Monday, October 31, 2005

All Hallows Eve

 
What follows is an essay by a commenter on Gates of Vienna named Kierkegaard. He submitted it originally in a somewhat different form. After several exchanges, perhaps this final collaboration will serve to convey the meaning he intended. If it does not he is, of course, free to excoriate this editor in the comments. At any rate, it grows late and Hallowe'en will soon be over so this has to be posted in its present state.


Tonight marks the culmination of the celebration of Ramadan in the 'Night of Power', the holiest night of the year in the Muslim calendar. It also happens to fall on the same night as Hallowe'en. For Muslims, it is a sacred commemoration of the moment when Allah first spoke to the Prophet Muhammed. For Westerners, secular and Christian alike, it is 'All Hallows' (or Sainted Souls') Eve', when the dead walked the earth, before all the Saints rose to rout them with the dawn. This, of course, was originally a pagan autumnal festival, called 'Samhain' in Celtic tradition, long since co-opted by the Christian Church--just as Ramadan has its roots in a similar neolithic past.

If there actually are any traditional, old-fashioned Christians with a sense of history still practicing today, what significance might they attach to this confluence of holidays?

Let us consider for a moment the humble church-tower bell, so beloved by Lord Peter Wimsey in The Nine Tailors. In the Tolkien-like village life of our ancestors these bells served as a warning siren, a time-piece, a reassurance that all was well in the world, and a reminder to pray. To fear or flee the bells was in itself considered a sure sign of possession by a demon. Bell-ringing began as a church-approved technique of driving evil spirits away -- human voices, raised in song, were considered insufficiently noisy for the task.

And that brings us to the recent attacks on Christian Coptic churches in Egypt. The mobs with their rocks were following the ancient Muslim tradition which hatred of church bells.

The origins of Islam are enshrouded, to some degree, in a mystery enforced by Islam itself. Over the centuries, the version of the sacred texts or 'suras' on which the Quran is based has become limited, in the Sunni world, to a paltry few based on the work of 'approved' scribes. This approval has come about, not through scholarship or debate, but rather through violent enforcement (the codification of the Christian New Testament was not a process of polite disagreement either. However, it has some been centuries since any scholar — i.e., “heretic” — was murdered by the state or the Church for debating, analyzing or studying the Gospels).

Muslims believe that their prophet Muhammed received their sacred texts (suras) directly from God. Or rather, they believe that Allah received them, whole and intact, through the agency of the Archangel Gabriel. Armed with the sacred word, Mohammed then set out to convert the polytheistic tribesmen of the desert, later bringing his received truth to cities such as Mecca and Medina, where some received it gratefully and others, as the result of their 'apostasy', had to be put to the sword.

The historical problems with this sequence of events, of course, are manifold, and explains in part why the Saudi government immediately bulldozes over any new archaeological sites discovered in those cities. Here are some of the obstacles history places in front of present-day Muslims:

Problem One: Allah (the Hebrew 'El') was the chief god of this pagan pantheon, not a monotheistic new-comer (neither was Yahweh to the Jews).

Problem Two: many of the citizens of the areas conquered by Muhammed were not pagans, but were either Jewish or Greek Orthodox Christians.

Problem Three: to become an apostate, there must first exist a religion that can be betrayed and Islam is by far the youngest of the world's 'major' religions.

Problem Four: recent scholarship in Germany suggests that some of these original suras of Islam, far from 'bypassing' versions of 'pro-Semitic' myth (as for example in the Muslim version of Genesis), were in fact taken from Syriac Christian scripture. Islam has a way of obliterating other histories. Thus, long buried is the fact that Islam’s first invasion of the Byzantine Christian world did not receive a warm welcome. Mohammed's received religion was viewed by the Church not merely as a fresh heresy akin to the Manicheans, Arians, or Pelagians. Instead, Islam was viewed as something altogether new and more alarming: a heresy qualitatively worse than those arising out of internecine Christian conflict. Thus, Islam must have been inspired directly by Satan.

