FrontPageMagazine.com | January 30, 2006
Frontpage Interview's guest today is Andrew Bostom, M.D., M.S. (Providence, RI), an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Renal Diseases of Rhode Island Hospital. He has published articles and commentary on Islam in the Washington Times, National Review, Revue Politique, FrontPage Magazine.com, The American Thinker, Investor's Business Daily, and other print and online publications. He is the author of the new book "The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims."
Front Page: As a physician by profession, how did you become interested Islam in general and in the topic of your book in particular?
Bostom: September 11, 2001 shocked me out of the complete absorption in my career in medicine...specifically, epidemiology and clinical trials...and an accompanying uninformed complacency about world affairs. I grew up in New York City, spending the first 34 years of my life there, and the wife of one of our nephrology fellowship trainees barely made it out of the second World Trade Center tower before it collapsed. The cataclysmic events of 9/11 had very little context for me, so I set out to learn about Islam, reading voraciously. Starting with the writings of Karen Armstrong and John Esposito (how naïve and ironic it seems in retrospect!), I became thoroughly dissatisfied, in short order, with the entire genre of thinly veiled, treacly apologetics, sadly characteristic of modern popular and "academic" works on Islam. So I began what has become a ceaseless endeavor to educate myself, making liberal use of the vast research resources of the Brown University system. Learned, patient mentors, in particular Bat Ye'or and Ibn Warraq, facilitated my efforts. They encouraged me to complete what became The Legacy of Jihad, sharing my view, expressed so appositely by the prominent Middle East Studies Professor, Dr. Raphael Israeli, that the book filled a "yawning gap" in the literature on jihad. That is why in one rather large volume I combined a comprehensive analysis of both jihad theory and practice, the latter being a detailed survey of the brutal way jihad campaigns have always been waged...using a physicians favorite learning and teaching tool, the mnemonic, in this case "MPED"...massacre, pillage, enslavement, and deportation.
Front Page: What is Islamic Jihad?
Bostom: There is only one historically relevant meaning of jihad regardless of contemporary apologetics. The noted 19th century Arabic lexicographer E.W. Lane, who studied the etymology of the term, observed, "Jihad came to be used by the Muslims to signify wag[ing] war, against unbelievers". The origins of the Muslim institution of jihad are found in the Qur'an. Sura (chapter) 9 is devoted in its entirety to war proclamations. There we read that the Muslim faithful are to "slay the idolaters wherever you find them. . . . Fight against such as those who have been given the scripture as believe not in Allah. . . . Go forth, light-armed and heavy armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah. That is best for you, if ye but knew." From such verses in the Qur'an and in the hadith, Muslim jurists and theologians formulated the Islamic institution of permanent jihad war against non-Muslims to bring the world under Islamic rule (Sharia law).
The consensus on the nature of jihad from major schools of Islamic jurisprudence is clear. Summarizing this consensus of centuries of Islamic thought, the seminal Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun, who died in 1406, wrote:
In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty because of the universalism of the mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense.
Only Islam, Ibn Khaldun added, "is under obligation to gain power over other nations."
Muhammad himself waged a series of proto-jihad campaigns to subdue the Jews, Christians and pagans of Arabia. For example, within a year after the massacre of the Medinan Jewish tribe the Banu Qurayzah (described here), Muhammad, according to a summary of sacralized Muslim sources,
..waited for some act of aggression on on the part of the Jews of Khaybar, whose fertile lands and villages he had destined for his followers. . .to furnish an excuse for an attack. But, no such opportunity offering, he resolved in the autumn of this year [i.e., 628], on a sudden and unprovoked invasion of their territory.
Ali (later, the fourth "Rightly Guided Caliph", and especially revered by Shi'ite Muslims) asked Muhammad why the Jews of Khaybar were being attacked, since they were peaceful farmers, tending their oasis, and was told by Muhammad he must compel them to submit to Islamic Law. The renowned early 20th century scholar of Islam, David Margoliouth, observed aptly:
Now the fact that a community was idolatrous, or Jewish, or anything but Mohammedan, warranted a murderous attack upon it.
Within two years of Muhammad's death, Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, launched the Great Jihad. The ensuing three decades witnessed Islamdom's most spectacular expansion, as Muslim armies subdued the entire Arabian peninsula, and conquered territories which had been in Greco-Roman possession since the reign of Alexander the Great.
