"Man's greatest good fortune is to chase and defeat his enemy, seize his total possessions, leave his married women weeping and wailing, ride his gelding (and) use the bodies of his women as a nightshirt and support." Genghis Khan
"He butchered three of them with an ax and decapitated them. In other words, instead of using a gun to kill them he took a hatchet to chop their heads off. He struggled face to face with one of them, and throwing down his ax managed to break his neck and devour his flesh in front of his comrades. ...I ...award him the Medal of the Republic." General Mustafa Tlas, Syria's Minister of Defense praising a hero of the 1973 war with Israel before the Syrian National Assembly
"Appeasing of governments which revel in slaughter is an invitation to worldwide catastrophe." Fang Lizhi
Two thousand three hundred years ago a Greek who even his fellow Greeks called a barbarian conquered the entire Persian Empire. His name was Alexander the Great.
The whole thing was as unlikely as the Vietnamese turning around and conquering the U.S. But it happened. In fact, in history it happens over and over again.
It happened in 1870 when the French were forced to fight a country which just a few years earlier had been a disorganized clutter of rag-tag mini-states ruled by comic opera princes. The land of Napoleon was rated by every armchair general as the mightiest military force on the Continent. But France lost. Its army was chopped up like ground round. Its glorious capital, Paris, faced the humiliation of a foreign army marching down its streets. The upstart nation that had brought France to its knees was... Germany.
An equally surprising fate occurred to England when it trained its guns on the superpowers of its day in two world wars. When the smoke had cleared, two backward nations of Johnny-come-latelies ended up dominating the world. These countries, whose inhabitants had usually been regarded as just one small step above the primitive, were The United States and Russia.
The moral is simple. Never forget the pecking order's surprises. Today's superpower is tomorrow's conquered state. Yesterday's overlooked mob is often the ruler of tomorrow. Never underestimate the third world. Never be complacent about barbarians.
Some readers will be outraged by my presumption. How dare I regard any group as barbaric. What appalling ethnocentrism! There are no barbarians. There are simply cultures we haven't taken the time to understand. Cultures to whom we haven't given sufficient aid. Cultures in need of development. Beneath the skin, all men and women are the same. They have the same needs, the same emotions, and the same ideals. If you simply took those folks you speak of so contemptuously out for a cup of coffee, you would discover that they are just like you and me.
But there are barbarians--people whose cultures glorify the act of murder, and elevate violence to a holy deed. These cultures portray the extinction of other human beings as a validation of manliness, a heroic gesture in the name of truth, or simply a good way to get ahead in the world.
Certain Islamic societies tend to be high on this list. On November 28, 1943, Franklin Roosevelt met secretly with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill in Iran. When Roosevelt returned home, he sent a telegram to the Shah thanking the Iranian ruler for his hospitality. The President explained that he'd noticed the hills in Iran were bare. American agronomists had learned to prevent soil erosion and enrich the landscape by planting trees on slopes like these. Roosevelt suggested an experimental tree-planting program.
The Iranian leader thanked FDR. But privately the young potentate was highly insulted: According to Moslem standards, the gift demeaned his virility. Stalin was far more understanding of Mohammedan culture. He offered the Shah tanks and planes.
Hafez al-Assad, father of the current leader of Syria, worked hard to solidify his position as the country's undisputed ruler. He didn't do it by selling Syria's citizens on the values of his political platform. Instead, he slaughtered 20,000 Moslem Fundamentalists who opposed him.
According to The New York Times, in 1980 Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, had a Lebanese imam (a holy man roughly equivalent to a pastor) shot in the head for refusing to preach the propaganda of the PLO. Then Arafat visited the imam's Lebanese home, took his ten-year-old son aside, explained to the little boy that his father had been murdered by the Israelis, handed the lad a gun, and said, "When you grow up, use this to take revenge." Arafat wanted the boy to be a killer.
