Blogs > HNN > Going Rogue, or Going Down Allah’s Path? Ottomans, Ayatollahs and Nidal Malik Hasan

Nov 23, 2009 12:15 am

Going Rogue, or Going Down Allah’s Path? Ottomans, Ayatollahs and Nidal Malik Hasan

The ranks of those who still argue that Islam had nothing to do with Nidal Malik Hasan’s personal jihad at Ft. Hood are growing increasingly thin (at least among the intellectually honest), especially after news outlets carried the story yesterday about the interview by a Yemeni journalist of Hasan’s overseas clerical mentor, Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki said that "fighting against the US army is an Islamic duty today," and that “the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal;” he also added “"I blessed the act because it was against a military target. And the soldiers who were killed were not normal soldiers, but those who were trained and prepared to go to Afghanistan and Iraq."
The last refuge of those sporting COEXIST bumper stickers on their Volvos—blindly wedded to the canard that all religions are equally peaceful or, alternatively, violent—is that al-Awlaki is representative merely of a marginal, extremist, non-state-sanctioned demographic slice of the world’s Muslims that has arisen promoting violence only in the wake of U.S., Bush/Cheney-led “crusades” against the Islamic world. But facts, especially historical ones, are stubborn things for those that study them and don’t simply turn a blind eye to any that don’t fit their preconceived ideology. Almost a century ago, in 1914, the world’s preeminent Islamic state, the moderate Ottoman Empire, and its chief cleric, the Sheyhülislam (Shaykh al-Islam) in Istanbul, issued a fatwa of jihad upon entering World War I on the side of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. As explicated by Rudolph Peters in his Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam (Princeton, 1996), this fatwa not only called on Muslims to fight on behalf of the Ottoman Islamic state against its enemies, but also mandated that Muslims living in India, Central Asia, North Africa and the Balkans were “obliged to…attack their non-Muslim rulers.” In the typical classical Q & A format, the fatwa said the following:

Question: When it occurs that enemies attack the Islamic world...has jihad then…become incumbent upon all Muslims and has it become the individual duty [for all Muslims in all parts of the world….?
Answer: Yes.
Question: Now that it has been established that Russia, England, France and the governments that support them…are hostile to the Islamic caliphate….is it, in this case, also incumbent upon all Muslims that are being ruled by these governments, to proclaim jihad against them and to actually attack them?
Answer: Yes.
Question: If some Muslims…refrain from doing so (which God forbid), is this then…a great sin and do they deserve Divine wrath and punishment….?
Answer: Yes.
Question: If the states…that are fighting against the Islamic government compel and force their Muslim population…to fight against the troops of the Islamic countries…do they…deserve hell-fire….?
Answer: Yes.

There you have it: less than a century ago the foremost authority in the Sunni Muslim world, the chief cleric of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, ruled that 1) an attack on one part of the Muslim world is an attack on all of it; 2) Muslims living under the rule of non-Muslim belligerents are expected to refuse to take up arms on behalf of their infidel rulers; and 3) furthermore, Muslims living under infidel rule are ordered—under threat of condemnation to Hell—to actively rebel against said non-Muslim rulers and fight jihad against them. It seems al-Awlaki’s promotion of Nidal’s own private jihad at Ft. Hood, striking the Crusaders from within their own ranks, is not so singular as some would have it.
But many, if not most, of the apologists for Islam in the media, government and academia will no doubt argue that a century ago is ancient, irrelevant history. What will they do, then, with the recent statements by the representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Kingdom, Ayatollah Abolhossein Moezi who, according to yesterday’s London Times, “said that it was wrong for followers of Islam to serve in the Armed Forces, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq where Muslims were being killed. Not only do I not accept it for Muslims to go there, I don’t accept non-Muslims to go there as well. We say that Muslims are not allowed to go and kill Muslims. Do you think that Christians are allowed to go and kill Muslims?”
Hasan’s Ft. Hood rampage was not, then, just the act of a madman; nor was it an act of “terror” that is justified only by fringe, non-state clerics within the Islamic world. Rather, it was a historically- and theologicially-legitimate individual jihad, sanctioned by not only the Qur’an itself [see my previous blog post] but also by the Sunni Ottoman state in the 20th century and the Shi`i Iranian one in the 21st.

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Fahrettin Tahir - 12/13/2009


My experience is that people in the Western World are not properly informed about the realities which any Moslem will know from his own experience. Unfortunately we have relatively few people who can talk to them in the terms they are used to, and even less who will try. Most presume they do not want to listen.

omar ibrahim baker - 12/13/2009

That "dialogue" must have been quite instructive, illuminating?, about the mental, psychological and racist predisposition of some.
Was it NOT?

omar ibrahim baker - 12/13/2009

The question 'in context, was/is:

"On this very page you have been proved to be hopelessly bigotted, close minded and terminally blinded by hatred beyond redemption by
failing to face up to the utter banality of your contentions about fatwa and terrorism and by refusing to answer a simple question of:

whether you will abide by an equivalent American "fatwa" when/if the USA is subjected to aggression and/or occupation "

Plain enough !

arthur m. eckstein - 12/7/2009

In 1b, that should be indictment and jailing of Radovan Karadzic for crimes againt Muslims in BOSNIA.

Fahretten, my email is if you wish to continue this interesting conversation in a more convenient and direct manner.



arthur m. eckstein - 12/7/2009


1. Sometimes paranoids have enemies--but sometimes they do not. a. The U.S. does not control Iraq anymore, and the increase in terrorism from Kurdish areas into Turkey reflects that fact. The U.S. troops don't occupy the country, they're in camps on the outskirts of towns. And if you think terrorism in eastern Turkey does not have social roots in govt policy and is not simply craziness or outside agitators not related to conditions on the ground, as you seem to believe with the Kurds, then you should also rethink what you're saying about Arab/Muslim terrorism and blaming the West.

b. The World Court has indicted Milosovic on whatever. It has indicted, and captured, Radovan Karadzic the former leader of the Serbian Bosnian Christians, for crimes against Muslims in Serbia. Frankly, I shouldn't have to defend the World Court against paranoid accusations of prejudice against Muslims. On the contrary: The fact that al-Bashir is a hero testifies to a deep sickness within Muslim society in general.

2. Rwanda was an independent state, and was never part of the French Empire. It came under German control, then Belgian, then became independent. The Belgians exacerbated intercommunity hostility between the Tutsis and the Hutus. But the idea that Rwanda was part of some French empire in the 1990s is simply untrue. Mitterand didn't control Rwanda.

3. Ralph Peters is a crank, and appears consistently on Fox News. He's not part of the U.S. govt, and never has been, except when he was in the army, where he reached the rank of lieutenant colonel--not even a full colonel, never mind a general. The "plan" includes giving northern Pakistan to Afghanistan; has this happened? It involved giving southwest Pakistan to the Balochs; has this happened?

There are bad things that happen from the West--though in Sudan, for instance, the major *outside* culprit is China, and the West has tried to stop the genocide, which the Muslim world ignores or denies, treating al-Bashir as a hero. Can you imagine how that looks in the West? How hypocritical the Muslim states seem?

4. I'm glad you believe that there are bad people on the Muslim side. The question is why they have such significant support. I do not believe that Western policies are the main reason, or "lack of respect" of Muslim states. This is coming from within Islam, a reaction to the crisis of globalization and modernization.

5. Here is my alternative reconstruction, which I ask you to think about:

a. Many in the Muslim world have a great sense of entitlement: because they worship God correctly (as they see it), they deserve to rule the world on the secular plane. God has promised this.

b. But they have suffered a terrible narcissistic injury over the past 200 years: they have fallen behind in every economic and cultural and scientific and military sphere: not just fallen behind the West, but Japan, and even Korea. So a sense of tremendous entitlement is now tied with a tremendous narcissistic injury.

c. How to explain what has happened? Does Allah not exist? Have they been fools on the road to nowhere (not Paradise) for 1400 years? That was Ayman al-Zawahiri's dark night of the soul after Israel's victory in June 1967.

But of course, that can't be accepted or acceptable, because it would involve an intolerable shame. So the answer to the sense of entitlement and the narcissistic injury is: IT IS SOMEONE ELSE'S FAULT. Conspiracy theories. Paranoia. The responsibility for Arab/Muslim failures is put on someone else (including the Jews). NO responsiibility is taken for their own actions, or cultural weaknesses caused by retrograde versions of Islam. On the contrary: al-Zawahiri's solution to his dark night of the soul was to become the advocate of a MORE retrograde Islam.

Fahrettin, I urge you not to fall for this pattern: entitlement, narcissistic injury, conspiracy theory. THIS is where the energy is coming from that fuels Muslim hatred and violence. Western policies may contribute to problems, but ultimately the source lies much deeper and it is on the Muslim side.

Look at the difference between India and Pakistan, who had the same history of British imperialism (in fact, the British favored the Muslims in India). Look at the difference between Japan and Saudi Arabia.

The international world is a synergistic world in which Muslim internal problems are profound, and Muslim actions, policies, and perceived violence and hypocrisy add to the poisonous mix ALONG WITH Western actions.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/7/2009


One more thought. I realize that there are a lot of fanatics and criminals doing stupid things in the Islamic world. What I want you to understand is that there are a lot of not fanatical, educated and intelligent people who do not think Western policies are acceptable. I have tried to portray that view.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/7/2009


To quote Mr Kissinger, even the paranoid have enemies.

I think you now know how a lot of Turks see the World.

Organisations like the UN or the international court of justice have been mobilized by the West too often to count as really neutral institutions. In the 19th century the concert of western powers was running the world and telling people what to do. By now they call themselves the international community have other instruments like international courts to make their self serving interventions appear „humanitarian“. Can you imagine the government of a major western country being indicted for war crimes? Say Mr Obama in den Haag for the support the US gives the Kurdish terrorist PKK/PJAK? These are organisation which murder people in Irana and Turkey.

They did indict Mr Milosevic for genocide in Kosovo. There had been no genocide in Kosovo. The genocide had been in Bosnia. They could not indict him for genicide in Bosnia because he would have told them everything he did there had been coordianted with France and England. It was all very embarassing. Before the stuff hit the fan the fellow died. It appears he had not taken his medicine. Isn’t international justice wonderful?

In today's Turkish press are reports about Mr Erdogan going to visit Mr Obama. One theme it appears will be the Kurdish PKK terrorists who are based in Iraq and regularly murder people in Turkey.

Nobody in Turkey believes that their activities are not approved by the occupying power, the USA. The USA neither acts against this terrorism nor will let Turkey act against the terrorist bases in North Iraq.

Rwanda is a part of the French African Empire at that point governed by Miterrand Jr in Paris.

Ever heard of the Ralph Peters map? You can look it under that gentleman’s name in Wikipedia. He wrote several articles on how to rape the Islamic world in the armed froces journal, easily accessable in the internet.

This map and the articles are instrcutions on how top redraw the map of the middle east according to serve US interests. Officers of the US Army came up with this map in an official NATO meeting and wanted to discuss with their Turkish collegues what they thought about this US plan to partition Turkey. That is as official as it gets. Let us remember the NATO is an alliance to protect their neighbors against exactly that. Again: this is how they treat an ally! There is no lower moral limit to what they will do in countries which are not their allies.

I am not paranoid, unfortunately you are badly informed by a press which reports a very distorted view of what is going on. They never report what the West has been doing to hurt other people. There is an interesting article about Teddy Roosevelt in this week’s HNN. Had you ever heard of that before? Western history is nothing but a lot of cupboards full of skeletons like that. Western everyday politics is busy producing new skeletons. That is why the people who have been suffering under that for 200 years are quite paranoid because they have real enemies.

I believe in peace. But I am by now convinced that there will be nothing but escalating war unless the West does an about face in politics and starts respecting Islamic states. If they had the feeling that the West respects them and was not trying to use everything it can find to hit them as a part of colonial policy they would react differently against allegations of mass killings in Sudan and elsewhere.

arthur m. eckstein - 12/6/2009


1. The accusations of genocide in the Sudan come from the UN, not from "the West". The figure of 400,000 civilians killed are UN figures. That Muslims don't believe there is a genocide going on in Darfur, and prefer to believe instead that the accusations are part of a plot to break up the Sudan, is testimony to the incredibly intense paranoia that rules in the Muslim world. This paranoia cannot be used an excuse to diminish the incredible sight of the mass murderer Omar al-Bashir being greeted as a hero by the Muslim League last March. And I'm sure you can see how such a sight makes bitter Muslim accusations of western insensitivity to genocide in Bosnia seem hypocritical.

2. I know what the Hutus got out of the genocide in Rwanda. You imply that European powers also got something out of the genocide. Fahrettin, which European powers, and what did they get, and what is the evidence? I ask you seriously to provide answers to expand your accusation.

To me, the example of Rwanda as I understand it, including Mitterand's awful statements of indifference about it, and, further, the indifference of the world to the the even greater catastrophe in eastern Congo, adds great support to Mr. Friedman's reconstruction of what happened in Bosnia: it was a backwater, and no one cared. Period. It had nothing to do with Western hostility to Muslims.

