Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mixing Islam and politics: a historical perspective.

(1) In 1891, the Second Saudi / Wahhabi state collapsed, 147 years after the founding of the first Saudi / Wahhabi state (Saudi – named after Muhammad ibn Saud and Wahhabi -- named after Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab).  The Saudi / Wahhabi state was to be headed by the governor of the Saud family (which, according to the fatwa of the family, the Sheikh would be Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and his descendants).  Further, the society should abide by the Sharia (religious law), based upon the Hanbali school of orthodox Sunni jurisprudence.  In practice, the Sharia followed within the first Saudi state (established in 1744), was based on the writings of Ibn Taymiyyah.
On January 13, 1902, approximately ten years after the collapse of the Second Saudi state, the young Abdul Aziz Al-Saud was able to capture the city of Riyadh.  Between 1902 and 1934, the first rulers of the Third Saudi state expanded its influence, with the ruling powers being the al-Saudis in combination with the power of the fatwas issued by the al-Sheikh al-Abd al-Wahhab.  This expansion covered more than two million square kilometers.
In the first quarter of the 20th century, the United Kingdom decided to unite most of the Arabian Peninsula under one ruler, and, as the British contributed to the rule of this great new state, it could delay the discovery of oil in it.  With this influence, the new state then came under the authority of the new state's pro-British ruler, and in its next phase, that ruler continued under the authority of Britain’s successor patron in the region -- the United States of America.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established in 1934 and in 1938 began production of oil from the largest deposits in the world, located in its Eastern Province.  During the early 20th century, there were two points of view within the British Intelligence Service (MI6).  The first point of view, expressed by St John Philby of the British Intelligence Bureau in New Delhi, believed in the need to unite the greater part of the Arabian Peninsula under the banner of Islam.  Another opinion -- held by T.E. Lawrence of the Bureau of British intelligence in Cairo (the famous “Lawrence of Arabia"), believed in the need to unite the countries of the Arabian Peninsula and al-Sham -- Greater Syria and Iraq -- under the banner of Arabism (an Arab kingdom).  British intelligence was allowed to work for both of them: the first (Philby) with Abdel Aziz Al-Saud, and the second (Lawrence) with al-Sharif Hussein, King of Al-Hijaz.  Britain decided to side with Philby in retaliation against the Arabs, who had supported the Ottoman Empire during the First World War in 1914 - 1918, during which the Ottoman Empire was on the side of Germany (i.e., the “Central Powers”) against Great Britain and its Allies.  Thus, Britain supported the creation of the state that, in the future, would play an important role in the creation and spread of the ideas of Islamic states.

(2) In India, prior to independence in 1947, Abu al-Ala al-Mawdudi worked as a writer.  It can be argued that the works of Mawdudi are the basis of all that has been written over the years by an Egyptian and influential member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb. Perhaps the most important idea in all the writings of Mawdudi is the idea of ​​"control", which states that the Muslim community should not be guided by man-made law and that all provisions of Sharia law should come only from Allah.  One of the most important associates of Mahatma Gandhi was Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was a Muslim.  British intelligence working in India did everything to ensure Muhammad Ali Jinnah absorbed the ideas of Abu al-Ala al-Mawdudi, which led to the formation of an independent state of Muslims in India.  In 1947, when the Raj relinquished authority, Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the founder of the state of Pakistan, formed at the same instant as the newly independent India.
While India has the largest democracy in the world and promotes statewide pluralism and co-existence, Pakistan has seen many upheavals and was divided into two states in 1971, as East Pakistan became Bangladesh.  An extremely dangerous development is that Pakistan has become one of the largest sources of fundamentalism and terrorism.  Instead of one state, the sub-continent now has three (India + Pakistan + Bangladesh), and mankind has been forced to endure a state that possesses nuclear weapons and has in its territory such groups as the Taliban and al-Qaida.  And while the last British Governor - General of India (Lord Mountbatten) opposed the partition of India, the Bureau of British intelligence (MI6) in Delhi reached its goal as India was forcibly divided, and two large new states were formed solely on the basis of religion.  As I have said many times, every Pakistani (during the creation of Pakistan) was a person who went to sleep on May 12, 1947 as an "Indian Muslim" and awoke on May 13, 1947 as simply a "Muslim".  After the adjective "Indian" was removed, religion now became the sole basis of Pakistani identity.

(3) The political landscape in Egypt at the time of Hassan Al-Banna tells us a lot.  Starting in 1918 and continuing for nine years, a period of difficulties between Egypt and Britain helped to create an Egyptian patriotic wave, headed by Saad Zaghloul.  This threatened British rule and created a political vacuum.  At the same time, there was another political vacuum being created when in 1924, Kemal Ataturk announced the collapse of the caliphate - the Ottoman Empire.  Parallel to this development, the ruler of the Third Saudi / Wahhabi state, Abdel Aziz Al-Saud, succeeded in driving out the Hashemite seizure of Mecca and Medina and became (in 1926), the King of the Hejaz and Sultan of Najd.  Also at about this same time, a Syrian, Mohammad Rashid Rida, came to Egypt and began to exert great influence on the 22-year-old Hassan al-Banna, whose father (al Banna-al Saati) had come to Egypt from Morocco.  In the midst of all these events, the Bureau of British intelligence in Egypt decided that the time was ripe to create a movement based on a religious rather than a patriotic (or nationalistic) foundation, as the movement of Saad Zaghloul in 1918 - 1927 had been.  
There is evidence that Muhammad Rashid Rida was the one who convinced the young Hassan al-Banna to establish the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928.  There is also evidence that the British Embassy supported this.  There are documents proving that the company of the Suez Canal gave a considerable amount of money to Hassan Al-Banna when he founded the Brotherhood, and that it even paid the rent for the headquarters of the Brotherhood in the city of Ismailia.  After the death of Saad Zaghloul in 1927, the United Kingdom felt it was time to eliminate the patriotic movement with which he was associated; a movement that brought Muslims and Christians in Egypt together under the banner of a shared homeland.  Through this process, the United Kingdom supported the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, which then destroyed the Egyptian national movement of Saad Zaghloul.

(4) The year 1979 saw the birth of a giant wave of Islamic fundamentalism.  With the arrival of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at Tehran airport on board an Air France flight from Paris, the expansion and seething Shiite Islamic fundamentalism began; matched only by a volcanic eruption of Sunni Islamic fundamentalism.  During this same period, the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan.  At the same time, the CIA and Saudi intelligence agreed on a plan to create groups of jihadists from among the Afghans and Muslims from other countries to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The western and northern areas of Pakistan became a staging ground for formation of these jihadi groups.  This introduced the Taliban to the global stage along with Al-Qaeda.  The world was now to see more Sunni Islamic fundamentalism than it had ever seen before.

