February 01, 2005
There has been so much to write about of late, I haven't much felt like writing anything. I wanted to compare some of Zarqawi's statements about Democracy being evil with those of Qutb (hint: they match pretty closely), but that point was made well here:
But underlying these gripes was an ideology - and remains an ideology - opposed to freedom and democracy. The intellectual founder of Islamism, Sayyid Qutb, wrote in 1957: "In the world there is only one party, the party of Allah; all of the others are parties of Satan and rebellion. Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah; and those who disbelieve fight in the cause of the rebellion."
I was thinking of that when I read this Outlook piece from the Washington Post last Sunday, asking if Islam is compatible with Democracy. (The Post piece doesn't mention Qutb, instead choosing to cast Zarqawi as, well, as...
If President Bush wanted to conjure up someone from central casting to act as a foil to his inauguration call for worldwide freedom, he couldn't ask for a villain more fitting than the terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, who, on the eve of Iraqi elections, denounced democracy as an "evil principle."
I'm not sure what the lede of this article -- written by Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle East studies and international affairs at Sarah Lawrence College -- is supposed to indicate. There is nothing inconsistent in anything Zarqawi is done or is alleged to have done -- the note in which he targets Kurds and Shi'as, the suicide attacks against other Muslims, the denunciation of democracy -- with the Qutbist strain of Islamism. Zarqawi isn't some Washington fantasy made flesh, in other words; it's a little like saying that, say, Joseph Mengele was a Nazi from central casting. On the contrary, he was all too real.
The most disturbing thing about the Post piece to me was this bit:
A small but influential group of Islamic intellectuals is saying that Muslims should see democracy as compatible with Islam. Islamic political parties and movements across North Africa and the Middle East are deciding with greater frequency to take part in elections whenever possible. In the Palestinian Authority balloting, the radical Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, has entered candidates in races for local offices. In Egypt, Islamic political activists are urging President Hosni Mubarak to retire and permit free elections. And in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the revered Shiite cleric, issued an edict saying participation in the balloting today was a "religious duty."
What an odd collection -- Hamas alongside Sistani, and precisely what is an "Islamic political activist"? Is it the same thing as an Islamist political activist? Is, say, Irshad Manji an Islamic political activist? Is Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
Posted by Ideofact at February 1, 2005 05:20 PM
Fatima Mernissi has an excellent book titled "Islam and Democracy," and, as I recall the subtitle his something like Fear of Freedom. She crafts her arguments in a highly readable manner.
You're doing it again.
The quote you have from Qutb is from a verse of the Qur'an. Now different Muslims may have different ways of applying that verse in relation to current events but saying that the statement of Qutb is on its fact unacceptable is nothing more than saying that the statements of the Qur'an are unacceptable. And guess what, I can and have tried to explain those statements as much as I can to you but in the end for a Muslim who believes the Qur'an is the speech of God, for you to say that you think the speech of God is unacceptable the only reaction can be, Who cares what you think? It's the word of God. If you don't like it, that's your problem.
The point is, I wouldn't say that about Qutb, or any other scholar of Islam but with regards to the Qur'an that position must be clear and unwavering. So when your examples of why Qutb is unacceptable are just him paraphrasing the Qur'an...obviously there is no room for discussion. If it goes beyond that, e.g. his statements on Islamic history or his impressions of Jewish history in the 20th century, then obviously he can be as wrong as anybody.
The point about Zarqawi is that, while you might think he's said nothing contrary to Qutb, he has (if one believes what's attributed to him) done a great deal that is contradictory to the way that I understand Qutb. And while my personal understanding of Qutb doesn't really matter, its a fact that as Gerges mentions the vast majority of Islamists who people all attribute as being a result of Qutb advocate positions vastly different than Zarqawi and ones that would be more acceptable and understandable (or at least not be terrifying) to the average American. So this is to say that Zarqawi is much more useful as an evil face to attribute to Islamism than the more accurate face of the millions of Muslims out there actively engaged who do advocate the influence of Islamic law and morality in public life but do not advocate violence and have more nuanced understandings of the potentials of democracy. (As I mentioned before one of the biggest problems here is people understanding different things by the word democracy -- does it refer to secularism and capitalism necessarily or does it simply refer to the ability of the people to choose their leaders and their form of government including the ability to choose an Islamic form of government which rules by the Sharee'ah?)
Why, exactly do you find Sistani and Hamas to be an odd combination? Do you have some bizarre and false notion that Sistani is a supporter of Zionism or something? Here is Sistani's statement after the killing of Shaykh Yassin:
"We call upon the sons of the Arab and Islamic nations to close ranks, unite and work hard for the liberation of the usurped land and restore rights. This morning, the occupying Zionist entity committed an ugly crime against the Palestinian people by killing one of their heroes, the scholar martyr Ahmed Yassin."
After the Israeli assault on Jenin, Al-Sistani had said, "Our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the holy, occupied territories in these days face continuous Zionist acts of aggression, the like of which has not been seen in modern history."
You know, the quote from Qutb is inside a larger block quote...
