Islam and Armageddon

Suddenly, everyone, or so it seems, is an expert on Islam. From Presidents and Prime Ministers to the humblest hack, all are ready to lecture the public on what real Islam is. If this` knowledge is so readily available to such unlikely mentors it seems odd that so much wrong opinion is abroad on the subject. Tony Blair, apparently, knows so much about it that he can confidently announce from a public platform that any 'muslim' who has a different view of Islam from his own is not a proper muslim. According to this view, real muslims are just like members of the Church of England, all sweetness and light, interested only in being good neighbours, engaging in 'inter-faith dialogue' and, presumably, voting for New Labour.

Islam, we are told over and over again by the self-appointed guardians of right thinking, is not a religion of violence and aggression but of peace and love. Does not the Koran have at the head of every chapter: 'In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate'? Who could disagree with that? That's the sentiment of all decent people everywhere isn't it? Why, we could even have it as the slogan for the next Labour Party Conference, fetchingly lit in shades of green and rose, with a copy of the Koran given away free to every delegate. This wonderful book is already the Prime Minister's favourite bed -time reading and was ostentatiously flourished on the plane to America in the wake of recent events.

How can people in high office be so naïve and stupid? Very easily it seems, almost a mandatory qualification, since it makes it easier to spout sanctimonious drivel with a straight face. But where are the doubting voices, the posers of awkward questions that might expose this ludicrous charade for the expedient nonsense it is? Certainly not the TV interviewers and ambitious journalists with careers to think about, who in any case know no more about the subject than the people they are interviewing, and are every bit as keen to appear 'tolerant' and 'understanding' for fear of something nasty happening on their own doorsteps.

Here are a few questions that might be put to Mr Blair or any other apologist for Islam that appear regularly in the media. (1) If real Islam is all about peace and love, how did it acquire an empire that stretched from Spain to India, by sweet reason? (2) When is Islam going to apologise for overrunning the Hellenic-Christian civilization of the Middle East, conquering Constantinople in 1453, and laying siege to Vienna in 1529? (3) If the Koran is all about peace and love, how are such verses as the following to be explained. K.4:74, 'Let those fight in the cause of God who sell the life of this world for the hereafter. To him who fights in the cause of God, whether he is slain or victorious, soon we shall give him a great reward'. K.4:76, 'Those who believe fight in the cause of God, and those who reject faith fight in the cause of evil.' K.5:54, 'O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends, they are friends of each other. Those of you who make them his friends is one of them. God does not guide an unjust people.' K.9:29, 'Fight those who believe neither in God nor the Last Day, nor what has been forbidden by God and his messenger (Muhammad), nor acknowledge the religion of Truth (Islam), even if they are People of the Book (Jews and Christians), until they pay the tribute and have been humbled.' K.47:4, 'When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds, then set them free, either by grace or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens.'

It is not difficult to see how those who regard the Koran as God's own speech can find in verses such as these the justification for practically any act of 'terrorism' imaginable. When such texts are put to apologists the usual response is to say that they are bad translations and it is quite different in the Arabic, and in any case such verses are balanced or cancelled by other meliorating texts elsewhere in the Koran. Unfortunately, according to the traditional muslim chronology of revelation, early texts are abrogated by apparently contradictory later texts, and all the above texts are late or 'Medinan', while most of the 'compassionate' texts are early or 'Meccan'. It has been said that the text at K.9:5, 'Slay the idolaters wherever you find them', cancels 124 verses advocating mercy and toleration. There is no Pope in Islam, no ultimate authority able to say what real Islam is, or what is the right interpretation of texts, there is just and endless spectrum of opinion. Those involved in recent events, wearing red head -bands emblazoned with texts such as those above, have every right to consider themselves real muslims going about God's work and deserving reward in the hereafter. Indeed, such people probably have more right to consider themselves good muslims than those Western educated, Western suited, representatives of muslim institutions expressing sympathy and regret, or any benignly smiling Sufi talking about 'the heart'; the latter are especially nauseating in that they share many of the aims of the militants, such as the restoration of the caliphate, without the courage to do anything about it.

It is important that such things are said loudly and said now, since it is likely that before long both the writer and the publisher of these words could be deemed guilty of the crime of inciting religious hatred. This is the dream of yet another expert on Islam, the Home Secretary, who is so unstinting in his admiration that he thinks anyone suggesting that Islam is anything less than wonderful, and muslims anything other than wholly admirable, deserve to be prosecuted. So widespread are such sentiments amongst the liberal intelligentsia that it is surprising that there have not yet been mass conversions. In contrast, outside such circles, it appears that either Islam is true, in which case we all ought to be muslims, or it is not true, in which case it is pernicious nonsense and it cannot be criminal to say so.

The fear here of course is of blood on the streets. That there have been physical attacks on muslims arises largely from the fact that they choose to make themselves obvious by their mode of dress, and of course, as we all know, this is prescribed by their religion, especially in the case of women - well, no, actually we don't and it isn't. Nowhere in the Koran and the Hadith is it laid down that muslim women must go around wearing head scarves and long shapeless garments, all that is required is modest dress, and there are literally thousands of ways of dressing modestly, many of them indistinguishable from Western dress. The fuss about muslim women wearing head scarves is quite literally a fuss about nothing, they don't have to wear them.

