paleo Ideofact

Saturday, October 12, 2002
 
Response
Well, for whatever reason I've been having a lot of Internet Explorer crashes lately, so the eloquent (yeah, right) version of this post, about my too recent contretemps with Ismail Royer, was just wiped out. So rather than reconstruct it, I'm going to offer the short version.

First, for those who helpfully pointed me to this post on Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs, with the suggestion that because some Bosnian Muslims were members of an S.S. division, Bosnian Muslims were responsible to the Holocaust, let me direct you to this post, and specifically the 74th comment, in which Stephen Schwartz wrote, in part
...the Bosnian Muslim SS were used against the Partisans. They played no role in the liquidation of the Bosnian Jews, which was carried out by the Germans and Croats. The Bosnian Muslim SS divisions performed very poorly; they were sent to France for retraining and then mutinied and tried to join the French Resistance, and by 1944 most of them had deserted to the Partisans. In addition, the Bosnian Muslim clerics issued a series of declarations in 1941-43 denouncing Nazi/Ustasha attacks on Jews and Serbs.
This tracks, incidentally, with the history of Bosnia in WWII recounted on pages 185-191 of Noel Malcolm's work, Bosnia: A Short History. So, if I responded testily or worse to those emails pointing out the LGF post, it was only because I think the correspondents based their entire view on a single photograph, without bothering to check the facts.

I liked this email from Xavier Basora, who noted:
I must say that I was rather offended that Royer had the bad taste to declare your marriage invalid. As I understand his biography, he's a convert but not a doctor of the hadith or an imam.
That dovetails rather nicely with this comment from another very kind correspondent, a Muslim, who wrote:
We have problem in our world that our religion has become the trade of many ignorant people. They think they have a phone with Allah. You can see this in their insults and attacks.
I should also thank Josh Trevino, whom I asked to read the posts; he offered very supportive feedback.

Finally, while I hate to link him again, Royer himself is under attack in his comments box for the post, although it appears he deleted the two responses he got from Schwartz. As of this writing, he still includes his own replies to the missing comments.


Friday, October 11, 2002
 
Bibliography
I'd been meaning to link this for a while, but other subjects kept cropping up. Generally speaking, I try not to engage in polemical debates like the one below (although, of course, I started it); the last time I did, on the subject of medieval technology (I didn't start that one), a friend emailed to say my blog was crazy, and I was inclined to agree with him (five or six screens about horse collars, heavy plows, windmills, etc. etc.).

To shift gears a little, I thought I'd link this erudite bibliography, compiled by Don Karr (link requires Adobe) on the Cabala, and the Kabbalah (depending on how you want to spell it). I've always had some passing interest in the subject, but what struck me about the bibliography is the introductory paragraph:
Cabala figures into many tenets and methods central to Western esoteric thought and practice. Unfortunately, what is meant by term is not always clear and may vary from one reference to another. Those readers who enter an investigation of (Christian) Cabala after having studied (Jewish) Kabbalah may well become impatient at the outset with the misreadings and deformations characteristic of “Christian developments.” Perhaps even more frustrating, after co-opting such Kabbalah as was desired, virtually all Christian Cabalists sought to transform it into a dogmatic weapon to turn back against the Jews to compel their conversion.
The assertion is footnoted, but regrettably, the notes don't appear in the copy. In any case, I found this relevant to the prior discussion on Johannes Reuchlin, parts of which are here and here (the second has a link to the middle post in the series). On the seventh page, there's a list of books dealing with Reuchlin, including one from the 19th Century with the intriguing title, "The Essenes and the Kabbalah." I'll put it on my reading list, which, after the polemic, is about all I have the energy to offer.

