Sunday, October 16, 2011

How does Islam work?

Manfred Kleine-Hartlage is a German blogger who posts at Korrektheiten and German Views. He is also the author of Das Dschihadsystem: Wie der Islam funktioniert (“The Jihad System: How Islam Works”), and co-editor of Fjordman’s Europa verteidigen (“Defending Europe”), which will be issued in German on October 30, 2011. He has appeared previously at Gates of Vienna.

Manfred Kleine-Hartlage was interviewed last February by the German weekly Junge Freiheit. The translation below was made by Mr. Kleine-Hartlage himself.


“How does Islam work?” This question is asked of Manfred Kleine-Hartlage. For the first time a social scientist dissects the deep structure of Islamic culture.

Interviewer: Moritz Schwarz

Mr. Kleine-Hartlage, how does Islam work?

Kleine-Hartlage: It is a comprehensive system regulating all areas of life. There is no separation between religion here, politics there, law there — therefore none between Islam and Islamism, either. Islamism is not an abuse of Islam, because Islam is different from our worldview.

Which means?

Kleine-Hartlage: It is striking that in the Islamic world up to now there have never been serious crises of faith, as we know them here in Europe, and that there are virtually no atheists. The reason for this is that the role of religion in the social fabric of Islamic societies is quite different from that of Christianity in ours. Islam does not only relate humans to the hereafter, like all religions do, and determine what is good and evil, but it also defines what is legal or illegal in a juridical sense, legitimate and illegitimate in a political sense, true and untrue in an empirical sense. Islam is, so to speak, the DNA of its societies: not only a religion but a social system.

So you can not get rid of Islam without risking the collapse of society?

Kleine-Hartlage: So it is, the Islamic norms and values system regulates the living together in Muslim societies far beyond the religious realm in the narrow sense of the word: without Islam they could not work at all. And that’s what makes Islam so stable and so successful.

However, you are not an Islamic scientist, but a social scientist.

Kleine-Hartlage: That’s true, but sociological analysis is generally characterized by a particular approach that differs from those of the respective disciplines. You needn’t be an economist for economic sociology, or a lawyer for the sociology of law. And in the same sense, you needn’t be an Islamic scientist to analyze the sociology of Islam.

You say that we do not understand Islam. Why?

Kleine-Hartlage: Because we think in terms that do not meet it. We use a certain terminology fit for describing our own culture, but not fit for that of Islam. Studying Islam makes the unconscious assumptions of one’s thinking conscious, because these assumptions are not just shared in Islam. To some extent, Islam works like a mirror that makes us better understand ourselves. This made it so exciting for me to study Islam with the tools of the social scientist.

What result did you get?

Kleine-Hartlage: Religions shapes the system of culturally valid and (by socialization) internalized pre-assumptions about issues such as truth, justice, morality, ethics, society, or violence; i.e. all the assumptions that precede actual political thinking. In Islam, one of these cultural matters of course is its all-encompassing claim to validity. Certainly these Islamic norms and values are not internalized by everyone to the same extent or in the same depth, but they characterize the mutual expectations of people and must therefore be taken into consideration even by those Muslims who are individually rather irreligious — while a “less devout” Muslim is usually still a stronger believer than most nominal Christians.

What are the consequences?

Kleine-Hartlage: The consequence is that the widespread assumption in this country under which we perceive Islam — that all religions are equal or “want the same thing” — is misleading. Let me give you an example: Islam does not generally outlaw violence, not even in a strictly moral sense. It is a legal system that he controls violence: Whether violence is acceptable or even required depends, not only in the legal, but also in the moral sense on the who, whom, why, and how. Christian culture with outright condemnation of violence tends to the elimination of private violence and is therefore dependent on the state and its monopoly on violence. Islam isn’t. On the contrary, violence has prestige value.


Kleine-Hartlage: Because the Prophet’s example, made a permanent feature in the Quran, teaches that the ability to use force a sign of divine election. Thus, the meaning of violence is similar to that of material wealth in Calvinism. Violence in Islam has a structuring function: it makes a difference between above and below, i.e. master and slave, men and women, believers and unbelievers. Islam doesn’t define peace as a universal principle.

But? After all, “Islam” means “peace”.

Kleine-Hartlage: No, “Islam” means, in friendly translation, “devotion” and less friendly, “submission”. The word is derived from the same word-root as “Salam” (peace), but it is not a synonym. The Islamic concept of society is based on the division of humanity into “believers” and “infidels” — and Islam leaves no doubt that the “infidels” sooner or later have to disappear in history. “Good” in the ethical sense, is what is good for the spread of Islam; “evil” is any opposition to it. Islam rejects the notion of a universal ethics by which all people have equal rights, no matter what religion they belong to, or peace as a matter of principle. Such views contradict not only the teachings of Islam, but its basic structure.

However, most Muslims are peaceful and not violent.