Moreover, in the end the West emerged as the *protectors* of the Bosnia and Kosovar Muslims, even while the latter destroyed the Christian heritage in Kosovo. Yet the West gets no credit for this from Muslims, even intellectuals such as yourself, and meanwhile the Muslim League celebrate the mass murderer al-Bashir. I think you can see how that looks in the West.

3. You are correct that after the Danish elections of 2001 and before the cartoons controversy occered there was a tightening up immigration laws: cutting Denmark's very liberal welfare payments to non-citizens and making it harder to become a Danish citizen. This must indeed have added to intercommunity tension. It didn't help that on the Muslim side, radical imams proclaimed that Danish women who didn't wear the veil were "asking for rape" (Copenhagen Post, Sept. 24, 2004). The radical imams were not a product of Danish society, but came directly from abroad--and so did their ideology. From abroad, not primarily in response to local Danish conditions. The source of the violence of the cartoon controversy may have been partly the toughened immigration laws; you make a significant point, as usual. But if these laws were so toughened up, what were all those radical imams from abroad doing in Denmark as spokesmen for the immigrant population in the first place?

4. Your response to the lack of protest in Pakistan over the slaughter of Muslim worshippers by suicide bombers last Friday in a crowded mosque (as opposed to a million on the street protesting *cartoons* in a country I doubt that many of the protestors could find on a map) is an appeal once again to paranoia. That is: Who knows who did it? I doubt it was enraged Episcopalians, Fahrettin. Several high-ranking officers were killed at prayer. Are we really supposed to suspect that these murders, damaging to the Army, were part of a plot by the Pakistani goverment itself, so that on those grounds "we don't know who to protest"?? It's ridiculous.

Really, these responses--to Darfur (no genocide), to the Rawalpindi massacre on Friday (the govt did it, or perhaps "the West"??)--raise the painful and very important issue of the origin and prevalence of an intensely paranoiac cultural style in the Muslim world.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/6/2009

I will reply to that from a country far away from Pakistan: I have no idea whom to protest in case of a bombing. There is a war going on and the first casualty is the truth.

It might be local nuts of whom there will surely be enough or foreign countries using atrocities to manipulate the public opinion to their favor.

The Danish caricatures were in the European country which has the toughest anti immigrant laws. People who live in Europe know what racism is. The caricatures were produced in an anti Islamic caricature competition by people who have fun humiliating immigrants.

The protesters were over emotional people who in a very tense international political climate overreacted.

The political climate is very tense because Mr Bush invaded Iraq. An approximated million Iraqis were calculated to have dies as a consequence of this invasion.

I have commented on Sudan. People do not believe western accusations of genocide.

arthur m. eckstein - 12/6/2009

Here's the issue I raised at the end of my last posting, in a nutshell:

In Pakistan, the publication of cartoons in Denmark depicting the Prophet Mohammed brought a million violent protestors in the street. But the Taliban bombing of a MOSQUE filled with WORSHIPPERS last FRIDAY, a bombing that killed dozens of (as you would say) real people, including many children, brought no protest.

Given this situation I think you can see why Westerners might be puzzled when the finger of accusation about defamation of religion--or the accusation of genocide when the Muslim League supports al-Bashir of Sudan enthusiastically--is pointed at them by Muslim intellectuals.

Fahrettin: yes, it IS puzzling.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/6/2009


France was ruled during the Bosnian and Rwandan genocides by Miterrand. he was quoted in a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany’s Nr 1 Paper, their New York Times) article which was published this year as telling his subordinates over Rwanda every once in a while there would be a genocide in a country like that and they should not let it bother them. He will have seen Bosnia with the same eyes. We hear little about Rwanda but I am sure somebody saw an advantage for himself in mass murder and this somebody did not have black skin color.

The Bosnian event is important in the relationship between Moslems and Christians. It is this relationship we are discussing. Africa is not. In Sudan black moslems kill each other for reasons I do not understand and nobody will tell me. In Congo far more people got killed without much happening. The reaction of the Moslem league simply reflects the feeling Moslems have that Western countries are trying to get at Sudan. As a big poeace of desert it was not interesting but it appears the place has a lot of oil and the classical Western reaction in such cases is breaking it up into smaller pieces Western countries can control. They are doing genocide is the classical claim used to legitimate an intervention. I remember the 1990ies when the german press was claiming a Turkish genocide against Turkey and so heated up the climate that I got mobbed at the factory where I was working for saying there was no genocide. 20 years later nobody talks of a genocide whichw as never intended and when the same group of countries start shouting about genocide in Sudan few Turks will believe them.

Russia objected to the EU taking away Kosovo from their Serb friend to keep it for themselves. Turkey is in the same position over Cyprus. There are treaties which clearly state that Cyprus can not join a multinational organisation of which Turkey is no member yet they have taken Greek Cyprus into the EU. I was told by a half official spokesmen of the Government that treaties are reflect the balance of power and when this changes they must no longer be respected.

The EU is also trying to take away Turkey's Kurdish provinces as well as more land for Armenia. This will also be because they feel Turkey's borders no longer reflect the balance of power. They and the US finance and train then send terrorists from north Iraq to kill people in Turkey.

Turkish secularists have reacted by policies for more distance from the West and the West has reacted by helping the islamists come and stay in power. The US, which came as an ally which she no longer seems to be, engineered an economic crisis which let to an AKP election victory. Rapid economic growth stabilized their rule. Big foreign money from the West and Arab Sheikhs and simple stupidity of religious fools have hijacked democracy.

What they expect in return?

If you understand German read: http://www.welt. de/politik/ ausland/article4436510/Geheimpla n-zur-Loesung- der-kurdischen-Frage. html#vote_ 3433847

This article is typical for German thinking on Turkey. The secularists were not doing their bidding so they replace the secularists with a coalition of islamists with the Kurdish version of the red khmer. The talk openly of replacing the Turkish elite with a new one recruited from the lower middle class of eastern Anatolia.

This is the typical procedure for colonialism. First you destroy the local political culture. The idiots you replace them with first accept what you require. At some point the new regime does foolish things. Then you sent the USAF to bomb them and legitimate this with the stupidity of the people you yourself had installed as a government. For very small advantages for yourself you destroy other peoples countries.

This is what has happened in a lot of countries like Iran to name one example and is happening in Turkey now. Guess how secularists feel about Western policies?

arthur m. eckstein - 12/6/2009


If the Europeans were so concerned about the emergence of a Muslim state in Europe, then they wouldn't be supporting and "protecting" the emergence of a Muslim state in Europe (Kosovo) that has destroyed 150 historic churches and monestaries.

That is a fact. And it undermines most of your argument.

You downplay Kosovar independence but it is recognized by many Muslim countries, and the official Western recognition of Kosovo as an independent state by the West in 2008 absolutely infuriated the Russians--why, if it was, as you imply, meaningless? One Russian response: the South Ossetian-Georgian war later in the year, which from the Russian point of view was merely tit-for-tat, recognizing and supporting and protecting a breakaway province of an existing state (Georgia).

Mr. Friedman's point that the Rwandan genocide occurred at about the same time as the massacres in Bosnia is important for analytical purposes, Fahrettin: it wasn't just Bosnia; in Rwanda the situation was even more horrible than in Bosnia and yet the West did absolutely nothing, and the victims were Christians. The reason the West did nothing in Rwanda is the same reason the West did little at first in Yugoslavia: Yugoslavia, like Rwanda, IS a backwater. That's the main story, i think.

But in the former Yugoslavia the West became and is as you put it the protector of Muslims both in Bosnia and Kosovo against the Christian Serbs. Yet that doesn't relieve Muslim bitterness even in someone as intellectual as you. I find this disheartening--as if the Yugoslav Muslims were the sole victims of genocide in 1995/1996. The myopia is disheartening to me. (1) The Bosnian Muslims were not the only victims of genocide at the time; and (2) they were eventually helped and protected by the West, at financial cost and significant risk of death to troops--which did NOT happen in Rwanda.

If Muslim states were really worried about genocide of Muslims why hasn't the Muslim world done anything to stop the genocide in Darfur? The West has done a bit there, but really nothing. Well--is THAT lack of action more evidence of Western anti-Muslim feeling? But Darfur too is a backwater. And meanwhile Omar al-Bashir, whom the West has at least formally indicted as a war criminal, was greeted as a HERO at the last meeting of the Muslim League--a HERO, Fahrettin, and precisely because he was "resisting the West". That's how crazy things in the Muslim world of governments are.

But given the reaction of the Muslim League in supporting and protecting the monstrous al-Bashir, the murderer of 400,000 Muslims by UN estimate, I think that Muslim intellectuals are in a weak position to simultaneously point the finger at Western states for failing to protect Bosnia Muslims (as some sort of anti-Muslim plot), when actually in the end the West (and esp. the US) spent large amounts of money and risked many lives to PROTECT the Muslims in Yugoslavia. When has any Muslim state helped the victims of genocide in Darfur?

These are huge and general problems of human interaction. So, in the end I think Mr. Friedman's view of what happened in Yugoslavia makes better historical sense than your own reconstruction (though as usual you make some interesting points).

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/6/2009


Kosovo is also a European Union protectorate. It is not independent.

As I said before, the West would not allow Turkey to intervene in Bosnia. They did not want the sure trouble with an annoyed West help for the Bosnian Moslems would have brought.

Why else would they have refrained from helping with that million man army? Just admit: you do not understand the problems of the relationship between the West and the Islamic world.

Not even when there is a genocide will you admit that that is a problem.

Yugoslavia was not a backwater as it might appear from the USA. It was a state the English and French built after 1918 to block German expansion towards the south and to keep catholic Croatia and Slovenia, both pro German, as well as Kosovo and Bosnia, both pro Turkish, under Serbian control.

By no coincidence Germany after breaking loose of the post WW 2 occupation regime set out to liberate Croatia and Slovenia.

Against this the inventors of Yugoslavia under the guise of a peace force set out to help Serbia. There were enormous strains between Germany on one side and France and England on the other side during the war. These showed how thin the line between peace and war in Europe still is.

In Bosnia they showed the world what happens to people like the Bosnian Moslems who trust Germany in their foreign policy. They also prevented the emergence of a Moslem state in Europe.

It is true that at the and the USA intervened and ended the war but only after hundreds of thousands of Moslems had been killed and the targets of their British allies fulfilled.

In return the British will contribute troops to any hare brained US adventure, even when they very well understand how idiotic it is.

Kosovo is also a European Union protectorate. It is not independent.

As I said before, the West would not allow Turkey to intervene in Bosnia. They did not want the sure trouble with an annoyed West help for the Bosnian Moslems would have brought.

Why else would they have refrained from helping with that million man army? Just admit: you do not understand the problems of the relationship between the West and the Islamic world.

Not even when there is a genocide will you admit that that is a problem.

Yugoslavia was not a backwater as it might appear from the USA. It was a state the English and French built after 1918 to block German expansion towards the south and to keep catholic Croatia and Slovenia, both pro German, as well as Kosovo and Bosnia, both pro Turkish, under Serbian control.

By no coincidence Germany after breaking loose of the post WW 2 occupation regime set out to liberate Croatia and Slovenia.

Against this the inventors of Yugoslavia under the guise of a peace force set out to help Serbia. There were enormous strains between Germany on one side and France and England on the other side during the war. These showed how thin the line between peace and war in Europe still is.

In Bosnia they showed the world what happens to people like the Bosnian Moslems who trust Germany in their foreign policy. They also prevented the emergence of a Moslem state in Europe.

It is true that at the and the USA intervened and ended the war but only after hundreds of thousands of Moslems had been killed and the targets of their British allies fulfilled.

In return the British will contribute troops to any hare brained US adventure, even when they very well understand how idiotic it is.

arthur m. eckstein - 12/5/2009

Dear Fahrettin,

1. Of course, buildings are not the same as people, and slaughtered people cannot be replaced. But if the Christian powers were so concerned with preventing a Muslim state in Europe, if that was really the true issue behind European non-intervention in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, then these governments would (a) have used the excuse of the enormous destruction of the churches and monasteries in Kosovo to intervene, and (b) never have recognized Kosovo official independence.

Instead, they (a) completely ignored the destruction of the churches and monasteries between 1999 and the present, and (b) immediately recognized official Kosovo independence when it was proclaimed in 2008. Those countries which immediately recognized an independent (and Muslim-dominated) Kosovo include the U.S., the U.K., France, AND Germany.

This is why I find Mr. Friedman's reconstruction more convincing than yours: Yugoslavia was a backwater that no one could gain any profit from intervening in--and it still is.

2. I think Friedman's questioning of why, since things were so terrible that intervention in the former Yugoslavia was a moral imperative for the Europeans--why didn't the Turks intervene to save the Bosniak Muslims? The Turks were Muslims and a lot closer. So why didn't *they* act?

You can't use northern Cyprus as an excuse, it seems to me. There are about 35,000 Turkish troops serving in northern Cyprus, but that is a tiny percentage of the Turkish armed forces, which numbers about 1,045,000 soldiers and sailers. As for money--well, money has always been found for northern Cyprus, right up to the present, and if the argument is that this was spent to prevent genocide, that would have been true in Bosnia as well.