Thursday, October 10, 2002
 
Eastern misperceptions of Bosnia
Ismail Royer has responded to my reaction to his post on the Bosnian elections with a lengthy response dubbed "Western misperceptions of Bosnia." Yet he seems to get things wrong right off the bat:
In his rebuttal of my post, Bill Allison is right about one thing: Bosnia is a topic he “knows a little about.” A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, however, and the little knowledge he has of the topic is a rehash of conventional wisdom, unspoiled by much reflection of his own.
I hate to bring her up (largely because I feel like I'm hiding behind her skirts by doing so), but the source of much of my "little knowledge of Bosnia" is my wife, a native of Sarajevo, a Bosnian Muslim, who covered the war as a journalist. Which isn't to say I haven't also read a fair number of books on the subject, or, on the other hand, that I have the benefit of her personal experience of the place, but by and large the Bosnians I've met are far more Western and European in their outlook and orientation than Mr. Royer would have us believe. But I'm skipping ahead of myself.

Perhaps nothing illustrates the difference in outlook between Bosnian Muslims and Mr. Royer better than his response to a comment I left on his post. I asked him whether he wanted to tell my wife she wasn't a real Muslim, to which he replied,
Whether or not a person is "really" a Muslim is between them and the Creator, but the fact remains--like it or not--that a marriage between a non-Muslim man and a Muslim woman is invalid.
A Bosnian Muslim would not find this argument compelling; my wife certainly didn't when I tried it on her ("You still have to take out the trash," she said). Strangely enough, no one in my wife's family raised this objection when we got married, nor have I ever heard a Bosnian say to her that our marriage isn't valid. All of which suggests that Bosnia isn't quite what Mr. Royer would like us to believe it is.

Mr. Royer says I make the claim that all parties in Bosnia were equally bad. Looking over the post, I understand how he could have gotten that impression, although I certainly do not believe that, nor do I believe I implied it. I noted, for example, that the Bosnian government was of mixed ethnicity, and that Izetbegovic consciously pursued a policy of inclusion. I noted that blame for the war falls mainly on Serb chauvinists and nationalists, and to a lesser extent on Croat chauvinists and nationalists. If I have less enthusiasm for a Muslim party appealing to nationalism than I do for a multiethnic party appealing to cosmopolitanism, well, that's hardly the same as saying that I hold Izetbegovic's party equally or even at all responsible for the war.

Mr. Royer next claims that I say that the war wasn't over religion:
Mr. Allison recites the lefty litany that the war was not a Christian holy war against Muslims, but a war by nationalists opposed to a multicultural Bosnia.
My wife, who covered the war, agrees that religion was the pretext, but the ultimate purpose of it was to create a "Greater Serbia," incorporating Bosnia. In other words, the goal was land. The same thing, by the way, was done to strip the Kosovars of autonomy. Similarly, the Serbs were at war with both Croatia and Bosnia. If it was a crusade against Muslims, one would have expected the Serbs and the Croats to have joined forces, or at least not to fight one another. Further, fully one-third of the Bosnian army was made up of ethnic Serbs, and six of the cabinet ministers of the wartime Bosnian government were Serbs (five were Croats). This suggests a more complicated picture than Mr. Royer's Crusade: The Serbs of Sarajevo -- those who did not abandon the city -- were just as freely targeted by the aggressors as the Muslims were. If Mr. Royer would take off his patented Jihadi-tinted glasses, he might see that this was a war of civilization against barbarism.

His next contention is that I claim that Bosnian Muslims are not real Muslims. I make no such claim, nor do I run around saying other people's marriages are invalid. Bosnian Muslims don't do that either. I found this section comical:
Mr. Allison’s “proof” that Bosnian Muslims accept his "civilized" parameters on liberties rather than the "oppressive" parameters of Islam is an essay claiming that “between World War II and the outbreak of the Bosnian War, 30 to 40 percent of marriages in Sarajevo…were mixed marriages between Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim and Jew.”

