Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Spiritual Fathers of the Taliban and the Hamas


by Prof. Raphael Israeli


The celebrated Muslim Sociologist and historian, Ibn Khaldun, who lived a short span of time after the fundamentalist Muslim Berber dynasties of North Africa, the Almoravids and the Almohads (11-13 Centuries), characterized their short-lived revolutionary, xenophobic, intolerant  and cruel rule  as if he were describing  some of today’s  Muslim radical groups which torment our planet. Their systems began with mass movements, led by charismatic leaders who were also religious preachers (da’i), moved by an esprit de corps (‘asabiya), which took three generations to taper off. After that  period of erosion, the movement grew clumsy and fat, more urban than rural,  more lax than  ascetic, and a new challenger emerged which  triggered the cycle again from scratch.


In the Muslim world of our time we have been witnessing Muslim radical regimes (like Iran and Taliban Afghanistan), and Muslim fundamentalist movements such as the Taliban, al-Qa’ida, Hamas, HIzbullah and others, all aspiring to apply strictly  shari’a law, all embracing an anti-Western and anti-Semitic ideology, all led by charismatic leaders, all combining military training  and usage of weapons with religious  indoctrination, all lending primacy to the hereafter over life of corruption and debauchery in the present world. Now, as during their medieval  antecedents, they used students (under the Almohads they were called tolba,  now Taliban), and they educate an entire generation for Jihad and self-sacrifice.


This means that the turbulence that has been sweeping the contemporary Muslim world and threatening to push it  beyond the pale of civilization, is nothing new. This cyclical appearance on the world stage of movements of “purification”, which in the process evince extreme outbursts of violence, hatred, anti-Semitism, aggression and radicalism, sometimes coerce states into an untenable  system of horrors (like Iran  or Taliban Afghanistan), most of the times challenging the non-Islamic regimes in place (Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen) and waiting in the aisles for their demise. Even Turkey, which had been subtracted from this cycle by forced secularization by Attaturk, took 80 years to revert to the old  Muslim pattern by the thuggish regime of Erdogan.


The West and Israel must, then, learn from history to resist and lay low until this muddled wave of  ill-will and Satanic ideas recedes under the self-destructive  instinct underlying it. In the past,  medieval Islamic dynasties have  appeared culturally luminous against the dark skies of Europe and the obscure depth to which the expelled, persecuted, massacred and despised  and stateless Jewish diasporas had been  pushed. But now, new Israel has been solidly anchored in western civilization and proudly waving some of its pioneering banners, while the Muslim world as a whole is sunk in poverty, bigotry, ill-rule, hatred and consecration of death.






Prof. Raphael Israeli  teaches Islam at Hebrew University.



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