The essential pattern of the jihad war is captured in the classical Muslim historian al-Tabari' s recording of the recommendation given by Umar b. al-Khattab (the second "Rightly Guided Caliph") to the commander of the troops he sent to al-Basrah (636 C.E.), during the conquest of Iraq. Umar reportedly said:
Summon the people to God; those who respond to your call, accept it from them, (This is to say, accept their conversion as genuine and refrain from fighting them) but those who refuse must pay the poll tax out of humiliation and lowliness. (Qur'an 9:29) If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency. Fear God with regard to what you have been entrusted.
By the time of al-Tabari's death in 923, jihad wars had expanded the Muslim empire from Portugal to the Indian subcontinent. Subsequent Muslim conquests continued in Asia, as well as Eastern Europe. The Christian kingdoms of Armenia, Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Albania, in addition to parts of Poland and Hungary, were also conquered and Islamized. Arab Muslim invaders engaged, additionally, in continuous jihad raids that ravaged and enslaved Sub-Saharan African animist populations, extending to the southern Sudan. When the Muslim armies were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683, over a millennium of jihad had transpired. These tremendous military successes spawned a triumphalist jihad literature. Muslim historians recorded in detail the number of infidels slaughtered, or enslaved and deported, the cities and villages which were pillaged, and the lands, treasure, and movable goods seized. Christian (Coptic, Armenian, Jacobite, Greek, Slav, etc.), as well as Hebrew sources, and even the scant Hindu and Buddhist writings which survived the ravages of the Muslim conquests, independently validate this narrative, and complement the Muslim perspective by providing testimonies of the suffering of the non-Muslim victims of jihad wars.
Front Page: There are scholars and critics amongst us who argue that the terrorists have exploited and hijacked Islam to serve their own violent ends. In their view, Islamist terror is a perversion of the true Islam. What do you think?
Bostom: This is ahistorical prattle, which unfortunately appears to have been accepted by President Bush and his key advisers. But Mr. Bush is our President, not our theologian-in-chief. Neither he nor any of those you alluded to have made informed comments about Islam, least of all the utterance that Islam is a "religion of peace". Ironically, the renowned 20th century Muslim ideologue Sayyid Qutb, perhaps the most brilliant Muslim scholar of the 20th century, who is demonized as a fomenter of "radical" Islam, has also referred to Islam as a "religion of peace". But Qutb's context is unapologetic and clear...he is referring to the Pax Islamica that would prevail when the entire world was submitted to Islamic domination, and the rule of Islamic law (i.e., the Shari'a), by jihad war.
Furthermore, in a recent speech President Bush insisted that the "ideology" of the most notable Muslim terrorists, who he maintained "distort the idea of jihad," is "very different from the religion of Islam" and indeed "exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision." The President's even more specific and assertive comments regarding jihad were a profound disappointment. Indeed, such words could have been written and uttered by the most uninformed, or deliberately disingenuous apologists for this devastating, and uniquely Islamic institution, well over a millennium old, and still wreaking havoc today.
A prominent 14th-century Muslim treatise on jihad written by Ibn Hudayl revealed the violent methods employed during the conquest of the Iberian peninsula:
It is permissible to set fire to the lands of the enemy, his stores of grain, his beasts of burden ... if it is not possible for the Muslims to take possession of them ... as well as to cut down his trees, to raze his cities, in a word to do everything that might ruin and discourage him.
Terrorism was often a prelude to conquest. The Muslim historian al-Maqqari, commenting in the 17th century on the brutal tactics of Arab raiders, wrote,
Allah thus instilled such fear among the infidels that they did not dare to go and fight the conquerors; they only approached them as suppliants, to beg for peace.
Later centuries saw Muslim fortunes decline. Many conquered lands liberated themselves from Muslim rule. But the ideology of jihad was handed down unchanged to all future Muslim generations.
