Europe’s Eternal Confusion On The Muslim Question

By: Warner Todd Huston

I had occasion to see an Op Ed in the French newspaper Le Figaro that so exemplifies the reason the Europeans cannot understand the era in which we live that I thought it might be instructive to “fisk” it, or dissect it here.

The Op Ed was written by a French Muslim named Moncef Marzouki, a Tunisian writer and professor, and a former candidate in the Tunisian Presidential election. It can be found translated into English on titled: Westerners Must Understand How Muslims Think .

Right away, the very title shows us that Mr. Marzouki is on the wrong road to “understanding” anything. The title itself is placing the onus on the West for “understanding” Muslims. It is clear just by the title alone that you are about to read an apologia for the excess of modern Islam. You won’t be disappointed in that notion as you read either.

I will reprint Mr. Marzouki’s Op Ed and reply to it point by point.

I would like to raise three issues. First a warning: the gap is widening. These caricatures prove how sensitive this subject is, and how much the gap between our two cultures, our two civilizations, our two worlds, is growing. It is necessary for our Western friends to understand how Arabs and Muslims think.

Understanding is a two way street, Mr. Marzouki. As your title portends your Op Ed casts all responsibility upon the western world while seemingly excusing the ignorance and violence of Muslims. You ask nothing of those perpetrating violence while expecting those being terrorized to fall prostrate at the feet of their tormentors. Furthermore, these caricatures were printed in a western nation for the consumption of western customers. It was not forced upon another, Muslim country in an act of aggression. No, Mr. Marzouki, all the aggression is from Islam.

Here are some clues: not only do “they” occupy our lands just as they did in the 19th century, which means militarily and physically “they” with all of the simplification and lumping that the word implies; not only do “they” approve of the dictatorships that have oppressed us ever since so-called independence, not only do “they” plunder our resources, not only do “they” impose their democracies à la Iraq, but when the Palestinians express the will to be free and autonomous, “they” say: “Stop right there! We don’t want that democracy.” And now “they” are attacking what is most sacred to “us.”

This is all palpable nonsense though it is a perfect repetition of how many Muslims feel. But Mr. Marzouki and his Muslim friends do a disservice to Marzouki’s western “friends” to claim that westerners are currently “occupying” the lands of Muslims. He simply furthers the dissemination of the kind of propaganda that the despots in the Islamic world use to enslave their own people. Incidentally, his claims of “occupation” ignore the many thousands of years when it was they, rather, who was doing the “occupying”.

As an Arab living in the Western world, I can also understand what is going on in the minds of Westerners. Not only do “they” attack New York, Madrid and London, not only do “they” invade our countries – the word “they” still filled with the same lumping and simplification – and now “they” are attacking our most sacred value, the one we’ve been fighting for, for centuries: freedom of speech.

Typically, Mr. Marzouki says this as if it is a mere blasé truism, and as if it is the same propagandized doggerel, in mirror, as that of the radical Muslims. They did attack us, kill us, and they are invading our countries with their antithetical beliefs.

Because of this, we are in the uncomfortable position in the Western world of beginning to actually have to outlaw aspects of Islam. Sharia has been banned in Ontario, Canada and in Australia harsh words have been spoken against Sharia by Howard’s administration and it won’t be long before they, too, pass laws against it. Many Western nations are in the unenviable position of having to make laws to curb religious freedoms and it isn’t because the West is anti-Islam. It is because of the abuses of the freedom of religion that Muslims perpetrate and the danger they present to the nations in which they have immigrated. Again the fault lies with Islam with the West only in reaction mode. This is not the day of the crusades where the West tried to force its will on Muslims from without. Today it is Muslims attempting to force their opinions on the West from within the West itself.

My second warning is this: there is no reason to believe it will stop. Unfortunately, we are heading more and more toward what looks like a confrontation of civilizations. This caricature story is being widely exploited by our dictatorships. For example, I am aghast and totally flabbergasted when I see the Secretaries of the Interior of Arab countries (the only inter-Arab institution that works) leap to the defense of Mohammed. But how many Mohammeds have they killed themselves, how many have been tortured to death in their prisons? How many Mohammeds are being blackmailed?

If only he focused more on this fact, than he does on tsk tsking the West for its supposed evils. This small section of his Op Ed smacks of lip service as opposed to heartfelt approbation.

But on the other side too, there’s a manipulation organized by racists and agitators, like the actions we have seen recently in the Western world using this issue to raise the stakes; and there might also be manipulations by Western governments themselves, just like the Bush Administration, which is currently using the story to get the advantage over Iran and Syria.

This is a ridiculous thing to focus on. Yes, there are a few (and that few is much less than the “few” who are extremists on the Muslim side of the argument) that might wish to use the current climate to further “racist” ideas, but these so-called racists are so far and few between in the Western world today that it is barely worth mentioning. To focus on such a tiny, tiny minority of Western views inflames the already easily inflamed Arab world and does discredit to Mr. Marzouki’s argument.