Conclusion: after more than four decades of personal, cultural and political cooperation with Europe and with thousands of Europeans, I have no doubt that the European conscience has never felt any shame or guilt for the numerous documented excesses of its collective colonial history.  There appears to be no sense of guilt in Europeans and Americans towards the countries and peoples they colonized. Most European and American industries and assets could not have been created without slaves and cheap labor,  frequently imported from their colonies.  The history of African slaves in the United States and Europe is a story of ruthless exploitation.  The absence of any systemic objection by the European (and American) conscience regarding their crimes of colonialism reflects another crime --this one of omission, rather than commission -- in the lack of respect shown for any "other", no matter who that other may be.  Further, this crime appears as part of a plan to weaken the "other" by limiting their capacity and opportunity, the consequence of which is to keep this population living under a relative scarcity of human rights, in a pursuit limited to the supply of raw materials and imports, while encouraging purchases of products from Western societies, including weapons.  Learning what the British intelligence did in China a hundred years ago, (when it worked hard to make the majority of the Chinese people abuse opium), can open our eyes.  This may answer the question—why do the intelligence communities of Europe and the United States support the establishment of extremist fundamentalist organizations in most of the Arab and Muslim communities, as well as in a number of African societies?  It has proven to be an effective way to keep these communities in a weakened state, comparable to the drug-induced disability inflicted on China, which was the desired goal of the European colonial powers and their descendants - the United States. 
This does not mean that our societies are completely innocent.  Ideas emanating from extremist fundamentalist organizations that have been used to destroy our societies originate from our history and our reality.  While we may not have been the colonizers, we were certainly complicit to a sufficient extent that we must accept a portion of the blame as well.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Le Conflit Israélo-Arabe entre Raison et Hystérie

- A -
Certains dans le monde arabe aujourd'hui refusent le droit d'Israël à l'existence, et ont en outre pour but ultime de le détruire. Malgré notre rejet total de cette logique et de ses postulats, du fait que nous sommes convaincus qu'il s'agit là d'un objectif impossible à atteindre, susceptible par ailleurs d'occasionner des pertes et des dégâts inimaginables, nous nous contenterons ici d'exprimer notre profond désaccord face à leur position, sans recourir aux tactiques consistant à salir l'autre, tactiques qu'ils n'hésitent pas à utiliser contre tous ceux qui s'opposent à leurs idées. Il convient de noter que si leur logique ne tient pas, ils représentent, heureusement, une minorité. La vaste majorité, dans le monde arabe, aussi bien au niveau du peuple que des mouvements et organisations politiques, est favorable à un accord dans les lignes de l'initiative arabe adoptée au dernier sommet arabe de Beyrouth. Initialement lancée par le prince héritier Abdullah d'Arabie Saoudite, elle était déjà connue sous le nom d' « initiative saoudienne ». Autrement dit, la majorité des Arabes aimerait un accord définitif qui soit basé, en termes absolus ou relatifs, sur les cinq points suivants :
1 – La création d'un Etat palestinien sur tout, ou presque tout le territoire occupé par Israël en juin 1967.
2 – L'établissement de la capitale de l'Etat palestinien dans la Jérusalem arabe et la fin du contrôle des lieux saints musulmans et chrétiens par les Israéliens.
3 – Une reconnaissance arabe unanime d'Israël, la fin des hostilités et la normalisation des relations politiques, économiques et culturelles entre les Arabes et Israël.
4 – Le démantèlement de toutes les implantations juives de l'Etat palestinien, lesquelles sont une poudrière en attente d'une étincelle.
5 – Trouver une solution à la question du retour des Palestiniens, acceptable des deux côtés, se basant non sur le droit absolu au retour mais sur un ensemble de solutions de compromis (et d'accords d'indemnités) acceptables pour les deux parties.

C'est à cette majorité que s'adresse cet article. Si les grandes lignes de cette vision lui conviennent, il s'ensuit que des pourparlers menés sur la base de ces cinq points… constituent la seule manière de mettre fin au conflit sanglant. Il en découle également que si les Israéliens ne sont pas prêts à mener des négociations dans un esprit de paix, les Palestiniens pourront avoir recours à la lutte armée afin de mettre fin à l'occupation et réaliser leurs aspirations nationales. Je considère toutefois qu'il existe des limites à la lutte armée, la principale d'entre elles étant qu'elle doit être dirigée contre les forces de l'occupation. Le strict respect de ces limites caractérisait la première Intifada. Les outrepasser en ayant recours à des opérations suicides prenant pour cibles des civils ne fait que remplir les rangs des refuzniks israéliens, opposés à un accord négocié dans un esprit de paix ; cela érode la sympathie internationale pour la cause palestinienne en éloignant les acteurs mondiaux qui auraient pu jouer un rôle plus important. Tandis que je rédige cet article, la BBC termine de diffuser une déclaration d'un groupe d'intellectuels palestiniens de renom, dont Hanan Ashrawi, qui condamnent le principe des attentats-suicides, les accusant non seulement de desservir la lutte palestinienne, mais aussi d'avoir des répercussions néfastes pour les Palestiniens. L'intelligentsia palestinienne dans son ensemble partage ce point de vue, aussi bien celle de diaspora que celle qui est restée dans les petites villes et villages après 1948, connue aujourd'hui sous le nom d'«Arabes israéliens ».

- B -
Je pense que malgré les atrocités et les excès impardonnables commis du côté israélien, la partie arabe doit absolument réévaluer sobrement sa position et sa politique et reconnaître que ces années passées à se laisser guider par la passion, à occulter son esprit critique, à tourner le dos à la raison et au bon sens, l'ont entraînée dans un tourbillon de pertes tragiques et d'occasions manquées. Par exemple, si la raison avait dominé en 1947, les Arabes auraient accepté le Plan de partage ; si elle avait dominé en 1948, ils n'auraient pas été entraînés dans la guerre par des dirigeants qui savaient, ou auraient dû savoir, que la confrontation militaire ne tournerait pas à leur avantage. De même, créer le climat qui a conduit à la guerre de 1967 n'était assurément pas rationnel. Nous ne nous sommes pas encore bien relevés des effets dévastateurs de cette guerre ; nous nous battons encore pour récupérer une partie de ce que les Arabes ont perdu en moins d'une fatidique semaine, en juin 1967. Cette absence de jugement rationnel, cette incapacité à estimer sobrement les impératifs politiques, se sont à nouveau révélées quand le monde arabe dans son ensemble a pris position contre Anouar Sadate à la fin des années 70. Elles sont également clairement apparues dans la décision d'Arafat de faire avorter les efforts déployés à Taba début 2001 pour trouver un cadre acceptable et équilibré à un accord définitif, alors que le bon sens voulait qu'il accepte ce qui était une proposition de principe en annonçant qu'un certain nombre de problèmes restait à résoudre.
C'est essentiellement cette aversion face aux considérations de rationalité et de sagesse qui a conduit Sharon et ses acolytes au pouvoir en Israël (en février 2001), grâce à un programme qui se moque de toutes les normes politiques modernes : ils [Sharon et ses acolytes] représentent une idéologie politique basée sur des considérations théologiques allant à l'encontre de tout ce que l'humanité a accompli ; ils évoquent ce qu'ils appellent leurs « droits religieux », « droits » que d'autres perçoivent comme des croyances ancrées dans des mythes et légendes, alors que leurs objectifs sont clairement politiques.
En me focalisant sur les erreurs et les mauvais calculs de la partie arabe, je ne nie aucunement la responsabilité israélienne face aux occasions manquées. Il y aurait beaucoup à dire sur toutes les fois où Israël a claqué la porte à une nouvelle occasion, sur la façon dont Israël a tout fait pour tenter de faire avorter le moindre accord, à commencer par Ben Gourion au début des années 50, jusqu'à Sharon près d'un demi-siècle plus tard. Mais notre but ici est de reconsidérer nos propres erreurs, car c'est seulement en les rectifiant que nous pourrons espérer progresser.

