Saturday, August 2, 2008

Islamic Fundamentalism and the Arab Political Culture Part I

By David Bukay

1st part of 3

The 20th century was one of the most turbulent in human history, marked by total wars and severe ideological struggles. Two ideologies competed against the Western liberal-democratic system and were defeated unconditionally. The first, Nazism, was vanquished in a total war that exacted one of the greatest human and economic costs in history. The second, Communism, was overcome after a political and ideological struggle that lasted three-quarters of a century. When it seemed that a “New World Order” had emerged and the period of total wars, and especially fanatic ideologies, had ended, the world became aware of the danger of fundamentalist Islam, whose borders, as Samuel Huntington has observed, are borders of blood.

Indeed, in several regards, this is a more extreme danger, certainly a graver and more massive threat. There are many Islamic states in the world, there is a total Islamic population of over a billion human beings, and the reality is one of an extroverted and aggressive, totalistic religion with an ideology of perpetual expansion. It should also be stated clearly, even in the age of the “politically correct”, that the problem is also one of Arabs, the “savage kinship” as scholars have called it, which is still immersed in many values of anarchic tribalism. We are not speaking of Islam as a religion, nor of the Arabs, per se. However, the combination of radical Arabs and fundamentalist Islam is deadly, and constitutes the greatest threat to the existence of modern society and culture. Their ideology is uncompromisingly murderous and nihilistic, and they are supported by millions of frustrated and destitute people who seek to convert the humiliating present back into the glorious past.

Islam constitutes a universal world-view, an all-inclusive civilization that lays down positive and negative commandments for the believer. It is a comprehensive system of religion (din) and state (dawlah) which does not distinguish between the kingdom of Allah and the kingdom of the ruler, and signifies total and exclusive submissiveness and devotion to the will of Allah. The Islamic ideal was the establishment of a political community (ummah), and the goal was defined as achieving an Islamic order and political stability while maintaining the unity of the community. Any rule is preferable to lack of rule, and any ruler can be accepted, because he is preferable to anarchy. Arab history, from the days of the prophet Muhammad to the present, is one of patrimonial leadership in military or monarchic authoritarian regimes. Yet, from the historical standpoint, political activity in the Arab world tended to encourage rebelliousness and political violence.1

How can we explain this paradoxical phenomenon? The answer is fascinating: there is no need for legitimacy stemming from the people and its sovereign political will, since sovereignty comes from Allah, and the moment one rule is replaced by another, it becomes accepted and consented to. Everything is done according to the will of Allah, and the test is always the result. Whether an act has succeeded or failed, that is the will of Allah. This is the ideological-religious basis for violence in Islam. Today, this model endures even in the secular conception of rule, with sovereignty consisting of the leader’s personality and the forcefulness of his rule. The Islamic state is theocratic: Allah is the only source of faith, and the religious cult is the symbol of collective identity. Any criticism, any opposition, constitutes heresy. This orientation is linked to the legitimacy of the government. Islam completely rejects the Western view that the state is the product of a “social contract”. The state reflects and embodies the will of Allah. Sovereignty (hakmi-yah) stems from Allah alone and does not pertain to the will of the ruled. The Western doctrine of a right to oppose a bad government, and a duty to replace it, does not exist in Islam. (Saddam Hussein’s maintenance of power in Iraq, and Arafat’s continuing to lead the Palestinians, are real-life examples.) The question of the citizenship and of civil sovereignty is irrelevant. In this regard, it is clear what the army’s role will be, and that the leadership will remain in power. From the standpoint of Islam, any attempt to alter the structure of legitimacy and sovereignty constitutes heresy and rebellion. The Arabic word for “state” is dawlah, which means dynasty, but connotes becoming or replacing (Sura 3, 134-140). Most of the population is estranged from the government, and is not regarded as a factor to consider in conducting politics. The political culture is native (submissive) in the center and parochial in the periphery. There is no tradition of a civil society that constitutes the sovereign, and citizenship, as a critical phenomenon, is practically nonexistent. Political participation is on the level of supportiveness only, and mobility is low. Intellectual thought in Islam, like legitimacy and sovereignty, is also different from the Western concept, and this has important implications for basic principles and political behavior. The concept is atomistic rather than integrative, meaning that the principle of causality does not exist, since everything stems from the will of Allah. The result is the crystallization of a synthetic culture that manifests mental collectivism, with an overarching goal of preserving stability, and a fear of questioning the political order lest disintegration, anarchy, and disorientation result. The values of Islam were profoundly influenced by the basic values of the Arabs in the jahali era. Allah is from the jahali period. He was regarded as a supreme god, and he had three daughter-gods: al-Lat, al-Manat, and al-`uzza. The cult of the stones was central in jahali Arab society, particularly the “black stone” in Ka`bah in Mecca. Another key example is the custom of the hajj, which was entirely incorporated into Islam. Apart from the customs that were replicated from the jahali era, it seems that only two of the five pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam) – prayer (salat) and testimony (shahadah) – are originally Muslim.

The determinative affiliation is inward, involving the blood relations within the family or clan. This is manifested in the proverb, “I and my brothers against my cousin. I and my cousin against the neighbor, I and the neighbor against the foreigner.” The duty to uphold the affiliative and clan-family framework against others exists without any connection to the question of right or wrong.

The hostility and suspicion toward other tribes is deep and intense, and is well reflected in the relations between Arab states. There have never been relations of peace and fraternity between these countries, but rather a cold and alien d├ętente. The summit conferences are a powerful filter for synchronizing the severe disagreements that exist. These summits are held when sharp disputes arise on the political agenda. To avert conflicts as well as the shame of failing to arrive at agreement, the Arab leaders decide to formulate a joint document in a festive conference that aims at covering up the shame and creating an atmosphere of solidarity. Even this goal is achieved only with great difficulty. To prevent failure, and the intensification of the collective Arab shame, the Arab foreign ministers meet before holding the summit to formulate a summary document. That document is then transmitted to the heads of state for approval. The leaders’ level of participation manifests their agreement or opposition to the positions that have been reached. No less important, the defense and security agreements that are signed between Arab states are not worth the paper they are written on, and they are not regarded as applicable even by the signatories themselves.