This recalls the standard university text “How to Lie With Statistics.” I’ll assume Mr. Allison has a basic knowledge of Islam and knows that Muslim men are permitted to marry Christian and Jewish women. If Mr. Allison wants to make any claims about the degree to which Bosnian Muslims in that forty-year window of time observed or flouted Islamic teachings, the real question is: what percentage of marriages in Sarajevo and other urban areas were between Muslim WOMEN and NON-MUSLIM MEN. The answer to this question could be zero and his statistic could still be true.
Yes, and by declaring that any marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man is invalid, you can also get to a zero statistic. But Bosnian Muslims, by and large, wouldn't take you any more seriously than I do. Those who would take you seriously would have little power to block such marriages -- and I suppose that's my next question: If it were up to you, Mr. Royer, would you enact a law barring Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men?

I have to apologize to Mr. Royer for his next argument, because I doubt he would have made it had I more carefully explained my reference. He writes,
...Mr. Allison then quotes a lengthy warm-fuzzy passage about the fact that many cultures and languages and religions formed a big melting pot in Bosnia. This he apparently offers as further proof that MY kind of Islam is alien to the region, assuming such a society would be anathema to it and me. On the contrary: the source of the Ottoman’s tolerance of diverse religions, cultures, and languages in the Ottoman Empire was not Western secular humanism (gasp!) but Islam itself.
He is referring to this quote, I believe:
Rulers and nobles (unlike their contemporaries in most of Europe, including the nobility of Serbia and Croatia) were indifferent to religious issues. They intermarried and formed alliances across denominational lines; when it suited their worldly aims, they changed faiths easily. They made no attempt to proselytize for their own faiths or to persecute others, consciously resisting foreign (papal and Hungarian) calls to persecute.
It comes from the excellent work, which I advise Mr. Royer to read, entitled The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The passage (page 9 in my edition) refers to the mid-14th Century, or before the penetration of Islam into Bosnia. The three religious groups were Orthodox, Catholic, and Bosnian Christians (the Bosnian Christians were a vaguely Gnostic sect that rejected both Catholicism and Orthodox beliefs; they were the earliest and most frequent converts to Islam. Some time I'll write about their fascinating theology). In other words, Bosnian tolerance predated the coming of Islam. This isn't a knock on Islam, by any means, I'm just putting the quote into context.

This assertion I find to be utterly wrong:
Like a Communist Party schoolbook author, however, Mr. Allison is hell-bent on minimizing Islam’s role in Bosnia: the Muslims were simply “an integral part of that culture,” he asserts. No, they were not a “part” of that culture, they were the foundation of that culture. The Ottoman Empire was an Islamic empire that, to greater or lesser degrees, ruled for over 500 years not by democracy (whatever that means) or by the communism of Tito or Lagumdzija, but by the Shariah of the Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah, peace be upon him.
I do not minimize the role of Islam, rather I say that Muslims, Catholic, Orthodox and Jews formed a community that was harmonious. Catholic Churches, Orthodox Churches, Mosques and Synagogues co-existed in close proximity with a minimum of friction. I may be dismissing Mr. Royer's brand of Islam, who seems to think it requires that these groups be constantly struggling against one another, but I do not minimize the importance of Islam in Bosnia. But to say that Bosnia had a strictly Islamic culture, or that Islam was the culture's foundation (when it arrived long after a distinct, autonomous Bosnian culture had developed) is misreading history.

So too is this assertion:
If Mr. Allison truly admired and understood the justice and harmony of Bosnia’s past, then he would wish for a return to its tradition of authentic Islamic values and ultimately Islamic authority.
Mr. Royer seems to admire the writings of Izetbegovic, who wrote,
...Islamic order may be implemented only in countries where Muslims represent the majority of the population. Without this majority, the Islamic order is reduced to authority only (because the other element is lacking - the Islamic society), and may turn into violence. ...
In other words, your nationalist hero (and I noted my fondness for some of his writings as well) doesn't agree with you. Why then should I endorse your nonsense?

