Authors: Nonie Darwish
Muslim leaders often hide their friendships with the West to avoid the devastating title of “U.S. puppet,” and they go to great lengths to appear harsh and critical of the West in public, when in reality they want coexistence. That can perhaps explain the well-known two faces of the typical Muslim leader: a friendly one to the West in private and a critical one in public.
Clearly, the 2011 Muslim uprisings to overthrow dictators were not motivated only by the brutality of the tyrants; otherwise, the first ones to go would have been Ahmedinejad, Gaddafi, and Syria's Assad, not the two relatively moderate pro-Western dictators, Mubarak and Zin El Abidine Ben Ali. The removal of Gaddafi, who was among worse dictators, could have only been accomplished with the help of the United States and European forces. Without outside help, Gaddafi would still be in office. The Iranian leader Ahmedinejad is enjoying high popularity in Egypt and across the Muslim world, more than inside his own country, and perhaps that is one reason he is more secure in his position. The reason for Ahmedinejad's popularity is due of his defiance and attacks on the United States and Israel. That also explains why the new Egyptian interim government is promoting a friendlier relationship with Iran.
I am afraid conditions do not look encouraging in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, or Syria, either. They are all prone to turning into Islamofascist states and not the open, democratic states the protesters had hoped for and expected. The future of these nations is still unclear, especially because the bloody civil unrest continues even after some of the leaders have stepped down. Other Muslim nations are watching and are discouraged from following in their footsteps, for fear the uprisings will only bring more tyranny after falling into the hands of Islamists.
Because of the lack of moral and legal foundations for freedom and democracy, I fear there is little hope in Egypt. From a more positive perspective, however, this revolution could be the first step in a long process of trial and error if Egyptians heed the examples of non-Muslim nations that rose up against tyranny and succeeded. Can Muslim countries humble themselves and learn from their own struggles, failures, and successes, as well as from those of other nations?
Freedom and democracy did not come easily to the United States, but what helped was a moral and legal foundation that did not stand in the way of change. Can the Muslim world produce, accept, and follow someone similar to a Benjamin Franklin? Will people rally around his vision and values, or will he be condemned as an apostate enemy of Islam before he can ever rise to power?
There could hardly be a greater contrast than between the Arab/Islamic culture, which rejects novelty and innovation, and the culture that produced the American Revolution, a culture that embraces a tradition of spontaneously forming civic, social, and support clubs and organizations to meet almost any need or interest. Whether it is sports, arts and crafts, literature, philosophy, scientific investigation, agriculture, or mutual assistance in times of crisis, Americans are accustomed to reaching out and trusting one another as individuals to help and be helped, teach and be taught, share, invent, debate, and network. In Islamic culture, new ideas are rejected, citizens are motivated by pride and shame, genders are severely segregated, relationships are plagued with distrust, and nothing can be accomplished except what is allowed under Islam.
After reading a biography of Franklin, I was extremely touched and fully understood the greatness of my adopted country, the United States. Its traditions go back to the earliest days of the British colonies in North America, and no one exemplified them better than Franklin, the founding father honored on the hundred dollar bill. Fifty years before the American Revolution, Franklin was a young tradesman, not an aristocrat by birth, who was organizing groups of other middle-class tradesmen to discuss any and all topics, philosophical and practical, with a key stipulation: regardless of the topic, members of the club were sworn to tolerate differences, including religious ones. Consider the questions that members of one of Franklin's clubs were asked to answer before being admitted:
I do not think the Muslim world is ready for a Benjamin Franklin. Not now, at least, because it lacks the moral foundation and equilibrium to form a free, stable, and fair political system. Looking critically at Islamic law and the Islamic model of government is still unthinkable for Muslims. Consequently, they keep moving one step forward and two backward and end up going nowhere. Muslim society suffers from amnesia when it comes to lessons from its own history, the chief one being that Islamic law has never worked and can never solve modern-day problems. With all good intentions and hope for a better future, the Muslim citizenry keeps falling victim to the same perpetual vicious circle over and over again, going from dictatorships to revolutions, as tight control over an increasingly enraged population is followed by an explosion against the system. This cycle, as clear as the sun rising every day, cannot be seen clearly by ordinary Muslim citizens, who learn only the fabricated history and information fed to them by their media and government. Thus, the search for a solution never goes beyond regime change, and tyrants keep erupting again and again. They are allowed to rule and are blessed by a divine legal system that no one dares to change and that has total control over every aspect of life and behavior.
