"Reform is the Only Path to Our Return to History"

|

A few echoes of the Arab world's own debate about its future:

Syrian academic Mundir Badr Haloum, who like many Arabs is revolted by the continuing wave of religious murder and terror, has published a powerful call for religious reform, linking it with the necessity of political reform. The translation of his piece, which originally appeared in a Lebanese newspaper, is posted on MEMRI's site.

"Islam is in need of true reform," writes Haloum. "Islam's need [for reform]—or, to be precise, our need for Islam's reform—is not less than the need for reform in the Arab political regimes… This is the need for people who are capable of fearlessly acknowledging that terrorism nests within us as Muslims and that we must exorcise it… Unfortunately, the meaning of delay is more death… The reform will take a long time and the price will be high, but it is the only path to our return to history as Muslims and not as terrorists…."

MEMRI has also posted an angry essay by journalist Dr. Shaker Al-Nabulsi, which first appeared on a leftist Arabic Internet site. Al-Nabulsi asks, "Why have the Arabs Gone Crazy in Such a Manner?"

Finally, IraqPundit briefly notes some of the wary reaction in the Arab press to Ayad Allawi's "warm" handshake with Israel's UN ambassador.

NEXT: Attn: Bay Area Reasonoids! Two Events Tomorrow Evening

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Not expecting an answer, I have to ask anyway:

    Are these just a very few lonely voices in a hurricane of uninformed hatred?

  2. “hurricane of uninformed hatred”

    Why do you assume that it is “uninformed” hatred? Or is it just an uninformed comment.

  3. “This is the need for people who are capable of fearlessly acknowledging that terrorism nests within us as Muslims”

    I don’t think that is a fair assessment. One might argue that Islam is more inherently militaristic than Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism but if so, it is not by much, looking at the problem from the prospective of long history.

    Terrorism is a modern phenomenon linked to the rise of mass media. The first terrorist to come from the middle-east in 60’s were atheistic marxist allied with the Soviet Union, not pious fundamentalist Muslims. The religious terrorist did arise tell the early 80’s and did not come to the forefront until the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Islam does have a global problem in that it divides humans into two ethical groups, Muslims and non-Muslims, each which gets treated differently. But I don’t think the attitude is vastly different from that of pre-Enlightenment Christianity.

    I think the real problem with Islam is that most Islamic societies are socially, culturally, politically and even economically stuck in the pre-industrial era. They have access to 21st Century technology but their mindsets and institutions have not truly adapted to the technology’s presence. They have the save problems that 14th century Europe would have had if some external actor had given them all Ak-47s and satellite TV.

    Many people live quite successfully as Muslims in the developed world proving there is nothing inherently incompatible between Islam and modernity. We just need to fast forward the cultural evolution of Muslim in the Islamic heartlands.

  4. Shannon, you seem to be acknowledging that Islam needs a reformation.

    Maybe you’re willing to note that Islam endorses violence that you and I both find unacceptable.

    Islam is an institution, and like all institutions it shares aspects with those who support it. It is unreasonable to assume that the endorsement of unacceptable violence is outside of the sphere of aspects shared between the institution and its supporters.

    Regarding pre-Enlightenment Christianity, I suspect you’re right. I doubt that the difference in doctrine is sufficient to prevent a reformed Islam from being as pluralistic as the reformed Christianity. That’s good!

    I just hope it happens in my lifetime. Tomorrow would be good. Please let Islam know that I am free tomorrow to witness its reformation. In fact I’m free all week.

  5. to assume any religion is a monolith is to prove oneself incapable of seeing the details.

    the deciding factor of the enlightenment was not some sort of philosophical breakthrough alone – it was a breakthrough coupled with a few hundred years of constant religious warfare, which allowed secular forces of business to take over the dominant political position previously held.

    the pope is anti-war because the pope no longer commands an outstanding army. jerry falwell is relatively harmless because he isn’t able to raise an outstanding army. anyone who ignores this ignores the general viciousness of the manichean legacy we’ve been left with.