From the state of affairs just presented, we may draw conclusions about the likelihood of reaching political arrangements with Arab states, let alone in the case of Arab land considered to be inhabited by infidels, such as the Crusaders and Israel. The attitude toward the foreigner shows fascinating paradoxes: on the one hand, courtesy, sympathy, and hospitality, yet on the other, an aloof suspicion. This indicates the social basis of the Arab-Islamic hatred, which is mingled both with fanaticism and feelings of inferiority toward the West. Peace is hardly a familiar phenomenon between the Arabs, and it is illusory to think they can reach peace with foreigners.

Muhammad succeeded in laying the political and intellectual foundation for the Islamic social system, but he failed to eradicate the tribal-clan structure. The tribes became part of Islam on the basis of the existing commonality of customs, and swore personal loyalty (mubaya`ah) to it because it was perceived as triumphant. This is a salient phenomenon among the Arabs, rooted in the spread of Islam, and it has major implications for the issue of Islamic fundamentalism: the victor is righteous, and the righteous always triumphs.

The test for righteousness is the same as the test for success. These are facts dispensed by Allah; hence, Islam triumphs and succeeds because it is righteous. In the tribal society, secular ideas held a central place and were expressed in the concept of “manhood” (muruwwah). This refers to the traits of the perfect Bedouin man. The most important framework was that of maintaining the rules of tribal solidarity (`asabiyah).

The tribe was the primary social unit, the basis of personal and collective existence; hence the centrality of the collectivist rather than individualist approach. The crucial phenomenon in the society is that of honor. This is the supreme value, more important than life itself. Sharaf is a man’s honor of the man. It is dynamic and can rise or fall in line with the man’s activity and how he is perceived. `ird is the honor of the woman (and also refers to her pelvis, which is related to her modesty). `ird, unlike sharaf, is permanent and static. The woman was born and grew up with her honor, and her duty is to guard it closely. The moment `ird is lost, it cannot be restored, and the honor of the man is severely compromised.2 Muslim tradition ascribes supreme importance to the man’s honor and the woman’s modesty. This is the basis for the status of woman in Islamic society, and one of the primary concepts in Islam that fosters male-female inequality.3

