Free Markets, Free People
In Lybia, the expected – at least for those who paid attention and had a rudimentary understanding of modern Islam – is beginning to happen:
Throughout this country, Libyans are discovering that their hard fought battle to win freedoms is at risk. Puritanical Muslims known as Salafis are applying a rigid form of Islam in more and more communities. They have clamped down on the sale of alcohol and demolished the tombs of saints where many local people worship.
Throughout Libya, Gaddafi’s fall has emboldened Salafis, who were persecuted and imprisoned under the now deceased leader. They have increased their public presence, taken over mosques, and even hoisted the flag of al-Qaeda over the courthouse in Benghazi where the revolution began eleven months ago. In the capital of Tripoli, Salafis have destroyed more than six shrines. In one incident, dozens swarmed mausoleums belonging to two Muslim mystics and dug up their bodies so that worshippers could no longer visit their tombs. They also burned the relics around the shrines.
The Salafis are the same group that has done well in the Egyptian elections. Speaking of Egypt, Robert R. Reilly makes some important points about that country and Islam in general, taking apart a Matthew Kaminski article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Arab Democracy Is the Best Bet for a Muslim Reformation." He points out the problems associated with the “propensity to project Western conceptions and norms onto the Islamic world, where they are largely irrelevant.” It’s an interesting read.
"The appeal of political Islam… grows when religiosity is repressed." Islamism is a reaction to modernity, not to repression. It would grow regardless. With the shackles off in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, watch it grow even more. To think that it will diminish because it is not repressed is a dangerous fantasy. Thanks to the Arab Spring, it now has the opportunity to seize control, and most likely will do so. Democratic elections have simply revealed the strength of the view that "Islam is the answer."
And Reilly stomps on the notion that “democracy” will provide the necessary reformation of Islam. Instead, he points out, the Islamists are the reformation:
Kaminski calls for a Reformation in Islam, without seeming to realize that Islamism is that Reformation. Be careful of what you wish for. One reason that the Islamic world became calcified is that the "gates of ijtihad" were closed in the Middle Ages. This meant that the authority for making original interpretations of the Koran or the hadith had been withdrawn because the sharia had, by that time, covered every possible situation in human life with a specific ruling. The Islamists today have reclaimed the authority of individual interpretation in order to wipe out the Islamic jurisprudence that stands in their way, most particularly in their use of indiscriminate violence and terrorism.
As for the Muslim Brotherhood:
"Salafists… practice Osama bin Laden’s creed of Islam." No, bin Laden’s creed of Islam is not Salafist, but came directly from the Muslim Brotherhood and is infected with its ideology, which was partially obtained from Western totalitarianism. His teacher in Saudi Arabia was Mohammed al Banna, the brother of the founder of the Muslim brotherhood, Hassan al Banna. Salafism, on the other hand, is an ancient and integral part of Islam.
Reilly points out that “[w]ishful thinking can be dangerous when it distorts reality.” And that’s precisely what many in the West have done – engage in wishful thinking and project “Western conceptions and norms onto the Islamic world” where they simply don’t fit.
Engaging in an honest assessment grounded in at least an understanding of Islam and human nature should have disabused a rational person of such wishful thinking. The information was there, the history was there, and the conclusions weren’t that hard to reach if objectively put together.
Unfortunately our government apparently prefers to engage in wishful thinking along with many others in the West. The outcome in Libya and Egypt, given who was involved and how that has worked in other countries should have been obvious. But instead many in the West, such as Kaminski chose to believe in fictions like the Muslim Brotherhood’s declared “moderation” and their supposed belief in sharing power with secularists. Oh you may see that at least given lip service for a while, at least until they fully consolidate their power, but that’s not their plan.
These two “revolutions” made the Middle East a more dangerous and oppressive place. Our government chose to ignore the reality of the Muslim Brotherhood’s extremism for a more sanitized and moderate model (which it used to justify its support) and aided and abetted the Islamists in Libya – while pretending they didn’t really exist — through direct intervention in a conflict that was simply none of our business.
Now, unfortunately, we have to live with the results.
Somehow both of these will be spun into “foreign policy successes”, just watch.
What, you ask? How many times did I say the most organized and ruthless would win in Egypt? Anyone?
Well, here’s the post-mortem for the Egyptian election I could have written a months ago:
The Islamists’ victory has been foreshadowed by preelection polls as well as by early unofficial reports about the elections’ outcome. But the official results showed just how thoroughly the young revolutionaries who plugged into social media to ignite a revolution that brought down President Hosni Mubarak in February had failed to excite voters. They won no more than 336,000 votes.
336,000 votes out of 9.7 million cast. 336,000!