Many in the Muslim world lack an understanding of what hinders them from developing an open democratic system. I am afraid that my brothers and sisters in Egypt are slowly but surely compromising and settling with the Islamists. They seem to be slowly embracing extremism, instead of true democracy, and thus will continue to rise and fall and stumble from one revolution to another, living under one tyrant and another, while looking for the ideal Islamic state that never was. The fourteen-hundred-year-old Islamic history of tyranny will continue unless sharia is rejected as the basis of the legal and political systems in Muslim countries. Sharia must be rejected if Egyptians truly want democracy and freedom.
Judging from the history of Islamic revolutions, unfortunately, they are doomed to fail. The so-called Arab Spring, a flowery name for what has become a series of bloody Islamic revolutions, started as a spark of hope but will end in an out-of-control fiery conflagration. It did not take long for things to turn ugly and go back to square one, where Islamist tyranny will seize political power in Egypt, and perhaps Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and other nations in the Middle East.
Freedom will come to the Muslim world not through physical revolutions, but through an internal philosophical and moral revolution. The next chapter will examine how the Islamic state has failed the Muslim individual and his morality and humanity.
A Muslim's Burden: How Islam Fails the Individual
Much has been written about the ideals of Islamic political thought, the caliphate, and sharia, but little has been written about the impact and interaction of these ideals on Islamic individuals, their character and values. Thus, it is fair to ask whether what the Muslim individual is taught—in terms of what to value and how to behave—is in harmony with the ideals of the Islamic caliphate. Will such values produce a conflicting or a consensual political culture? Has Islamic political ideology solved the problematic relationship between government and individuals in terms of their rights and duties?
To begin to arrive at an answer, it is illuminating to consider what Muslim students learn from a dominant Islamic scholar, Sheikh Abu Ishak Al Huweini, who teaches at the most reputable Islamic university in the world, Al Azhar University, the same Islamic university where President Barack Obama gave his famous speech to the Muslim world in 2009. Al Huweini said,
The era of Jihad for the sake of Allah has come upon us; it is a pleasure to perform what Mohammed's companions competed to do. The cause of the poverty we are in today is because we have abandoned jihad. If we could conduct a jihadist invasion a few times a year, many people on Earth would become Muslims. Those who reject our dawa, “proselytize” or stand in our way, we must fight, take as hostage and confiscate their wealth, women and children. The pockets of the Mujahid will then be full with wealth when he also possess 3 or 4 slave women and children. This [slavery] can be a profitable business and a financial shelter like a commodity, to a jihadist in time of need; just multiply each slave head by 300 or 400 dirham. No one can make such profits through any other business [regular hard work] even if a Muslim goes to the West to work.
When this audio of a statement he made eighteen years ago was translated into English and posted on the Internet in May 2011, Sheikh Huweini, now an enormously popular media star, went back on Egyptian TV to defend what he said then. The sheikh did not apologize for endorsing slavery as an acceptable source of livelihood or for encouraging his students to enslave non-Muslims and ransack their property and possessions as an Islamic right. What he did was reassert the legitimacy of what he had said by citing references from the Koran and the Hadith as support. Huwaini stressed that this kind of behavior—killing, raping, and enslaving—is only forbidden toward other Muslims but not against non-Muslims, and he again confirmed that sexual slavery of non-Muslim women is allowed, saying, “When I want a sex-slave, I go to the market and pick whichever female I desire and buy her and no need for marriage or papers.” By citing the Koran as his source, he was able to silence his critics and enjoy the blessings and praise of his many supporters for having the courage to speak the “truth.”
Huweini is correct in stating that what he advocates has the backing of Islamic ideology, which supports his incitement to violent jihad, to kill, take hostages, commit sexual slavery, and steal the property of non-Muslims as a solution to the problem of poverty among Muslims. This is just one example of the kind of solution the slogan “Islam is the solution” offers up to the poor captive Muslim population. Muslims are told that waging destructive jihad and enslaving non-Muslims are more profitable than hard work and creating a productive economy. With this kind of mind-set, it is no surprise that Islamic countries are economic basket cases and that their non-Muslim minorities are suffering enormously and shrinking in numbers.
