Tuesday, April 04, 2006

theodore dalrymple: When Islam Breaks Down

apr 4th
thank god there's theodore dalrymple to counter that fanatic jerk william dalrymple. william has never seen a mohammedan he didn't like. william is yet another of those british ass-kissers, a tribe which is prospering and multiplying.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jyotishi <jyotish2000@yahoo.com>
Date: Apr 3, 2006 1:58 AM
Subject: When Islam Breaks Down
To: jyotish2000@yahoo.com

Facts about terrorist Islam and Muslims

When Islam Breaks Down

By Theodore Dalrymple
City Journal
Spring 2004

My first contact with Islam was in Afghanistan. I had
been through Iran overland to get there, but it was in
the days of the Shah's White Revolution, which had
given rights to women and had secularized society
(with the aid of a little detention, without trial,
and torture). In my naive, historicist way, I assumed
that secularization was an irreversible process, like
the breaking of eggs: that once people had seen the
glory of life without compulsory obeisance to the men
of God, they would never turn back to them as the sole
guides to their lives and politics.

Afghanistan was different, quite clearly a pre-modern
society. The vast, barren landscapes in the
crystalline air were impossibly romantic, and the
people (that is to say the men, for women were not
much in evidence) had a wild dignity and nobility.
Their mien was aristocratic. Even their hospitality
was fierce. They carried more weapons in daily life
than the average British commando in wartime. You knew
that they would defend you to the death, if
necessary—or cut your throat like a chicken's, if
necessary. Honor among them was all.

On the whole I was favorably impressed. I thought that
they were freer than we. I thought nothing of such
matters as the clash of civilizations, and experienced
no desire, and felt no duty, to redeem them from their
way of life in the name of any of my own
civilization's ideals. Impressed by the aesthetics of
Afghanistan and unaware of any fundamental opposition
or tension between the modern and the pre-modern, I
saw no reason why the West and Afghanistan should not
rub along pretty well together, each in its own little
world, provided only that each respected the other.

I was with a group of students, and our appearance in
the middle of a country then seldom visited was almost
a national event. At any rate, we put on extracts of
Romeo and Juliet in the desert, in which I had a small
part, and the crown prince of Afghanistan (then still
a kingdom) attended. He arrived in Afghanistan's one
modern appurtenance: a silver convertible Mercedes
sports car—I was much impressed by that. Little did I
think then that lines from the play—those of Juliet's
plea to her mother to abrogate an unwanted marriage to
Paris, arranged and forced on her by her father,
Capulet—would so uncannily capture the predicament of
some of my Muslim patients in Britain more than a
third of a century after my visit to Afghanistan, and
four centuries after they were written:

Is there no pity sitting in the clouds That sees into
the bottom of my grief? O sweet my mother, cast me not
away! Delay this marriage for a month, a week, Or if
you do not, make the bridal bed In that dim monument
where Tybalt lies. How often have I been consulted by
young Muslim women patients, driven to despair by
enforced marriages to close relatives (usually first
cousins) back "home" in India and Pakistan, who have
made such an unavailing appeal to their mothers,
followed by an attempt at suicide!

Capulet's attitude to his refractory daughter is
precisely that of my Muslim patients' fathers:

Look to't, think on't, I do not use to jest. Thursday
is near, lay hand on heart, advise: And you be mine,
I'll give you to my friend; And you be not, hang, beg,
starve, die in the streets, For by my soul, I'll ne'er
acknowledge thee, Nor what is mine shall ever do thee
good. In fact the situation of Muslim girls in my city
is even worse than Juliet's. Every Muslim girl in my
city has heard of the killing of such as she back in
Pakistan, on refusal to marry her first cousin,
betrothed to her by her father, all unknown to her, in
the earliest years of her childhood. The girl is
killed because she has impugned family honor by
breaking her father's word, and any halfhearted
official inquiry into the death by the Pakistani
authorities is easily and cheaply bought off. And even
if she is not killed, she is expelled from the
household—O sweet my mother, cast me not away!—and
regarded by her "community" as virtually a prostitute,
fair game for any man who wants her.

