The Story the Media Are Missing in the Middle East

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Ms. Klinghoffer is senior associate scholar at the Political Science department at Rutgers University, Camden, and the author of Vietnam, Jews and the Middle East. She is also an HNN blogger. Click here for her blog.

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“It is not police and intelligence community which defeat terrorism; it’s communities that beat terrorism,” remarked London’s police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair. But the Muslim community, argues David Gardner, is in the midst of “a war of ideas.” “If it’s a Muslim problem,” retorts Tom Friedman, “it needs a Muslim solution.” Indeed, he concludes, “the double-decker buses of London and the subways of Paris, as well as the covered markets of Riyadh, Bali and Cairo, will never be secure as long as the Muslim village and elders do not take on, delegitimize, condemn and isolate the extremists in their midst.”

Friedman is right. The problem is that every ambitious young Muslim knows that the best way to gain “five minutes of fame” is to blow oneself up to murder others and the second best, to spout extremist slogans. The worse way to attract attention is to condemn terror and extremism. Indeed, the same Western media which keeps highlighting the “successes,” sophistication and supposed popularity of the extremists, willfully ignores the efforts of the moderates. You would not know it from reading the press, but Muslims feel under enormous pressure to save their own image as civilized human beings and the image of their religion as one to which a respectable human being can adhere.

Few Muslims still consider the attention 9/11 attracted to their world wholly benign. As Theodore Dalrymple wrote: "for tolerance to work, it must be reciprocal; tolerance appears to the intolerant jihadist as mere weakness and lack of belief in anything. Unilateral tolerance in a world of intolerance is like unilateral disarmament in a world of armed camps: it regards hope as a better basis for policy than reality." No one understands that better than Muslim diasporas suffering from the suspicions of their neighbors; the Muslim’s elites whose access to the West has been seriously curtailed or the Muslim leaders whose very legitimacy not to mention the quality of their rule has come under serious question. Moreover, Muslim elites know that they must clear the Jihadist atmosphere polluting their lands if they are to have any chance of withstanding in tact the new wave of democratization evident around the world.

These are the pressures which led King Abdullah II of Jordan to organize what Friedman called “an impressive conference in Amman for moderate Muslim thinkers and clerics who want to take back their faith from those who have tried to hijack it." Just note that the topics the 180 scholars from around the Muslim world (some far from moderate) got together to discuss: “human rights, moderate Islam and reform priorities; behavior towards other Muslims, rights of minorities and citizenship, the position of woman, training of imams, the cohesion of Muslim society; the practice of accusing people of religious dissent (the murder of the Egyptian envoy to Iraq was preceded by a finding that he was guilty of apostasy), which has led to Muslims' blood being spilled in various countries, and unauthorized fatwas.”

If you assume that such a gathering would attract an army of Western reporters, you’d be wrong. The Middle East media covered the conference but the only Western paper to do so was theSun Herald, a paper published in Southern Mississippi. Nor is the experience of the Jordanian conference unique. Forget the extremist bravado and even the defensiveness demonstrated by some official spokespersons. Typically, when Muslims are accused of the crime of silence, they remonstrate that their repeated condemnations are often ignored as are their attempts to wrestle control of mosques from extremists. There cannot be a better case in point than that of the Finsbury Mosque. Just compare the number of articles written about the Jihadist cleric, Abu Hamza al-Masri, to the ones written about the successful efforts made by moderates to reclaim the mosque, install a new board of trustees and bring in a new, moderate imam. Just as importantly, how many articles were written about the fact that the change dramatically increased mosque attendance. Clearly, it was community support which enabled the new Imam to call on his flock to cooperate with the police to apprehend those responsible for the London bombing.

“UK religious leaders have issued a rare joint statement condemning Thursday's 'evil terrorist' attacks in London” reports the BBC. That joint statement is the outcome of another phenomenon studiously ignored by the media, the serious Muslim efforts to engage in interfaith dialogue with Christians and Jews. After all, there is strength in numbers. Of course, mainstream (as opposed to radical leftist) Christians and Jews condition that help on an unconditional Muslim condemnation of terror and the acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Those were the accepted guidelines of a Christian, Jewish and Muslim interfaith group organized last year in South Jersey to which I belong. The first major undertaking of the group was an interfaith Prayer service for peace and against terror. We had no difficulty attracting clergy or participants. The local media was another matter. Some deigned to send correspondents but the stories (if they wrote any) never made it into the papers.

This regional experience is mirrored by the amazing lack of coverage received by the recent inter religious conference organized by the Emir of Qatar in Doha in late June. Mark R. Cohen, Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and a conference participant summarizes the importance of the conference thus: “There have been a couple of other such interreligious conferences in recent years, for instance, in Jordan (which has a Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, founded by Crown Prince Hassan, the brother of the late King Hussein) and in Morocco, but this one in Doha, as far as I know, was the first such meeting in a country whose official religion is Wahhabi Islam, let alone in a country that borders on Saudi Arabia.” Professor Cohen, along with J. Rolando Matalon, rabbi of B'nai Jeshurun in Manhattan, Rabbi Burton Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, associate professor of religious studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, was one of the American Jewish participants at the conference.

It should be noted that this was the third annual such conference. The previous two were organized by the Anglican and Catholic churches and were limited to Christians and Muslims (perhaps, as Christopher Hitchens argues about a similar post 7/7 exclusion, "Why do I think that there were some in both the Muslim and Christian leaderships who thought that, in their proud 'inclusiveness,' they didn't need to go quite that far?”).