But Turkey didn't act. By contrast, France, Britain and *especially* the U.S. DID act (and paid the financial costs to act, and took the risks of citizen lives to act). Yet now you blame them, Fahrettin, for not acting sooner. You can--but it seems to me you have to look at the whole picture. This in now way is meant to diminish the horrors of what happened in Bosnia. But Turkey did even less to prevent them than the Christian/European states (and especially the United States) did.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/5/2009

All over the Balkans mosques and other building left from the Islamic era were destroyed by Christians. Buildings can be rebuilt the dead do not come back to life. The two events are not comparable.

During the Bosnian events the German press was quite explicit in stating that the Serbs were right in their presumption that nobody meaning the Christian powers wanted a Moslem state in Europe. Every time there was a move to help the Moslems the British started shouting that their soldiers would get hurt if Moslems were helped. They still kept their soldiers there to be able tokeep preventing help to the Moslems. The Turks weer kept out saying they were not impartial like the British.

Either I am paranoid or you are ignoring simple facts of life.

I am not saying that I view the world with the eyes of somebody from an Arab country. I am saying that even people like me are very annoyed with what western countries have been doing. So we should all see that less educated people who have never had a chance in life will be much more annoyed. They are also less likely to analyse the problems they have.

Looking back at this discussion although we all speak the same language I do not seem to be able to get my views across. This is symptomatic of the communication between people from the western and islamic world. What hope can a person from Sudan have? How they react to the situation we can watch on tv.

As an engineer I look at empirical facts and have to accept them. People of the book appearently look at their books and ignore empirical facts.

arthur m. eckstein - 12/4/2009

In Muslim controlled Kosovo, at last 150 churches and monastaries have been destroyed since it became a de facto independent state in 1999.

Fahrettin, some of these churches and monastaries dated from the 13th and 14th centuries and they and their artwork were irreplaceable parts of the European heritage. But European states did nothing to stop this desecration and destruction. This supports Mr. Friedman's argument that the main reason the EU also did nothing in 1993-1995 was not anti-Muslim feeling, but rather the general lack of interest in an area viewed as a backwater.

N. Friedman - 12/4/2009


I note that the US also had issues with the European countries over Bosnia. The Europeans are habitually unwilling to send troops anywhere in which those troops might be harmed. So, what you write does not entirely surprise me. Before addressing your point - which is about perceptions -, I want to address what I think is the reality of the situation.

First, I do not think that religion or cultural played any serious role in why Europe may have wanted to sit on its hands while people died. It is almost surely that the former Yugoslavia is a backwater so far as the Western European powers see things and, further, Western Europeans do not like to put their troops into other people's problems - except to moralize down their noses at those they think to be inferior. And, they certainly think that anyone not from Western Europe - and that goes for Americans as well - are their inferiors.

That the issue is not really one of religion, consider that at about the same time, the West, including the US, did nothing to help Ruwanda, which is mostly a Christian country. And, the number of deaths was far higher, so far as I know, than the number of deaths in the various wars and massacres that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Further, as you note, there was the issue of Kuwait, a Muslim Arab country. [Note: I am not sure about the illegitimacy of Kuwait since I do not see how it is any more or less legitimate than Iraq or Jordan or any other country that came to be out of the British or French mandates.] If the West acts to preserve Kuwait, albeit for Western reasons of preventing Iraq from controlling too much of the oil business or from becoming too powerful - things which, I should add, were and are certainly also in Turkey's interest (although Turkey did not send forces to that war). However, other primarily Muslim countries did send troops, including Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and, of course, Kuwait itself.

Which is to say, whatever impression that people in Turkey may have, that impression is not entirely accurate.

Ozal's statement sounds like an excuse for Turkey to do nothing. It allowed him to (a) do nothing and (b) score points in Turkey by blaming Europeans for Turkish inaction. I think you may be taking the statement too much at face value when, like all politicians, he may have his own political reasons not to act and to say what you have him saying.

Now, no doubt you have captured how Turks in Turkey view Europeans. I do not doubt that. At the same time, Turkey is a fairly modern country - albeit lately there are bad signs in the form of the current government, which seems to be a bit drunk on religion. The point being that someone of Turkish background may not see the world the way an Arab of Muslim background might. The Arab regions are, after all, rather backwards in as many ways as can be imagined.

In any event, I would think that religion plays a very different role in Turkey than in the Arab regions. So, I assume that you may be correct about what Turks see but whether that view captures the view of all Muslims including, most especially, Arab Muslims is another matter. And, as noted initially, perception and reality are not necessarily the same thing.

Now, you would have perceptions you see being those that more religious people see. Maybe that is true. I tend, however, to see something different. I see religious leaders causing their flocks to act badly, asserting things like the US flushes the Koran down the toilet (something that would bother only a very religious person, even though the Koran, in traditional Islamic thinking, is itself the word of God and not just a book containing God's words), publishing cartoon of Mohamed that are not flattering, etc., etc. People died in fairly large numbers for that offense. The same when Rushdie published his Satanic Verses. Many people died after the Ayatollah issued his hukm/fatwa.

In my mind, when someone says he or she acts to advance the goals of his or her religion, I have no reason to doubt him or her. Maybe such a person is crazy. Maybe not. Either way, large numbers of people appear to be motivated to act violently in the name of religion. I do not think that pointing to Turkey, where there are real differences from the Arab and other Muslim regions, is sufficient to counter evidence of people killing people over a cartoon. It makes not sense, at least to me.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/4/2009

It is also interesting to note that the pro American government of a NATO country was telling her people genocide of European Moslems was the policy of several NATO allies. AND: nobody out of a country with 70 million inhabitants objected as this was confirming their view of what NATO allies were doing, not only in Bosnia but also on Cyprus.

In Bosnia where the fronts were according to religion there is no denying that Christian approach to the existence of Moslems was the problem.

So the relationship between Moslems and the West has other problems than Quranic texts.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/4/2009

Turgut Ozal at that point President and the most pro US politician in Turkish history said it would be easy to stop the killing but the English did't want to.

The only reason the Turkish government was not interested in helping was because they realised that that would annoy their "allies" as the allies had also been very annoyed over Cyprus which they are trying to make a Greek state.

This all happened at a point in history where the US within monthas mobilized a half a million man army to prevent Arab Iraq from from annecting Arab Kuwait a state without any historic legitimacy.

You should try to see how Moslems experience the world. It would be more helpful in understanding Moslem reactions than thousand year old texts.

N. Friedman - 12/3/2009


It sounds like the Turkish government was making up a story to cover its disinterest in helping.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/3/2009

Mr Friedman

Turkey saved the Cyprus Turks from genocide and the west bakrupted her to teach her a lesson. She learned her lesson. During the Bosnian war the people fo Turkey were told by their government that the genocide was happening becaues Turkey's allies wanted it to happen. If Turkey were to try to help, so they were told, Turkey's NATO allies would retaliate and help the other side to kill even more Moslems. The rationale was that by not helping they were assuring that Turkey's allies would stop when they felt enough Moslems had been killed.

is that clear enough?

N. Friedman - 12/3/2009


I have 3 observations about your point.

1. Whether or not blame can be placed on outsiders, the principal responsibility for massacres falls on those who commit them. No country in Europe lifted a finger to help anyone. But, neither did Russia or Turkey (which actually has a substantial military). As I understand the events - and I am no expert -, the US was the driving force to help. Either way, it was not the US, France, Germany, Britain, etc., etc. who committed massacres. And, the blame must go to those who did commit them.

2. Obviously, US help and some European help was too little too late for those who died. Then again, asking Americans to place their children in harm's way to help strangers - with little benefit to people in the US - or Britain, France, etc., to place their children in harm's way to help strangers - again, with little benefit to people in those countries and then to blame those who eventually came to help for arriving late, does not raise the same questions. Europeans, so far as I know, did not prevent Muslims in the Balkans from escaping their fate. Neither did Americans.

Rather, this was an example of acting callously, at least for a while, towards strangers, akin to what occurred, albeit on a larger scale in Rwanda, at around the same time.

So, there may perhaps - and the my brother's keeper question is a point of dispute in European moral thinking - arguable be moral blame of not being the brother's keeper but that is no basis to assert - because it was not the Americans or the Europeans who DID something, rather Americans and Europeans who, for a while, did nothing -, as you do: "Since then the Western press has been trying to get the World to forget what they did there." That, to me, is an unfair point although I believe it represents a view commonly asserted.

3. As noted, the response of Europe and America towards the Balkans (and Rwanda) is to be distinguished from responses where, for example, European powers may have undermined efforts for those being attacked to escape. That, of course, occurred during WWII. Hence, there is some blame to be placed on the British for their callousness and, to a lesser extent, on the US, the callousness being their standing in the way of efforts by innocent civilians to escape the brutality of the Nazis. But, even then, it is the Nazis and their allies who deserve the brunt of the blame, not those who fought them. I suggest you consider that point in your effort to castigate Europe and the US for the sins of certain Christians in the Balkans. I think your position goes way too far.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/3/2009

You seem to have missed the first several years of mass murder to prevent the emergence of an Islamic state in Europe. After enough Moslems -hundreds of thousands- had been killed and Bosnia accepted partition and the status of a EU Generalgouvernement did the NATO intervene.

Since then the Western press has been trying to get the World to forget what they did there.

Timothy Furnish - 12/3/2009

Did I miss something in the 1990s--or didn't U.S. and NATO air forces bomb the Christian SERBS, then send in land forces to stop the killing of Bosnian Muslims? Have you forgotten that?

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/3/2009


the Azeris are Turks, their language differs from the Turkish spoken in Istanbul about as much as English from American and so they have a different approach to politics than Arabs. Modern Islamism is not a Turkish ideology terrorism not an Turkish approach.

Nationalism was invented by the Europeans in the 19th century to serve their interests and Arab nationalism did serve the Europeans' interests. The Ottomans gave their peoples centuries of peace. Condemning this as imperialism is a 19th century European approach. Ottoman rule in say Syria was something totally different than British rule in say India. Calling both by the same name is wrong. It is an attempt to make European Imperialism appear harmless wheras it was a very destructive policy which ruined large parts of the world in a way Rome or the Ottoman Empire would not have dreamt of doing. Unfortunately the US has developed a we English speaking peoples were always good ideology which I do not share after seeing what they did on Bosnia in the 1990ies.

I find it amazing that people in the West can expect this genocide we all could watch live on color TV to have no lasting impact on how the West is seen.

When you hear Moslems talking about western policies they sound like the New York Jews during WW2 in one Woody Allen film I saw (I don't remenber which) talking about Hitler. I think Americans should understand that is how they are being seen.

N. Friedman - 12/3/2009


I do not think the issue with Dr. Hasan is whether or not he was eccentric or perhaps a bit crazy. He may have been crazy or he may not have been crazy. I do not see how that addresses the issue because, crazy or not, he appears to have seen himself as part of a religious movement and, in particular, part of the movement to revive Islam as a world political force by means of slaughtering people by means of the massacre.

I would think that, by your logic, we can say that bin Laden is crazy or, if you want to remove things down to the operational level, that the 9/11 kamikazes, such as Atta, were crazy. I just do not see how that works.

I see people who make rather detailed plans and then carry them out. They may be fruitcakes. But, they are religious fruitcakes. And, the Islamist movement seems to inspire a lot of people to be religious fruitcakes. The famed European philosopher Nietzsche would say that religion is like beer, meaning that one can be drunk on religion. That, I suggest, better explains Dr. Hasan than arguments that he was a lunatic.

Which is to say, whatever the true psychological makeup of someone like Dr. Hasan, the motivation was religion. And, he clearly planned his affairs - not a sign of insanity -, giving away belongings before he died, wearing the outfit of a Pakistani Islamist (as seen on video at a convenience store) and killing some, but not all, of those who saw on the army base. In fact, he went out of his way, evidently, to not shoot at people he knew.

I agree with you that there is no single interpretation of Islam. There are, however, dominant interpretations, which fall into the four main schools of jurisprudence and the Shi'a interpretation. And, with the decline of Islam as a potent political force, there have been various revival schools, the ones most important to the West being, thus far, the Wahhabi and other Salafist interpretations. As I have said, I take these new interpretations as being efforts to recreate Islam from scratch, going back to origins and focusing on founders' acts to an extent that exceeds traditionalism.

I agree, however, with Art that it is important that Mohamed was a political/military leader and not just a religious leader and that, as leader, he was engaged in considerable violence including razzias. I, for one, do not hold that against either Mohamed or his companions. That was the world they lived in. In classical Greece, as Art can attest, war was the norm and no leader could escape it as a fact of everyday life over the course of many centuries. The same was certainly true in the world of Islam's founders.

The classical interpretation, adopted by the various legal schools, and based on the Koran and Hadiths, institutionalized that past as national policy, using the Jihad ideology as model. That, of course, does not explain what any given ruler would do. It, however, does explain a major force upon a leader - since, no doubt, clerics would push orthodoxy - and it does explain the ability of leaders to inspire troops to go to battle. And, the Jihad ideology took on the character of an ascetic ideal, akin to the monastic life. Note the hadith saying: "Islam has no asceticism; the asceticism of Islam is Jihad" (Jihad, as in Jihad fi sabil Allah). Which is to say, rulers had a brilliant means to inspire troops, one that gave them a meaningful life and a reason to die for the ruler, since that was, they were told, doing Allah's work.