David Bukay


Islamic Fundamentalism and the Arab Political Culture Part II

By David Bukay

2nd part of 3

The opposite pole of honor is shame. Researchers are not certain what is more important, the notion of honor or the fear of the shame that will be caused if honor is compromised. It is not honor, but shame that is the key issue. Public exposure is what harms a man's honor and humiliates him. The Arab is constantly engaged in avoiding whatever causes shame, in word and deed, while striving vigorously to promote his honor. Beyond shame and preventing its occurrence, there is vengeance, which is also to be displayed to all.4 Arab culture reflects a collective ethos, and esteems tradition and honor. It is circumspect in regard to avoiding insult or causing shame; hence, it is better to lie so as to prevent conflict and not offend someone. Whereas the Jewish approach turns one cheek, on the basis of "We have sinned, we have transgressed, we have done wickedly," and the Christian approach turns the other cheek and discards responsibility, the Arab-Islamic approach is essentially aggressive: "I have a problem? Then you are to blame." This constitutes open and emphatic defiance of everything that is perceived as wrong, unjust, and an inability to accomplish one's goals. There is no effort at compromise, certainly no tolerance and consent to the rights and rightness of the other. Nor is there any comprehension that relative concepts are involved. The phenomenon has been starkly evident in the Arab approach to the issue of Palestine. The concept is absolutely total. Justice and truth belong only to the Palestinians, in a manner absolute and without appeal, and the political discourse manifests this clearly. Language is a cultural phenomenon of supreme importance. Prominent among the Arabs is the use of expressions, proverbs, metaphors, linguistic allegories, as well as exaggeration (mubalaghah) and glorification (mufakharah). As a result, spoken Arabic is replete with exaggeration, verbal pathos, and the frequent use of high-flown phrases. This approach contrasts completely with the language of understatement in Western culture. This linguistic contrast contributes to a major problem of communication between members of the two different cultural spheres. What happens in an encounter between Arab culture's language of overstatement and Western culture's language of understatement? This is one of the major causes of Israel's difficult position in world public opinion which believes the Arab culture of exaggeration reflects an actual reality. The impact of the rich and beautiful Arabic language on Arab conduct is remarkable. There would not be such ardent feelings of veneration, such conscious and intensive use of the language, if these were not so powerfully propelled by the written or spoken word. The Arabic language is a mirror through which the Arabs examine the world. Even the language of the uneducated is very rich, and fosters exaggerations and excessive emphases. The Arabs are proud of their language and convinced that it is the greatest and most beautiful of the world's tongues. The Arab personality abounds in contradictions. This is a deeply rooted duality: only a small part of the people is happy and content, yet they give strangers a warm and enthusiastic welcome. They are also intensely emotional, and easily prompted to extremes of hostility and resentment with no self-control. Under the influence of distress and fanaticism, they are capable of any act of cruel violence in an appalling magnitude. The shift can be dramatic and extreme. This is characteristic of tribalism: an admirable fatalism and passivity of self-control along with an astonishing impulsivity and capacity for draconian, uncontrolled violence. All the mechanisms of hospitality, blessings, and affability are aimed at creating a defensive buffer, at mitigating the threatening interpersonal encounter. Life in a hostile environment in the desert, with scarce resources, in social and political alienation, forged a society that acquiesces to the harsh reality out of political conformism, and accepts the rules of behavior that defined society's objectives in religious terms. These are ingrained symptoms of behavioral polarity between: a) unity and separateness, b) honor and shame, c) violent aggression and passive submission to rule, d) fantasy that ascends to the heavens and the earthliness of the burning desert, e) hatred of the imperialist West and admiration for its attributes, f ) the desire for anarchic desert freedom that reflects the turbulent and emotional personality, and g) patience and endurance in the face of the harsh reality. The tribal origins of the Arab Middle East were assimilated into a rural society. The urban society developed only in the 20th century, but retained the patterns of thought and activity of the rural-tribal frameworks. Indeed, in many respects, Arab society manifests the desert anarchy, whether they wear fine tailored suits or gold jalabas. All this is reflected as well in the polar duality of Islam. The phenomenon of the "return of Islam" has many names, according to the eye of the beholder: awakening, rebirth, return, reassertion, resurgence, resurrection, fundamentalism, messianism, political Islam, Islamism, radical Islam, Islamic extremism, Islamic movement, Islamic fanatics. The Muslims refer to the phenomenon in positive terms: rootedness (usuliyah), origins (asliyun), Islamists (Islamiyun), believers (mu`minun), and God-fearers (mutadayinun). However, the notion of fundamentalism, which initially referred to the late 19th century Protestant movement in the United States, is the most useful, both because it is related to "rootedness" in Arabic (usuliyah) and because it is more understood and meaningful in the Western political discourse. Only on September 11, 2001, after the terrorist strikes on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, was the Islamic threat internalized in the West. It then began to penetrate the Western political consciousness that the Arab-Islamic political culture is aggressive and violent, can arouse popular forces that are enormous in scope, and embraces worldwide aspirations. The Muslim weakness, compared to Western supremacy, left profound feelings of frustration and inferiority among the Muslims, a sense that their just, victorious religion had been humiliated by the infidel West. This reality is not only unfamiliar, but unacceptable, since it contradicts all the laws of Muslim logic. The reactions to the weaknesses of Islam were perceived and defined as religious. The problems were formulated in religious terms, and so were the solutions that were proposed for them: a return to the original Islamic tenets, with the goal of restoring in the present the achievements of the past, and applying the principles of the past to successful activity in the present. The violent Islamic aggression does not stem only from frustration, the most prominent factor in social science theories of aggression. Islam is characterized by violent and aggressive principles and a radical ideology, whose source is in the Arab political culture. The combination between sweetness and amiability as preached by the Qur`an on the one hand, and the fanaticism of wild, destructive violence on the other, is amazing. The phenomenon of the suicide bombers, for example, is Islamic in nature: from Chechnya to Iran, Hizbullah, and the Palestinians. The society sanctifies the phenomenon of turning abject cowards who attack innocent, defenseless civilians, into heroes whose murderous deeds are approved by their families, not to mention the monetary rewards and adulation they receive. In the West, this phenomenon is neither perceived nor understood. It must be emphasized that it is not a matter of a few extremists. Yet the West has a hard time understanding why Islam does not work to eradicate the phenomenon. The first fundamentalist movements in Islam developed on the periphery of the Arab world, amid the waning of the Ottoman Empire. Its devotees had an internal orientation, focusing on reforms or a revolution in Islamic society. The Wahabiyah movement in the Arabian Peninsula founded by Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahab (1703-1792), was influenced by the radical, puritanical hanbali movement and the interpretations of Ibn-Taymiyah. The Sanusiyah movement founded by Muhammad bin `Ali al-Sanusi (1787-1859) in Cyrnaika (Libya) was a mystical and reformist movement, suited to the cultural values of North Africa. And the Madhiyah movement founded by Muhammad Ahmad bin `Abdallah al-Mahdi (1843-1885) flowered in Sudan as a puritanical movement similar to Wahabiyah. But the movement that led fundamentalist Islam into the 20th century was the reformist al-Salafiyah movement headed by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897), who preached pan-Islamic solidarity and resistance to Western penetration. The success of this movement was via its disciples, Muhammad `Abduh (1849-1905) and Rashid Muhammad Rida (1865-1935), who were active in Egypt. The triumphant stream was the radical activism of the Muslim Brotherhood lead by Hasan al-Bana (1906-1949). This movement gained enormous success, and established influential branches in almost all the Arab states. Geertz defines religion as a system of symbols that confers meaning on reality, formulates views and outlooks, supplies answers to all the issues, and creates an ethos for action.5

It is commonly claimed that Islam is the political movement of the popular strata, and provides a solution to the social-economic-cultural difficulties of the Muslims. By contrast, we maintain that the Islamic awakening (al-sahwah al-Islamiyah) does not involve the return of Islam as a religion, since in fact it was always there, and never underwent a secularization process. What has occurred is that Islamic religion has become a significant factor in political discourse. Furthermore, there are many different Islamic movements that employ a variety of modes of attaining political ends and of gaining power via political and social mobilization of the masses. These are aggressive and violent movements that use modern technological tools to subvert Arab and Islamic states that are defined as secular. The Islamic movements are not part of the regime, but their functional orientation is strongly political. Islam is, indeed, the most political of all the religions. In contrast to the Christian ideal of the kingdom of heaven, and the Jewish ideal of the messianic age, Islam sees the ideal as immediately applicable via the state as long as it functions according to the shari`a. In practice, this means that Muslims strive for a blend of Arab nationalism and Islam in its fundamentalist formulation. The mixture of the two is tantamount to embark upon a revolution whose ultimate objective is the reinstatement of the Islamic caliphate embodied in the Ottoman Empire until the beginning of the 20th century. The dominant notion in the West is that Muslims today are expressing disappointment and frustration over the failure of modernization. They are displaying a cultural rearguard battle against a modernity that dissolves their traditional value system. Our view differs. We contend that the current Muslim uprising is a political reaction that seeks to promote political objectives as an alternative to the existing regimes, and, no less significant, it seeks to counteract capitalist and communist ideology for which it regards itself as an alternative. The Islamic awakening is not a negation of modernity, but a reaction to its Western model. Western modernity is perceived as a direct threat to Islamic civilization, which is the most important collective framework of identity. Thus, the only possible resistance to the West's cultural onslaught is Islam in its fundamentalist form presented as a comprehensive system that provides all solutions (al-Islam huwa al-Hall) to the problems of society. The Islamic solution is authentic and its roots run deep in the existing culture. Western penetration induced a severe reaction precisely among those who came into direct contact with the West, those in the middle class who experienced modernity and higher education. Modernity is perceived as the source of all sin, and permissiveness and materialism as a catastrophe. But the greatest sin of the West is to place the individual and the rule of reason at the center, as opposed to total submission and devotion to Allah. The Islamic victory in Afghanistan and overthrow of the Communist regime there in 1988 raised the issue anew, and served as proof that Islam could vanquish the infidels through the power of enthusiasm and religious faith. Indeed, Allah is with Islam, and Islam triumphs because he is just.

