We Did Not See This Coming
Sectarian violence has broken out in Iraq before the dust had settled from the departure of the US army. Shi’ite, versus Sunni, versus Kurds, with a dash of Iran, and possibly Al Qaeda. Sixty people dead from terrorist bombs.
The reverberations will continue for a while. It shows into high relief, yet again, that governing elites and the Commentariat of the West neither understand religion nor see its vital significance in human action. One reason for this is the West’s self delusion that it has risen above, evolved beyond religion. Its demeanour is to look down from a lofty height, dismissing all religions as something mature people grow out of when they start thinking for themselves. The West sees itself as a-religious. It is in denial. The West remains deeply religious, committed to the ultimacy of Man, of His rights, and the works of super-erogation which collective Man–the State–can achieve.
But because the West denies its own religiosity, it loses sight of the intractable power of religion to guide and control human action–whether for good or ill. The religious atheism of the West blinds it to the all-shaping power of religion, the ultimate beliefs nourished in every human heart. Consequently, it reflexively and habitually overlooks the controlling and conditioning power of religion everywhere in the world. Nowhere is this more the case than in its view of Islamic countries.
Its hard to credit how stupid the West is. Because it lies to itself about its own deep religiousness and its religion’s power over the Western soul, it is blind to the power of religion elsewhere. It ignores it as a material factor, even as it tries to impose its own secular religion upon the rest of the world. Nowhere is this more evident than the public orgy of self-congratulation when the US recently withdrew from Iraq. That country, we were told, is now free. It has self-government. Whilst it is not perfect, it is well on the way to higher things. The sub-text was that Iraq was becoming Westernised, secularised. Ironically, the thunder in the background was not the rolling of celebratory drums, but the explosions of bombs in Baghdad.
Why do we at this blog regard sectarian violence as inevitable in that country until either one faction obliterates the others, or the country breaks apart? Because religion holds its iron grip upon human action. And in this case, the religion is Islam.
Since the chattering classes in the West have not noticed the religion of Islam is one of command, control, and suppression, their expectations of how things will “pan out” in Islamic countries is naive at best, delusional at worst. Alfred Guillaume (Islam [Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1956]) explains what happened when Muhammad fled from Mecca, where he was persecuted, to Medina where he gained a far greater measure of control.
From the first it was evident that Muhammad believed that his message was for all Arabs–and perhaps for all mankind–and it had now become clear they could be made to listen only by force. There could be no compromise with idolatry. Therefore it followed that all those who refused to believe in Islam must be quelled. Idolaters whose very existence was an insult to the one true God would have to accept Islam or the sword; other monotheists would have to acknowledge their inferiority by paying a special tax. This became the established principle of Islam . . . . It was put into effect in the whole of the Arab empire in the century that followed. (Ibid., p. 40)
As sects developed in the Islamic religion, whenever a sect came to be viewed as idolatrous or contrary to the prophet’s teaching, its suppression by force and violence by other sects inevitably followed. You could not claim to be a believer in Allah and a follower of Muhammad without suppressing all idolatry by force, and punishing those who had apostasized from the true path into idolatrous practices. The clash between Sunni and Shi’ite is a clash between two groups who regard the other as idolatrous and as engaged in apostasy. Suppression by means of the sword is obligatory. Thus is the Islamic religion, and, like all religions, it controls the hearts and actions of its adherents.
Those who naively think that sitting around a negotiating table discussing differences and seeking to find a middle way will be effective in bringing Shi’ites and Sunnis together is ignorant of Islamic teaching, or of the controlling hold of religious beliefs over the human heart–of all humans. If the Islamic religion had a doctrine of tolerance it would be different, but it does not. One cannot be developed without denying the very authority of the prophet–which would be to self-immolate Islam.
Of course sectarian violence will rack Iraq, until one group gains dominance and suppresses the others, or the country splits apart into smaller entities. That the West refuses to see this tells you more about the blindness of our own established religion than it does about Iraq.
And do we think Afghanistan will be any different, once the West comes to its senses and withdraws? Only fools and horses would believe so.