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For too long the world accepted as a "natural" calamity, the Palestinian hijackings of the 1970s and 1980s which inaugurated this era of international terrorism. Instead of fighting and uprooting the terrorists, Western governments and passengers accepted, with staggering docility, the need to be stripped and searched at airports, to have their otherwise sacrosanct privacy encroached and trampled upon in public, to pay ever-higher airfares in order to cover security costs and to repeat the mantra that a "solution of the Palestinian conflict would resolve the problem".

America reversed itself and resolved to fight terror only following the September 11 attacks on its soil. Madrid elected to yield to the terrorists' demands, while London "changed the rules" only after it was rocked by a series of attacks on its public transportation The rest are yet to follow. After the Van Gogh murder in the Netherlands in 2004 and then the anti-Denmark outburst of Muslim rage in the Cartoon Affair of early 2006, the public debate was turned on its head.

Far from recognizing that the fight against terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and worldwide was launched by the US as a defensive measure, it was after America was attacked on its home territory that it's detractors in Europe and the Muslim world claimed it was American offensive moves in those countries which prompted terrorism, just as it was Israel's "injustices" towards the Palestinians that triggered terrorism in the first place. Cause and effect were thus reversed.

So, instead of joining the US in its universal struggle against terrorism, and thus also ridding themselves of its menace, the Europeans blamed the violence on American and Israeli policies, thus unwittingly becoming its accomplices and its unsuspecting next victims. But the Cartoon Affair of early 2006 dramatically demonstrated that the general Muslim wrath against the West and Israel had just been suppressed for years due to measures taken by Muslim governments who had been afraid of American retribution. It is also likely that the wrath was suppressed until Muslims were confident that their presence in the West constituted a critical mass, large enough to instil fear of potential civil disorder in the European governments.

The fear of American retribution, which was brought to bear in Afghanistan and Iraq, may have been somewhat mitigated by America's proven restraint in absorbing the atrocious behavior of Syria, Iran and Egypt or the havoc of the 1973 oil price rise. In that regard one might say that the Arabs are constantly testing the limits of what America will tolerate, but they are also aware that America turns a blind eye to misdemeanors aplenty to secure uninterrupted oil supplies. Thus America (and other Western countries for that matter) are seen to favor totalitarian rulers in the Middle East, fearful of the regimes that may replace them- the "devil they know" approach. No American President wishes to be responsible for creating another Iran, after the ignominious behavior of Carter vis-a-vis the Shah.

The waves of recriminations from the Muslim world against the West and Israel, which have also been expressed in the rise of Muslim parties in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority; the unbridled desire of the Iranians to go nuclear, and the thug-like rhetoric of its President Ahmadinejad against Western values and the Jews in general, to the extent of blatantly denying the Shoah, are all indications of the spreading anti-Western antagonism in Islam. The zeal in the Islamic world is directed not only against Israel and the West, but aims primarily to sweep out of power their own western-allied regimes which are regarded as American stooges.

As the major Egyptian paper, al-Ahram, put it, "religious identity has replaced nationalist ideology", and that applies not only in Muslim countries but also amidst Muslim minorities throughout their diasporas. This means that Muslim terrorism will continue to rise in both Europe and the Muslim world. One has to realize nevertheless the distortions of the basic data of Islam, by both scholars and politicians who wish to depict a more benign and less menacing picture of the Islamic rise than it is in fact. This is done through two distinctions that have become conventional wisdom among both critics and proponents of Islam.

One is the artificial bifurcation between the so-called "Islamists" or radicals, the minority "bad guys" who spoil the lot by their violent deeds, lend a bad reputation to the majority of their coreligionists and wage war against the West and Israel ; and the majority which is arguably "peace-loving" shuns violence and has no quarrel with the West. The other artificial, and equally spurious, distinction wants us to believe that Judeophobia, which is an attenuated sort of anti-Semitism, posing as anti-Zionist and anti-Israel, has nothing to do with anti-Semitism; and that while Islam as a whole carries no traces of anti-Semitism, its present anti-Jewish manifestations are a much less lethal and vastly less threatening Judeophobia. It is clear that these "scientific" distinctions, though pursued by some scholars of reputation, and which may have some empirical merit to them, have much more to do with political correctness and a degree of sheepish dhimmi-like submissiveness, or fear of being accused of racism, than with historical reality.