Fundamentalist Islam has begun its march through Arab-Islamic society. Analysis of the causes of its rise focuses on a number of factors: a reaction to Western penetration, and a fierce animosity toward its presence and influence in the Arab political system. This mindset is prevalent among city dwellers, those who have had more direct contact with the West, and the educated middle class, who have experienced modernity and technology: first there was an economic conquest, then a military-territorial one. And when the Arab states succeeded in liberating themselves from Western colonialism, the Western cultural invasion began. The challenges of Western technology and the global village threatened the foundations of Islamic society. Second is the failure of the secular political alternative. The authoritarian regimes and patrimonial leadership repress and alienate the masses who experience no political participation and exert no influence over how the government functions. The third factor is the collapse of the secular Arab ideologies, not only socialism and communism but also nationalism, Nasserism, and Arab unity, together with the Arab inability to solve the "question of Palestine". As a result of these processes, a severe dissonance developed between the world-view of the Muslim Arab and the reality of his social-political environment. The cultural conflict of values acted as a strong catalyst for a return to the familiar world of Islamic values, which offered a lifeline in a stormy sea. Alongside the ideas developed thus far, it remains important to focus on still another dimension of the current Muslim predicament, namely the crises of identity and legitimacy,6 and personal and collective. In Arab-Islamic society, no practical ideology developed that could provide a platform for nation building, a basis for socio-economic development, enabling the formation of a civil society. The Islamic societies have mostly remained rural and traditional, hence suffused with a religious mentality. Most of the Arab states are in a pre-industrial stage, and some of them are in the feudal era, with religion exerting wide influence over the population.

The processes of vast and uncontrolled demographic growth had a destructive impact. The results are the subversion of the social and traditional frameworks, the widening of the socio-economic disparities, and the frustration and anomie of an alienated society, in states that comprise non-political and non-civil societies. The combination of a frustrated intellectual and religious minority, the force that exhorts and leads, and the indigent masses, the flock with its numerical magnitude, forms the basis for the rise and endurance of the Islamic movements, a raft in the storm that gave the population feelings of affiliation and self-worth.

In such circumstances, the conclusion of the Islamic movements was clear and unyielding: one must return to the sources, to a pure and just Islam that offers solutions for all distress and need, especially for the cultural contradictions and identity crises of Arab society. Arab unity cannot be achieved, and a solution to the Palestine problem requires the overthrow of the secular Arab regimes. In place of the secular Arab state, what is offered is the pan-Islamic framework under the laws of the shari`a. Secularism is regarded as the gravest threat to traditional society. That is why secularism and Islam cannot join forces, a fact that only a few authors about Islam still fail to comprehend. Islam is a permanent opponent of secularism, and the Islamic awakening contradicts modernity.7

In the view of Lewis and Pipes, Islamic anti-Westernism stems from deep feelings of humiliation among those viewing themselves as the inheritors of the dominant civilization of the past, which was subjugated by those regarded as inferior. The more appealing Western civilization became, the greater the fundamentalist hostility and will to struggle against it.8 It is worth, however, considering a different aspect of this attitude. The resentment and abhorrence are at Western culture, not necessarily at the West. It is not Western politics but rather the cultural ubiquity of the West, and the threat to Islamic society that shape the Islamic outlook and behavior. Under such circumstances, the Arabs put their ears to the ground to listen for ancient drumbeats calling them back to the Golden Age.

David Bukay


Islamic Fundamentalism and the Arab Political Culture Part III

By David Bukay

3rd part of 3

What are the Main Characteristics of Islamic Fundamentalism?

The Islamic movements represent different trends, varied plans of action, and different views of how to achieve objectives. They are complex, multi-dimensional movements that function mainly within national political systems, although they have links to regional (mutual influence and ties between movements and states) and international (sources of funding and activity) organizations.

These movements play a major role in shaping the system of relations and conflicts in Arab politics at the level of government and of groups that oppose the government. They include groups acting within a messianic revolutionary regime, as in Iran; in a conservative and closed regime, as in Saudi Arabia; and in the coalition of a military regime, as in Sudan. At the same time, some of them function in violent opposition to the regime, as in Egypt, Algeria, Syria, and Tunisia; or in agreed partnership with the regime, as in Jordan (where there are also radical movements of the bin Laden type, which the state harshly represses).

The Islamic movements are deeply entrenched in most social and economic strata of Moslem society. Their leadership comes from the professional organizations of the educated, urban middle class (engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers). The voice of the Islamic movements is the most clear-cut and assimilable. They are not only a political but a significant social force as well, arising from an educated and radical generation, with an academic background in the sciences, concentrated in the middle strata of the urban society. Moreover, they make intensive and sophisticated use of the media.

It is often claimed that the activism and militancy of the fundamentalist movements is essentially a defensive phenomenon, a way of fending off threatening Westernism, reflecting profound distress that issues in a blend of cultural and political protest, a perspective cultivated by a particular line of research in this field.9 We maintain, however, that this approach provides only one possible view.