This is the Islamic ideological backing for the actions of the Somali pirates who hold ships' crews as hostage for money or else kill them. The history of marauding by Muslims goes back to the Islamic Barbary pirates from North Africa who attacked American colonial ships as early as 1625, according to documents. Europeans suffered more frequent attacks not only on their ships but also from raids on European coastal towns. The Ottoman Empire did nothing to stop the attacks, and when the Libyan ambassador was asked what law gave Barbary pirates the right to seize ships, his answer was that it was “written in the Koran.”
The main source of income for most Islamic rulers in North Africa at that time was from the booty, the ransom, and the slaves obtained from Islamic piracy against European and American ships.
The American and European First Barbary War lasted from 1801 to 1805, and the Second Barbary War began and ended in 1815. There is also Islamic ideological support for the beheadings and the hostage taking that occur today in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and even the Philippines among the Muslim minority. It is not only radical groups that are responsible. Often the kidnappers do it for money—not for ideological reasons—to sell the “heads” to terrorist groups, who later behead the hostages, on camera, to weaken the resolve and morale of the West. It is hard to believe that in postrevolution Egypt, rife with instability and civil unrest, prominent men of Allah, such as Huweini, advocate these actions.
Yet if the main objective of Islam is expansion and world domination at any cost, then preaching a get-rich-quick scheme to the foot soldiers, with Allah's blessings, makes perfect sense. That perhaps explains why Christians are being slaughtered and their wives kidnapped on a regular basis in the Muslim world today. Young Muslim men and women are subjected to this toxic value system and moral decadence from birth, by preachers, schools, politicians, and the media, some more blatant than others, but they all agree on the same goal: Islamic supremacy. Islam remains the only well-established religion today that commands the use of force as a right and a duty, promising fighters personal enrichment on earth and seventy-two virgins in heaven. Islam has elevated precepts long rejected by humanity as a proper way to live—a set of beliefs long repressed by many religions in order to allow civilization to blossom and flourish.
The values taught by those such as Sheikh Huweini pull the rug out from under the feet of civilization, undermining a state of peace and stability that the rest of the world is striving for. In the jihadist world of Islam, little or no value is given to hope for peace, trust, respect for human rights, and a positive look on humanity as a whole; only the law of the jungle can be the outcome. Values such as stealing from non-Muslims to enrich oneself have been elevated over hard work and enslaving others over the brotherhood of man. In that sense, Islam enforces on its followers a value system that promotes the dark side of humanity, where jihadist murderers are blessed by their God, while their victims are called “enemies of Allah.” Alarmed Muslim friends in the Middle East are sending me e-mails bemoaning that with the rise of religiosity exhorted by Islamists, there is also a rise in bad manners, family infighting, anger, and abuse, which they believe have reached epidemic proportions. How could this be the role of any religion?
Muslim youths who suffer from unemployment, sexual frustration, and gender segregation are especially vulnerable to such teachings. They have heard no statement from an official Islamic religious authority condemning what Huwaini preached, nor was there an official denouncement by Al Azhar Islamic University, which he graduated from and where he taught. The reason is indeed as Huweini said, that what he advocates comes right from Muslim scriptures. “I have been made victorious with terror” (Bukhari: V4B52N220). “Also [prohibited are] women already married, except those whom your right hands possess” (Koran 4:24). This means that Muslim men are prohibited from having sex with married women unless these women are non-Muslim captives who were forced into sexual slavery. Islam gives the right to the captors of enslaved women to annul their marriages and take them as sexual slaves: “So enjoy what you took as booty; the spoils are lawful and good” (Koran 8:69) and “He who believes in Allah and His Messenger has protected his life and possessions from us. As for those who disbelieve, we will fight them forever in the Cause of Allah. Killing them is a small matter to us” (Tabari IX:69).
After seventeen years in the Egyptian educational system and my religious education in Islam, it dawned on me that I was never taught values such as the brotherhood of man, respect for human rights, pursuing peace and harmony in our relationships with people outside our faith, and treating our neighbors, including neighboring countries, as we wished to be treated. Such values are never taught in Islamic culture, not even in a nonreligious social setting. It was all about jihad, martyrdom, conspiracy theories, and hatred of the other. The sad thing is that Muslims as a group have never found anything unusual or bad about this—even I never fully understood this until later in life, when I came to live in the United States.
How can concepts such as freedom and democracy—the concepts espoused in the “Arab Spring”—survive in such a hostile environment? Are Tunisians, Egyptians, Syrians, Yemenites, and others in the Middle East fooling themselves? Do the protesters fully understand that? I do not think so. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are taught and led to believe that “Islam is the solution”—the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood—and that if true sharia is applied in the way it was meant, it will bring heaven on earth to the believers.
