Thursday, September 14, 2006

Islam’s Great Freudian Error

Martin Amis’s barnstorming three-part essay in The Observer, entitled The Age of Horrorism has caused a stir, and if you haven’t already done so, it is well worth investing the time to read it.

It is long, covering Islam, Islamism, the War on Terror, Iraq, religion and the West, and each subject gets the trademark Amis poison pen pummeling.

One of the most interesting passages concerns Sayyid Qutb, whom Marty pinpoints as the father of Islamism:

Established in a modest way as a writer, Sayyid took a job at the Ministry of Education. This radicalised him. He felt oppressed by the vestiges of the British protectorate in Egypt, and was alarmist about the growing weight of the Jewish presence in Palestine - another British crime, in Sayyid's view. He became an activist, and ran some risk of imprisonment (at the hands of the saturnalian King Farouk), before the ministry packed him off to America to do a couple of years of educational research. Prison, by the way, would claim him soon after his return. He was one of the dozens of Muslim Brothers jailed (and tortured) after the failed attempt on the life of the moderniser and secularist, Nasser, in October 1954. There was a short reprieve in 1964, but Sayyid was soon rearrested - and retortured. Steelily dismissing a clemency deal brokered by none other than the young Anwar Sadat, he was hanged in August 1966; and this was a strategic martyrdom that now lies deep in the Islamist soul. His most influential book, like the book with which it is often compared, was written behind bars. Milestones is known as the Mein Kampf of Islamism.

Sayyid was presumably still sorely shaken by the birth of Israel (after the defeat of Egypt and five other Arab armies), but at first, on the Atlantic crossing, he felt a spiritual expansion. His encyclopedic commentary, In the Shade of the Koran, would fondly and ramblingly recall the renewal of his sense of purpose and destiny. Early on, he got into a minor sectarian battle with a proselytising Christian; Sayyid retaliated by doing a bit of proselytising himself, and made some progress with a contingent of Nubian sailors. Then came the traumatic incident with the drunken, semi-naked woman. Sayyid thought she was an American agent hired to seduce him, or so he later told his biographer, who wrote that 'the encounter successfully tested his resolve to resist experiences damaging to his identity as an Egyptian and a Muslim'. God knows what the episode actually amounted to. It seems probable that the liquored-up Mata Hari, the dipsomaniacal nudist, was simply a woman in a cocktail dress who, perhaps, had recently drunk a cocktail. Still, we can continue to imagine Sayyid barricading himself into his cabin while, beyond the door, the siren sings her song.

He didn't like New York: materialistic, mechanistic, trivial, idolatrous, wanton, depraved, and so on and so forth. Washington was a little better. But here, sickly Sayyid (lungs) was hospitalised, introducing him to another dire hazard that he wouldn't have faced at home: female nurses. One of them, tricked out with 'thirsty lips, bulging breasts, smooth legs' and a coquettish manner ('the calling eye, the provocative laugh'), regaled him with her wish-list of endowments for the ideal lover. But 'the father of Islamism', as he is often called, remained calm, later developing the incident into a diatribe against Arab men who succumb to the allure of American women. In an extraordinary burst of mendacity or delusion, Sayyid claimed that the medical staff heartlessly exulted at the news of the assassination, back in Egypt, of Hasan al-Banna. We may wonder how likely it is that any American would have heard of al-Banna, or indeed of the Muslim Brotherhood, which he founded. When Sayyid was discharged from George Washington University Hospital, he probably thought the worst was behind him. But now he proceeded to the cauldron - to the pullulating hellhouse - of Greeley, Colorado.