However, the Third Doha Conference for Religious Dialogue, the one organized by the Faculty of Shari`ah at Qatar University at the urging of the Emir, who according to Rabbi Visotzky, possesses “a strong sense of self,” included Jews. Moreover, Israeli Rabbis were also invited and their invitation was advertised in the local press along with the news that the invitation of the Jews led Muslim Brotherhood affiliated scholar Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, who was given asylum in Qatar after being ousted from Egypt, to stay away (he participated at the Jordanian meeting!).

Interestingly, it was the absence of the Israeli rabbis rather than the absence of al-Qaradawi that the head of the organizing committee, Dr Aisha al-Mannai, had to explain repeatedly:

About the participation of Jewish representatives in the conference, al-Mannai said that invitations were extended to moderate Jewish personalities, as 'we have tried in the beginning to avoid inviting any one from Israel not to provoke neither the Christian nor the Muslim sides.' ” She said: “However, they have been later on invited but they did not come, claiming in press and other media means that the State of Qatar had invited them to attend the conference but not to participate with a word.” These remarks were untrue, she said, stressing that the State of Qatar would never invite people and prevent them from expressing their views in a conference specifically made for dialogue.

The first address to be made at the opening ceremony immediately after the inaugural address of HH the Emir was made by the Jewish side according to the chronological order of the three religions, she said. “We have no objection to dialogue with Jews for being Jews and we have nothing against them as followers of Judaism, as individuals or intuitions. And we have no prejudice or rejection of Judaism as a religion,” al-Mannai said. “We merely oppose the supporters of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and we disapprove the ongoing practices in Palestinian territories,” she said, stressing that such stances are well-known to everyone. [Click here for the news story.]

Of course, the question as to whether “the occupation of Palestine” refers only to the lands conquered in 1967 or includes Israel per se remains, though the relatively benign relationship between Israel and Qatar gives credence to Rabbi Matalon’s experience. “In my case,” he reports, “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was brought up constantly in interviews with the press and conversations with the participants.  People were surprised when I stated that I, just as the majority of Israelis and the majority of Jews in the world, oppose the occupation of west bank and Gaza and am in favor of a 2 state solution. They were surprised when I acknowledged the humiliation of the Palestinians and their suffering and were quite ready to listen when I would explain why the state of Israel has full right to exist.” In other words, much of Arab anti-Semitism and anti-Israel feelings are based on misinformation which the conference began to address. If things progress as expected, Israeli rabbis will participate in next year’s conference.

To follow up the conference, it was proposed that an international centre for religious dialogue will be set up in Doha to deepen knowledge among followers of the three faiths, and review negative inherited values and prejudices that hinder mutual understanding. The conferees also recommended that academic sections in Arab and Islamic universities to study the three monotheistic religions in a scientific way should be set up as well as councils for religious coexistence. There was even talk of permitting foreign workers to build a church in Qatar.

Finally, when I asked Professor Cohen what was the most surprising aspect of the conference, he retorted: “In this democratically aspiring Islamic country, in spite of the fact that the official religion is Wahhabi Islam, we heard unexpected voices of dissent from the 'party line.'  When a Muslim speaker excoriated both Christians and Jews and spoke about the Zionized West, the moderator, Dr. Al-Manai, demurred, saying: 'We must be frank. I would have hoped your talk could have included some criticism of Islam as well.' On my own panel, the former Dean of the same Faculty, and Professor of Law, Sheikh Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, said forcefully and surprisingly: 'If the Palestinian problem is solved will all our problems be over? No.   Muslims show hatred and opposition also among themselves….There is a culture of hatred… We need to address our own faults and failures, to be self-critical…if we want to have a fruitful dialogue.' ”  

In other words, the forces determined to avoid a vicious and counterproductive clash of civilizations are making progress. By failing to cover that progress, the Western media are not only failing to tell an important story but actually undermining it.

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omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

To Judith Apter Klinghoffer.

I have noted that the guidelines, read preconditions, for attendance of the South Jersey meeting were:

"Of course, mainstream (as opposed to radical leftist)
Christians and Jews condition that help on an unconditional Muslim condemnation of terror and the acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Those were the accepted guidelines of a Christian, Jewish and Muslim interfaith group organized last year in South Jersey to which I belong."

Obviouslly these preconditions, "unconditional Muslim condemnation of terror and the acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.", were directed at Moslems!

I wonder whether any equivalent "guidelines" were aimed at Jewish and/or Christain attendees?
A very short list of guidelines could, reasonably,include:
a-Uncondional Jewish and/or Christain condemnation of Israeli "occupation"
b-Uncondional Jewish and/or Chritain condemnation of Israeli Settlements erected on occupied territoties
c-Unconditional Jewish and/or Christain condemnation of the Wall
d-Unconditional Jewish and/or Christain condemnation of land confiscation , renewable administrative detention and deportation
e-Accetance and demand for implementation of relevant UN resolutions including the Right of Return !
f-etc, etc, etc.

Judging by what you have written it seems to me no such "guidelines",if any at all, were drawn to prequalify Jewish and/or Christain attendance.
(Had there been any please indicate)

"Prequalified" Moslems, whether "clerics" or otherwise, attending ,so called inter faith meetings , under precondions solely aimed at and applicable to them only can hardly claim any genuine "representative" capacity of their faith!

The Jewish "guards" in Nazi concentration camps hardly represented their coreligionists!

Equally note worthy in your post is a paragraph in which you raise an important question but cede the answer, seemingly in total agreement, to the more "experienced" rabbi Matalon:

"Of course, the question as to whether “the occupation of Palestine” refers only to the lands conquered in 1967 or includes Israel per se remains, though the relatively benign relationship between Israel and Qatar gives credence to Rabbi Matalon’s experience. ...... People were surprised when I stated that I, just as the majority of Israelis and the majority of Jews in the world, oppose the occupation of west bank and Gaza and am in favor of a 2 state solution."