Perhaps this is one of those things that happens, though, when you quote populists, political leaders, and the like. They may be quoting someone else, or a piece of religious literature, and emphasizing a particular interpretation.
Quick pop question:
Who said "A house divided against itself cannot stand" ?
(a) Abraham Lincoln
Extra points is you can tell me the context in which the statement was said, and how that context imbued the phrase with deeper meaning.
Steve is right -- I didn't bother to look up the quote. I'm going to pass on the House divided against itself quote -- I know it's probably best known from the Lincoln speech (memory fades -- was it from the Lincoln Douglas debates?) or the Seinfeld parody ("A George divided against himself cannot stand"). I seem to recall that the allusion is to the New Testament -- one of the Gospels, but damned if I can remember which one -- and the context is that Jesus is accused of performing his miracles and exorcisms through the the power of the devil, and Jesus responds that with the house divided against itself line, the idea being that he's undoing the devil's work, and if he himself is demonic, then he's pretty much working at cross purposes (forgive the pun).
Considering that Islamist is a term that can encompass a rational humanist like Izetbegovic and a theocrat like Qutb, I suppose Gerges is accurate, but you're not in Izetbegovic's party, Abu Noor, so let's stop pretending there's much overlap there. Regarding Qutb, how is his call that all "man-made" forms of government be destroyed all that different from Zarqawi's view of democracy? If anything, Zarqawi is a bit more moderate.
As to Sistani, as far as I know, unlike Sheikh Yassin, he hasn't ordered the cold-blooded murder of any children, but thanks for pointing out his terrorist sympathies.
May I suggest (re: next post) switching over to another blogging software. I got so sick of Movable Type that I checked out a few others. b2evolution was the best for me, but there are others like WordPress. I have not had any problem with comment or trackback spam since and the only thing I get is referrer spam which I am in the process of fixing up permanently as well.
Just a suggestion anyway.
What do you mean when you say I am not in Izetbegovic's party?
As I've said before, I don't think we know enough about Zarqawi to try and analyze his political understanding. The actions attributed to him, which we do know about, are contradictory to Qutb's philosophy and Qutb's actions.
As I've also said before it means little to say we know that Zarqawi and Qutb are against democracy and others are for it unless we know what each of those people understood by democracy.
Sorry about the tone -- I was a little cranky last night after deleting all the trackback spam.
How is anything Zarqawi done, said or written inconsistent with what Qutb argued for? Qutb condoned violence -- he's quite explicit that his movement could not hope to rely on preaching and teaching alone, that Islam had to smash, abolish or destroy every non-Islamic government, that a small vanguard of right-thinking Qutbian Muslims should rule the rest, and so on. Zarqawi uses violence against Muslims, thinks any government other than the one he wants to impose is illegitimate, believes that he speaks for pure Islam, etc. etc.
Whoops -- again, imprecision from me (all I can say is that you get what you pay for). This bit....
he's quite explicit that his movement could not hope to rely on preaching and teaching alone, that Islam had to smash, abolish or destroy every non-Islamic government,
should in fact read...
he's quite explicit that his movement could not hope to rely on preaching and teaching alone, that Qutbism had to smash, abolish or destroy every non-Islamic government,
Two quick points. Qutb talks about the justification of using violence against non-Islamic governments because he saw them as oppressive. I believe you also believe in the permissibility of using violence to remove tyrannical regimes -- if not, I apologize. When Qutb talks about the need for violence, he is making the same point that you and many others might make about the Islamists, these people cannot simply be argued with, at some point they will have to be fought because they will not yield to argument and they will always want power. This is how Qutb and the Islamists see the tyrants in the Muslim world and the imperialists of the West.
Qutb does not justify the killing of civilians. To the extent that Zarqawi has been said to kill civilians, then that it is a huge contradiction.
Just as importantly, as I've pointed out continuously, Qutb did not himself engage in or encourage violence of any sort while he was alive. He explicitly discouraged those over whom he had influence who had weapons from engaging in killing.
His point about the use of violence was precisely that it would be justified and probably necessary in a society where the majority of the people wanted to be governed by Islamic law and a tyrannical minority or a foreign occupier held power and was preventing the people from establishing what he saw as the justice of Islamic law.
About not being in the same party as Izetbegovic, I really was interested in knowing what you were getting at.
I don't think I've read as much Izetbegovic as you are. Truth be told, I'm a little nervous to read him because I'm afraid I might disagree with him on a lot of things and I don't want to lose any of my love and respect for him. I could be totally wrong on this however, perhaps I will also find that he is actually expressing exactly what I believe in a way that is much more accessible to Euro-American audiences.
I hope this doesn't make you lose respect for him, but Izetbegovic was well-respected (even if they didn't agree with him on everything) by the 'foreign' mujahideen who came to fight in Bosnia, at least according to my information. You may not like those people, either, but I have a lot of respect for them. I'm not sure if they blame him for what I think many of them see as the problematic nature of the Dayton agreements or not.
I wonder have you read Izetbegovic's last book "Inescapable Questions"?
I'm sorry about the spam you're getting. You're starting to make me rethink this whole idea of starting a blog, you seem to indicate that's it is as much trouble (and as time consuming) as I worry.