Kleine-Hartlage: That’s correct, but is not the point. Firstly, Islam established a system of cultural matters of course, that by itself makes sure that in any case of conflict there are always plenty of “extremists” and violent offenders. It does not matter how large are the masses, but only that their number is sufficient to produce an ever-present threat. And secondly, it creates a tacit social acceptance of violence, provided it is directed against the “infidels”, even among those Muslims who are not individually violent. It is this social endorsement that makes violence an available option at any given moment — and for all “infidels” a constant threat, at least suggesting resilience.

Your book is titled “Das Dschihadsystem”, The Jihad System. Why do you subsume Islam under this term? After all, the holy war is only one aspect of the Koran?

Kleine-Hartlage: Jihad is not just war. It includes anything Muslims do to bring the world under the law of Allah. All Islamic norms, not just the military, have as their common vanishing point to consolidate the Islamic societies and to displace non-Islamic societies. This is the immanent logic, the central idea that gives the Islamic norms and values its internal coherence. Therefore, I conceive Islam as a Jihad System.

The Holy War, however, is merely the “lesser jihad” while the “greater jihad” means the personal perfection of man as a good Muslim.

Kleine-Hartlage: The use of these adjectives (lesser and greater) seems to suggest one is important, the other unimportant. In fact, the emphasis in the Koran is exactly reversed. I counted and analyzed statistically the corresponding suras: the Koran refers in the latest, the Medinan suras — which are in any doubt, the decisive — relatively little to the “greater” jihad, the struggle for one’s own faith, compared with the struggle against the “infidels”, the so-called “lesser” jihad which is crucial in these suras.

Could it be that the aspect of the lesser Jihad became dominant as a result of historical developments that gave him an inadequate importance?

Kleine-Hartlage: This can be seen that way, but this historical development has been promoted by the founder of the religion himself, and it is reflected in the Koran. And that didn’t happen just by accident, but represents a development that results naturally from the theological premises of Islam. It is known that the Prophet from the start demanded fighting the “infidels” and practiced it himself: He led 27 military expeditions, wiped out a Jewish tribe, displaced several others, and murdered critics. Blaise Pascal once said. “Jesus let himself be killed, Muhammad himself killed”. And of course the Muslims not only follow the Koran, but equally the example of the Prophet. Never say to a Muslim this man wasn’t the epitome of human perfection.

Islamism, as you initially hinted, is primarily a manifestation of Islam and does not spring originally the sphere of extremism?

Kleine-Hartlage: Islamism is only the political side of Islam, that is, in fact, no degeneration, but a part of this religion. The Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has said quite rightly that there is no radical and no moderate Islam, but only Islam. Sharia is not law as we define it, consisting of “acts” by men, but a law given by Allah himself. So something that cannot be altered, not even by a majority vote; you can just obey or not. The idea of an Islam without Sharia law is absurd, that would be — not like soup without salt, but like soup without water. Therefore, Islamists are quite correct when claiming to be in harmony with the Prophet and the Koran. And consequently these Islamists are not socially isolated, but very respected for their strong faith and respected members of the Islamic community.

Is Islam as a religion?

Kleine-Hartlage: Yeah sure, just not a religion how we imagine a religion ought to be, namely something focusing on a kingdom “not of this world.” It is a religion that wants to be socially realized and also depends on being a social reality.

Couldn’t there be an Islamic Enlightenment and thus a more moderate Euro-Islam?

Kleine-Hartlage: Firstly, I repeat: That would undermine the basis of Islamic societies. Therefore, there is enormous social pressure which prevents this. Secondly, Islam itself is already in some ways a kind of “enlightenment” as Islam has questioned anything in Christianity that is paradoxical and dialectical, sometimes incomprehensible, and to bring it to a simple formula: for example no Trinity, but only one God and absolute transcendence. No original sin that implies that man must fail to be truly good in the Christian sense. Instead, clear rules on how to behave in order to please God. In a sense, Islam is a very rationalist religion that may not even need “enlightenment”.

Wouldn’t you at least concede that a kind of Reformation could moderate Islam?

Kleine-Hartlage: First, was our Reformation something moderate? Secondly, there have been reformations in Islam, just like in Christianity, that claimed to lead religion “back to the roots”. But while this “back” in Christianity meant the inner life, the faith, to emphasize the grace of God, reformation in Islam, as a “back to the roots”, means just the opposite, emphasizing the validity of the political model of the original community of the Prophet, whose political profile I’ve already described.

Now there is obviously in many Islamic countries the spark of democratic revolution. Does not this contradict your analysis blatantly?

Kleine-Hartlage: No, I would like to remind you that these events are only a few weeks old, and that there are already first indications of an Islamist turn of these revolutions, as we see in the murder of the Polish priest Marek Rybinski in Tunisia. In Turkey, incidentally, for eighty years there has been an attempt to westernize, and yet we have witnessed for years a rapid re-Islamization. Nobody can say today what will follow from the current insurgency in the Arab world. Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan once said: Democracy is a tram that brings us to the destination — and then we get out.


Anonymous said...