Holiness, righteousness, and even day-to-day propriety in Islamic cultures are based on the example of Mohammed. Though Islamic literature praises Mohammed as a man of peace, he was also a military leader. In 624 AD, The Prophet announced the concept of the Jihad--the holy war. He said in the blessed book, The Koran, "I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them. ...And slay them wherever ye catch them...." In the next nine years, the man of peace ordered a minimum of 27 military campaigns. He personally led nine of them.
It is not surprising that Moslem jurists would later declare that there are two worlds: the world of Islam--Dar al-Islam--and the non-Islamic world--Dar al-Harb. These two territorial spheres, explained the Moslem scholars, are in a state of perpetual war. According to some Koranic interpreters, any leader who fails to "make wide slaughter" in the land of the infidel is committing a sin. A statesman is only allowed the temporary expedient of peace if his forces are not yet strong enough to win.
This may explain why Elias Canetti, in his Nobel Prize-winning book Crowds and Power, calls Islam a killer religion, literally "a Religion of War."
In reality, Islam, like most other religions, has both its positive and its negative sides. It imposes a host of admirable responsibilities on its adherents: for example, zakat, the presentation of regular, substantial contributions to the poor. Allah also demands that his followers "give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness," "cover not Truth with falsehood nor conceal the Truth when ye know (what it is)," and "treat with kindness your parents and kindred and orphans and those in need."
However, Allah issues many a darker order as well. And the percentage of modern Islamic adherents who have focused on Allah's calls to combat is dismaying. Today, the descendants of the Persians who fought the Greeks in 480 BC are devout Moslems. In the '30s, one of them labored diligently to become an Islamic scholar. He pored over the Koran for years. As he demonstrated his superior knowledge of Allah's pronouncements, he rose in the ranks of Iranian holy men. Finally he achieved the penultimate title--ayatollah (roughly equivalent to a Catholic cardinal).
His name was Ruhollah Khomeini, and he wrote books, pamphlets, and even taped and distributed his speeches to inspire the citizens of Iran with sacred virtue. The ayatollah's words roused Iranians to overthrow the shah and usher in a government based on strict Islamic doctrine. What did the ayatollah's pronouncements say- Among other things, that infidels are like dogs. Their existence is an affront to Allah.
Here's how the ayatollah himself put it: "...Moslems have no alternative... to an armed holy war against profane governments. ...Holy war means the conquest of all non-Moslem territories. ...It will ...be the duty of every able-bodied adult male to volunteer for this war of conquest, the final aim of which is to put Koranic law in power from one end of the earth to the other. "The leaders of the USSR and of England and the president of the United States are ...infidels.... ...Every part of the body of a non-Moslem individual is impure, even the hair on his head and his body hair, his nails, and all the secretions of his body. Any man or woman who denies the existence of God, or believes in His partners [the Christian Trinity], or else does not believe in His Prophet Mohammed, is impure (in the same way as are excrement, urine, dog, and wine)[sic]."
Concluded the Ayatollah, "Islam does not allow peace between... a Moslem and an infidel." Though many of us imagine that the promotion of harmony is a prime objective of every major world faith, the ayatollah disagreed. "The leaders of our religion were all soldiers, commanders and warriors," he wrote, "...they killed and they were killed."
The concept of a peaceful prophet was so alien to the ayatollah that he was convinced Christ's message had been deliberately distorted by Westerners. Said Khomeini, "This idea of turning the other cheek has been wrongly attributed to Jesus (peace be unto him); it is those barbaric imperialists that have attributed it to him. Jesus was a prophet, and no prophet can be so illogical."
Khomeini's dicta may seem irrelevant now that he has long been dead, but his words have actually gained in influence since his demise. Early in the '90s, Iraq's humiliation in the Gulf War undermined the credibility of the secular Moslem regimes, leaving a power vacuum into which Fundamentalism leaped. There are currently roughly one 100,000,000 Islamic fundamentalists (rechristened "Islamic revivalists" by some scholars ).