Armand Abel, the esteemed mid-20th century Belgian scholar of Islam, has provided this elegant analysis of the concept of "Dar ul Harb", which is critical to an overall understanding of the jihad, past and present:
Together with the duty of the "war in the way of God" (or jihad), this universalistic aspiration would lead the Moslems to see the world as being divided fundamentally into two parts. On the one hand there was that part of the world where Islam prevailed, where salvation had been announced, where the religion that ought to reign was practiced; this was the Dar ul Islam. On the other hand, there was the part which still awaited the establishment of the saving religion and which constituted, by definition, the object of the holy war. This was the Dar ul Harb. The latter, in the view of the Moslem jurists, was not populated by people who had a natural right not to practice Islam, but rather by people destined to become Moslems who, through impiousness and rebellion, refused to accept this great benefit. Since they were destined sooner or later to be converted at the approach of the victorious armies of the Prophet's successor, or else killed for their rebelliousness, they were the rebel subjects of the Caliph. Their kings were nothing but odious tyrants who, by opposing the progress of the saving religion together with their armies, were following a Satanic inspiration and rising up against the designs of Providence. And so no respite should be granted them, no truce: perpetual war should be their lot, waged in the course of the winter and summer ghazu. [razzias] If the sovereign of the country thus attacked desired peace, it was possible for him, just like for any other tributary or community, to pay the tribute for himself and for his subjects. Thus the [Byzantine] Empress Irene [d. 803] "purchased peace at the price of her humiliation", according to the formula stated in the dhimma contract itself, by paying 70,000 pounds in gold annually to the Caliph of Baghdad. Many other princes agreed in this way to become tributaries -- often after long struggles -- and to see their dominions pass from the status of dar al Harb to that of dar al Sulh. In this way, those of their subjects who lived within the boundaries of the territory ruled by the Caliphate were spared the uncertainty of being exposed arbitrarily, without any guarantee, to the military operations of the summer ghazu and the winter ghazu: indeed, anything within the reach of the Moslem armies as they advanced, being property of impious men and rebels, was legitimately considered their booty; their men, seized by armed soldiers, were mercilessly consigned to the lot specified in the Koranic verse about the sword, and their women and children were treated like things.
The respected contemporary Muslim cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, "spiritual" leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, head of the "European Council for Fatwa and Research", and popular Al-Jazeera television personality, reiterated almost this exact formulation of Dar ul Harb in July 2003:
It has been determined by Islamic law that the blood and property of people of Dar Al-Harb [the Domain of Disbelief where the battle for the domination of Islam should be waged] is not protected. . .in modern war, all of society, with all its classes and ethnic groups, is mobilized to participate in the war, to aid its continuation, and to provide it with the material and human fuel required for it to assure the victory of the state fighting its enemies. Every citizen in society must take upon himself a role in the effort to provide for the battle. The entire domestic front, including professionals, laborers, and industrialists, stands behind the fighting army, even if it does not bear arms.
Thus it is the consensus view of orthodox Islamic jurisprudence regarding jihad, since its formulation during the 8th and 9th centuries, through the current era, that non-Muslims peacefully going about their lives...from the Khaybar farmers whom Muhammad ordered attacked in 628, to those sitting in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01...are "muba'a", licit, in the Dar ul Harb. And these innocent non-combatants can be killed, and have always been killed, with impunity simply by virtue of being "harbis" during endless razzias and or full scale jihad campaigns that have occurred continuously since the time of Muhammad, through the present. This is the crux of the institutionalized ideology that we are fighting, i.e., jihad, notwithstanding President Bush's unfortunate public mischaracterization.
The larger, pervasive political correctness in this country, has engendered a stultifying "Islamic correctness" among our academic, political and media elites that prevents frank and meaningful discussions of Islam, jihad, and their relationship to terrorism. Moreover, when Bin Laden criticizes America for its "debauchery and secularism", and seeks its replacement with an Islamic entity, he is simply arguing in accord with widely held, orthodox Islamic beliefs. That is why Bin Laden remains so popular in the Islamic world, and few so-called moderate or traditional Muslims have actively condemned Al-Qaeda, especially in Muslim societies, except when Muslims have been victimized by Al-Qaeda attacks (as for example in Jordan). And there are very disturbing trends evident among Muslims living in the West, particularly in Europe. For example, survey results from British Muslims polled shortly after the 7/7/05 London bombings. revealed that one-third were brazen enough to admit following 7/7/05, "Western society is decadent and immoral and . . .Muslims should seek to bring it to an end", expressing ostensibly, their desire to replace Britain's current liberal democracy with a Shari'a-based theocratic model . Ultimately, the denial and intellectual cowardice that accompany "Islamic correctness" as practiced by elites across the political spectrum emboldens those Muslims most committed to jihad in all its manifestations, including jihad terrorism.
Front Page: Tell us a bit about the ruling conditions imposed by Muslim conquerors on non-Muslims who have been conquered by jihad.