A different perspective notes that the primary issue is not one of defensiveness and distress, but rather an attempt to cope with a hostile and dissonance-producing reality that involves relatively glaring contradictions to the notion of presumed Islamic superiority. Islamic fundamentalism does not exhibit passivity but rather an iron determination to disseminate the values of religion, and provide Islamic answers to the maladies of modern society. This is not at all a defensive struggle. The Islamic movements do not display or express a sense of failure and self-protection, but rather an offensive push toward victory. Despite their radical zealousness, the fundamentalist Islamic movements have displayed versatility and flexibility in their activity, and have undergone different stages that manifest an adaptive, pragmatic approach to changing circumstances. At first there emerged an all-embracing ideology, based on a just and righteous Islam rooted in the ancient teachings the Prophet Muhammad. Since the mid-1960s, the Islamic movements have shifted to the political sphere and made use of violence and terrorism, striving to overthrow secular Arab regimes. Since the mid-1980s, they have made attempts to integrate into parliamentary systems by participating in elections and to seize power from within. Finally, in light of the political repression and manipulations of the regimes during elections, as well as the movements’ gains through organized violence, two sub-groups have emerged within the fundamentalist movements: one decided to return to ancient Islamic origins and to social activity among the populace sanctioned by the regime; the other changed its strategy to join the training camps of Afghanistan, with the encouragement and aid of Saudi Arabia and the backing of the United States. Belatedly, some Western nations have come to realize that fundamentalist Islam threatens not only the Arab and Islamic regimes, but its menace embraces the whole world. By now it is well known that the menace takes the form of terrorism and violence. Less well known is the fact that the enormous immigration of Arabs and Muslims into Western countries has serious implications for their political stability. All the studies in this volume, with two exceptions, were written before bin Laden’s terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001. They include analyses of a wide variety of Islamic issues, and have critical implications for how this phenomenon is understood in the widest sense.

David Bukay

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.



1. For a fascinating analysis of these movements, in terms of the “significance of heresy”, the “revolutions in Islam”, and “Islamic concepts of revolutions”, see B. Lewis, Islam in History: Ideas, Men and Events in the Middle-East, London: Alcove Press, 1973.

2. R.T. Antoun, “On the Modesty of Women in Arab Muslim Villages: A Study in the Accommodation of Tradition”, American Anthropology, 70/4, August 1968, pp. 671-697.

3. F. Mernissi, Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Moslem Society, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1987; L. Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate, Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1993.

4. D.P. Ausubel, “Relationship Between Shame and Guilt in the Socializing Process”, Psychological Review, 62/5, September 1955.

5. C. Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Basic Books, 1973.

6. In other words, a crisis syndrome that is inherent to modernization processes, involving: identity, legitimacy, penetration, division, participation, and expectations. As we shall see, in Arab and Islamic politics the most important of these factors is identity. See L. Binder et al., Crises and Sequences in Political Development, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971.

7. H. Sharabi, “Modernity and Islamic Revival”, Contention, 2/1, 1992, pp. 127-138.

8. B. Lewis, “Roots of Muslim Rage,” Atlantic Monthly, September 1990, pp. 47-55; D. Pipes, “Fundamentalist Muslims between America and Russia”, Foreign Affairs, 64/5, Summer 1986.

9. E. Sivan, Radical Islam, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985; E. Sivan, Religious Radicalism and Politics in the Middle East, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1990.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Response to a recent article in the Israeli daily Haaretz by its reporter Gideon Levy.


Following is a letter by Col. (res.) Eliezer Cohen (Cheetah), in response to a recent article in the Israeli daily Haaretz by its reporter Gideon Levy. 


Mr Gideon Levy



Re: Your article, "Ahmad Arrived in the World" from Jan 25, 2008


Have you ever asked yourself why the Palestinians, who have lived next to us for 60 years, having nothing but terror organizations and murder weapons? Why is a Palestinian woman, who went into labor in Tel Rumeida, a Palestinian city the size of Netanya, unable to find a maternity ward in her own city. Not one single maternity ward in the big city of Hebron?


Tonight I could not sleep because of your emotional, considerate, humane, warm and intellectual words - so much like you, Mr Levy. It was so moving to read, "A woman in labor in Tel-Rumeida, Hebron...walking all the way to the barrier...for no Palestinian ambulance is allowed into Israel." May I ask you why the ambulance couldn't take her to a maternity ward named after the great Arafat, in her own city, or in another Palestinian city? What poetic talent you have, Lord Byron; my bed was almost drowned in tears on reading, "Kefah Sider did not arrive...lying on the road with her husband at her side...and the neighbors getting her a mattress." How kind of them - why didn't they bring her into their house?


'In biting cold was her son, Ahmad, born." When he grows up, will he ask why his mother had to suffer all that? Will his father and mother ask where the millions of dollars of aid had gone? Or perhaps they know that the colossal amounts of aid had been spent on weapons and explosives, not leaving enough for even one single maternity ward in the whole Palestinian city of Hebron.


We are not as intellectual and as sensitive as you are, Mr Levy. We simply care for our children and our families first, and only when we are attacked and killed to we arm ourselves against our murderers. To remind you: in this same city of Hebron, Palestinian rioters previously attacked and murdered yeshiva students, at almost the same location where "she lay down in the cold".


I am not amazed at you. When I read your articles, it is as if I am reading what our enemies think. You never write a word in favor of your own wonderful country, that country that 22 Arab states, with their oil resources and infinite manpower ave endeavored, but failed, to destroy. The country that in the face of incessant attacks and terror has developed and flourished, and today holds a place of pride in the world, in the fields of economy, technology, medicine and art.


In the daily paper that gives you a free stage, I never read a word about the policeman who was murdered by Palestinians this week, nor have you mentioned the farmer who was shot dead by a sniper, while working on his farm south of the Gaza Strip last week. Have you ever written a word on the suffering of the people of Sderot who for seven long years have been living in terror of the Palestinians' Kassam missiles?


I found it necessary to respond with a few words to your emotional, one-sided story and pathetic words, but as I said, I am not amazed at you, not at all, but I am indeed amazed at your respectable editor, Mr Schocken, who allows your rubbish to be published in his paper.


Many of the good citizens of this country gave everything they have in the defense of their homeland and people. My brother, a decorated solider, gave his live in the defense of this land, as many other good citizens like him have done. As for myself, I am just a decorated soldier who fought Israel's wars for 24 years in the ranks of the standing army and another 20 years in the reserves, in order to permit you to live and flourish in this country and above all, to have the full freedom to write.


Col. (res.) Eliezer Cohen (Cheetah) is a hero of the six day war with impressives accomplishments.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

This 'Letter of Apology' was written by Lieutenant General Chuck Pitman, US Marine Corps, Retired:


For good and ill, the Iraqi prisoner abuse mess will remain an issue. On the one hand, right thinking Americans will abhor the stupidity of the actions while on the other hand, political glee will take control and fashion this minor event into some modern day massacre.

