Friday, October 28th, 2016

Adams or Jefferson in the Islamic world


You don’t want to miss Christopher Hitchens today. He connects the dots between the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo to Obama’s speech at Cairo and finds where Western assumptions are only helping the enemy:

Yet if we think it probable or possible that a man would only mutate into such a monster after undergoing the Guantanamo experience, then I can suggest one reason why that might be. Nothing prepared me for the way in which the authorities at the camp have allowed the most extreme religious cultists among the inmates to be the organizers of the prisoners’ daily routine. Suppose that you were a secular or unfanatical person caught in the net by mistake; you would still find yourself being compelled to pray five times a day (the guards are not permitted to interrupt), to have a Quran in your cell, and to eat food prepared to halal (or Sharia) standards. I suppose you could ask to abstain, but, in such a case, I wouldn’t much fancy your chances. The officers in charge were so pleased by this ability to show off their extreme broad-mindedness in respect of Islam that they looked almost hurt when I asked how they justified the use of taxpayers’ money to create an institution dedicated to the fervent practice of the most extreme version of just one religion. To the huge list of reasons to close down Guantanamo, add this: It’s a state-sponsored madrassa.

The same near-masochistic insistence on taking the extreme as the norm was also present in Obama’s smoothly delivered speech in the Egyptian capital. Some of what he said was well-intentioned if ill-informed. The United States should not have overthrown the elected government of Iran in 1953, but when it did so, it used bribed mullahs and ayatollahs to whip up anti-Communist sentiment against a secular regime. The John Adams administration in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli did indeed proclaim that the United States had no quarrel with Islam as such (and, even more important, that the United States itself was in no sense a Christian nation), but the treaty failed to stop the Barbary states from invoking the Quran as permission to kidnap and enslave travelers on the high seas, and thus Thomas Jefferson was later compelled to send a fleet and the Marines to put down the trade. One hopes that Obama does not prefer Adams to Jefferson in this regard.

Any person with the smallest pretense to cultural literacy knows that there is no such place or thing as “the Muslim world,” or, rather, that it consists of many places and many things. (It is precisely the aim of the jihadists to bring it all under one rulership preparatory to making Islam the world’s only religion.) But Obama said nothing about the schism between Sunni and Shiites, or about the argument over Sufism, or about Ahmadi and Ismaili forms of worship and practice. All this was conceded to the umma: the highly ideological notion that a person is first and foremost defined by their adherence to a religion and that all concepts of citizenship and rights take second place to this theocratic diktat. Nothing could be more reactionary.

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