Bostom: In The Laws of Islamic Governance al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned jurist of Baghdad, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel (i.e., non-Muslim) populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the poll tax (jizya). He notes that "The enemy makes a payment in return for peace and reconciliation. " Al- Mawardi then distinguishes two cases: (I) Payment is made immediately and is treated like booty, "it does, however, not prevent a jihad being carried out against them in the future. ". (II). Payment is made yearly and will "constitute an ongoing tribute by which their security is established". Reconciliation and security last as lone as the pavment is made. If the pavment ceases, then the jihad resumes. A treaty of reconciliation may be renewable, but must not exceed 10 years. In the chapter "The Division of the Fay and the Ghaneemah" (booty), al- Mawardi examines the regulations pertaining to the land taken from the infidels. With regard to land taken through treaty, specifically, he indicates two possibilities: either the infidels convert or they pay the jizya and their life and belongings are protected. And the nature of such "protection" is clarified in this definition of jizya by the seminal Arabic lexicographer, E.W. Lane, based on a careful analysis of the etymology of the term:
"The tax that is taken from the free non-Muslim subjects of a Muslim government whereby they ratify the compact that assures them protection, as though it were compensation for not being slain"
Another important aspect of the jizya is the widely upheld view of the classical schools of Islamic jurisprudence about the deliberately humiliating imposition and procurement of this tax. Here is a discussion of the ceremonial for collection of the jizya by the 13th century Shafi'i jurist an-Nawawi:
. . .The infidel who wishes to pay his poll tax must be treated with disdain by the collector: the collector remains seated and the infidel remains standing in front of him, his head bowed and his back bent. The infidel personally must place the money on the scales, while the collector holds him by the beard, and strikes him on both cheeks. . .
A remarkable account from 1894 by an Italian Jew traveling in Morocco, demonstrates the humiliating conditions under which the jizya was still being collected within the modern era:
The kaid Uwida and the kadi Mawlay Mustafa had mounted their tent today near the Mellah [Jewish ghetto] gate and had summoned the Jews in order to collect from them the poll tax [jizya] which they are obliged to pay the sultan. They had me summoned also. I first inquired whether those who were European-protected subjects had to pay this tax. Having learned that a great many of them had already paid it, I wished to do likewise. After having remitted the amount of the tax to the two officials, I received from the kadi's guard two blows in the back of the neck. Addressing the kadi and the kaid, I said" 'Know that I am an Italian protected subject.' Whereupon the kadi said to his guard: 'Remove the kerchief covering his head and strike him strongly; he can then go and complain wherever he wants.' The guards hastily obeyed and struck me once again more violently. This public mistreatment of a European-protected subject demonstrates to all the Arabs that they can, with impunity, mistreat the Jews. 
The "contract of the jizya", or "dhimma" encompassed other obligatory and recommended obligations for the conquered non-Muslim "dhimmi" peoples. Collectively, these "obligations" formed the discriminatory system of dhimmitude imposed upon non-Muslims-Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists-subjugated by jihad. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished non-Muslims (dhimmis), and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches, synagogues, and temples; inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; a requirement that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims, including Zoroastrians and Hindus, wear special clothes; and the overall humiliation and abasement of non-Muslims. It is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Shari' a. The writings of the much lionized Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazali (d. 1111) highlight how the institution of dhimmitude was simply a normative, and prominent feature of the Shari'a:
...the dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle.. .Jews, Christians, and Majians must pay thejizya [poll tax on non-Muslims]...on offering up thejizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmt] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]... They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells...their houses may not be higher than the Muslim's, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddler-work] is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths...[dhimmis] must hold their tongue.
Bat Ye'or is an accomplished contemporary scholar of those unique Islamic institutions which regulate the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims: jihad, and its corollary institution, dhimmitude, the repressive and humiliating system of governance imposed upon those non-Muslims (i.e., dhimmis) subjugated by jihad. Although she coined the term dhimmitude, Bat Ye'or's characterization of the salient features of this institution is entirely consistent with the views of seminal scholars from the early and mid 20th century. Sir Jadunath Sarkar, for example, a pre-eminent historian of Mughal India, wrote the following in 1920 regarding the impact of centuries of jihad and dhimmitude on the indigenous Hindus of the Indian subcontinent:
Islamic theology, therefore tells the true believer that his highest duty is to make 'exertion (jihad) in the path of God', by waging war against infidel lands (dar-ul-harb) till they become part of the realm of Islam (dar-ul-Islam) and their populations are converted into true believers. After conquest the entire infidel population becomes theoretically reduced to the status of slaves of the conquering army. The men taken with arms are to be slain or sold into slavery and their wives and children reduced to servitude. As for the non-combatants among the vanquished, if they are not massacred outright, - as the canon lawyer Shaf'i declares to be the Qur'anic injunction,- it is only to give them a respite till they are so wisely guided as to accept the true faith.
