Oei, mijn medeforumgangers zijn well heel actief geweest sinds ik laatst langs kwam. Ik moet alles nog lezen en ik zou ik niet zijn indien ik niet reageren zou.
Intussen, in verband met een geciteerde uitspraak die Bush op 13 september 2001 deed, iets van iemand die geen historicus is maar wel een eersterangservaringsdeskundige, mijn niet-favoriete schrijver.
Het is misschien wat lang om als citaat gebracht te worden, maar toen ik het herlas wist ik niet waar ik moest snijden. Het hele stuk lijkt me zo vol van elementen die een beter begrip van de islam mogelijk maken. Ik heb ook aan de verleiding weerstaan om bepaalde zinsneden te onderstrepen; de aandachtige en geïnteresseerde lezer zal zelf wel ontdekken wat hij belangrijk acht.
(Ik verontschuldig mij bij voorbaat voor mogelijke tikfouten.)
Salman RUSHDIE, Step Across This Line. Collected Non-Fiction 1992-2002
, Vintage, 2003, ISBN 0-099
November 2001: Not About Islam?
‘This isn’t about Islam.’ The world’s leader have been repeating this mantra for weeks, partly in the virtuous hope of deterring reprisal attacks on innocent Muslims living in the West, partly because if the US is to maintain its coalition against terror it can’t afford to allege that Islam and terrorism are in any way related.
The trouble with this necessary disclaimer is that it isn’t true. If this isn’t about Islam, why the worldwide Muslim demonstrations in support of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida? Why did those 10,000 men armed with swords and axes mass on the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier, answering some mullah’s call to jihad? Why are the war’s first British casualties three Muslim men who died fighting on the Taliban side?
Why the routine anti-Semitism of the much-repeated Islamic slander that ‘the Jews’ arranged the hits on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, with the oddly self-deprecating explanation offered by the Taliban leadership among others: that Muslims could ot have the technological know-how or organizational sophistication to pull off such a feat? Why does Imran Khan, the Pakistani ex-sports star turned politician, demand to be shown the evidence of Al-Qaida’s guilt, while apparently turning a deaf ear to the self-incriminating statements of Al-Qaida’s own spokesmen (there will be a rain of aircraft from the skies, Muslims in the West are warned not to live or work in tall buildings, etc.)? Why all the talk about US military infidels desecrating the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, if some sort of definition of what is sacred is not at the heart of the present discontents?
Let’s start calling a spade a spade. Of course this is ‘about Islam’. The question is, what exactly does it mean? After all, most religious belief isn’t very theological. Most Muslims are not profound Quranic analysts. For a vast number of ‘believing’ Muslim men, ‘Islam’ stands, in a jumbled, half-examined way, not only for the fear of God – the fear more than the love, one suspects – but also for a cluster of customs, opinions and prejudices that include their dietary practices, the sequestration or near-sequestration of ‘their’ women, the sermons delivered by their mullah of choice, a loathing of modern society in general, riddled as it is with music, godlessness and sex, and a more particularized loathing (and fear) of the prospect that their own immediate surroundings could be taken over – ‘Westoxicated’ – by the liberal Western-style way of life.
Highly motivated organizations of Muslim men (oh, for the voices of Muslim women to be heard!) have been engaged, over the last thirty years or so, on growing radical political movements out of this mulch of ‘belief’. These Islamists – we must get used to this word, ‘Islamists’, meaning those who are engaged upon such political projects, and learn to distinguish it from the more general, and politically neutral ‘Muslim’ – include the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the bloodsoaked combatants of the FIS and GIA in Algeria, the Shia revolutionaries of Iran, and the Taliban. Poverty is their great helper, and the fruit of their efforts is paranoia. This paranoid Islam, which blames outsiders, ‘infidels’, for all the ills of Muslim societies, and whose proposed remedy is the closing of those societies to the rival project of modernity, is presently the fastest-growing version of Islam in the world.
This is not really to go along with Samuel Huntington’s thesis about the ‘clash of civilizations’, for the simple reason that the Islamists’ project is not only turned against the West and ‘the Jews’, but also against their fellow-Islamists. Whatever the public rhetoric, there’s little love lost between the Taliban and Iranian regimes. Dissensions between Muslim nations run at least as deep, if not deeper, than those nations’ resentment of the West. Nevertheless, it would be absurd to deny that this self-exculpatory, paranoic Islam is an ideology with widespread appeal.
Twenty years ago, when I was writing a novel about power struggles in a fictionalized Pakistan, it was already de rigueur in the Muslim world to blame all its troubles on the West and, in particular, the United States. Then as now, some of these criticisms were well founded; no room here to rehearse the geopolitics of the Cold War, and America’s frequently damaging foreign policy ‘tilts’, to use the Kissinger term, towards (or away from) this or that temporarily useful (or disapproved-of) nation-state, or America’s role in the installation and deposition of sundry unsavoury leaders and regimes. But I wanted then to ask a question which is no less important now: suppose we say that the ills of our societies are not primarily American’s fault – that we are to blame for our own failings? How would we understand them then? Might we not, by accepting our own responsibility for our problems, begin to learn to solve them for ourselves?
Interestingly, many Muslims, as well as secularist analysts with roots in the Muslim world, are beginning to ask such questions now. In recent weeks Muslim voices have everywhere been raised against the obscurantist ‘hijack’ of their religion. Yesterday’s hotheads (among the Yusuf Islam, a.k.a. Cat Stevens) are improbably repackaging themselves as today’s pussycats. An Iraqi writer quotes an earlier Iraqi satirist: ‘The disease that is in us, is from us.’ A Lebanese writer friend, returning from Beirut, tells me that in the aftermath of September 11, public criticism of Islamism has become much more outspoken. Many commentators have spoken of the need for a Reformation in the Muslim world. I’m reminded of the way non-communist socialists used to distance themselves from the tyrannous ‘actually existing’ socialism of the Soviets; nevertheless, the first stirring of this counter-project are of great significance. If Islam is to be reconciled with modernity, these voices must be encouraged until they swell into a roar.
Many of them speak of another Islam, their personal, private faith, and the restoration of religion to the sphere of the personal, its depoliticization, is the nettle that all Muslim societies must grasp in order to become modern. The only aspect of modernity in which the terrorists are interested is technology, which they see as a weapon that can be turned against its makers. If terrorism is to be defeated, the world of Islam must take on board the secularist-humanist principles on which the modern is based, and without which their countries’ freedom will remain a distant dream.