Islamism: Extremism at the Core of Islam?
I recently posted a blog entry in which I suggested "that discussion in Europe of Islamism has shifted from seeing it as extremism at the margins of Islam to seeing it as extremism at the core of Islam."
As support for my suggestion, one of my regular readers, an Islam expert who goes by the handle "Erdal" and who resides in Germany, posted his translation of selected passages from an article in the January 8th issue of the German newspaper Die Welt. This article,written by the philosopher and literary critic Daniele Dell'Agli, bears the provocative title, "They can't stomach Mohammad's true face" ("Sie ertragen das wahre Gesicht Mohammeds nicht").
Dell'Agli argues that the violent reactions within the Islamic world to the publication of the so-called Muhammad Cartoons in Denmark about five years ago stemmed from the fact that Muslims (but not only Muslims!) can't 'stomach' the true face of Islam's founder. Dell'Agli was moved to write this piece now, five years later, because controversy over the cartoons has again broken out. On January 1 of this year, the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, infamous for having sketched Muhammad wearing a turban designed as a bomb, was nearly attacked in his own home by an irate Somali Muslim who was wielding a large axe and chopping at Westergaard's bathroom door. The enraged Somali man didn't manage to break through the reinforced door before the police arrived and apprehended him, though they had to shoot the man twice to get him to drop the axe.
So much for the background, Now, along with some bracketed summaries and remarks supplied by Erdal, here's what Erdal translated from the article, in which Dell'Agli explains that the cartoons were satire and what that implies:
They can't stomach Mohammad's true face.Strong words from Mr. Dell'Agli. In short, he argues that there is no difference between Islamism and Islam if the majority of Muslims implicitly accede to extremists' violent protests carried out to frighten non-Muslims into submitting to Islamic rules. According to Erdal, the debate over Islam within Germany (and presumably throughout Europe) is growing rather heated:
by Daniele Dell'Agli
[Intro walks through the recent attempt on the life of the Danish cartoonist Westergaard and some typical reactions.]
Now, there may be many definitions of satire [. . .] but it is always conceded that it is trying -- in a polemical or entertaining way -- to get at a kernel of truth of a scandal or a commonly known grievance. More, the common knowledge of the historical, political or biographical background is prerequisite for the satirical cause to work, it would dissipate uselessly otherwise. What's the attack's target in this case? Very simply that the founder of Islam started his career as a raider of caravans and a murderer who, as the ruler of Medina, ordered his political opponents' assassination and the genocide of the local Jewish tribe. These are undisputed facts among Muslim scholars ever since, and should also be sufficiently known among at least the educated of the northern hemisphere.
[A paragraph about how the discussion is instead steered toward issues of free speech and religious feelings follows.]
Both parties are thus not yet able to face up to the underlying issues of the caricature (which, for this reason alone is anything but "stupid" or "crass"): that Islamic assassins are not only well in tune with the spirit of many Koran suras and most of their commentary body, but can also claim the antetype of Mohammed for their bloody deeds.
For the rest of his religions's adherents who still try vainly -- together with liberal apologists -- to beat the drums of Islamophobia to veil this fatal connection, this has consequences: As long as they are not ready to critically qualify the historical authority of the prophet as they will qualify his teachings, they cannot claim for themselves a difference between Islamism and Islam, without being theological nonsensical. And as long as they think that they ought to live in 21st century Europe according to 7th-10th century Oriental rules, they should not lament that they, too, are thought capable of suddenly obeying the warlike commands of their religion's founder, or of endorsing such behaviour in others.
I've not seen this myself, but I've been told by people who live there, that there is a graffiti campaign, presumably by students or high schoolers, with the motto "Allah, go home!" in several southern university towns. Nothing in the media yet. Actually, a Google search for the phrase comes up with the tiniest of results. Strange that not even hardline blogs appear to have used this rather obvious line, ever.Well, it certainly bespeaks a climate change of sorts. The atmosphere has definitely altered since the late eighties to mid-nineties, when I lived in Europe. I'm grateful to have Erdal as reader and commentor to keep me informed.
The feuilletons of the papers and magazines are at each others throat, daily. Alliances are shifting in surprising ways and fronts harden: You can now regularly observe opinion leaders in even Die Zeit, Süddeutsche, Spiegel and FAZ call each other "imbeciles", "criminals" or "insane". The viciousness of the tone is unlike anything I've seen here since maybe the big fight in the early 80's over the nuclear Pershing-II rockets to be stationed en masse in Germany. Maybe it's the weather -- there hasn't been a winter that hard for about the same time.
In my opinion, either this debate over Islamism as extremism at the core of Islam will be handled responsibly by European governments through treating the issue very seriously, or it will it will devolve into something very nasty in the streets.