Now, you are correct that violence is not the sole province of Islam. I do not claim that. I do not agree with the argument that Christianity, as Art would have, teaches the opposite so that violence is opposed to the teaching of the religion. I think that too narrowly focuses on Jesus, who is central but not the sole focus of Christianity. And, it ignores the history of Christianity, which involved violence, some of it inherent to its founders' teachings about (but not only about) Jews.

However, even if Jesus were a war lover, I would not agree with your position that, given the commonality of violence to different religions, that religion could not be centrally important to people like Dr. Hasan. In fact, I think that religion is the central causal factor in the sense that the Islamic religious revival movement is the main culprit for today's terrorism.

One last point: my view distinguishes, functionally, traditional Islam from Islamism by its social setting and by its techniques. Islam was a religion of triumph, from early on. That made it more a positive than a negative on the world stage during the religion's glory years. Jihad was primarily linked to government policy and conducted by soldiers governed by law - laws that were often applied to the convenience of the situation but law nonetheless. There were, from very early on (and never fully contained under Arab rule at least), Muslims who did not accept the view that war was the province of the leader and who made Jihad a personal event, moving to the distant regions of Islamic rule and raiding (i.e. committing acts of terrorism) into non-Muslim lands. Today's Jihadis follow this latter view, taking Jihad into their own hands. They do so because they seek to revive Islamic power and to restore Islamic type law as foundational for society. They are, by our standards, pretty crazy to do so but, in my view, that does not make them clinically crazy. It makes them a major problem for Muslims and the world.

arthur m. eckstein - 12/3/2009

Fahrettin, like I said, this is basically a division in style of analysis between those who believe that ideas only have propellent power in conjunction with dysfunctional social forces, vs. those who see ideas, including religious ideas, having an independent propulsive force.

Neither the Nazi doctors nor Papa Doc were motivated to their atrocities by religion. Hasan, Abdulla, etc, were.

I agree with your description of most Muslims; it fits with those whom I personally know. But even if its only 10% of the Faithful who are Islamists, that is 150 million Islamists. And they base their actions on passages in the Koran--they always do.

I agree that this is not the only way to interpret the Koran, or Mohammed's actions. Nevertheless, I think Tim F. would argue that it is both a *legitimate* way as well as a quite *traditional* way to interpret the Koran.

That's the problem. For if some people are crazy anyway, or sociopaths anyway, or terrorists at heart because of the dysfunctions of society or politics anyway, the problem is that *this* version of Islam empowers them, and empowers them very powerfully, to kill, and to kill innocents personally, and to kill them without mercy.

And if this is a misinterpretation of Islam, the question is: how come this misinterpretation is so widespread? To me, the answer isn't simply in social problems; the answer is also in the *religious text itself.*

Your last sentence advocates covering this up, b/c aknowledging that these violently-inclined Muslim religious foundation-texts exist only helps the wrong people. I understand your point. But I think we can't go that route, because it leads to mis-analysis; it's best to face facts and acknowledge the existence and power of these texts.

Again, though, this difference between us is at heart a difference in style of analysis, not a difference in moral intent or level of intellect.

arthur m. eckstein - 12/3/2009

Fahrettin, like I said, this is basically a division in style of analysis between those who believe that ideas only have propellent power in conjunction with dysfunctional social forces, vs. those who see ideas, including religious ideas, having an independent propulsive force.

Neither the Nazi doctors nor Papa Doc were motivated to their atrocities by religion. Hasan, Abdulla, etc, were.

I agree with your description of most Muslims; it fits with those whom I personally know. But even if its only 10% of the Faithful who are Islamists, that is 150 million Islamists. And they base their actions on passages in the Koran--they always do.

I agree that this is not the only way to interpret the Koran, or Mohammed's actions. Nevertheless, I think Tim F. would argue that it is both a *legitimate* way as well as a quite *traditional* way to interpret the Koran.

That's the problem. For if some people are crazy anyway, or sociopaths anyway, or terrorists at heart because of the dysfunctions of society or politics anyway, the problem is that *this* version of Islam empowers them, and empowers them very powerfully, to kill, and to kill innocents personally, and to kill them without mercy.

And if this is a misinterpretation of Islam, the question is: how come this misinterpretation is so widespread? To me, the answer isn't simply in social problems; the answer is also in the *religious text itself.*

Your last sentence advocates covering this up, b/c aknowledging that these violently-inclined Muslim religious foundation-texts exist only helps the wrong people. I understand your point. But I think we can't go that route, because it leads to mis-analysis; it's best to face facts and acknowledge the existence and power of these texts.

Again, though, this difference between us is at heart a difference in style of analysis, not a difference in moral intent or level of intellect.

arthur m. eckstein - 12/3/2009

Fahrettin, you have a point, as always. But this argument that you present is always the final argument of the imperialist, and it was the final argument of the Romans too: "the last-ditch argument of the imperialist is that they are more efficient"--Tom Mboya.

Of course, like the Ottomans, the Romans did impose peace. The Middle East was more peaceful under the Ottoman regime than since, that is for sure.

But my friend Askar's point is that there is something culturally or psychologically perverse, from his perspective, on this Arab/Muslim concentration on the West as anti-Muslim imperialists, whereas the Russians have been so much worse in impact and did it for so much longer.

That Western leftist intellectuals are willing, out of their own hatred of, e.g., capitalism, to go along with this cultural perversion--to ally themselves with the Islamists in their hatred, perhaps because the Islamists are the only anti-Western culture game in town-- says something very disturbing about them as well.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/3/2009

I too would prefer the British to the Russians.

But why should freeing the Arabs from Turkish domination be something positive? Looking at all that has happened it very obviously was not doing them a favour. It was the fox taking away the fence to give the chicken their freedom.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/3/2009


After living through the 20the century with its Nazi doctors and “papa doc” Duvalier we should not have any illusions about what doctors can do. And psychiatry does have a habit of attracting nuts. It is unfortunate that the US military lets such people remain officers. Other armies would have fired him long before he got so far. This is a US army problem. What I heard from a neighbor who worked as a teacher with the US army they have a problem with the quality of people they attract. Several years ago a US sailor on a ship participating on naval NATO manoeuvres actually shot arocket at a Turkish ship and sank it killing a lot of people. Turkey was shocked and could not imagine the US navy having nuts doing that but they obviously do. If a Hassan problem occurs because the man was a Moslem, they get away on the cheap. They seem to have problems money can not solve. These they should adress.

Most Moslems I know would be furious at a Ben Laden or something else who would claim Islam was about Mohammed conducting raids to place women in concubinage. In fact he would not live long among religious people saying things like that. But there is no single interpretation of Islam. The fact that Christians are hardly less violent than Moslems proves that religion is not the primary motivation. On the other hand Islam has been more succesful that Christianity at preventing bloodshed among the believers so it does play a role. At least in preventing what it has forbidden.

I would still argue for understanding the underlying conflicts which cause the killings. That is the road to peace. Confirming that Islam orders infidels to be killed helps the wrong people.

arthur m. eckstein - 12/3/2009

About the game of "blaming the West" for the violence towards non-believers and even towards fellow Muslims allegedly guilty of "fitna", which is inherent (not necessarily controlling) within traditional Islam itself: an Azeri (Azerbaijan) friend of mine writes as follows:

Western and westernized intellectuals fall back on the shopworn line of blaming Western interference for pathologies of the Arab world. As a native Azeri whose nation was colonized by Russians for two centuries and continues to remain under its oppressive thumb, I'm baffled as to how Arab grievances over a few years of British/French occupation could lead to or justify atrocious violence against innocent civilians, both Western and Muslim alike.

In fact, in comparison to Azerbaijan's experience with the Russians, the Arabs seem to have quite benefited from Western interference. The British freed them from the dominance of the Ottoman Turks, gave them statehoods in vast stretches of land, established relatively liberal monarchies (which they consequently replaced with nationalist tyrants), engaged in mutually beneficial oil exploration that have filled the coffers of Arab leaders with *trillions* of dollars, and most recently, set up the only constitutional government in the heart of the Arab world (Iraq)).

As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it had little to with the West and much with Arabs' own intransigence and incompetence.

In contrast, the Russians have pursued a pervasive policy of Russification, ethnic cleansing, territorial annexation, famine, communism, political persecutions, grotesque and irreversible environmental degradation, actively fueling interethnic conflict such as that between Armenians and Azeris, and as of now, are preventing the rise of democracy in every country of their "near abroad".

But most Azeris are not fixated on blaming the Russians for their woes, at least not to the extent that anyone would strap a suicide vest onto himself and blow up innocent people.

This blame the West game ignores, absolutely ignores, the far worse oppression on Muslim regions imposed by the Russians, and therefore seems to me quite spurious. As Eckstein's friend Polybius writes, "We learn through *comparison*." The Russians' policies were far worse for the Muslims they conquered, in conquests that lasted for three centuries, not two decades, than were the policies of the West, their policies were far more pervasive, and are still continuing (including in Azerbaijan, not to mention Chechnya).

Perhaps Major Nidal Hassan's contrived grievances are a good microcosm of this fraudulent line of logic. But just because intellectuals keep parroting it, does not make it valid.

arthur m. eckstein - 12/3/2009

Everybody (except Omar of course) is making good points: Fahrettin and Friedman make good points as usual.

My own observation: modern intellectuals such as Fahrettin (and almost every member of my own Dept of History) have a strong aversion to believing that the motivation for action can be a religious idea. They wish to see any claim of religious murder by Jihadists as simply a cover for their jihadism being simply a response to socio/economic injustices and dysfunctions, to colonialism, injustice, Arab dictatorships supported by the West. And because there is a general aversion to belief in the power of ideas, there is also an aversion to seeing the propelling idea for these people as coming from within Islam itself.

So: among the adults here (which again means omitting Omar), this is a debate between those who believe that ideas (including religious ideas) can themselves propel action and those who believe that such ideas may always be around, but they only propel action when thre is a real causal factor, that is, socio-economic-political dysfunction.

I myself think there's a lot of evidence that ideas can propel action. I think Islam--in its violent jihadist Wahabi form--does propel people like Nidal Hasan, by *empowering* such people to act without guilt.

Like Professor Furnish I also believe that a moderate Islam exists, though its practitioners don't get many headlines. I believe moderate Islam exists because of personal experience: I know four people who are "moderate" Muslims (and one wears a hijab: that's not the definition or non-definition of moderate).

But violent, extremist Islam also exists, millions are its adherents, and this is in part because it embodies powerful traditional ideas in Islamic culture. Thus I do not see how one can get away from the following: when a Christian practices violence, especially terroristic violence, he is hideously violating the principles of the Founder of his religion; by contrast, when a Muslim practices violence, including terroristic violence, he can say with good reason that he is following the *example" of the Founder of his religion.

Here is Bin Laden, sarcastically attacking the idea of a "moderate" Islam, and basing his argument directly on the actions (sunna--as in Sunni) of the Prophet:

"Moderation" is demonstrated by our Prophet who did not remain more than three months in Medina without raiding or sending out a raiding party into the lands of the infidels to beat down their strongholds and seize their possessions, their lives, and their women."

Bin Ladin is not making things up about Muhammed: his particular view of Muhammed as a model is solidly based on Muhammed's sunna in the Koran--pillaging and killing infidels, enslaving their children, placing their women in concubinage: (see Koran 4:24; 4:92: 8:92; 24:33; 33:50). Bin Laden may be wrong in his interpretation of Islam, Nidal Hasan may be wrong too, but it must be said that they have solid textual arguments on their side.

In short, for me, ideas count as independent propellents to action.

It is obvious that Islamist/Jihadist ideas counted a great deal with Dr. Hasan.So much did they count that though he was a medical doctor sworn to do no harm to human beings, and a PSYCHIATRIST to boot (all medical expenses paid by the U.S. taxpayer--this did NOT to prevent him from gunning down FORTY-FIVE people in the name of Islam (that is, his form of Islam). Moreover, he's not alone among Muslim doctors, no, he's not alone: two years ago, two Muslim doctors in Britain planned to slaughter innocents (young students in Glasgow Airport!) in the name of Islam as well. Their names are Dr. Bilal Abdullah, and Dr. Khalid Ahmed. These radical Muslim doctors' behavior (they crashed their car into the Glasgow Airport terminal and the car blew up) underlines that Dr. Hasan, over here in the States, is NOT some one-off crazy.

What would cause DOCTORS to act this way? To me, this is powerful evidence of the power of the Idea--that it could drive doctors to mass homicide. The only common element between Drs. Abdulla, Ahmed and Hasan is radical Islam, and they all three acted similarly.

Again, I am not talking about all of Islam. I am talking about the influence of the Wahabist, Salafist, jihadist interpretation of a minority of Muslims (but a significant minority).