This pattern of betrothal causes suffering as intense
as any I know of. It has terrible consequences. One
father prevented his daughter, highly intelligent and
ambitious to be a journalist, from attending school,
precisely to ensure her lack of Westernization and
economic independence. He then took her, aged 16, to
Pakistan for the traditional forced marriage (silence,
or a lack of open objection, amounts to consent in
these circumstances, according to Islamic law) to a
first cousin whom she disliked from the first and who
forced his attentions on her. Granted a visa to come
to Britain, as if the marriage were a bona fide
one—the British authorities having turned a cowardly
blind eye to the real nature of such marriages in
order to avoid the charge of racial discrimination—he
was violent toward her.

She had two children in quick succession, both of whom
were so severely handicapped that they would be
bedridden for the rest of their short lives and would
require nursing 24 hours a day. (For fear of giving
offense, the press almost never alludes to the
extremely high rate of genetic illnesses among the
offspring of consanguineous marriages.) Her husband,
deciding that the blame for the illnesses was entirely
hers, and not wishing to devote himself to looking
after such useless creatures, left her, divorcing her
after Islamic custom. Her family ostracized her,
having concluded that a woman whose husband had left
her must have been to blame and was the next thing to
a whore. She threw herself off a cliff, but was saved
by a ledge.

I've heard a hundred variations of her emblematic
story. Here, for once, are instances of unadulterated
female victimhood, yet the silence of the feminists is
deafening. Where two pieties—feminism and
multiculturalism—come into conflict, the only way of
preserving both is an indecent silence.

Certainly such experiences have moderated the
historicism I took to Afghanistan—the naive belief
that monotheistic religions have but a single,
"natural," path of evolution, which they all
eventually follow. By the time Christianity was
Islam's present age, I might once have thought, it had
still undergone no Reformation, the absence of which
is sometimes offered as an explanation for Islam's
intolerance and rigidity. Give it time, I would have
said, and it will evolve, as Christianity has, to a
private confession that acknowledges the legal
supremacy of the secular state—at which point Islam
will become one creed among many.

That Shakespeare's words express the despair that
oppressed Muslim girls feel in a British city in the
twenty-first century with much greater force, short of
poisoning themselves, than that with which they can
themselves express it, that Shakespeare evokes so
vividly their fathers' sentiments as well (though
condemning rather than endorsing them), suggests—does
it not?—that such oppressive treatment of women is not
historically unique to Islam, and that it is a stage
that Muslims will leave behind. Islam will even
outgrow its religious intolerance, as Christian Europe
did so long ago, after centuries in which the Thirty
Years' War, for example, resulted in the death of a
third of Germany's population, or when Philip II of
Spain averred, "I would rather sacrifice the lives of
a hundred thousand people than cease my persecution of

My historicist optimism has waned. After all, I soon
enough learned that the Shah's revolution from above
was reversible—at least in the short term, that is to
say the term in which we all live, and certainly long
enough to ruin the only lives that contemporary
Iranians have. Moreover, even if there were no
relevant differences between Christianity and Islam as
doctrines and civilizations in their ability to
accommodate modernity, a vital difference in the
historical situations of the two religions also
tempers my historicist optimism. Devout Muslims can
see (as Luther, Calvin, and others could not) the
long-term consequences of the Reformation and its
consequent secularism: a marginalization of the Word
of God, except as an increasingly distant cultural
echo—as the "melancholy, long, withdrawing roar" of
the once full "Sea of faith," in Matthew Arnold's
precisely diagnostic words.