- C -
Pour cela, nous devons d'abord revoir la façon dont les Arabes ont géré le conflit israélo-arabe depuis les années 40 jusqu'à aujourd'hui. Une personne neutre et objective qui consulterait le dossier s'apercevrait que la position adoptée par les partis communistes arabes en 1947 (ainsi que par un grand nombre de personnalités politiques égyptiennes comme Ismaïl Sidki et Hussein Haykal, et même par Mahmoud Fahmy El-Nokrashy avant que lui aussi ne succombe à la fièvre de la guerre, ou encore le célèbre penseur et écrivain Taha Hussein, « l'auteur égyptien ») était la plus rationnelle et la plus sensée, bien que nous l'ayons alors tous attaquée. Une inspection du dossier mènerait aussi à la conclusion inévitable que les Palestiniens ont terriblement besoin d'une nouvelle direction, aux origines, à la formation générale et culturelle très différentes du cadre qui s'en est revenu de Tunisie après Oslo. Les dirigeants actuels ne se contentent pas d'accumuler lugubrement les occasions manquées ; ils ont aidé la droite israélienne à renforcer son assise. Observer les dirigeants actuels scander ces grands slogans dont ils sont si épris, c'est se rendre compte qu'ils sont des fossiles venus d'un autre âge, exactement comme les représentants de l'extrême droite en Israël, dont certains sont encore plus déconnectés de l'époque moderne.
Il est essentiel pour les pays ayant une frontière avec Israël - le Liban, la Syrie, la Jordanie, la Palestine et l'Egypte – de comprendre que la fin du conflit israélo-arabe est le seuil qu'il leur faut franchir pour pouvoir surmonter leurs nombreux autres problèmes, la seule façon d'entamer un processus de réforme démocratique, de développement économique et de paix sans tomber entre les griffes des forces opposées à l'instruction, la civilisation et la modernité, c'est-à-dire aux valeurs générales de progrès. En 1947 et 1948, bien avant que le conflit ne prenne ses incontrôlables proportions actuelles, les marxistes égyptiens défendaient déjà cette position. Nous les avons alors condamnés, mais nous savons aujourd'hui que leur voix était celle de la raison. Tandis que nous voyons se réaliser les prédictions qu'ils n'ont cessé de formuler, force est d'admettre qu'ils faisaient partie des rares personnes bénéficiant d'une vision rationnelle à long terme.

- D -
Il est temps de traduire cette vision par des faits. Cela ne pourra se faire que quand l'opinion arabe aura compris que les cinq points énumérés plus haut, à la base de l'initiative adoptée par le sommet arabe de Beyrouth, représentent une question de vie ou de mort pour la région. On doit faire comprendre au public arabe le danger de ces grands discours qui ont coûté cher aux pays et aux peuples de la région et qui pourraient bien leur coûter davantage encore s'ils continuent de suivre des slogans qui, sous une apparence nationaliste et religieuse, sont essentiellement une invitation à demeurer esclaves d'un conflit qui détruit jusqu'à la matière dont sont faites nos sociétés. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Arab-Israeli Conflict Between Reason and Hysteria

There are those in the Arab world today who do not recognize Israel’s right to exist in the first place, and whose ultimate aim is its destruction. Despite our complete rejection of their logic and the premises from which they proceed, and our conviction that they have set themselves a goal that is not only unattainable but one that will bring about unimaginable loss and destruction, we will content ourselves here with merely expressing our profound disagreement with their viewpoint, without resorting to the mud-slinging tactics they do not hesitate to use against whoever disagrees with them. We want to state for the record that, on the one hand, their logic is seriously flawed and that, on the other, they are, thankfully, in the minority. The vast majority in the Arab world, at the grass roots level and at the level of political movements and organizations, favours a settlement along the lines of the Arab initiative endorsed by the latest Arab summit in Beirut. Initially launched by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, it was previously known as the Saudi initiative. In other words, the majority of Arabs would like to see a final settlement based, either in absolute or relative terms, on the following five points"
  1. The creation of a Palestinian state on all or most of the territory occupied by Israel in June, 1967.
  2. The establishment of a capital for the Palestinian state in Arab Jerusalem, and an end to Israeli control over important Muslim and Christian holy places.
  3. A unanimous Arab recognition of Israel, an end to the state of hostility and the establishment of normal political, economic and cultural relations between the Arabs and Israel.
  4. Removing all Jewish settlements from the Palestinian state, which are a tinder-box waiting for a spark.
  5. Solving the issue of Palestinian return in a manner acceptable to both parties, not on the basis of the absolute right of return but on the basis of a set of compromise solutions (and indemnity agreements) agreeable to both parties.
It is to this majority that the present article is addressed. If the vision outlined above is acceptable, it follows that political negotiations conducted around an agenda made up of the five points proposed as the basis for a settlement are the only way to end this bloody conflict. It also follows that if the Israelis are not ready to conduct peaceful negotiations, the Palestinians are entitled to resort to armed struggle to bring an end to the occupation and achieve their national aspirations. However, I believe the right to armed struggle is subject to limitations, the most important being that it be directed against the occupation forces, a limitation that was strictly observed in the first Palestinian intifada. Overstepping the limits and focusing on suicide operations against civilians inevitably swells the ranks of Israeli refuseniks opposed to a peaceful settlement; it also erodes international sympathy for the Palestinian cause and alienates global players who might otherwise have played a more forceful role.   As I write this article, the BBC has just broadcast a statement by a group of prominent Palestinian intellectuals, including Hanan Ashrawi, condemning the suicide attacks in principle, and accusing them not only of not serving the Palestinian struggle but of provoking a backlash detrimental to the Palestinians. This viewpoint is shared by most of the Palestinian intelligentsia, whether those in the Diaspora or those who did not leave their towns and villages since 1948, who are now known as Israeli Arabs.

In my opinion, and notwithstanding the unforgivable excesses and atrocities committed by the Israeli side, the Arab side  urgently needs to make a sober reappraisal of its positions and policies and to realize that years of allowing itself to be driven by passion, years during which it suspended its critical faculties and turned its back on reason and common sense, has sucked it into a vortex of tragic losses and missed opportunities. For example, if reason had prevailed in 1947, the Arabs would have accepted the Partition Plan; if it had prevailed in 1948, they would not have been led into a war by leaders who knew, or should have known, that the outcome of a military confrontation would not be in their favour.  Similarly, creating a climate that led to the 1967 war was far from rational. We are still reeling from the devastating effects of that war, still scrambling to recover part of what the Arab side lost in less than one fateful week in June 1967. Lack of reasoned judgement, of the ability to make a sober assessment of political imperatives, manifested itself once again with the stand taken by most of the Arab world against Anwar Sadat in the late nineteen seventies. It was also evident in Yasser Arafat’s  decision to abort the efforts made in Taba in early 2001 to work out an acceptable and balanced framework for a final settlement, when common sense dictated that he accept what was on offer in principle while announcing that a number of issues remained unresolved.

This aversion to allowing considerations of rationality and wisdom to prevail is one of the main reasons why Sharon and his like-minded cohorts were able to come to power in Israel in February 2001, running on a platform that defies all modern political norms.  For they represent a political ideology predicated on theological considerations running counter to all that humanity has achieved, invoking what they call ‘religious rights’ and others see as beliefs rooted in mythology and legend to pursue what is clearly a political agenda.

In focusing on Arab mistakes and miscalculations, I am in no way absolving the Israelis of blame for missed opportunities. A great deal can be said about the number of times Israel has slammed the window of opportunity shut, the way it has seized every chance it could to abort any settlement, starting with Ben Gurion in the early fifties up to Sharon half a century later. But our concern here is with our own mistakes; for it is only by correcting those mistakes that we can hope to move forward.