Activists among them, employing the slogan "Africa for Islam," are making diligent--and often violent--efforts to seize power in numerous sub-Saharan states. They have gained sufficient favor with South Africa's ANC that Nelson Mandela, in a 1992 visit to Teheran, told the Iranians that Africa must be reshaped along the lines of the Iranian revolution. (Ironically, when South African leader Bishop Desmond Tutu gave a speech to a Palestinian crowd in 1989 lauding Palestinian interests, he failed to realize that the Arabic banners carried by his listeners read "On Saturday We Will Kill the Jews, on Sunday We Will Kill the Christians!")
Khomeini-style fundamentalists have become vigorous political forces in areas like China's Sinkiang region (where as of 1994, Beijing officials were seriously concerned that the area's inhabitants, influenced by propaganda from Iran, would attempt to break away and found a fundamentalist Islamic republic).
Islamic fundamentalists have been involved in the Indian state of Kashmir's vicious civil war. They've been active in Malaysia, Thailand (where Moslem guerilla forces were fighting in 1993), and the Sudan (where an Iranian-backed fundamentalist regime is engaged in a campaign to subjugate, exterminate or--according to the United Nations International Labor Organization--literally enslave the black Christians and animists in the southern region of the country).
Followers of Khomeini have been moving aggressively in Algeria, Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan (where by 1992 posters and portraits of the ayatollah had become a particularly strong sales item in local stores), France, and, according to Greek Defense Minister Ioannis Varitsiotes and the University of Belgrade's Dragoljub R. Zivojinovic, Czechoslovakia, Albania and Yugoslavia.
In many of these cases, fundamentalists are sweeping elections, manipulating generals, funding insurrections, sponsoring terrorism, or actually taking control. Islamic fundamentalists have poured money into America's black communities in an effort that has brought more than a million U.S. African Americans over to the one true faith.
While most of these converts remain peaceful, Al-Fuqra, a predominantly African-American Islamic group under the leadership of Pakistani Sheikh Mubarak Ali Jilani Hashemi, has declared a jihad in North America, and, according to law enforcement agencies, has been involved in bombings, murders and other forms of bloodshed in Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Canada.
It has been reported that Al-Fuqra also had a hand in the 1993 effort to blow up New York's United Nations building, the city's FBI headquarters, and its Holland and Lincoln Tunnels. When the Iranians declared a death-sentence on British author Salman Rushdie, black American imams everywhere from Brooklyn to Los Angeles enthusiastically supported the move. (So did the Moslem head of UCLA's Middle Eastern Studies Department.)
Even a loyal African-American Gulf War veteran, won over to Allah in 1991, stated after his change in faith that "soon it [Islam] will take over all of America, then the world."
The U.S. African-American community is only a beachhead. Islamic forces have been attempting to gain control of U.S. media outlets in the hope of using them as propaganda tools for the Moslem point of view. The Saudis and America's Christian fundamentalists battled in the early '90s for the right to purchase America's second largest wire service, UPI. Ultimately, the Arabs won.
In addition, Amal Adam, the former head of Saudi Arabia's equivalent of the CIA, was the primary backer of a British-based firm called Capcom, whose chief officers were the heads of TCI (Telecommunications Incorporated), America's largest player in the cable television game. In 1993, TCI made headlines when it came within a hair's breadth of merging with Bell/Atlantic. Had the effort succeeded, it would have formed what financial analysts universally heralded as one of the giants of the coming interactive media revolution, giving the Saudis additional leverage for American media manipulation.
The ground is ripe for worldwide Islamic fundamentalist expansion. Mohammedanism is currently the fastest-growing religion on the planet. There are a billion Moslems--as many as Jews and Christians combined--and that number is increasing daily. According to Cairo University's Professor Ali Dessouki , 50 countries are now Islamic.
What's more, there are massive Mohammedan populations everywhere from Nigeria to Mongolia, the former Soviet Central Asian republics, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. The countries with the world's largest Islamic bodies of citizenry are not even parts of the Arab world--they are Indonesia and China.
To top it off, Islamic public opinion, if the Arabs, Iranians and Pakistanis are an accurate barometer, is virulently anti-American.