And there is enough truth in the devout Muslim's
criticism of the less attractive aspects of Western
secular culture to lend plausibility to his call for a
return to purity as the answer to the Muslim world's
woes. He sees in the West's freedom nothing but
promiscuity and license, which is certainly there; but
he does not see in freedom, especially freedom of
inquiry, a spiritual virtue as well as an ultimate
source of strength. This narrow, beleaguered
consciousness no doubt accounts for the strand of
reactionary revolt in contemporary Islam. The devout
Muslim fears, and not without good reason, that to
give an inch is sooner or later to concede the whole

This fear must be all the more acute among the large
and growing Muslim population in cities like mine.
Except for a small, highly educated middle class, who
live de facto as if Islam were a private religious
confession like any other in the West, the Muslims
congregate in neighborhoods that they have made their
own, where the life of the Punjab continues amid the
architecture of the Industrial Revolution. The halal
butcher's corner shop rubs shoulders with the
terra-cotta municipal library, built by the Victorian
city fathers to improve the cultural level of a
largely vanished industrial working class.

The Muslim immigrants to these areas were not seeking
a new way of life when they arrived; they expected to
continue their old lives, but more prosperously. They
neither anticipated, nor wanted, the inevitable
cultural tensions of translocation, and they certainly
never suspected that in the long run they could not
maintain their culture and their religion intact. The
older generation is only now realizing that even
outward conformity to traditional codes of dress and
behavior by the young is no longer a guarantee of
inner acceptance (a perception that makes their
vigilantism all the more pronounced and desperate).
Recently I stood at the taxi stand outside my
hospital, beside two young women in full black
costume, with only a slit for the eyes. One said to
the other, "Give us a light for a fag, love; I'm
gasping." Release the social pressure on the girls,
and they would abandon their costume in an instant.

Anyone who lives in a city like mine and interests
himself in the fate of the world cannot help wondering
whether, deeper than this immediate cultural
desperation, there is anything intrinsic to
Islam—beyond the devout Muslim's instinctive
understanding that secularization, once it starts, is
like an unstoppable chain reaction—that renders it
unable to adapt itself comfortably to the modern
world. Is there an essential element that condemns the
Dar al-Islam to permanent backwardness with regard to
the Dar al-Harb, a backwardness that is felt as a deep
humiliation, and is exemplified, though not proved, by
the fact that the whole of the Arab world, minus its
oil, matters less to the rest of the world
economically than the Nokia telephone company of

I think the answer is yes, and that the problem begins
with Islam's failure to make a distinction between
church and state. Unlike Christianity, which had to
spend its first centuries developing institutions
clandestinely and so from the outset clearly had to
separate church from state, Islam was from its
inception both church and state, one and indivisible,
with no possible distinction between temporal and
religious authority. Muhammad's power was seamlessly
spiritual and secular (although the latter grew
ultimately out of the former), and he bequeathed this
model to his followers. Since he was, by Islamic
definition, the last prophet of God upon earth, his
was a political model whose perfection could not be
challenged or questioned without the total abandonment
of the pretensions of the entire religion.

But his model left Islam with two intractable
problems. One was political. Muhammad unfortunately
bequeathed no institutional arrangements by which his
successors in the role of omnicompetent ruler could be
chosen (and, of course, a schism occurred immediately
after the Prophet's death, with some—today's
Sunnites—following his father-in-law, and some—today's
Shi'ites—his son-in-law). Compounding this difficulty,
the legitimacy of temporal power could always be
challenged by those who, citing Muhammad's spiritual
role, claimed greater religious purity or authority;
the fanatic in Islam is always at a moral advantage
vis-à-vis the moderate. Moreover, Islam—in which the
mosque is a meetinghouse, not an institutional
church—has no established, anointed ecclesiastical
hierarchy to decide such claims authoritatively. With
political power constantly liable to challenge from
the pious, or the allegedly pious, tyranny becomes the
only guarantor of stability, and assassination the
only means of reform. Hence the Saudi time bomb:
sooner or later, religious revolt will depose a
dynasty founded upon its supposed piety but long since
corrupted by the ways of the world.

The second problem is intellectual. In the West, the
Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment,
acting upon the space that had always existed, at
least potentially, in Christianity between church and
state, liberated individual men to think for
themselves, and thus set in motion an unprecedented
and still unstoppable material advancement. Islam,
with no separate, secular sphere where inquiry could
flourish free from the claims of religion, if only for
technical purposes, was hopelessly left behind: as,
several centuries later, it still is.