A statement like this , starting with the irrevocable "of course", together with the applied prequalifying "guidelines" seem to me to best sum up an attitude and mentality better suited to political ( in the real politik sense)rather than genuine "inter faith" meetings.


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedman
As I said, and expected, you have nothing to say; repeating worn out positions, with a slight modification here and a small embellishment there is not worth listenning to!
More of the same to be met with more of the same for as long as it takes until one party is worn out..I do not believe our party will be worn out first!
Sad..I propose you reread my "What Did Zionism Achieve?" post.
I sincerely believed that the Jews deserved better treatment by the whole world...what Zionism did in and to Palestine will, unfortunately, plague them for much , much longer than they ever thought possible...sad indeed!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

I neither accept nor acknowledge any of the myth cum post act pseudo justifications you outline.
My unshakable belief is that Zionism is ,was and will always be an AGGRESSIVE, MARAUDING and RACIST doctrine that DISPLACED, DISPOSSESSED and DISFRANSHISED the indigenous Palestinian Arabs in their homeland Palestine and replaced with ALIENS gathered from all over the world to partake in the looting.
AS such Zionism did the JEWS, both Zionists and nonZionists, a great disservice.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedman
Blinded as you are by your Zionist fanaticism you have nothing to say except hurling personal insults..understandable and expected from you and yours...!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Ramirez

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

For once Mr Friedman seems to have fallen on a, patently self serving to propagate, truth:
"And, moreover, while the Jihadis come and go(?), the Islamists march on, seizing control of institutions after institution in Egypt (and, I might add, the same is so throughout the Muslim regions). And so, the Islamists, for now, also control the agenda in much of the Muslim regions."

So what do you propose to do about it Mr Friedman re:
a- Israel's medium and long term interests?
b-And, if that is as crucial to you, America's medium and long term interests?
Short term need not be discussed for it is daily unfolding for every body to see!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Since we are living in this world and nice words aside you, the tireless one man(?)think tank , did not answer two simple but, to me, extremely important questions .
"So what do you propose to do about it Mr Friedman re:
a- Israel's medium and long term interests?
b-And, if that is as crucial to you, America's medium and long term interests?
Short term need not be discussed for it is daily unfolding for every body to see!"
I contend that both questions are extremely relevant and purposefully to the point since:
a-Israel is, for bad or worse, a major mover of events and thoughts in the Moslem world.Its policies, actions and inactions, in defense of its "interests", are bound to have substantial impact .
b-The USA under the firm and growing influence of the neocon/AIPAC lobby and as torch, and cost, bearer of the anti "terrorist" war, which by US legal definition are by far mostly Moslem entities , is the power whose policies, actions and inactions will determine future events; dare I say future history.
I sincerely would like to hear what you have to say .
Shall it be:
1- further intensified confrontation
2- reconciliation
3- benign neglect
4- none of the above
Surely , having made the remark you did re the growing influence of Islamism,you can not flee the camp now!
So what do you propose Mr Friedman?

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedman
I note that re:
1- Israel you have nothing to say about Jerusalem,occupation , settlements, the wall and the Right of Return.
2- USA endorsement of present policies with the occasional conquest whenever the need and/or desire arises.
That is more of the same that would lead to more of the same.
I expected that but wanted to hear it from your mouth.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Right. The point is indeed: How to prevent the merely "devout" from being brainwashed into becoming terrorists and suicide bombers. Bigoted and paranoid condemnation of them purely because of their basic religious faith is probably the fastest and surest way to utterly fail at such prevention.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

It would be stupid if not bigoted to assume (e.g. in hundreds of HNN posts) that billions of Christians are at "war" with all non-Christians based on what a few nuts in Texas did once. Of course, Al Qaeda and its ilk comprise a vastly more serious threat to international peace, stability and democracy than the Branch Davidians did, but that does not mean that the rest of us all live in the Warsaw Ghetto and it is 1943.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Re Warsaw: Read Friedman here and elsewhere. It is a broken record of fear-based monologuery (as long as we are inventing words). As for Martin Luther, comparing him to Osama in any meaningful relevant sense here would be ludicrous.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I am with you on your last point, but not on the inversion of it in your earlier question. Nor do I find historical religious sea-changes of any great immediate relevance to the basic need under discussion here, namely to isolate and contain the lunatic fringe rather than condemn the mainstream wholesale and without differentiaion for the crimes of the extreme minority.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Every knowledgeable expert I have encountered, from Bernard Lewis to Richard Clarke makes some sort of distinction between

(1) the less than 1% of Moslems who are the ruthless power-hungry or suicidal terrorist fanatics that you describe in your other posts here,

(2) a much larger group of maybe 10-25% of Moslems who are in some significant sense sympathetic on-lookers to the actions and utterances of those in group (1), and

(3) the larger majority of 75%+ of Moslems, who like most people of any religion basically want to be left alone in peace.

I don't suppose any such expert could credibly say what the precise percentages defining these categories might be, but no sensible person can deny the importance of such distinctions. That is the where you, N, and the sensible, all too often part company.

As a matter of empirical and historical reality, the U.S. government (and to a lesser extent other major "western" governments as well) have focused mainly since 9-11-01 on group 1. Except for the accompanying distortions, hypocrisy, torture and other abuses, corrupt maneuvers to line person pockets (Halliburton) or shield friends (Bush's Saudi oil buddies), and bureaucratic missteps (failure to implement better safety measures on public transport), the Orwellianly mislabelled "war on terror" has at least begun to address the challenges of confronting those in group 1.