On a par with this is this assertion:
In case he didn’t read my article which he expended so much effort refuting, the Communists don’t have a good track record in dealing with Muslims or religion in general. Lefties like Mr. Allison might not be concerned about that, but the multiethnic, multi-religious citizens of Ottoman Bosnia that he claims to admire would have had a problem with it.
It's funny that he calls me a "lefty," when most who correspond with me take it for granted that I'm a conservative. Yes, the Communists were deplorable, I'm well aware of it. I have relatives who suffered under their heal. But the social democrats aren't exactly calling for the return of Stalin, or the shuttering of mosques.

As to his assertions about American culpability for the deaths in Bosnia, can I assume then that Mr. Royer is an ardent backer of war on Iraq, to eliminate a dictator who engaged in bloody wars against Iran and Kuwait, and has brutalized his own people?

As for what the Wahhabis are doing to Bosnian architectural treasures, I'll email a reliable source in Sarajevo for details, but these stories generally conform to what I've heard independently of Sells or Schwartz for the last few years. As to the "racist Stephen Schwartz," he identifies himself as a convert to Sufi Islam, so I suppose he's of the self-hating variety.

 
More Karahasan
One more anecdote from the excellent Sarajevo, Exodus of a City, by the Bosnian Muslim writer Dzevad Karahasan, which I think illustrates one point I was trying to make about Bosnia generally, and Sarajevo in particular:
... The practical American, unprepared for my theorizing and my skeptical search for nuances, asked why we Sarajevans didn't accept the partition of Bosnia and the city, if that could be the way to peace.

I replied that I wholeheartedly agreed, if he could only propose the way to divide Bosnia and Sarajevo. As my neighbors were taking shelter in the basement (shells literally pouring down around the building), I could concretely demonstrate to the American a sample of the ethnic structure of Bosnia and Sarajevo within our building. Pointing my fellow tenants out, one by one, I showed that only one out of ten married couples occupying the ten apartments in the building is of the same ethnicity. I myself noticed that fact only then.

"How could you possibly divide that?" I asked. If Sarajevo were to be divided, I could not have a bath because the tub would remain in the Serb province of my wife; my Serb wife could not wash her face, though, because the washbasin would remain in my province. The same goes for nine out of ten apartments in our building. I am afraid that that could be complicated for even such an able divider as Mr. Cyrus Vance.

With extreme astuteness the American concluded that Sarajevans are being shot at because both those who are doing the shooting, and those who could but will not stop them, cannot divide what is indivisible.

"That is correct," I agreed, elated by my guest's sense of logic.
To this I have nothing to add, beyond the fact that it suggests that narrow ethnic nationalism is contrary to the far preferable reality in Bosnia.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002
 
Xavier on Language
Xavier also responds (second item) to a critique of his arguments regarding Americans and second languages. It's an interesting exchange. I offered Xavier some thoughts of my own, which he was kind enough to post.

I'm fortunate enough to live in a bilingual household, although I haven't made much progress at all learning my wife's native language. My son, who's fluent in both languages, likes to ask me how to say certain words in Bosnian, so he can imitate my thick American accent and mangled pronunciations (being a caring, compassionate father, I keep track of such incidents so I can remind him of them when, 13 years or so from now, he asks me for the first time for the keys to my car).

While I certainly appreciate the translators art, I tend to agree with a saying that is more accurate for them than for what they are compared to: Translations are like women, the beautiful ones are unfaithful, and the faithful ones aren't beautiful. (Let me reiterate: I think this is somewhat true of translations, not at all about women.) And while some foreign, untranslatable words have crept into English, I occasionally wish we had an equivalent for, say, the German "selbstverstaendlich" (literally meaning self-understood) or "Eigenschaften." There are occasions when I edit a text -- and bear in mind that my German is rudimentary, my Latin is as dead as the language, my Russian is a distant university memory -- and I think of the perfect, economical word or phrase to express an idea, but it's something that's stuck in my mind from another language and, in English, seems awkward or -- worse -- not selbstverstaendlich.