Today's Islam extremism is the perfect example of a meme grown ravenous. Saddam Hussein, in his 1990 drive for expansion, claimed to be following Allah's message. The late General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, former head of Pakistan, who masterminded the fundamentalist-led Afghan resistance efforts using U.S. funds, kept a map in his office with all Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Soviet Central Asia marked in green. It was the symbol of his ultimate ambition--unified Moslem rule extending through every green-marked territory.
In 1990, one enthusiastic Turkish official, minister of state Ercument Konukman, noted the substantial Turkish populations in the former Soviet Union and China, and looked forward to uniting them "under the colors of the Turkish flag."
A fundamentalist clergyman in Lebanon says, "Don't believe that we want an Islamic republic in Lebanon. ...What Hezbollah wants is a world Islamic republic."
Cairo constitutional lawyer Dr. A.K. Aboulmagd adds, "I even venture sometimes to say that Islam was not meant to serve the early days of Islam, when life was primitive and when social institutions were still stable and working. It was...meant to be put in a freezer and to be taken out when it will be really needed. And I believe that the time has come. ...The mission of Islam lies not in the past, but in the future."
Dr. Abd El Sabour Shahin of Cairo goes a step further and warns that Western civilization makes a big mistake when it "thinks it will endlessly remain dominant."
Even secular Moslem intellectuals teaching in the top universities of the United States and Europe have joined the expansionist bandwagon, calling for a leader who will pull world Islam together into an unstoppable force. "Islam will... take over the world," said an Egyptian in Cairo in the late '80s to a crew from Britain's Granada tv.
No isolated, gray-haired zealot, he was one of a new breed of young university graduates, members of the middle class, and professionals, often among the highest achievers in their region. These religious devotees do not have a happy fate in store for those of us in the west. Explained the young Egyptian, "Islam is a tree that feeds on blood and grows on severed limbs."
In the early and mid-nineties, a spate of books and articles appeared proclaiming that, despite such rhetoric, Islam poses no geopolitical danger. Abul Aziz Said, of the School of International Service at American University, said point blank that "Islamic fundamentalism is not the enemy of the west." "Islamic fundamentalism," he declared, "is a defensive social and political movement, a reaction to westernization and modernization." It is, he insisted, "an attempt to restore an old civilization, not create a new empire."
Yet, later in his article, Said said that ancient imperial triumphs were at the heart of the "world influence" fundamentalists were legitimately attempting to "regain." And the veil slipped a bit from his true feelings when, zeroing in on his conclusion, he declared that "imitative responses of Muslims to the challenge of the West...evince...identification with the 'enemy.'"
John L. Esposito, former president of the Middle East Studies Association, criticized "the creation of an imagined monolithic Islam" and contended that those apprehensive about fundamentalism "fail to account for the diversity of Muslim practice." Palestinian-born Columbia University scholar Edward Said echoed the assertion that diversity renders the notion of an Islamic threat, in Said's word, "phony."
However, diversity within a cultural community does not necessarily halt its expansionist drive. The European West spread its often brutal control over every continent while so divided and "diverse" that it was engaged in an almost nonstop series of internecine wars. And early Islam conquered a territory almost equally vast while its leaders squabbled and fought, and its religious sects were rent by schism.
Esposito, like many other writers on the topic, justifies the ferocity of anti-western Islamic sentiments by reminding us that "many in the Arab and Muslim world view the history of Islam and of the Muslim world's dealings with the West as one of victimization and oppression at the hands of an expansive imperial power."
There's no question he is right. However the Islamic world held the upper hand in the struggle between the Occident and the Levant for over 1,100 years. The West managed to turn the tables briefly when the Crusaders established a short-lived middle eastern toehold.
The Crusader states were not planted on undisputed Moslem land. The heartland of the Islamic empire, the section bordering the Mediterranean rim, was a deeply Christian area, a vital spiritual and economic core of a "Western" imperium which, for over six hundred years before Mohammed's birth, had included the non-Arab provinces of Turkey (known then as Asia, Galatia, Bithynia, Pontus and Cappadocia--where St. Paul established many of the first churches), Syria (whose city of Damascus was one of the earliest major Christian centers), Israel (homeland to the Jews since roughly 1,200 B.C., and, despite Roman efforts to expel the native population, still dotted with Hebrew villages when the Moslems arrived sword in hand), Egypt (populated at the time by rabidly Christian descendants of the pyramid-builders, along with significant numbers of Greeks and Jews), Libya (the former Cyrenaica), Tunisia (Carthage and its environs, where St. Augustine was born and eventually became bishop of Hippo), and Northern Algeria and Morocco (then called Mauritania).