It is unconvincing that the Muslims are merely anti-Israel and anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic ,when Jews in the Diaspora today are habitually attacked for no reason whatsoever or were historically mistreated, beaten, massacred or forced to convert until compelled to leave the lands of Islam, merely because they were Jews. French Jews, British Jews, or Belgian Jews are all citizens of the countries in which they live, and cannot influence the policies of the Israeli government even if they wished to do so. To attack them is totally gratuitous and is undeniably an expression of the innate anti-Semitism in Islamic thinking. The equivalent in Jewish attitudes would be for Jews to attack their Muslim fellow citizens in European countries every time an Arab or a Muslim country defames, vilifies or demonizes (or indeed physically attacks) Jews in the media, school curricula, or subjects them to economic boycotts individually or collectively, all of which happen on a sustained, daily basis. But that would be a case of Islamophobia, and the fact that it does not happen proves first, that Islamophobia, at least on the part of Jews, is a figment of the Muslims' imagination (bandied about precisely to combat the very notion of their pervasive anti-Semitism); and second, that Jews, at least in the Diaspora, can distinguish between right and wrong, and have never lost their sense of justice and civilized behavior despite the relentless provocations of Muslims against them.

When partial processes of liberalization are adopted in Muslim countries like Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, and lately Palestine, namely when people are given the opportunity to express themselves freely, it is invariably political Islam that gains votes, and since it is a popular vote, it cannot be said to represent “radicals”, exactly as it cannot be claimed that the more than 60% of the Palestinians who voted for Hamas are all “Islamists”. If, as some claim, there exist a certain percentage of Muslims who are "radical", "fundamentalist" or simply "Islamists", while the majority is Muslim of the good sort, the ones politicians like Bush and Blair simply call "peace-loving", then how come we see vast crowds, which seem to represent the local majorities, in every place where Muslims burst out in violence, be it in Cairo, Gaza, Pakistan, Teheran, Kabul or during the Cartoon Affair? Where are the supposedly peace-loving majorities if they are not represented by the violent crowds? And when Muslim columnists, including Western-educated degree-holders write in mainstream journals of the Muslim world, (including the "moderate" and "pro-Western" countries), genocidal wishes against Jews and Israel, virulent recriminations against the West, and expressions of joy after September 11 or every time a bus or a restaurant blows up in the West with dozens of victims, are they representative of "radicals" or "Islamists", or "judeophobic" individuals who steer clear of blatant anti-Semitism ? Where then, is there a difference between peace-loving Muslims and "Islamists"?

So, while there are theological differences of nuance between Sunni and Shi'ite, and within the Sunni between the four Schools of law (madhahib), for instance between the puritanical Wahhabis of the Hanbali cult and the more lenient Hanifites on matters of Shari'a law, there appears to be unanimity among them with regard to Jihad wars, the denigration of the Jews and contempt and hostility towards the West, because they all draw from the same medieval Abu Yussuf and Ibn Taymiyya and the more modern Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qut'b or Mawdudi. Understandably, not every Muslim would observe to the letter the strictest prescriptions of those scholars, but at the same time no sweeping, authoritative alternative to them has emerged to challenge, let alone replace them.

Those referred to as Islamists call and regard themselves simply as ordinary Muslims, who are perhaps more zealous than others and wish to fulfill Muslim goals here and now. But are they so distinguishable from other Muslims that they deserve to be treated as if they were different Muslims or as if they had invented a different Islam? All religious Muslims venerate the great masters of radical Islam like Hasan al-Banna , Sayyid Qut'b, Mawdudi and Qaradawi, even if they are not categorized as "radical". The latter relate to the masses of common Muslims the way activists or militants in a political party refer to the rank and file of sympathizers who only vote when the day comes, but are not involved in any day to day politics. But we do not distinguish between "radical" and "common" party members. Yes, they differ, in both cases, as far as the degree of commitment, activity and observation are concerned, but we cannot set them apart ideologically, and they continue to belong to the same set of core beliefs and convictions.