I probably made more progress in German than any other language (Latin was a close second), and could read texts with only occasional reference to a dictionary (a Berlin memory: Riding in a cab in 1993, and hearing on the radio that Clinton's budget had passed in the House by one vote. I remember thinking to myself, "Why is this radio broadcasting English," when suddenly it occurred to me that I was listening to it in German, that I was understanding it in German, and that even my mental question was in German. That was, for me, a magical moment.)

Note: Sorry, in this and the post below, for the sake of consistency, I should have typed "Basora" in the headline rather than Xavier. I've always thought Xavier was a cool name though.

 
Xavier on Royer, Royer on Allison
Xavier Basora emailed to offer an English language summary of his post, which I referenced immediately below:
My Spanish post on Royer's blog article on the Bosnian election results chides him for asking the wrong question. I point out that it's not America that should sit down and figure out the how to live with the Moslem country but the opposite. I then go on to remind Royer that at present Moslems appear to have some difficulty living in a non-Moslem world. Then I go on to list various examples as well as their absmally low levels of those indices on social and economic development. I invite the Moslems to reflect instead of blaming the Americans or others for their present situation.
Ismail Royer has promised, in the comments to the post I linked below to respond:
I'll write a full response to this when I get the chance, God willing. In short, your piece is flawed by wrong assumptions, namely that 1) Islam in the public arena equals oppression, and that Islam is only acceptable when "tamed" by secularism 2) Bosnians are inherently secularist; 3) non-secularism is a bad thing; 4) the US acted nobly, and the only mistake was not acting "nobly" sooner; 5) that the Arabs who fought in Bosnia were terrorists; and many more.

As far as not understanding Bosnia, or having read Izetbegovic--in short, I've read Izetbegovic's writing extensively, both in English and in Bosnian, which I speak fluently. That's a result of having lived in the country on and off for about 2 and a half years on and off since 1994; I've also traveled and lived extensively in the Balkans, including several months in Slovenia, Macedonia, and Croatia. I also speak rudimentary Macedonian, a dialect of Bulgarian.
I apologize for my assumption regarding the work of Izetbegovic and Mr. Royer's familiarity with the Balkans, but I still stand by what I wrote. I eagerly look forward to reading his lengthier response, but to respond briefly to his points: 1) I'm not sure I said Islam in the public arena equals oppression, but I will add that any country that does not allow freedom of religion, or which endorses one religion or sect over another as a state policy, is oppressive, by definition. One need only look at the plight of the Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia to understand what I mean. 2) I'm not sure I ever said that, although I think the marriage figures I cited -- from 30 to 40 percent of all marriages in urban areas between World War II and the early 1990s were "mixed" -- bespeaks a high level of secularization. 3) I'm not sure what this means. Certainly I wouldn't deny anyone their religious convictions, but if you follow the logical demands of a religion claiming to have the absolute truth, it would be impossible to live with one's neighbors who believe differently (let alone marry their sons or daughters). It's perfectly fine to be devout; your devotion ends where my nose begins. 4) I eagerly await the expansion on this theme. 5) I don't think I said this, although for the record, my personal informants (who lived through the siege of Sarajevo) tell me that while Iranians did quite a bit of fighting, the Arabs mostly cooled their heals in Sarajevo, and complained that the Bosnian Muslim women, who liked to wear short skirts, go to discos, and drink the occasional glass of wine or beer (even during the war), weren't real Muslims. I don't mean to be snide, but perhaps that's what Mr. Royer means when he refers to the fighting the Arabs undertook.


Tuesday, October 08, 2002
 
Bosnia
Via Xavier Basora (second item, and it's not in English), I came across this post from Ismail Royer, about the recent elections in Bosnia. Mr. Royer, whose blog tagline is "Not sorry I'm Muslim," manages to make me sorry he is, at least when it comes to his writing about Bosnia, a subject I know a little about.