 I humbly offer my opinion here:

 I am sorry that the last seven times we Americans took up arms and sacrificed the blood of our youth; it was in the defense of Muslims ( Bosnia , Kosovo, Gulf War 1, Kuwait , etc.)

 I am sorry that no such call for an apology upon the extremists came after 9/11.

 I am sorry that all of the murderers on 9/11 were Islamic Arabs.

 I am sorry that most Arabs and Muslims have to live in squalor under savage dictatorships.

 I am sorry that their leaders squander their wealth.

 I am sorry that their governments breed hate for the US in their religious schools, mosques, and government-controlled media.

 I am sorry that Yasser Arafat was kicked out of every Arab country and high-jacked the Palestinian 'cause.'

 I am sorry that no other Arab country will take in or offer more than a token amount of financial help to those same Palestinians.

 I am sorry that the U. S. A. has to step in and be the biggest financial supporter of poverty stricken Arabs while the insanely wealthy Arabs blame the USA for all their problems.

 I am sorry that our own left wing, our media, and our own brainwashed liberal masses do not understand any of this (from the misleading vocal elements of our society like radical liberal professors, CNN and the NY TIMES).

I am sorry the United Nations scammed the poor people of Iraq out of the 'food for oil' money so they could get rich while the common folk suffered.

 I am sorry that some Arab governments pay the families of homicide bombers upon their death.

I am sorry that those same bombers are brainwashed thinking they will receive 72 virgins in 'paradise.'

 I am sorry that the homicide bombers think pregnant women, babies, children, the elderly and other noncombatant civilians are legitimate targets.

I am sorry that our troops die to free more Arabs from the gang rape rooms and the filling of mass graves of dissidents of their own making.

 I am sorry that Muslim extremists have killed more Arabs than any other group.

 I am sorry that foreign trained terrorists are trying to seize control of Iraq and return it to a terrorist state.

 I am sorry we don't drop a few dozen Daisy cutters on Fallujah.

 I am sorry every time terrorists hide they find a convenient 'Holy Site.'

 I am sorry they didn't apologize for driving a jet into the World Trade Center that collapsed and severely damaged Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church - one of our Holy Sites.

 I am sorry they didn't apologize for flight 93 and 175, the USS Cole, the embassy bombings, the murders and beheadings of Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl, etc....etc!

 I am sorry Michael Moore is American; he could feed a medium sized village in Africa

 America will get past this latest absurdity! We will punish those responsible because that is what we do.

 I am sorry that Barack Hussein Obama may be elected president of the United States when he doesn't have a clue on how to be a strong Commander-in-chief in a world filled with Muslim extremists who will do whatever it needs to do to destroy the lives of civilized people while killing innocent men, women and children in order to bring a change that is beneficial to all Islamic terrorists worldwide.  

 I am sorry that voters on the liberal left don't understand the frightening changes that are taking place in the Muslim world and what these changes will do to this world in which we live.

 I am sorry that the Democratic Party has been highjacked by Socialists and Communists right under the very noses of those who take pride in calling themselves democrats.

We hang out our dirty laundry for the entire world to see. We move on. That's one of the reasons we are hated so much. We don't hide this stuff like all those Arab countries that are now demanding an apology.

Deep down inside, when most Americans saw this reported in the news, we were like - so what? We lost hundreds and made fun of a few prisoners. Sure, it was wrong, sure, it dramatically hurts our cause, but until captured we were trying to kill these same prisoners. Now we're supposed to wring our hands because a few were humiliated?

Our compassion is tempered with the vivid memories of our own people killed, mutilated and burnt amongst a joyous crowd of celebrating Fallujahans.

I am sorry if you want an apology from this American, you're going to have a long wait! You have a better chance of finding those seventy-two virgins.

 Chuck Pitman

Lieutenant General, USMC

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When a mean murderer is celebrated as a national hero.


A decent country would be under no moral or political obligation to celebrate a murderer as a heroic son returning from a long captivity.


Please open :

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Challenge of Islam Part I

By Mordechai Nisan

1st part of 2

Islam, as a later and last monotheistic faith appearing in Arabia in the seventh-century, never considered itself just another religion, but the last and final religion totally complete in doctrine and superior in rule.1 The Muslim believers sought power for Islam as the supra-successor faith to Judaism and Christianity, and the ultimately universal faith for all of mankind. The frenzy of religious struggles in history would, from that moment on, set Islam on an ineluctable course to conquer the world. The Qur`an elucidated the religion’s warring spirit by praising those Muslims “who fight for the cause of Allah” (4:95-96) rather than those who avoid the battle and prefer to stay at home. In distinction from Judaism and Christianity, the Muslim community considers that “the holy war is a religious duty because of the universalism of the mission and the  obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force”; and this, added the classical 14th century historian Ibn Khaldun, is because “Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.”2

Islam cannot be compared with any other religion or understood by analogy. It bears a unique militant ethic from its origins. This cannot be said of ascetic Buddhism or otherworldly Hinduism. Judaism, though equipped with “commandments for war”, did not promote conquest or experience power in any exceptional way. Christianity was born beset with sin, preaching poverty and practicing withdrawalism by fasting and virginity, pining for martyrdom through persecution.3

Islam evoked a far different collective sensibility. It brandished the sword, yelled Allah Akbar (God is Great) – as at Qadisiyya in southern Mesopotamia/Iraq in 637 – charged into battle, and plundering its spoils with delight.

We live at the beginning of the 21st century when the “return of Islam” has raised the challenge against the Jewish state of Israel, Christianity world-wide, Buddhism, and virtually all and any other belief systems and faith communities. Islam, far more than just a traditional faith, has resurfaced in Muslim and some non-Muslim lands as social energizer, political protest, and military catalyst.  Muslim bellicosity against Christians has been evident in Nigeria and Sudan in Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines in the Far East, Chechnya and Azerbaijan in the former Soviet Union, Pakistan in the Indian subcontinent, Lebanon  and Egypt in the Middle East, and Kosovo and Macedonia in the Balkans. In Afghanistan, the Taliban movement destroyed Buddhas.  In India, Muslims fight for Muslim rule in Kashmir. The tried and tested methods of Islamic struggle and victory from the past are evoked today: conquest, colonization, and conversion.