The conversion of the entire population to Islam and the extinction of every form of dissent is the ideal of the Muslim State. If any infidel is suffered to exist in the community, it is as a necessary evil, and for a transitional period only. Political and social disabilities must be imposed on him, and bribes offered to him from the public funds, to hasten the day of his spiritual enlightenment and the addition of his name to the roll of true believers...
A non-Muslim therefore cannot be a citizen of the State; he is a member of a depressed class; his status is a modified form of slavery. He lives under a contract (zimma, or 'dhimma') with the State: for the life and property grudgingly spared to him by the commander of the faithful he must undergo political and social disabilities, and pay a commutation money. In short, his continued existence in the State after the conquest of his country by the Muslims is conditional upon his person and property made subservient to the cause of Islam.
He must pay a tax for his land (kharaj), from which the early Muslims were exempt; he must pay other exactions for the maintenance of the army, in which he cannot enlist even if he offers to render personal service instead of paying the poll-tax; and he must show by humility of dress and behavior that he belongs to s subject class. No non-Muslim can wear fine dresses, ride on horseback or carry arms; he must behave respectfully and submissively to every member of the dominant sect.
As the learned Qazi Mughis-ud-din declared, in accordance with the teachings of the books on Canon Law: 'The Hindus are designated in the Law as 'payers of tribute' (kharaj-guzar); and when the revenue officer demands silver from them, they should, without question and with all humility and respect, tender gold. If the officer throws dirt into their mouths, they must without reluctance open their mouths wide to receive it. By these acts of degradation are shown the extreme obedience of the zimmi [dhimmi], the glorification of the true faith of Islam, and the abasement of false faiths. God himself orders them to be humiliated , (as He says, 'till they pay jaziya) with the hand and are humbled. . .The Prophet has commanded us to slay them, plunder them, and make them captive. . .No other religious authority except the great Imam (Hanifa) whose faith we follow, has sanctioned the imposition of jaziya on Hindus. According to all other theologians, the rule for Hindus is 'Either death or Islam'.
The zimmi is under certain legal disabilities with regard to testimony in law courts, protection under criminal law, and in marriage. . .he cannot erect new temples, and has to avoid any offensive publicity in the exercise of his worship. . .Every device short of massacre in cold blood was resorted to in order to convert heathen subjects. In addition to the poll-tax and public degradation in dress and demeanor imposed on them, the non-Muslims were subjected to various hopes and fears. Rewards in the form of money and public employment were offered to apostates from Hinduism. The leaders of Hindu religion and society were systematically repressed, to deprive the sect of spiritual instruction, and their religious gatherings and processions were forbidden in order to prevent the growth of solidarity and sense of communal strength among them. No new temple was allowed to be built nor any old one to be repaired, so that the total disappearance of Hindu worship was to be merely a question of time. But even this delay, this slow operation of Time, was intolerable to many of the more fiery spirits of Islam, who tried to hasten the abolition of 'infidelity' by anticipating the destructive hand of Time and forcibly pulling down temples.
When a class are publicly depressed and harassed by law and executive caprice alike, they merely content themselves with dragging on an animal existence. With every generous instinct of the soul crushed out of them, the intellectual culture merely adding a keen edge to their sense of humiliation, the Hindus could not be expected to produce the utmost of which they were capable; their lot was to be hewers of wood and drawers of water to their masters, to bring grist to the fiscal mill, to develop a low cunning and flattery as the only means of saving what they could of their own labor. Amidst such social conditions, the human hand and the human spirit cannot achieve their best; the human soul cannot soar to its highest pitch. The barrenness of intellect and meanness of spirit of the Hindu upper classes are the greatest condemnation of Muhammadan rule in India. The Muhammadan political tree judged by its fruit was an utter failure.
