The Internal Islamic Battle for Interpretive Primacy

The following article from Die Welt is an attempt by a major MSM outlet to grapple with the Arab world’s failure to confront the horror unleashed in its midst by the Islamic State. Unfortunately, like all other MSM outlets, it tackles the topic gingerly, without looking the core ideology of Islam straight in the eye.

However, the fact that it is willing to tiptoe up to the subject at all is significant in itself. Its treatment of the mess in Middle East includes a clear acknowledgement that the “Arab Spring” was an abject failure, when most journalists have consigned that topic to the oubliette of history. “Arab Spring, you say? Oh, that’s so 2011!”

A possibility that Die Welt is clearly unwilling to consider is that most Muslim leaders are silent in the face of the Islamic State because the slave-taking beheaders of ISIS have interpreted Islamic law exactly according to tradition, and are acting accordingly. All the despots and Muslim scholars from Rabat to Sana’a are fully aware of that fact.

Many thanks to JLH for the translation:

The Internal Islamic Battle for Interpretive Primacy

What remains of the Arab Spring in light of IS, al-Qaida and the other barbarians? Jordan’s Queen Rania has called for reform. But there is not much to indicate that it will happen.

by Dietrich Alexander

Why is the radical Islamic terrorist militia, Islamic State (IS) so successful in recruiting new fighters? How can this nihilistic and misanthropic brutality have any meaning? And above all, Why is the Arab world so tongue-tied, bereft of ideas and defenseless? The voice of Jordanian Queen Rania falls on deaf ears across the Arab-Islamic world. In an eloquent, emotional and courageous exhortation, she denounced the fanatics of the terrorist militia for stealing the identities of the Arab nations, perverting Islam and altering and damaging the Arab-Islamic narrative.

She also blasted Arab rulers, whose silence has left the field of publicity and ideology, and therefore the primacy in interpretation, in the hands of the murderous sacred warriors.

Such public comments are rare, and there are reasons for that. The IS is in a way a reservoir for the frustrated, those without prospects, the politically and economically disappointed, the losers. How can all the Arabic legal scholars, politicians and power elite be expected to suddenly have answers and strategies to counter such entities as IS, when they have never had them before?

The Coalition of the Obstinate

There are only egotistical and power-obsessed rulers, autocratic religious leaders and economic monopolists, for whom their own hold on power and influence is more important than the general welfare and something as demanding as democracy.

Arab intellectuals do not resist the kidnapping of their religion, because they are afraid. Legal scholars do not resist, because wide arch- conservative circles — above all on the Arabian Peninsula — would desert them. And the rulers do not resist, because they do not want the changes — do not want to arouse the Islamist clientele in their own countries against themselves; and they probably think that the IS is a temporary phenomenon that will take care of itself.

But they are all wrong. If and when IS is defeated by the military superiority of the anti-terror alliance, its spiritual heritage will live on and generate other Islamist terrorist organizations.

Where is the Islamic Reformation?

This will go on until the Arabic world undergoes a Reformation — an Enlightenment, at the end of which not a stone is left standing. But it does not have the courage for that. Like a rabbit facing a snake, it goggles in irresponsible apathy, watching the violent excesses of Islamist killers.

Many had hoped that the “Arab Spring” would bring a renewal, so that the Arab nations would not continue to be the losers in globalization and modernization, but would be able to offer their young people prospects and could become true and equal partners in the world. But the outcome of their courageous rebellions from Bahrain to Libya is sobering and depressing.

Today, Libya is a divided land where a destructive civil war is raging, just as in Syria. The Egyptian revolution is dead and former Field Marshal al-Sisi is the new Hosni Mubarak. Many children of the revolution on the Nile are sitting in prison, or have left the country, or have died for nothing.

Only Tunisia, where the uprisings began, has gained some wisdom and utility from its revolution. This small land is on a good democratic path. The process is painful and costly. But in the end, the small, brave land may well show them all. Its Arab neighbors will regard Tunisia’s success, free citizens and constitutional law enviously. But will there be a second “Arab Spring” because of that? Probably not.

Events in Syria, Libya and Egypt fill people with fear. They prefer to forgo freedom, as well as economic and professional prospects, in favor of relative security. Every revolutionary has a family.

The impulse of self-preservation in the Arabic peoples should dictate reforming themselves, carefully but logically, to present the butchers of the so-called Islamic State with a forward-looking concept which has a promise of success.