  6. “This is the need for people who are capable of fearlessly acknowledging that terrorism nests within us as Muslims”

    He could have better said

    “This is the need for people who are capable of fearlessly acknowledging that Arabs have nested terrorism within Islam.”

    Except not in the passive voice.

  7. “Why do you assume that it is “uninformed” hatred? Or is it just an uninformed comment.”

    It seems to me that the ones doing all the hating are NOT well informed, for if they were, they would realize how excessive and arrogant is this hatresd

  8. Arab reformists are talking puppet talk like Allawi.
    Reform is a nonstarter until Bush, Kerry, and these puppet-talkers get it totally out of their heads that the war on terrorism is winnable.

  9. The comments are of some interest. However, to note simply that many religions centuries ago were militaristic, cruel, barbaric does not address a central issue: What religions today remian in the condtion they were centuries ago and still practise hate, killings of The Other, imposed religious laws, and the cruel treatment imposed upon the own women?

  10. freddie,
    I venture that most of us here agree that reform is needed. The question is: How ya gonna get it?

  11. freddie,

    Christians in the American south, as recently as four decades ago, until compelled to cease by the federal government.

    Of course, it wasn’t all Dixie Christians who had dirty hands. But then, it isn’t all Arab Muslims, either. And, I would argue, even among those who opposed lynching, there was a lot of “they’re right, but they go too far” thought, which also seems to be the case among many peaceful, anti-terrorist Middle Eastern Muslims.

    Another parallel – the ritualistic lynching of black men was a cultural act, not a religious one, though it was defended in the name of the religion, while other co-religionists denounced it in the name of that same religion. Ditto with Muslim terrorism.

  12. It is not so much Islam as Whabism that is our “enemy”.

    Whabism is the result of what could be considered an attempt to “reform” Islam in the 18th century.

    It’s possible we won’t like reformed Islam any better than the one we see now.

  13. Shannon Love,

    Terrorism is a modern phenomenon linked to the rise of mass media.

    It is not. Terrorism has been around for thousands of years. You don’t need mass media to commit acts of terrorism; a nice head on a pike will do, or a even a written description of the event.

  14. freddie,

    What religions today remian in the condtion they were centuries ago and still practise hate, killings of The Other…

    Well, in Eastern Europe, Christians until quite recently. In Rwanda Christians slaughtered other Christians en masse due to ethnic differences, etc. (indeed, the Muslims stayed out of that mess and even sheltered people, which explains the surge in membership there). Pockets of Christianity, in other words, still practice this sort of barbarism. This takes me back to my statements yesterday on another thread; religion in America and Europe is not non-violent because religion is some force for peace, but because civil society has generally de-fanged religion or at least leashed religion.

  15. Shannon Love,

    They have the save problems that 14th century Europe would have had if some external actor had given them all Ak-47s and satellite TV.

    Think 17th century Europe; 14th century Europe was embroiled in warfare (the ebb and flow of the Hundred Years’ War for example), but it was 16th and 17th century Europe that saw the bulk of religious warfare. So instead of a seven century gap, we have a four century gap. Of course we should also consider the fact that even 19th century Europe or America were not much different from the Islamic world of today. One of my favorite stories about the colonization of Illinois is how common it was for the married to fuck each other in their fields as a means “fertilize” the soil. 🙂

  16. Anybody ever been around a fundamentalist Jew in Israel? Pretty scary. How about an Ozark Mountain evangelist or a Texas Republican? Same. Muslims have nothing on these guys.

    Generally, folks buried in the Old Testament are brutal bastards, reflecting their god’s brutality.

  17. The bloodiness of the Thirty Years War was part of the impetus for the Enlightenment. A lot of people within Christendom reacted against the religious violence of the time by asking some serious questions about religion and the violence that was being commited in it’s name. Perhaps something similar is happening in Islam today. I hope so anyway.