Hampered by political naivete, egos and lack of funding, the young activists were overwhelmed at the polls by better organized Islamists. The multiphase elections, which end in January, have so far indicated that activists in the Continuing Revolution party have been unable to turn the passion they inspired last winter in Tahrir Square into political capital.
Emphasis mine. Organized and ruthless vs. naïve and clueless. Gee wonder who’s going to win. Of course they were no more naïve than those here who thought their triumph was pre-ordained.
"Young revolutionaries have struggled with political inexperience at some points and suffered from lack of funds and organization at others," said Emad Gad, a political analyst with Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "This didn’t enable them to reach voters or carry out strong campaigns like those of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Egyptian Bloc."
Result? The better organized and more ruthless organizations – the Islamists — won.
And there are people who think they’re very plugged in who are absolutely shocked, shocked I tell you, that there’s an outcome other than that for which they hoped.
Faith is a wonderful thing except when it is confronted by reality and facts. And the realty of this particular situation should have been evident to any keen observer of the area (and of human nature) from the start.
Yet the moon pony and unicorn crowd remain shocked it didn’t turn out to be a triumph of secular democracy with the Twitter crowd installed in a new and enlightened Middle East democracy.
Ok not really, at least if you’re from this planet and have observed the Middle East for more than a day:
Islamists claimed a decisive victory on Wednesday as early election results put them on track to win a dominant majority in Egypt’s first Parliament since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, the most significant step yet in the religious movement’s rise since the start of the Arab Spring.
The party formed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s mainstream Islamist group, appeared to have taken about 40 percent of the vote, as expected. But a big surprise was the strong showing of ultraconservative Islamists, called Salafis, many of whom see most popular entertainment as sinful and reject women’s participation in voting or public life.
Analysts in the state-run news media said early returns indicated that Salafi groups could take as much as a quarter of the vote, giving the two groups of Islamists combined control of nearly 65 percent of the parliamentary seats.
What does that mean?
The unexpected rise of a strong ultraconservative Islamist faction to the right of the Brotherhood is likely to shift Egypt’s cultural and political center of gravity to the right as well. Leaders of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party will likely feel obliged to compete with the ultraconservatives for Islamist voters, and at the same time will not feel the same need to compromise with liberals to form a government.
“It means that, if the Brotherhood chooses, Parliament can be an Islamists affair — a debate between liberal Islamists, moderate Islamists and conservatives Islamists, and that is it,” Michael Wahid Hanna, an Egyptian-born researcher at the Century Foundation in Cairo, said this week.
Sorry, got to laugh at the use of “unexpected” in this case. Unexpected by whom? Oh yeah, those who thought “Arab Spring” would mean secular democracy would suddenly pop up in a place that had never seen it before. Yup, naturally Islamists, one of the best organized and most ruthless blocs in the region, were going to roll over and cede the field to secular types.
And what does this portend?
The Brotherhood has pledged to respect basic individual freedoms while using the influence of the state to nudge the culture in a more traditional direction. But the Salafis often talk openly of laws mandating a shift to Islamic banking, restricting the sale of alcohol, providing special curriculums for boys and girls in public schools, and censoring the content of the arts and entertainment.
Their leaders have sometimes proposed that a special council of religious scholars advise Parliament or the top courts on legislation’s compliance with Islamic law. Egyptian election laws required the Salafi parties to put at least one woman on their electoral roster for each district, but they put the women last on their lists to ensure they would not be elected, and some appear with pictures of flowers in place of their faces on campaign posters.
Sheik Hazem Shouman, an important Salafi leader, recently rushed into a public concert on the campus of Mansoura University to try to persuade the crowd to turn away from the “sinful” performance and go home. He defended his actions on a television talk show, saying he had felt like a doctor making an emergency intervention to save a patient dying of cancer.
Note his “intervention” was an attempt at persuasion. Now that’s not going to be necessary, is it? Persuasion will eventually turn to coercion – see “censoring the content of the arts and entertainment” above.
Back to the 12th century.
Let freedom ring.
If your hope for the latest version of “Arab Spring” to be found in Libya was a secular democratic state, you can quickly forget the secular part of the dream.
The leader of the transitional government declared to thousands of revelers in a sunlit square here on Sunday that Libya’s revolution had ended, setting the country on the path to elections, and he vowed that the new government would be based on Islamic tenets.
Indeed, what has immediately happened is the roll back of many of Gadhafi’s decrees that those who’ve now taken over contend violate Sharia law and Islam’s tenets:
Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi’s era that he said was in conflict with Sharia – that banning polygamy.
In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya’s economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. "Interest creates disease and hatred among people," he said.
I’d love to tell you this comes as a complete surprise, but then I’d be acting like some politicians I know.