N. Friedman - 12/2/2009


While I agree with you that religion is involved in what occurs, I think that literalism is a misunderstanding. I think that, traditionally, Islam is a religion of law and that, in its legal tradition, war was the province of the government, supported by the Jihad ideology. That reading has support in historical analysis as shown, for example, by Ephraim Karsh in his book Islamic Imperialism: A History.

While not traditional, the Muslim religious texts are entitled to the reading given them by Fahrettin which follows, I think, how reform Jews interpret the Jewish religious texts.

The issue I see is one of tradition and religious revival. That, not whether the reading of texts is literal or not, is important. Hence, it does not matter that the Koran includes quite a number of aggressive statements. What matters is how Muslims use such phrases. Traditionally, Muslims rejected literalism for legalism. And, the revival movement, as I see it, seeks to ignore legalism in order, in the end, to restore legalism. Which is to say, it looks to the acts of the salafi and what they accomplished, which was, after their wars, the creation of a legalistic system.

I agree with you that Fahrettin's reading of history effectively reads religion out of the picture. Then again, he is certainly right that Christians have acted aggressively in the name of religion, sometimes hiding behind secular formulas such as spreading civilization, white man's burden, etc., etc.

I think he is wrong that the Ottoman Empire did not colonize. In fact, it did exactly that. The same for the Arab empires that preceded the Ottoman Empire.

I think Fahrettin is wrong when he says that Westerners are more protective of Christian than Muslims. I think he should look how European Christians have treated each other over the course of the 20th Century. The destruction and massacres of Christians by Christians dwarf by an order of magnitude anything that Westerners have done to Muslims. WWI, 20 million dead (and, of course, some of the dead were Muslim but the vast majority were Christian; WWII 40-50 million Europeans dead, etc., etc. In recent times, Europeans have stopped fighting among themselves. However, we shall see how long that lasts. In South America, it is my impression that wars are rather common and that massacres and war dead include large numbers of people.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/2/2009

We are the civilized world, those people paying the taxes to hit $10 tents with million dollar rockets instead of cutting throats with reusable knives although the latter is much preferable in terms of environmental compatibility and contributes nothing to global warming.

I do not believe in living according to 1400 years old rules. This puts me in the tradition of Turkish secularists. I do believe in seeing political events in a political context instead of attributing them to religious rules. I think you are turning a blind eye to reasons why political tensions exist. Turkish secularists got where they did by fighting the West, and are still sceptical about Western politics which we find are very aggressive and thus produce international tensions.

I have lived through the West creating the Cyprus conflict and slaughtering the Bosnian Moslems. Later they imposed an economic embargo against Iraq, killing half a million Iraqis so that it would be militarily weak when the time came to invade it. The invasion and the occupation killed a further million Iraqis. On the Turkish front they supported Kurdish terrorism which they are using to break up the country of their own most loyal ally. Turks have the military power for an outright confrontation with the West. Others who do not revert to terrorism in conflicts. This creates the market in which Zawahiri and the others (no friends of mine) can operate.

Significant for me is not what politicians say but but what they do.

It is quite clear to Moslems that Christian disregard for their rights is one major reason for western aggressivity against Moslems. They would not have expected the Cypriot Christians to accept extermination the way they do for the Moslems. They would not have accepted the mass murder of several hundred thousand Bosnian Christians the way they did for Moslems. They would never have imposed an embargo to kill half a million Iraqi Christians or pursued an invasion to kill one million Iraqi Christians. The have never never never used terrorism to hit one of the Christian states in the NATO as they have against Turkey. This type of behaviour is what leads to wars.

W did call his war against Islamic countries a crusade but was then told to shut up. They might be secularists but what they do is influenced by not accepting Moslems as their equal human beings. Methinks you are being blinded by your governments propaganda.

Your logic expects Moslems to accept whatever other people do to them in order to avoid being called religious nuts As a historician you should have a better look at the political targets people have for their wars. 120+ times.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/2/2009

The Greek and Serbian Christians and Yemeni Moslem were fighting against a country which gave them equal rights with all other citizens. They started the fighting after a very long time when they did feel at home in the Ottoam Empire.

There is a distinction between Empire and colonialism which is a different phenomenon.

Timothy Furnish - 12/2/2009

Mr Tahir,
Thank you for at least addressing my issues, unlike some other Muslim interlocutors on here.
Two points:
1) By "we" do you mean Americans? If so, leaving aside the point that my country's forces probably take greater precautions NOT to strike civilians than any other air power in history, that still leaves me wondering what happened to your logical capacities--since the last time I checkced the U.S. was not fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan under Christian pretenses; and further, even it it were, just what New Testament teachings ("Love your neighbor as yourself" "He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.")or examples of Jesus (healing the blind and sick; turning the other cheek; being led off peacefully to crucifixion) have been cited by Bush, Obama or any other government official to countenance our military actions in those countries? Methinks you're being willingly obtuse, and volitionally conflating Islamic apples and secularist American oranges.
2) So then you seem to be saying thaat at least some of the teachings of the Qur'an are no longer to be followed today. For that I applaud you, but it runs directly contrary to the main line of Sunni tafsir of the last millennium and, more importantly, runs you afoul of the literalists like UBL, al-Zawahiri and the like who are not "extremists" so much as they are Qur'anic literalists. Such a view as yours puts your more in the tradition of Shi`i and other "heretical" exegetes. Good for you, but you have an uphil road because about 900 million Sunnis have been taught to read the Qur'an in the way you do--hence much of the violence.
One more thing: you claim Islam has little or nothing to do with the violence emanating from those claiming to be Muslim. If you look back at my first blog on this site, you will see that I did a study of the 120+ major terrorist groups in the world today--and that over half of them are ideological Muslim; that is, not just are located in a Muslim context BUT claim to be operating from Islamic bases. Christianity, which is a far larger religion than Islam, has only several terrorists organizations based on it. If there is NOTHING in Islam that predisposes folks who take it literally to violence--then how do you explain that?
I'll expect you to answer, since such facts and logic as I just employed will no doubt have already caused Omar's head to explode.

Timothy Furnish - 12/2/2009

Mr. Tahir,
You may object to the contention that that Ottomans were imperial, but not only the Greek and Serbian Christians, but also the Sudanese and Yemeni SUNNI MUSLIMS as well the Iraqi SHI`I MUSLIMS certainly saw it as such and fought against it.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/2/2009

Mr Friedman, Mr Furnish

I am sure religion did play a role in history. I am also sure that historic forces find some ideology ar religion to legitimate and serve their purposes. If Islam did not exist they would have either found something else or invented Islam.

One example is the Turkish Khazars. They needed a religion and found one in Judaism. Was is the Jewish religion which shaped their policies or their policies which made them choose the appropriate religion? The history of how Christianity was reinvented in the 19th century is another demonstration of how historical needs shape religion. I think the development of modern Islamism is another example of the same procedure in action. Whether I like what they are doing is another discussion.

I object to the view that the Ottoman Empire was a colonialist imperialist power, the same as say the British and the French. The Ottoman Empire was like Rome or China and in some aspects the USA a universal empire of all her subjects. All Moslems had equal status and after 1863 all subjects irrespective of religion. Unlike 19th century colonial empires there was no difference between a center and colonies which are regions for exploitation and never get the same treatment as the center. The Arabs say of Hijaz were citizens of the Ottoman empire but not of the British.

You write
“However, (the Ottoman Empire) did not recognize its problems and did not adequately comprehend the changes in Europe; and, in this regard, religion played a major role: the empire did not react sufficiently quickly to the situation, generally speaking. Hence, other imperial powers came to undermine the empire. That, not the outside forces themselves, is the main culprit.”

This too is wrong although Turkish secularists would confirm it. After Mahmud II (1808 - 1839) they did understand that technological and industrial factors were what made Turkey weak. The were engaged in a massive reform movement first of the administration and education. In 1773 the technical university of Istanbul was founded. By the middle of the 19th century Turkey was a modern 19th century state. Democratic elements were introduced into local administration by 1850 and democratic elections by 1876. They also undertook an industrialisation effort after 1840.

That the empire still went down is due to several factors. First there were not enough Moslems who understood modern technology. Second Russia was making war on Turkey once every 20 years to devastate and bankrupt her. Third the British forced a price of their support against Russia a very liberal trade regime where British good were more lightly taxed that domestic products. At that point in history US imports were taxed at 44%. In sum these factors kept the Empire weak during Western powers got ever stronger and in the end partitioned the Empire so as to exploit her resources for their own interest. At the same time they partitioned the whole world and because that was not enough devastated their own civilization in two world wars.

Was that an evil bunch or not?

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/2/2009

Mr Kovachev

My point was that Western policies pursued for oil have caused enormous damage to the countries which have the oil. First by keeping in power the idiots who will let the west control the oil then by leaving so little of the oil revenue to the people who actually live there. I do not accept the preposition that it is the idiots who are responsible for all that went wrong.. The people who invented those idiots to serve them are primarily responsible. The idiots who do things like building skyscrapers in the desert could not stay in power for 3 days if they were to annoy their masters,

For all that is wrong with them the people running Turkey have managed to reach a far higher level of development than the oil rich countries, here is a clue to the dimension of the damage western oil policies have been doing. If those regions has stayed with Turkey, or if the British had done as promised and let the Arab regions of the Ottoman Empire get their own state in 1919 instead of the divided geography they did invent there would have been an entirely different middle east. Just to remind you again: the pieces of desert with oil were seperated from the regions with human resources which could have made something out of the oil

I do not object to the rest of what you write but find it very naive to believe that oil did not play the major role in what has happened since 1919. It is true that private enterprise from western countries would not invest in such a region but governments keeping the oil revenue would have. In the economist there was an article about saudi arabia which said they did not have any educated people to work in modern economy because all saudis were educated about nothing but religion. The saudi government does that of course to keep the people stupid enough to support a government which lets others steal their oil. Another example for the use of religion for political purposes. Before anybody claims other religions do not produce reactionary learships look at Christian Ethiopia where the Emperor prevented eveybody except members of his own family from university education. He too understood the subversive effects of education.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/2/2009

Mr Furnish

I had already explained that the Quran has a lot of rules which 1400 years later are not advisable. Cutting off heads is one those.

Nowadays we do air raids when we want to kill noncombatants.

Peter Kovachev - 12/2/2009

Hello, Professor Furnish. I should say I enjoy your essays tremedeously; short and sweet, to the point and, most notably, always entertaining. Keep 'em coming, please...for as long as you're still allowed to.

What a delightful challenge you pose. The seemingly simple question goes to the very heart of the debate over the nature of Islam, and any religion for that matter, and will test the mettle of our potential respondents. Even though you provided a deceptively simple theological solution to the old question of what to do with the indelicate parts of one’s scriptures, I doubt either will avail himself of this classical Judaic and Protestant device.

I, for one, can’t wait for the games to begin, but Mr Tahir, who's in Germany I think, is most likely peacefully asleep or just now having a cup of Joe. Omar, who never sleeps, may have decided that your question is impertinent and does not deserve a response, but I'm guessing he is burning the midnight oil, cutting and pasting, interjecting brilliant marginal commentary, madly plowing through another one of his earth-flattening and eagerly awaited manifestos of pure clarity. And I, his ever-loyal dragoman, stand ready to interpret the latest mutterings of the Omaric Verses upon their publication...for your and everyone's edification.

I predict that Omar, the militant purist, will be yet again forced to reluctantly flash his true colours and will once more shock us with the reality that there are actually people out there whose outlook is so brutally different, not even a team of sci-fi writers on a cocktail of LSD and angel dust could come up with better stuff. While he occasionally tries to present as the progressive, hipster kind of Muslim dude, when push comes to shove, Omar reverts to his stern member of the ulama persona. In either case, you'll get seemingly undecipherable garble that accuses everyone of everything and doesn't come within a parsec of the issue. But not to worry, as I promised, I will assist with a brief summary.

Mr Tahir, on the other hand , will face a heavier burden, not being blessed with Omar's kind of glassy-eyed certitude. Mr Tahir is well within the moderately post-modernist camp, although typical to that group, he suffers from a number of outdated Leftist axioms and paradigms. Pity. Still, he promises to come up with something one can actually understand and discuss which, nowadays, is not to be taken lightly. To be sure, Omar is ominously waiting in the wings to sternly admonish him for any apparent departure from the ijmah of the Umma. Much to look forward to … unless both chaps understandably choose to sit this one out.

Peter Kovachev - 12/1/2009

Mr Tahir,

Many a nation suffers from being cobbled together by others for reasons that are either expedient or arbitrary. Many may forever suffer for this, and many find ways to cope. Money, stupendous amounts of money especially, can certainly help with the coping business. That it does not help with the Arab world is something that can no longer be blamed entirely on the Brits with their maps and t-squares.

Please remember that the presence of oil is not confined to the Middle East. It's mainly nature's accident that the quantities, quality, access and transportation routes favour that region. Had there been no ME oil, industrial nations would have simply spent more, found alternative sources or developed alternative energy sources. The industrial revolution did not begin with oil.