  18. Todd Fletcher puts a historical perspective on something my cynical side has been mulling for a while. To make the terrorist loathed rather than loved is to win the war. Maybe it is time and a very high body count that will get us there.

  19. “Why do you assume that it is “uninformed” hatred? Or is it just an uninformed comment.”

    Er, because polls indicate that 9/11 is widely believed to be a zionist conspiracy? Because there are groups of murderers who become popular after killing as many Americans as possible, blaming us for their misery, even as they heap more on the heads of their fellow muslims? Perhaps mostly, because it is obvious to me that we aren’t in this to cause misery or gain wealth, or we would have gone about it differently.

    It is the definition of uninformed to treat the American presence as worst of the options.

  20. How about an Ozark Mountain evangelist or a Texas Republican? Same. Muslims have nothing on these guys.

    Well, I can probably find you some Texas Republicans that are Muslims, so I’m not sure what your broad brush is supposed to prove.

    It certainly doesn’t negate the observation that not all Muslims are terrorists, but the vast majority of terrorists are Muslim.

  21. Todd Fletcher,

    The French Wars of Religion ended when one side was defeated; in that case it was Louis XIII who mercilessly prosecuted the war against the Huguenot rebels once he gave them quarter and they rebelled again anyway. Check out Moote’s biography of Louis XIII.

  22. “To make the terrorist loathed rather than loved is to win the war.”
    Jason Ligon, care to expound on that?

    Also, the latest topic (above), talking about “weltanschauungs” resulting from being either Repuglicum or DemoRat, shows that the difference between a terrorist and a freedom-fighter is merely one of degree.

    And Jason Bourne said:
    “civil society has generally de-fanged religion or at least leashed religion. ”

    What leads to a civil society? Anarchy followed by freedom followed by prosperity.
    I’m not saying it happens often. I am saying there is little any of us can do to influence events. The good news though, is that most of us can vote with our feet.

  23. Ruthless:

    It is now my theory that what makes terrorism uniquely difficult to deal with is that terrorists are popular. Why has OBL not been found? He is a hero in Pakistan. He gets supplies and no one just tells people where he is. The Pakistani government has to appear to be obstructing the US hunt for OBL because he is popular. If everyone wanted him dead or captured, he would be dead or captured.

    Contrast this with a guy like McVeigh. Evidence pointed in his direction, and tips led people to his door. Everyone cheered when he was put away.

    Trying to address the concerns of loons that blow themselves up seems counterproductive. We have all observed that putting away AQ officers doesn’t seem to help much because there are always more. There are always more becuase you get respect and money for causing American deaths. To me, winning the war means changing that perspective. When the terrorist is perceived to be a bringer of misery to his own people (which he is) and not a hero, 1) You have no recruiting except for the truly zealous. 2) Operations to hunt and kill the remaining zealots are aided by locals rather than hindered by them. 3) The shield of the terrorist, that they don’t wear uniforms and blend into society begins to erode as people on the street at least distance themselves and hopefully report any that they know.

    There is probably more than one way that this popularity shift can come about. What cynically occurs to me is that the man on the street can afford to cheer American deaths becuase, all posturing to the contrary, he knows that we aren’t playing by the same rules. Terrorism has not brought a high enough body count to muslims for it to be perceived to be a net loss.

    The optimist, perhaps like Michael Young or CPF, hopes that the ‘war of ideas’ can be won by the good guys. I don’t necessarily think that is possible, and certainly not for decades.

  24. I think, Jason, that terrorists come in different stripes. OBL’s success at tweaking the nose of the giants does make him popular. John Dillinger, Pancho Villa, Che Guevera, et al might go in the same categories.

    Iraq, just as it had nothing to do with OBL, has nothing to do with popularity or OBL type terrorism. This is stone cold killing of occupiers and innocents alike and we don’t even know who they are. Anybody that rats on them or collaborates with their enemies will find themselves and/or their families dead. I think fear is the operative word in Iraq.

