Abdelwahab Meddeb: The Malady of Islam (11)


The Malady of Islam

by Abdelwahab Meddeb

translated from the French by
Pierre Joris and Charlotte Mandell

(11th installment)


Fundamentalism Against the West


The second effort at re-Islamization is visible through the transformation of the social body in its relation to pleasure and enjoyment.  Islamic society went from a hedonist tradition, based on love of life, to a prudish reality, full of hatred of sensuality.  Prudishness has become a criterion of respectability.  The urban scene teems with Tartuffes and other bigots.  The city arranges its stages to take away the rights of the body, a consequence of the resentment taking root in the souls of the semi-literate, who are legion.  The streets, repellent in their new constructions, negligent, disrespectful of the fabulous architectural past, increase in ugliness when they are traversed by oafish bodies, cut off from care of self; aesthetics withdrew as soon as seduction in the relation of the sexes was abolished.  The maintenance of beauty, as well as its emphasis, are in turn eliminated. 

What an eclipse this is of the religion that has so fascinated foreigners by its cult of the body and the call to pleasure, which are at its foundations! Behind what screens of repression has Islam sheltered itself so as to forget that, according to its medieval wise men, one made love in the name of God, not just to beget but also for pleasure?[1]  What breakdown has paralyzed the entity in which the word that designates religious marriage is the same that designates coitus (nikâh), which authorizes the jurist to decide that it’s enough to invoke the multiple meanings that pervade the word to know that canonically coitus is the reason for marriage? How has the society that had devoted so much to the rights of the body been so vaporized? What mutation has caught hold of belief whose promise is carnal, of faith that venerates desire on the stage of this world as at the heart of the theater promised to the elect in the beyond? What has happened to the community, perceived by medieval Christians (whose credo establishes a nihilism of the body) as an association of debauchees (because of the carnal promise as much as the legal dispositions that make polygamy, cohabitation, and divorce licit)?[2] Why were ears stricken with deafness to stop hearing the language the Thousand and One Nights spread, those tales immersed in the satisfaction of the senses procured by earthly enjoyments — pleasures that were considered divine gifts? Their words traveled, and their European diffusion through Galland’s translation (1702-1714) contributed to liberating the Western body and inventing the fantasy of the harem, which pervaded the century of the Enlightenment:  without speaking of Turkophilia and the fashion for oriental artifice, can one imagine the fable that reveals the truth and secret of sex in Diderot’s Les Bijoux indiscrets [Indiscreet jewels] if Diderot and his public had not been impregnated with the Thousand and One Nights?

What metamorphoses the lands have undergone, lands that so fascinated travelers and writers of the nineteenth century, for the same reasons that had scandalized the European clerics of the Middle Ages! What a blanket of shame has covered the countries that saw Flaubert engulfed in pleasure! To find the scene again, what can one do but recall the ardent hours the Norman writer spent with the almah Kuchuk-Hanem on the shores of the Nile in Upper Egypt?[3]  Or bring to mind Guy de Maupassant, who grew passionate about the Arab manual of medieval erotology and wanted to write a new translation of it? This manual had been composed in the fifteenth century by my compatriot Sheikh Nafzawi, a theologian who exalted the body in the name of God in his Perfumed Garden.[4]  Or we should also quote Nietzsche, opposing the nihilism of the body (which the Christianity in which he had grown up inculcates) with the cult of pleasure and the bodily hygiene of the citizen formed by Islam.  The German philosopher illustrates this difference by an the anecdote that recalls the first thing the Christians did when they took back Cordova: “Here one despises the body, one rejects hygiene as sensuality (the first Christian act after the expulsion of the Moors was to close the public baths, which in the city of Cordova alone numbered two hundred and seventy).”[5]

Now, though, the tradition that reveres the body seems to be disappearing from those Islamic lands ravaged by the moral order that the semi-literate, sick with resentment, impose.  Cairo and Egypt have been transformed from paradise into hell; to be convinced of this, it is enough to see the bodies of livid women, suffering from the heat, burdened by their scarves or their black veils (a contrast that attracts the sun’s heat, in a country where the sun is the tyrant of the day).  Maltreated bodies in a megalopolis where sixteen million people bustle about, breathing the most polluted air, between the gas from old unregistered cars and the clouds of steam spit out by the cement factories, billowing fumes that are joined in season by the bitter, heavy smoke from the rice husks that the peasants of the region burn after gathering the harvest.  Living in Cairo, your lungs become just as fogged as those of an inveterate smoker, though your lips will never have touched a cigarette or the mouthpiece of a hookah.