During his six months at the Colorado State College of Education (and thereafter in California), Sayyid's hungry disapproval found a variety of targets. American lawns (a distressing example of selfishness and atomism), American conversation ('money, movie stars and models of cars'), American jazz ('a type of music invented by Blacks to please their primitive tendencies - their desire for noise and their appetite for sexual arousal'), and, of course, American women: here another one pops up, telling Sayyid that sex is merely a physical function, untrammelled by morality. American places of worship he also detests (they are like cinemas or amusement arcades), but by now he is pining for Cairo, and for company, and he does something rash. Qutb joins a club - where an epiphany awaits him. 'The dance is inflamed by the notes of the gramophone,' he wrote; 'the dance-hall becomes a whirl of heels and thighs, arms enfold hips, lips and breasts meet, and the air is full of lust.' You'd think that the father of Islamism had exposed himself to an early version of Studio 54 or even Plato's Retreat. But no: the club he joined was run by the church, and what he is describing, here, is a chapel hop in Greeley, Colorado. And Greeley, Colorado, in 1949, was dry

'And the air is full of lust.' 'Lust' is Bernard Lewis's translation, but several other writers prefer the word 'love'. And while lust has greater immediate impact, love may in the end be more resonant. Why should Qutb mind if the air is full of love? We are forced to wonder whether love can be said to exist, as we understand it, in the ferocious patriarchy of Islamism. If death and hate are the twin opposites of love, then it may not be merely whimsical and mawkish to suggest that the terrorist, the bringer of death and hate, the death-hate cultist, is in essence the enemy of love. Qutb:

'A girl looks at you, appearing as if she were an enchanting nymph or an escaped mermaid, but as she approaches, you sense only the screaming instinct inside her, and you can smell her burning body, not the scent of perfume but flesh, only flesh.'

In his excellent book, Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman has many sharp things to say about the corpus of Sayyid Qutb; but he manages to goad himself into receptivity, and ends up, in my view, sounding almost absurdly respectful - 'rich, nuanced, deep, soulful, and heartfelt'. Qutb, who would go on to write a 30-volume gloss on it, spent his childhood memorising the Koran. He was 10 by the time he was done. Now, given that, it seems idle to expect much sense from him; and so it proves. On the last of the 46 pages he devotes to Qutb, Berman wraps things up with a long quotation. This is its repetitive first paragraph:

'The Surah [the sayings of the Prophet] tells the Muslims that, in the fight to uphold God's universal Truth, lives will have to be sacrificed. Those who risk their lives and go out to fight, and who are prepared to lay down their lives for the cause of God, are honourable people, pure of heart and blessed of soul. But the great surprise is that those among them who are killed in the struggle must not be considered or described as dead. They continue to live, as God Himself clearly states.'

Savouring that last phrase, we realise that any voyage taken with Sayyid Qutb is doomed to a leaden-witted circularity. The emptiness, the mere iteration, at the heart of his philosophy is steadily colonised by a vast entanglement of bitternesses; and here, too, we detect the presence of that peculiarly Islamist triumvirate (codified early on by Christopher Hitchens) of self-righteousness, self-pity, and self-hatred - the self-righteousness dating from the seventh century, the self-pity from the 13th (when the 'last' Caliph was kicked to death in Baghdad by the Mongol warlord Hulagu), and the self-hatred from the 20th. And most astounding of all, in Qutb, is the level of self-awareness, which is less than zero. It is as if the very act of self-examination were something unmanly or profane: something unrighteous, in a word.

Still, one way or the other, Qutb is the father of Islamism. Here are the chief tenets he inspired: that America, and its clients, are jahiliyya (the word classically applied to pre-Muhammadan Arabia - barbarous and benighted); that America is controlled by Jews; that Americans are infidels, that they are animals, and, worse, arrogant animals, and are unworthy of life; that America promotes pride and promiscuity in the service of human degradation; that America seeks to 'exterminate' Islam - and that it will accomplish this not by conquest, not by colonial annexation, but by example. As Bernard Lewis puts it in The Crisis of Islam

'This is what is meant by the term the Great Satan, applied to the United States by the late Ayatollah Khomeini. Satan as depicted in the Qur'an is neither an imperialist nor an exploiter. He is a seducer, 'the insidious tempter who whispers in the hearts of men' (Qur'an, CXIV, 4, 5).

Lewis might have added that these are the closing words of the Koran. So they echo.
The West isn't being seductive, of course; all the West is being is attractive. But the Islamist's paranoia extends to a kind of thwarted narcissism. We think again of Qutb's buxom, smooth-legged nurse, supposedly smacking her thirsty lips at the news of the death of Hasan al-Banna. Far from wanting or trying to exterminate it, the West had no views whatever about Islam per se before 11 September 2001. Of course, views were then formulated, and very soon the bestseller list was a column of primers on Islam.
Some things take longer to sink in than others, true; but now we know. In the West we had brought into being a society whose main purpose, whose raison d'etre, was the tantalisation of good Muslims.