To that end, we must first review the file of how the Arabs have been dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict from the nineteen forties to the present day in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. An objective and neutral person looking through the file will discover that the position adopted by the Arab communist parties in 1947 (as well as by a number of prominent Egyptian politicians like Ismail Sidki and Hussein Heikal, even by Mahmoud Fahmy el Nokrashy before he too succumbed to the war fever, and by the renowned thinker and writer Taha Hussein as defined in his literary review, “The Egyptian Writer”) was the most rational and sensible position, even though we  all attacked it in the past. A review of the file will also lead to the inescapable conclusion that the Palestinians are in dire need of a new  leadership that is very different in terms of background and educational and cultural formation from the cadre that came back from Tunisia after Oslo. Not only does the current leadership have a dismal record of missed opportunities, but  it has been instrumental in reinforcing the status of the Israeli right. To watch the members of the current leadership spouting the resounding slogans of which they are so enamoured is to realize that they are fossils from  another age, exactly like the representatives of the extreme right in Israel, some of whom are even more out of step with the times.    

It is essential for the countries sharing common borders with Israel-Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt- to realize that ending the Arab-Israeli conflict is the gateway through which they need to go before overcoming the many other problems they are facing, the only way they can embark on a process of democratic reform, economic development and social peace and not fall prey to forces opposed to education, civilization and modernity, indeed, to the values of  progress in general. Long before the conflict attained its present unmanageable proportions, that is precisely what the Egyptian Marxists were advocating in 1947 and 1948. We condemned them for their stand, but we now know that theirs was the voice of reason. As we see the predictions they made at the time turning into reality before our eyes, we can only admit that they were among the few whose  vision was rational and far-sighted.   

The time has come to translate this vision into reality. This can only come about if Arab public opinion is made to see that the five points outlined at the beginning of this article, which are the essence of the initiative endorsed by the Arab summit in Beirut, are a matter of life or death for the region. The Arab public must be made to realize the dangers of blindly following the school of ‘big talk’ which has cost the countries and peoples of the region dearly and which is capable of costing them even more if they continue to follow slogans which, though apparently nationalistic or religious, are in essence an invitation to remain in thrall to a conflict  that is destroying the very fabric of our societies.

To that end, we need to focus on forming new generations driven by reason rather than by volcanic passions fuelled by voices which give themselves the right to speak in the name of religion or nationalism. It is a task that is rendered all the more difficult by the victim mentality that has developed in our part of the world, where a deep conviction  has built up over the last few decades in the minds of many  that everything negative in their lives is the result of conspiracies hatched against them by the outside world. True, conflict and competition are facts of life, and the annals of history are rife with conspiracies. But what is certain is that our responsibility for the negative aspects of our life is far greater than that of anyone else. What is also certain is that the world is not made up exclusively of wolves waiting to pounce on us. Here we must have the courage to ask ourselves an important question: Four decades ago, India, China, Japan and Russia (the Soviet Union at the time) supported us on many issues, including the Arab-Israeli conflict. Today, these countries are not only no longer as close to us as they once were, but have moved closer to Israel than ever before. Why is that? The answer to that question holds the key to a solution of many of our problems.  Most societies are concerned today with improving their lot by optimizing their potential in all areas: industry, construction, services, economic life and social welfare. We, for our part, are locked in a time warp. We alone continue to talk in the language of the Cold War, not realizing that no-one today can remain in a cave isolated from the rest of the world. We must wake up from the dream that any country can be important outside its own borders  without  first ensuring that it is internally strong, stable and solid and without contributing to the march of history. Any country that is weak on the domestic front can only be weak on the international front; there can be no exceptions to this rule.

It is all too easy to get caught up in the big talk syndrome, to succumb to the resounding slogans and impossible,  not to say illogical, demands made by those who pass themselves off as warriors battling against impossible odds, when in fact they are nothing but false prophets drawing the gullible into a net of false hopes and dreams. The worst of it is that it is not they who bear the consequences of their irresponsible talk, but the destitute denizens of the refugee camps. What is more difficult is to adopt a position based on reason, common sense and a realistic assessment of the situation, and which does not involve making enemies of influential parties capable of affecting the course of events. Big talk deals with impressions and generalities, common sense with facts and specifics. The record of the former is abysmal; the latter can be the way to a brighter future.

I am well aware that in writing this article I am inviting trouble. The self-appointed knights in shining armour riding on their steeds of big words and empty slogans will rush to fire their arrows of insults against my person and accusations against my integrity.  For personal defamation is the fate of all who dare to cross them, regardless of whether their proposals have any merit. This will not deter me, however, from calling on Arab public opinion and on those responsible for shaping it to turn their backs on meaningless slogans in favour of reason and common sense. It is all too easy to play to the gallery, to tell people what they want to hear. But  the task of any intellectual who is consistent with himself is not to pander to his readers but to write what he believes can contribute to creating a future better than the dark days our region has lived through for over half a century by suspending its critical faculties and allowing meaningless slogans  rather than rationality to shape its destiny.  

(This article was first published on July 9, 2002)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Between Tribalism and Statehood

Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab

The sociology of the Arabian peninsula tribes is the key to understanding the Arab character and mentality. In order to trace the historical features of that character and mentality, we must try to imagine the way of life in the inland wastes of the eastern regions of the peninsula over the last twenty centuries. But why the eastern not the western regions? We shall explain why after presenting a panoramic survey of the historical features of the character and mental make-up of the tribes inhabiting the eastern regions of the Arabian peninsula, specifically the tribes of the hinterland, not the coastal areas.

For the past twenty centuries, the tribes living in the eastern regions of the Arabian peninsula have been leading a pastoral life as opposed to a settled life, roaming in search of pasturage and water. As a result of this lifestyle, the attitude of the Arab tribesman living in those regions to such notions as loyalty, objectivity and neutrality cannot be understood in isolation from the sociology of nomadism, the culture pattern of Bedouin tribes forced by their environment to move constantly in search of sustenance. Their unconditional loyalty is reserved for the sheikh of the tribe; objectivity is an alien concept and neutrality akin to treason. 

As the eminent Egyptian critic Galal el-Ashry noted in his treatise on Arab creativity, the only creative area in which the Arabs excelled was poetry. That is the only form of artistic expression they produced for reasons we shall not go into here.  They did not produce theatre, novels, epics, music or other creative forms like the Greeks and, before them, the Egyptians and the Sumerians. 

The poetry composed by the poets hailing from the eastern regions of the Arabian peninsula is a mirror reflecting the value system of the tribes of the region, their mores, concerns, behaviour and thinking. The image reflected by their poetry has remained unchanged for centuries. An ode written in classical Arabic over ten centuries ago by a poet from Najd reflects the same values and world view as one written in the vernacular by a poet living in Najd today. Most of the poetry of the region, old and new, resounds with the cadence of stirring imagery, its main themes pride and the superiority of the Bedouin, who is always victorious, never defeated, who bows to no one and stands high above all others. In fact, the word for ‘lofty’ in Arabic is nouf, from whence the proper names Nayef, Nouf and Nawaf. This then is the message that thousands of odes by poets from Najd, Hasa, al-Qassim and al-Hofouf have tried to convey ever since the Arabic language in its present form came into being and up to the present day. This view of life as reflected by the poetry of the region encapsulates the sociology of its nomadic tribes.

The reason we are focusing on the eastern inland areas of the Arabian peninsula rather than on the eastern coastal areas and the region of Hejaz is that the inland areas were the crucible in which the brand of Islamist thinking known as Wahabism was forged. During the second half of the twentieth century, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spent hundreds of billions of dollars to spread this doctrine, which had by then become influenced by three external factors: the ideas of Abul Ala’ el-Mawdoody, Sayed Qutb and the Soroureya school of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Syrian chapter. But these factors did not dilute the essence of the Wahabi understanding of Islam. On the contrary, because of the simplistic thinking of Mohamed ibn Abdul Wahab in comparison with the schools of el-Mawdoody, Qutb and the Soroureya, they helped to reinforce it and swell the ranks of its adherents. 

