Monday, October 31, 2011

Israel in an Increasingly Islamist Middle East

by Mordechai Kedar

Less than 1 year ago the Tunisian People succeeded to remove and humiliate president Zin el-Abadin Ben-Ali, his hedonistic wife and his corrupt associates, who lived for 3 decades off of the poor, neglected and unemployed people. Everybody, both inside and outside of Tunisia, spoke about true democracy, about real elections and fair governance.

No one feared the Islamic movement 'A-Nahada' since its leader, Rashed al-Anoshi was deported to Lebanon 20 years ago, and since the country had undergone a long process for years of secularization, dictated from above.

This week elections were held in Tunisia, and apparently the the number of seats won by the Islamist party is higher than the number of seats won by every other party. There was not a clear majority, so it was necessary to form a coalition, but there is no doubt that Islam will be the name of the political game in Tunisia in the near future.

If and when there will be elections in Egypt it will be clear to all that the country that forbade religious parties - both Islamic and Christian - for its whole history, has turned into a cauldron of political Islamism. The example for its conduct is taken from the days of the original caliphates, "Yishirei HaDerech" (Those who Walk the Straight Path) in Islamic jargon, who ruled the fresh Islamic Empire in the seventh century, and whose way was that of unblinking war against infidels, Jewish and Christian, especially against tribes that abandoned Islam after the death of Muhammad.

Turkey has been returning gradually to Islam for the past several decades, and the Parliament, the government, the presidency and the high court are all controlled by Islamist political bodies.

In the Turkish public sector, women's head coverings, beards on the faces of the men and newly built mosques are multiplying in great numbers.

In Libya the head of the Transitional Council, Mustafa Jelili, announced that post-Gadaffi Libya will be an Islamic country, that Sharia Law will be its legislative philosophy, that polygamy will be permitted after Gadaffi forbade it and that the banks in Libya will be run according to Islamic Law.

Iran has been controlled for 30 years by the Ayatollahs, and Saudia operates since its founding according to the radical Wahabi interpretation of Islamic Sharia.

After the infidel Allawi rule is removed in Syria, it may very well be that the Islamic Brotherhood will again attempt to control that country, and if Syria will be split up (a quite reasonable scenario), at least one of the sectors will be in the hands of the "Brotherhood".

In the elections of January 2006, the Palestinian Islamic movement, Hamas, won two thirds of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, took control of the Gaza Strip by blood and fire one and a half years afterwards, and today there exists an Islamist country in Gaza.

In Morocco there are a few Islamist parties, and even Al Qaeda has a branch in North Africa. Somalia is torn by unending war between the Islamist "Shabab" (Youth) movement and the forces of various tribes, and in Nigeria, Sharia has been applied as the law of the land in several of the regions of the North African country, where most of the population is Muslim.

And Islamism does not spare Israel: The two factions of the Islamist Party are the strongest political force among Israeli-Arab citizens, and a branch of Al Qaeda was even discovered in Nazareth, in the mosque of Shihab A-Din, under the charismatic leadership of Sheik Nazem Abu-Aslim.

Hijab and Jihad

The meaning of all these phenomena is that Islam continues to take a position of leadership, similar to that which it held in the distant past, after all the other imported methods from the West, principally nationalism, failed in their attempt to replace public loyalty to a tribe to an ethnic unit or to Islam.

These changes are not easy, for many among the population who don't identify with the Islamist entities despair when they see how their countries and societies are hijacked by radical Islam. One example of this is Amar El-Azzam, a Palestinian "card-carrying" antisemite. In the document which he circulated in recent days, he says without fear" "We must produce a new Arab man! After 1,400 years of Islamic history overflowing with blood and marginalization, we hoped for an improved Arab man in the 21st century; but there is nothing new under the sun: curses, degradation, profanity, favoritism, racism, tribalism, fanaticism, stupidity, senseless chatter, a mouth that's bigger than the whole head, that speaks more than it acts, self-hating, black-hearted, stingy, cowardly, weak, dependent, introverted, bewildered, neurotic, passive, jealous, covetous, corrupt, accursed, lying, hypocritical, suspicious, vindictive, an expert in kissing, who kisses everything! Is this you, Arab man after 14 hundred years of Islam?!" End of quote - the words of Amar Al-Azzam. We have not touched or changed them, we have only translated.

Modern democratic Israel, open and thriving, is a reverse image of this environment, which continues to sink to resemble the description of Amar Al-Azzam. What is apparent in our surroundings today is not democracy but anarchy in which one Muslim will fight with another Muslim about the size of the naughty curl that's allowed to peek from under the hijab, or about the question of how many blows a woman will get for daring to go out to the street without her husband or another male family member. Where one would call his adversary "infidel" just to allow his blood to be spilled and whoever will try to push a political or social agenda that is not consistent with the opinion of those who are more radical than he, might find himself a target of a jihad which will have a surprisingly short life expectancy.

The Islamic peoples have failed in the past and fail today in their attempt to turn their common religion into a common denominator, a unifying agent, an idea to which everyone can agree. On the contrary: Paradoxically, the stronger Islamism becomes, the worse the internal disagreements become, and the stronger the battles between parties and organizations, between sects and ethnic groups. It is enough to take as an example the battle between the Turks and the Kurds in Turkey, which has strengthened just in the last decade, during the years in which Islamism has strengthened in Turkey, or the worsening struggle in Iran between the Persian regime and the Kurdish and Baluchi minorities.

In this increasingly Islamist environment, in which the internal battles only worsen, Israel can appear as a blossoming haven in an arid desert, as a breath of fresh and calm air in an environment wrapped in the smoke of endless bloody battles between sects, religions, tribes and ethnic groups who have been battling each other for thousands of years, often for no reason.

Instead of vain attempts to endear ourselves to this problematic neighborhood, which will never accept Israel as part of it, Israel must represent the Western values of stability and tranquility, of fairness and openness, built on a more just division of resources, education and fair opportunities for the marginalized sectors of society: Arabs, Ethiopian immigrants, ultra-Orthodox, residents of development towns and the handicapped.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University. He served for twenty-five years in IDF Military Intelligence, where he specialized in Islamic groups, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic press and mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Source: Originally Published in "Makor Rishon", a Hebrew Language weekly newspaper. Translated from Hebrew to English by Sally.

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

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