* Is the glass half empty or half full? Are we at war with Islam or “Islamism?”
* Â Who gets it and who doesn’t? TwoÂ examplesÂ of the confusion in academia today:
Size of Islamist menace
THE recent distribution in the US of about 28 million copies of the 2005 documentary Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West has stirred heated debate about its contents. One lightning rod for criticism concerns my on-screen statement that “10 to 15 per cent of Muslims worldwide support militant Islam”.
* Continued below…
DR. RICHARD L. BENKIN: AN HISTORICAL MOMENT FOR ISLAM
* Â Dr. Benkin, from Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, makes some valid points, but doesn’t get it. He’s obviously never studied the Islamic doctrine of perpetual warfare and the subjugation of unbelievers and compares the Spanish inquisition with 1400 years of jihad against the world:
While there are several individual fights taking place across the world today, the battle between radical Islam and western-style democracy is the basis for almost all of them. I have been on the front lines of that war for several years and am more convinced than ever that it has no diplomatic or negotiated solution; that for the defenders of freedom, there is no compromise with radical Islam; period. Moreover, history is clear in predicting that ultimately, freedom will triumph.
Many argue, however, that our fight is not really against radical Islam but against Islam itself. Even our enemies tell us that again and again; that what they do is mandated by their faith. I respond that is only the radicals’ warped opinion. Not true, people say, and they quote Quranic passages that mandate a universal Caliphate and prohibit friendship with non-Muslims. I retort with passages from other holy books that also call from some pretty gruesome behavior. But then I am shown Islam’s history of forcing its faith on others by fire and sword; of the many killed because they would not submit. True enough, I reply, but is that essentially Islamic any more than the Inquisition is essentially Christian?
There is one argument, however, for which I have no compelling answer: the consistent failure of Muslim leaders-both religious and political-to condemn Islamist terrorism unequivocally and to maintain that principled stance. That means condemning terrorism without always adding how “others” are terrorists, too; without “understanding” the terrorists’ alleged frustration; without providing a loophole to define innocent victims as potential adversaries. When Dr. Baruch Goldstein entered a mosque in Hevron, Israel and began shooting, the Jewish world including the government of Israel condemned him without trying to “explain” his actions. When extremists turned his gravesite into a place of pilgrimage, the Israeli government destroyed it.
On the other hand, what do Muslims hear at the mosque? Anti-Islamist Muslim, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury of Bangladesh says he was told, “Kill a Jew, be a good Muslim.” Neither is that relegated to a small group of extremists. Muslim clerics regularly refer to Jews a “sons of apes and pigs,” to Christians as “Crusaders,” and to Hindus as “polytheists”; with each of those designations telling Muslims to treat those non-Muslims with contempt. Every week, these calls-and worse-are played to millions on state-run radio in Muslim countries. When Israelis released Sami Kuntar, who smashed a baby’s head with a rifle butt, Muslim clerics and political leaders hailed him as a hero. Not one dissented.
Today, however, Muslim leaders have a chance to reverse that shame and put to rest claims that Islam is the problem. The world is witnessing the ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus. Once making up over one in five Bangladeshis, Hindus now are less than one in ten. They face relentless attack by Islamist radicals and violent opportunists who know they can attack Hindus with impunity. There is ample evidence of murder, mutilation, ritualized gang rape, and abduction; all carried out without any government action against the perpetrators; quite the opposite, in fact. Refugees from the carnage told me that when they went to local authorities for help, they were told bluntly to leave the country. Attacks are intensifying and now spilling over to their West Bengal refugee camps. I was in one camp on the India-Bangladesh border that neighboring Muslim villagers-included recently infiltrated Islamists-attack regularly.
Many of the refugees lost ancestral land under Bangladesh’s racist Vested Property Act (VPA), which has been in force since 1974. That law empowers the government to seize the property of non-Muslims, declare it vested, and distribute it to Muslims of their choice. Both major political parties have used this illicit booty as a key component in their notorious gravy train of corruption. Dr. Abul Barakat of Dhaka University has conducted the most authoritative study of the VPA. He documents that the party in power-whether the center-right Bangladesh Nationalist Party or the center-left Bangladesh Awami League-gets around 45 percent of the spoils and the other gets a little over 30. Yet, when I recently asked Bangladesh’s ambassador to the United States, M. Humayan Kabir, about this, he said “the current government has no intention of addressing the Vested Property Act during its tenure” as the matter was too complex.
Too complex? Would it be too complex if the United States had a law enabling it to seize the property of non-Christians and give it to Christians? Or if India has a similar law enabling it to seize non-Hindu property for Hindus? Of course, it would not be too complex. The VPA is an offense against humanity; it is bigotry plain and simple. Pakistan has used a similar law to almost eliminate its Hindu population. Do Bangladeshi Islamists look to repeat that deed?