The indivisibility of any aspect of life from any
other in Islam is a source of strength, but also of
fragility and weakness, for individuals as well as for
polities. Where all conduct, all custom, has a
religious sanction and justification, any change is a
threat to the whole system of belief. Certainty that
their way of life is the right one thus coexists with
fear that the whole edifice—intellectual and
political—will come tumbling down if it is tampered
with in any way. Intransigence is a defense against
doubt and makes living on terms of true equality with
others who do not share the creed impossible.

Not coincidentally, the punishment for apostasy in
Islam is death: apostates are regarded as far worse
than infidels, and punished far more rigorously. In
every Islamic society, and indeed among Britain's
Muslim immigrants, there are people who take this idea
quite literally, as their rage against Salman Rushdie

The Islamic doctrine of apostasy is hardly favorable
to free inquiry or frank discussion, to say the least,
and surely it explains why no Muslim, or former
Muslim, in an Islamic society would dare to suggest
that the Qu'ran was not divinely dictated through the
mouth of the Prophet but rather was a compilation of a
charismatic man's words made many years after his
death, and incorporating, with no very great
originality, Judaic, Christian, and Zoroastrian
elements. In my experience, devout Muslims expect and
demand a freedom to criticize, often with
perspicacity, the doctrines and customs of others,
while demanding an exaggerated degree of respect and
freedom from criticism for their own doctrines and
customs. I recall, for example, staying with a
Pakistani Muslim in East Africa, a very decent and
devout man, who nevertheless spent several evenings
with me deriding the absurdities of Christianity: the
paradoxes of the Trinity, the impossibility of
Resurrection, and so forth. Though no Christian
myself, had I replied in kind, alluding to the pagan
absurdities of the pilgrimage to Mecca, or to the
gross, ignorant, and primitive superstitions of the
Prophet with regard to jinn, I doubt that our
friendship would have lasted long.

The unassailable status of the Qu'ran in Islamic
education, thought, and society is ultimately Islam's
greatest disadvantage in the modern world. Such
unassailability does not debar a society from great
artistic achievement or charms of its own: great and
marvelous civilizations have flourished without the
slightest intellectual freedom. I myself prefer a souk
to a supermarket any day, as a more human, if less
economically efficient, institution. But until Muslims
(or former Muslims, as they would then be) are free in
their own countries to denounce the Qu'ran as an
inferior hodgepodge of contradictory injunctions,
without intellectual unity (whether it is so or
not)—until they are free to say with Carlyle that the
Qu'ran is "a wearisome confused jumble" with "endless
iterations, longwindedness, entanglement"—until they
are free to remake and modernize the Qu'ran by
creative interpretation, they will have to reconcile
themselves to being, if not helots, at least in the
rearguard of humanity, as far as power and technical
advance are concerned.

A piece of pulp fiction by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
first published in 1898, when followers of the
charismatic fundamentalist leader Muhammad al-Mahdi
tried to establish a theocracy in Sudan by revolting
against Anglo-Egyptian control, makes precisely this
point and captures the contradiction at the heart of
contemporary Islam. Called The Tragedy of the Korosko,
the book is the story of a small tourist party to
Upper Egypt, who are kidnapped and held to ransom by
some Mahdists, and then rescued by the Egyptian Camel
Corps. (I hesitate, as a Francophile, to point out to
American readers that there is a French character in
the book, who, until he is himself captured by the
Mahdists, believes that they are but a figment of the
British imagination, to give perfidious Albion a
pretext to interfere in Sudanese affairs.) A mullah
among the Mahdists who capture the tourists attempts
to convert the Europeans and Americans to Islam,
deriding as unimportant and insignificant their
technically superior civilization: " 'As to the
[scientific] learning of which you speak . . . ' said
the Moolah . . . 'I have myself studied at the
University of Al Azhar at Cairo, and I know that to
which you allude. But the learning of the faithful is
not as the learning of the unbeliever, and it is not
fitting that we pry too deeply into the ways of Allah.
Some stars have tails . .. and some have not; but what
does it profit us to know which are which? For God
made them all, and they are very safe in His hands.
Therefore . . . be not puffed up by the foolish
learning of the West, and understand that there is
only one wisdom, which consists in following the will
of Allah as His chosen prophet has laid it down for us
in this book.' "