The theme of the 'tempter' can be taken a little further, in the case of Qutb. When the tempter is a temptress, and really wants you to sin, she needs to be both available and willing. And it is almost inconceivable that poor Sayyid, the frail, humourless civil servant, and turgid anti-semite (salting his talk with quotes from that long-exploded fabrication, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion), ever encountered anything that resembled an offer. It is more pitiful than that. Seduction did not come his way, but it was coming the way of others, he sensed, and a part of him wanted it too. That desire made him very afraid, and also shamed him and dishonoured him, and turned his thoughts to murder. Then the thinkers of Islam took his books and did what they did to them; and Sayyid Qutb is now a part of our daily reality. We should understand that the Islamists' hatred of America is as much abstract as historical, and irrationally abstract, too; none of the usual things can be expected to appease it. The hatred contains much historical emotion, but it is their history, and not ours, that haunts them.

According to Amis, at the black heart of Islamism lies this sublimely arrogant fallacy: that the West, with its sexual equality and sexual freedom, exists to tempt good Muslims from the virtuous path.

Amis describes Qutb himself as a ‘sexual truant’ unable to cope with either seduction or rejection. It has been reported that various of the 9/11 hijackers used prostitutes in the days leading up to the attack.

Islamism rests on a bedrock of sick male dysfunction, sexual immaturity and hypocrisy, and the 'Great Satan' should really be translated as the Great Temptor. The reward for destroying citizens of the Great Temptor? An adolescent afterlife fantasy of multitudes of submissive virgins.


Blogger Duck said...

These are traits that seem to fit in with the practice of polygamy. If you are going to have a large population of sexually frustrated excess males, you'd better have a cultural mechanism for surperessing male sexuality and channelling it into socially constructive avenues. When Islam was in the ascendant it was easy enough to put them in the military service and have them conquer new lands for the faith. Conquest and sexual frustration fit hand in glove.

The American seductress can't help but upset the equilibrium of this cultural backwater.

September 14, 2006 5:25 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

'A girl looks at you, [but] you sense only the screaming instinct inside her, and you can smell her burning body, not the scent of perfume but flesh, only flesh.'

Here's the problem - Sayyid's gay. And a misogynist.

Therefore, given that combination, what he thinks of women, and normal people in general, is beneath notice.

Although it doesn't surprise me in the least to learn that Islamofascists revere a guy who can't help them understand themselves, their self-chosen enemies, or indeed anything about the world, any better - they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Even their greatest success, the 9/11 attacks on America, caused a catastrophic backlash for Arabs in general and Islamofascists in particular, as Amis alludes in the excerpt.

September 15, 2006 4:51 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

As if that isn't bad enough, Islam is based upon a text that is supposed to be Allah's words -- they are all True as written in their original Arabic. Then, to add gasoline to the fire, Allah's words are unmistakably universalist, based upon overt militancy.

Which makes for an extremely brittle belief system. The task of rendering the vile aspects of Islam, divinely ordained, inoperative without completely discrediting the entire Q'uran, is nigh on impossible.

In this respect, the Bible, largely metaphorical, and with plenty of scope for contradiction, is a far more flexible revealed text.

September 15, 2006 10:12 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Didn't your mothers warn you about running off to save damsels in distress without first checking with the damsels?

This is heaven for you guys, isn't it? No namby-pamby Christianity prattling on about free will to give your youthful Freudianism a run for its money. You can dust off all the old slogans from the '50s and serve them straight up. Sexual repression, cultural mechanism, channelling etc., they are all there. And let's not forget their sublimated desire to rule the world. Hmm...problem there. It doesn't seem to be very sublimated these days. Well gosh, that's healthy, isn't it?.

