Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Islam's Imperial Dreams

When satirical depictions of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper sparked a worldwide wave of Muslim violence early this year, observers naturally focused on the wanton destruction of Western embassies, businesses, and other institutions. Less attention was paid to the words that often accompanied the riots--words with ominous historical echoes. "Hurry up and apologize to our nation, because if you do not, you will regret it," declared Khaled Mash'al, the leader of Hamas, fresh from the Islamist group's sweeping victory in the Palestinian elections:

    This is because our nation is progressing and is victorious. . . . By Allah, you will be defeated. . . . Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world. This is not a figment of the imagination but a fact. Tomorrow we will lead the world, Allah willing. Apologize today, before remorse will do you no good.

Efraim Karsh goes on to give a brief but excellent history of the growth of the Islamic Empire from the time of Muhammad. He notes something important about the date September 11 in Muslim history that I had noted previously:

By the middle of the 17th century they seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe, only to be turned back in fierce fighting at the gates of Vienna in 1683--on September 11, of all dates. Though already on the defensive by the early 18th century, the Ottoman empire--the proverbial "sick man of Europe"--would endure another 200 years. Its demise at the hands of the victorious European powers of World War I, to say nothing of the work of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern Turkish nationalism, finally brought an end both to the Ottoman caliphate itself and to Islam's centuries-long imperial reach.

I would read the rest because it will help readers understand that, contrary to what many would like to believe that it is just words that cover their real anger at "American Foreign Policy", it is a real agenda item, number one on the list.

Muslim political ambitions aren't a reaction to Western encroachments.

As usual, the real problem that ended the Muslim empire was not the encroachment of the Western world. That was simply the last straw. What really ended the Muslim empire was the incestuous and increasingly corrupt government of the Islamic rulers at the time. Something that the jihadists see as the modern cause of their increasing loss of the "Umma" and the only unifying commonality between all: Islam.

The riches of the empire, moreover, were concentrated in the hands of the few at the expense of the many. While the caliph might bestow thousands of dirhams on a favorite poet for reciting a few lines, ordinary laborers in Baghdad carried home a dirham or two a month. As for the empire's more distant subjects, the caliphs showed little interest in their conversion to the faith, preferring instead to colonize their lands and expropriate their wealth and labor. Not until the third Islamic century did the bulk of these populations embrace the religion of their imperial masters, and this was a process emanating from below--an effort by non-Arabs to escape paying tribute and to remove social barriers to their advancement. To make matters worse, the metropolis plundered the resources of the provinces, a practice inaugurated at the time of Muhammad and reaching its apogee under the Abbasids. Combined with the government's weakening control of the periphery, this shameless exploitation triggered numerous rebellions throughout the empire.

In reality, these same problems plagued many empires throughout time and saw their demise: corrupt government, exploitation of conquered people, inability to maintain a well armed, disciplined and experienced fighting force to protect it. This is the same destruction of Rome, of the European empires and so forth. Interesting, these same ideas of re-invigorating these lost empires have spawned such movements as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy where Il Duce and Hitler both used symbols and accoutrements of Roman empire to represent their new Reichs.

This included helmets with plumes, the golden eagle standards (something Napolean used as well), field marshal batons (that resembled the batons given to people like Caesar and other Roman military leaders as devices of power from the Roman people). Many other symbols were present. Even the raised right hand salute was used in the Roman legions.

Similarly, Muslim empire seekers try to hark back to the period of Muslim Empire in words, deeds, dress, flags and propaganda images. Even specific historic dates, as I've noted and so has this piece, influence their actions.

Read this history of Islam and understand that what the modern Islamists say about their plans are not simply a cover for other grievances, but is their main agenda item. The grievances of "policy" are only meant to garner support from other Muslims that may not buy into their other plans or whom they feel need a unifying cry beyond the idea of Islam to invoke their support. Regardless, grievances are a cover for the actual political and physical agenda.

People like to pretend that the omnipotent United States of America, with it's military power, it's isolation and it's economic power is not threatened by any such group, but we are because this group is not just talking about conquering any territory. They are planning very carefully the strategic areas that will give them the most power over the US and it's continued success. There is nothing accidental about bombings of oil rigs or hijacking oil ships. There is nothing accidental about "pirates" from Somolia roving the area just south of the Suez Canal where all sorts of goods and energy resources traverse from east to west.

There is nothing accidental about these things because this is how the Muslim Empire controlled the world once upon a time (even before oil because these same routes controlled other important resources at the time).

And they would like to again.

Cross posted at the Castle Hi-fires

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