Add the noise pollution, caused not just by the continuous mass of car horns and the rumbling of motors (of cars as well as air conditioners), but also by the vehement calls to prayer, semi-polemic calls diffused by the ubiquitous and parasitic loudspeakers that would disturb the sleep of the dead.  Unchecked access to technology corrupts one of the beautiful aesthetic contributions of Islam, the one that exalts the voice, one of the vectors by which the word can be celebrated.  Besides the aggressions the body undergoes in this polluted urban atmosphere, we see in these untimely exercises of the voice one of the symptoms that aggravate the sickness of Islam.  What a difference there is between that noise and the unison that the choir of muezzins modulates with their bare voices, sweet tones emanating from chests, from throats, from tongues, from palates, from physically present lips, sent out from the clerestory that crowns minarets! Going from one method to the other, the listener passes from the highest emotion to the most odious of aggressions. 

Such an aesthetic loss stems from the way bodies are mistreated:  they are no longer surrounded by the care the cult of beauty, one of the attributes of ancient Islam, requires.  For the body to blossom, it must move in an architectural space, metaphor for geometric and musical harmony, as much in relation to concord as to dissonance.  It is important, too, that the body come into physical contact with objects that in turn honor the principle of beauty; that is the reason Islamic civilization has been one of the great cultures of the so-called minor arts:  profusion of objects produced through work in wood, leather, stone, ceramics, fabric, cotton, wool, linen, silk, so many beautiful things designed to exalt the body in its movements:  what shipwreck has pushed them out of sight? To the bottom of what sea-depths have they fallen? If I were a cleric and a censor, I would return the message to the sender:  and I would tell these semi-literate people sick with resentment, so ready to accuse and excommunicate, that with this shipwreck of the beautiful they abolish the aesthetic dimension that accompanies the ethics of Islam, and that they dishonor the famous hadîth which affirms that “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” 

Cairo is the largest city of Islam, one of the vastest and most populated on the planet.  It has multiplied all the defects of megalopolises; but it does not possess the highest virtue of them, that of anonymity, which enlarges the adventure of freedom and rescues you from the social control the community exercises over the individual.  In short, Cairo combines the defects of the metropolis and the constraints of the village.  What seems to save it, and make its present and its future impossible to suppress, is the energy that pervades it:  everywhere it is overflowing with those who circulate in it.  It is also the splendor of its site, between the Moqattam, the Nile, and the desert; and it is its venerable age, the centuries that have succeeded each other in it, and that have all bequeathed wonders for eternity:  certainly for eternity, for the monuments remain standing despite the negligence and indifference of the humans who are their unworthy inheritors.  Finally, it is the epiphanic potential Cairo holds, bringing the material of poetry to the visitor who finds himself immersed in it. [6]

Today, we are witnessing a curious inversion in the politics and economics of the body.  Islam proposes a prudish city, whose inhabitants are sick with nihilism and resentment.  While the Western body has freed itself from inherited constraints.  This is an extravagant inversion of which Islamic devotees are not aware, since they are proud enough of their state to propose their virtuous society as a counter-example to the Western society that is supposed to be one of vice.  Don’t they oppose their modest society to the foreign society that is that of immodesty? Don’t they sing the praises of discretion and dissimulation, and belittle the exhibitionism of the West? Don’t they celebrate the veiled, or reclusive, feminine body by lambasting Western nudity and promiscuity? They never realize that they are being proud of the very signs of their illness.  And they are not embarrassed at cultivating their difference by insisting on what distinguishes their virtuous and pious society from that of the foreigner, marked by debauchery and atheism.  In this East-West contrast, in the respective judgments that Islam and Europe make about each other, we are witnessing the inversion of the medieval stereotype.  Never has misunderstanding remained so tenacious.  Between amnesia (which obliterates the memory of tradition) and oversimplification (which believes that the moral person disintegrates in the freedom of the individual), humans formed by contemporary Islam are at best naïve, and let themselves be pervaded by the tricks of the unthinking, at worst hypocritical, arranging the scene of their transgressive desire in hidden alcoves, or in so-called shameful countries, far from the gaze of their own people.

[1].  Abdelwahab Bouhdiba, La Sexualité en Islam, 6th edition (Paris:  PUF, 2001).

[2]  Norman Daniel, Islam and the West, (Oxford:  Oneworld Publications, 1993-156.) 131.

