The End of Islam
Another week in France, meaning another week with a murderous Islamist attack. The August 26 one happened in a Normandy church where two men later praised by ISIS overcame the faithful present, wounding one and taking the others hostage, and slit the throat of an 86-year old priest before being gunned down by police. President Hollande traveled the short distance to the site to pay his respects, having me wonder when he would stop finding the time to honor victims of this violence as the number of incidents increase.
As if the grief and repulsion we feel daily are not enough, we are overwhelmed by the endless discourse, commentary, and opinions. It’s near impossible to make sense of the torrents of words explaining, attacking, defending, and of course prescribing. Hardly ever does one hear logical or intelligent arguments, or any based on consideration—let alone knowledge—of present-day concerns.
The main reason is denial about the inapplicability of Islam to the countries and the societies in which we live, a situation that will not change without some serious revisiting of texts and traditions in the face of fierce resistance.
Another is the rigid and set worldview of almost all commentators. Political analysts, top journalists, experts on Middle East or Islam or observers of the tidal waves shaking our societies and our world repeat what they’ve said till now and will continue saying, stuck in an old groove. On the left, liberals howl at any hint that Islam and Muslims are the root cause of the turmoil. With the blessing of long-gone Edward Said or Frantz Fanon, they will trot out colonialism, oppression, the feeding frenzy of the West on the cadavers of great civilizations. And they will of course bring up the Inquisition, forgetting that history in the West has moved on and we don’t cite Genghis Khan if Mongolia ever comes up in our dinner conversation. It all leads to the one contemporary and justified complaint, the tearing apart of the Middle East by G.W. Bush and consorts.
France has the largest Muslim population of any European country so everyone is concerned by the violence and by reactions. Persistent buzzwords make their way into the current discourse. People are accused of amalgam or seeing a similarity in individuals who share no characteristic beside a common faith. Or/and they’re Islamophobes if they state that because one deranged individual drives a truck through a festive crowd and kills dozens, we become wary of all Muslims.
On the far right, the awful National Front movement goes to the other extreme. For NF sympathizers, there is no solution save kicking out all French or resident Muslims. The arguments and accusations are reminiscent of the pre-World War II ones that eventually led to the massacre of six million Jews.
Between the left where few brave voices such as those of Elisabeth Badinter can still be heard and the right where anti-Muslim forces band on social media and in a number of publications hover individuals who have opened up shop in what promised to be a juicy venture, such as a fraudulent Islamology “professor” called Tariq Ramadan and a number of rightist pseudo-intellectuals such as the very vocal Eric Zemmour who day and night asks and answers rhetorical questions. And of course, this being France, the land of Enlightenment and secularism, there is endless and often intelligent debate with Muslims who have given up on their faith. Then there are tremendous thinkers such as Olivier Roy or Gilles Kepel and a number of others, often at odds with each other over the nature of radical Islam–is jihadism cause or effect?
What no one will say outright is that there are no Muslims left, nor Islam. They and it have been replaced by a completely different breed of people and set of beliefs. I have long written, here and elsewhere, against anyone who would take it upon him/herself to tell me or others to conform to their norms or else. I find this especially scandalous coming from immigrants taken into secular Western countries. In the past, some of my posts have drawn the ire of readers, one Iranian telling me off because I said that the Iran in which I grew up, where people could drink alcohol, go to clubs or wear bikinis on the Caspian beaches or miniskirts in Tehran (as I did) was not particularly religious. Another told me that criticizing headscarves or burkinis was “easy.” Little do my critics realize how very careful I still am not to offend and what I would write if I didn’t think through every word.
Recent developments demonstrate a transformation that I’ve long been trying to define: The Islam we knew is gone, replaced by Islamism. Muslims of the previous generations, still Muslims but soon to disappear under the onslaught of Islamists, slink along walls, feeling guilty toward the French. Though they can’t be blamed for what is happening, they can be for believing that voicing their disapproval of the younger fanatics would be disloyal.
When I was studying at the Sorbonne, a number of years ago, Muslims in France, for the most part North Africans, were, although generally living within their own culture, mindful of the laws of the Republic and certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of demanding that the French conform to Islam’s edicts, a vocal demand made nowadays by extremist clerics and their flock. The faithful wouldn’t mention sharia law, they wouldn’t stop traffic to organize street Friday prayer, they wouldn’t hit a café waitress for serving beer nor women in swimsuits on beaches. Grocers wouldn’t refuse to stock wine in their stores. Authorities wouldn’t have allowed the imam at their local mosque in a Paris or Brussels suburb to preach jihad and brainwash easily swayed young men and women. These in turn wouldn’t have gone off to the Middle East to “fight” alongside psychotic ISIS thugs and returned to cause death and mayhem.
Women wouldn’t have worn a headscarf to school or the workplace. Nor would they have covered up entirely, which is what converts—and only converts, always the most fanatic—do. Not that there’s anything wrong with exterior signs of religion or traditional costume or adornments, when these are part of a culture. But as it happens, except for Saudi Arabia and parts of the Persian Gulf, the veil had long been set aside in most of the Middle East and North Africa. It didn’t happen overnight and was the result of outright force, as in Reza Shah’s Iran, or coercion, as in Ataturk’s Turkey or simply changing times and mores. The famous Egyptian feminist Hoda Charaoui uncovered, to the cheers of thousands of men—yes—and women upon returning with female friends from a conference in London in 1923. The veil was cast aside after that. Watch reels from movies made in the 1940s or the crowds in Nasser’s time, unbelievable. Shame on Egyptian women who now almost all cover up, through growing social pressure but often by choice. The same goes for Syria or Iraq, secular societies under the Baathist regimes the Bush Administration so thoroughly destroyed and turned into the most bloody spots on the globe. Not that all women everywhere had stopped covering their heads. Tradition and habit remained strong in all Middle East societies in lower strata and scarves or chadors were completely abandoned only in intellectual circles or upper, middle and lower middle classes. But whatever the reasons for the increasing numbers of veiled or headscarf-wearing women today, one has to realize that all the veil does is reduce women to what they have between their legs and men to predators.
The ignorance on all sides is huge. Huge on the side of original populations in Western countries with large Muslim populations, be they French, Italian, or Dutch, who believe they have to show proper respect toward what they are told is prescribed in the Coran. (And it wasn’t in the present-day Islamists’ parents or grandparents’ generations?) Huge ignorance too on the side of the Islamists themselves, victims of the tremendous propaganda efforts of their Salafist imams, purveyors of death and destruction generally fueled by Saudi or other generous donors’ petrodollars, in favor of a world umma or domination.
Whenever a young woman covers up in countries where she doesn’t have to (my heart bleeds when I see how they try to bypass the hijab in countries where it is mandated) she is a pawn in the army of the Islamist takeover of the world. Whenever a young man believes the absurd, violent rants of imams or other Islamists, whenever anyone believes any newly-minted dogma or slogans now considered part of sacred traditions that have always been adhered to, they are marching in that army. What a shame that the new breeds of faithful don’t see how their strings are pulled and don’t realize this is the end of the road for a faith, Islam, that was indeed respectable and now, in its avatar as Islamism, provokes fear and hatred. Too bad this profound ignorance on all sides won’t recognize that no good can ever come out of belief turned into ideology, of peaceful coexistence turned into murderous sprees.