it is Islam. Strip these elements away, or dilute and attenuate them beyond recognition, and what is left but an insipid caricature of what professes to be a world-historical faith? In short, it would no longer be Islam.
The fundamental equation continues to hold: Islamism=Islam. Or perhaps the reverse formulation is even more accurate: Islam=Islamism. Any way we want to look at it, jihad is codified in Islam; it is the command of Allah, the religious duty of all Muslims when they are in a position to perform it. According to the Grand Ayatollah of Iraq Ahmad al-Baghdadi, there are really two major kinds of jihad: “defensive jihad” to reclaim “occupied” territory (Israel, of course, as well as Portugal, Spain, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Armenia, Georgia, Crete, Cyprus, and parts of Russia ) and “offensive jihad" to conquer non-Muslims. Offensive war, he asserts, is “the opinion of all five schools of jurisprudence.” This is as obligatory, Raymond Ibrahim points out, as “Islam’s Five Pillars, which no Muslim rejects.” And we would do well to note that of these Five Pillars, the second, Salat, or Prayer, comprises execrations against infidels, such as: “We forsake and turn away from the kafirs,” “O, Allah, punish the kafirs of the people of the book who are preventing other from following Your way,” and “Surely the kafirs will receive your punishment.”
As for the Kurds, the chief example of my adversarial Facebooker, we wish them every success in their brave resistance to ISIS or to the depredations of the Turkish government. But, as I have indicated, they are not fighting for us; they are fighting for themselves. They are not in the process of jettisoning the Koran or the Hadith or the schools of jurisprudence; they are struggling for the right to practice their faith in an independent nation. And as for the migrants inundating Europe, they are not only displaced “Syrians”; the majority may be described as aggressive columns of young men, a large number from North Africa, seeking to establish ribats (outposts from which to conduct jihad) and spread their way of life at the expense of Western societies. They are not “moderates” and they are certainly not “Islamists.” They are votaries of Islam who bring with them the Muslim conviction of innate superiority to all other human beings, as well as the habits, tenets, injunctions and commands of a faith perennially at war with Western civilization. And thousands of these are ISIS-trained gunmen smuggling their way into Western nations where they are destined to unleash havoc.
We have admitted them, as we have admitted Islam, into our midst, at the price of our customary assumptions about cultural usages and social decorum, the residual integrity of our universities, the even-handed dispensation of justice and what remains of political probity, fiscal resilience, the safety of our streets, and indeed our very security. "Paris” will happen over and over again. We can pretend all we like that we are the avatars of “diversity” and that the culture will prosper by accepting the soldiers of Allah into our homeland, but it does not require a polysomnography machine to plumb the depths of Western narcolepsy. So long as we continue to insist on the false distinction between Islamism and Islam, which clouds our vision and weakens our resistance, Islam will be poised to prevail against us. As Michael Walsh has said in another context, “Things will get worse before they get worse.”
Am I exaggerating? Don’t bet on it.