Nearly four decades later, Antoine Fattal, whose 1958 Le Statut Legal de Musulmans en Pays' d'Islam remains the benchmark analysis of non-Muslims (especially Christians and Jews) living under the Shari'a (i.e., Muslim Law), observed:
. . .Even today, the study of the jihad is part of the curriculum of all the Islamic institutes. In the universities of Al-Azhar, Nagaf, and Zaitoune, students are still taught that the holy war [jihad] is a binding prescriptive decree, pronounced against the Infidels, which will only be revoked with the end of the world... If he [the dhimmi] is tolerated, it is for reasons of a spiritual nature, since there is always the hope that he might be converted; or of a material nature, since he bears almost the whole tax burden. He has his place in society, but he is constantly reminded of his inferiority...In no way is the dhimmi the equal of the Muslim. He is marked out for social inequality and belongs to a despised caste; unequal in regard to individual rights; unequal in the Law Courts as his evidence is not admitted by any Muslim tribunal and for the same crime his punishment is greater than that imposed on Muslims...No social relationship, no fellowship is possible between Muslims and dhimmis...
Front Page: If jihad war is a permanent and uniquely Islamic institution, as you argue, what hope is there for a peaceful Islam? What can good-intentioned Muslim reformers and moderates do to try to bring Islam into the democratic and modern world?
Bostom: Fifteen years ago (September, 1990) Bat Ye'or made these prescient observations regarding what needed to be done by the Muslim leadership and clerical and intellectual elites to initiate an Islamic version of Vatican II, a sort of "Mecca-Cairo-Qom-Najaf One (I) " self-examination, mea culpa, and reform process:
. . .this effort cannot succeed without a complete recasting of mentalities, the desacralization of the historic jihad and an unbiased examination of Islamic imperialism. Without such a process, the past will continue to poison the present and inhibit the establishment of harmonious relationships. When all is said and done, such self-criticism is hardly exceptional. Every scourge, such as religious fanaticism, the crusades, the inquisition, slavery, apartheid, colonialism, Nazism and, today, communism, are analyzed, examined, and exorcized in the West. Even Judaism - harmless in comparison with the power of the Church and the Christian empires- caught, in its turn, in the great modernization movement, has been forced to break away from some traditions. It is inconceivable that Islam, which began in Mecca and swept through three continents, should alone avoid a critical reflection on the mechanisms of its power and expansion. The task of assessing their history must be undertaken by the Muslims themselves. . .there is room to hope that the ending of the contentious dhimmi past will open the way to harmonization of the whole human family. . ..
Sadly, a decade and one half later, most Muslim (and many Western) intellectuals continue to justify the concept of jihad as an inoffensive spiritual engagement with one's own evil instincts, or purely "defensive" combat for "justice", and dhimmitude is still completely denied, ignored or obfuscated. Therefore non-Muslims of all ilks who have been victimized and continue to be victimized by these heinous Muslim institutions must abandon their silence and be encouraged to describe this history openly in the hope that this process will elicit a sincere movement of acknowledgement, reform, and reconciliation within the world Muslim community. Admittedly, we seem generations away from such an overall process now. Thus in the interim, those preaching the bigoted and murderous doctrines of jihad within the West should be deported. Moreover, we in the West must press our political and religious leaders to demand that such bellicose, hate-mongering "educational" practices be abolished in all Islamic nations, without exception, under threat of severe, broad ranging economic sanctions.
Finally, I think Ibn Warraq highlighted the strategies required for genuine reform of Islam and Muslim societies in a thoughtful essay published May 2003:
There are some (I believe, misguided) liberal Muslims who deny any such transformation is necessary, that Islam need not be marginalized for liberty to flourish. These liberals often argue that the real Islam is compatible with liberal democracy, that the real Islam is feminist, that the real Islam is egalitarian, that the real Islam tolerates other religions and beliefs, and so on. They then proceed to some truly creative re-interpretation of the embarrassing, intolerant and misogynist verses of the Koran. But intellectual honesty demands that we reject just such dishonest tinkering with the Koran's text, which, while it may be open to some re-interpretation, is not infinitely elastic. The truth is there is no real difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism -- at most there is a difference of degree, but not of kind. There are moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate. All the tenets of so-called Islamic fundamentalism are derived from the Koran, the Sunna, and the Hadith -- the defining texts of Islam -- and elaborated in intimate detail by the classical Muslim jurists from all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, as well as by Shi'ite jurists. The only solution is to bring the questions of human rights out of the religious sphere and into the sphere of the civil state, in other words to separate religion from the state and promote a secular state where Islam is relegated to the personal. Here, Islam would continue to provide consolation, comfort, and meaning, as it has to millions of individuals for centuries, yet it would not decree the mundane affairs of state.