One Hindu refugee told me that he owned a small piece of land in Bangladesh. One day, a chicken of his wandered into the yard of a Muslim neighbor who seized and ate the bird. When confronted about it, the man said that he did this “because he was a Muslim and his religion told him he could.” Unfortunately, it was not an isolated incident but rather standard operation in the Bangladeshi countryside.
Efforts are currently underway in South Asia and internationally to stop the ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus and to repeal the VPA. Muslim leaders can end accusations that Islam is the problem by joining them. Ethnic cleansing is wrong, whether it is committed by Myanmar against the Muslim Rohingyas, by Buddhist Bhutan against Hindu Lhotshampas-or by Muslims against Bangladeshi Hindus. Muslim leaders can right this wrong by making it clear that they condemn this anti-Hindu ethnic cleansing and that it is contrary to their faith. If Bangladesh’s official claim to be an Islamic state is more than an empty designation-and if the charges against the Religion of the Prophet are false-it must repeal the racist and cynical VPA immediately and without equivocating about its “complexities.”
Finally, one of the world’s most authoritative Islamic seminaries is less than 100 kilometers from new Delhi. The Deobandi Seminary issues hundreds of fatwas a year, but thus far has been silent on this issue. It can bring honor to Islam by changing that and condemning any Muslim who participates in attacks on Hindus or who benefits from the looted property that resulted from it or from the VPA. It will be to Islam’s shame if it does not.
All of Islam now has the chance to stand on the side of justice. Will it answer the challenge?
Daniel Pipes: Size of Islamist menace
The Muslim Public Affairs Council declared this estimate “utterly unsubstantiated” and “completely without evidence”. Masoud Kheirabadi, a professor at Portland State University and the author of children’s books about Islam, informed The Oregonian newspaper that there’s no basis for my estimate. Daniel Ruth, writing in The Tampa Tribune, asked dubiously how I arrived at this number. “Did he take a poll? That would be enlightening! What does support for radical Islam mean? Pipes provides no answers.”
Actually, Pipes did provide answers. He collected and published many numbers at How Many Islamists?, a weblog entry initiated in May 2005.
First, though, an explanation of what I meant by Muslims who “support militant Islam”: these are Islamists, individuals who seek a totalistic, worldwide application of Islamic law, the sharia. In particular, they seek to build an Islamic state in Turkey, replace Israel with an Islamic state and the US constitution with the Koran.
But, as with any attitudinal estimate, several factors impede approximating the percentage of Islamists.
How much fervour: Gallup polled more than 50,000 Muslims across 10 countries and found that, if one defines radicals as those who deemed the 9/11 attacks “completely justified”, their number constitutes about 7 per cent of the total population. But if one includes Muslims who considered the attacks “largely justified”, their ranks jump to 13.5 per cent. Adding those who deemed the attacks “somewhat justified” boosts the number of radicals to 36.6 per cent. Which figure should one adopt?
Gauge voter intentions: Elections measure Islamist sentiment untidily, for Islamist parties erratically win support from non-Islamists. Thus, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party won 47 per cent of the vote in the 2007 elections and 34 per cent in the 2002 elections, and its precursor, the Virtue Party, won just 15 per cent in 1999. The Islamic Movement’s northern faction won 75 per cent of the vote in the Israeli Arab city of Umm al-Fahm in the 2003 elections, while Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organisation, won 44 per cent of the vote in the Palestinian Authority elections in 2006. Which number does one select?
What to measure: Many polls measure attitudes other than application of Islamic law. Gallup looks at support for 9/11. The Pew Global Attitudes Project assesses support for suicide bombing. Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security specialist, focuses on pro-Osama bin Laden views. Germany’s domestic security agency, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz, counts membership in Islamist organisations. Margaret Nydell of Georgetown University calculates “Islamists who resort to violence”.
Inexplicably varying results: A University of Jordan survey revealed that large majorities of Jordanians, Palestinians and Egyptians wish the sharia to be the only source of Islamic law, but only one-third of Syrians do.
Indonesian survey and election results led R. William Liddle and Saiful Mujani in 2003 to conclude that the number of Islamists “is no more than 15 per cent of the total Indonesian Muslim population”. In contrast, a 2008 survey of 8000 Indonesian Muslims by Roy Morgan Research found 40 per cent of Indonesians favouring hadd criminal punishments (such as cutting off the hands of thieves) and 52 per cent favouring some form of Islamic legal code.
Given these complications, it is not surprising that estimates vary considerably. On the one hand, the Islamic Supreme Council of America’s Hisham Kabbani says 5 per cent to 10per cent of American Muslims are extremists and pollster Daniel Yankelovich finds that “the hate-America Islamist fundamentalists average about 10 per cent of all Muslims”. On the other, reviewing 10 surveys of British Muslim opinion, I concluded that “more than half of British Muslims want Islamic law and 5 per cent endorse violence to achieve that end”.
These ambiguous and contradictory percentages lead to no clea