This possession of Islam (the literal meaning of which, in Arabic, is 'submission') by an evil entity could be plainly seen, Christians thought, in the public behavior of Muslims, such as,

  ·  the rituals of sanctified slaughter (particularly the public sacrifice of goats),
  ·  the strange physical prostrations Muslims used during prayer,
  ·  Muslim intolerance of beloved saints and higher divinities such as Christ,
  ·  and the violent desecration of churches and synagogues.

The very name of Islam's founder, Muhammed, Mahound, or 'Mahomet', was transformed syncretically by Christians into the name for the major demon, Baphomet. Through this transformation, Christians thus believed the Muslims worshipped a demon.

Later on, this perception of Islam would be important when evidence of Baphomet's worship was a major charge in the persecution of the Order of the Knights Templar by the Pope and King Philip of France. The Knights Templar (Knights of the Temple of Solomon) alone among the Crusaders had conducted scholarly studies and performed what would be seen today as cultural exchanges with Islam.

Through these exchanges an alliance sprang up between the Templars and the Shiite Ismalien sect of Islam called the "Assassins' (because of their addiction to hashish; it was they who invented the suicide assassin 'martyr'). The Assassins were headquartered in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon and also had a base at the castle of Al-Alamut in northern Iran (Marco Polo witnessed the later destruction of the castle --The Eagle's Lair -- by the invading Mongols in the 13th Century; he wrote a detailed description of the sect in his 'Travels'.).

During the early 1200’s this alliance between the Templars and Assassins helped to maintain stability in the Crusader kingdoms until the fall of Acre (Biblical Akko). After that the Templars' usefulness to the West was ended and this alliance with Muslims was used against them.

The Ismaliens, however, continued as a geopolitical force long after the Mongols had attempted to exterminate them. Their modern titular leader, the Aga Khan, continues to derive his title and a portion of his wealth from the sect even today from his ancestral home in Pakistan. Now the Iranian Shiite descendants of the Assassin Order still command by proxy the assassinations of Western and Israeli soldiers and civilians across the Middle East exactly as they did nearly a thousand years ago, using much the same combination of drugs and money to train their emissaries. They have a different name in the West now--they are called 'suicide bombers'.

By and large, these profound historical continuities are resolutely ignored in our society, even on the occasions that they are recalled and discussed. Many theologians, especially those within the Anglican Church, have come to reject the physical existence of Satan. Interestingly, they do respect the belief in Satan that is inherent in Islam. This, my- condescending-respect-for-your-belief, is after all, tolerant, Anglican multicultural diversity.

Many modern Westerners, in fact, accept as their gospel the idea that "the Great Satan" is indeed the West and its cultural horrors. In this convoluted self-hatred mainstream American churches merely reflect the views of their ever-shrinking liberal constituencies. Thus, when the mullahs who rule Iran hold 'terrorist conventions' complete with 'martyrdom booths', or 'Death to Zionism' conferences, or even export the publications published for them to the Frankfurt Book Fair few voices are raised in protest within Western religious ranks.

The use of the term Satan (more properly 'Shaitan') in Islamic theology continues to be misunderstood in the West, despite its "respect" for Muslim belief. For Islam, the name, Satan, does not refer to an actual entity but is a concept embracing all evil. The Shaitan in the Muslim version of Genesis is specifically named 'Iblis' and is an 'ifrit' ('afreet') or demon. This term, Shaitan, seems to have evolved from a word meaning 'astray' or 'misled.' Eventually, this idea came to be the metaphorical interpretation of Satan's primary role in the Christian Bible as well. So when the President of Iran names the United States as the "Great Satan" he does not mean to say we are literally the body of Iblis. Instead, he is calling us the chief source of evil in the word.