This is by no means a despicable argument. One of the
reasons that we can appreciate the art and literature
of the past, and sometimes of the very distant past,
is that the fundamental conditions of human existence
remain the same, however much we advance in the
technical sense: I have myself argued in these pages
that human self-understanding, except in purely
technical matters, reached its apogee with
Shakespeare. In a sense, the mullah is right.

But if we made a fetish of Shakespeare (much richer
and more profound than the Qu'ran, in my view), if we
made him the sole object of our study and the sole
guide of our lives, we would soon enough fall into
backwardness and stagnation. And the problem is that
so many Muslims want both stagnation and power: they
want a return to the perfection of the seventh century
and to dominate the twenty-first, as they believe is
the birthright of their doctrine, the last testament
of God to man. If they were content to exist in a
seventh-century backwater, secure in a quietist
philosophy, there would be no problem for them or us;
their problem, and ours, is that they want the power
that free inquiry confers, without either the free
inquiry or the philosophy and institutions that
guarantee that free inquiry. They are faced with a
dilemma: either they abandon their cherished religion,
or they remain forever in the rear of human technical
advance. Neither alternative is very appealing; and
the tension between their desire for power and success
in the modern world on the one hand, and their desire
not to abandon their religion on the other, is
resolvable for some only by exploding themselves as

People grow angry when faced with an intractable
dilemma; they lash out. Whenever I have described in
print the cruelties my young Muslim patients endure, I
receive angry replies: I am either denounced outright
as a liar, or the writer acknowledges that such
cruelties take place but are attributable to a local
culture, in this case Punjabi, not to Islam, and that
I am ignorant not to know it.

But Punjabi Sikhs also arrange marriages: they do not,
however, force consanguineous marriages of the kind
that take place from Madras to Morocco. Moreover—and
not, I believe, coincidentally—Sikh immigrants from
the Punjab, of no higher original social status than
their Muslim confrères from the same provinces,
integrate far better into the local society once they
have immigrated. Precisely because their religion is a
more modest one, with fewer universalist pretensions,
they find the duality of their new identity more
easily navigable. On the 50th anniversary of Queen
Elizabeth's reign, for example, the Sikh temples were
festooned with perfectly genuine protestations of
congratulations and loyalty. No such protestations on
the part of Muslims would be thinkable.

But the anger of Muslims, their demand that their
sensibilities should be accorded a more than normal
respect, is a sign not of the strength but of the
weakness—or rather, the brittleness—of Islam in the
modern world, the desperation its adherents feel that
it could so easily fall to pieces. The control that
Islam has over its populations in an era of
globalization reminds me of the hold that the
Ceausescus appeared to have over the Rumanians: an
absolute hold, until Ceausescu appeared one day on the
balcony and was jeered by the crowd that had lost its
fear. The game was over, as far as Ceausescu was
concerned, even if there had been no preexisting
conspiracy to oust him.

One sign of the increasing weakness of Islam's hold
over its nominal adherents in Britain—of which
militancy is itself but another sign—is the throng of
young Muslim men in prison. They will soon overtake
the young men of Jamaican origin in their numbers and
in the extent of their criminality. By contrast, young
Sikhs and Hindus are almost completely absent from
prison, so racism is not the explanation for such
Muslim overrepresentation.

Confounding expectations, these prisoners display no
interest in Islam whatsoever; they are entirely
secularized. True, they still adhere to Muslim
marriage customs, but only for the obvious personal
advantage of having a domestic slave at home. Many of
them also dot the city with their concubines—sluttish
white working-class girls or exploitable young Muslims
who have fled forced marriages and do not know that
their young men are married. This is not religion, but
having one's cake and eating it.

