Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link to an Islamic blog that had replied to a commentator on my last post, "Islam and Greens Go Postal" (December 22). The blog is "Mainstream Mujahida." The anonymous Mujahida commentator's remarks were snide and completely irrelevant, were not even remotely critical of the "Postal" piece, and so won't be discussed here.
What I discovered on the Mainstream Mujahida site was a kind of "Islam for Idiots" question and answer format. The blog's hostess asks transparently leading questions, and then gives soft-pedaled, rationalistic answers. The "questions" are purportedly "quotes" from some unnamed blog reader or subscriber. Here are some examples:
"Quote: I don't understand how the pope has offended Muslims, he wasn't even talking to any Moslems that I know of."
Answer: "When you say that the beliefs brought by a Prophet beloved by nearly 3 billion people are 'evil and inhumane' and when you say that he spread this religion 'by the sword'...it's kind of hard to deny that he was being offensive...."
The hostess then claims, among other things, that Islam was spread by only a handful of adherents in a mere eleven years to create an empire stretching from Saudi Arabia to Spain and Africa, and that only about five hundred people died in the conquest. "Islam and the Islamic Empire were in fact the most peaceful religious and social revolutions/expansions in the history of the world," characterized, moreover, "by the overwhelming message of tolerance and compassion taught by the Prophet Mohammad."
If you believe such a patently absurd claim, you can be persuaded that Attila and Hitler were just over-zealous missionaries and that only an insignificant number of people died in the course of their political experiments, chiefly from a coincidental outbreak of salmonella, which affected mostly soldiers fed bad fish in their mess halls.
"Quote: I see here that everyone is afraid to criticize the religion of Islam."
Answer: "From a fact based standpoint, can we really say this is true? In one year there have been numerous comics depicting the Prophet Muhammad as an evil, terroristic, mad man..." Then the hostess launches into a denial that Mohammad is evil, that nowhere in Islamic texts are mentioned 72 virgins, that Islam is a "peaceful" religion that doesn't lend itself to suicide bombers, and that CNN and ABC just lie repeatedly about how bad Islam and Muslims are.
Nowhere, however, does she mention Theodore van Gogh, or Ali Hirsi, or Nick Berg, or Salman Rushdie, or the brutalities of Sharia law, or the violent Muslim no-go areas of European cities, or the murderous strife between Sunnis and Shiites...and on and on. Instead, the hostess plays the "victim" card and throughout the question and answer exercise slickly employs the Islamic device of taqiya, or the art of religious dissimulation.
Taqiya is practiced on a much larger scale by Islamic organizations such as CAIR and its brother organizations around the globe. And the news media have largely maintained a politically correct silence about Islam, and cannot be accused of repeatedly denigrating it. I have never heard Brian Williams or Charles Gibson preface news of the latest Islamic outrage with "Those bastards have done it again!"
This is an interesting site to peruse (if you can get onto it), if only to observe the psychology and mental gymnastics of someone whose mind is content to defer to a faceless father figure that tells one what to think and what to do, a figure, moreover, that commands repeated gratitude. Allah is nearly always connected with "merciful," while mention of Mohammad is usually followed by the expression, "blessings and/or peace be upon him."
One minor difference between the exactions of these two species of religious and secular totalitarianism is that neither Allah nor Mohammad is permitted to be concretized in any human form. Winston Smith, in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, was watched by Big Brother every minute, and wherever Smith turned in his waking hours, he could not escape Big Brother's face. But the face is inanimate; Big Brother never appears as a living person in the story, even though he is an entity that governs men by awe and fear.
A commonality exists between the kinds of minds that are comfortable with either religious or secular totalitarian authorities. When Winston Smith is "converted" by terrorism and torture into submitting to Big Brother and the Party, he ends up by expressing gratitude - "But it was all right...the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother" - a gratitude for having been relieved of the responsibility of maintaining an independent mind.
A Muslim is also tested by a personal "jihad" or struggle to resist the temptations of the temporal world - including the application in it of reason itself, there is an important point to O'Brien's insistence that Smith believe that two plus two can equal five - and his inclination to surrender to them to attain a state of spiritual purity not dissimilar from Smith's at the end of Orwell's novel. A Muslim wins a "victory over himself" by submitting body and soul to the will of Allah and the commandments of Mohammad. Further, there are marked similarities in their methods and ends to enforce submission between Allah and Mohammad and the Party and O'Brien, Smith's tormenter.
It is irrelevant here whether Nineteen Eighty-Four was arguably Orwell's embittered allegory on Stalinist Russia or the leviathan state. What he did was capture the nature of totalitarianism and portray the necessary complete submission of the individual to it and his absorption by it for such a system to function. And in doing so he provided an invaluable insight into the requisite voluntary enslavement of the individual by religious or secular totalitarianism.
The blog hostess even quotes from the Koran, Chapter 5, Verse 8: "Oh ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety; and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do."
At the beginning of Orwell's novel, Smith, a low-ranking Party member, hates Big Brother, and "swerves" from loyalty to the Party and Big Brother by hoping to join an underground movement that will ultimately destroy them, knowing that the penalty for such a betrayal is death and that too likely Big Brother is also "well-acquainted" with his actions. But, at the end, Smith the apostate is reclaimed.
Christianity also claims that God is "all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful." Without discussing here the inherent contradictions in these attributes, the alleged ubiquitous presence of this entity in one's personal life is much more pronounced in Islam. As I remarked elsewhere, a Christian can go to church one day and for the rest of the week live on earth (or try to). Islam, like Big Brother or Nazism, requires that the faithful live the creed all their waking hours.
I think that one important step in understanding and combating Islam is to grasp what the creed requires of its adherents, which is the development in an individual of a psychology of selflessness that is compatible and comfortable with totalitarianism. The starting point of its appeal in individuals is the ingredient of selflessness stemming from a fear of developing and maintaining a self independent of ghosts and omnipotent government and the morality of living for others.
The commandments of Allah by way of Mohammad are just as baseless and arbitrary as the ten of God by way of Moses. "Thou shalt not kill." On what moral principle is this one founded? None, except perhaps that men are God's creations and it is "wrong" to destroy or harm them. "Thou shalt not steal." Why not? Isn't all property theft, or merely a form of stewardship of it granted by society? Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have certainly acknowledged that "truism." And that particular commandment doesn't restrain legislators, presumably sworn into office on their Bibles, from enacting tax laws or condoning the seizure of private property for pubic or other private use. One supposes that since the theft is for the "public good," God permits it and the legislators feel exonerated.
Grasping the relationship between selflessness and totalitarianism is also necessary to combat Christianity and any other form of mysticism, including the "secular" collectivist kind. At the moment, it is a question of which form today is rearing its irrational head more virulently, given the revival of religion especially in the U.S.: evangelical Christianity or Islam or environmentalism. Our schools for decades have been indoctrinating children from grade school on up through college on the alleged virtues of selflessness and sacrifice.
So it comes to no surprise to me that more and more high school and college students are "finding God" - to "stand out firmly" for something other than one's self - and dedicating themselves to some form of service; whether to society or to environmentalism or to God or to Allah or to some other ghost or icon of mysticism, it makes no difference, as long as it is selfless. It is a generation of "gentle" monsters that advocates of reason and liberty must contend with now and in the future, monsters willing to sacrifice themselves as well as everyone else in selfless pursuits of the irrational.
But, grasping the nature of that enemy is a necessary task to perform if we are ever to make any progress in preserving or reinstating our shrinking liberties.