Ok, let's ignore for the moment the uncanny coincidence that our selfless urge to fight and sacrifice to liberate half a billion Muslim women living in unimaginable hell arose at exactly the same time they started throwing bombs our way. We hear of awful things like honour killings, boy-only education and brutal Taliban misogyny that we can all condemn and even perhaps call on both gender-sensitive libertarians and stout-hearted Christian men to do something about. But we don't know whether they are widespread and endemic or more their version of Appalachia. We also know there are broadly-based calls and movements for general reform from Muslim women across their world about all sorts of issues. The hitch is that, as far as I can tell, many, if not most, of these calls for reform are based upon---wait for it--Islam and the Koran. The secular feminist left does not appear to be leading this.

Amis' essay is welcome as a reality slap in the face for the tranzi anti-Bush left but just about anything will help there. But it doesn't help us distinguish between outrageous oppression beneath the dignity of human beings and a moral code of family life that happens to vary from that of Southern California. If you don't have many Muslim women themselves signing on to this psycho-babble, what then? Are we just going to dip into our old marxism as well and resurrect false consciousness so we can ignore them and push them aside?

Mark Steyn wrote a dynamite piece just after 9/11 on the mindless young lefty students who know nothing except vast sweeping truths like: "Oppression causes alienation, alienation causes marginalization, marginalization causes radicalization, yada, yada". He argued that the only good reply to this was: "What is the capital of Saudi Arabia?"

A little more open-eyed, open-eared research, maybe? If only to please the ladies?

September 16, 2006 5:15 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...


The American seductress can't help but upset the equilibrium of this cultural backwater.

I'll say. But who is going to warn these poor Muslim chaps that after a brief spell wallowing in desire and fantasy, they'll be condemned to a life listening to her complain that he isn't treating her mother well enough or paying for her to take extension courses in Spanish lit. at the local community college?

September 16, 2006 5:50 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

No, life for Muslim women isn't much like living in Southern California, but what is your point? Are you so obsessed with the terrible consequences of the 60's sexual revolution that you are willing to defend, on principle, any "traditional" social arrangement of the sexes. I put traditional in quotes because you seem to believe in a sort of universal equivalence of traditional mores, which if you just remove the statistical noise of sensational exceptions to the rule you will see that women in traditional Islamic cultures share the same enriching life rewards as grandma, surrounded by her loving and respectful progeny at Thanksgiving as they give her a hug and a warm thank you for the wonderful spread of good, wholesome home cooked food. All traditions are not created equal.

Your own vast, sweeping truths seem to include phrases like "religion makes people kind and respectful", "traditions enrich us", "traditional ways are good for women", "women need the structured social nourishment that only traditional forms of marriage and gender roles can provide". You might want to do a little research of your own, as in reading part two of Amis' article:

In The Unknown Known my diminutive terrorist, Ayed, is not a virgin (or a Joseph, as Christians say), unlike Sayyid, on whom he is tangentially based. He is, rather, a polygamist, confining himself to the sanctioned maximum of four. On top of this, he indulges himself, whenever he has enough spare cash, with a succession of 'temporary wives'. The practice is called mutah. In her justly celebrated book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi tells us that a temporary marriage can endure for 99 years; it can also be over in half an hour. The Islamic Republic is very attentive to what it calls 'men's needs'. Before the Revolution, a girl could get married at the age of 18. After 1979 the age requirement was halved..

In Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples, VS Naipaul looks at some of the social results of polygamy, in Pakistan, and notes that the marriages tend to be serial. The man moves on, 'religiously tomcatting away'; and the consequence is a society of 'half-orphans'. Divorce is in any case unarduous: 'a man who wanted to get rid of his wife could accuse her of adultery and have her imprisoned'. It is difficult to exaggerate the sexualisation of Islamist governance, even among the figures we think of as moderate. Type in 'sex' and 'al-Sistani', and prepare yourself for a cataract of pedantry and smut.

September 16, 2006 7:10 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Why not liberate the oppressed women of the world, and then let them choose for themselves whether or not they want to continue in their traditional ways ?

Evidence from the U.S. and Canada suggests that, in general, women aren't all that keen to stay second-class citizens, only one step up from chattel slavery.

I further find hilarious the assurance, from men who live in liberal democracies, that women really like being politically and legally powerless.
If that's such a great deal, why aren't women world-wide clamoring to be allowed to live in the Arab world ?