[3]  Gustave Flaubert, Correspondance, I, letter to Louis Bouilhet (March 13, 1850) (Paris:  La Pléaide, Gallimard, 1973) 605-607.

[4]  Sheikh Nefzawi, Le Jardin parfumé, translated by Baron R. (Paris:  Philippe Picquier, 1999).

[5]  Nietzsche, The Antichrist.  (Pauvert, Paris, 1967) 103.

[6] I use the word “epiphany” in the sense that the Irish novelist James Joyce gives it, a meaning that revives in me the echo of the Sufi notion of tajalli, which describes the process of revealing the invisible in concrete things; it is a question of visions and revelations that transform the urban hours of the walker and establish poetry in the city.


The objective of all forms of Wahhabism is to make one forget body, object, space, beauty. These obscurations mean to impose a generalized amnesia, one of the symptoms of the sickness that has afflicted the disciple of Islam.  It can be observed in many different areas and acts in various strata of society.  Christian Jambet, one of the rare thinkers who have mastered both Western and Islamic philosophical traditions, in both its Arabic and Persian versions (he is a specialist in the Neo-Platonists of Persia), teaches at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales in Paris.  Many of his students come from French-speaking lands like Morocco or Lebanon.  When Jambet presents his students with thoughts from the Islamic Middle Ages, and especially when he evokes the hermeneutic tradition, very often his Muslim students, future administrators of “corporate capitalism,” protest and interrupt him, asserting that such doctrines cannot belong to Islam.  By acting in this way, they reveal Wahhabite influence:  forgetful of their own culture, they think they are the real guardians of the true Islam.  These future executives of international finance are marked as well by that simplistic Islam, cut off from its civilization.  And the diffusion of such an elementary Islam comes from Saudi Arabia and from its petro-dollars, and it prospers on the accumulation of failures whose detrimental effects I have outlined.

These failures reinforce the idea that it is possible to achieve modernity by following one’s own course and adapting the technical advances of the age to one’s own principles.  Simplified to the extreme, these principles seem adaptable to the space of modernity.  Wahhabite oversimplification and the aptitude for Americanization once again find themselves clearly united:  the individual does not blink at the contradiction between belonging to a traditional society and the use of the material goods of modernity.  No place is made in this scheme for critical thought, so the work of contradiction cannot produce the rupture necessary to insure the passage from a traditional structure to the adventure that modernity opens up.

These tendencies toward Americanization were united in Afghanistan, where the second conjunction between Wahhabism and militant fundamentalism occurred, still under the aegis of the United States, which did not seem shocked by the ideological content of the Islamist mobilization against the Soviet invasion.  Their objective was to neutralize the USSR.  To fight while reviving archaic religious sentiments that invoked Holy War did not seem to the Americans to embody a fatal potential for which they could be the future target.  Military operations were conducted involving trusted allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  The archaic soul combined with wealth to insure technical initiation into the most sophisticated weapons for the fundamentalists.  In this spirit, an international community of warriors of Islamic origin was created, formed under the control of the CIA with Saudi money.  And in this context appeared Osama bin Laden, who took part in these battles weapons in hand, before placing his personal fortune at the service of the cause and recruiting for the jihad everywhere in the lands of Islam, especially in the Arab countries.  Many of the semi-literate, the potentially unemployed, and other militants, perhaps less frustrated but still children of resentment, possessed by revolutionary aims, responded to his summons.  A dozen years of training and military exercise on the field of battle (1980-1990) were enough to form the international brigades of fundamentalism.  Victory over the Soviets embedded in the fundamentalist milieu the idea that, through weapons and through the use of terror, it was possible to reach one’s goals.

After the war in Afghanistan, thousands of militants, marked by this ideology of battle, were suddenly available.  Some returned to their country of origin, armed, experienced, to fan the flames, stir unrest, revive dissidence.  Algeria’s misfortune was intensified by the influx of “Afghans,” those Algerians who had gone from the maquis of the Hindu Kush or the Pamirs to the maquis of the Aurès.  When they disembarked in Algiers, their compatriots were surprised and impressed by their appearance, wearing an outfit that didn’t belong to local traditions:  ample robes, turbans from elsewhere, full, uncut beards contrary to local custom.  They had returned to their homeland with a new “habitus,” symbolizing an unknown violence, in a country that had not been unaware of the experience of violence and that was not peopled with angelic choirboys.  Representing violence in violence, these “Afghans,” in the euphoria of the victory over the Soviets, decided to create the sinister GIA [Groupe Islamique Armé], in Peshawar in 1990, to transport their “skills” into their own country.  They were the first to be convinced that military violence was the only answer to the interruption of the electoral process of 1992.  When in 1993 the conflict between the leaders at the core of the GIA was exacerbated (between the “locals” and the “Afghans”), Osama bin Laden (who supported the movement and financed its support groups in Europe) decided in favor of the Afghans.[1] 