The Shi’ite monopolists in Baghdad and Tehran have delayed that as long as the rigid oil monarchies, to say nothing of the so-called republics of Syria, Egypt or Algeria. The kings of Jordan and Morocco, too, are not reforming their countries sufficiently, but they are holding their countries together and moving along socially/politically far enough that their power structure thus far has not imploded.

It is negligent of Arabic leaders to continue their silence about the religious madness of the radical Islamists, or to voice only muted criticism. And it is a fraud for the despots on the Gulf to be sending their fighter jets to join allied forces in fighting an enemy they have contributed much to creating with their policies of repression and denial.

The remaining impetus to the creation of the monster of the IS was contributed but the so-called West with its ruthless colonization of the region as well as an erratic post-colonial policy, which only valued allies if they measured up, and otherwise disenfranchised and humiliated people.

The Interests of the Non-Islamic World

The chronic inferiority complex of Arabic youth is also an explanation for the rise of IS, whose narcissistic style invokes and suggests long-ago greatness and power. Only in this milieu can a retrograde, 1400-year-old doctrine, unfit for the present time, be successful.

This internal Islamic battle is about the primacy of interpreting what Islam is, not what it pretends to be. It is about the Arabic-Islamic cultural legacy, about identity, about complicity through silence, and about the future of 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. But the non-Muslim world also has a stake in what this ideological competition decides. It will be directly affected by it.

21 thoughts on “The Internal Islamic Battle for Interpretive Primacy

  1. Islam has no mechanism for reform; it has only jihad. When a ruler does not enforce Sharia law, the mechanism to remove him is jihad…a coup d’état kind of jihad. Usually, the ruler will be savagely murdered by a mob as was Gaddafi. It is normative Islam going back 1400 years. Mohammed was murdered (poisoned) and buried beneath his bed. Abu Bakr (Mo’s successor and murderer) was also poisoned. The second successor Omar was stabbed to death. The third and fourth caliphs were also murdered. Anyone who tries to reform Islam will be murdered.

  2. Hello Baron,

    Great article, and does a great job illustrating the core issue of the IS phenomenon. I’m interested in an action plan for these rulers, despots etc., those interested in advancing civilization. It’s obvious our tax paid professionals should have this info at their fingertips, I’d just like to hear, if you were a paid advisor of sorts, your recommendation to one of these tinpot dictators.

  3. Those brave Arabs involved in gaining freedom in the Islamic world were not fighting for freedom as we know it. Egypt for example had members of the Muslim Brotherhood “fighting for Freedom”. This was freedom from a more secular society into one where there is freedom to comply with koranic instruction. Freedom muslim style.

  4. It is not “negligent”, but diligent of Arabic leaders to “continue their silence about the religious madness of the radical Islamists, or to voice only muted criticism”. Islamic State is “doing exactly what this book says”, as Lt.-Col. Allen West might put it. To criticise it is to deny the Koran, which brings the death penalty. Arabic leaders are trapped in this “retrograde, 1400-year-old doctrine, unfit for the present time”.

    Reformation is not available in Islam. As Ali Sina points out, it is an illusion. The Protestant Reformation was a reform of Church practices, not a reform of the Bible. Islam has had its equivalent, the back-to-the-original movement of Wahhabism, rejecting later accretions such as venerating shrines. “The true essence of Islam”, Sina says, “is anti freedom, anti democracy, pro slavery and pro subjugation. … While Christian reformation brought freedom, enlightenment and democracy, Islamic reformation resulted in ignorance, slavery of man and jihad”, exactly what we are seeing in Islamic State.

    Queen Rania and her fellow reform-sympathisers need to look squarely at Islam’s source texts. Here is a reliable guide to their interpretation: kill means kill, stone means stone, cut off means cut off, slave means slave. Yes, Die Welt, it is “unfit for the present time”.

  5. “The remaining impetus to the creation of the monster of the IS was contributed but the so-called West with its ruthless colonization of the region”

    This is Die Welt’s way of putting hands up and saying ‘look, I’m not a racist, really!’. Pathetic idiots. You might as well say that the sand and heat contributed to the creation of IS.

  6. “The remaining impetus to the creation of the monster of the IS was contributed but [sic] the so-called West with its ruthless colonization of the region…”

    Ruthless colonization? The author should learn some history. The French got involved in “The Lebanon” in the mid 19th century to protect the Christian Maronites from ongoing slaughter by the then dominant Druze. Lebanon, Syria and Iraq were “colonized” of a sorts from 1918 to 1946. There was no significant import of colonizers, as took place in Africa, the Americas and Australia. There was no colonization of Saudi Arabia. Nor of Iran.

