Geert Wilders, Bernard Lewis, Free Speech, and Totalitarian Islam

Lewis Lionized and Wilders Demonized for Expressing Identical Views on the Totalitarian Nature of Islam

Our uninformed chattering classes across the political spectrum need to know that their eminence grise on Islamic civilization, Professor Bernard Lewis, and outspoken Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders, have a shared understanding of totalitarian Islam. Ironically, Wilders has been demonized—and is currently being prosecuted—for expressing views identical to those the Western sage of Islam Lewis put forth in a 1954 essay.

Over a half century later, during his keynote address to the first Conference of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, in April, 2008, Professor Lewis warned of the ominous limits on scholarly analysis of Islam imposed by political correctness and multiculturalism:

The degree of thought control, of limitations on freedom of speech and expression is without parallel in the Western world since the eighteenth century and in some cases longer than that…It seems to me it’s a very dangerous situation, because it makes any kind of scholarly discussion of Islam, to say the least, dangerous. Islam and Islamic values now have a level of immunity from comment and criticism in the Western world that Christianity has lost and Judaism has never had.

The politicized prosecution of Geert Wilders for his free speech criticism of Islam is a case study illustrating Professor Lewis’ most grave concerns. But it is also possible that the outrageous proceedings against Geert Wilders may have pushed the Western freedom-stifling agenda of Islamic correctness too far.

This past Friday (10/15/10) Dutch prosecutors asked the presiding judges to acquit Mr. Wilders on all charges of inciting hate and discrimination.

Wilders was unsurprisingly “very happy” with the prosecutors’ recommendations, adding with his usual plainspoken lucidity,

I do not insult, I do not incite to hatred, I do not discriminate. The only thing I do and will continue to do is to speak the truth.

As the Associated Press reported, however, there was a caveat:

The move by prosecutors signaled their belief the case against Wilders was weak, although judges could still disagree and convict him. The defense begins its case next week and a verdict is scheduled for next month.

Former US federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy underscores this concern regarding the presiding judges. He reminds us that the Dutch prosecutors never desired to charge Wilders, but they were in effect “overruled” by the Dutch judiciary:

In 2008, the office of the public prosecutor declined to charge him. The lunatic judges are the ones who’ve been behind this all along, representative as they are of the transnational progressive thinking responsible for having such “crimes” on the books in the first place. In 2009, the Dutch Court of Appeals issued an order essentially overruling the prosecutors and ordering that Wilders be charged.

With refreshing sobriety, Dutch prosecutor Birgit van Roessel argued in her summation that Wilders’ statements were made as an integral part of the public debate,

…about the immigration and integration of nonwestern foreigners, especially Muslims. Standpoints can vary considerably and emotions can run high, but … it is a debate that it must be possible to have.

And most importantly, Ms. van Roessel further acknowledged that,

Many of Wilders’ statements seemed to denounce Islam as an ideology or its growing influence in the Netherlands, rather than being intended as an abuse of Muslims as a people or group.

During a March, 2009 interview with the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby, Wilders had earlier rejected the notion he “hates Muslims,” while providing a frank characterization of the totalitarian nature of Islam.

I have nothing against the people. I don’t hate Muslims. But Islam is a totalitarian ideology. It rules every aspect of life – economics, family law, whatever. It has religious symbols, it has a God, it has a book – but it’s not a religion. It can be compared with totalitarian ideologies like Communism or fascism. There is no country where Islam is dominant where you have a real democracy, a real separation between church and state. Islam is totally contrary to our values.

By making this latter claim, Wilders shattered a corrosive modern taboo, enforced rigidly and without forgiveness by cultural relativist politicians and government bureaucrats, as well as influential “savants” in media, academia, and religion.

But Wilders assessment not only comports with scholarly observations made (primarily) before the advent of the post-modern Western scourge of cultural relativism, it is supported by contemporary hard polling data from 2006/2007, and their more recent follow-up reported February 25, 2009.