The West can influence the price of oil primarily through the force of supply and demand economics. Given how common a commodity it has turned out to be, and comparatively little it takes to extract the stuff, oil shoulkd be, in fact, much cheaper. The role of individual nation states blessed with this geological accident and not to forget, OPEC, which is essentially an open and glorified racketering conspiracy, has driven the price up.

Keep in mind too that whoever has claims of ownership has to be able to defend it somehow, if not from the proverbially rapacious West, then from someone else. I hope you don't imagine that the Ottoman Empire would have been up to the task, had it been around.

The oil kings and their ever growing populations, however they were placed, have had and still have plenty of oportunity to play footsie with whomever they choose. It is no rocket science calculation to side with the industrialized West, rather then to throw oneself to the tender mercies of say, Russians or Chinese.

The bottom line is still the same; anyone can ask as much as they want for a commodity, but if alternative sources exist or alternative technolgies threaten to emerge, the price will have to go down. Here, in Canada, we may wish for higher prices too and no one will stop us if we try, but the fact is that OPEC's rates are sufficiently inflated to keep us in our happy state of generous social spending sprees with free medicare.

It is a surprise to me, though, that someone of your calibre has been so easily swayed by the old sophomoric "the West is keeping them down" hypothesis. Investment will go where it is safe and a proft can be had. As things are, it is either militant nationalism or militant Islam that bedevil that part of the world and no one with any sense would throw capital into long term, low yield ventures. Which just about leaves oil...and only for the time being, and only if the price is right.

Still, as I said before and as a Canadian, I would certainly applaud an OPEC kamikaze dive for their idea of "fair prices." Canada would benfit in the short term, new and cleaner technolgies would have to emerge, and the developed democracies would no longer have to kowtow to underserving primitives and their phantasmagoria of endless apetites and religious fantasies.

Timothy Furnish - 12/1/2009

I note that neither of you has yet explained what you tell as young Muslim boy (or girl) about the beheading suras of the Qur'an....
Just so you know, here's what I tell my boys (ages 7 and 6) about the violent passages of the Old Testament, or about stranges ones in the New Testament like Jesus informing his disciples that they would have power to handle poisonous snakes: that neither of those strictures apply to us, as Christians, today.
OK...still waiting......

Timothy Furnish - 12/1/2009

It is true that the Ottomans, under Abdul Hamid II, only began trumpeting caliphal claims post-1876; but that does not mean that Qur'anic mandates on conquering the infidels were NOT trotted out, and adhered to, by sultans before that. What else were the ghazis, except Ottoman holy warriors? And if religion had nothing to do with Ottoman conquests, most notably of Constantinople, then why turn the world's biggest church into a mosque after taking that city? I am a great admirer of the Ottomans, and like to annoy my Arab friends by telling them the Turks should be put back in charge of the Middle East--but I don't harbor any illusions that, at root, Islam was as much a motivator of Ottoman conquests as was greed and lust for power. Here's the difference between your take and mine (and Mr. Friendman's), Fahtrettin: I am willing to acknowledge motivations OTHER than religion, and give them their due; you, however, cannot bring yourself to admit that the teachings of Islam have ANYTHING to do with the Islamic world's history of military expansion--which makes you blindly ahistorical.

N. Friedman - 12/1/2009


I do not disagree with you when you write "that today's Arab politics do not answer the people's needs nor solve their problems..." On the other hand, I think that religion plays a role in the revolution's - if revolution, rather than reaction, is the term - form and in justifying sustaining the revolution. I think that the revolution is Islamism. So, we agree about that as well.

You, if I understand your other posts, think that Western imperialism/colonialism is the culprit. My view is that Western imperialism/colonialism is part of the mix but that the bigger part of things is self-inflicted. Which is to say, the Ottoman Empire was itself an imperial/colonial power of the first order. However, it did not recognize its problems and did not adequately comprehend the changes in Europe; and, in this regard, religion played a major role: the empire did not react sufficiently quickly to the situation, generally speaking. Hence, other imperial powers came to undermine the empire. That, not the outside forces themselves, is the main culprit.

But, if you ask me, the same forces which kept the empire from correctly assessing its circumstances and adapting to them are the same forces which keep the Arab regions behind. And, that force is, to be simple about it, religion and, to make matters worse, religion that has taken the form of the religious revival movement called Islamism.

This is not so much a statement about Islam. It is, rather, a statement about the power of religion in general. On the other hand, this is not to suggest that Islam's teachings are not important. They are, since they are successful as a societal organizing force that challenges modern ideas.

Similarly, Christianity and Judaism were rather successful for a long time - but, not any longer - in keeping out the light of modernity. I suppose that makes Islam the most successful of the three big monotheistic religions since Islam is still able to control the public square. That success, however, is a major challenge to the world's peace and to the lives of large numbers of Muslims, who are denied the benefits of modernity.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/1/2009

Mr Kovachev

Western commentators generally sound as if Arab oil kingdoms had been there before the oil, misusing the oil wealth after they got it.

Before the oil these places were pieces of desert belonging to the Ottoman Empire. The English invented the Kingdoms and gave these to people of limited intelelctual power who would do their bidding.

The oil Kings pump oil to other peoples instructions to keep the price cheap. The money they get, they waste in ways designed to keep the Arabs poor and the West rich. In return they get to play King of the desert.

The western interest is to keep the oil cheap and the revenue flowing to the west. Another interest is to prevent investments in the Arab world which would make sense since such investments would rapidly lead to the birth of powerful Moslem rivals which the west is determined to avoid.

For a long time these policies worked but by now they have led to an instability in the Islamic world which is dangerous for the west.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/1/2009

Mr Friedman

We had agreed in several discussions that today's Arab politics do not answer the people's needs nor solve their problems. These are circumstances under which sometimes a revolution changes the world, generally with a lot of blood shed, not always for the better.

I think this is what is now happening in the Arab world. The ideology is Islamic but what is made of it is, well, revolutionary.

In this context the intervention in Iraq might one day be compared to the intervention in Russia after the revolution.

Peter Kovachev - 12/1/2009

There you go, Omar, you jess tell'im. One must be kind to errant Muslims, but firm in the admonissions about the perfidy of the kuffars. You can also try your famous pose as a moral leader of the stern, but progressive freedom fighting intelligentsia. Meanwhile I, as the rabid Zionista of the forum, will bark, sputter and snipe at him from the other end, chasing him into your loving Wahhabi embrace.

However you choose to badger our Mr Tahir, Omar, you surely agree that he is in the unenviable position of being between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea, or rock and a hard place, if you will. Like you, I too have differences of opinion with him, so I hope you will join me in a temporary truce to salute Mr Tahir in his brave, but lonely and up-hill battles.

Peter Kovachev - 12/1/2009

Mr Tahir,

Again I find myself agreeing with you. Bush' "War on Terror" was a weak slogan, one that was confused even more by the "Religion of Peace" howler. Not being in politics or even remotely electable for anything other than my one year condo association presidency stint (which I ingloriously bombed in), I hesitate to second-guess Mr Bush. However, had it been me at the cockpit, I would have gone for the proverbial jugular and referred to a "War Against Militant Islam," letting the chips fall where they may. Honesty and accuracy may be shocking at first, but in the long term they are better at focusing people and getting to the root of a problem.

Peter Kovachev - 12/1/2009


I think you managed to confuse Professor Furnish, as well as anyone on the planet who would read your "simple question." Once again I, your loyal dragoman, rush to your service.

In case you too have a problem with deciphering your latest gem, my guess is that you're asking Professor Furnish what his response would be if the US issued a self-defensive fatwa.

If I may be of assistance, the US doesn't issue fatwas yet, and your subtle Socratic counter-question sheds little light on how you would explain all that Koranic head-chopping to Omar Jr.

N. Friedman - 12/1/2009


I was not saying that Islam is the problem. I was saying that the Islamic religious revival movement, aka Islamism, is a major part of the problem. Islam, the religion, plays a role in things but that was not what I was trying to say.

I think you might consider that what motivates a modern secular person like you, with family origins in Turkey/Ottoman Empire, differs from what motivates people with a less secular upbringing. My best explanation of this is to look at the Medieval period in Europe, where political movements may have had perfectly mundane goals but, in order to gain traction and acceptance with the masses and thus be politically feasible and sustainable, the goals had to be dressed up in religion. In some ways, the leaders may also have believed - and in fact, needed to justify to themselves - the religious formula permitting whatever goal they may have had.

Which is to say, any policy that could not be justified religiously - even horrid policies such as the inquisition in Spain by which the masses could plunder the wealth of their neighbors for no imaginable crime - was unlikely to be pursued. Hence, the effort to promote ghastly policies by religion.

My view is that the Arab regions are not all that dissimilar, in terms of the need to justify things by means of religion, than Medieval Europe. This may be due to the widespread illiteracy - or, perhaps, more generally - as was the case in Europe - the forces of religion did their best to keep people ignorant, placing taboos on "knowledge." Hence, the taboo placed on Galileo's discoveries and on Machievilli's political science observations (which, in the hands of the masses, would have been politically explosive). Consider that the printing press was suppressed in the Ottoman Empire until the 18th Century and in the Arab regions until the 19th Century. The restrictions applied only to Muslims. Christians and Jews had the printing press - for use in their own languages only - from the beginning.

Whatever the goals of the al-Qaeda group, they seem intent on justifying it to their recruits by means of religion and its precepts including glorifying jihad warfare - while presenting propaganda to the West that raises arguments such as colonialism. And, the spiritual fathers of the revival movement on which Islamism finds its roots, e.g. Qtub and Maududi, aimed at justifying their views as religiously guided. And, those Islamists who take up arms use the battle cry of religious war.

I thus take them to be engaged in a form of confessional war, whether the goals are, to a small elite leadership, mundane or religious in inspiration. What I believe is that people like Nidal Hasan would have done something different had they not imbibed Islamism. Were it not for religion and, more particularly, the religious revival movement, someone like bin Laden would have joined his father's business.

On a different matter, I do not think you are correct in your view about Jihad and religion in the life of the Ottoman Empire. What you write may have applied to the elite. I think that there was bitter opposition to modernizing efforts (e.g. by religiously motivated people among the masses and also by the military elites) made in the 19th Century, which led to an effort to re-invigorate religion as the decisive factor in society. For the masses, I think that tradition was more important throughout, with the modernization efforts only being a peripheral activity. This is to say, the efforts of modernization did not penetrate the average person all that well. In the Arab regions, it still has not penetrated all that well.

Peter Kovachev - 12/1/2009

Mr Fahrettin,

Leaving aside other arguments you make, your take on oil is quite astonishing. The trillions transfered to governments of nations which sat upon a commodity they were barely aware of, and still cannot extract or process on their own, can hardly be interpreted as not "giving much in return." That's without even getting into the political concessions which resulted in such silliness as "Palestinianism" and suicidal policies of Euro-Arab "understandings" on immigration. That this wealth is being squandered by its recipients is another matter.

I hope I'm not being trite in remind you that value of oil, as with anything else, is in what others are prepared to pay for it. If oil wasn't a cheap source of energy, as you rightly point out, it would be just another geological curiosity, a nuisance which polutes and harms grazing lands for goat herds.

But I'll go cheerfully along with your indignation, and will be the first to promote Arab anger over their "stolen future." I sincerely hope that this will precipitate another OPEC moment of stupidity, where they raise prices high enough to spur real efforts in realistic alternate energy sources and allow the Arab and much of the Muslim world to drop from its artificially sky-high level of importance and influence.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/1/2009

Mr Friedman

The idea that Islam is the problem was invented by the European propaganda machine in the middle ages when Ottoman Turkey was an expanding power. They were using Christianity to motivate their people. Islamic principles were quoted by the Ottomans but they would gladly have quoted something else as other countries did in their expansive phases. Take the USA and its ideology of bringing democracy to the rest of the world. This has led to Arab mothers scaring their children saying democracy will come and get you if you don’t eat your soup. Over time democracy might become a demon.

In the 15th century Mehmet II the conqureor is Isanbul actually played with the idea of becoming a Catholic and having himself crowned the Emperorof Rome by the Pope. His advisors talked him out of the idea because they felt his soldiers would not accept this change.

Ottoman Turkey only became interested in the Caliphate in the second half of the 19th century. Christian powers were portraying themselves as the protectors of the faith and using this as an argument in intervening in Ottoman affairs so the Turks retaliated in kind as protectors of the faith and di for a while suceed in creating a counter balance. For me this is the role religious arguments play in politics. People use them when needed.

In the English speaking press neo colonialism is never a reason for other peoples reactions to their own policies. Propaganda succesfully ignores the reason why people might feel motivated to fight England and the USA. Having ignored real reasons they offer religious revival as a culprit. In so far as people believe this they are fooling themselves.

One of the most important events in the 20th century was the development of technologies based on oil as an energy resource. Almost everything which has happened in the Middle East since then is a consequence of Anglo American policies designed to control the oil resources and exploit the oil without giving much in return. It was this cheap oil which has made contemporary industrial civilisation possible. Arabs have started to realize how their wealth, their future is being stolen and their resistance is what you argue an Islamic revival. A less religous people might argue in Marxistic or Nationalistic terms against the West but they would also do what the Arabs are doing now, perhaps even more violently.