It's exactly the same as those deluded ignoramouses in America who argue that Cuba is the epitome of an advanced civilization, completely ignoring the fact that the flow of death-defying immigrants is entirely one-way.

September 16, 2006 7:51 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Per Peter's challenge, I did a google search on happy muslim women and found this article:
The international network Assembly for the Protection of Hijab, or Pro-Hijab, was formed in response to headscarf bans in France and parts of Germany.

Ramaana Habeeb and Rajnaara Akhtar
Muslim women are keen to dispel myths about the hijab
Pro-Hijab aims to reverse bans already brought in and prevent more "abuses of democracy" being imposed.

"As Muslims we are proud of the hijab, we are not oppressed," said co-ordinator Abeer Pharaon.

OK, so they like the hijab.

And this from the Islam for Today website, on polygamy. It is noteworthy that the articles promoting polygamy from a woman's standpoint seem to be mostly from western, non Muslim women. Like this article:

Polygamy - The Ultimate Feminist Lifestyle
By Elizabeth Joseph

I've often said that if polygamy didn't exist, the modern American career woman would have invented it. Because, despite its reputation, polygamy is the one lifestyle that offers an independent woman a real chance to "have it all".

Who would have thought that Islam and feminism had so much in common? I've certainly learned so much! I intend to build a bonfire out of my old, worn out prejudices, strawmen and shibboleths in celebration of my awakening. Anyone care to join me?

September 16, 2006 8:53 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...


Perhaps you can explain the story of the ERA.


Hey cool, you have the same research techniques on Muslim women that Harry has on the Middle Ages.

September 16, 2006 9:54 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...


Quite simple.

Women, having a free choice between supporting the ERA or not, chose not to support it.

We need not like the outcome of free choices; we need only support the right of people to make choices freely.

Having said that, the ERA was quite flawed in conception, and as events have proved, entirely unnecessary, since American women as a whole are no longer at any intrinsic disadvantage when it comes to employment, with all discrepancy between the earnings of men and women in America now due to individual career choices.

Therefore, American women did themselves no net harm by rejecting the ERA, although of course there were specific losers.

September 16, 2006 10:38 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...


Full marks to you for at least talking about choice rather than just probing warped psyches. But is there not still a puzzle here? We know all blacks supported civil rights. How many said when they got them: "Now that I have the choice, I'll stick with the crappy little segregated schools"?

Let me suggest that Western women are almost unanimous in supporting and demanding full legal equality in all aspects of public life except a few things on the edge like military combat. That even includes conservative and most religious women. That vision drove the ERA to what looked like certain success until Ms. Schafly forced second thoughts on them by getting them to think as wives and especially mothers. Suddenly how it was all going to work in private life looked a lot more ambiguous.

I'm guessing (the research is still a work in progress)something the same thing is going on over there. Women want civilized rape and assault laws, access to educations and jobs, the right to drive and travel, etc. and a fair deal in family courts. But they are probably far more ambiguous about dress, childcare, domestic traditions, extended families, chaperones and the general relations between the sexes because they can't see where the payoff for them is in Western ways and because they believe in their faith.

Contrary to Duck's splenetic rant about what I stand for, I actually don't have too many answers here, but why should I? It's not my world. But I am anxious to see the results of the liberation mission manned by you Duckians (with Oro preaching about how much they crave sex and Harry passing out the rape fantasies) escorted by a bevy of sultry American seductress'. Should be interesting.

September 16, 2006 11:36 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

How many [blacks] said, when they got [civil rights]: "Now that I have the choice, I'll stick with [lousy] schools"?

Nearly half.

If almost all blacks wanted quality schools above all else, then the Democratic Party would be foursquare for school vouchers and achievement testing.

But they don't and they're not.

Similarly, anything that all women wanted, they'd get.
But there are very few things that all members of any given group can agree on.

Giving people the freedom to do as they please doesn't guarantee that they'll do what's best for them, their children, or for society.

I'm guessing [that] [w]omen want [civilized laws and a fair deal].

Not to be too pedantic, but doesn't that essentially contradict your previous thought that: "We hear of awful things like honour killings [and] boy-only education, [...] [b]ut we don't know whether they are widespread and endemic or more their version of Appalachia."