For centuries, the Muslim mind has lived in a cultural bubble, believing in values contrary to those espoused in the rest of the world. Yet through exposure to Western culture and through immigration and modern technology, the bubble is now bursting to release extreme discontent, uprisings, and revolutions. The Islamic state is in a state of panic because young Muslims are now demanding freedoms and rights similar to those of the West, especially the United States, the staunch enemy of Islam that Khomeini once called “the great Satan.” The lifestyle in the United States has become the envy of oppressed Muslims, especially the young. The obsession with Western freedoms is weakening the solidarity of the Islamic united front and its goal of turning the world into one big Islamic Umman. The Islamic state, while trying to put a lid on the youth revolutions, is racing to end the influence of Western culture and at the same time purging non-Muslim minorities within its own borders. In its panic, Islam is holding tight to protect its way of life and its totalitarian control.
Muslim leaders have long dreaded the truth being uncovered about Islam and its objective to keep the Muslim mind under total submission, which is the literal meaning of the word
. Because Islam cannot operate in a free society, it must keep control through sharia, the most barbaric laws ever created on earth, which allow a woman who sinned sexually to be buried in a ditch to her waist and stoned to death by men chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great). In order to survive, Islam must perpetuate tyranny and the idea that the religion is too holy to be questioned. Like the square black Qaaba in Mecca, Islamic totalitarian goals for the individual and society must remain a concealed holy secret, a mystery shrouded in black, that no one can look within or analyze. Most Muslims don't even know that the black stone they are worshipping inside the Qaaba is the same stone that pre-Islamic Arab pagans worshipped. Muslims are told to go on the Haj, originally a pagan ritual that brought wealth to Mecca, to join the thousands of pilgrims and circle around and around that black stone inside the black square structure. If one person slows down, slips, or falls, however, a stampede is almost unavoidable, causing hundreds of deaths. It happens almost annually in the Haj season.
In addition to inciting violence against non-Muslims, Islam has failed the individual in many other ways by promoting destructive values, morals, actions, and laws that are not beneficial to the healthy functioning of society. Let's take a look at some of the factors that have crippled the creation of a just, progressive, orderly society.
Exaggeration, Lying, and Slander
The biggest enemy of Islam is the truth. To promote the goal of protecting Islam and preserving the seventh-century way of life that is its basis, sharia encourages propaganda, exaggeration, distortion, slander, and outright lies. Under the title “Exaggeration,” sharia states, “There is no harm in giving a misleading impression if required by an interest countenanced by Sacred Law [sharia] that is more important than not misleading the person being addressed, or if there is a pressing need that could not otherwise be fulfilled except through lying.”
Under the title “Permissible Lying,” it states, “Lying is obligatory if the goal is obligatory.”
The same section states that the prophet said lying is permissible if it is for the purpose of settling disagreements among Muslims, in war with non-Muslims, and in the wife/husband relationship. Under the title “Permissible Slander,” sharia states, “Slander, though unlawful, is sometimes for a lawful purpose, the legitimating factor being that there is some aim countenanced by Sacred Law that is unattainable by other means.”
These three laws simply mean that the end justifies the means.
This might sound incredible, but it is condoned practice for Muslims if for the purpose of fulfilling an Islamic obligation, especially the obligation of jihad. Most Muslims have never actually read sharia laws written in support of such behavior because that is left to the
, the learned men of Islam. Muslims are always told to rely completely on the ulama's interpretation because Islamic scriptures and laws are too deep to be understood by the average Muslim and a Muslim needs a lifetime of learning in institutions such as Al Azhar University to be qualified to speak and write about Islam. Even though I spent about two years studying sharia, and most of what I write consists of quotations from Islamic books many Muslims respond not by debating me to discover the truth, but by challenging me: “Who the hell are you to speak for Islam?” As a result, most Muslims fear analyzing Islam and simply take for granted the lies of their religious leaders as being necessary and normal, especially lies to
(a derogatory word for non-Muslims), which they understand to be a crucial obligation to save Islam from the enemies of Allah who are out to get them. Yet lies invite more lies, and sharia itself allows lies not only with infidels, but also to solve disputes among Muslims and in the wife/husband relationship, thereby covering practically all relationships.