Sunday, March 09, 2014
The Tale of the Trunk and the Tail of the Elephant in the Room
So many of our "expert" analysts in trying to tackle the problem of Islam (first red flag: they often don't even think there is a "problem of Islam" at all, and most of their analytical efforts labor in the service of elaborately denying such a problem) indulge in trite axioms, trafficking in conventional truisms about Islam—one of them being the shibboleth that if we can notice superficial morphological “diversity” (proving that Islam is “not a Monolith”), this ipso facto demonstrates that Islam itself is not the source of the dangers which even our conventional PC MC recognizes as such — under the safe label of “extremism” or “terrorism”, from which Islam proper has been safely sanitized, inoculated, and distinguished without the slightest trace of any Salafi “cooties”.
I explored this on my blog some time ago in a couple of essays in a roundabout way, by analyzing some of the assiduous labors of the website Jihadica in their dizzyingly complex taxonomy of worrisome Muslims.
Just to pluck one "expert" analyst of hundreds from a beret one could adduce -- Gilles Kepel (who indulges in the speciously artificial, but comforting, distinctions of "political Islam" and "radical Islam") -- a Jihad Watch reader recently relayed his impression of his analysis:
I was getting the impression that Gilles Kepel tried his hardest to distinguish between different Jihadi organizations (in France and the rest of the world) as if he could differentiate between multiple shades of Salafism or Islam, even, for the sake of soothing the public opinion’s wariness of Islam . As if the nitpicky differences between such groups would spell some reprieve with regards to the safety of Western civilizations in the long run.
That reader also noted the disquieting tendency Kepel has for assuming that the sinister trans-national Islamic group the Tablighi Jamaat are "quietist" and "apolitical". In fact, this has been adequately refuted by a fine essay published in an article published in 2005 in The Middle East Quarterly by Alex Alexiev. On the supposedly “apolitical” and “quietist” demeanor of the Tablighi Jamaat, Alexiev notes how key members of Pakistan’s government, military and intelligence service were in fact Tablighi Jamaat and quite active in pivotal political events:
For example, in 1998, Muhammad Rafique Tarar [a Tablighi] took the ceremonial presidency while, in 1990, Javed Nasir [a Tablighi] assumed the powerful director-generalship of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s chief intelligence agency. When Benazir Bhutto, less sympathetic to Islamist causes, returned to the premiership in 1993, Tablighis conspired to overthrow her government. In 1995, the Pakistani army thwarted a coup attempt by several dozen high-ranking military officers and civilians, all of whom were members of the Tablighi Jamaat and some of whom also held membership in Harakat ul-Mujahideen, a U.S. State Department-defined terrorist organization. Some of the confusion over Tablighi Jamaat’s apolitical characterization derives from the fact that the movement does not consider individual states to be legitimate. [of course not -- they, like all Muslims, consider the only legitimate unit of political existence to be the Umma]. They may not become actively involved in internal politics or disputes over local issues, but, from a philosophical and transnational perspective, the Tablighi Jamaat’s millenarian philosophy is very political indeed. According to the French Tablighi expert Marc Gaborieau, its ultimate objective is nothing short of a “planned conquest of the world” in the spirit of jihad.
So much for Kepel the "expert Arabist". It seems to me it would be his dream job to be an analyst “expert” over at Jihadica (who knows; perhaps he already has contributed to their OCD project of ignoring the Forest Fire for the Trees).
What’s ironic is that Kepel and Jihadica analysts don’t seem to realize that their efforts at palpating the “diversity” of Islamic “extremism”, and the jungle of complexity they uncover in doing so, only has the opposite effect than they seem to intend: They are like a twist on that old Indian parable: One analyst studying the trunk of an elephant, the other studying the tail, neither realizing it’s an elephant—indeed, The Elephant in the Room.