The legendary abuse of Jews in Muslim history was illustrative of the inferiority of dhimmis who were by law, however, to enjoy protection under Islamic domination. There were some bright moments in the Muslim Orient, two examples being: the role of a Jewish mercantile class in Abbasid times centered in Iraq beginning in the eighth-century,4 and the Ottoman Turk “open door” policy welcoming Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492. But the evidence of co-existence is mixed and the daily toll of humiliation should not be overlooked. Muslim soldiers housed their horses and donkeys in a Tiberias synagogue in 1852 and the enlargement of a synagogue in Jerusalem in 1855 was forbidden. When a Jew merely passed in front of the Great Zaytuna Mosque in Tunis in 1869, he was killed on false charges that he intended to enter it: a would-be “crime against Islam” [sic.] was preempted by an act of cold-blooded murder.5

The Strategy of  Muslim Victory

In its early emerging period for the first hundred years after the death of Muhammad in 632, Islam conquered the lands of the Middle East, like Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, while penetrating into Europe and Central Asia.6 The Arabs of Arabia, who founded the faith and initially manned the armies of Islam, then settled en masse in their conquered lands: mosques hovered high above older churches, Arabic replaced native languages, and Muslim states arose as representative of a new brand of religious imperialism in history. The local Berber peoples of North Africa and the Persians of Iran, among others, adopted Islam as their religion and thereby joined their masters.

For Jews and Christians, and especially for the premier monotheists stubbornly rejecting Muhammad’s prophetic claim and Qur`anic revelation, life was precarious and humiliating. A powerful Jew like Samuel the Nagid, secretary and counselor to the Muslim Sultan in Spain in the mid 11th century, was suddenly murdered in Granada in 1066.

Another Jew, Saad Al-Dawla, who headed the administrative bureaucracy in a late 13th-century Muslim regime stretching across Iran and Iraq, was also suddenly killed. These individual cases suggest that personal advance unleashed the wrath of the Muslim populace. In the 20th century, pogroms burst upon the Jews of Baghdad in 1941, and in Libya and Aden before the decade ended.

Paying the jizya poll-tax, as prescribed in the Qur`an (9:29), demonstrated that the hierarchy of power and social status depoliticized and impoverished the dhimmis. Undeterred and unintimidated, Maimonides nonetheless definitively rejected Muhammad in his Epistle to the Yemenite Jews, as did European Christian authors who considered him an imposter.

This did not, however, dissuade Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed from respectfully pondering Muslim philosophical and theological works that dominated the intellectual climate of the era.

The methods of conquest, colonization, and conversion are today the very same methods of Muslim struggle and victory in the world. In the earlier Islamic centuries, conversion struck down subjects shamed by the poll-tax, tempted by public opportunities, and attracted by the simplicity of the conversion process.7 In our days, conversion is influenced by the modern Western spiritual plight that has convinced many to find  meaning in an Islam radiating tranquility and unity, communal vitality and self-assertive power. In America, Black conversion to Islam is bound up with the identity of White Americans with Christianity: choosing Islam is a way to avenge the history of Negro slavery in the United States.

It was reported that the startling impact of September 11 attracted new Muslim converts in Europe. The sweep of Muslim power on the continent includes the independent Muslim state of Bosnia in Europe following the dissolution of Serbia-dominated Yugoslavia; Kosovo, NATO-protected, may follow suit as the next Muslim state in the Balkans.

Chechnya is fighting for its Muslim independence from Russia. Europe is home to over 15 million Muslims, of which at least six million reside in France. While initially seeking migrant job opportunities, the Muslim influx has acquired a broader significance as the vanguard of mass Muslim colonization in Europe. Low birth rates and a loss of integral Christian faith ill prepare the Europeans to withstand the long-term impact of a strident and enveloping Muslim presence across the continent. Yet, anti-immigrant sentiments are growing in Europe, as we witness the forces of reaction resonating in France, Denmark, Holland, Britain, and elsewhere. 

Unlike other minority immigrant communities that have made their way to America, the Muslims do not want to integrate and adopt America as their home in an emotional and political fashion. Basically, the Muslims want to reshape America in their image rather than themselves be shaped by the reality of America. Of growing importance is the institutionalization of Muslim influence in American public affairs, and this will become an increasing electoral factor in local and national politics. The so-called “Jewish vote” will be overtaken by the role of Muslim voters in Michigan, California, and other states.

The Muslim jihad in all its aspects is now mobilized to redress Islamic losses suffered at the hands of the West centuries ago. The Muslims had earlier impotently witnessed Europe’s arrogant entry into the lands of Islam. By the 19th century, France controlled North Africa while Britain conquered the Nile Valley countries and the Persian Gulf emirates. In the period of World War I and its aftermath, France expanded its Middle Eastern possessions into the Levant, Syria and Lebanon, and Britain captured Iraq and Palestine.

But perhaps the central lesson of Islamic history is that even when the Muslims lose, they are really not defeated. The Crusader interlude in the Holy Land, that began in 1099 and finally ended in 1291, left no impression on Muslim social, political, let alone religious or  cultural life. In the modern period, following the termination of European imperialism and colonialism in the Muslim Arab lands of the region, one could not identify any major foreign Western impact on the deeper recesses of Muslim thought and belief, or in the arenas of politics and ideology.  Turkey is a special exception whereby secularism is the bedrock constitutional principle since the Republic’s modern founding in 1923. Christianity made hardly a mental dent at all, and secularism was rebuffed by the spiritual sturdiness of Islam.

Virulent anti-Western Arab nationalism as a native ideological sentiment erupted on to the political stage. Under the charismatic leadership of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser (1953-70), Pan-Arab politics converged comfortably with socialist economies, political dictatorships, and pro-Soviet alliances as their national panoply. Islamic fundamentalism, as another nativist belief-system, proposed a radical program for a comprehensive and integral religious way of life. Iran’s revolution in 1979 illustrated that choosing Islam provided the symbol for opposing the United States. We recall the torturous tale of 50 US hostages held for 444 days in Tehran by revolutionary youth. Donning old “cultural costumes” constituted a way to counter the alien culture of Western civilization. 