Fahrettin Tahir - 12/1/2009

Mr Furnish

The difference between the Quran and the Bible is that the Quran gives a lot of rules on how to manage daily life. There are even rules on the calibration of measurement devices and that 1400 years before ISO 9000 series of Quality standards, my daily bread as an engineer when I am not busy writing blogs. These rules reflect the era they were born and did make the Arabs who obeyed them one of the major peoples of this planet, no mean accomplishment. Some of these rules are behind the times which is why secularism is so important especially for Islamic countries. That they were so succesful is due to the fact that they are very realistic about the human nature which reveals its worse aspects when at war. As the examples show, people do not need anybody giving them religious or secular ideas to be disgusting. It comes quite naturally. The people perpetrating violence would be quite comfortable perpetarting the same violence even if the Quran did not exist.

The way into the future should be a realistic look at the reasons for war in the 21st century. Citing Islam as the reason for warfare or violence is unscientific.

N. Friedman - 11/30/2009


As always, you make real points. I do not agree with them but that is a different matter.

I think that religion is, itself, a motivator of people. It is not, to be sure, the only motivator and in some parts of the world it plays little role. Then again, in some parts of the world, anything that contradicts religious edicts is difficult to pursue or sustain.

In much - not all, but much - of the world where Islam is the dominant religion, there is turmoil. A good part of that turmoil finds its roots in religion - the sacred, to be more precise - that inserts itself into political and personal affairs. And, that tendency also seems to involve quite a number of Muslims who live in the West but who, for whatever reason, do not identify with the West.

I disagree with your view of Jihad. I think it was the principal rational for imperial government policies. That policy died with the diminishing of the Ottoman Empire and the other Islamic countries. There is an effort, nowadays, to review that policy. I do not think, as you do, that the culprit is colonialism. I think the culprit is religious revival that seeks to re-Islamize Muslim societies and to diminish the non-Muslim West. Which is to say, it is religious ideology, not reaction to the West, that is the motivation.

I do not think that violence is unique to Islam. I do not think that the other religions are, by comparison, peace loving. And, certainly, human beings, generally speaking, are not often peace loving. That said, the manner by which Islamic civilization justifies its wars is generally found in religion. That does not mean that religion causes all wars involving or started by Muslims. However, were the religious elite to find a war non-Islamic, the political powers would find themselves having a difficult time getting people to fight.

Timothy Furnish - 11/30/2009

Not to be rude, but I honestly am not sure what that question is. Can you restate it in simple, correct English?
And once I answer it, I shall expect the same courtesy from you in answering my question about what you would tell a child about Sura Muhammad:3,4 and Sura Anfal:12--the beheading passages.

omar ibrahim baker - 11/30/2009

You consistently fail to answer a simple question.I will repost it for you:
" and by refusing to answer a simple question of whether you will abide by an equivalent American "fatwa" when/if the USA is subjected to aggression and/or occupation . "
Why is trhat?
Pray elucidate!

Timothy Furnish - 11/30/2009

For somone as blithe as you claim to be about my writings, you certainly spend an inordinate amount of time commenting on them. Why is that, if they don't matter to you?

And your Wahhabism is showing, in your ahistorical (and ridiculous) claim that there is neither moderate nor extremist Islam. Of course there is both. Many Sufis are the former; many Wahhabis are the latter. I would never claim that there is neither moderate nor extremist Christianity. Of course there is. But you cannot bring yourself even to admit that obvious a point of Islamic history--which tells us (as if we needed any more data) where you're located on the Islamic spectrum.

Timothy Furnish - 11/30/2009

Mr. Tahir,
Thank you for picking up the gauntlet. But the difference between the admittedly-gruesome examples you cite and the Qur'anic ones I adduced is this: the former do not have (Christian) theological sanction, whereas the latter do. And a not inconsiderable number of folks who perpetrate violence in the name of Islam cite such passages to justify that violence. To echo Mr. Friedman, I have never claimed that a propensity to violence is lacking in the human species, nor in other religions or ideologies than Islam. What I have argued is that Islamic teaching are more supportive of violence than probably any other religion in the modern world--witnessed by the fact that a substantial number (albeit a minority) of the world's Muslims claim divine sanction for their violence.
Do you not agree that a number of Qur'anic injunctions IF TAKEN LITERALLY support violence?

omar ibrahim baker - 11/30/2009

There is NO "moderate" Islam as much as there is NO "Extremist" Islam .
That only exists in the minds of those, persons and institutions, that advocate and try to advance the notion that such a fallacious disintinction does exist with obvious ulterior motives of their own in mind.

There is only ONE Islam that deals with and covers,inter alia, almost all conditions of war and peace and eventualities.
Differences may and some times do arise on whether a certain event /happening qualifies as demanding/ordaining a certain prescribed mode of action/reaction and to what extent.
To illustrate :
-There is absolutely no differences of opinion on whether Zionist occupation of Palestine ORDAINS/COMMANDS Jihad and of total armed JIHAD as per the opinion of an overwhelming majority of "ulama"
(in the absence of an official clergy "ulama"= scholars is the reference point to all sunni Moslems.)

-Whereas resistance to a certain corrupt so called Moslem regime might warrant only a verbal Jihad to some and ordain armed Jihad to others.

However what you believe is of no interest to me and I will waste no time in answering your questions whether you expect an honest answer from me or not simply because I really do not care about what you think except in to what extent it might influence others.

On this very page you have been proved to be hopelessly bigotted, close minded and terminally blinded by hatred beyond redemption by
failing to face up to the utter banality of your contentions about fatwa and terrorism and by refusing to answer a simple question of whether you will abide by an equivalent American "fatwa" when/if the USA is subjected to aggression and/or occupation .

If that particular fatwa leads you to whatever you claim what will or can answering your questions mean?
Certainly NOT a bona fide exchange of ideas!

Fahrettin Tahir - 11/30/2009

Mr Furnish

I would explain them as a 1400 year old field manual on what is allowed in war but that one can fight a war without doing everything which is allowed. At the Stalingrad battle 1943 both Russians and Germans were actually eating the corpses of the dead.

Remember full metal jacket? A US marine shoots from the helicopter the Vietnamese on the ground. He says if they run away they are cong. If they don’t run away they are brave cong. Aint war hell?

Was all that Islamic violence? People are like that. Not only Moslems.

Timothy Furnish - 11/30/2009

Believe it or not, I DO think there is moderate Islam (as I have written before on here), in Sevener Shi`ism, some of the Sufi orders, Ibadism, Barelwism and ironically also in heretical (by Sunni standards) Alawism. HOWEVER, I am continually perplexed why it is that folks like you and Mr. Tahir refuse to even countenance the clear theological and historical roots of Islamic violence. I am not saying Islam is intrinsically violent, necessarily--I am saying, quite logically based on many texts of the Qur'an and on the examples of Muhammad's life itself, that the Qur'an READ LITERALLY can not only support but presuppose one to violence. I don't really expect an honest answer from you, but I will pose this, nonetheless, to both you and Mr. Tahir: please tell me and everyone on here how to read Sura Muhammad:3,4 and Sura al-Anfal:12, when read literally, OTHER than as a clear endorsement from the Deity of decapitation of non-Muslims in/after battle? I assume both of you are Sunni. Please tell me how you would explain those passages, say, to children?

omar ibrahim baker - 11/30/2009

Mr Tahir
I do fully appreciate your position and predicament as ,presumably, a Moslem living in Europe particularly lately, ie post 9/11, with the ongoing Zionist inspired and orchestrated rabid campaign to which Islam and Moslems were and are ceaselessly subjected to.

However we should always be alert that the mega lie/allegation of :Islam( per se)=terror shall never pass,that it should be rejected out of hand and rebutted while condemning terror and terrorism in ALL its forms and from which ever source it springs!

We should always stress the fact that state terrorism as practiced by the USA and Israel, which if measured by the number of its victims, is far worse than any thing committed by pseudo Moslems and fringe Islamic organizations alleging to act under Islamic guidance.

To be constantly on the defensive, searching for interpretations and justifications and, indirectly, for excuses is particularly counter productive in that it implies tacit acceptance of the mega lie and admission of guilt.

We should demonstrate and stress the justice of our causes in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan etc and our unrelenting readiness to combat our enemies and confront our adversaries with reason, where possible, and , where needed, with armed resistance!

Resistance to aggression is a universally accepted glorious and noble cause that needs neither apologies nor a conciliatory tone.

That is the language the whole world , rightly, understands and respects.

Being apologetic and conciliatory abou our right to resist aggression only draws contempt and, sometimes, false "sympathy"!

I beg for your indulgence when I claim that some of your posts which are liable to be construed, with the prevailing boundless ill will
towards Islam and Moslems, as being
"apologetic" and "conciliatory"
in tone are actually counter productive and futile with some.

Of course you know better than I do the conditions under which you, plural, live in Europe now and I beg for your indulgence in bearing with me BUT having lived for quite some time in the WEST I dare communicate to you the conclusions I have reached while wishing you happiness and success .

Fahrettin Tahir - 11/30/2009

Mr Friedman, about Jihad

As Islam forbids murder it had to produce a legal construction under which war would be legal. All human societies have similiar rules defining the legality of war. This seems to be a part of the human character and nothing specifically islamic. I would claim that in the absence of a Caliph declaring war has become the job of national governments or revolutionary movements. This too is not specifically Islamic. See the 20th century.

The Islamic world faced a colonialist West and now faces a neocolonialist one. What Mr. Bush did in saying now I am going to invade Iraq would have met a violent enmity in any jurisdiction. Imagine Pakistan deciding to invade Holland to control its natural resources. At that time a minister had to resign in Germany for saying Bush was behaving like Hitler. As I told my father about it, he, who in his youth had lived through Hitler, said but of course that is what he is doing. Hitler too had had a list of countries he was determined to attack invade and brutally control and exploit. Being Moslems the victims they used an Islamic legal term for what they felt was a legitimate war. They could have used any one of various terms meaning ultimately yankee go home.

And now we have this term Jihad coming back to delegitimate the war: It is called a jihad therefore it must be illegitimate. The insane US major is used as an argument look that is what jihad is all about. “Nuts all of them, else they would allow us to steal the oil.” A good Moslem is one who lets Yankees steal his oil.

I am trying to bring back a political discussion. The pattern is colonialism which does not respect the rights of Moslems. The Moslems would do good to react without unnecessary brainless violence. Their opponents would do good to look behind the words used at what is at the core of the conflicts. This would bring the conflicts under control and make compromise peace possible.

Fahrettin Tahir - 11/30/2009


I live in Europe, where some people, every time a violent event occurs say in Timbuktu or Kuala Lumpur will start shouting, there you see that is why we have to prosecute the Moslems.

For the sake of those Moslems living as a minority in Christian countries it is important that all can see we do not approve of such events and that we will not start slaughtering our non Moslem neighbors.

I for one do not see anything in the Islamic religion ordering me to kill my neighbors.

I do see several wars going on, for example in Bosnia, but these can only be won if they are fought rationally with political targets ultimately acceptable for the other side. If people are allowed to do things which arise disgust, they will be producing new enemies. In fact this is the reason why the US has lost the Iraq war: their battle tactics disgusted the people would acquiescence would have been necessary for a US vistory. That also works the other way around.

Timothy Furnish - 11/29/2009

Who is the "our" to which you refer? Ottomans? Iranians? I don't think I blamed any PERSONS for the shooting (except Hasan himself); I did, however, argue on solid bases that Islam itself, going back to the Qur'an, should get the lion's share of the blame.

N. Friedman - 11/29/2009


I certainly think that one can say, with any act, that there are psychological factors underlying the act. That, to me, tells little about the why that distinguishes one group of actions from another. In this case, the why appears to be religious lunacy.

I do not think that one could blame all Muslims for the acts of some Muslims. The issue is one of motivation - i.e. ideology. Religion is an ideological thing, a set of ideas, like tools in a toolbox - ideas that can be put to many purposes, good and bad.

One of the ideas, as you know full well, in Islam is Jihad. Traditionally, Jihad, by legal precedent, was state - i.e. collective -, not individual policy - e.g. armies, not private groups -, unless a Muslim polity was under armed attack.

Islamism - as opposed to classical jurisprudential Islam -, from what I can discern, posits that, under contemporary circumstances, Jihad is the responsibility of an individual because Islam, the faith, is under attack (e.g. by modern culture). Moreover, there are those who argue that in the absence of a Caliph, Jihad become the responsibility of all Muslims.

This is a form of insanity that has its origins in religion. There are, of course, forms of insanity that have found route in other religions. In 15th Century Spain, a heresy took firm root that Conversos (i.e. converts to Christianity) of Jewish origin (and their offspring and their offspring's offspring, etc.) could never be true Christians. This was, perhaps, a cover story for stealing the property of the Conversos. But, that there was religious motivation involved is, like with today's Jihadis, nonetheless true.