Salman Rushdie's conflict with the mullahs illustrates this point. In his novel The Satanic Verses, Rushdie dared to suggest allegorically that perhaps parts of the Quran were "misled," inspired alternately by a 'good' angel and an 'evil' one. Such "literary criticism" of the Holy Book, which may never be altered or mocked even allegorically, is an automatic death sentence for whomever utters it. Rushdie’s heresy led even the Sunni Egyptian Nobel prize-winner Naghib Mahfouz to back the murderous 'fatwa' pronounced against Rushdie by Ayatollah Khomeini. As V. S. Naipaul observed, the Iranians were merely exercising literary criticism of their own. Naipaul and Mahfouz are sophisticated, Western-educated writers who represent the face of 'moderate Islam', yet this is how they speak and think on this single, inflammably irrational subject.

A further irony is that Rushdie was merely echoing the Greek New Testament chapters in which a voice whispered temptations to Jesus, as he wandered during his fast in the desert. Jesus rejected this voice out of hand, recognizing it as that of the Devil. Small wonder then, that in the view of Christian theologians for nearly a millennium, when this same experience befell Mohammed (as it did so many Christian saints), he did not order the voice to depart. Instead he heeded it, and proclaimed that what he heard was the voice of God speaking through an angel. Once Christianity understood the origins of the Koran, Papal Bulls were explicit on this matter: Mohammed was mistaken about the source of the voice he heard in the cave. Much later, Jeanne d'Arc was to burn at the stake for following her voices.

So where do things stand now? Is it that the West, and Christianity on which it was founded, has been the one to change while Islam has remained exactly the same? Is this the root of the "clash of civilizations"?

Obviously, Christianity has changed, but so has Islam; over the centuries it has fractured, divided, and adapted to the various cultures where it has taken root. What has not changed is the Koran and the fundamentalist tenets of its followers. Thus, even "moderate" Islam becomes baffled and contemptuous for what it sees as the West's lack of belief, and particularly our treasonous rejection of our heritage.

Thus, Islam continues to encroach simply because it can: since we appear to them to have neither pride nor hatred to fall back on, they can continue to push us back. It seems to be working, doesn’t it?

Cultures, like human beings, have their demons. Islam has repeatedly revealed its demons to us while we continue in a state of denial: demons? Us? Beneath the West’s sanitized tolerance and sophistication lies a terrible reluctance; we are afraid to even admit our demonic side, much less to confront it.

In recent years, what passes for theological debate between Islam and Christianity evidences a one-sided respect. Is this because where there is not fear there is also no respect?

The West long ago ceased viewing Satan in an immediate and anthropomorphic way. While this is a tribute to our sophistication and modernity, such a perspective fails to impress those for whom Evil remains a palpable presence. It has been reported on Al-Jazeera that Saddam Hussein himself is a longtime Satanist and wears an amulet to prove his loyalty. And the voice at the ears of Bin Laden, Zarqawi, and Ahmadinejad, whispering exhortations to kill and kill again? No, that is not God.

These are terrible, cynical people who exist in a world straddling a brutal past and a nihilistic future; they are equally at home in the symbolism of both. Our hubris and our ignorance allows us to imagine that we can talk such men out of creating and using nuclear (or any other) weapons. They see talk itself as weakness and continue their pursuit of nuclear technology so that they can manipulate the doctrines of their religion and 'eradicate evil' for their own personal gain. “Eradicate,” as the President of Iran just proclaimed again, not just Israel, not just the United States, but “the whole evil Anglo-Saxon devil.”

The Shaitan.

Us.

This Halloween we might do well to ponder what we really know about those who plan to destroy us. We would be wiser if we understood what inspires their ambitions.

It is also the right time — a good and proper time — to examine our own demons, to uncover them and to name them. In this the ancient Church was correct: the first step in conquering evil is to name it.


To read further about the Crusades go here. This is an online edition of the most definitive works ever published on the Crusades.

For more information on the Assassins, go here.

Information on Iranian anti-Semitism at the Frankfurt Fair.

19 comments:

ShrinkWrapped said...