Mr. Royer celebrates the recent election results -- I imagine he's cheered to know that not only did the Social Democrats fail in the Muslim leg of the elections, they were also soundly trounced in the Serb enclave by the Bosnian Serb Democratic Party, which was founded by wanted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. The Croatian Democratic Union, another nationalist party, likewise enjoyed electoral success. These were the three parties in power during the early 1990s, when multiethnic, multireligious Bosnia splintered under the onslaught of nationalist Serbs, primarily, and Croats.

For the record, I do not expect Bosnia to return to the chaos of war (if only because we Americans won't allow it). It's also worth remembering that the war did not pit Serbs against Muslims, all against all, but rather that "multi- multi-" Bosnia fought for its pluralistic identity against nationalist and totalitarian marauders. And Izetbegovic, whom Mr. Royer celebrates (I wonder if he's ever read a word that Izetbegovic has written), led a government whose cabinet consisted of nine Muslims, six Serbs and five Croats. During the war, a third of the Bosnian army was made up of ethnic Serbs, including its second-in-command. The fine volume The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina, edited by Mark Pinson and published in 1993 to counter the propaganda of the nationalist Serbs and Croats, says of Izetbegovic,
...since President Izetbegovic frequently is accused of "Islamic fundamentalism" by the Serbian leadership (and most recently by the Croat leadership, as well), it would be useful to note that none of his actions have given credence to these charges. Izetbegovic consistently has championed a secular, multinational Bosnian state, in which the rights of the three constituent communities would be guaranteed and protected.
Incidentally, Izetbegovic, in his Islamic Declaration, argues for freedom of conscience, speech and religion in Muslim countries, and full rights for women.

The essay "Medieval and Ottoman Roots of Modern Bosnia" by John V.A. Fine, one of those collected in the above cited The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina, noted that between World War II and the outbreak of the Bosnian War, 30 to 40 percent of marriages in Sarajevo and other urban areas were mixed marriages between Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim and Jew. That follows a longstanding pattern in Bosnia generally:
Rulers and nobles (unlike their contemporaries in most of Europe, including the nobility of Serbia and Croatia) were indifferent to religious issues. They intermarried and formed alliances across denominational lines; when it suited their worldly aims, they changed faiths easily. They made no attempt to proselytize for their own faiths or to persecute others, consciously resisting foreign (papal and Hungarian) calls to persecute.
I have been fortunate enough to benefit from this longstanding Bosnian ecumenical spirit, which I should add was cherished by the Bosnians themselves. The Muslim writer Dzevad Karahasan wrote movingly of Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, in his excellent work Sarajevo, Exodus of a City:
When it was founded, the city was settled by people from three monotheistic religions -- Islam, Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy -- and the languages spoken in it were Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Magyar, German and Italian. And then, some fifty years after Sarajevo was founded, the Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella banished the Jews of Spain, some of whom took refuge in Sarajevo. They brought to the city its fourth monotheistic religion and a new culture -- constituted around that religion and around centuries of wandering -- and they brought new languages too.

Sarajevo became a new Babylon and a new Jerusalem -- a city of new linguistic mingling and a city in which temples of all faiths of the Book can be seen in one glance.

This mixture of languages, faiths, cultures and peoples living together in a small space produced a cultural system unique to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and especially to Sarajevo. It was clearly their own, original and distinctive. There were, of course, many regions and many cities in the ethnically and religiously mixed Turkish Empire where peoples, languages, and religions were entwined with each other. Yet there surely was no city -- not even in that vast domain -- where so many languages, religions, and cultures met and mixed with one another in such a small place.

Perhaps that can also explain why Bosnia had a special status within the empire, and why it was an autonomous pashaluk. The singularity of the Bosnian cultural system demanded special political status.
The Muslims of Bosnia were -- and are, and will be for years to come, one hopes -- an integral part of that culture, which -- I should add -- was saved by American intervention. I will agree that the United States should have intervened sooner (neowilsonians be damned), that we should have toppled "democratically" elected Milosevic sooner, etc. etc., but nevertheless, the United States acted.