The tribal Arab mindset formed in the inland deserts of the eastern Arabian peninsula took over leadership of intellectual life in Arab and Muslim societies after the failure of the stage of liberalism and the blend of socialism and Arab nationalism that had at one time held sway. However, the degree to which Arab and Muslim societies have come to be influenced by the tribal mentality born in the harsh eastern wasteland of the Arabian peninsula differs from one society to another in proportion to each society’s historical and cultural legacy and according to its political and socio-economic conditions. Thus while its influence was most strongly felt in the inland regions of the Arabian peninsula, it was weaker in the coastal cities of the peninsula and weaker still in societies like Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Iraq and India that enjoy a richer legacy of history, civilization and culture than the Arabian peninsula. Still, the Bedouin world view forged in the barren deserts of the eastern Arabian peninsula and expressed in the poetry produced by poets from the region is the most important key to understanding the ways of thinking prevailing in many Arab and Muslim societies. 

The culture pattern that formed the Bedouin world view is in total contradiction with the concept of statehood. Loyalty to the sheikh of the tribe is personal by its very nature while loyalty to the state is a more abstract notion. In the tribe, obedience to the wishes and instructions of the sheikh is the counterpart to the modern citizen’s adherence to the constitutional and legal rules of the state. According to the sociology of the tribal mindset, the specificity of which has been described in some detail in this article, the Other is perceived as an enemy or, at best, as a potential enemy to be neutralized. In the modern state system, on the other hand, the Other is regarded as a natural expression of the diversity of life, inspiring neither rejection nor enmity. In a tribal environment there can be no discussion of such issues as diversity, acceptance of the Other, engaging in self-criticism and accepting criticism, the universal nature of knowledge or the recognition that it is the collective legacy of humanity as a whole, all fruits of the modern, progressive, civilized state. Indeed the very notion of humanity is alien to the tribal society. 

If we borrow from the great philosopher Ibn Khaldoun his theory on the distinction between urban and Bedouin societies, we can say that the contemporary Islamic mindset (not Islam itself) is conditioned by a brand of Islam as understood, presented and propagated over the last half century by the Bedouin tribes living in the inland deserts of the eastern Arabian peninsula. Given that most of the Islamic centres and schools established in North America, Europe, Australia and in non-Muslim regions of Asia and Africa were set up at the initiative and with the funding of representatives of this insular tribal mindset it is not hard to understand why the world today sees itself locked in a major confrontation between humanity and Islam. In truth, however, the confrontation is between humanity and a model of Islam presented, financed and propagated by the Bedouin, or Najdi, mindset. 

One of the most alarming developments of the last five decades is that the Najdi mindset did not stop at monopolizing Islamic centres and schools throughout the world but expanded its sphere of influence to include the mass media both within and outside Arab and Islamic societies. Its tentacles also spread to venerable Islamic institutions in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Syria, eroding their original features and replacing them with its own. Thus while in the past we knew when listening to the Friday sermon in Egypt that the speaker was either a Shafite or a Hannafite and in Morocco or Tunisia that he was a Maliki, we now hear an altogether different tune, a single Hanbalite note set to the music of ibn-Taymiyah and ibn-Abdul Wahab. 

Although of all the Islamic jurists ibn-Hanbal was the most zealous proponent of orthodoxy and tradition, allowing little if any room for deductive reasoning [he accepted tens of thousands of the Prophet’s Hadiths as apostolic precept contrary to the great jurist Abu Hanifa, who accepted just over one hundred), he was a natural product of his time. It was a time the Islamic Empire was reeling from the onslaught of the Moguls and the Tatars, and he cannot be blamed for ideas that were appropriate to the age in which he lived. The blame lies with those who, living in a different time and place, base their ideas on those of ibn-Hanbal. Finally, Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab is by no means a jurist but merely a proselytizer seeking converts to the Najdi model of Islam which needs to be understood in the context of its tribal, Bedouin, insular, desert origins. Had it not been for the fact that oil was discovered in these regions, this model would have remained a prisoner of geography, locked behind the sand dunes of Najd which produced no art, music or literature but only poetry devoted to a single theme: the glorification of the tribal values of Najd.    

