Sunday, June 16, 2002

This is another one of those "respond to the comments thread in the blog" bits, so be warned. The relevant comments thread is in the one about Falwell and the pedophile libel.

Dean (who needs to get his own bloody blog, if only so that we can start carpet-bombing his comments sections with posts) proposed the difference between Islamic fundamentalists and "Islamists" is that the latter are trying to create an Islamic state, and the former are not. I find the distinction irrelevant because it seems to be merely a question of tactics. As I said earlier, any doctrinaire adherent of a religious system is going to believe that the rules of that system should apply to others as well, so that they can be "saved" (or whatever) and so that society would function better. This is true whether this person believes society should function on the bases of Shari'a, the Ten Commandments, or the Talmud- and there are organizations that believe that different countries should be controlled by all three. There is no denying that religion forms the bases for many of the mores accepted in a particular country and the laws created by its government are based on said mores, so where does the difference between an Islamic fundamentalist and an Islamist lie? Only in tactics- only in the idea that the state itself should become theocratic (by force if necessary).

Now, here's the scary part: Islamists are allowed to have these beliefs, just as the Christian Coalition is allowed to attempt to install friendly senators, congressmen, and presidents in order to make the United States a more "christian" country. They can be a legitimate faction within a country, and have as much right to attempt to influence the laws and government of a country as any business coalition or secular NGO. (Especially if the country is democratic).

The problem only comes when they attempt to put those beliefs into practice .. when they actually attempt to overthrow the State by force. Since when is that exclusive to "Islamists"? We have civil wars and insurrections all around the world that aim to overthrow the current regime and replace it with something else; how do Islamists differ from, say, the Hutus and Tutsis, or any of the little communist Juntas that plagued South and Central America? The answer is that they don't, except that some marry the two concepts together. (They aren't unique in this: the more disturbing militias in the United States are little different except that they usually add nasty racist overtones to the concept, whereas the sort of communist insurrections I mentioned earlier are merely a secular variety of the same phenomenon).

It is the latter ambition that's the problem, however, not the former. The religious aspect is in many respects a dangerous smokescreen, as the real point is dealing with those who attempt to overthrow the legitimate state, no matter what their beliefs. We kicked Saddam out of Kuwait not because he was an "Islamist" (he's not) but because he had no right overthrowing the government of Kuwait and taking the country by force: the same is true of anybody else who acts in this fashion. The term "Islamist" is therefore meaningless- the people we should be fighting are the violent revolutionaries, full stop, and even then only when they attempt to put those beliefs into practice (or are obviously about to). It's perhaps rather ironic that a nation that was created by a revolution finds itself needing to fight revolutionaries, but that is the situation as it stands. Life is a funny thing.

(The Canadians must be laughing their loyalist heads off.)

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