Instead of bemoaning the fact that civilized Bosnian Muslims turned over terrorists to the U.S. government, instead of worrying that the United States is "poking a stick" into the Bosnian Muslims, perhaps Mr. Royer should spend some time explaining the destruction of Bosnian architectural treasures carried out by the Wahhabi fanatics from Saudi Arabia. Perhaps he should ask himself why it is that an official Egyptian government newspaper argues that Milosevic is not a war criminal. And perhaps Mr. Royer should explain why it is that he regards U.S. support for a peaceful, multiethnic Bosnia as "opposing Islam"?

Monday, October 07, 2002
 
Qutb 7:6
Note: The previous post in this series can be found here, which provides links back to the others.

Hammer and crescent
Actually, I suppose I should be a bit more tentative in discussing Qutb's economic ideas, which are scattered over several chapters. It's difficult to sort them out, not least because Qutb fairly consistently contradicts himself. After a lengthy passage explaining that Islam strives to take into account man's nature, and thus recognizes the right to private property, he'll then turn around and say that that right is not absolute, but subject to the control of the community; he'll go further and say that the individual is merely the steward of his property, implying that the community can strip him of it if he does not exercise his ownership in accord with the needs of the community. Who is determine those needs is something Qutb glosses over. He'll write at length of the dignity of labor, that Allah expects the individual to work for recompense as the only honorable way to live, and then obliquely suggest that the public treasury to provide support to all Muslims. Sometimes his economics seem to borrow a page from National Socialism, sometimes from communism, and sometimes even from capitalism (although, generally speaking, if he begins with a capitalist idea, like private property, he quickly subverts it). One of the odd things about his economic writing is his lack of specifics -- he does not, for example, specify when it is that an individual has become such a bad steward of his property that the "community" must manage it in his stead. Qutb rather consistently attacks excessive wealth and luxury (although he recognizes that what passes for excessive wealth in, say, Africa would be fairly average -- and thus not excessive -- in America), but beyond that, he doesn't explain himself. I am vaguely reminded, not so much of Marx (yes, I once doped my way through not only Das Kapital, but also Die Grundrisse -- we have a fondness here at Ideofact for fat books), but of the later attempts to figure out what Marx's utopia would look like. Perhaps the most absurd thing I read was something in Sartre, in which he wrote that in the paradise of the workers, the subconscious mind (which elsewhere he said did not exist) would merge with the conscious mind. I could never figure out what Sartre had in mind, but I didn't lose too much sleep over it.

One of the tropes of communist intellectuals and apologists was that a new "Soviet man" was being created. Qutb, in chapter 8 (sorry to skip ahead, but I think I should reference this here) similarly believes that there should be a new Islamic man:
No renaissance of Islamic life can be effected purely by law or statute, or by the establishment of a social system on the basis of Islamic philosophy. Such a step is only one of the two pillars on which Islam must always stand in its construction of life. The other is the production of a state of mind imbued with Islamic theory of life, to act as an inner motivation for establishing this form of life and to give coherence to all the social, religious, and civil legislation. Social justice is an integral part of this Islamic life; it cannot be realized unless this form of life is first realized, and it cannot have any guaranteed permanence unless this form of life is built up on solid foundations. It is in this similar to all other social systems; it must have the support of public belief and confidence in its merits. Failing this, it will lose its spiritual foundations, and its establishment will depend on the force of religious and social legislation; this is a force that obtains only so long as evastion is impossible.