Смешение ислама и политики: исторический обзор. Автор: Тарик Хэгги

Смешение ислама и политики: исторический обзор. Автор: Тарик Хэгги (1) В 1891 г. распалось Второе Саудовское/ ваххабитское государство, через 137 лет после основания Первого Саудовского/ ваххабитского государства (саудовское - по имени Мухаммада ибн Сауда, и ваххабитское - по имени Мухаммада ибн Абд аль-Ваххаба). Саудовское/ ваххабитское государство - это государство, во главе которого находится правитель из семьи Саудитов (в соответствии с фетвой семьи аль-Шейх - это Мухаммад ибн Абд аль-Ваххаб или его потомки) и в котором считается, что общество должно соблюдать шариат, представляющий собой ханбалитский фикх, а именно фикх Ахмада ибн Ханбаля, Такъию-Ддин ибн Таймия и ибн аль-Каййима (которого иногда упоминают как аль-Джаузийя). И, в самом деле, шариатская база в Саудовском государстве, с его создания в 1744 году, была основана на сочинениях ибн Таймия. Через десять лет после распада Второго Саудовского государства, а точнее - 13 января 1902 года, молодой Абдель Азиз аль-Сауд (или Абдель Азиз ибн Абдуррахман ибн Фейсал аль-Сауд) смог захватить город Эр-Рияд у Рашидидов, которые когда-то, в 1891 году, изгнали Саудитов в Кувейт. И в течение с 1902 по 1934, а это годы основания Королевства Саудовская Аравия, первые правители Третьего Саудовского государства расширили свое влияние (правящая власть - у аль-Саудитов и власть фетвы - у аль-Шейха аль-Абд аль-Ваххаба) на обширных территориях - более чем в два миллиона квадратных километров. В первой четверти двадцатого века Великобритания решила объединить большую часть Аравийского полуострова под властью одного правителя; британцы содействовали такому правлению этим огромным новым государством, что смогло задержать обнаружение в нем нефти; а потом оно оказалось под властью одного пробританского правителя, а, на следующем этапе, ее наследника - Соединенных Штатов Америки. И действительно, в 1934 году образовалось Королевство Саудовская Аравия, а в 1938 г. началась добыча нефти из самого большого месторождения в мире, находящегося в восточной провинции Королевства Саудовская Аравия. В начале двадцатого века в британской разведывательной службе (МИ-6) существовали две точки зрения. Первая точка зрения Джона Филби из Бюро британской разведки в Дели, который считал, что необходимо объединение большей части Аравийского полуострова под знаменем ислама. Другое мнение - во главе с Лоуренсом из Бюро британской разведки в Каире, который известен как Лоуренс Аравийский, который считал, что необходимо объединение Аравийского полуострова и стран аш-Шам - Великой Сирии и Ирака под знаменем арабизма (Арабского королевства). Британская разведка разрешила работать им обоим: первый (Филби) с Абдель Азиз аль-Саудом, и второй (Лоуренс) с аль-Шариф Хусейном, королем аль-Хиджаза. Но затем она встала на сторону Филби в отместку арабам, которые поддерживали Османскую империю в годы Первой мировой войны в 1914 - 1918 г.г., и в которые Османская империя была на стороне Германии против Великобритании. Таким образом, Британия была за создание государства, которое будет играть в дальнейшем важную роль в создании и распространении идеи исламских государств. (2) В Индии, до провозглашения независимости в 1947 году, работал писатель Абу-аль-Аля аль-Маудуди. Можно утверждать, что труды Маудуди являются основой всего того, что было написано через годы египтянином, членом Братьев-мусульман Саййидом Кутбом. Наиболее важная идея во всех трудах Маудуди - это идея «управления», которая состоит в том, что мусульманской общине не следует руководствоваться законодательством, созданным людьми, а все положения шариата должны исходить только от Аллаха. Одним из наиболее важных помощников Махатмы Ганди был Мухаммад Али Джинна, который являлся мусульманином. Британская разведка, работавшая в Индии, делала все, чтобы Мухаммад Али Джинна впитывал идеи Абу-аль-Аля аль-Маудуди, что и привело к образованию независимого государства мусульман Индии. И, таким образом, было образовано государство Пакистан, объединившее современные государства Пакистан и Бангладеш. В то время как Индия стала крупнейшей демократией в мире и государством широкого плюрализма и сосуществования, Пакистан видел много переворотов и распался на два государства (Восточный Пакистан стал Бангладеш). И опаснее всего то, что Пакистан превратился в один из крупнейших источников фундаментализма и терроризма. И вместо одного государства, включавшего три (Индия + Пакистан + Бангладеш), человечество вынуждено терпеть государство, которое обладает ядерным вооружением и имеет на своей территории таких как талибы. И хотя последний британский Генерал - губернатор Индии (лорд Маунтбеттен) возражал против раздела Индии, все чего добивалось Бюро британской разведки «МИ-6» в Дели достигло своей цели, Индия разделилась и образовалось новое крупное государство на религиозной основе. Как я говорил уже много раз, что каждый пакистанец (во время создания Пакистана) являлся человеком, который заснул 12 мая 1947 года как «индийский мусульманин», а проснулся 13 мая 1947 года как просто «мусульманин». После того, как от него убрали прилагательное «индийский», религия стала единственным основанием для его идентичности. (3) Политический ландшафт в Египте на момент создания Хасаном аль-Банна (ему было тогда 22 года) «Братьев - мусульман» говорит нам о многом. После сложностей Британии в течение девяти лет, с 1918 г., из-за патриотических настроений, которые заложил в Египте Саад Заглул (23/08/1927 Саад умер) возник большой политический вакуум. В то же время, была еще одна причина для создания политического вакуума - четыре года назад, в 1924 году Кемаль Ататюрк объявил о распаде халифата - Османской империи. Параллельно с этим правителю Третьего Саудовского/ ваххабитского государства, Абдель Азиз аль-Сауду удалось изгнать Хашимитов, захватить Мекку и Медину и стать (в 1926 г.) Королем Хиджаза и султаном Неджда. Тогда же в Египте находился сириец Мохаммад Рашид Рида - человек Абделя Азиза аль-Сауда, который имел большое влияние на 22-летнего Хасана аль-Банна, отцом которого был (аль-Банна аль-Саати), прибывший в Египет из Марокко. В разгар этих событий Бюро британской разведки в Египте решает, что это походящий момент для создания движения, базирующегося на религиозной, а не на патриотической основе, как движение Саада Заглула в 1918 - 1927 г.г. Существуют доказательства того, что Мухаммад Рашид Рида был тем, кто призвал в 1928 году молодого Хасана аль-Банна основать Братство. Также существуют доказательства, что посольство Великобритании поддерживало это. Даже есть документы, подтверждающие, что компания Суэцкого канала передала значительную сумму денег Хасану аль-Банна, когда он основал Братство и много лет платила за аренду штаб-квартиры братства в городе Исмаилии. В итоге смерть Саада Заглула в 1927 году создала очень большой политический вакуум и Великобритания посчитала, что настало время удара по патриотическому движению, основанному Саадом Заглулом, которое объединило мусульман и христиан Египта вместе в «одной лодке» Родины. Этим она поддержала процесс создания движения Братьев-мусульман, которое разъединило патриотическое движение. (4) 1979 год является годом, который увидел рождение гигантской волны исламского фундаментализма. С прилетом Хомейни в аэропорт Тегерана на борту самолета Air France, прибывшего из Парижа, началась стадия расширения и бурления шиитских исламских фундаменталистов; взорвался вулкан суннитского исламского фундаментализма. В тот же период Советская армия вошла в Афганистан. И в это же время ЦРУ и саудовская разведка договорились о плане создания групп джихадистов из афганцев и мусульман других стран для борьбы с Советскими войсками в Афганистане. Западные и северные районы Пакистана стали местом образования этих джихадистских групп. Здесь возник «Талибан», сформировалась «Аль-Каида» и мир стал видеть больше суннитского исламского фундаментализма, чем он видел когда-то ранее. Вывод: после более чем четырех десятилетий личного, культурного и политического взаимодействия с Европой и с тысячами европейцев я не сомневаюсь, что европейская совесть никогда не брезговала своей колониальной историей. Из этого факта возникает отсутствие чувства вины у европейцев и американцев в отношении стран и народов, которых они колонизировали. Большая часть европейских и американских компонентов инфраструктуры и средств производств не могли бы быть созданы без рабов и дешевой рабочей силы, привезенной из колоний. История африканских рабов в Соединенных Штатах и ​​Европе - это история нещадной эксплуатации. Это факт, я имею в виду отсутствие возражений европейской (и американской) совести за преступления колониализма, которые являются источником другого преступления, совершенного Западом (Европа и Америка) в отношении любого «другого», каким бы ни был этот другой. Этим преступлением является создание плана по ослаблению другого, ослабление другого, ограничение его возможностей, создание возможности держать его на правах слабой стороны, роль которой ограничивается поставками сырья и импорта, покупками продуктов у западных обществ, включая также и оружие. Изучение того, что британская разведка сделала в Китае сто лет назад, когда работала над тем, чтобы большая часть китайского народа стала злоупотреблять опиумом, открывает наши глаза и мы задаемся вопросом: почему интеллект Европы и Америки выступает за создание экстремистских фундаменталистских организаций в большинстве арабских и мусульманских общин, а также в ряде африканских обществ? Только таким образом эти общины остаются в том состоянии, которого хотели для них колониальные силы и их наследник - Соединенные Штаты. Это вовсе не означает невиновности в реальности и в истории нашего общества. Идеи, которые были использованы, чтобы уничтожить наше общество, происходят из нашей истории и нашей действительности.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Political Islam vs Modernity