What too few realize is that we are approaching the time when Islam will have to declare itself. If there are no "moderate" Muslims to reform their religion, the clash of civilizations will become inevitable. Once WMD's are used the outcome will be terrible, beyond description. There may be many in the West who have a death-wish, but I think the majority will not surrender without a fight, and in a battle between the West and Islam, they will never even know what hit them.

Dymphna said...

I'm with you, Doc. The "many" in the West with a death-wish is still a minority...it's a pose left over from middle school when they needed so desperately to look "cool" and they never grew into anything more substantial.

I do hope you saw my Yiddishe jihad post. Way to go, Macabees!

Come to think of it, the Catholic high school I went to called its athletic teams the "Crusaders." Maybe some of those non-p.c. names could use "Macabees" instead. Like who would know from that, right?

tbogg said...

After sludging through that crockpot of ponderous droning, quite frankly, death is starting to look pretty good.

And you wonder why people suddenly look busy when you enter a room...

Dymphna said...

tbogg-- hmm. Interesting name.

I presume you chose your nic because you like to sludge thru bogs? Or was it just serendipity?

I'm sorry life is so sad that death looks better than reading someone's essay -- which is what I'm inferring from your obscure message.

No doubt your dysphoria is merely a function of the Hallowe'en effect. Unless, of course, it's part of the sequelae one suffers from living under a bridge. The life of a troll is a hard one, I'll bet. Keep your socks dry.

t bogg, huh? Wow. With a nic like that, what a party animal you must be...just don't let the door hit your gluteus maximus on the way out, t.b.

Meanwhile Kierkegaard will just have to find a way to go on after your unkind words.

Adaneshju said...

Hello,

I wanted to point out just a few issues with the posted piece. By no means exclusive list of issues I have with the post, just some of the ones that popped out. I also do not mean to say I disagree with the point of the piece--on the contrary, I find the conclusion quite interesting and on the money on a number of points.

Over the centuries, the version of the sacred texts or 'suras' on which the Quran is based has become limited, in the Sunni world, to a paltry few based on the work of 'approved' scribes. This approval has come about, not through scholarship or debate, but rather through violent enforcement

Somewhat interesting statement..tradition has it that the Qur'an was "codified" or at least standardized during the time of the 2nd Caliph, Umar. (I believe the time range given is ~20 years after the death of Muhammad). It was collected and standardized from the recited versions people memorized--the etymology of Qur'an comes from "to recite." Since that period there have been no major deviations (though to be sure there have been minor differences in some copies, mostly as I understand it from dotting errors in scribes copies). There is no "sunni" Qur'an or "shi'a" Qur'an or any such today, however. I also know of no violent fights over this.

Armed with the sacred word, Mohammed then set out to convert the polytheistic tribesmen of the desert, later bringing his received truth to cities such as Mecca and Medina, where some received it gratefully and others, as the result of their 'apostasy', had to be put to the sword.

There's no real evidence for this either. It's interesting that the author wrote "later bringing" the truth to Mecca and Medina--those were the two cities where he spent most of his life. Medina just means "city" and today it's the name for (well, "the city") Yathrib where Muhammad fled to after the Meccan leaders forced him out. A new religion and a pious reformer was not welcome. There is a VERY marked difference in tone between the surahs written in Mecca and the later surahs in Medina. In either case the sentence about "apostasy" is incorrect.

Problem One: Allah (the Hebrew 'El') was the chief god of this pagan pantheon, not a monotheistic new-comer (neither was Yahweh to the Jews).

This is very debatable. In Arabic ilah means god. Allah means "the god." Allah is the same term Arab christians use for example. It does seem that Allah was a recognized deity before Muhammad (much like the proto-Jewish Yahwe cults the author points out) but relation to Hebrew El or Eloah etc is less or any pagan moon god etc is less well proven.

Problem Two: many of the citizens of the areas conquered by Muhammed were not pagans, but were either Jewish or Greek Orthodox Christians.

This is certaintly true. There were monophysitic Christians, monothelitic Christians, Jews, Manichaens, Zoroastrians, Christian Arabs, Jewish Arabs, and more, etc etc.