Given, however, that (again according to the usual experts) (a) nothing we do can possibly prevent 100% of terrorist attacks by individuals or entities within group 1, and (b) groups 1 and 2 have been growing as a percentage of all Moslems in recent years, the much greater long-run policy issue concerns the actions and programs of western governments with respect to groups 2 and 3. In other words, what is the Bush Administration, for example, doing to prevent group 1 from expanding by "converting" those in group 2 to its way of thinking, and to prevent a drift of Moslems from group 3 to group 2 ?

Here the track record is more disputable, but it certainly appears more than likely that overall, from positions towards to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to the bungled occupation of Iraq, that U.S. government policies and actions have, on balance, helped to expand groups 1 and 2 at the expense of group 3. It is also very likely, as Rumsfeld himself suggested in his famous "leaked" memo, that this expansion has more than offset any gains from the "war on terror" in reducing the numbers and effectiveness of group 1.

Your failure, N, in your many hundreds of HNN posts, to even grasp the fundamental connection between the broad effects of U.S. policies and the long-term recruitment of new Islamic terrorists drastically reduces the credibility of those posts whether or not they might otherwise rate as "think tank" quality.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Almost no writer at HNN has argued more forcefully for ignoring moderate Moslems than Klinghoffer. Look in the HNN archives from 2-3 year ago for many such examples. She was at the front ranks of the mindless cheerleading for the deceit-ridden Iraq invasion fiasco of two years ago which has done more to help Al Qaeda and fanatical Islam than decades of lesser blunders by Junior Bush's presidential predecessors. To criticize the press now for having a case of myopia far milder than her own is rank hypocrisy.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

We have been around this point many times before. You continue to implicitly but undeniably assume, contrary to factual evidence, (a) that Islamic terrorists are a scarily but thoroughly unquantifiable large (or "very very large") percentage of the hundreds of millions of practicing Moslems worldwide, and (b) that this vague but horrifyingly huge ratio is unaffected by the policies and actions of the U.S .government. Your more developed ideas will continue to go nowhere as long as they continue to rest on this nonsensical foundation.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

" what should be spoken of is a religious predilection"

Certainly among the fanatical (up to 1% of) Moslems referred to in the earlier posts above, this is pertinent terminology. To apply it wholesale and broadly to all or most Moslems, however, as you have done in so many HNN posts over many months, amounts to sheer religious prejudice - your paranoid prejudice, N.

It is disingenuous of Klinghoffer to now suddenly make distinctions within religious groups a central theme, after so many prior articles arguing oppositely, but at least she is savvy enough to recognize a need for changing tack even if she won't admit to doing so.

The problem of Moslem extremism is a very serious one, and needs to be actively, forcefully and intelligently counteracted by the democratic world. Paranoia or behind-covering statements and gestures (e.g. European countries now making mass roundups of usual suspects and tightening border controls - measures that would patently NOT have prevented the recent London attacks) are not productive contributions to such efforts. Blanket religious prejudice against Moslems is clearly worse: not only does it fail to address the problem, it feeds it.

N. Friedman - 7/16/2005


In the above post, the quoted material is from Chapter 4 - A Transition of War, The Armies of Islam at http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/gabrmetz/gabr0016.htm in A Short History of War, by Richard A. Gabriel and Karen S. Metz, for Strategic Studies Institute U.S. Army War College (Online version by Air War College) at http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/gabrmetz/gabr0000.htm .

N. Friedman - 7/16/2005


In the above post, the quoted material is from Chapter 4 - A Transition of War, The Armies of Islam at http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/gabrmetz/gabr0016.htm in A Short History of War, by Richard A. Gabriel and Karen S. Metz

N. Friedman - 7/16/2005


If found this in a book published online:

No one could have foreseen this staggering degree of military success, because for 300 years Arab armies were hardly armies at all. The early followers of Mohammed were desert tribes and clans called to the banner of the faith who fought in no organized formations. The idea of individual glory drove warriors to feats of great bravery, but at the same time made them impossible to organize as fighting units. For more than a century Arab soldiers fought with primitive weapons -- the personal sword, dagger, lance -- and wore no defensive armor or helmets. These conquering forces had no staff organization, no siegecraft capabilities, and no logistics trains. Tactics were almost nonexistent as these armies relied upon small hit-and-run raids, the razzias, and ambushes as their primary tactical maneuvers. Mobility was limited as most of the army moved on foot and fought as infantry accompanied by small contingents of camel cavalry. Even their size was small. The force that attacked and subdued Egypt (640-642) numbered no more than 4,000 men. But such corps of armed men could and did count on their numbers growing into the thousands as converts flocked to their cause along the line of march.

Chapter 4 - A Transition of War, The Armies of Islam at http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/gabrmetz/gabr0016.htm in A Short History of War

N. Friedman - 7/16/2005


You are a bright guy. Where did you get the idea that Chechens did not have the same predilection as others? I never said that everything that Muslims do is explained by their religion. I said that the current war is rather well described by the religion.

Consider this point from this week's London Spectator:

To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers. As the killer of Theo Van Gogh told his victim’s mother this week in a Dutch courtroom, he could not care for her, could not sympathise, because she was not a Muslim.

The trouble with this disgusting arrogance and condescension is that it is widely supported in Koranic texts, and we look in vain for the enlightened Islamic teachers and preachers who will begin the process of reform. What is going on in these mosques and madrasas? When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s mediaeval ass?


Boris Johnson has a point? Which is to say, what we see is, in fact, well supported by Islam. And there are few Muslims, thus far, willing to stand up and say that killing infidel is un-Islamic because, in fact, it is not.

I might add that if you read a bit of history regarding the Muslim regions, you will note that what we are arguing about has occured previously by Islamic Jihad against infidel, particularly in the early days of Islam, when small bands of Jihadis, with little if any central control, were instrumental in spreading the rule of Islam over three continents.