  25. Gadfly:

    Those were my thoughts for a long time, too. I keep running into several ideas I can’t seem to shake:

    1) If Iraqis are afraid of terrorists, why are terrorists so broadly popular? Why do people go out of their way to help them? How do you explain Al Jazeera?

    2) Stupid college kids with Che tee shirts wouldn’t stand up and cheer the guy for setting up local labor camps if they actually saw it. To cheer as burning Americans leap to their deaths out of a building strikes me as something else altogether.

    3) Even more cynically, let’s say for a moment that the whole muslim world is being held hostage by terrorists, which I don’t think is the case. How do we normally treat hostages in negotiations?

    4) Worst of all, the thesis that people support terrorists because there is no cost to them of doing so stands even if we grant your whole analysis of the problem. In the Thirty Years War analogy of Todd Fletcher, what if losses that one side cared about that they attributed to the War were almost nonexistant? I am postulating that the average muslim sees no cost at all to supporting terrorists. The Isreali occupation? That existed anyway, the belief goes, so why not support the terrorists? Israelis kill muslims because they hate muslims, the belief goes, and not because of terrorist acts.

    I am very afraid that a highly visible muslim body count directly connected to a response to terrorism may be the only way to establish the belief that terrorism has a horrific price. Part of me hopes that Putin will be the one to deliver that type of result so no one else has to.

    Ick. I feel dirty.

  26. It is now my theory that what makes terrorism uniquely difficult to deal with is that terrorists are popular. Why has OBL not been found? He is a hero in Pakistan. He gets supplies and no one just tells people where he is. The Pakistani government has to appear to be obstructing the US hunt for OBL because he is popular. If everyone wanted him dead or captured, he would be dead or captured.

    Terrorists are popular for 2 reasons. The first, which you focus on, is the low cost associated with helping them. The second, which you gloss over, is that the US, or at least the US gov’t (let’s worry about that distinction a little later) is unpopular.

    I realize that negotiating with the terrorists themselves would be a disaster. There’s nothing we can offer that would make them back off; in fact any offer we make would only embolden them. HOWEVER, what about the grievances of the average Arab who would never actually launch a terrorist attack himself, but won’t be bothered to call the cops on a neighbor with suspicious habits?

    I don’t know the ideal way to deal with the grievances that Arabs, Pakistanis, and other people might have against the US. I do know, however, that heavy-handed meddling is only going to make it worse.

  27. thoreau:

    The unpopularity of the US was intended to be assumed in the ‘war of ideas’ comment. Many well intentioned people believe that the US can alter its policies or incubate western ideas in the regions, either of which would give the average muslim a reason to think well of us.

    I just don’t think that is possible at this point. My doubts come from :

    Al Jazeera: here is a media outlet responding to popular demand for stories of American atrocity -real or imagined. No matter what we do, it is always at the behest of our zionist masters. How do you combat that?

    The shape of the anti western message is theological, not consequential. The theological message is that no matter what we do, we are trying to destroy thier culture. We have no support on the theological front. A vanishingly small portion of clerics or other influential muslims refute Wahabbism or will even call a terrorist a murderer.

    Lastly, there is a seeming complete incapability to evaluate alternatives rationally. It is always better for muslims to kill everyone than for the US to kill even murderous muslims. Why is there no outrage in Iraq about al Sadr or, worse, Zarqawi (sp?)? It is perceived that a victory against these folks is a US victory against muslims and not a victory of reason over homicidal mania. Why in the world would you not want to impose order so the Americans will leave? Is it THAT important that the US is seen as failing, no matter how reasonable the fight?

  28. Why is there no outrage in Iraq about al Sadr or, worse, Zarqawi

    The answer to that question is obvious: There’s no public outrage because Zarqawi has a demonstrated ability to kill people slowly while evading US and Iraqi authorities. Who’s going to put his head on the chopping block, literally, to go up against Zarqawi?

  29. The unpopularity of the US was intended to be assumed in the ‘war of ideas’ comment. Many well intentioned people believe that the US can alter its policies or incubate western ideas in the regions, either of which would give the average muslim a reason to think well of us.