The issue here is those who do horrendous things in the name of their religion. Remove the religion from the mix of interpretation and none of it is intelligible. You have random acts where, in fact, there is self-evidently a pattern.

omar ibrahim baker - 11/29/2009

Mr Tahir
that( "Insane US officer murders his comrades and its our fault?" ) is exactly what they, the Fs, want everybody to believe including you despite your excessively concilatory words that they deem as a renunciation of your faith and reason.
The more you indulge them the more they will come up with this sort of thing.

Fahrettin Tahir - 11/29/2009

Insane US officer murders his comrades and its our fault?

Timothy Furnish - 11/29/2009

Let me see if I understand this, Mr. Tahri: Islamic teachings are not to blame at all for Hasan's murderous rampage--instead, the U.S. Army is?
There is none so blind as he who will not see.

Fahrettin Tahir - 11/29/2009

Mr Friedman

I have no doubt that there are a lot of lunatics on the world which will do any amount of killing. I just object to the proposition that their acts are primarily religiously motivated. They might advance religious arguments or quote God (one or the other might find himself talking to God, without proper medical treatment), but it does not follow that their acts are done in obeying actual religious requirements.

As far as they are Moslems we must accept that for some of them there is a war going on. They take a lot of events from Palestina to Afghanistan to Kashmir and see in all of these events a general war. In symmetry to the „Islam is warfare perception“ they have a „Judaism is warfare perception“. They claim the Jewish religion by perceiving the Jews as the chosen people requires them to fight for world domination and that this is the reason for a lot of the world’s ills. Here to we have the perception of an offensive religion and the belief that victims are acting in necessary defence. This is the ideological analysis which leads to Jewish centers being attacked. It is not an ideology which has anything to do with Islam. It is classical antisemitism, invented by the Tsars and Nazis. Normal Moslems live without fear of Jewish world domination.

Islam itself is quite restrictive about killing people. God alone gives and is entitled to take lives. Killing is a sin because it is playing God. Capital punishment is allowed but after a trial in court. Killing is also allowed in warfare, but this is a universally accepted rule, all cultures accept it.

What seems to have happened with Major Hassan was he decided to kill „enemy“ soldiers to prevent them from fighting in Iraq. This type of prophylactic killing (as opposed to killing in actual combat) is unusual in Islamic military history. Let us remember: Major Hassan was an officer of the US army. The US army and air force do bomb enemy formations to kill enemy combatants before they can hit US forces. He was simply doing what he learned at his job. The US army obviously has a problem, if it employs people who think it itself is the enemy.

I also do think that US battle tactics are helping the US lose her wars but that is a different discussion. In WW2 the US was dealing with enemies who realized that they had started the wars themselves and also that their people were dying to make Germany and Japan the dominating powers. This is less obvious for people dying in Iraq and Afghanistan who feel themselves victims of foreign aggression. This should be for me the starting point for political discussions. Simply classifying their reactions as Jihad and as such irrational behaviour is ideologically comfortable but solves no problem.

N. Friedman - 11/28/2009

Mr. Craigen,

I think your points are both well taken.


I think there is a difference between saying, on the one hand, that people are people and that all groups of people are able to find ideological fixes to allow them to do vicious, ghastly things and, on the other hand, exploring the specific motivations that a given group of people pursues.

It is, in any event, rather difficult to examine someone like Nidal Hasan and ignore that he made his religion religion his central motivation. The same for those who went on a rampage in Mumbai, who flew planes into buildings in NY and Washington and Pennsylvania - killing thousands of Americans -, who shoot up schools in Russia and Israel, who blew up trains and subways.

You are certainly correct that any group of people could set out on that sort of type of behavior. However, we have to deal with the fact that, just now, there are a whole host of people of, at least on the surface, very diverse backgrounds who seem to share an ideology that motivates them. That is something to understand. And, practicality and non-ideology does not explain all of it.

Consider the Mumbai massacre. The lunatics who rampaged and killed targeted, in addition, to a hotel, a Jewish center. That, in the context of any pragmatic consideration, has nothing imaginable to do with the dispute between India and Pakistan. Yet, the gunmen sought that center out as an important target - in fact, it was considered by them to be a main, if not the main, target. That bears consideration and it only makes sense if religion, not practicality, is at work.

R. Craigen - 11/28/2009

Tahir: "What I see is that Americans are doing something which is actually quite un-American: they are getting lost in ideology. Jihadism is one. This is bad because it offers no political way out of eternal warfare."

I agree. This applies to Maj. Hasan's actions. I don't think this applies to Prof. Furnish's analysis; his approach is largely scholarly. Yes, he argues, even polemicizes, for a particular perspective but I don't see anti-jihadism (which is how I would characterize his general approach to this subject) as an "ideology" -- it is merely a response to a threat.

Tahir: "In my opinion this is what is needed: just common sense and the recognition of non ideological motivations behind the opponents actions."

I agree, but only in cases where ideology is irrelevant. As amply demonstrated by the slide show he gave on the subject Hasan's motivation is manifestly ideological. So "common sense" would dictate that analysis must begin at that point, regardless of what else it may encompass.

Fahrettin Tahir - 11/27/2009

What I am saying is that calls will be made by politicians using whatever arguments they think will convince their followers. Whether they will follow is a political question. This is valid not only for Islamic but for all societies.

Being born in the 20th century I would not want to ignore the influence ideology has on human behaviour and in this context Jihad is one ideology next to a lot of others.

I do oppose the notion that Islam must of necessity be violent wheras say christianity is not. Although the message from Jesus is generally percieved as one of peace this historic experience is quite different. In the Bosnian war of the 1990ies the Serb soldiers were being told that their duty to Christ was to kill Turks. This they did, in this case too entirely ignoring what Jesus was suppoed to be all about, that is, they did the opposite of their ideology.

I think especially under GW Bush the propaganda used "terrorism" as the evil to be fought to motivate the Americans. Terrorism if of course horrible. However it is the politics which should be analysed and adressed and not battle tactics. Although in the case of terrorism the disgust can be overwhelming.

Only so can rational political approaches be found.

What must be avoided is the presumption that Islam and terrorism are identical.

R. Craigen - 11/26/2009

I'm not sure if I get Fahrettin's point in the same way as Mr. Friedman. Are you simply saying that religious, and religious-political leaders, as in Tim's illustrations, may rail about islamic justification for murder and mayhem, but the people may rebel and go the other way?

If so I agree wholeheartedly. It is to this end that some hope on a better outcome in the situations we see today -- that muslims, and others, of a good heart will be prepared to say "NO" to calls for escalated violence motivated by this religion. I think to a large part that is Tim's purpose in writing these pieces -- if we shoot straight enough, and call things as they are instead of sugarcoating an evil ideology, there is some hope that men of good faith will simply say they won't comply, that regardless of what the religious texts say, jihad and al wala wal bara (as espoused by these leaders) can't be the will of a loving God, and they won't comply.

But I cannot accept this point as in any way refutes the point that these calls are integral to Islamic doctrine. One need only crack open the Qur'an, Hadith or a manual of Sharia randomly to see that this is where the problem lies. Thank goodness that many muslims choose to behave above their own religion.

omar ibrahim baker - 11/25/2009

"Question: When it occurs that enemies attack the Islamic world...has jihad then…become incumbent upon all Muslims and has it become the individual duty [for all Muslims in all parts of the world….?
Answer: Yes.
Question: Now that it has been established that Russia, England, France ( The USA and Israel/my addition) and the governments that support them…are hostile to the Islamic caliphate….is it, in this case, also incumbent upon all Muslims that are being ruled by these governments, to proclaim jihad against them and to actually attack them?
Answer: Yes.
Question: If some Muslims…refrain from doing so (which God forbid), is this then…a great sin and do they deserve Divine wrath and punishment….?
Answer: Yes.
Question: If the states…that are fighting against the Islamic government compel and force their Muslim population…to fight against the troops of the Islamic countries…do they…deserve hell-fire….?
Answer: Yes."

Is it not obvious from Professor Furnish's quote that what this fatwa calls for is :
-RESISTANCE to AGGRESSION ( "When it occurs that enemies attack the Islamic world.")
-a call for pan Islamic solidarity in resisting the aggressor ("is it, in this case, also incumbent upon all Muslims that are being ruled by these governments, to proclaim jihad against them and to actually attack them?")
-laying down the penalty for failing to resist the aggressor and/or standing by one's people/cause (" If some Muslims…refrain from doing so ")

As such: resistance to aggression, solidarity and failure to stand by one's people/cause what is wrong, or unusual about it?
Had the words "Islamic world" and “Muslims” been replaced with, say, the USA and “US citizens”, with corresponding change in the appellation of its enemies, would not Professor Furnish go and abide by the American equivalent of that Fatwa and fight for the USA?

Is it not plain enough , ordinary and totally expectable that the moral and political equivalent of this fatwa is what would, what actually does, come out from any leadership whose domain has been conquered, occupied and whose people is being continuously aggressed against.

How can the erudite Professor fail to see that?
Amazing what blind prejudice does!

Fahrettin Tahir - 11/25/2009

At the time of WW1 not only the government of Turkey but also other powers were trying to use Islam. One story being told in Islamic countries was that the Emperor of Germany had become a Moslem and was fighting for Islam. The Tsar was the white sultan.

Any politician who wants to do something will naturally try to find arguments to get people to follow him. Jihad is a good argument with tradition and there are no doubt a lot of fools who will gladly die for what they are told are good ideals. But this is hardly limited to Moslems.

What I see is that Americans are doing something which is actually quite un-American: they are getting lost in ideology. Jihadism is one. This is bad because it offers no political way out of eternal warfare.

In this hnn there is a very good article with a down to earth anaylsis of the Afghan situation.

In my opinion this is what is needed: just common sense and the recognition of non ideological motivations behind the opponents actions.

One reason why so many jihadists are around is because the countries they come from have been using religion to legitimate the leadership of families. They brain wash their children with religious stuff and these people when they have grown up are not able to formulate any non religious thoughts.

N. Friedman - 11/24/2009


You will note that I indicated that Fahrettin's point, well taken though I think it is, did not entirely undermine your argument. My view is that he poked a hole in your evidence, which impacts upon your argument at least to some extent.

It seems to me that a fatwa that is entirely ignored is not much different from there being no fatwa - even if it comes from the all important sheik al-Islam -, which is why I indicated that I thought he scored some real points against your argument.

I rather doubt, having read Fahrettin's various other posts, that he would deny the religious motivation of the Ayatollahs or Nidal Malik Hasan, et al. and I doubt he would deny that Jihad can be an important motivator to violence among Muslims. Further, he would almost certainly accept that there was religious motivation for many things that occurred in the Ottoman Empire.

I should note, however, that the Triumvirate who ruled the Empire at the time WWI began were not famous for their religiosity - although they were willing to use religion to advance their ends, when they deemed it necessary. And the reigning Sultan/Caliph was, at the time, thought to be a gentle soul who had no use for war - assuming Morgenthau's information was correct.

The Triumvirate, so far as I know, came out of the Union and Progress clique, not famous for being believers. Of course, one is cautioned by what it meant, at that time, to be secular, whether in the Muslim regions or the West. In Irving Howe's famous book about Jewish migration to the US, World of Our Fathers, he notes a great many socialists carrying Marx in one hand and the Scripture in the other.

Timothy Furnish - 11/24/2009

I take and acknowledge Mr. Tahir's points--but they do not affect my major thesis at all, which is that said jihad was LEGITIMIZED by the then highest Sunni religious authority on earth. Whether said legitimized jihad was put into practice is another matter entirely

Fahrettin Tahir - 11/24/2009

Sometimes it is Jihad or a crusade. At other times it is freedom and democracy or the working class or this or that race.

It might also be a national liberation.

The rulers name it, the people do the dying.

N. Friedman - 11/24/2009


I think that you have made a strong point. I am not sure that such entirely nullifies Tim's position but your point certainly undermines a good part of it.

I would, however, say that it is true that Jihad has played an important part in Islam and Islamic civilization. In some periods, there has been, contrary to myth, individuals and small groups taking up their own Jihads. That was a major problem during the early centuries of Islamic history, most especially for rulers attempting to advance a foreign policy.

Overall, however, spreading Muslim rule has generally served the purposes of rulers - as an imperial policy when possible -, not the purpose individuals and Jihad, which certainly can take on the character of a way of life, was under the control of rulers, not an individual or NGO endeavor as today's Jihadis are engaged.

I, however, think you have made a strong historical point. I recall that US Ambassador Morgenthau noted your point about that last Ottoman fatwa.

Fahrettin Tahir - 11/23/2009

The Ottoman Sultan declared a Jihad on his enemies and the consequence was: nobody cared about it.

Neither the Moslems of infidel ruled India nor of Infidel rules Russia nor of Infidel ruled French Africa.

The hoped for Islamic revolution in Islamic colonies of the Europeans (and here I too must ask the question what right had these people to be there) did not happen, the Moslems did not arise and fight for freedom and Islam.

Instead the Turks got an Arab revolt payed for by British gold. See Lawrance of Arabia.

The result of the Sultan and Caliph's fetwa was the Turks were so disgusted by non comliance that they abolished the Sultanate and caliphate as soon as the shooting was over.

So much for the primacy of faith over politics.