Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Clerics Seek End to Protests Over Drawings - Yahoo! News

The drawings — including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb — have touched a raw nerve among Muslims. Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry.

Violence has escalated sharply in Afghanistan this week, and nine people have died in demonstrations during the past three days. Protests, sometimes involving armed men, have been directed at foreign and Afghan government targets — fueling suspicions there's more behind the unrest than religious sensitivities.

"It's an incredibly emotive issue. This is something that really upset Afghans," said Joanna Nathan, senior Afghanistan analyst at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research institute. "But it is also being used to agitate and motivate the crowds by those against the government and foreign forces" in Afghanistan.

You think?

Clerics Seek End to Protests Over Drawings - Yahoo! News

This has very little to do with images of Mohammed or "insults to Islam". The battle lines were drawn long ago by some of the early founders of the modern Islamic movement. The fact that reporters continue to include the line "Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry" is bogus on its face.

In fact, depending on the version of Islam, Sunni, Shia, Matridi, Ashuri, Wahabi, etc, etc, etc, images of people and animals totally are forbidden or only some images, or images used in a religious context. It depends on the age old interpretation of Mose's laws brought down from Mt. Sinai. All of the Abrahamic belief systems have a similar law in their books, "Thou shall not put any graven images before me."

Largely due to the casting of the golden calf and its worship leading to the 40 years in the wilderness.

But, even in Islam, even during the height of the Islamic caliphate, there were taboos and then there were "taboos". Images of animals found their way into texts. Medical and scientific books used images of man to illustrate medical procedures. Even Mohammed and certain events were subject to illustration from both western and eastern artists.

No, the current situation has little to do with Mohammed and any depiction, whether satirical, insulting or simple straight forward depiction. This is the battle that was begun over 50 years ago when the founders of the modern Islamist movement, like Qutb (Khattab), wrote that the freedom of the west, the temptations it presented to the Muslim Ummah, which even in the confines of what the west considers a rather staid period, seemed life altering to the visitors from the east.

This same message resonates within the current Islamist movement. The danger they see is not the west in regards to its money, its military, its weapons or even its political power. The danger is the insidious movement of western culture and values into the Muslim Ummah via the unstoppable power of globalization.

It may be considered that even as Qutb and others wrote the words that inspired the current Islamists, it was already too late. Though, they have tried very hard to turn the clock backwards.

Interestingly, the idea of infiltrating or destructing the Muslim world was certainly not any part of a plan to decimate or destroy Islam or Arab people. It was and is simply the outcome of civilizations meeting, not colliding, but simply meeting in the market place and, by osmosis, trading ideas, fashion, technology; all of the things that occur when people meet.

Qutb understood that faith as he knew it, the simple world of Islam, the faithful, the nomads, the bazar with its proud craftsmen; all of these things were bound to change and were changing before his eyes.

It has little stopped since then. It is this that began to invigorate the current Islamists to take action. Not the existense of Israel nor American forces against an "Islamic" state like Iraq. Not even Afghanistan. It is the realization that what was once considered the base, the backbone and the power of the Muslim world, was slipping away.

It was the only remaining power of the Islamic world since the caliphate, rich with the wealth of empire, education and technological advancement, had fallen in long before it ceased to exist.

The recent riots over the "cartoons" are not about a new "offense" or "outrage" upon Islam. It is the continuation of the original battle as perceived by Qutb and carried forward by Zawahiri, bin Laden and the rest. In it, we find not only the definition of the battle, but the weapons by which the battle at large will be fought, the weapons which have been chosen by the Islamists in their writings, videos, audios, speeches and other propaganda: words and pictures.

What we must understand is our part in this play. It is only through the modern, current Islamists that the struggle has been defined between "Islam" and "the West". It is a battle within Islam itself. We are but the peripheral. The outside enemy that one side has chosen to represent a foe to focus the Ummah, the masses, against in order to unify them, pull them back into "the fold" as it were.

Within that struggle are the many other struggles. The definition of the Ummah being one great idea, but the power struggles, the local battles and all that it entails, stirs the pot slowly. While Zawahiri, Zarqawi and bin Laden (and many like them) define themselves as simple soldiers defending the "people", as with all other internal revolutions, they would not shirk or disclaim any power or leadership given to them if they had half a chance to claim it and use it.

Today, continuing to define themselves as simple warriors fighting on behalf of the untouchable, inviolate Allah and the greater, ill defined "Ummah", they can continue to pretend to humbleness. They can continue to pretend that they simply want an ethical "Islamic" leader to come to power; an unknown that will show himself at the right time. It's a feint and a fake that has been seen throughout revolutionary movements whether it is Nazi Germany; Bolshevik Russia; Maoist China; Pol Pot in Cambodia; Ba'athists, Sandinistas, Pinochet, Castro. We have seen it too many times in history.

For us in the West, the battle was simply joined because we were attacked in an effort to provide a rallying point and the battle within Islam will continue to be a concern because it has strategic impact on our continued economic and physical existence.

The power of the latest protests that many feel are aimed at the West as part of the battle with the West, like many a message formulated by revolutionaries and guerillas, is not aimed at us or is barely a consideration. It is our own arrogance and repeated navel gazing which causes us to imagine that the protests, whatever words, signs or deeds of the practitioners, were for our eyes and minds only or largely. This was a message to the Ummah as have been many messages about the temptation, damnation or evil of Western values.