But, Marzouki is involved in that very typical European penchant for equating all philosophies as one and the same with little difference between them. Marzouki does know there are millions upon millions of Muslims who wish violence on Westerners, and that these people are funded by oil rich governments to the tune of billions of dollars but he feels it necessary to assuage the guilt he feels over this by reminding us of the tiny and less powerful “racists” in the West who might try to exploit today’s climate.

It just cannot be denied that any European Party that is making gains using the “Muslim threat” as a drawing card can only be successful because Muslims are becoming a danger all on their own initiative giving such racist groups the color of legitimacy.

The third and final warning: what is ahead of us, us Western and Arab human rights’ activists, is an extremely difficult task. I sometimes wonder if we are capable of stopping this tsunami, or if we are going to have to rebuild over the ruins; but in any case, we have the obligation to take action, we have the obligation to intervene, since we are not from two different cultures, two types of different systems of values, but a single and unique system of values: we both believe in human rights and we all believe in universality. And we can only build bridges by refusing to sully this sacred aura. We can start healing this wound by refusing to lump Westerners with a totally irresponsible newspaper and by refusing to lump together Islam and Muslims with people who blow themselves up.

I agree with the contents of this segment until that last 14 words in the paragraph. Once again one is struck by an ever-present European nihilism. He refuses to accept the legitimate point that Westerners are attempting to deal with this issue via discussion, the rule of law, and the democratic process while Muslims are, indeed, blowing themselves and innocents to smithereens.

It is perfectly legitimate to “lump” Muslims in with their fellows who commit violence in the name of Muhammad for several reasons. 1). The Westerner’s way of dealing with this issue is moral and the way Muslims are doing so is plainly immoral, 2). Few in the Muslim world disagree with the violence their most extreme members perpetrate and that can be proven by the relatively small number of Muslims who publicly decry the violence, and 3). Islamic governments almost to a nation loudly and publicly approve of such violence. In contrast, every western nation is looking for ways (as this column is doing) of “understanding” the Muslims, of “finding common ground” with them, and of “using diplomacy” with them to alleviate this gulf between cultures. Where is the attempt to bridge the gulf coming from Islam? In comparison to the hands reaching out from the West it can be said that it doesn’t exist.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the subject will remain sensitive as long as the root problems – long run political problems – continue unresolved. First, an end to the martyrdom of the Palestinian people; second, an end to the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; third, an end to the support of Western democracies for the dictatorships oppressing, humiliating and leaving us in that state of frustration, false solutions, and the vicious cycle of failure, which is partly to blame for this outburst of terrorism.

And now we get to the main reason why Mr. Marzouki is a racist who is an apologist for terrorism with this last paragraph. Most of this column of his is an accusing finger of blame pointed toward the Western world. He pays but lip service to the wrong committed by Islam and then quickly turns that into a claim that it is all the West’s fault anyway. But the lies and nonsense in the last paragraph is the best example of why Islam will never come to the table to negotiate a peaceful existence with the rest of us.

–”First, an end to the martyrdom of the Palestinian people”

This mythic “martyrdom of the Palestinian people” is one of the worst lies that the Arab world repeatedly tells itself. The entire plight of the supposed “Palestinians” was made by and is maintained by the Arab world. They created the turmoil, they benefit from the turmoil, and they have a vested interest in continuing it. And so they do. Furthermore, the only reason there could even be such a martyrdom is because of the existence of Israel as far as Muslims are concerned. This gets to the racism against Jews so common among Muslims. Marzouki may decry racism, but it is telling that he pretends there is none in his own.

–”second, an end to the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan”

Mr. Marzouki would condemn the people of both states to despotism without a second thought. Neither would he ask the people who actually live there if they would agree with his blind assumptions that they would be happier without American protection as they retool their governments and attempt to create a democracy to assure freedom and liberty upon their people.

–”third, an end to the support of Western democracies for the dictatorships”

Once again, according to Marzouki it’s all the West’s fault. Not a word here about the Muslims who are really to blame. It is the same lack of logic that would blame a gun for a shooting instead of the person wielding that gun.

Mr. Marzouki is a perfect example of why the west is having trouble understanding the current age in which we live. His is what passes for a “balanced” and “civilized” position in Europe. But, when all the multicultural falderal and fluff is pulled aside all we end up with is another Muslim who blames everyone else for the savagery of their worst extremists with the tacit approval of the rest of them. When the veneer is stripped away all you end up with is more Muslim untruths and excuses for their behavior. And, in the end, Europe finds itself twisting and turning in their desire to sound “reasonable” while excusing any manner of outrage.

Until Europe realizes that the brand of Islam currently being practiced by Islamists, is not only utterly incompatible with liberty and freedom, but is systematically endeavoring to destroy the West. Until Europe treats the extremists of Islam as an actual enemy, one fully armed and dangerous, instead of merely an ideologically divergent one, they will never “understand” Muslims. And if they continue to listen to apologists like Mr. Marzouki, they will never get it.

Islam does not have to be a religion of hate and violence. Christianity got past its days of oppression and state sponsored terrorism. Islam can do the same. But mollycoddling from the West will not help Islam come to this day of enlightenment. And people like Mr. Marzouki simply prolong our and Islam’s misery.

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