Arnold Shcherban - 7/16/2005

<...a religious predilection>?

Somehow, Chechens, e.g., did not have any such "religious predilection" before the purely political issues of independence and the armed conflict with Russia, stemmed from those, started, did they?
Somehow, we hardly heard of any suicide bombing commited
by Muslim terrorists, until very recent years, did we?
Somehow, finally, we have seen hardly any wide-scale terrorist acts anywhere in the world, based just, or even primarily, on religious predilection, do we?
The main and primary reasons for any terrorist activity
have always been and still remain - economical and political, not religious. The latter, as well, as non-religious ideology is just a convenient and very effective
cover for the real causes.

N. Friedman - 7/15/2005


I say what I say on the basis of having read a bit about Islam. What is the basis for your statements? And the for the 4th time: which books by experts on Islam? Find me someone, other than a pure apologist, who denies what appears in books about Islam written by Muslims as well as Western experts on Islam?

Again, I am not bigoted. The problem is that you have not studied the subject sufficiently.

E. Simon - 7/15/2005

"As for Martin Luther, comparing him to Osama..."

Then why would you do so? I certainly didn't. I made a distinction between changing a tradition (as Martin Luther did), and not changing. It seems you missed something, but I'm not sure which part you did not get.

E. Simon - 7/15/2005

Also, it's a bit unclear what you mean by the Warsaw Ghetto reference and the 1943 bit. Do you have a problem speaking clearly or does innuendo help make your muddled thoughts seem somehow grandiloquent?

E. Simon - 7/15/2005

Peter if you're saying that al Qaeda-"ism" (not that I've ever heard of such a term) is actually a _cult_ of Islam, rather than a political movement whose adherents' religious beliefs are not substantially different from those held (either actively or passively) by the religion generally, could you kindly provide the documentation to support this claim?

Would you also claim that before Martin Luther, most Christians rejected Catholic church sacraments, papal authority, and the like, and that the Protestant reformation wasn't the most important reason for why many (but not most) Christians nowadays do?

Do you acknowledge the existence of something called "organized religion" at all or do you have the impression that every religion allows for a similarly large and open degree of individual interpretation?

E. Simon - 7/15/2005

Peter, were the Branch Davidians who died in Waco also wayward, "brainwashed" adherents of an otherwise entirely respectable religious philosophy, or would it be "bigoted" to explore whether or not something more fundamental in that religious stream as a whole was at play in directing their actions?

N. Friedman - 7/15/2005


I have not made any bigoted or paranoid statements or condemnations. That is in your head. Your problem is that you do not read.

I have said what I have said and stand by it. My theory, unlike the nonsense you peddle, has the advantage of having some connection with the history of Islam and its very many Jihad wars, of which the current Jihad is likely, I think, one.

The goal, by the way, is not how to convince people not to do what they are taught in religious school is morally appropriate behavior (i.e. living a life akin to that of the Prophet and his companions). That will never happen so long as Muslims remain devout. What you call brainwashing is, to Muslims, their faith and you are not going to make people disbelieve their own preachers who, in this case, are accurately following their own faith.

What needs to be done is to convince Muslims that their Jihad will not succeed in its goal to restore the Caliphate and that they will not conquer additional territory. Such is rather unlikely to occur any time soon as people fail to realize what these people seek, fail to recognize the goals as being within the ambit of traditional Islam and fail to employ an ideological defense directed to the fight that is at hand.

And, frankly, people like you who fail to recognize the direct line between knowledgeable preachers advocating Jihad and their flock, consisting of believers, who seek to do what they are told is morally appropriate is, to me, astounding.

And no: to point out what is taught in religious schools and what is known to be the position of classical Islam is not to be bigotted. It is to tell the truth. And what I have said regarding Islam and Jihad is classical Islam.

Incidentally... For the third time, now that you have cited Bernard Lewis: what Bernard Lewis works have you read? I am beginning to think the answer is "None."

N. Friedman - 7/14/2005


By the way, if you need proof that the doctrine attracts ordinary Muslims, read about the London Bombers. e.g. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/14/international/europe/14leeds.html?pagewanted=print

These kids were not even involved in politics. They merely were devout. And that, frankly, is the point.

N. Friedman - 7/14/2005


I suggest to you that the Manichaean description of life on Earth (i.e. the world is divided between the dar al-Islam and the dar al-harb) and the religious demand that Muslims work to eliminate the dar al-harb, by either Jihad or da'wa or the like, is central to Islam and is believed in by the vast, vast majority of Muslims. To say otherwise, Peter, is to disqualify yourself from discussing the matter.

This is not a doctrine limited to 1% of Muslims. It is a core belief.

On this point, you will find that your new hero Bernard Lewis agrees with me. And, by the way, I am still waiting to learn which books, if any, of his you have read.

I again reiterate, the Islamists are merely traditional Muslims. And they are, accordingly, the vast, vast majority of Muslims. Those directly involved in terror, on the other hand, are the less than 1% of people to whom you refer.

But the majority of ordinary Muslims are nearly hopeless to confront the violent Jihadis - i.e. those directly involved - because the majority believes in the doctrine noted by me above. Which is to say, the Jihadist are doing what the majority are taught as classical Islam.

N. Friedman - 7/13/2005


The word "plan" is too strong a word. Instead, what should be spoken of is a religious predilection.

N. Friedman - 7/13/2005


You misread what I wrote.

I never said that Islamists want to kill all of us. That is nonsense. READ what I wrote.

I said that Islam teaches that Muslims should take steps, including Jihad, with the aim of bring Muslim rule to the entire world.