In fact, as is implied by acknowledging that Muslim women in non-democratic societies are still waiting for "a fair deal", we do know how widespread misogyny is in the Arab world: Extremely widespread.

But they are probably far more ambiguous about dress, childcare, domestic traditions, extended families, chaperones and the general relations between the sexes...

Or in other words, they don't know how their society would change if they had freedom and power, since they have little now.

Feeling anxiety over potential changes arising from increased privilege and personal responsibility is normal, but isn't an indication that no changes are needed or desirable.

...because they can't see where the payoff for them is in Western ways...

Well, they'll avoid starvation if they can shed their ineffective and dysfunctional "traditional ways" of living. That seems like a pretty large payoff.

I am anxious to see the results of the liberation mission manned by you Duckians, [...] escorted by a bevy of sultry American seductresses.

That's actually not rhetorical, since that's essentially what's going on now in the Middle East, and I agree, it is interesting.

I expect that a few societies will change to be more like us, as they did in Bahrain, but that most will fail to change and will die, unlamented by those who rule the Earth. (That's us).

So I suppose that one might say that I am predicting that the libertarian mission will be largely a failure, since most will not be receptive to its message, and will, in the largest sense, choose death over change.

The trendy thing for celebrities to do in the mid-21st century will be to participate in fund drives to provide food aid to the starving masses of the Middle East.

Note very well that Middle Eastern populations, now and in the future, are totally dependent on free and liberal societies for their very lives.

I find their inability to be self-sufficient to be a HUGE black mark against their "traditional ways".
Who respects an adult who cannot care for themselves ?

September 16, 2006 2:01 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Speaking of Muslim women and Western values, this post (via Instapundit)regarding a bill before the Pakistan parliament (really, its just before Pervez Musharraf) to protect women would indicate that everything is not copacetic in Muslimland.

Elaborating the PML proposals, Shujaat said these included legislation against domestic violence, particularly violence against women by their fathers, brothers or husbands; justice to the victim within 90 days; legislation to protect women’s right to inheritance; laws to stop forced marriages and their inclusion in Tazir; laws banning marriages with the Quran; declaration of watta-satta a crime; and stopping the sale and purchase of women. He said these proposals would also be incorporated in the amended draft of the Protection of Women Bill.

Now I don't know if Pakistan qualifies as the Muslim "Appalachia", but as the nation with the 3rd largest Muslim population it is hard to dismiss it as unrepresentative of Muslim culture.

September 16, 2006 6:40 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Now I don't know if Pakistan qualifies as the Muslim "Appalachia", but as the nation with the 3rd largest Muslim population it is hard to dismiss it as unrepresentative of Muslim culture.

My analogy to Appalachia was not about numbers, but about poverty, illiteracy and islolation. Have you looked into the plight of women in sub-Sahara Africa recently or in aboriginal anywhere? No doubt you will find they are just doing so well freed from those misogynist Muslim and Christian influences.

But that's it, isn't it? You are hellbent on defining anything that offends you as "representative" of Muslim culture so you can dismiss it all in one fell swoop, just as you delight in pronouncing what a "true Christian" must believe, and the whackier the better.

September 17, 2006 4:24 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Now I don't know if Pakistan qualifies as the Muslim "Appalachia", but as the nation with the 3rd largest Muslim population it is hard to dismiss it as unrepresentative of Muslim culture.

My analogy to Appalachia was not about numbers, but about poverty, illiteracy and islolation. Have you looked into the plight of women in sub-Sahara Africa recently or in aboriginal anywhere? No doubt you will find they are just doing so well freed from those misogynist Muslim and Christian influences.

But that's it, isn't it? You are hellbent on defining anything that offends you as "representative" of Muslim culture so you can dismiss it all in one fell swoop, just as you delight in pronouncing what a "true Christian" must believe, and the whackier the better.

September 17, 2006 4:24 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Uh oh. It looks like Mr. Google is having some more fun with us.

September 17, 2006 9:27 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Had a long flight today and my brain is not very sharp, and I'll try to read Amis carefully later. But I was brought up short by his claims that Islam has brought us many felicities.

Cannot think of a one.

Or his other claim that Islamism has won over Islam.

I still, after spending quite a bit of effort trying, cannot detect any difference between the two.

