Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Difference Between Islamists and Rodney Dangerfield

In Misreading the Enemy, David Ignatius writes about the difficulty of negotiating with Iran and Al-Qaeda. Iran is theocratic regime, and therefore:
For a theocratic regime that claims a mandate from God, the very idea of compromise is anathema. Great issues of war and peace will be resolved by God's will, not by human negotiators. Better to lose than to bargain with the devil. Better to suffer physical hardship than humiliation.
He points to similar difficulties with Al-Qaeda and the fact that bin Laden has expressed the willingness to show patience and wait for the West to tire--"being patient and steady is much better, and the end counts."

Ignatius gets to his point at the end of his column:

A word that recurs in radical Muslim proclamations is "dignity." That is not a political demand, nor one that can be achieved through negotiation. Indeed, for groups that feel victimized, negotiation with a powerful adversary can itself be demeaning. That's why the unyielding Yasser Arafat remained popular among Palestinians, despite his failure to deliver concrete benefits. He was a symbol of pride and resistance. Hamas, too, gains support because of its rigid steadfastness, and a strategy that seeks to punish pro-Hamas Palestinians into compromise will probably fail for the same reason.

The Muslim demand for respect isn't something that can be negotiated, but that doesn't mean the West shouldn't take it seriously. For as the Muslim world gains a greater sense of dignity in its dealings with the West, the fundamental weapon of Iran, al-Qaeda and Hamas will lose much of its potency.

The problem is that Ignatius is himself misreads the enemy. What is dignity...what is respect? It is to be treated as an equal. Rodney Dangerfield's persona, in complaining about the lack of respect he got, was asking for nothing more than equality, to be treated like everyone else. However, what Islamists are demanding is not being treated as an equal.

It is all very well and good for Ignatius to write that "for a theocratic regime that claims a mandate from God, the very idea of compromise is anathema." However, in this case we are talking about the mandate as recorded in the Koran, on the basis of which Moslem countries have historically treated non-Moslems as dhimmis--second class citizens, with predictable results. And on the basis of which:

o Moslems in India claim the Taj Mahal
o Hamas demands the return of the Spanish city of Seville
o Other Islamists go one step further:
Unfortunately for Spain's Muslims, the militants who swear loyalty to Osama bin Laden are history buffs too. In claiming responsibility for the March bombings, they cited the loss of "Al Andalus" as motivation.

"We will continue our jihad until martyrdom in the land of Tarik Ben Ziyad," they said in a communique issued after the massacre, alluding to the Moorish warrior and original Islamic conqueror of the Iberian peninsula.
In a post from last year--Defender of the Faith--David Frum writes about “Islam in Britain,” a report by the UK Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, available from The report quotes Zaki Badawi, president of London’s Muslim College, holder of the Order of the British Empire, who is also widely recognized as the “unofficial leader, representative, and advocate of Britain’s mainline Muslims.” According to Mr. Badawi
”A proselytizing religion cannot stand still. It can either expand or contract. Islam endeavors to expand in Britain. … Islam is a universal religion. It aims at bringing its message to all corners of the earth. It hopes that one day the whole of humanity will be one Muslim community, the Umma...This reflects the historical fact that Muslims, from the start, lived under their own law. Muslim theologians naturally produced a theology with this in view – it is a theology of the majority. Being a minority was not seriously considered or even contemplated. … Muslim theology offers, up to the present, no systematic formulation of the status of being in a minority.” [ellipses added]
The report concludes:
”Muslims find it difficult to assume minority status in a majority non-Muslim society. More than other minority communities, they constantly, sometimes subconsciously, strive to redress the balance and assume an expanding and dominant position in their host countries.”
If, according to Ignatius, "as the Muslim world gains a greater sense of dignity in its dealings with the West, the fundamental weapon of Iran, al-Qaeda and Hamas will lose much of its potency," then why is it demanding ever more on the one hand, while seeking to put limits on the Western value of free speech and cultural symbols (going so far as to have the crown or the cross of St. George removed from police badges) on the other?

Technorati Tag: and and and and and and .

No comments: