The Mystery of the Muslim Culture Code
The hard fiber of Islamic faith and proud Muslim identity has defied any disruption or erosion when in contact with other peoples or religions. And it is this formidable fact that will always be the springboard for challenging and threatening the Western world, and
A few examples can illustrate the dexterous political practice of Muslim stratagems.
Muhammad, the prophet of Islam himself, carried out a paradigmatic ruse by numbing his Quraysh opponents when agreeing to the Hudaybiyya Agreement in 628, only to nullify it when he felt powerful enough less than two years later and overwhelmed his adversaries.
The story is told of the Muslim Umayyad Caliph Mu’awiya in the latter part of the seventh-century who, with great patience and dexterity, trapped a Byzantine Christian and took revenge for an insult he had much earlier administered to a Muslim.9 Richard Burton, that insightful British traveler to the Muslim Orient in the mid-19th century, hid his travel itinerary from his friends, recalling the advice of an Arab proverb: “Conceal Thy Tenets, Thy Treasure, and thy Traveling.”10
In the contemporary political arena, the culture-code is no less relevantly subtle and effective. In 1990, Saddam Hussein told Husni Mubarak that
The Arab/Muslim art of rhetorical deceit remains incomprehensible to most Americans, even Israelis, and certainly collaborative Europeans. When Muslims offer peace to an adversary, explained Majid Khadduri, this is typically “a device to achieve certain objectives, since the state of permanent war was the normal relationship between Islam and other nations”.11 Indeed, when President Anwar Sadat of Egypt signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, the Al-Azhar Islamic University of Cairo penned - undoubtedly with Sadat’s approval if not command – a traditional religious judgment (fatwa) to justify this otherwise politically unthinkable act. The Islamic scholars merely listed the concrete benefits accruing to the Muslim and Arab peoples from this agreement, with no reference to the ideal of peace. No less a sophisticated ruse was the argument proposed by Egyptian thinker Muhammad Sid Ahmed who, in his book, When the Guns Fall Silent, in 1974, explained that peace with
Saudi Arabian kings and princes have cultivated
This religious expansionism constitutes in itself a certain defiance of the values and universality of Western civilization. But more “Wahhabist” yet is Saudi funding of Palestinian terrorism and Syrian arms purchases, though the oil-rich desert kingdom continues to feign friendship for the
September 11, moreover, was very much a Saudi production. Fifteen of the 19 active terrorist attackers were Saudi nationals while Al-Qa’ida, headed by Osama bin Laden, himself a Saudi citizen, was financed by the Saudis over many years. This is true also for the Afghani Taliban regime which provided sanctuary to bin Laden and his murderers.
A remarkable sense of superiority is at the root of Muslim self-confidence and mastery boldly displayed over history. The fantastic story of Wilfrid Thesiger, a mythic European who discovered
That is the religious heart of the entire matter.
War is War, and Peace Too
We now draw the logical conclusion that it is futile and demeaning to engage in any political dialogue or discussion, negotiations or agreements of any kind with the Arabs. It confuses, drains human energy, and is highly dishonorable. To take seriously Arab peace offers, when they are nothing but wile in action, is a self-inflicted humiliation.
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah floated his “peace initiative” in March 2002 as a call for normalization with
The Muslims’ assault world-wide cannot be expected to die a natural death. Believing their religion to be dictated from Allah on high is not as innocuous as it may sound to other monotheists and believers in revelation. For the Muslims, we are learning, really take their religion seriously. They cull their determination and fire from a source that is exempt from outside influence or interference. At home, in Arab countries, the Muslim fanatics confront repressive state regimes which block their advance to power. This is the case in
The vocabulary of our era resonates with Islam and its references. We speak of Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad;
Yet remember, that when confronted by a resolute foe, Muslims often withdraw and founder in fear. Their Bedouin heritage has trained them to exploit weakness, but to pull back from confrontation or any real trial of strength. A “hit-and-run” strategy is the perfect Bedouin mode of action; it is also at the core of Palestinian terrorism the last 50 years.
The daring Swiss explorer of
The Muslims are masters of bluff and bullying, no less of blackmail and threat, in overwhelming a bamboozled adversary. But when faced in battle, as we saw in
Classical, legal, and imperial Islam divides the world by a religious conception: between the Domain of Islam (Dar al-Islam), where the Muslims rule and Islam officiates, and the Domain of War (Dar al-Harb), where the Muslims are subject to foreign rule until effectively expediting the ultimate triumph of Islam. This mental construct is embedded in the minds of Muslims who pray in mosques in
It was King David who insightfully implied in Psalm 120 that when the Jews speak of peace with the Ishmaelites, the latter’s Arab/Muslim descendants will respond with a call for war. This realization can be a cause for despondency and trepidation. But that same Ishmael, born of Hagar, Abraham’s maid servant, while defined as a “wild man”, must be confronted by all his protagonists (yado bakol ve-yad kol bo, Genesis 16:12). Is not the Biblical narrative a real-life description of the civilizational clash and challenge in our times?
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1. M.M. Qureshi, Landmarks of Jihad,
2. Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, Vol. I, Ch. III, Section, 31,
4. Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book,
5. Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam,
6. See Hugh Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of The Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century,
7. Richard W. Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period,
8. In Raphael Patai, The Arab Mind,
9. Mas’udi, The Meadows of Gold: The Abbasids,
10. Sir Richard F. Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, Volume One,
11. Majid Khadduri, The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani’s Siyar, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1966, pp. 53-54.
12. Michael Asher, Thesiger: A Biography,
13. John Lewis Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabys, vol. 1,