At all events, in my opposition to our current wars I have found myself in agreement with my friends on the left, but this accord prevails only up to a certain point. In particular I am mystified by their embrace, which seems unshakeable, of a particular meme. That meme goes as follows. In our disputes in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Third World, it is always the West, particularly the US, that is at fault because of our obstinate interference. This interference takes place under the banners of imperialism, neo-colonialism, nation building, “development aid,” and other nefarious endeavors. If only we would maintain a hands-off policy, it would appear, these countries would surely return to the peaceful tranquility that is deeply ingrained in their nature.
Abundantly falsified by history, this contrast between the aggressive West and passive East denies those Others any agency of their own. The claim is that they only respond when we act. Ironically, this contrast of active West and passive East ranks as an ectopic avatar of Orientalism. One of the tenets of Orientalism, as analyzed by the late Edward Said, is that the East is stagnant and inert; while the West is energetic and progressive.
I have found it very difficult to get my leftist friends to separate themselves from their one-note samba which blames Western imperialism for pretty much all the troubles that the world is experiencing.
One of my correspondents has proffered a more specific version. This observer asserts that fifty years ago people in Muslim countries were essentially quiescent. We should have let sleeping dogs lie but, foolishly, we riled them up.
History does not bear out this assumption of a pervasive Islamic passivity some fifty years ago. Let us first take the case of Turkey, which is particularly revealing because we are so often told that Turkey is the very model of a moderate Islamic state, a pattern that should be emulated elsewhere. Before reviewing the facts, which are not pleasant, I should state that I have visited Turkey twice and have profited from the experience, Turks have retained a kind of old-world courtesy that makes dealings agreeable. The following paragraphs then are not so much about Turkey, or other nations, but about the libido dominandi, the dominance-fixation of Islam. which is definitely not a “religion of peace.”
In 1915, with the distraction of World War I serving as a cover, the Ottoman authorities initiated the genocide of the Christian Armenians. Some scholars have sought to implicate imperial Germany, Turkey’s ally, in instigating the massacres. This view has been generally rejected. While it is clear that the Germans could have done more to stop the actions, they were clearly “made in Turkey” and not the product of imperialist machinations. To this day, Turkey is trying to deny the facts of the Armenian genocide.
In 1923 the Greek and Turkish governments agreed to an “exchange of populations,” with the Greeks in Turkey being sent to Greece, and the Turks in Greece to Turkey. These relocations involved some two million people. While the expulsions were ostensibly done on the basis of nationality, religion was actually the deciding factor, for some of the Orthodox deportees from Turkey spoke only Turkish, while some of the Muslims removed from Greece spoke only Greek. This was the first instance in modern times of ethnic cleansing on a major scale.
These two events--the Armenian genocide and the ethnic cleansing of 1923--are infamous. A further incident is not so well known. During World War II the Greek, Armenian, and Jewish citizens who remained in Turkey were conscripted into labor battalions, where harsh conditions prevailed. From 1942 to 1944 the government collected the Varlik Vergisi, a capital tax levied exclusively from the non-Muslim population, i.e. Christians and Jews. Those who went through these travails got the message, and most of them left the country as soon as they could.
Today, according to the CIA World Fact Book, Turkey is 99.8% Muslim. This result has been achieved not through natural causes, but by means of a series of actions undertaken in accordance with specific policies. Despite its secular character, Turkey has ended up demographically in the same condition as Saudi Arabia. Achieved by very different means in the two countries, this demographic accords with the primordial Muslim vision that the whole world must by one means or another be made to convert to Islam. So much for the “religion of peace.”
Let us look at a couple of other examples. The first concerns the African nation of Sudan, which is religiously divided between the Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. Since independence the southern region has been devastated by two civil wars. First, the Sudanese government fought the local Anyana group from 1955 to 1972, and then SPLA/M after the founding of the group in 1983. The second conflict lasted twenty-one years, resulting in serious neglect, stunting of infrastructure development, and major destruction and displacement. In these conflicts more than 2.5 million people have been killed, and more than 5 million have become displaced, becoming refugees as a result of the civil war and war-related impacts. Whatever the complexities of this conflict, and they are many, the following point must be stressed: it is the Muslim north that has been trying to repress the Christian and animist south, and not vice versa.
For many years Malaysia has been undergoing a process of radical Islamization, even though only 60% of the population is Muslim. The situation has become bizarre. As defined by the constitution of Malaysia, Malays m u s t be Muslim, regardless of their ethnic heritage; otherwise, legally, they are not Malay. Consequently, apostate Malays must forfeit all constitutional privileges, including their Bumiputra status, which entitles them to affirmative action policies in university admissions, discounts on purchases of vehicles and real estate, together with other benefits. It is legally possible to become a Malay if a non-Malay citizen with a Malaysian parent converts to Islam. However, the convert must "habitually speak the Malay language" and adhere to Malay culture.
In this way Islam in Malaysia is closely linked with the Malay people. One Islamic scholar has dryly pointed out that Malaysian Islam is "still clothed in communal garb; . . . Muslims in Malaysia have yet to understand what the universal spirit of Islam means in reality."
I have cited examples from three regions: western Asia, Africa, and southeast Asia. Local conditions differ. Yet what is constant in the advance of Islam by genocide, expulsion, warfare, and legal manipulation is the dualism that underlies Muslim policies. In this view--according with the "universal spirit of Islam"--the world is divided into the Dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam) and the Dar al-Harb (the abode of warfare). With the advance of the former, the latter must constantly shrink. That is the dynamic of the Islamic world today, which has not changed in essential respects since 632.
NOTE. For the historical and theological background of Islamic expansionism, see my magnum opus, Abrahamica, Chapter Six at: http://williamapercy.com/wiki/index.php?title=Abrahamica_Chapter_6
Labels: Religious intolerance