Friday, June 14, 2002

And so it's come to this. I have to admit, I wasn't expecting this sort of invective only nine months after the bombing... I had thought it would take years of pseudo-warfare before we had out-and-out anti-Islamism on the airwaves. It would appear I was wrong on that, as we now have accusations that Mohammed was a pedophile.


Savour that. Let it roll over your tongue, and through your brain. Think about what it means to accuse the founder of a religion of what is inarguably the worst and most perverted act that exists in western beliefs; a taboo second only to, perhaps, cannibalism. Think about what it would mean were one of the other big monotheistic religions accused of this. A similar accusation on the part of Islamics against Jews was the blood libel that ignited the blog burst, instantaneously discredited the muslim students of SFSU, and which inspired the horror and revulsion of most of the blogosphere. Now it's being turned back, full force.

John Braue asked in his blog why I was asking the question "what's the difference between a Muslim and an Islamist"? The answer, of course, is that there is absolutely no difference between the two words; both are syntatically identical ways of defining the same belief system; just as "Jew" and "Judaist" or "Christian" and "Christist" would be. The distinction that Lou Dobbs brings up is an inherently meaningless one, one step in the chain of generalization that has taken the invective against the other side from "the 9/11 terrorists" to "Al Qaeda" to "Islamic militants" to "Islamic supremecists" to "Wah'habi Muslims" to these fictional and meaningless "Islamists". Lou and others say that the distinction is that they believe their belief system is superior to all others, and that they engage in the kind of slander that the blood libel highlighted. Dobbs utterly missed the point: like almost any religion, Islam (and Christianity, although perhaps not Judaism) depends on constantly arguing that it is superior, and that the rest of humanity would be better off, more moral, better in God's eyes, were it to follow this religion. This is inherent to religion, and to Islam. (As the conservative web keeps saying when it's attacking Islam as "backward" and "medieval"... they know what's going on, even if most of the rest of us are putting our metaphorical fingers in our ears and singing to ourselves).

We have now seen, however, empirical proof that this is a meaningless distinction. We now have the Islamic equivalent of Jesus or Moses being accused of the most disgusting act possible in the west. On CNN. Finally, we get down to what the real propaganda in this war is going to consist of. Finally, we are ending the useless and transparently false distinctions between "types" of Muslims. Finally, Bush and the conservative cabal are by degree fulfilling Osama Bin Laden's goals. He desperately wants a war between Islam and the West, and by degrees we're giving him exactly what he wants.


The sad (and funny) thing is that the distinction Dobbs tried to make and failed is one that he never can, because it would beg questions of its own. What Dobbs was trying to say and would have said if he only could was that the war was against religious fundamentalism; that this was actually a conflict between secular tolerance and religious ignorance and intolerance. The problem, of course, is that we have religous extremists of our own, mouth breathing fundamentalists of our own; foul libellers of our own. They have power in our society, power that can't be dismissed or ignored. How can Lou Dobbs say that the war is against fundamentalism when religious fundamentalists occupy places in the administration, seats in Congress, and many of the seats of power that can't be ignored in Washington? He can't, of course, so he can only try to split hairs and hope that nobody realizes that "they" aren't so different from rather a lot of "us"; that the desire to "invade them, kill their leaders, and convert them all by the sword" is a more universal one than anybody wishes to admit. Lou Dobbs can never admit on television that the war is really against fundamentalism, full stop. This is far too fundamentalist a country to ever say that.

(I wonder how long it'll be before the relatively secular Canadians catch on to what's really going on.)

By degrees, Osama is getting what he wants. By degrees, we're losing the war that we don't even realize we're fighting. By degrees, the terrorists really are winning the war they want to fight, not the war we want to fight. And the best example of it is an ignorant fundamentalist on Crossfire calling Mohammed a pedophile, and being largely ignored. This is only the start, and I don't even want to think about where it will go.

Edit: Well, apparently the first place it's going to go is on Instapundit. While you're savouring, savour this:

I also wonder: Padilla/Al Muhajir picked up Islam in prison. This should make us reconsider who we lock up, and how much religious freedom prisoners are granted. The prison system has been a slow-motion disaster for two or three decades, and here's yet another reason to address it.

So, apparently prisoners shouldn't be allowed to be Muslims, or vice versa. Tasty.

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