At present, overwhelming Muslim majorities i.e., better than two-thirds (see the weighted average calculated here) of a well-conducted survey of the world’s most significant, and populous Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries, want these immoderate outcomes: “strict application” of Shari’a, Islamic Law, and a global Caliphate. Specifically, the World Public Opinion.org/ University of Maryland poll (released February 25, 2009) indicated the following about our putative Muslim ally nations of Egypt and Pakistan: 81% of the Muslims of “moderate” Egypt, the largest Arab Muslim nation, desire a “strict” application of Shari’a, Islamic Law; 76% of the Pakistan’s Muslims—one of the most important, and sizable non-Arab Muslim populations—want this outcome. Furthermore, 70% of Egyptian Muslims and 69% of Pakistani Muslims desire the re-creation of a “…single Islamic state or Caliphate.” Elsewhere, I have detailed the totalitarian impact of these fulfilled Islamic desires —based upon their doctrinal and historical application, across space and time.

And these concrete data validate eminent Western scholarly appraisals of Islamic despotism, or in modern parlance, totalitarianism.

Most notably, Bernard Lewis in a 1954 essay, “Communism and Islam” expounded upon the quintessence of totalitarian Islam, and how it was antithetical in nature to Western democracy, while sharing important features of Communist totalitarianism—in particular, global domination via jihad.

I turn now from the accidental to the essential factors, to those deriving from the very nature of Islamic society, tradition, and thought. The first of these is the authoritarianism, perhaps we may even say the totalitarianism, of the Islamic political tradition…. Many attempts have been made to show that Islam and democracy are identical-attempts usually based on a misunderstanding of Islam or democracy or both. This sort of argument expresses a need of the up- rooted Muslim intellectual who is no longer satisfied with or capable of understanding traditional Islamic values, and who tries to justify, or rather, re-state, his inherited faith in terms of the fashionable ideology of the day. It is an example of the romantic and apologetic presentation of Islam that is a recognized phase in the reaction of Muslim thought to the impact of the West…. In point of fact, except for the early caliphate, when the anarchic individualism of tribal Arabia was still effective, the political history of Islam is one of almost unrelieved autocracy…[I]t was authoritarian, often arbitrary, sometimes tyrannical. There are no parliaments or representative assemblies of any kind, no councils or communes, no chambers of nobility or estates, no municipalities in the history of Islam; nothing but the sovereign power, to which the subject owed complete and unwavering obedience as a religious duty imposed by the Holy Law. In the great days of classical Islam this duty was only owed to the lawfully appointed caliph, as God’s vicegerent on earth and head of the theocratic community, and then only for as long as he upheld the law; but with the decline of the caliphate and the growth of military dictatorship, Muslim jurists and theologians accommodated their teachings to the changed situation and extended the religious duty of obedience to any effective authority, however impious, however barbarous. For the last thousand years, the political thinking of Islam has been dominated by such maxims as ‘tyranny is better than anarchy’ and ‘whose power is established, obedience to him is incumbent’.

Quite obviously, the Ulama [religious leaders] of Islam are very different from the Communist Party. Nevertheless, on closer examination, we find certain uncomfortable resemblances. Both groups profess a totalitarian doctrine, with complete and final answers to all questions on heaven and earth; the answers are different in every respect, alike only in their finality and completeness, and in the contrast they offer with the eternal questioning of Western man. Both groups offer to their members and followers the agreeable sensation of belonging to a community of believers, who are always right, as against an outer world of unbelievers, who are always wrong. Both offer an exhilarating feeling of mission, of purpose, of being engaged in a collective adventure to accelerate the historically inevitable victory of the true faith over the infidel evil-doers. The traditional Islamic division of the world into the House of Islam and the House of War, two necessarily opposed groups, of which- the first has the collective obligation of perpetual struggle against the second, also has obvious parallels in the Communist view of world affairs. There again, the content of belief is utterly different, but the aggressive fanaticism of the believer is the same. The humorist who summed up the Communist creed as “There is no God and Karl Marx is his Prophet’” was laying his finger on a real affinity. The call to a Communist Jihad, a Holy War for the faith-a new faith, but against the self-same Western Christian enemy-might well strike a responsive note.

Geert Wilders’ keen, if blunt conceptions articulate contemporary realities, while re-stating seminal insights on Islam by the universally respected scholar Bernard Lewis, whose written observations from 1954 antedated the present day morbid affliction of cultural relativism. At present, the tragic rejection of freedom of conscience by mainstream Islamic religious and political institutions representing all Muslim nations, and the global Islamic umma—a living sine qua non of Islamic totalitarianism—provides irrefragable confirmation that Wilders characterization of Islam as a totalitarian ideology, is accurate. Let us hope that Geert Wilders ultimate acquittal next month marks the beginning of an unrestrained political debate on the dangers of totalitarian Islam.


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