The dispersal of “Afghan” Arabs brought them to Egypt, the Sudan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Jordan.  They were also attracted by the European wars that involved Islamic communities — Bosnia, then Chechnya.  These wars came to an end or ran out of steam.  The states targeted by political terror resisted.  Some of these fundamentalists found themselves once more free, or harassed.  After the asylum granted by a hospitable Sudan, they proceeded to a second fallback position in Afghanistan and its Pakistani borderland (around Peshawar).  At that time, in May 1996, Osama bin Laden came to settle down in the region, having become persona non grata in the Sudan (he had been living in Khartoum since May 1992). He found shelter with the Taliban, pure products of the local (Mawdûdi) fundamentalist tradition reinforced by Wahhabism (the propagation of which is officially financed by Saudi Arabia through a network of religious schools that stretches its tentacles everywhere it can reach).  The Taliban movement represented the extreme point of irredentism in the linking of a basic Wahhabism with the radicalism brought by the Egyptian tradition of fundamentalism within the totalitarian system developed by Mawdûdi.  This tradition will be physically present on Afghan soil in the person of Ayman al-Zawahri.  Mullah Omar is nothing but the spiritual son of these “hybrids.” 

[1]  Mohammed Mukadam, “Rihlat al-Afghân al-Jazâ’iriyyîn mina ‘l-Qâ’ida ilâ ‘l-Jamâ’a” (Journey of Algerian Afghans from al Qaeda to the GIA), Al-Hayat, (London-based Arab daily) November 23-30, 2001.  This investigation should be read with prudence, for it seems inspired by the Algerian Secret Services, which opened their archives to the journalist.

[to be continued]

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1 Response

  1. Poo says:

    As stated by Abdelwahab Meddeb, the Muslims have maintained a “despotic tradition” rather than a democratic one. They have never fully understood nor experienced a true democracy in the Middle East so that makes some kind of sense. One need not see the virtue in democracy, however, to grant it is superior in nature to that of despotism. The perfect system, benign dictatorship, sadly does not exist so despotism just had to do, I suppose.

    Osama bin Laden and his acolytes in al-Qaeda traced the beginning of Islam’s alleged woes to the abolition of the last caliphate that even the Prophet himself did not call for. Mind you, there were 8 caliphates in total, some formed while others were still active. So much for the sanctity of the caliphate. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and ISIS are the logical successors to this utopian caliphate fantasy not to mention Nazi like brutality, atrocities and inhumanity. They are the heirs to that too.

    It was amusing to read about “colonialism” a couple of chapters ago inasmuch as Canada and the United States were once colonies themselves. The Americans may tend to talk about it more but here in the Great White North you would be hard pressed to hear anything. It is not a top, bottom or side of mind issue. We have moved on. That was then; this is now. It seems much of the ‘Malady of Islam’ describes in great detail many nations and Islamic philosophies that prefer to bemoan the present and look backwards to ancient glories. No one remains the centre of the universe forever yet Amsterdam and London live on, in fact they thrive. I suspect New York will too. The great Muslim centres like Baghdad, Cordoba and Cairo could easily have done the same, instead they regressed.

    “Americanization” is another expression that amuses. I have read so much in my lifetime about those “damn Yanks” and their damn Coca-Cola, blue jeans and rock and roll.” Well, don’t buy them. The retail shops are not manned by gun-toting sales personnel. Much of the so-called “Americanization” is self-inflicted and welcomed. The political, not so much but examples like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates tell us only who sold to the highest bidder. The long, difficult route would have been to develop resources on their own. Difficult but not impossible. Let us not argue that. Suffice to say, the money talked as it always does. Anyone out there working for free?

    And yes, I know I am over-simplifying somewhat but if I do not I shall start dragging up all my notes and references and well, you know, run on a tad. Surely no one wants that, not even me!