And yes. The plot against the Eifel Tower was part of the plan I speak of.

Arnold Shcherban - 7/13/2005

<What did France - i.e. friend of Islam France which sides with the Palestinians and against the US as it relates to the Muslim regions - do wrong which made Jihadis plot to fly a plane into the Eifel Tower? In a word, nothing. Nothing at all.>

That's supposed to be a strong argument in favor of the ideological construct that claims all Islamic terrorists
want just to kill Westerners/unfaithful.
Instead, it just shows the weakness of the construct in question and lack of legitimate arguments and serious analysis.
The "French" plot demonstrates one more time (as on multiple occasions before) the NON-EXISTENCE of organizational, operational and/or ideological center or
the "well-advertised" by the Western media and intelligence services recruitment activities for Islamic terrorism, i.e. practical NON-EXISTENCE of Al-Qaeda, the
conclusion I've come up with two years ago and repeatedly expressed on these boards. It demonstrates the randomness and illogicality of the separate, mostly small, terrorist groups, comprised of a three-five guys, mostly well-educated, far from being religious fanatics, which have not been recruited by anyone, but got to a mutual, though criminal, consent as to how "affect" the Western public opinion in regard to their countries' affairs, or punish
the "treacherous" West for its perceived wrongdoings there.
Essentially the same conclusion that some CIA and FBI consultants, experts on Muslim terrorism came up to through their comprehensive
and independent (from the goverment and elitarian institutions) analysis of many Muslim active terrorists and their activity. But of course, this resume doesn't lie well with the official, conservative, ideological, political and/or financially motivated position, and therefore won't ever be accepted or even considered by
those responsible for the practical decisions.

As far as it concerns Ms. Klinghofer, I completely agree with P. Clark in his characterization of her continuos hypocritical stance, and not only on the matter discussed here, which I already commented on a couple of other occasions.

N. Friedman - 7/13/2005


Let us assume that you are correct and that less than 1% is involved. Do the math. That could be up to a 1 million people. And that is a rather extraordinary problem, do you not think?

In fact, however, the evidence does not show that only 1% is directly involved. The evidence shows that a small fraction of 1% may be directly engaged - so maybe the number is only 100,000 to 200,000 people are actively involved. But even that number is extraordinary.

Whatever the number of people is directly involved, they find refuge among most other believing Muslims and tacit moral support from the vast majority of believing Muslims as, in fact, to be a believing Muslim, unless the person rejects classical Islam, is to believe that the political goal of Islam is to bring the entire world under the political rule of Islam by, if need be, Jihad.

In fact, if you read back, you are mistating my position. I argued that most Muslims are, in a sense, captured by what we call Islamism. Which is to say, Islamism is basically classical Islam. I stand by that and do not believe that Bernard Lewis would remotely disagree.

Ask Irfan about the beliefs of classical Islam if you do not believe me. Better still, note what Bernard Lewis indicates to be classical Islamic belief in many of his books. Note what the late great Ignaz Goldhizer (who is nearly an apologist for Islam, by the way) says on the topic. And what Bat Ye'or writes. And what MJ Akbar writes. And what anyone who is a reputable scholar of Islam writes. It is only you, Peter, who argues against the facts of what Muslim people are taught to believe and have been taught to believe through the ages.

What might be said - toward your point about peace loving - is that after the early Muslim empire was unable to conquer more land, a period of consolidation set in. During that period, the view that Islam was to conquer the world can, in a sense, be argued to have taken on somewhat the nature of the saying, in a Jewish seder, "Next year in Jerusalem" - i.e as a vision more than an expected reality -. The original idea of conquest, however, did not - and here is the problem with pushing such an argument too far - stay dormant but became real some years later, particularly with the Ghazi who resumed the idea of conquest. What can be said is that during much of the history of Islam - and basically whenever conquest seemed possible - what was vision when conquest seemed impossible became a real call to action which led to actual Jihad as offensive war.

I agree with you that most Muslims want no part in getting killed. Whether they are deeply troubled in large numbers or whether there are crocodile tears being shed is quite another thing. That is hard to judge. In any event, not wanting to be killed is a very, very different thing from suggesting, as you appear to suggest, that, as believers, most do not more or less agree with the goals, if not perhaps also the method, of the Jihadis. In fact, it is difficult to imagine that all that many disagree with at least the goals - as it is a central belief of classical Islam -. Which is one reason why, as I say, the Jihadis find refuge in Muslim communities and one reason why there is no effective argument by average Muslims against the Jihadis and one reason why it is a mistake to view the issue as a few radicals among an otherwise peaceful community. Your view, frankly, is a dangerous delusion.

And I have, moreover, not failed to grasp the connection between US policy and the Jihadis. I merely think that the alleged connection amounts to post hoc ergo proctor hoc. Which is to say, I think that the theory is a nonsense theory put forth by people who, in any event, desire to change US policy. The real issue is the perception among many Muslims that it has now become, perhaps due to changes in world politics, technology and the like and after the success in Afghanistan, possible again to conquer by Jihad.

Put bluntly, what policy mistake did Turkey make that led to it being bombed by the Jihadis? What policy mistake did Indonesia make before those kids were blown up at the night club in Bali? What did France - i.e. friend of Islam France which sides with the Palestinians and against the US as it relates to the Muslim regions - do wrong which made Jihadis plot to fly a plane into the Eifel Tower? In a word, nothing. Nothing at all.

Incidently, what book of Bernard Lewis have you really read, Peter? You cite him so name the source. I note that I have read quite a few of his books so maybe I read the one you are citing.

Sergio Ramirez - 7/12/2005

It's a belief and its unshakable. Irrational, stupid, counter-factual, ahistorical beliefs are usuall unshakable.