I’m certainly not going to contend that keeping Gadhafi was the best thing we could do, but let’s be clear, what has happened darn sure doesn’t seem to be an outcome that we’d have hoped to see either. At least as it now seems to be shaking out.
In that area of the world, secular dreams seem to me to be the most foolish. How that particular dream manages to stay alive among the elite of the West is beyond me. It isn’t now nor has it ever been a probable outcome of any of these so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions. The revolutions are steeped in Islam because the governments being replaced were relatively secular for the area and the Islamic groups now rising were the ones being repressed.
How someone could believe that out of that situation, secular democracy would emerge still remains beyond me. No democratic history, no real established democratic institutions and no real democratic experience by the people there. Yet somehow we’ve determined that this bunch is superior to the last bunch.
Based on what I’ve always wondered?
Yet, we continue to hear the hope proclaimed in each upheaval even as reality seems to dismiss the hope at every turn.
It must be true, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have stories on it today. The New York Times:
In the emerging post-Qaddafi Libya, the most influential politician may well be Ali Sallabi, who has no formal title but commands broad respect as an Islamic scholar and populist orator who was instrumental in leading the mass uprising.
The most powerful military leader is now Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the former leader of a hard-line group once believed to be aligned with Al Qaeda.
Nice. The Times goes on:
The growing influence of Islamists in Libya raises hard questions about the ultimate character of the government and society that will rise in place of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s autocracy. The United States and Libya’s new leaders say the Islamists, a well-organized group in a mostly moderate country, are sending signals that they are dedicated to democratic pluralism. They say there is no reason to doubt the Islamists’ sincerity.
But as in Egypt and Tunisia, the latest upheaval of the Arab Spring deposed a dictator who had suppressed hard-core Islamists, and there are some worrisome signs about what kind of government will follow. It is far from clear where Libya will end up on a spectrum of possibilities that range from the Turkish model of democratic pluralism to the muddle of Egypt to, in the worst case, the theocracy of Shiite Iran or Sunni models like the Taliban or even Al Qaeda.
And which do you suppose, given no traditional institutions or experience with “democratic pluralism” in Libya, is most likely to emerge?
Oh, gee, I don’t know?
Who are the best organized and the most ruthless?
Islamist militias in Libya receive weapons and financing directly from foreign benefactors like Qatar; a Muslim Brotherhood figure, Abel al-Rajazk Abu Hajar, leads the Tripoli Municipal Governing Council, where Islamists are reportedly in the majority; in eastern Libya, there has been no resolution of the assassination in July of the leader of the rebel military, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, suspected by some to be the work of Islamists.
Yet I’m sure this will all come as a complete surprise to the politicians.
As Libya’s leader, Moammar Gaddafi regarded Islamists as the greatest threat to his authority, and he ordered thousands of them detained, tortured and, in some cases, killed. The lucky ones fled the country in droves. But with Gaddafi now in hiding, Islamists are vying to have a say in a new Libya, which they say should have a system based on Islamic law.
Although it went largely unnoticed during the uprising that toppled Gaddafi last month, Islamists were at the heart of the fight, many as rebel commanders. Now some are clashing with secularists within the rebels’ Transitional National Council, prompting worries among some liberals that the Islamists — who still command the bulk of fighters and weapons — could use their strength to assert an even more dominant role.
Unnoticed by whom? Oh, those in charge of our State Department, apparently. Organization and ruthlessness? Still no guess?
“Secularists don’t like Islamists,” said Ismail Sallabi, an influential cleric who is among nine leaders commanding rebel forces in eastern Libya. Before the revolution, he said, he had never held a weapon. “They want to use Islamists in the fighting stage and then take control.”
And that’s been successful where so far?
Meanwhile, in the category of “best organized”, we have a winner:
Libya is a conservative Muslim nation, and its future government will probably reflect that; the governments of Egypt and Iraq are among Arab states that base their governance on Islamic law. Although Gaddafi’s government tolerated little in the way of activism, Libya’s Islamist groups appear to have emerged from his reign as the best-organized among political groups, and secularists among the country’s new leaders appear determined not to alienate them.
Sigh … do you suppose one day we’ll learn?
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the situation in Egypt, and CPAC.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
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It seems that once again, an insufficiently servile attitude towards Mohammed requires death threats as a response.
This time, it’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, whose “South Park” cartoon aired an episode that revolved around Mohammed. The prophet didn’t directly appear in the episode, as he was disguised in a bear suit, but that was enough for the Islamists to warn that Messrs. Stone and Parker might end up like murdered Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh.
Apparently, that’s what Allah, the Merciful, the Ever-Loving, requires.
Jebus Cripes, I’m so sick of this crap.