These were the countries that had produced the Bible, the Christian monastic movement (born in Egypt), St. Jerome's conversion (in what is now Turkey), St. John of Damascus, the famed early church historian Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, Origen, Saint Athanasius, the Aryan heresy, a significant number of fathers of the Roman Catholic faith and the Eastern Orthodox creed. The knights of the cross did not retain their reconquered kingdoms long. They took Jerusalem in 1099 and were expelled by 1187.
Nonetheless, according to historian Amin Maalouf, the author of The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, modern Arabs tend to see today's world events as a continuation of the Crusades.
For 600 years after the fall of the Crusader states, Islamic forces returned to the attack, capturing Greece and chunks of Eastern Europe, raiding towns in Sicily and the Italian coasts for goods and slaves, preying on Mediterranean shipping, chaining Europeans like Miguel Cervantes to the oars of their galleys, and until 1826 forcing the Christian citizens of Yugoslavia and Albania to give up their children to Moslem overlords (who brought up the males on the Koran, then turned them into soldiers known as Janissaries).
It wasn't until 1798 that Napoleon began to shift the balance between East and West again when he briefly invaded Egypt, from which he was ignominiously expelled by the British and the Turks. But the heavy-handed fertile crescent "imperialism" so resented by the Arabs didn't begin until after the First World War, and it lasted less than 40 years.
Southern Spain remained under the Moslem yoke for 781 years, Greece for 381, and pieces of longtime Christian terrain like St. Augustine's North African homeland and the religious and secular capital that eventually eclipsed Rome in power and splendor--Byzantium--are still in Moslem hands today.
Syria, on the other hand, was only under western control for 21 years, Egypt for 67, and Iraq a mere 15.
If one accepts Esposito's reasoning, Westerners--who were bludgeoned by "an expansive imperial" Islam for well over a millennium--have more right to fear an Islamic revival than Moslems have to hate the West. More to the point, Phebe Marr, of the National Defense University's Institute for Strategic Studies, contends that militant extremist groups dedicated to violence and an absolute rejection of the West are small. In addition, she claims, "The radicals do not have a broad base of popular support. ...Even in Lebanon, however, where such groups flourish, a poll of university students taken in 1987 indicated that more than 90% disapproved of...assassinations, hostage taking, and sabotage of government installations."
On the other hand, Marr admits that "there may be only a thin line between the open, mainstream movements and their clandestine [violent] counterparts." She concludes that "the Islamic revival is not only here to stay but is likely to be a leading domestic political force shaping the Mediterranean region during the coming decades. Despite political vicissitudes, the various movements loosely collected under the rubric of 'Islamic Fundamentalism' have shown a staying power that indicates they have achieved both breadth and depth in their indigenous societies."
Like Marr, Abbas Hamdani, professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Wisconsin, asserts that "to propose a monolithic view of Islam and then equate it with fundamentalism would be wrong.... Except for mass followings in Algeria and Tunisia, fundamentalists represent a small segment, although a popular, vocal, and highly motivated one, of the total population. [Hamdani overlooks the Sudan and Afghanistan, both of which, at this writing, were in fundamentalist hands.] Even in Iran, which appears to be totally convulsed in fundamentalism, it is a small minority that has monopolized power." As the case of Iran demonstrates, it only takes a minority to seize control of a country, especially if that minority is enthusiastic about using violence.
In Germany's July, 1932, elections, 63% of the voters cast their ballots against the Nazis. By the November elections, the anti-Nazi vote was even larger. Yet Adolf Hitler was able to achieve dictatorial power only four months later on March 23, 1933, in part because his storm troopers--like the militant gangs controlled by the fundamentalists--were willing to murder their opponents.