if there were a "liberal" or "moderate" tendency in Islam, it would be evinced, first of all, by theologians of Islam who would stand up courageously and battle against the ideas and theses of the "Islamists". However, while truly moderate and daring individuals of Muslim descent (and sometimes conviction) do exist, principally in the safety of the West, we cannot discern any significant trend of moderation and "peace-loving" inclination rallying masses of Muslims to it. So, what is erroneously dubbed "moderate" or non-Islamist Islam, is actually the silent majority who is, unfortunately, more likely than not to follow the outbursts of jubilation when the Jews or Israel are harmed, to watch bluntly anti-semitic series on television which depict Israelis (and Americans for that matter) as blood-drinkers, world -conspirers and child-killers, and to avidly absorb genocidal statements by their leaders and clerics and reiterate their belief in the same nonsensical slogans and conspiracy theories that are circulated in their media.

One year after September 11, Dan Rather of CBS News undertook a worldwide survey of Muslim (not Islamist) reactions to those horrific events. From a sample of 8 Muslim countries, between Morocco and Pakistan, where he polled the literate population in remote villages in each one of those countries, the overwhelming majority of the populace, which was not "radical", spelled out their conviction that the horror was "of course" perpetrated by the Jews, the Mossad, and other such delusive fairy-tales. Did the Palestinians suddenly become "Islamists" when the radical Hamas won elections among them ? No, they remained as Muslim as they were before the elections. They burst into unabashed joy when September 11 happened, much to Arafat's embarrassment, who sent his security forces to disband those "radical" children to avoid further disgrace. Why did they rejoice? Because they had been, and are indoctrinated by their school textbooks which assure them of the imminent victory of Islam against the "corrupt and tyrannical" West. They burst forth in jubilation when Israeli and Western families were shown torn into pieces, and they re-enacted harrowing scenes of explosions against Israel, showing cardboard buses or restaurants burning and limbs of children flying around, with huge crowds of children, passers-by, shop-keepers, students and policemen clapping hands and rejoicing. Even their universities and school plays staged such re-enactments. Could all those be "Islamists"?

No, in their eyes, Israelis and the West are perceived as the enemies of Islam (not of Islamists), therefore one should rejoice at their defeat, and because they are not defeated often enough for the Muslims' taste, no Muslim can skip the delight of replaying that defeat and savoring it in slow motion. Another question is why America and Israel are particularly targeted and their national flags usually appear together when a Muslim frenzy of burning and destroying bursts forth in any part of the globe. The answer is two-fold: first both of those countries stand out as the consummate representatives of strength, modernity, prosperity and success, something which only exacerbates the feelings of impotence and backwardness in the Islamic world. That is the source of "humiliation" that Muslims reiterate so often and so intensely, for only the existence of that successful world permits Muslims to understand what they lack and they get truly humiliated by the hopelessness of lagging behind. Secondly, their dream to remedy the situation by creating a Pax Islamica to encompass the entire universe has been scuttled, principally by Israel in their immediate vicinity and by America worldwide, for the US is the only power able and willing to stand up to them and obstruct their goal of establishing a world caliphate. That double frustration has been shared by Muslims in general, regardless of whether one categorizes them as "Islamists" or otherwise.

After September 11 a talk show was held by al-Jazeera network (representing what is known as "moderate" and "peace-loving" Islam) where the question was posed to the panelists and the viewers about whether Bin Laden was a terrorist or a hero.The only moderate panelist, a Tunisian, was mocked and humiliated by his co-panelists and the moderator of the show for daring to dissent from the otherwise unanimous opinion crowning Bin Laden as a national hero. Viewers who called or emailed from the entire Islamic world, were almost unanimous in this view. This was not a poll among Islamists, but came from the rank and file of Muslims, most of whom were supposedly the educated owners of PC computers. Yet, their reaction was "Islamist" in substance.