N. Friedman - 7/12/2005


That is because you are ignorant.

N. Friedman - 7/12/2005


That is because you are ignorant.

N. Friedman - 7/12/2005


If you would ackowledge that, in fact, Jews had the absolute moral right to move to historic Palestine, that they had the moral right to pursue politics in historic Palestine, that they sought, from the beginning, to work with Palestinian Arabs for the benefit of all involved - i.e. for joint rule - but that after being attacked, Jews mostly decided that their future required protection from the Arabs who sought to drive away Jews - something the Arabs had no moral right to do -, we would be a thousand percent closer to a real discussion.

And note: positions do not become tired. Something is either accurate or not. And what I write is quite accurate.

Edward Siegler - 7/12/2005

As a knee-jerk moderate, I agree with your approach of reaching out to moderate Muslims. But I wonder - how many Muslims can be considered "moderate"? In other words, is the moderate brand of Islam influential in the religion as a whole or is it more of a marginal element? By reaching out to what we would call moderates we are in fact attempting to connect with what is seen as a lunatic fringe within the Moslem community as a whole? How would you define "moderate?"

N. Friedman - 7/12/2005


The word "occupied" is a legal term, not a description, and it is not appropriately applied in law to Jerusalem in any event. And, even if the term is the accurate term, I do not much care what places are occupied. I care, instead, to settle the dispute.

The only reason to single out Jerusalem is its religious quotient, not the useless term "occupation." And its religious content is not more sacred to Muslim and Christians than it is to Jews. So Palestinian Arabs have no special claim to Jerusalem and, under UN 181, such land was not to be under Palestinian Arab sovereignty anyway.

Because Jerusalem is a religious city of importance to at least three religions, the city might, as in UN 181, become an international city under Israel's administrative control but with free passage to all. Such assumes, of course, that Muslims decide to behave differently than they now do and not work to destroy Israel. If they persist in blowing people up, they should be barred from the city as their presence interferes with the rights of other religions. But, if they are willing to settle the dispute - rather than merely grant a hudna or otherwise make a disingenous settlement that is not followed - they should be granted full access to the city.

I might add: there are cities in the "West Bank" which are sacred at least to Jews. Hebron comes to mind. Any real settlement must provide for appropriate care to be taken of such holy places or, quite obviously, the settlement is not real.

As for the places that people live: Whatever side of the agreed to border the "settlers" land on, they should be allowed to live and their lives protected. The same for Palestinian Arabs who end up on Israel's side of the border. The alternative: the Palestinian Arab state should have no Jews and the Jewish state should have no Arabs.

I addressed the issue of refugees. Note my comment regarding prior cases where Muslims have been displaced.

To augment: lots of people have been displaced in history. What happened to the Palestinian Arabs in their failed attempt to displace all of historic Palestine's Jews is ancient history. The same for the sucessful effort of Arabs to displace all Jews from their lands - nearly a million people displaced -. And Palestinian Arabs did, in fact, displace 85,000 Jews from their homes in their unsucessful attempt at ethnic cleansing. If there were cosmic Justice, the world would be very different and no one, including the millions Jews, would be displaced. And, in history, the Muslims did more displacing, so far as I know, than any other group. In fact, such was normal policy in the Ottoman Empire, employed frequently regarding Jews, Christians and even Muslims and, moreover, in places like historic Palestine. So, I do not see what makes the Palestinian Arab claim special other than they refuse to resettle.

The Palestinian Arabs are free to live where they can find refuge, just like Jews who have been forced to do so by Muslims on repeated occasions and just like Jews have been forced to do by Christians on repeated occasions. And just like everyone else in the world has been forced to do.

At present, the world has more than 50 million refugees. Very few will ever get near their original homes. Rather than hold up the entire world, as the Palestinian Arabs try to do in their immmoral war, they should settle - just like the Jews expelled from Arab countries did and just like the millions of Sudetens expelled from Poland and Czechoslovakia between 1947-1950 did, etc., etc..
Such would bring far more justice to all involved and help end an entirely useless war.

I do not consider Israel to have conquered anything. I consider that Jews reclaimed their land by purchasing property. They were attacked, defended themselves and, as a result, came to have a country. But note: the original aim was to form a utopia with the local Arabs. Many Jews still hope against hope that such is somehow still possible. And Jews are still willing to reach a compromise. But note: Jews did not start the fight. That was a decision made by devisive figures like the Grand Mufti, al-Hussaini. And you, for whatever reason, think that such fight, which was unnecessary from the beginning and remains unnecessary to this day, is a good idea. I propose to you that such view is a delusion and that, on your terms, this fight will be going on for a thousand years.

As for occasional conquest and the US: that is what the entire world thinks. Why should the US be the one exception to that rule?

N. Friedman - 7/11/2005


Fair enough although I am not sure I quite qualify as a "think tank" or as any sort of expert:

First, Were I in charge of Israel, I would tell the Palestinian Arabs that they can have a joint future in a loose federation with the Israelis and perhaps also the Jordanians if the Palestinian Arabs (and Jordanians) give up their dream (a) to dominate the region and (b) to force Israelis to be part of the Arab/Muslim fold.

Of course, Israel does not much care about my opinion and I do not advise them. I understand Israel to be attempting to buy off Europe by withdrawing from Gaza and part of the Judea/Samaria as a sign of good faith. In that the Palestinian Arabs do not appear to much care, in the end, to settle the dispute, that is about as much as Israel is likely to do. After that, the Israelis are likely to stand their ground until the Palestinian Arabs come, perhaps someday, to their senses.