The young Muslim men in prison do not pray; they do
not demand halal meat. They do not read the Qu'ran.
They do not ask to see the visiting imam. They wear no
visible signs of piety: their main badge of allegiance
is a gold front tooth, which proclaims them members of
the city's criminal subculture—a badge (of honor, they
think) that they share with young Jamaicans, though
their relations with the Jamaicans are otherwise
fraught with hostility. The young Muslim men want
wives at home to cook and clean for them, concubines
elsewhere, and drugs and rock 'n' roll. As for Muslim
proselytism in the prison—and Muslim literature has
been insinuated into nooks and crannies there far more
thoroughly than any Christian literature—it is
directed mainly at the Jamaican prisoners. It answers
their need for an excuse to go straight, while not at
the same time surrendering to the morality of a
society they believe has wronged them deeply. Indeed,
conversion to Islam is their revenge upon that
society, for they sense that their newfound religion
is fundamentally opposed to it. By conversion,
therefore, they kill two birds with one stone.

But Islam has no improving or inhibiting effect upon
the behavior of my city's young Muslim men, who, in
astonishing numbers, have taken to heroin, a habit
almost unknown among their Sikh and Hindu
contemporaries. The young Muslims not only take heroin
but deal in it, and have adopted all the criminality
attendant on the trade.

What I think these young Muslim prisoners demonstrate
is that the rigidity of the traditional code by which
their parents live, with its universalist pretensions
and emphasis on outward conformity to them, is all or
nothing; when it dissolves, it dissolves completely
and leaves nothing in its place. The young Muslims
then have little defense against the egotistical
licentiousness they see about them and that they all
too understandably take to be the summum bonum of
Western life.

Observing this, of course, there are among Muslim
youth a tiny minority who reject this absorption into
the white lumpenproletariat and turn militant or
fundamentalist. It is their perhaps natural, or at
least understandable, reaction to the failure of our
society, kowtowing to absurd and dishonest
multiculturalist pieties, to induct them into the best
of Western culture: into that spirit of free inquiry
and personal freedom that has so transformed the life
chances of every person in the world, whether he knows
it or not.

Islam in the modern world is weak and brittle, not
strong: that accounts for its so frequent shrillness.
The Shah will, sooner or later, triumph over the
Ayatollah in Iran, because human nature decrees it,
though meanwhile millions of lives will have been
ruined and impoverished. The Iranian refugees who have
flooded into the West are fleeing Islam, not seeking
to extend its dominion, as I know from speaking to
many in my city. To be sure, fundamentalist Islam will
be very dangerous for some time to come, and all of
us, after all, live only in the short term; but
ultimately the fate of the Church of England awaits
it. Its melancholy, withdrawing roar may well (unlike
that of the Church of England) be not just long but
bloody, but withdraw it will. The fanatics and the
bombers do not represent a resurgence of unreformed,
fundamentalist Islam, but its death rattle.


- - - - - - -

And the problem is that so many Muslims want both
stagnation and power: they want a return to the
perfection of the seventh century and to dominate the
twenty-first, as they believe is the birthright of
their doctrine, the last testament of God to man. If
they were content to exist in a seventh-century
backwater, secure in a quietist philosophy, there
would be no problem for them or us; their problem, and
ours, is that they want the power that free inquiry
confers, without either the free inquiry or the
philosophy and institutions that guarantee that free
inquiry. They are faced with a dilemma: either they
abandon their cherished religion, or they remain
forever in the rear of human technical advance.
Neither alternative is very appealing; and the tension
between their desire for power and success in the
modern world on the one hand, and their desire not to
abandon their religion on the other, is resolvable for
some only by exploding themselves as bombs.

Posted on 4/2/2006 by KDD

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-To: KDD

He is such a remarkable thinker and writer. I can
never pass by anything he writes without stopping to
read it.

Posted on 4/2/2006 by the Real fifi

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End of forwarded messages from:

Jai Maharaj
Om Shanti

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1 comment:

Shahryar said...

Brilliant analysis!

Thank you for posting it and giving it wider circulation!

I guess I shall now have to work my way through his entire corpus!