Manfred Kleine-Hartlage: Thank you for your original interview and the translation. Great job!

vanhetgoor said...

Once the islam was invented as a clever way enslaving stupid people. One day somebody will come up with an antidote, informing stupid people that they are being conned. I guess they will not be happy to hear that message. Once the islam came, one day the islam will go away. The world will be a better place the sooner the islam is made made known as a bunch of lies.

Every lie will eventually be pinched through. Maybe it takes a few more weeks, maybe it will take another year, but some day the lies of the islam won't harm people anymore, any country without muslims will be a better country. There is no fear for a muslims-less society, the world does not stop turning when Allah is exposed as a silly invention. The sooner the better, think of al those victims of islam, one day they will be free!

Lawrence said...

You say that we do not understand Islam. Why?

Kleine-Hartlage: Because we think in terms that do not meet it. We use a certain terminology fit for describing our own culture, but not fit for that of Islam.

Except that we do understand Islam. One does not have to immerse themselves in something in order to study it. It may help for a quicker grasp of context, but not for overall understanding.

What we face in Western Culture are those who believe they can use Islam to further their own ends, and then deal with Islam later. Many of these "users" disagree with Islam on fundamental levels, but allow Islam to befuddle the efforts of their other enemies.

Why do we think the secular liberal movements are so willing to embrace the fundamentalism of Islam, but not Christianity? Islam is a much greater fundamental threat to their agendas. Answer is, the current cultural codex is based on the Bible. And it is this Biblical context for Western Culture that is under fire.

Secular left wants to eliminate any religious context. Islam wants to fundamentally change the context. The secular left is still in the minority for changing this precedent, however, and any ally in the conflict is good for them in the immediate future.

They think that once we re-create culture in context of liberal Utopian ideologies (their beliefs versus our beliefs) it will render all religions (including Islam) obsolete.

However, that will not deter the Islamist movement. The Islamists will simply seek to over-thrown the new liberal Utopia with Sharia. And those who once where allies will become enemies.

laine said...

I wish every western leader could be made to read this interview though the libs among them would have a comprehension problem.

Lawrence's comment deserves reinforcement. The Unholy Alliance as David Horowitz dubbed it between the western Left and Muslims is a case of two incompatible scorpions using each other to break down Christian founded societies. Once that's accomplished, the Left has the unrealistic notion that Islam will be marginalized along with all other religions in the New Left Utopia whereas the Islamic scorpion has the more realistic plan of simply killing the leftist leaders. Why wouldn't Muslims be confident when they see the Left's foolishness, overestimating itself while underestimating Islam's malevolence through the same intellectual laziness that keeps thinking it can make communism work? Most lefties have disarmed themselves, easy pickings for sharp blades.

Professor L said...

Lawrence, she does still have a point. Take, for example, the idea of sin and forgiveness in the Judeo-Christian Western mind, and compare it to the Islamic mind.

In the former, a sin is something that marks you for all eternity, and separates you from God. You need to literally die to that sin by sacrifice in order to be born anew and forgiven. In Islam, however, sin and forgiveness works much more like the kharmic concept in Hinduism and Buddhism, where an evil work must be "made up for" by a good work.

Same words, but completely different meaning. I think that people, and by this I mean the common mass, are being fooled. Taqqiya is the greatest weapon Islam currently has, and it allows them to pass them off as a sort of "Christianity-esque" religion, while those who point to its true nature are labelled "islamophobic".

Our society is quite literally illiterate on these matters. Only when we regain a sense of our own religious traditions and their meanings (belief here is not of particular concern) will we be able to identify Islam as being very unlike our own heritage.

That's the battle we have to win.

Anonymous said...

Kleine-Hartlage has provided an utterly objective examination of the nature of Islam, its imperviousness to real reform, its underlying physical threat to any organized society, and even its appeal to rationalism. I have read several accounts on Islamic blogs of converts from Christianity who are drawn to Islam because of its more rational approach to divinity, as opposed to the mystery and vagueness of the trinity.

Just as important is the imperiousness of the Muslim immigrant community to the normal assumptions of immigration. The democrats assume that Islamic theology will be coopted by the practices of a free society. The libertarians assume that Islamic theology will be coopted by the scramble for money. The fuzzy religions of the left assume the Muslims will lose their fervor through interfaith dinners and "getting to know" their fellow "partners in faith".

Kleine-Hartlage has provided an objective and utterly persuasive case as to why these assumptions are without merit when it comes to the Islamic community.

The old battle of secularism versus faith loses its meaning when Islam is involved. A large Muslim community seeks to totally replace our system of laws, while secularists and faithful merely seek to influence it.

Sagunto said...

I'd like to remind all of you who exclusively associate Islam with the political Left, that the support for the forced Islamization of our nations is way beyond that, comprising the whole of establishment politics, left and "right" (i.e. "national greatness" progressives, read: neo-cons).

Many thanks to Mr Kleine-Hartlage for this interview. I agree with @Eggy: great job!

Kind regs from Amsterdam,