Tarek Heggy
Bear witness for us, O pen / That we shall not sleep / That we shall not dither between ‘yes’ and ‘no’
(Amal Dunqul)[1]
It is my view that whether political Islam is defined as a religious theocratic movement or a political movement in the modern sense of political movements, the currents of political Islam have a position concerning the type of value system which contemporary intellectuals in advanced societies recognise as constituting the foundations of a culture of progress and modernity.
So a conversation must needs be held between some of these value systems and the mentality and behaviour of exponents of currents of political Islam. This is what I shall attempt to do in an essay such as this, which aims to place political Islam side by side with a number of values associated with modernity and progress.
The conception of the modern state: modern Islamists are unable to understand or accept or even admire the modern state system, which is the product or the result of centuries of political, cultural, social and economic struggle over the course of human progress. When the Prophet took ill (during the last days of his life) he tasked his close companion Abu Bakr al-Siddīq with deputising for him in leading the prayer. When the Prophet passed away shortly afterwards, a large number of Muslims considered that this entrusting of the leadership of the prayer constituted an indication from the Prophet that Abu Bakr was to be his preferred successor. And this is what in fact took place in the aftermath of the problems associated with the Saqīfa compact (saqīfat banī sāʽda)[2]. From the very first day Abu Bakr became “the Prophet’s ‘deputy’” or successor.
Al-Māwardī’s Al-Ahkām al-Sultāniyya: simplistic views on governance
It is this historical model that dominates the Islamists’ thinking. This model (necessarily a simplistic one in step with the simplicity of a time of experimentation) prevails still over the mindset of most Islamists, in whom the interweaving of ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ is a thoroughgoing one. Some decades later attempts were made to philosophise and theorise this experiment in a number of books known today as works on al-Ahkām al-Sultāniyya (‘Rulings on Governance’), such as al-Māwardī’s al-Ahkām al-Sultāniyya. Even though the specifics of such rulings do no more than reflect the condition and level of evolution in man’s political thinking over a period of five centuries starting from the seventh century A.D., specifics which are simplistic and in many instances downright primitive and silly, the mindset of contemporary exponents of Islamism still retains an admiration for them as something presenting a comprehensive alternative to the system of the modern state!
Pluralism: there is little doubt that the culture of more progressive societies, and their general intellectual climate, are founded upon the premise that ‘pluralism’ constitutes one of the most important markers of human existence in its most advanced stage, and indeed that it is one of the prerequisites of human progress. There can be no progress for peoples who do not believe in pluralism or who fail to construct their culture and general climate upon the acceptance of what pluralism achieves. Just as Marxism presented a nemesis for pluralism when all of its social, cultural, economic and political systems were founded upon the dismissal of everyone and everything that opposed the basic foundations of Marxism, political Islam can do nought else but lead to this same dismissal – for all the Islamists’ declarations of belief in pluralism. This is because the Islamist is dominated by the thought that he is 100 per cent in the right – after all, how can this not be the case given that God himself enters with him into all epistemological, cultural, economic, political, legal and constitutional arenas? And scientific arenas too: where is the Islamist, for example, who accepts the theory of evolution?
Charles Darwin: father of a theory where Islamists fear to tread
Otherness (or the acceptance of the other): this is the product of the debate on pluralism. If life (for those who believe in pluralism) is founded upon a broad pluralism in various spheres of living, organisation, thinking and principles, the first thing it demands of modern man is to accept the other (in all that other’s various forms). But if the Islamist – who believes that God stands at his side and that he is the closest to truth in all manner of arenas – maintains any belief in accepting the other, his acceptance is a relatively moderate (or at times microscopic) one. He may tell us that he believes in the rights of woman, but he will then tell us that women are qualified to work in ‘most’ but not ‘all’ posts! And he will tell us, unequivocally, that a woman (and even a non-Muslim) cannot become a head of state! He will also tell us, in his own words, that he believes in religious freedom, but he will lay down for others what it is that they may believe in! For the Islamists in Egypt (writing now in the year 2012) are saying that a man has a right to be a Muslim or a Jew or a Christian but he does not have the right to be a Buddhist or a Baha’i. In the same way Islamists cannot agree that freedom of religion means that a Muslim can leave Islam.
By his nature he must extend the ‘absolute’ beyond the realm of the private and personal onto the realm of public affairs
Relativism: out of the womb of faith in pluralism issues faith in otherness (the acceptance of the other). And out of the womb of either comes ‘relativism’. By this I mean that in the culture and climate of a more progressive society the concept of the relative nature of opinions, rulings, theories and interpretations is widely shared. The Islamist may say, in his own words, that he believes in relativism, yet a discussion with him on the subject of women, non-Muslims, the theory of evolution or opposing viewpoints will always go to prove that the Islamist cannot welcome relativism. For by his nature he must extend the ‘absolute’ beyond the realm of the private and personal onto the realm of public affairs. Consequently he alone – as opposed to anyone else on the face of the planet today – is the one who, in his ideology, possesses ‘permanent solutions’ that may not be changed to face up to problems which by their very nature are changeable. If you were to say to him that these solutions are the product of specific times and places he will become angry and simply reject this logic! For a number of weeks now (writing in August 2012) the former General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Mahdi Akef declared that anyone who disagrees with the conceptions of the Muslim Brotherhood is ‘stupid and ignorant’. Words such as these encapsulate the Islamists’ view and opinion concerning any alternative perception.
The Rights of Man: the Rights of Man, including the right to think and the right to express his views, alongside other rights, are the product of mankind’s struggle conducted over long periods. The problem the Islamist has with the Rights of Man is that he can only accept their presentation as something which he believes to be the will of God! If we were to say to him that it is a human right to be a Buddhist or a Baha’i, he will reject this and say that the Rights of Man in this respect are limited to the three Abrahamic faiths. If we were to say to him that it is a woman's right to dress as she pleases he would refuse this on the basis of his morals which he also sees as expressing the will of God! And if we were to say to him that it is a Muslim’s right to become a Jew or a Christian he will once again employ his (absolutist!) morals to refuse this human right. Thus for the Islamist there is an upper ceiling or a number of upper ceilings to the Rights of Man, ceilings which in his conception are also the will of God!
Marie Curie: winner of two Nobel prizes but less than the worth of an uneducated man
Womankind: women as such, the fear of them and the desire which they inspire, and at the same time the wish to place her in a cage and keep her under constant supervision, these are some of the most conspicuous Islamist standpoints vis-à-vis womankind. There is no doubt that the Islamist sees the woman as a lesser being (albeit only marginally!) than the man. He even makes use of what nature has imposed on women in order to establish that she is religiously inferior (that the onset of a woman’s monthly period places her in the eyes of the Islamist on a lower religious footing than that of a man). Most Islamists are preoccupied – to the point of hysterical delirium – with women. The result of their delirium (much as with the case of the Haredi Jews) is that she becomes in their conception the source and the cause of most sins! The Islamist – generally – sees that this dangerous source of sinfulness must be hedged about with restrictions. Despite an Islamic society like Saudi Arabia surrounding the woman with unprecedented levels of restrictions, this society has been and is still witnessing the greatest degree of chaos in sexual relations.
There is no doubt that the Islamist sees the woman as a lesser being
Instead of concerning himself with punishing the man (the wolf), the entire focus of the Islamist is fixed on imprisoning ‘the victim’ under observation in a cage. As I always say: instead of keeping the flies off, we choose to lock up the honey in cupboards! In the light of such a mentality the Rights of Woman have the lowest ceilings imposed upon them. Anyone can put this to the test by asking any Islamist to take another look at such things as the following: the testimony of a woman in court or elsewhere as being worth half the testimony of a man (in a Saudi court of law the testimony of a woman such as Madame Curie who has won two Nobel Prizes in science would be worth half the testimony of a man who has barely finished primary school!) Alternatively you will not find an Islamist who is prepared to take another look at the inheritance of a woman being half that of the man ... or whether a woman is qualified to occupy the office of head of state ...  or whether he would agree to a woman being in a position to licence marriage or divorce, or have custody of her sons and daughters, and so on.
Qutb: his work unquestioned by Islamist leaders