Problem Three: to become an apostate, there must first exist a religion that can be betrayed and Islam is by far the youngest of the world's 'major' religions.

Yes, it's 600 years younger than Christianity which I assume would be the second youngest, and has the second largest number of followers. I'm unsure of the point of this statement?

Problem Four: recent scholarship in Germany suggests that some of these original suras of Islam, far from 'bypassing' versions of 'pro-Semitic' myth (as for example in the Muslim version of Genesis), were in fact taken from Syriac Christian scripture. Islam has a way of obliterating other histories. Thus, long buried is the fact that Islam’s first invasion of the Byzantine Christian world did not receive a warm welcome. Mohammed's received religion was viewed by the Church not merely as a fresh heresy akin to the Manicheans, Arians, or Pelagians. Instead, Islam was viewed as something altogether new and more alarming: a heresy qualitatively worse than those arising out of internecine Christian conflict. Thus, Islam must have been inspired directly by Satan.

This is again an interesting stance. It's definitely true that the Qur'an seems to preassume knowledge of Christian and Jewish traditions. Many of the verses for instance directly address Christian practices (for instance a refutation of the Trinity and of the Immaculate Conception). Some words (like salat--prayer) seem to have come from Syriac. However, I've never ever heard the argument that the early Muslim conquests into Byzantine territories were "welcomed." There are very few contemporary extant Byzantine sources about the early 7th century. We do have some writings of for instance Sophronios, the Patriarach of Jerusalem and a few others in the very early days. They kept preaching and writing, making little note of Muslim customs. Some have taken this to mean that Islam hadn't really been formalized at this point. We DON'T find in the writings of this time polemics against Muslims (actually many of the early sources that reference Muslims are anti-JEWISH polemics). The Christian view of Islam over the next several centuries, is varied, but often, contrary to the author's piece, DOES view Islam exactly as a heretical and schismatic division. Ever read Dante's Inferno? Remember where Muhammad is? Schismatists!

[From amongst unsubstantiated points]
· Muslim intolerance of beloved saints and higher divinities such as Christ,

This one is easy to refute. Jesus, called Isa in the Qur'an is a highly honored Prophet. Not the son of God, no. but a prophet. Isa is actually a fairly common Muslim name. As a side note, an interesting factoid. Ayatollah Khomeini--his full name was Ruhallah Khomeini. Ruh Allah means the "Spirit of God" and is Jesus--Qur'an. (I've heard but not 100% confirmed that that is due to Khomeini having a grandmother of Kashmiri descent. Confirmable is that there are a group of Muslims who believe Jesus went from the cross to Kashmir and lived to be 100 and something--there's a large shrine/tomb of JEsus in Kashmir today).

The Knights Templar (Knights of the Temple of Solomon) alone among the Crusaders had conducted scholarly studies and performed what would be seen today as cultural exchanges with Islam.

Though there are certaintly others. Most notably perhaps Robert of Ketton. There are a number of Europeans, some of whom were born within the crusaders states, some of whom lived in them, particularly Acre.

Through these exchanges an alliance sprang up between the Templars and the Shiite Ismalien sect of Islam called the "Assassins' (because of their addiction to hashish; it was they who invented the suicide assassin 'martyr').

Particularly the group the author is referring to are the Nizari Isma'ilis. They were in essence a sub-branch of a sub-branch of Shi'ites (themselves a sub-branch of "Muslims"). Also the hashish thing is very likely mythological.

The Ismaliens, however, continued as a geopolitical force long after the Mongols had attempted to exterminate them. Their modern titular leader, the Aga Khan, continues to derive his title and a portion of his wealth from the sect even today from his ancestral home in Pakistan.

The author should note that Ismailis and Aga Khanis are not a 1:1 correspondence. In fact both sides would probably take umbrage with the connection. In addition, I'm not 100% sure but I think the current Aga Khan lives somewhere in Europe or America.. Considered non-Muslims by most Muslims today.