Warraq stressed the crucial need to encourage scholarly criticism of the Koran, in particular, and more generally, to promote secular education emphasizing critical thought:
First, we who live in the free West and enjoy freedom of expression and scientific inquiry should encourage a rational look at Islam, should encourage Koranic criticism. Only Koranic criticism can help Muslims to look at their Holy Scripture in a more rational and objective way, and prevent young Muslims from being fanaticized by the Koran's less tolerant verses. It does not make sense to lament the lack of a reformation in Islam, and at the same time boycott books like Why I am Not A Muslim nor to cry 'Islamophobia' (or 'fatwah!') every time a critique of Islam is offered. Instead, political leaders, journalists and even scholars are bent on protecting the tender sensibilities of the Muslims. We are not doing Islam any favors by protecting it from Enlightenment values. . . . We can encourage rationality by secular education. This will mean the closing of religious madrassas where young children from poor families learn only the Koran by heart, learn the doctrine of Jihad -- learn , in short, to be fanatics. . . What kind of education? My priority would be the wholesale rewriting of school texts, which at present preach intolerance of non-Muslims, particularly Jews. One hopes that education will encourage critical thinking and rationality. Again to encourage pluralism, I should like to see the glories of pre-Islamic history taught to all children.
Front Page: Ok fair enough. But, Mr. Bostom, I think it is crucial for us to keep in mind that Muslims have the power to reform their religion and, in the context of something like Islam's gender apartheid, make the liberal and tolerant teachings of their religion cancel out the rigid and misogynist ones.
For instance, it is common sense that Muslims under the influence of Wahhabism will obviously be far more oppressive toward their women than Muslims who follow more liberal and moderate understandings of Islam. Moreover, great hope remains that a Muslim "feminist" movement can reinterpret Islamic teachings and empower women within an Islamic framework.
As you know, Moroccan sociologist Fatima Mernissi has put forward a strong thesis showing that successive Muslim leaders manipulated Islamic texts to enforce male privileges and that Muslims can, therefore, reinterpret many Islamic teachings in a way to bring rights back to women under Islam.
You can't deny that Muslim feminists like Irshad Manji have provided much optimism in showing how Muslims can renew their religion and allow it to empower women and to promote pluralism and diversity. And you can't deny that there are positive precedents for this process.
As Isobel Coleman points out in the current issue of Foreign Affairs in her article, "Women, Islam, and the New Iraq," in recent years in Morocco and Indonesia reformers have made significant gains in pushing through legislation that promote gender equality on Islamic grounds, thus demonstrating that progressive change can come from within Islam.
Right Mr. Bostom? We must work with Muslim progressives and feminists who are really, in the end, our greatest hope in our battle with Islamist terror and extremism. Correct?
Bostom: It is axiomatic that starting with courageous individual Muslims, and expanding outward, ultimately only Muslims can reform their societies...i.e., reforms cannot be imposed by the West. I disagree completely, however, with the notion that Muslims, especially Muslim women must pin their hopes on mythical notions of Islamic feminism alleged to be contained within the core texts of Islam...the Koran, the hadith, and the sira...and some unfulfilled utopian opportunities from pre-modern Islamic history. This is patently absurd. And unfortunately, the evolution of Mernissi's own thought took a tragic turn backwards between 1975 and 1991, when she felt compelled to embrace a so-called Islamic reformist agenda. Originally Mernissi's goal was to expose the ideological connections between the normative Islamic system and the practices of patriarchy, not to reinvent Islam in a contemporary mold and reclaim a new meaning for it. Beyond the Veil (first published in the U.S. in 1975) was a searing assault on the systematic Muslim patriarchy of Islam. Mernissi strove to demonstrate:
Sexual equality violates Islam's premise, actualized in its laws, that heterosexual love is dangerous to Allah's order. Muslim marriage is based on male dominance. The desegregation of the sexes violates Islam's ideology on women's position in the social order : that women should be under the authority of fathers, brothers, or husbands. Since women are considered by Allah to be a destructive element, they are to be spatially confined and excluded from matters other than those of the family. Female access to non-domestic space is put under the control of males.