    I just don’t think that is possible at this point.

    Jason, as I recall, you cited the need (and presumably feasibility) of regional transformation as an important justification for invading Iraq. Yes, I remember you saying that there were multiple reasons for invading, not just one, but that was on your list. It sounds to me like you are no longer so enamored of that rationale. Or were you always skeptical, but you figured that we had to at least try?

    I’m not as pessimistic as you are about the prospects for winning the war of ideas, but I don’t think you can incubate those ideas by force. The very sad fact is that the conditions for freedom and representative government to take root have to arise internally. So many wars over the ages have been justified as a quest for freedom, but so few ever yielded freedom. We may have done it with better intentions than most of the other societies that have claimed freedom as a rationale for war, but good intentions don’t guarantee good results. Otherwise there would already be a cure for cancer but nerve gas would be damn near impossible to synthesize.

    Anyway, if you had known then what you know now, would you have reached a different conclusion about invading Iraq? Or would the other justifications still have outweighed the negatives in your analysis?

  30. “Jason, as I recall, you cited the need (and presumably feasibility) of regional transformation as an important justification for invading Iraq.”

    True enough, it was on the list and I think its feasibility is up in the air under the approach of establishing order, incubating ideas, and so forth. The problem, it turns out, is that nobody understands that the carrot is a carrot.

    Like everyone in these parts I presume, I have evaluated my initial position on Iraq several times over the last couple of years. What I have come to recently is not that reform of the region is unimportant or unattainable. I have come to the conclusion that it is VERY important and likely unattainable without killing a great number of people.

    I believe, as I always have, that the focus on AQ as a group of criminals is naive. I believe, as I always have, that the leadership of AQ and those funding them are making power plays for personal gain and could frankly give a rat’s ass about Palestine.

    Where I believe I was mistaken was in my optimism about the power of freedom to transform and, more importantly, in my belief that the average muslim that cheers in the street about American deaths is best viewed as a hapless victim. AQ isn’t the problem, really. With the resources at our disposal, we could hunt them all down and kill them easily.

    The problem is the shield of the terrorist. The terrorist uses human shields and common cause with the expectation that you are not willing to kill as many people as he is. That guy cheering in the street? HE is the problem. Without him, AQ is gone in a month. He is not a victim, he is what makes the whole process cyclic. Some argue that he is responsible for securing his own liberty, and that is none of our business. Okay, but if he is responsible for standing up to his government, he is by god responsible for standing up to the terrorists standing behind him that are trying to kill us. He is certainly responsible for any action on his part that makes the terrorist acceptable.

    What I now see is a place that is willing to take not one step toward securing its own liberty, where the terrorists that kill Iraqis and Americans consistently poll higher than the troops trying to stop them. I will grant that the carrot we offer is a difficult sell in a climate of chaos, but demonstrably, that guy celebrating in the street chooses the terrorists when presented with options. The carrot doesn’t work by itself.

    Many muslims, in fits of self pity, believe they have seen the stick. They are mistaken, and they forget the extent to which they are protected by the unwillingness of victims of terrorism to kill them. If they are not only a part of the problem, but are the most important part of the problem, perhaps only a very high death toll in retaliation for a terrorist act will raise the perceived cost of choosing the terrorist sufficiently for the problem to go away.

    In summary, I don’t know that we can really offer them a carrot that is remotely meaningful enough to fundamentally start seeing the terrorist as a vile murderer instead of a hero. The US, or perhaps Putin, may be able to make the point another way, though.

  31. “Anyway, if you had known then what you know now, would you have reached a different conclusion about invading Iraq? Or would the other justifications still have outweighed the negatives in your analysis?”

    I would still have gone, but this is a tricky question in some ways.

    The most important reason to topple Saddam was to re-establish the threat of a US ground operation. Regardless of what happened after the fact, that remains an important accomplishment.