    Frankly, yammering on about ‘American Exceptionalism’ does more harm to the U.S. than any “Americanization” ever could. Therein lies the rub.
    “With great power comes great responsibility.”…Voltaire
    So it does.
    At its core, ‘American Exceptionalism’ represents the belief that the United States is unique (exceptional) when historically compared with the development of other countries. Many countries could, of course, make the same claim. Like snowflakes, we are all different in our own way. But it matters to the Americans and is a central tenet of their belief system on both the left and the right. It is a simple belief but sounds arrogant, even ignorant to the rest of us and more like run-away Nationalism. And hey, I love America! To the world at large though it sounds less like “America is Exceptional” and more like “Exceptions should be made for America”. Some see that as a carte blanche excuse for any and all actions.

    Is this envy? Certainly to an extent but it is more. Firstly, historically speaking, ‘Exceptionalism’ glosses over a multitude of sins such as slavery, the treatment of Native Americans and segregation in order to mythologize the Founding Fathers, the expansion of the West and the American role in World Wars I and II. But hey, nobody is perfect, not even the exceptional.
    So we know who America is. We know who the West is. But how did we get to the new Caliphate according to Abdelwahab Meddeb?

    This brilliantly researched and well written book has unearthed many new characters (to me) but few as interesting as the Pakistani, Abû al-A’lâ Mawdûdi, his Egyptian disciple, Sayyid Qutb and the Syrian Rashid Ridha Hassan al-Banna’, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Through their interpretations, actions and writings, they have no doubt profoundly influenced what we see today in ISIS and their ilk.

    “Sovereignty (or lordship) belongs to God alone. And, brought back to servitude, man will retain the complex notion of “subject” only as subjection, constraint, submission, subjugation.”
    Sounds about right. Despotism. Add in, “the sickness of Islam, one of whose symptoms is xenophobia and anti-Semitism,” and you have about summed it up.

    The West’s concern is not just ISIS but Al-Qaeda, Boco Haram, el-Nusra and the rest. They all have popular support throughout the Muslim world ranging from highly favorable to somewhat favorable. That adds up to a lot of Muslims who do not like those of us in the West, maybe as many as 200 million against. Do I exaggerate? One can only hope.

    Polls conducted for the Washington Institute in the Middle East 6 months ago offered discouraging results. Among Egyptians, some 3% expressed a favorable opinion of ISIS. In Saudi Arabia, the figure was 5%. There is, however, quite a difference between almost no support and no support at all. 3% of adult Egyptians equates to nearly 1.5 million people! For Saudis, the 5% means over half a million people! Even in tiny Lebanon, 1 % of adult Sunnis equals a few thousand ISIS sympathizers. In any of these places, this is enough to harbor at least a few cells of serious jihadists. This is not to mention those that, though not “favorable”, are still “somewhat favorable”. It also does not include the young who are the most radical, the most numerous and, in Egypt in particular, the most unemployed. To them, jihadism is a viable outlet.

    This is not the whole story. In Egypt, for example, fully 1/3 of the total population has a positive attitude toward Hamas, a terrorist group according to my government and Egypt’s as well. In Saudi Arabia, that figure rises to 52%. Despite the Egyptian and Saudi governments’ relentless crackdowns and propaganda campaigns against the Muslim Brotherhood, 35 % in Egypt and 31 % in Saudi Arabia are still fully supportive. By way of comparison, Hezbollah, a Shiite Islamist terrorist organization, receives 12-13 % popular approval among Egypt’s or Saudi Arabia’s overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim populations. Those percentages represent a large number of people supporting upheaval, unrest and who knows what else.

    There is little variation among Egyptians by demographic categories. The Muslim Brotherhood rates 37% approval in urban centres like Cairo or Alexandria; 35 % in Upper Egypt; and 33 % in the Delta countryside. Egypt’s Coptic Christians are too small to be statistically significant. They also walk around with targets on their backs so are destined to get smaller one way or another. In Lebanon, even as only 1% supported ISIS, Hezbollah, another terrorist group, was favored by 92 % of Shiites and nearly 40 % by Christians.

    ISIS has received support from Katiba Uqba ibn Nafi (KUN), a joint AQIM-Ansar al-Shariah in Tunisia. Another group splintered from AQIM, the Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria, also pledged support to the Islamic State.

    In South Asia, the Islamic State is also gaining traction. There are formal offerings of allegiance and reports of Muslim youth moving to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State. As well, support is arriving from Maldives, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and others in the area. There are several incidents where South Asia or Southeast Asian nationals have been involved in suicide bombings on behalf of ISIS.

    Indeed, Muslim youth, motivated solely by jihad, are joining either ISIS or al-Nusra over the past few years. These youth went from Afghanistan-Pakistan region as well as from Bangladesh, the Maldives, Jammu & Kashmir state, and elsewhere in India, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia to fight in Iraq and Syria. Overtime, these nationals are being attracted more and more to the Islamic State.