So, where is the distinction? Yes, there are Islamikaze activists who are ready to blow themselves up for the cause of Islam in the process of killing westerners and Jews. But they are only a handful, recruited, trained, financed, indoctrinated and dispatched by a vast infra-structure of Muslim states, organizations and individuals. They are surrounded by the sympathy and admiration, often adulation, of the vast masses of the Muslim public and the mainstream press in countries that are clients of the US or who signed peace with Israel. Who then is an Islamist among all those layers of activists and supporters, and who is the "moderate" and "peace-loving?".

In the US and Europe, it has happened that several Muslim intellectuals, leaders and clerics, who gained favor with the authorities and with access to the highest echelons of power for their supposed "moderation" and their openness to "dialogue" were later arrested for their illicit fund-raising for Muslim terrorist organizations, for incitement to terrorism or for suppressing women's rights. Did they suddenly transform from "moderate" to "radical"? No, they were the same Muslims previously perceived as moderate when they acted or refrained from acting in a certain way, who became Islamists when they were caught red-handed engaging in subversive acts. In both instances they acted as Muslims in the name of Islam; it is the Western and westernized Muslim scholars who attached to them those epithets which they themselves never recognized.

Similarly, clerics and other Muslims who dub the Jews " descendants of pigs and monkeys", basing themselves on a Qur'anic passage, or citing the Hadith (which claims that on the Day of Judgment Jews will hide behind rocks and trees which will acquire the magic power to denounce them and then invite Muslims to come and kill them), are not exactly setting themselves apart from Islamists by being less anti-Semitic and merely "Judeophobic". All Muslims who cite those passages, and they do regularly and perennially, are making blatant anti-Semitic and genocidal statements against the Jews and no amount of rhetorical manouvering can mitigate that fact. It seems that the fictional distinction that is drawn between Islam and Islamists, usually made by Western scholars and politicians or by Muslim moderates who live in the West, emanates more from an instinct of self-defence and survival than from a sober observation of reality.

In Muslim countries themselves it is hard to tell who is who, inasmuch as Palestinian, Saudi, Egyptian and Pakistani clerics who belong to the "moderate" establishment, often issue fatwas and deliver sermons that are every bit as "extremist" as the "radical" ones. Even imported or home grown Muslim clerics in the West do not make any effort to distinguish or to distance themselves from "Islamists", because they themselves cannot tell the difference. Western scholars and politicians who want to cater to Islam, for electoral or other worldly perks, on the one hand, but cannot deny the rage of their own people against violent Islam on the other hand, find shelter in the distinction which allows them to claim that the Islam they support or defend is "moderate", while the violence that their people condemn emanates solely from the "extremist Islamists".

At the same time politicians and scholars critical of Islam need that distinction to shelter themselves from accusations of anti-Muslim bias and hatred, or "racism", as if multi-cultural and multi-racial Islam were a single "race". Muslim scholars and public figures who live in the West resort to that distinction in order to avoid a blanket condemnation of Islam of which they are part and to escape suspicions by their co-religionists that they "sold-out" to the West or that they committed an act of "treason" against their culture and religion. Many of them find it more expedient to claim that they are "secular Muslims", a notion that is unacceptable to Islam in all its nuances and some of them convert to Christianity in order to feel free to lash out at their previous religion, though they know that they are handily offset by the much larger numbers of Westerners who convert to Islam.

The fact is that throughout the Muslim world, the legitimacy of Israel is challenged, the holocaust is denied systematically, evidenced by the popularity of such holocaust deniers as Robert Faurisson, Roger Garaudy ,David Irving, and the prohibition of Schindler's List from their screens and the violent declarations of the Iranian President on both scores. This is a common denominator among most Muslims, nothing differentiates between "radicals" and "moderates" there, exactly as anti-Jewish stereotypes, be they anti-Semitic or "Judeophobic" are current among them all, with few exceptions. That is the reason why we find them contradicting themselves on the Sho'ah, denying it on the one hand and wishing Hitler had brought his annihilation plan to completion on the other; urging a "scholarly, free and objective" research of the Holocaust in order to prove that it never happened.