This is a challenge within Islam and to all Muslims; this is the line which demarcates "true" Muslims and apostates. Defend Mohammed and Islam or become "the other", the kufir, the unbeliever, worthy of death at the hands of those who consider themselves betrayed by the erosion of their way of life. The message told those that would question Islam or the lack of freedoms within its practice by the "faithful", to shut up, sit down or die.

That is the purpose of the signs that read, "Butcher the unbelievers".

We may argue between ourselves over actions or purposes, but the truth is, the military and economic power lies within the west. Thus incitement to "butcher the unbelievers" has little connotations for us. The Ummah in the grand sense that bin Laden and his ilk wish to create does not exist. It is not capable of the type of action that these kinds of signs might engender except within a very small and seriously limited arena within certain nations, some of which hold no economic or strategic purpose. To incite such violence in the face of their own weakness is simply insane.

While we may call extremism "crazy", those who are at the forefront are not "crazy" to the point they would jeopardize their current gains by inciting a war they could not hope to win at this time. The message was meant to quail the progress of the liberals. It was a call to arms against the internal. Until the internal is unified, Islam as the definer and the total, complete and massive enemy of the West does not exist.

In fact, the continued bombings, desecrations, cold blooded murders, kidnappings and other terrible offenses in the name of Islam has served to spark a deep debate within the Ummah itself. This activity is to re-establish the fundamentals as the honorable and the leaders of the Ummah; to negate the bad publicity by trying to raise up the single, outside enemy of the "West" and unify some of the people that may have been slipping away from their grasp.

We should always remember that the messages of the enemy are rarely, if ever, direct and single messages to the opposition, particularly in guerilla or revolutionary wars. The messages are always first to the "believers" to buck up moral; second to the sympathizers or fence sitters to bring more to the cause or firm up their committment; third to the "neutrals" hoping to cause them through reason or fear to sit out the struggle and only last is the message ever to the enemy. In this case, to the West as a whole.

The enemy is always the last, particularly when engaged in battle since the act of battle already defines the aspirations of the combattants. In this case, the enemy had chosen long ago to fight and kill. We already know the dead and the wounded. We already have the declaration of war. The message to the West was sent 9/11, 3/11, 10/04, 7/7, 7/21 and the many times in between.

The message was to Muslims: become us or become the "other", there is no in between. The "other" is worthy to die by their standards and that is the threat. The fact that it was cynically used by the very dictators and tyrants that OBL and his ilk wish to dismantle, barely registers within the confines of their strategy sense it serves their purpose one way or the other. For us, it is very telling and defines exactly why, whatever the original intent of the images, benign, provocative and even malicious, we should be conscious of the efforts to squash discussion of Islam, its tenets of faith, its icons:

The untouchable; the inviolate are tools of tyranny and oppression. If one can never question the invisible, how can one question the existent?

The images and the resulting uproar was very instructive for the West, but even more so for the "liberals" or "moderates" (whomever and however many that may be). This is the face of Islam. This is their fate. This is the redline that they should not cross. It is the line that will define Islam: whether that is Islam which turns back the centuries to pre-modernity and forces the war of cultures which it believes exists today and may, indeed, push towards world war and possible destruction of Islamic Ummah, if not the faith; or can it exist as a faith while its adherents take their place within the global world, maintaining faith as a private act and realizing power from within the local borders of nation states instead of the unachievable.

The riots, burnings, flags and pictures, to me, were fortuitous. It set the stage, defined the cause and pointed out the weapon. They will force discussion among people and bring the image of Islam as it is seen by many Westerners, home to the Muslim world. Some will see it as a sign of strength amd join. Others will believe it is embarrassing while others will still yet debate over who has the power of their faith.

Let the pictures be reflected back. This is what the Muslim Ummah has to look forward to under the guidance of those they support or sympathize with.

It may be well what the Muslim world deserves considering their flirtation with such renewed dictatorial concepts, but it is not the Muslim world we deserve regardless of lazy intellectuals declaring it all to be the fault of our "foreign policy". That is the worst hypocrisy and arrogance of all.

tag Jyllands-Posten

Caricature of Respect

Update: Read also Toman Bay - Dirty Dozen

I think that the whole thing is a result of an unholy, unspoken alliance between the forces of political Islam, and the Arabic, secular governments.
It is easy; it goes like this:

Islamists want to rise to power. They try violence but they discover that they’re playing the military-governments’ favorite pastime, so they retreat. They start directing their efforts at the grassroots. They condemn violence, because it didn’t go well with the masses. They know that we’re people who believe that “El Nearafo Ahsan Men El Meanrafosh” (what we know is better than what we don’t), so they don’t try to clash with the existing governments, because they know that people would prefer what they know rather than experimenting with anything new. Also, they have no real solutions to any problems the people are facing in their life, so they, in the manner of every good politician who doesn’t have the solution to a certain problem, invent another one and try to solve it. So they go “forget about life, let’s focus on death”. And then they go on with the very largest implementation of the “carrot and the stick” technique in history.

Thanks for the link John

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