Hence Islamic legislation relies on obedience and conviction; it depends on religious belief. Thus we must always keep in mind the necessity for a renaissance of our religious faith; we must cleanse it of all accretions, such as alterations and arbitrary interpretations and ambiguities; only thus can it be a support for the necessary social legislation that will establish a sound form of Islamic life.
We have heard, from various sources, that there are roughly one billion Muslims in the world, give or take, and that somewhere between 250 million and 300 million of them are Arab (note: in a later chapter, it appears that Qutb, who argues that Islam solves the problem of racism, argues that the conversion of Persians, Turks, Chechens, Mongols, Circassians and Bosnians was an unmitigated disaster for Islam -- stay tuned for that installment). Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that in the 1950s, when Qutb was writing, there were roughly 700 million Muslims in the world, of whom 220 million were Arab. According to Qutb, they must produce (must have produced in them) a state of mind imbued with the Islamic theory of life. This is a prerequisite to his utopia. I imagine that the 220 million Arab Muslims and the 700 million Muslims worldwide would have been surprised to hear that they lacked this.

I point all this out because, at the end of the seventh chapter of Social Justice in Islam, Qutb enumerates ten economic principles. Among them is, "To each according to his needs..." which was a rallying cry of Marxists. I certainly don't know the Qur'an well enough to definitively say that the formula doesn't appear there, but from what little I know of Islam, I'm pretty sure it doesn't. Perhaps my good friend Aziz -- if I haven't offended him too much with my carping -- can enlighten us on this point.

In any case, the other principles are as follows: 1. The poor have a better right to welfare than recent converts to Islam (although Qutb doesn't say whether poor recent converts have the same rights as poor longtime followers of the faith); 2. that Islam opposes excessive wealth and excessive poverty; 3. that Islam endorses the graduated income tax -- at least for nonbelievers; 4. tax collectors should not deprive taxpayers of "staples," nor should they resort to force; 5. To each according to his needs...: 6. Islam endorses universal social security and the something that looks very much like the Swedish welfare state (amazing, considering that Qutb is still writing abut the 7th century); 7. What Qutb delightfully calls the "principle of where did you get this?" which is supposed to prevent corruption among public officials; 8. Paying the zakat, a religious tax; 9. The principle of mutual responsibility -- i.e., it's not so great if your next door neighbor starves to death; 10. Usury is forbidden.

Interestingly, in the next chapter, Qutb contradicts himself -- or at least seems to -- on this point, but I'll get to that later.

Sorry if this post is short on examples and specifics, but I do the best I can with the book.

Sunday, October 06, 2002
 
A gentle chiding
Aziz emails to suggest I misread his analysis of those he identifies as the Neo-Cons; I might very well have. If he meant that some U.S. policy makers believe U.S. interests are best served by aiding Israel, that's one thing -- and obviously not treason. But that's a little different from saying that "all foreign policy, especially that pertaining to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, should be aimed at benefiting Israel."

He does argue that the U.S.-Israeli relationship should be seen in the context of Cold War client states; I'm not sure that's entirely accurate, but I'll let it pass. I also found this of interest in his post as well:
"After American-directed regime change of a nation, and installation of democratic machinery for self-government, should the people of that nation be allowed to elect an anti-American leader?"

This question applies to Palestine, to Iran, to Afghanistan, and of course Iraq. The neocons will say "No." and the neowilsons will say "Yes". (emphasis in original)
I think this is an oversimplification, because it doesn't take into account the idea that many anti-American leaders could also be hostile to the very democratic machinery that brought them to power. Having gone to great lengths to fight a war, topple a leader, rebuild the country, and install democratic machinery, should the United States walk away from -- to use a current example -- Iraq if a dictator in the mold of Saddam Hussein achieves power and suspends elections? Would Aziz's neo-Wilsonian accept such a result? I'm not entirely comfortable with his labels, but what he calls a neo-conservative, he says, would not. Of the two views, which is preferable?

Update: Joshua Trevino of i330 weighs in with thoughts on the treason issue. (And note: I said in my first post on the subject that I thought Aziz was talking about something that comes "pretty close to treason.")

Update 2: Matthew Yglesias goes into the intellectual framework behind neoconservativism which I alluded to briefly in my earlier post on the topic, and offers his own thoughts on the differences between neo-Wilsonians and neoconservatives.