A very short piece in the Daily News by Ralph Peters contends that Islam's problem is that it inherited a mysoginistic, absolutist, obscurantist culture that had already been firmly entrenched in southwestern Asia for 4 millenia, and that Christianity and Judaisnm, by being expelled by the Muslims to compete in a different arena, were able to break away from this imprisoning mindset.

There are so many historical fallacies in Peters's reasoning that I cannot list them, but he has gotten hold of a cept (a cept is half a concept) about continuance.

'Moderate' Muslims themselves often throw off some of the more unlovely aspects of their behavior (eg, clitoridectomy) as 'unIslamic' but holdovers from pagan practice.

True enough, but once something has held over for a millenium or two (eg, witchcraft in Catholicism) it may be considered naturalized.

Except that, for a Muslim, any practice that to an archaeologist from Mars would appear to be an engrained part of the belief system can be persuasively alienized by the simple expedient of not finding it in the Koran.

They really do not think the way we think, and I believe Amis goes seriously wrong here by treating them as if they do.

Except, of course, on the level of daily life, they do act as if they think the way we think.

I remember from boyhood an anecdote in National Geographic about polygamy in Kenya (or some place in east Africa). The NG correspondent queried his Muslim dragoman about wives and was told that he had only one.

True, said the Muslim, he was allowed four, but it would be expensive to have four. He could afford two or three, but he had learned that if you have two, they bicker; and if you have three, two gang up on one. So he preferred to have one.

Just as, despite Peter's rather breathless evocation of the '60s as a Roman orgy for the millions (which the original never was), most people are just too tired to make hedonism a full-time career.

And one last point, the interest of the West in 'rescuing' Muslim women did not begin when the bombs started to fly. This has a respectable, almost entirely Christian missionary history that goes way back.

It was not especially effective, since the resources were raised by private generosity and were (still are) vastly overmatched by Muslim intransigence. But the instinct was genuine enough.

An interesting short summary is available from an Italian woman long resident in east Africa, Leda Farrant, in her biography of Tippu Tip, the Muslim slaver.

September 18, 2006 12:01 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

most people are just too tired to make hedonism a full-time career.

Not with a bang, but a whimper, eh?

Not to worry, Harry, your Church understands. For you old guys just too tired for the swingers' club, they invented Vespers.

September 18, 2006 3:36 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I thought it was an insomnia cure.

September 18, 2006 2:49 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

OK, I've read it now, and I am appalled.

Not at Amis's knowledge, which, though spotty, seems vastly greater than mine; but at his historical illiteracy.

Islamism did not begin in 1949 or 1928. The assault on the infidel has been continuous, in concept anyway.

Lord Kinross, in his history of the Ottomans, concluded that the expansion of the Turks into the Balkans ended not because the Germans and Hungarians finally won battles; and certainly not because the Turks were sated; but because they had reached the limit of their military technology.

Islam has always and everywhere expanded forcefully if it had force in hand.

Today, we judge Islam to be like Japan in the 1930s, provoking much stronger neighbors because of an insane self-confidence. Only with Islam it is allah-confidence, an infatuation with an imagined universal and guaranteed history that merely happens to not yet have come about.

I do, anyway.

To imagine, as Amis does, that liberating Muslim women will derail this conception seems vanishingly improbable. And besides, even if it would, how could you manage it?

I have been puzzled, these last two or three days, at the silence of the blogosphere on the inanities of the just concluded circle jerk of the Nobel Peace Prize winners.

One proposed that if instead of invading Afghanistan, America had taken its revenge by building one school there for each of our 3,000 dead, how wonderful that would be.

Well, it would have given the Taliban an endless WPA project in tearing them down.

I was recently dragged into the 9/11 conspiracy theory through the agency of one Carroll Sanders, who can carve initials in his toenails with a chainsaw. The phrase that repeats in the ravings of the 'America did it to itself' crowd is, 'how could a bearded prophet in a cave' have masterminded it?'

That he was not then living in a cave does not penetrate.

After a great deal of clever diagnosis, Amis recommends cupping.

M. Ali said today that Muslims need to grow up. Not only Muslims.

September 18, 2006 10:38 PM  

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