Khomeini's works advocate vigorously converting or murdering all those who do not embrace Allah's holy meme. Then they urge a holy war on the nations of the West.
The ayatollah wrote, "Any nonreligious [i.e. non-Islamic] power, whatever form or shape, is necessarily an atheistic power, the tool of Satan; it is part of our duty to stand in its path and to struggle against its effects. Such Satanic power can engender nothing but corruption on earth, the supreme evil which must be pitilessly fought and rooted out. To achieve that end, we have no recourse other than to overthrow all governments that do not rest on pure Islamic principles, and are thus corrupt and corrupting, and to tear down the traitorous, rotten, unjust, and tyrannical administrative systems that serve them.... If Islamic civilization had governed the West, we would no longer have to put up with these barbaric goings-on unworthy even of wild animals....[Western governments are] using inhuman laws and inhuman political methods... Misdeeds must be punished by the law of retaliation: cut off the hands of the thief; kill the murderer instead of putting him in prison; flog the adulterous woman or man. Your concerns, your 'humanitarian' scruples, are more childish than reasonable."
Khomeini had a prescription for such problems: "All of humanity must strike these troublemakers [the governments of the West] with an iron hand.... Islam has obliterated many tribes because they were sources of corruption [i.e. sources of non-Islamic influence]...." Judging from the Ayatollah's rhetoric, the next tribes he would have liked to see obliterated were those in Europe and America.
Allah is rapidly providing Khomeini's followers with a sword to carry out their master's wishes. He has offered Islam the fire in which the Koran says those who follow false faiths are destined to burn: nuclear weaponry. He has also provided the long range missiles needed to use it. According to the late imam's logic, there may be only one just and righteous thing to do: employ this technology to wipe out recalcitrant heathens like you and me.
The modern growth of Islam is the coalescence of a superorganism drawn together by the magnetic attraction of a meme. But this meme has an advantage: The social body it is trying to pull together has existed as a unified social beast in the past. The old reflexes of solidarity are still there, waiting to be aroused.
The meme of the new Islam is not laboring to generate a small and fragile embryo. It is simply attempting to awaken a sleeping giant.
for footnotes, see below
. William Manchester, The Arms of Krupp: 1587-1968, pp. 125-137, 143-148. Geoffrey Barraclough, The Origins of Modern Germany, p. 422.
. For a very different analysis of the barbarian menace through history, one which nonetheless supports the conclusions of this chapter, see Bennett Bronson, "The Role of Barbarians in the Fall of States," Norman Yoffee and George L. Cowgill, ed., The Collapse of Ancient States and Civilizations, pp. 196-218.
. Mohammed Heikal, The Return of the Ayatollah, pp. 39-40. The Shah eagerly accepted Stalin's deal... until he found out that it entailed hosting a small army of Soviet advisors and technicians.
. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. I, p. 640 gives the figure of 10,000. British author David Pryce-Jones says the death toll was actually "several tens of thousands." (David Pryce-Jones, "Self-Determination, Arab Style," Commentary, January, 1989, p. 43.) Twenty thousand is the most commonly used estimate.
. "The Tale of the Recalcitrant Imam," The New York Times, July 25, 1982, p. 12. In early 1989, shortly after he gained a new reputation as a man of peace, Arafat made it clear that he still felt disputes between Mohammedans should be settled with bullets. In an interview with Radio Monte Carlo about the Arab uprising in Israel, Arafat said, "Whoever thinks of stopping the intifada before it achieves its goals, I will give him ten bullets in the chest." ("Arafat unmasked--by his own words," New York Post, January 23, 1989, p. 22.)
. Said Mohammed, "I have bequeathed to you that which will always be a guide to you, if you will take hold of it; the Book of God and the practices of my life." This saying and its implications have been critical in the development of Islam. (Mohammed Heikal, The Return of the Ayatollah, p. 80.)
. "I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them. The Qu'ran, downloaded from America Online's "Islam Library," original upload 1996, "Al-Anfal"--sura 12.
"...And slay them wherever ye catch them...." The Qu'ran, "Al-Baqara"--sura 191