Now the Iranian Shiite descendants of the Assassin Order still command by proxy the assassinations of Western and Israeli soldiers and civilians across the Middle East exactly as they did nearly a thousand years ago, using much the same combination of drugs and money to train their emissaries. They have a different name in the West now--they are called 'suicide bombers'.

It's a nice historical tie in, but the Nizari Ismailis of centuries ago targeted political leaders not "civilians," didn't actually use drugs, and (as the author points out) were wiped out almost 800 years ago. His point is like saying "Today the American army has many Italians in it, 2000 years ago the forefathers of today's Italians, the Romans, conquered much of the Middle East, thus America is continuing in the tradition of Rome." It sounds nice, but doesn't have anything to it.

This part of the post is essentially where I stop disagreeing. I pretty much agree with much of the final analysis--Rushdie, etc. The analysis of the present I can buy, but the history is lacking in my view.

The Liberal Avenger said...

This site is a joke, right?

Baron Bodissey said...

Mr. Avenger: Of course it's a joke. Hee hee! We don't mean any of these things we say. We're just whiling away our time here, amusing ourselves at others' expense.

Kierkegaard said...

To adaneshju--

My opinion of the Muslim view of Jesus is 'easy to refute'? Demotion from divinity--'Son of God'--to mere prophet status is hardly evidence of reverence. There are no statues of Jesus left in Saudi Arabia nor under the Taliban. 'Schismatic' means 'heretic'. Few of your criticisms, while erudite and impressive (in fact they make me wish a further correspondence) are actually internally consistent. We end by agreeing in most cases (such as the etymology of Allah).

The use of hashish (and the nights with houris in a Paradise) in the training of assassins is not mythological; I have read the original sources. Further, trug trafficking was a major source of their revenue. The Ismalians have indeed divided into several sects, including Druze, but the Aga Khan remains a Pakistani citizen. It is not at all far-fetched to see the Iranian government as the Assassins' heirs, since it is they who have adopted and refined their techniques, later taken up by Sunnis as well.

To tbogg-- my essay was indeed overly verbose; it should perhaps have been page-broken into a brief introduction and the body placed on another page. In its present form, in point of fact, it now bears little resemblance to that which I originally submitted.

Goesh said...

I thought the joke was the 5th day of rioting by muslim youths in Paris and the adage that the French have always shot rabid dogs on sight. I guess not - HA HA - what a funny adage! Oh I get it - HA HA - who does shoot rabid dogs these days? Or is that just a joke of a question???

Goesh said...

PS - I think Shrinkwrapped is correct. A show-down is looming. We can see no merit in the jihadis nor they in us. Only one side can remain standing. The chips will truly be down once Iran attains nuke capability. That will be a point of no return. Wouldn't it be a whole lot easier to pay IDF their asking price and have them resolve this matter of islamic terrorism? I alluded to this previously. Oh, that is not a joke by the way.

Mussolini said...

When you have someone like the Liberal Avenger actually confused about this site being serious or a joke, my point about the willful ignorance (and Goesh's disconnect) rather hits home, don't it?

These are the people who believe that nothing will harm them because they can bleat platitudes at muslims and they'll suddenly break into kumbaya-singing.

These are the people that believe we're only in a war because of the "evil Bush" and purposely ignore the recent history of the ongoing war between Islam and the west that passed before Bush.

No, that just wouldn't be convenient to their little, demagogic, political minds. They are not just a "bare minority" like Dymphna alluded to. These closed-minded political bigots comprise almost 50% of the American people. Their allies are a willing government and a throoughly compromised media.

The blood in America is going to get deep. Many innocent people will die while the left does nothing but blame Bush and score political points.

Sickening.

Dymphna said...

Kierkegaard--

Oh, just blame the editor.Go ahead, I can take it...sniff...

Seriously, you ought to have a blog addressing this period of history. It needs someone willing to take it on.

adaneshju could be your co-blogger to cut down on the drudgery and you'd both be providing a service.