The fact that some muslim women choose to make an exhibition of themselves by wearing head scarves is of no more significance or importance than any other affectation or fashion statement. With others it is simply a result of the ignorance and poor education that is endemic amongst muslims; they have been told by their communities that this is the proper muslim thing to do and they have no means of knowing anything to the contrary. This is especially chilling when it is applied to girls as young as four or five when the rule does not apply until the onset of puberty. But can we imagine any telly journalist putting these points to a female 'victim' of prejudice and misunderstanding? If Islam is all about peace and love and good behaviour, as we are constantly told, such things do not require a peculiar mode of dress, an attention attracting uniform, to make them manifest. Indeed, such a thing is redolent of a peculiar vanity - look at me, how modest I am, so virtuous, so beautiful, a veritable living reproach to your wanton ways, I must make a play of hiding myself for your good as well as mine.

We are constantly told that we are not engaged in a war against Islam, but why not a war against Islam? Why not a war against that billion of the world's population bound in benighted ignorance and superstition? Why not a war against a world-view diametrically opposed to all those secular, liberal, humanist, democratic values that it is supposed to hold so dear? Why not? Because the West is led by a pair of evangelical nincompoops, one with messianic delusions, more than half in love with what in their muddled minds they like to think real Islam is, and what in their dreams they would like the West to be - God-fearing, Bible-reading, Church-going, a land of inanely grinning communitarians whose highest value is that their pathetic little egos strut about the world stage for as long as possible. Compared with such people the hijackers are heroes.

We are also told that the events of September 11th were not a clash of civilizations or world-views, but that is exactly what they were. It was not by chance that the twin towers of the World Trade Centre were the first to go. In the minds of many muslims tall buildings are the ultimate symbol of infidel pride and arrogance and defiance of Allah, especially evident in the end times before the final reckoning. The fact that they were also temples of usury and symbols of the economic power with which Jews and Christians undermine and exploit the muslim world can only have added to the satisfaction of bringing them down, especially when it was achieved by just ten men wielding pen knives. That there were muslims in the building at the time is of no consequence, since their fate was already sealed by K.5:54 and K.9:29 quoted above.

The purpose of the attack on Afghanistan we are told is to bring about 'justice', as if there were some cross-cultural consensus on what any such word means, a Platonic archetypal heaven from which its form could be plucked by be-wigged Western lawyers for the recognition and satisfaction of all 'decent' people. The only relevant question to be asked about 'justice' is: Whose justice, mine or yours, ours or theirs, man's or God's? How much shar'ia is there in 'international law'? Where did that law originate, who invented it, with what purpose in mind? What kind of world did it come from and what kind of world was it intended to bring about? Certainly not that of the ecumenical imperium of the caliphate, where muslim justice held sway for almost 1400 years. (See the review of Muslim Kingship in this issue, p.?) It is not without significance that 'infinite justice', the original name for the American attack, had to be changed since it unwittingly usurped one of the Koranic names of God (al adl), it was replaced with the favourite shibboleth from the Western lexicon of praise: 'infinite freedom'.

The enormity of the crime - the attack on New York/Afghanistan - we are told, is the slaughter of the innocent, but who is not willing to sacrifice the innocent when it suits them? Certainly 'Western Civilization' was when, between 1914 and 1945 in Europe alone, it managed to wipe out over one hundred million civilians in the name of one cause or another. Such figures are the result of the employment of technology in the furtherance of a cause, but before the technological age the causes were no less virulent and murderous in intent, it was just more difficult to kill large numbers.

But who believes in causes any more? Not even the majority of modern muslims can be got of their backsides for a decent jihad. Like most Westerners their main motivations are money and sex and a comfortable life, with a little religion on top for identity, consolation, companionship, and at least the possibility of a continuation of the same in an afterlife. Religion survives, and will probably always survive, not because it is true but because human beings are pathetic.

Yet we still need war, if only to satisfy the barely subconscious, barely acknowledged recognition of how mind numbingly dull a perpetually peaceful world would be. Since God refuses to supply us with an apocalypse it seems we must supply our own: 'I am become Shiva the destroyer of worlds', as Robert Oppenheimer said. Who was not fascinated, amazed, entranced, by those planes going into those towers? Was it not the most astonishing and exciting thing you have ever seen in your life?

Perhaps Osama and his followers, like many others, are the true children of Turgenev's Bazarov, whose day may have finally dawned. Any cause will do, or no cause at all, we shall have terrorism for the hell of it. In the immortal words of Pisarev: 'Here is the ultimatum of our camp: what can be smashed should be smashed; what will stand the blow is good; what will fly into smithareens is rubbish; at any rate, hit out right and left - there will and can be no harm from it.' Allahu Akbar.

Ibn al Rawandi