    The West went in to Iraq to extract the oil resources; something the locals didn’t have the know-how to do. Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran should be deeply grateful that the West had the technological expertise (and the capital and entrepreneurial elan to risk prospecting) to extract the oil that almost totally sustains the economies of these nations. As with Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE.

    The world would be an infinitely better place if oil hadn’t been discovered in the Middle East and those desolate, backward nations had remained as they had been for centuries – going nowhere in cultural, scientific and economic terms.

    Libya’s principal export earner until oil was discovered there in the 60’s was the scrap metal obtained from scavenging WWII tanks, trucks and planes! What does that tell you about a country?

    • Julian-

      After spending most of the past two years living and working in North Africa I am convinced that the region was far better off under French rule.

      Yes, the French may have been harsh and exploitative at times, but at least they had a plan for the development of the region’s infrastructure and industry.

      The current native rulers of this region seem to have no plan beyond, 1) steal all oil wealth, 2) use said wealth to line offshore accounts, buy European real estate, and import crummy consumer products, 3) forget about everyone else, because they’ve got theirs.

  7. This is a big step, a German MSM publication just called Islam/ISIS “a retrograde, 1400-year-old doctrine, unfit for the present time.”
    They got that part right.

  8. If Tunisia or any Arab/Islamic state reaches any kind of genuine democracy and modernity expect ISIS or one of their affiliates to set up shop there to try and drag them back to the dark ages. An educated and enlightened populace is the worst enemy of the islamists as they can recognise islam for the deranged nonsense it is.

    • A couple of years ago, Pat Condell posted a photo on his Twitter feed, of a young woman in Tunis. She was in western dress, with hair down, standing on a car and facing down the Islamist men who were telling her to cover up. Her words were quoted, so far as I remember, as: “Tunisia is a country with a 3,000-year-old history. You are nothing but invaders from the deserts of Arabia, who will be forgotten by history.”

      This may explain why Tunisia seems to have the best chance of making something worthwhile of the “Arab Spring” which originated there.

  9. Your intro says it all. As you pointed out this fellow Dietrich Alexander tip toed around
    the main problem, Islamic doctrine. I wonder if in his heart and also in his head he knows that, if perhaps he didn’t say it because the editors wouldn’t run his piece if that was in it. It’s a first step I suppose. The good news is that from way over here in Brooklyn it appears that Germans are at least becoming familiar with the organization PEGIDA (I’m sure I have the spelling incorrect, sorry) and the need to finally confront the problem.

  10. Nicolai, please don’t leave unrelated links here. Use the News Feed for that purpose; that’s what it’s for.

  11. Nihilistic and misanthropic brutality.

    Nihilistic and misanthropic those words somehow fall short of the brutality and deadness that islam is.

  12. The spectacle of a Death Cult exigetically analyzing itself is comic opera material.

    (If I could get unlikely crowdsource funding for it, I’d write the bouffe. “The Word, with S Optional- Or How I Swallowed a Camel and Came Up Singing!”)

    You can’t take anything about Islam seriously while it holds the Sword.

    While, without the Sword, Islam vanishes.

    Catch-23 for the Death Cult.

    The absurdist, legalistic Gilbert and Sullivan arguments… in favor of beheading, stoning, slave rape, library burning, the forbidding of art and music, and don’t forget the clictorectomies, ladies! …would be a [Antonin Artaud meets Busby Berkeley ]scream.

    (“The Book of Mormon” did it, although admittedly the target was a tame pussycat.)

    Islam is such a cornucopia of livid horrors that the more it is opened to view the sooner the world will disgorge it.

    Laughter is a good lubricant for removing stray dogmas.

  13. The dark ages after the fall of Rome lasted 600 years in Europe, then came the Middle ages and finally the Enlightenment.

    The dark ages of Arabic Islam have run for 1400 years thus far, and there’s no sign of an end to barbarity, or a move to civilised culture, in the Arab lands.

    Compare that to the Islamic parts of Asia, which are generally civilised and settled, and get along with their neighbours of other faiths and cultures to a comfortable degree.

    In our part of the world, Asian Muslims generally wish that Arab Muslims would stay away and not cause trouble.

    • The Dark Ages in Europe after the fall of Rome, were caused by the spread of Islam out from the Arabian Peninsula; as Emmet Scott elucidates in ‘Mohammed & Charlemagne Revisited’.

      • Where the Muslim goes nothing grows. The west acts as if the opposite were true.

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