Please consider it -- you have important information that needs to be put out there. We'll blogroll you and do features of your work. With no editing, I promise.

I looked: A. doesn't have an email contact but if you left one in the comments, perhaps he would return. If we didn't hear from him again, we could run a small post...

This could be an exciting venture. I hope you consider it...in this day and time, we need folks like you.

Happy All Saints' Day, K.

Adaneshju said...

Much to my chagrin I thought I had already replied and find instead my post failed to, well, post.

Kierkegaard:

I'd be glad to continue correspondence, and I too enjoyed reading your post. Despite the fact that I don't agree with the essence of your narrative history, it's an interesting synthesis.

Re: Jesus / no statues of Jesus.

You are of course correct that there are no statues of Jesus in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, nor are their statues of Muhammad, nor anybody else. Statues are frowned upon in literal Islam as are pictures and icons. They are seen as becoming objects of worship (golden calf?) rather than symbols of worship. It's quite similiar, and roughly contemporary with the Byzantine iconoclasm dispute. Long story short, just because there are no statues of Jesus doesn't mean that they were destroyed, they never existed.

A second point--in my view, there are two very striking and immediate precursors to modern terrorism. These can be found in late-19th century Russia, and in Sri Lanka.

1)
Tsar Nicholas II was assassinated in highly public fashion by nihilists. Before he was actually killed, on a prior occasion (and I believe in the midst of a march or parade or such) a "terrorist" walked up to the Tsar with a gun and started firing (unsuccesfully--he was killed). The actions of the nihilists and others in Russia set the stage for modern terrorism. Targeted political assassination. Very similiar in intent to the Assassins who started in Egypt with the goal of high profile leadership assassinations.

2)
One of the first modern suicide bombings can be said to be the Beirut barracks bombing in which a truckbomb was driven into a US military base. The action of individuals strapping explosives to their bodies and detonating themselves amongst civilians etc started in Sri Lanka, as pioneered and I would say perfected (if such a thing can be said to be perfected) by the Tamil Tigers. From Sri Lanka, the technique was exported back to Israel, where it has since become the face of hamas/hezbollah/other terrorist groups.

One doesn't need to look back over 800 years to an obscure extinct sect to find the foundations for terrorism. One needs look only north to one of the great imperial powers, or east to a colony of another great imperial power. During Soviet period, much of the Middle East was directly under the influence of the USSR. Many countries modelled themselves after Russia, and were admirers of socialism--Arab socialism it's been termed. As such, it's not surprising that techniques from pre-Soviet Russian have been borrowed, nor is it surprising that similiar techniques were refined in another former colony.

Evan said...

Naipaul and Mahfouz are sophisticated, Western-educated writers who represent the face of 'moderate Islam'...,

I was not aware that V.S. Naipaul is Muslim, if that is what is being suggested here.

Adaneshju said...

I think that was just a slip of the pen and that Rushdie was meant in place.

V.S. Naipaul is in no way Muslim, and is in fact rather anti-Muslim and pro-Hindu nationalist.

Kierkegaard said...

evan--you are correct; Mr Naipaul is not a born Muslim. He has, however, in recent years acted as a propagandist for Islam (http://islamicbookstore.com/b5938.html)
I should have made this clear.

adaneshju-- you are correct, as well, in some of your assertions. The 19th-Century 'Nihilist' movement did indeed display striking similarities to modern suicide bomb attacks. However, once again, an Islamic trail can be traced; many of these were radicals from the Ukraine, the Balkans, or the Caucasus who took refuge in and were trained by Turkey, the traditional enemy of both Austria and Russia. Further, your example of the Hezbollah attack on the Marine base in Lebanon merely proves my point, Hezbollah being a puppet of Tehran.

As for the view of Jesus in Islam, this debate threatens to become comic. Ask any Palestinian Christian or Copt just how free he feels to worship his Deity. The attempt to absorb Christ into Islam was merely the first of many of its successful ploys to pay lip-service to a subject faith while oppressing and ultimately destroying it. Christianity, of course, can be accused of doing the same thing during an earlier historical period.