Second, so far as the US is concerned, I do not think there is much of anything that, in the short term, will change the trajectory of the Muslim regions. Doing what the Islamists demand will, no doubt, be used the way that Hamas is attempting to use Israel's withdraw from Gaza, namely, as an incentive for increasing their influence - something that is likely to occur.

In any event, the US is not able, in the short run, to much affect how Muslims perceive the world. That will require a change in mind which will likely only come when it becomes clear to Muslims that it is not possible to return to the 7th and 8th Centuries yet live in the 21st Century. I would be it will take another hundred years or so before the obvious is understood.

Were the Islamists rationalist in the Western sense, I would certainly seek reconciliation or benign neglect. We are not, however, dealing with rationalists. We are dealing with people who want to alter the power arrangement of the world so that they are on top. Where they have ruled, people are treated like dirt and, thus far, millions have died unnecessarily. I do not see any reconciliation and, while benign neglect would make sense if they kept mostly to themselves, they have taken their crusade (to use a Western term) to change us to our streets.

In my estimation, their behavior and our policy are not closely connected. Which is to say, if we adopted a policy of benign neglect, they will continue their terror campaign as they, at the end of the day, want to dominate the world.

I thus would counsel employing enough force so that the Islamists know that there is an unnacceptable cost to fighting with us. I would make clear that if they up the ante, so shall we including employing their own tactics against them.

Lastly, regarding your connection between US policy and Israel, I think the concern of the Muslims is symptomatic of their problem. I think that were they to perceive their interests rationally, they have more to gain working with Israel than eternal Jihad. And I note: Muslims have been forced permanently out of countries before and have reconciled to such occurence. Needless to mention: Portugal, Spain, Greece and Sicily which, in their days, were as important Muslims and to Islam as historic Palestine is currently viewed among Muslims. And, I think that such reconciliation with reality could be accomplished in a manner that gives more justice to Palestinian Arabs than does the Jihad against Israel.

N. Friedman - 7/11/2005


No doubt in a different world, we would be fast friends. We certainly know how to go at each other enough to suggest as much.

I have no idea what to do about what occurs in Egypt and the Muslim regions. That is for the Egyptians and Muslims to decide. What concerns me is when they kill civilians as their target of choice. If you want to understand these people, think about what they did at Luxor in Egypt, mutilating people dozens of people indiscriminately - including a butched child - who meant Islam and meant the Egyptians and meant Egypt no harm.

This all has to do with what goes on among Muslims and how they are reacting to the world. I have only one word of common sense. Islam is not the solution, to play on a favorite saying of the Islamists. And note: I am not picking on Islam. It would be no different if Christians, Buddhists or Jews or anyone else took the view that infidel all are legitimate first targets in disputes. I remind you what Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman told Mary Anne Weaver, namely, that targetting non-Muslims in Egypt - and he evidently had Copts in mind - was perfectly acceptable under Islam.

So frankly, that rather learned scholar of Islam sees no value at all - not even a reduced value - in the life of non-Muslims. That, frankly, is something wrong among the Muslims - especially the elite of al Jihad and Gamaa - first and foremost. And it is something for them to come to grips with as their inhumanity is costing lives entirely unnecessarily.

N. Friedman - 7/11/2005


I do not quite recall using the word "scarily." However, the Islamists are clearly the majority among the Muslims in the Arab regions and a growing group elsewhere. So, yes, there are hundreds of millions of such people. Recall the cancelled elections in Algeria if you have any doubt about the matter.

Not all Islamists, of course, are interested in blowing people up but a large percentage does not seem to be much bothered by the phenomena. And, moreover, there does not appear to be any great human outcry against them in the Muslim regions. At most, there are occassional crocodile tears. So, whether the Islamists are technically the majority, they have rather well controlled reaction to what occurs.

If I could recommend a good book regarding radical Islam, I suggest you read A Portrait of Egypt: A Journey Through the World of Militant Islam by Mary Anne Weaver. As the book clearly shows, the Islamists are not a small group at all. And, moreover, while the Jihadis come and go, the Islamists march on, seizing control of institutions after institution in Egypt (and, I might add, the same is so throughout the Muslim regions). And so, the Islamists, for now, also control the agenda in much of the Muslim regions.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 7/11/2005

"Almost no writer at HNN has argued more forcefully for ignoring moderate Moslems than Klinghoffer. Look in the HNN archives from 2-3 year ago for many such examples."
Examples of my advocacy to ignore moderate Muslims as separate from Muslim autocrats, please.

N. Friedman - 7/11/2005


As misguided as the Iraq invasion was, it is, I think, a serious misreading of the evidence to suggest that we have helped al Qa'eda. Which is not to suggest that we have helped the US by invading Iraq. Far from it.

In any event, an examation by you of the Islamist groups prior to 2003 will show you rather clearly that they were up to basically the same thing they are up to now. And they existed in very, very large numbers, then as now. And they had no trouble then, as now, recruiting Jihadis.

What the evidence also shows rather clearly is that the Islamist groups have moved further underground and that they are expending troops - perhaps new recruits - fighting us in Iraq. And, to the extent that they have committed their troops to fighting us largely in Iraq, they too are tied down and further away from their goal to kick us out of the Muslim regions and re-establish the Caliphate. I suppose that their troops gain experience fighting with the US and that may help the Jihadis someday. But, then again, the experience necessary to explode small bombs is not rocket science and, as the evidence from London thus far suggests, can be taught by outsiders to local groups rather easily.

Of course, the cost, in lives, in rifts in the "alliance," in money and in the credibility and reputation of the US for engaging the Islamists in Iraq is too high given that there does not appear to be a viable strategy to create a tolerant Iraq. But, at this point, the stalemate war in Iraq is the strategy and it is likely to be for a long time to come.