Benny Morris: The Future of Hamas





In a way, the world's Islamist movements are frank and honest. They wish, and they say that they wish, to install theocratic rule and promote the dominance of Muslim religious mores, ridding their world of any hint of that cluster of secular, democratic, and liberal values that Western civilization has progressively adopted over the past four or five centuries. No guile there.

But on another level, these movements, at least in their contemporary Middle Eastern efflorescence, are characterized by a multi-layered culture of deceit. I am not referring to the concrete operational deceit of a suicide bomber pretending to be a backpacking tourist or a devout Jew as he boards a train in Madrid or a bus in Jerusalem. I have in mind a larger and more systematic deception. These movements loudly trumpet the demand for the political "liberation" of Western-occupied lands--Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. But in fact they are united in wishing the extirpation of all Western influence ("pollution," in their jargon) from the sacred Islamic lands, stretching from Pakistan to the Atlantic Ocean: all Western music and cinema and books, all Western companies, all Westerners--in short, all modernity and all liberalism, all of what the West stands for.

And it goes further than that. Here and there you will hear imams, when preaching in Arabic, demanding the "return" of all former Islamic territories--"Andalus" (Spain and Portugal), southern France, the Balkans as far north as Hungary and Austria--for it is a basic tenet of Islam that any land conquered for the faith remains rightfully, in perpetuity, sacred Islamic land (Dar Al Islam). And beyond this realm lies the rest of the world, the "Land of War" (Dar Al Harb)--territory that is fair game for conquest and must yet be conquered or converted to Islam. And this, ultimately, is what the Islamists--who believe that theirs alone is the true path--want: the whole world under the aegis of Allah. They see this world as in perpetual conflict between the forces of light and darkness, and believe that the forces of light will ultimately prevail. Osama bin Laden occasionally says as much. But most Islamist preachers merely hint at their apocalyptic agenda. First things first, they say.

For many or most Islamists, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine are merely Stage One. A "clash of civilizations" is precisely how they perceive what is going on--and not merely in the "occupied" countries or even in the immediate outer ring of Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Morocco, but also in France's suburbs and in Leeds and in Madrid, and in Sarajevo, the southern Philippines, southern Thailand, Nigeria, Sudan. Ask the lawyer who recently shot five "secularist" judges in Turkey; ask the assassin who a few years ago stabbed to death Theo van Gogh, a documentary movie producer in Amsterdam; ask the rioters in Nigeria who killed hundreds and burned down streets because of a beauty pageant. But in public, in the West, when they speak to journalists, the Islamists prefer to speak only of "Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine." ...




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