Your good arguments are too good for you to cling to poor ones.

Adaneshju said...

kierkegaard:

I honestly don't know as much about the nihilist movement as I should, but I gave a very cursory glace over the people involved in the Alexander II assassination and found no one who the kind of connections to dissident groups in Turkey that you mention--I'm not saying that they don't exist, merely that I'm unable to find them. Secondly, your point presupposes that such terrorist tactics were in use in Turkey, and I can't think of any such examples of assassination in Turkish history.

With regards to hezbollah, I personally find a world of difference in driving a truck bomb into a military barracks and strapping on some dynamite and going clubbing.. It's very easy to label one terrorist, but I have more difficulty with the truck bomb incident. What if it hadn't been suicide, just a bomb attack on a military target, is that terrorist? Or what if a handful of Lebanese or Syrian soldiers ran into the barracks and shot the place up? Terrorist? THe line there is harder for me to draw, and I would actually be interested in hearing your thoughts on that issue.

Also with regards to hezbollah--your point is that the nizari ismailis (though destroyed 800 years ago) have left an unbroken line of descent teaching suicide maryrtdom and assassination. If this is true, I would ask where is the evidence for this? Were there suicide attacks against the shah or during the Iranian Revolution? Anytime in the 19th century? etc

Re: Jesus. I fail to see what the point is. The original argument unless I'm mistaken was that Muslims hate Jesus. I said this was not so. I still say this is not so. Islam views itself as the continuation (and ultimately, termination) of revelation started in Judaism and carried on in Christianity. There are plenty more prophets and biblical characters in the Qur'an than just Jesus.

Interesting side story incidentally--early 15th century, the Ottoman Empire had been slapped around by the Mongols and was temporarily in an interregnum period. Four Ottoman princes were fighting it out. The princes were Mehmet, Musa, Isa, and Suleyman. Muhammad, Moses, Jesus, and Solomon were duking it out. Such a connection to the prophetic past has always been in Islam. As to destroying christianity--if that were their goal, I would have thought that they would have done a better job. Before the 19th/20th century a lot larger areas of the middle east were majority Christian (before many, many Christians left for better opportunities in Europe and America thanks to refound connections with their colonizers).

You do mention that Christianity has done the same coopting business (with Judaism). Isn't that part of anti-Semitism? That the Jews practice a corrupt version of real religion, not acknowledging Jesus as messiah? And if as a recent post here says, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are one and the same, then there aer a lot of Christian Jew haters today too. Not sure how relevant this is, but it's interesting to me.

gumshoe1 said...

"One doesn't need to look back over 800 years to an obscure extinct sect to find the foundations for terrorism."

no,you're right...walking the extra
few sandy dunes back to the dictating of the Koran and the enshrining of
terror as an empire building technique
in "the Book" wouldn't be germane to the conversation,A.

Dymphna said...

V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad of Hindu parentage. He himself is an atheist, or perhaps agnostic, but he certainly isn't a religionist. There was a good interview with him lately...maybe at Norm Geras'? I forget now.

In Among the Believers back in the early '80's his sentiments were plain...and he could see plainly too, what was going to come down.

At any rate, his thought is complex and not easily reduced to this or that.

The anti-semitism/anti-Zionist conundrum is not easily parsed. I know observant Jews (themselves ex-Zionists) who loathe Zionism. Nothing like a failed marriage to make one bitter, hmm?

Generally speaking, the American character finds that kind of hair-splitting difficult. The concentration camps of WWII are seared in the memories of the 40's generation and of the children they raised. In 1948, there was great national celebration in the US that Israel existed...for some that sentiment remains. For others, more nuanced, there has been a move to more fashionable victims -- i.e., the Palestinians down-trodden by the Zionist entity.

Whatever it is, there is deep, intense reactivity on both sides.