The rule of law in its modern conception: the Islamist is of the firm conviction that submission to positivist constitutional and legal rules (that is those that have been set down by Man) is a grievous sin. It is a sin on the religious level, and a sin on the social level too in that the Islamist believes deep down that mortals are not qualified to shape a constitutional and legal system governed by mortals. Ever since Egypt in 1883 transferred to a modern positivist legal system, Islamists remained critical of the existence of a legal system set down by mortals. When the writings of Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) became the most important literature in political Islam (many of them taken from the Indo-Pakistani Islamist Abū al-Aʽlā al-Mawdūdī whose writings are some of the most important causes of wars between Pakistan and India) the philosophy of the Islamists vis-à-vis positivist laws has been the following: God alone is cognizant of Man’s failings and consequently their non-qualification to fashion laws governing relations between men in all its various forms. This is the core of the theory of al-hākimiyya[3] that all Islamists hold to, even if they differ on the period of time required to apply this theory. One of the most important by-products of this theory of al-hākimiyya, and which is the essence of the Islamist mindset, is that man should not lay down rules governing relations between men but instead observe the rules established by God and not mankind. Even now no leader of any current of political Islam undertakes to review the concept of al-hākimiyyapresented by Sayyid Qutb in his famous work Milestones on the Way (which is considered to be a regurgitation of earlier ideas propounded by Abū al-Aʽlā al-Mawdūdī).
Usama bin Ladin: object of Islamist admiration and appreciation
Thus the Islamist is faced with a continuing difficulty vis-à-vis all positivist, legal, constitutional foundations. Even if a great legal scholar such as Dr al-Sanhouri – the author of the 1984 Egyptian Civil Code – says that he sees nothing in all of the regulations and materials of this code derived from French civil law that contradicts the principles of Islamic Sharīʻa, nevertheless this counts for nothing among the currents of political Islam. The Islamist continues to believe that his primary political mission is to apply a comprehensive legal system derived from Islamic Sharīʻa, that is – in his view – the laws that express the will of God.
Violence: it is clear that the leadership of most currents of political Islam refuse to describe suicide operations undertaken by many Islamists against non-combatant individuals as terrorist operations. There is no doubt that most of these leaders do not consider someone such as Usama bin Ladin to be a terrorist. Indeed most of them have, and still do, look upon Usama bin Ladin brimming with appreciation and admiration for him.
When an Islamist candidate (ʽAbd al-Munʽim Abū al-Futūh) for the post of president of the Republic of Egypt was asked a few months ago whether he considered Usama bin Ladin a terrorist or not, he replied “America is terrorist”. The truth is that the Islamist cannot condemn ‘violence’ against civilians in all its shapes and forms. Nothing demonstrates this more than the failure of contemporary man to agree on a universally accepted definition of terrorism. Islamists are of one in maintaining that it is their right – and indeed their duty – to distance themselves from any agreement on how to define terrorism before such time that they have fully attained to power. The present writer claims that no less than half the sons and daughters in societies such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Yemen would reject someone like Usama bin Ladin being described as a terrorist.
Not a single fanatic upon the surface of the Earth is the product of a balanced intellectual formation
A balanced intellectual formation: I have always believed, and still do, that not a single fanatic upon the surface of the Earth is the product of a balanced intellectual formation. None of the various fruits of human inventiveness in all or most of the spheres of intellectual and cultural creativity have ever found their way in a balanced, measured form into the mentality of the Haredi Jew or the fundamentalist Muslim. Or to put it another way, if any of the fruits of human inventiveness initiated by the ancient Greek and Roman civilisation, or the fruits of the Renaissance and the period following the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, or the most important products of human creativity over the last three centuries (which are the richest centuries in human history) should make their entry into a man’s mental composition, then that man simply cannot be a fundamentalist or a fanatic. I was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to see up close what it is that a Haredi Jew or a Salafist Muslim, or the militant Muslim followers of the Hanbali school or those who admire the fatwas of Hanbali faqihs and proselytizers like Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim and Muhammad ʽAbd al-Wahhāb (among whom feature all the clerics of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and all the lands of Sunni Islam) do for reading material. I got to know up close that the bulk of these folk have never read, and still do not read, anything beyond the literature of their specific religious denomination.
Shakespeare, Voltaire and Descartes: fruits of human creativity proscribed by Saudi clerics
Indeed, I might add that I have heard the warnings issued by dozens of prominent clerics in Saudi Arabia against reading what I would call the fruits of human creativity – from Homer to Dante, from Shakespeare and Racine to Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau and Diderot, from Descartes to Kant, from Victor Hugo to Albert Camus – and I know intimately their rejectionist position on symphonic music, the figurative arts and the theatre. Perhaps the following anecdotes demonstrate the tragedy we are writing about here: in August 2012 the Chinese astronauts returned to their launch base and a picture was published of a female Chinese astronaut exiting the spaceship aided by one of her colleagues. A Salafist internet website ran the photograph with a commentary that did not address the various aspects of brilliant achievement represented by the picture. Instead the commentary focused on the ‘degeneracy’ represented by the image of a female astronaut with her colleague supporting her arm to help her exit the spaceship! A few years ago a fire broke out in a girls’ school in Saudi Arabia; many of the girl students attempted to leave the burning building but were turned back by the school’s firemen with the result that they burned to death – since they were not wearing their veils at the time they were attempting to escape incineration.
No doubt Machiavelli would have considered them even more Machiavellian than himself
Humanity: the literature, culture and thinking of the Islamists are based upon the division of the world (and of its peoples) into two – the first called the Abode of Islam, the second named the Abode of War. This division prevails still over the Islamists’ mindset, which in light of the authority of this literature has difficulty in understanding, digesting, embracing and accepting the modern concept of humanity and the influence it has had on breaking down the barriers and frontiers between cultures and societies. I have no doubt that Islamists look upon the other (who necessarily belongs to the Abode of War) as an enemy in one form or another – an enemy constantly held to be responsible for all of their problems, starting from colonialism and including everything that has happened up to the present day. Two years ago ‘Abd al-Munʽim Abū al-Futūh, a famous leading light in the Muslim Brotherhood who entered the electoral race for the Egyptian presidency in May 2012, issued a book in which he stated that all the problems of contemporary Islamic societies were caused by colonialism. Mr Abū al-Futūh did not explain to us why it is that the Europeans embarked on colonising us instead of us colonising the Europeans! Similarly Mr Abū al-Futūh did not tell us why most regions of the Arabian Peninsula have remained deeply backward for a century despite the fact that they were never colonised!
Mahdi Akef: anyone who disagrees with the Muslim Brotherhood is ‘stupid and ignorant'
Taqiyya (concealment): Taqiyya is a Shiʽite concept that seeps into the political practices of contemporary Islamist groups be they Shiʽite or Sunni. The concept of taqiyya means that at such time as the Islamists on the ground constitute the weaker power, they have the right to proclaim in public precisely the opposite of what they hold in secret. This manifested itself clearly in the behaviour of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the fall of the former president Husni Mubarak. The positions they adopted were often contradictory to that which they had previously declared even just a few months earlier.
I can see no possibility of any agreement between political Islam and the values of progress and modernity
The danger oftaqiyya comes to the fore whenever Islamists make declarations, in their meetings with representatives of cultures that despise mendacity, on such matters as their repudiation of violence and their respect for the rights of women or their respect for non-Muslims. To make such declarations as these – which fly in the face of what their minds actually think and intend – is religiously permitted for them for as long as they have yet to attain to the phase of total empowerment. I have no doubt that had Niccolò Machiavelli himself heard from some Muslims of the concept of taqiyya he would have agreed with them and considered them even more Machiavellian than himself.
In short, after 40 years of studying political Islam and studying its literature and writings – including university theses on the Islamic system of hadd punishments – I can see no possibility of there being any agreement between political Islam and the values of progress and modernity. At the same time I believe that the pragmatic practice of politics (in the light of contemporary constitutions and laws) may permit developments that may render Islamist political parties similar to Christian parties in Europe. But I am speaking here of a possible, and by no means certain, trajectory, and I am talking of a long journey – which up to now I see no tangible evidence of having been started!

[1] This essay on Islamism is dedicated to Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) the founder of the concept of criminal atavism, a theory that I came to study in depth during the 1970s - Tarek Heggy.
[3] See Glossary.