However, in her 1991 The Veil and the Male Elite, Mernissi's criticism no longer emphasized that the image of an ideal woman in the Qur'an and the hadith was one of submission and passivity, her language became reverential toward Allah and Muhammad, and her self-contradictory re-interpretation of Qur'anic verses devolved into distressing apologetics. A cogent rebuttal of Mernissi's newly evolved positions in 1991 was provided by Marlene Kanawati in a review of The Veil and the Male Elite. Kanawati dismissed Mernissi's creation of a mythical pre-modern egalitarian Islamic message, which remains the cornerstone of so-called "neo-feminist" Islam :
Given the socio-political milieu of the (pre-modern) time, if partisans of the "ethical-spiritual" dimension had overthrown the established order, it is inconceivable that an empire with radically different mores, in harmony with modern feminism, would have ensued. It is not clear to me that a fundamentally different Islam would have been created for women if, say, the kharijis had prevailed over the orthodoxy. Were they not Islam's first fundamentalists ? The authoritative canonical version that they might have created would have equally served the interests of the male dominant classes, notwithstanding the spiritual pretensions so characteristic of a political and religious dissent when it is confined to the political wilderness. Given the pre-modern mind-set and the socioeconomic conditions of the time, the alternative to the Umayyid or Abbasid caliphate was not the "egalitarianism" of the Kharijites, the "rationalism" of the Mu'tazilis, or the "humanism" of the Sufis. It was anarchy.
True reformers, such as the Iranian secularist Reza Afshari, and others vying for the rights of Muslim women, in particular, have criticized those such as Fatima Mernissi for their misleading, disingenuous attempts to graft modern Western concepts such (rationalism, liberalism, and feminism) onto the pre-modern Islamic paradigm.
The Islamically correct pseudo-reforms of Fatima Mernissi lead quite logically to the empowerment of authentic Muslim women like Martyr Mom Umm Nidal, along with her victorious Hamas female supporters in the Palestinian Legislative Council, and larger Palestinian society. Following the path outlined by serious reformers such as Ibn Warraq and Reza Afshari, who embrace, without equivocation, modern conceptions of human rights developed uniquely in the West, has empowered, in stark contrast, the intrepid secular Muslim Dutch Parliamentarian Hirsi Ali. Which is the preferred outcome?
I also think it is incumbent upon the media to highlight lesser known and certainly less media savvy reformers like Homa Arjmand, rather than Irshad Manji. The indefatigable and courageous Arjmand almost singlehandedly defeated the initiative to create Shari'a courts in Canada; Manji only lent late, tepid support to this important effort, and seems far more dedicated to self-promotion.
And lastly, to end on a truly optimistic note, MEMRI recently uncovered that most scarce, but cherished commodity...Dr. Iqbal Al-Gharbi, a Muslim reformer willing to acknowledge, and offer mea culpa for the living legacy of jihad (including jihad slavery), and dhimmitude.
Al-Gharbi on jihad: "We still insist that we are always the victims, and that we are always innocent. Our history is angelic, our imperialism was a welcome conquest [futuhat], our invaders [ghuzah] were liberators, our violence was a holy Jihad, our murderers were Shahids. . ."
Al-Gharbi on jihad slavery: "We must assess Islamic history objectively, and issue an historic public apology to the Africans who were abducted, enslaved, and expelled from their homes... The Arabs and the Muslims played a sizeable role in this loathsome trade. They alone caused the uprooting of 20 million people. . ."
Al-Gharbi on dhimmitude: "We must renounce the dhimmi laws that fill the books of jurisprudence, and apologize to the Christian and the Jewish minorities [for the past]. We must put an end to our changing of the facts, and to the miserable fabrications that we created in an attempt to prove that these minorities enjoyed a high status in the Islamic state, based on specific historical events presented in a truncated fashion and not in full. . . .The best example of this is the famous Pact of Omar that we present as the supreme example of tolerance and coexistence [when in fact it set restrictions on minorities]."
Dr. Al Gharbi suggests this practical step: "The Islamic [world] must renounce, once and for all, the Islam. . .that divides the world into the camp of Islam and the camp of unbelief, the camp of war and the camp of peace. This division destroys any serious dialogue between religions and cultures."
Historical acknowledgement and mea culpa, linked to a formal end to the bigoted Islamic concept of Dar al Harb...Dr. Gharbi's welcomed prescription for initiating genuine reform within Muslim societies.
Front Page: Dr. Bostom, thank you for joining us today.
Bostom: Thanks again Jamie.
Read the entire article on the Front Page Magazine website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission of Front Page Magazine.