Fundamentalism was, therefore, not just a return to God but a cultural statement        against the godless West.


Mordechai Nisan

 Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


The Challenge of Islam Part II

By Mordechai Nisan

2nd part of 2

          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 Israel. Forums in search of Arab/non-Arab cultural coexistence and Islamic/Christian/Jewish ecumenical religious dialogue confront the obdurate Muslims, proud and impenetrable. All cultures, but Islam emphatically, are incommunicable to the outsider. There is a certain concealed Muslim/Arab mental domain (batiniyya) that a stranger cannot enter. It is closed cultural territory, while housing a defiant and mendacious well of subtle seduction and deception. Carleton S. Coon, noteworthy anthropologist of the Middle East, had once remarked that among the Arabs “two kinds of personality are at play: that which your man presents to the outside world and that which is known to his kin.”8

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 Iraq’s contentions and claims against Kuwait would be resolved without resort to force. A few days after the conversation, Kuwait was conquered and occupied by Saddam’s army. In 1993, Yasser Arafat promised Yitzhak Rabin to amend the PLO covenant so that it would not contradict the peace process codified with the signing of the Oslo Accords. Despite Arafat’s political theatrics performed in front of President Clinton in Gaza in 1998, the covenant was never nullified as the Palestinians acquired territories and weaponry to enable them to engage in incessant terrorism against Israel. Approximately 850 Israelis had been murdered by Palestinian terrorism from the beginning of Intifada al-Aqsa in October 2000 and until three years later, by late September 2003.

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 Israel is acceptable because in the process, Zionism will dissolve.  

Saudi Arabian kings and princes have cultivated Washington political elites and administrations while pursuing their Wahhabi Islamic version of religious-cum-terrorist campaign in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Wahhabism, an 18th century doctrinaire and violent Arabian movement, provides the contemporary religious leitmotif for the Saudi regime and its global Islamic outreach. This includes extensive mosque construction and university endowment chairs in Islamic Studies in many Western countries. 

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 United States.  

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.

Yet Washington, naively or otherwise, historically accommodated Riyadh’s central role in the global spread of militant Islam.

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 Arabia with his Bedouin companions in the mid-20th century, offers a personal narrative to express the point. His Bedouin friends recognized that Thesiger, among his other positive qualities, was able to tirelessly withstand the desert challenge. But, in the end, they considered themselves better than him in just one way, saying: “in that we were Muslims”.12

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 Israel. But before the ink was dry on the paper, the word “normalization” was removed, and the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return” was validated by explicit reference to United Nations Resolution 194 from December 11, 1948. Thus, coopting international legitimacy and combining it with the rhetoric of peace-making becomes a lethal concoction in the armory of Arab diplomacy. To flood Israel with hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees is the Arab formula for peace with Israel. This is of course a peace without Israel. For others to politically shun the Arabs will convey that their masquerade of manipulation is exposed and finished.

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 Egypt, Algeria, and Syria. Foiled and frustrated from grabbing power in the Middle East, as scholar and commentator Fouad Ajami explained, the Muslim terrorists seek with evermore venom to vent their hated for the West on the turf of infidel Christianity itself.

The vocabulary of our era resonates with Islam and its references. We speak of Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad; Israel contends with the Intifada whose shahid martyrs glorify the Palestinian struggle; Ayatollah Khoumeini and Sheikh Nasrallah are on our lips; and even nominal terms like a fatwa (legal decision) and hijab (woman’s veil) fill the public atmosphere. Arafat’s Muqat’aa Ramallah headquarters assumed the glory of a Palestinian stalingrad in the face of Israel’s siege. The Islamic century has made non-Muslims anxious for the future.

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 Arabia, John Burckhardt, wrote in 1831 that Bedouin stealth is as real as is Bedouin hospitality: there is no contradiction in these traditional desert qualities.13 Much of Muslim-Arab success in the early history of Islam was facilitated  by the enemy surrendering rather than facing the Muslims in battle. The city of Mecca  succumbed to Muhammad in 630, Iran collapsed in the face of Arab armies in the early 640s, Spain was penetrated with ease in 711. Damascus, a Byzantine city, was an exception and resisted the Muslim assaults in 636-37 only to open its gates in the end. Much of Europe today has capitulated, while posing as the repository of democracy, tolerance, and human rights.

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 Iraq in 1991 and in some Palestinian towns in 2002, the Muslims virtually capitulate.  In the spring of 2003, US forces overran much of Iraq with relative military ease; but the typical culture-bound Arab response of terrorism was not long in coming.

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 Jersey City and Los Angeles, Jerusalem and Beirut,  London and Marseilles. Where Muslims reside, they must rule. If Islam will dominate the land of Israel and the lands of Christendom, then the world will more and more become Dar al-Islam. Peace will then be the result of conquest.

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?

Mordechai Nisan

 Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.




1. M.M. Qureshi, Landmarks of Jihad, Lahore: Kasmiri Bazar, 1971, points out in the Introduction that the goal of jihad is to break the enemy’s will and to get him to accept Muslim supremacy.


2. Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, Vol. I, Ch. III, Section, 31,  Princeton University Press, 1967, p. 473.


3. See Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, London: Penguin, 1988.


4. Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979, pp. 33-37.


5. Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam, London: Associated University Presses, 1985, p. 58.


6. See Hugh Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of The Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century, London: Longman, 1996.


7. Richard W. Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period, Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1979.


8. In Raphael Patai, The Arab Mind, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976, p. 105.


9. Mas’udi, The Meadows of Gold: The Abbasids, London and NY: Kegan Paul, pp. 320-324.


10. Sir Richard F. Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, Volume One, New York: Dover, 1964 (orig. 1855), p. 140.


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, London: Penguin, 1995, p. 261.


13. John Lewis Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabys, vol. 1, London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1967, p. 157.