    Another very good reason was to find out conclusively that there is no threat of arms that Saddam could sell to AQ. These would be WMD that were off the radar because no one knew his real potential. We only know what we know because we put boots on the ground.

    That said, there is a case to be made that Iran would be a better target. I can see that, but we had no way of knowing that at the time, and the list of Saddam’s crimes gave us pre existing justification to topple him, whereas Iran’s threat status was even more murky.

    I think the claims of what we could have done in Afghanistan with more troops are red herrings, because the real problem in Afghanistan is Pakistan, and that is a political rather than military problem.

  32. I believe, as I always have, that the leadership of AQ and those funding them are making power plays for personal gain and could frankly give a rat’s ass about Palestine.

    Absolutely. Now, what about the people turning blind eyes? The recruits who decide to join? Do those people care about Palestine? As you pointed out, the leaders wouldn’t be nearly as much of a problem without their foot soldiers and the numerous people turning blind eyes.

    AQ isn’t the problem, really. With the resources at our disposal, we could hunt them all down and kill them easily.

    Then why haven’t we gotten all of their leaders yet?

    I think the claims of what we could have done in Afghanistan with more troops are red herrings, because the real problem in Afghanistan is Pakistan, and that is a political rather than military problem.

    I partially agree. I don’t think we should underestimate the potential value of having more troops in Afghanistan. On the other hand, I do agree that as long as the Afghan-Pakistani border is so porous there’s a limit to what we can do there. And the problems with Pakistan are numerous.

    As far as I can tell from what I read in various news sources, the most charitable take on Musharaf is that he’s playing a balancing act. Under this interpretation he’s not fully in control of his country’s intelligence services and elements of the military. These groups have a lot of sympathies for the Islamists. Khan, the nuclear scientist who helped Libya, North Korea, etc., got a slap on the wrist because Musharaf couldn’t do anything more without risking an Islamist revolt aided and abetted by elements of the military and intelligence services.

    However, Musharaf also uses the Islamists as a counter-weight against liberals, because Musharaf (like any general who seizes power away from an elected gov’t) cares first and foremost about Musharaf. He wasn’t exactly upset when the Islamists took control of 2 of the 4 provinces in provincial elections.

    If I could go back in time and advise the generals on the invasion of Afghanistan, my first piece of advice would have been to put as many boots on the ground as possible in key areas as close to the Pakistani border as possible. I realize that one can’t control every inch of the border with Pakistan, but it would have enabled us to catch the remnants of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in a vice as they fled to their buddies in Pakistan. Then again, maybe if we had done this they would have fled to Iran.

    In any case, if I could go back in time I’d tell the Pentagon not to use any war plan that counts on reliable support from Pakistan.

  33. It is not. Terrorism has been around for thousands of years. You don’t need mass media to commit acts of terrorism; a nice head on a pike will do, or a even a written description of the event.

    The term assasin comes from an old group of Islamic terrorists. A group that was essentially destroyed by military action.

  34. Christians in the American south, as recently as four decades ago, until compelled to cease by the federal government.

    While the people doing the lynching were Christians, so too were most of the victims, and the motives were not based upon religion.

  35. If I could go back in time and advise the generals on the invasion of Afghanistan, my first piece of advice would have been to put as many boots on the ground as possible in key areas as close to the Pakistani border as possible.

    Maybe your approach is correct, but the way we actually did things was to use indiginious personel on the ground with American airpower, using Special Forces to operate as a go between. And we avoided heavy US loses while making the war an Afgan war as much as possible. We might have run the Iraq war a little more like this had we not sold the opposition out after the first Gulf War.

    The other point I’d make is that it is probably easier said than done putting more boots on the ground in a rugged region like the Afgan/Paki border. That’s rough, high altitude terrain, and our soldiers would have to acclimate. The units intended for European style motorized warefare would require roads and firebases in those mountians, and would be easily sidestepped. Units like the 10th Mountain and Special Forces would work well for that application, but don’t count as a lot of “boots on the ground” when considering the area to be covered.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.