Across the Bay

Monday, July 11, 2005

The InterCole

I'm sorry but the Professor is just priceless. Once again he's whistling the Arabism vs. Islamism tune (see "Terror and the Experts" below). Listen to this, the ora-cole hath spoken:

CNN ran a piece Saturday in the US with Peter Bergen, speculating on the "chilling" possibility that the bombers were Muslim British subjects with UK passports. I have to say that I was outraged and appalled by this piece of potentially destructive speculation.
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The statement was probably not written by a second-generation Arab Briton or even by a long-term, integrated Arab Briton resident.

So, if the statement is a guide to the identity of the attackers, this bombing could not have emanated from the British Muslim community.

I did a keyword search in OCLC Worldcat, an electronic database with 40 million volumes, for `urubah and Islam. Virtually all of the hits came from Egyptian Muslim thinkers publishing in Cairo and Giza during the past 30 years, roughly in a Muslim Brotherhood tradition.

Are you freakin' kidding me?! The (non)logic is baffling. Let's for a moment take his reasoning at face value. What about Abu Hamza al-Masri (i.e., "the Egyptian") and his people? What about, as Ash-Sharq al-Awsat noted yesterday, Abu Hafs al-Masri? Or, speaking of the Muslim Brotherhood, how about Abu Musab as-Suri, as noted by the same paper? Two of these have been residents of Britain, and one of them (Abu Hamza), has been so for the longest time, and they have followers. Which leads to the primary point, the basic naive premise around which Cole builds the entire thesis: the idea that the people who wrote the statement were the very same people who perpetrated the attacks! Suppose an Egyptian or Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated leader commanded non-Egyptian foot soldiers and wrote the statement post factum! There are several other possibilities of course, but Cole wants us to believe that his philological hunch trumps everything else (including what the former Metropolitan Police chief Lord Stevens wrote, that those responsible "will almost certainly prove to be British born and bred.") What nonsensical tripe, especially when clothed in such an authoritative garb.

No, Cole needs to beat up commentators for daring to suggest that we may have home grown terror cells in Britain! (A propos, see here.) He, as the saying goes, needs to be more royal than the king in his supposed "outrage" over the accusation. That is why he also took a swipe at Tom Friedman:

Tom Friedman is a Middle East expert who knows a lot about Islam. Why, then, does he keep saying misleading things? He wrote in his latest column, "To this day - to this day - no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden."
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As for Friedman's main point, that Muslims haven't done a good job of fighting jihadi ideology and terrorism, it is bizarre. The Algerian government fought a virtual civil war to put down political Islam, in which over 100,000 persons died. The Egyptians jailed 20,000 or 30,000 radicals for thought crimes and killed 1500 in running street battles in the 1990s and early zeroes. Al-Qaeda can't easily strike in the Middle East precisely because Syria, Egypt, Algeria, etc. have their number and have undertaken massive actions against them. What does Friedman want? And, besides, he is wrong that this is only a Muslim problem. In the global age all problems are everybody's. That's part of flat world, too, Tom.

Notice how Cole disingenuously falls back on the authoritarian regimes (which, by the way, are the "secular pan-Arabist" regimes) to make his point, which is totally different from what Friedman was saying (but again, see "Terror and the Experts" below to see Cole's praise of these regimes on this issue.). But keep that in mind and then read what Lebanese Sunni intellectual and Professor of Islamics Radwan as-Sayyed wrote in yesterday's Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat.

He not only was not angered by Friedman's article, he understood exactly where it's coming from and agreed with its premise. And while he did point out that Muslims, like the Azhar sheikh and other scholars in Saudi Arabia did condemn Bin Laden, he made an additional remark, which not only vindicates Friedman, but also shows how shrill Cole is. He noted that while "scholars at al-Azhar and scholars in Saudi Arabia did [condemn Bin Laden] repeatedly," no one listened. He explained why: "That is because in the major Arab countries, Islamic religious institutions have been integrated into the state more than 50 years ago, in such a way that their voices can longer be discerned. As a consequence, large chunks of the masses stopped listening." He added that the younger fundamentalists started claiming religious status and challenged the authority of the traditional establishment, which was marred by its connection to the state. The establishment also shied away before the fundamentalists. The result was that "fatwas and stature (marja'iyyat) were lost, and the voices were mixed, and became an undistinguished noise."

As-Sayyed talked about what we would call moderates. "On this particular issue (condeming violence and extremism in the name of Islam)", Sayyed wrote, "their condemnations are no longer effective or influential. For from the beginning they never considered this violence and extremism as caused by internal dynamics within Islam; instead, they considered it a reaction against the injustice of the world order, and the occupation of Palestine, and the causes of Muslims in Kashmir, Chechnya, and Xinjiang... etc."

As-Sayyed felt that this was dishonest and dangerous, and wrote that he feels "there is no relationship between the Bin Laden terrorists and other extremists and the causes of Palestine, Iraq and Chechnya."

Finally, he laments: "I wasn't expecting that moderates as well as extremists in the West would be convinced neither by the discourse of the apologists nor by the condemnations of the religious institutions."

The rest of the piece is also worth reading. But compare what Sayyed said and what Cole said, and, consequently, what Sayyed thinks of Cole's position (on Cole and Kashmir, Chechnya, Palestine, etc. see "Terror and the Experts.")!

One can also add the voice of Egyptian journalist Mona el-Tahawi:

The statements from Muslim groups and leaders that we read whenever a terrorist attack is carried out are getting old and repetitive and I do not know if anyone is listening anymore.

I am worried that London will not believe the condemnations that begin with “Islam is against these kinds of attacks that target innocent people” and end with “but we must place them in the context of Iraq and Afghanistan and (any other place you think Muslims have suffered an injustice)”. That “but” will always be our worst enemy.
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What are we going to do with these unelected representatives of Islam?

In essence, Mona is asking the exact same question as Friedman. But who are these guys compared to the Majestic One? He knows best.

Addendum: A reader by the name of Muhammad Amin left a comment to Radwan As-Sayyed's piece. It reads as follows: "Friedman in his article was encouraging our ruling regimes to repress us so that the West may enjoy luxury and the good life. I.e., that our rulers be the guardians of the West so that no harm should befall it as it robs our resources, while we are not allowed to protest."

As a matter of fact, that is not Friedman's argument. However, based on the quotes above and in my "Terror and the Experts" post, it can be argued that this is Cole's implication! What else are we supposed to think when Cole says that Arab regimes have been fighting terror, and, e.g. (there's more), "Authoritarian governments also proved adept at effectively crushing terrorist groups, as can be seen in Algeria and Egypt. It was only in failed states such as Afghanistan that they could flourish, not in authoritarian ones"? Cole never considers the cost (let alone the policy of exporting these terrorists to the West, and other shadowy practices, such as the Syrian regime's dance with such groups) and methods used (but he goes nuts over Gitmo) and its effects on the lives of people in the ME. Hypocrisy? You tell me.