Similarly, the belief in and the spread of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Blood Libel, the poisoning of wells by Jews, the conspiracy theories where Jews star, are recurring themes in Palestinian (not only Hamas) as well as mainstream Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, Pakistani and others' writings, systems of belief and propaganda. Genocidal threats against the Jews abound not only in Bin-Laden's statements and in Ahmadinejad's delusions, but also in columns of Egyptian, Saudi, Palestinian and other newspapers of the respectable mainstream.

Is this the Judeophobia of the "moderates" or plain anti-Semitism of the "Islamists"? Words have a significance, and it is imperative to streamline our vocabulary, otherwise we are under the permanent threat of losing our ability to express what we mean or to comprehend what we are told. Matters are further complicated and made less comprehensible to western minds by the paranoia and conspiracy theories that are very widespread in the Muslims world, among Islamists and others alike, whether Muslims are modern and western-educated or traditionalist and obscurantist.

Those theories that are rampant even among Muslims living in the West, would insist that world leaders who support Israel are Jewish (like Presidents Reagan and Bush), that the UN of all places, is the mastermind of the Jews who utilize it as the tool for their world dominion and that the major violent acts that shook the world, like the world wars, the world revolutions and September 11, are all the fruit of Jewish imagination and execution. Their minds are so permeated with these nonsensical theories that they become impervious to logical, rational debate that is open to argument, discussion and to conviction.

Therefore, the difficulty of dealing with Muslim minds consists not only in removing the mountains of pure delusion that choke their free thinking, but also in persuading them that the very attempt to counter-argue those futilities is not necessarily part of a world conspiracy that is being woven against them. It is possible to explain their imaginary picture of the world by their need to project onto their enemies the analytical shortcomings that bewitch them, but it is impossible to move them out of the illusory scenarios that they have constructed around themselves, to which they cling with a tenacity that defies and contradicts western standards of conduct.

The result is that even when Muslims initiate and launch an act of violence, they accuse the West of it and dub it, or what led to it, as an act of aggression of which they are the victims and which deserves their retaliation. As long as the Muslim anti-Western and anti-Semitic discourse was internal, little attention was paid to it in the outside world. But since the end of the Afghanistan War (1979-89) which also signaled the end of the Cold War and the return of the Mujahideen to their Muslim home countries, tremendous energies were released by the Afghanis (i.e, the foreign battle-hardened graduates of the war in Afghanistan) which were channeled both domestically (Islamist activity in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Taliban Afghanistan), and internationally to wage a worldwide Jihad, led by Bin Laden's al-Qa'ida, but carried out simultaneously on Arab, American, African, Asian and European soil.

The rising prices of oil afforded some oil-producing Muslim countries and their rulers the possibility to finance the spread of the puritanical and violent brand of Islam in the West and to absorb some of the unemployed Afghani Mujahideen, while the others were turned loose and ended up in the battle fields of Iraq , Lebanon, Bosnia, Chechnya and Palestine or became mercenaries of violence in America and Europe.

The Danish Cartoon Affair proved a golden opportunity for Muslim regimes who, feeling the heat of terrorism breathing down their necks, redirected the rage and fury of the masses outwardly against the West and Israel, regardless of whether we define them as radicals or moderates, anti-Semitic or Judeophobic. Western institutions were attacked in Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, and the boycott of Danish products was launched by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states which are usually considered "moderate" and "pro-Western".

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This is a great article- it even 'rings true' with my moderate, intelligent, friendly young Muslim friend. (I am not being faceitious). The ideas are so strongly ingrained - even though she has done her schooling here and is very widely read. I am reading Leon Uris- The Haj and I am finding that nothing hads changed - the book could have been written yesterday! And that goes for the description of British attitudes too.

Posted on 2007-06-12 06:48:34 GMT

Hijacking and political terrorism SHOULD treated as piracy and punishable by speedy and mandatory execution.

Posted on 2007-06-11 12:40:04 GMT

Professor Israeli is spot on in his assessment. How long if at all will it take for the world to wake up to these truths?

Posted by Wazza of Oz on 2007-06-11 12:07:50 GMT