    Four new terrorist organizations are aiming to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the Far East region called Daulah Islamiah Nusantara that is to comprise Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, southern Thailand and southern Philippines. Muslims from Cambodia are also reported to be among its ranks.

    As the coalition continues to fight back against ISIS, support for the group will grow from the allegedly moderate Muslims around the world. These groups or individual members will either take up arms or commit acts of violence to show support for ISIS. Such acts have been seen in Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, France and Denmark to name but a few. ISIS will continue to grow and Islam will sit at its ideological centre whether we like it or not.

    Surveys abound for sure and liars can still figure and figures can still lie but, that said, Pew Global has a series that is somewhat more than interesting as they involve strictly civilians, that is to say, non-combatants.

    68% of Palestinian Muslims say suicide attacks against civilians in defense of Islam are justified, 43% of Nigerian Muslims say the same, as do 38% of Lebanese Muslims. The numbers drop to 15% of Egyptian Muslims, 13% of Indonesian Muslims and 12% of Jordanian Muslims.

    Add up the countries and multiply all these percentages against their populations and the 200,000,000 against the West doesn’t seem so absurd now does it? ISIS may represent a perversely selective, indeed primitive interpretation of Islam but it is still Islam just as The Peoples Church, The Branch Davidians, The Church of God with Signs Following and The Church of Lord Jesus with Signs Following are Christian. Even though these latter 2 are Pentecostal Holiness churches that practice snake handling and drinking poison in their worship services, they do not kidnap, behead or terrorize anyone save maybe themselves.

    It offends many Muslims that their religion is automatically connected to the terrorism and cold-blooded massacres currently creating chaos around the world. They believe terms like “Islamic terrorism,” “Jihadism” and “Islamo-fascism” are unfair and that most Muslims do not support such crimes. Yet where are the Muslim armies to defend against ISIS?

    A recent ISIS video showed militants sledgehammering ancient artifacts in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul. What they don’t smash they sell on the antiquities black market for cash to pay for their insanities, just like the Nazis did so many years ago. ISIS extremists destroy shrines, statues, works of art and burn books they view as heresy. Of course, they themselves are the great heresy but they don’t get that.

    Everyone sympathizes with law-abiding, peace-loving Muslims but their connection to the atrocities is not as remote as they like to think. ISIS believes in that they obey passages in the Koran literally and thus purify the world. Hakim al-Zamili, the head of the Iraq parliament’s security committee, said that ISIS “considers culture, civilization and science as their fierce enemies.”

    How did they arrive at that belief? Their leaders are not all crazed psychopaths though many clearly are. Obama says that ISIS is not Islamic. Right. They think they are. They say they are. They quote the Koran and act like they are. What ISIS wants is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as a new caliph ruling over a new caliphate.

    It is not just the “semi-literate” and loony that hear the call to the 7th century and violence. It is not just those who see the “imaginary conspiracy attributed to the Other…” Why would the well-educated turn against their own civilization and society? Their version of Islam is clearly extreme, fundamental, heavily influenced by the Wahabists and financed by the Saudis but it is Islam nevertheless. No matter how much the average Muslim dislikes hearing it, ISIS has grown out of their religion. They do not quote Judaism or Christianity, Buddhism or even Mickey Mouse. They quote Islam, Mohammed and Islam.

    For Muslims, the sacred writings are the literal truth. Islam insists that it is the only true faith. It more than frowns on any divergence from its basic principles. Shariah law follows totalitarianism by uniting state and religion in the control of individual lives. This way of thinking provides an unhealthy seedbed for dictatorship. It is also scorched earth for democracy.

    Christians have been revising and updating their religion since the Protestant Reformation. Reform has become a way of life. In 2013 Pope Francis started his papacy by pushing toward still more reforms. The Bible is viewed as a text created by humans. It is studied as such. Judaism constantly challenges its own beliefs and allows for different interpretations of text to exist peacefully within the one faith community.
    Are Christians, Jews and secularists allowed to criticize Islam, even to suggest that it open itself to free inquiry? Apparently not. Even the U.S. Narcissist in Chief will not allow it. He wants to study the root cause of something he refuses to name. How does that work? The taboo now runs through our culture that frank discussion of Islam is Islamophobia. So how do we talk?

    When the terrorist is at the door, Uzi in hand, the “root cause” doesn’t matter too much. Islam may have the “malady” but in the end it has tragically become all of ours too.

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