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How Western Elites Have Projected the Sins of the West Onto Muslims

by John Spritzler

[Drawing and quoting extensively from Islam in Liberalism by Joseph Massad, unless otherwise specified]

[also related: Links to Some Facts about Muslims and Islam]

April 4, 2016

Western elites for centuries have imposed despotic rule over Muslim peoples while glorifying the West as democratic. English philosopher, John Stuart Mill, in his On Liberty (published in 1859) wrote:

"[D]espotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end is their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end." [1]

One justification for the despotic rule of European colonial powers over the native Muslim people was that it was necessary in order to bring democracy to the natives. The argument was that Muslims prior to European colonization had despotic, not democratic, rule because democracy requires that there exists civil society, which in turn requires a notion of private property, and Muslims supposedly lacked that notion.

As Massad notes, however,

"Near Eastern society has the longest recorded history of civil and private law regarding the rights and property of the trader...[and] it likely pioneered the contractual forms in which they are expressed." [2]

Furthermore, none less than the classical conservative, Edmund Burke, "despite his general hostility to Islam, would rebut the charge of despotism and instead link Islam to democracy." Burke wrote:

"[N]othing is more false than that despotism is the constitution of any country in Asia that we are acquainted with. It is certainly not true of any Mahomedan constitution...The greatest part of Asia is under Mahomedan governments. To name a Mahomedan government is to name a government by law. It is a law enforced by stronger sanctions than any law that can bind a Christian sovereign. Their law is believed to be given by God, and it has the double sanction of law and of religion, with which the prince is no more authorized to dispense than any one else. And if any man will produce the Koran to me, and will but show me one text in it that authorizes in any degree an arbitrary power in the government, I will confess that I have read that book, and been conversant in the affiars of Asia, in vain.

"There is not such a syllable in it; but, on the contrary, against oppressors by name every letter of that law is fulminated. There are interpreters established throughout all Asia to explain that law, an order of priesthood, whom they call men of the law. These men are conservators of the law; and to enable them to preserve it in its perfection, they are secured from the resentment of the sovereign; for he cannot touch them. Even their kings are not always vested with a real supreme power, but the government is in some degree republican." [3]

Western elites need to demonize Muslims to rationalize dominating them and exploiting their resources. "Former British governor of Nigeria and British representative to the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations (1922-36), Lord Frederick Lugard, articulated this argument in his classic guide to how British colonial officials should rule the colonized natives: the subject peoples had no right 'to deny their bounties to those who need them.'" [4]

"By the conclusion of World War II, a report prepared by the Office of Strategic Services for the US State Department argued that:

'[T]he principle of equitable distribution and exploitation overrides to some extent the sovereign rights of the oil producing countries and presupposes a kind of trusteeship of the big Powers over the world's oil resources.'" [5]

This "principle" is why people at the big Washington, D.C. demonstration against George H.W. Bush's Gulf War had signs that asked, "How did our oil get under their soil?"

It's not hard to imagine how the authors of this report would react to Muslim governments setting up a "trusteeship" of the Muslim powers over the world's agricultural resources such as agribusiness's vast land tracts in, say, the farm belt area of California.

 

Western Elites Use "Doublegoodthink" to Project the Sins of the West Onto Muslims. Here's how it works:

If It's a Bad Thing in a Muslim Land, It's Due to Islam

If It's Good Thing in a Muslim Land, It's Due to "Western Values"

If It's a Bad Thing In the West, It's a Deviation from "Western Values"

Examples of Doublegoodthink

Women are underpresented in the political realm?

In Saudi Arabia, there are no women in the "parliament." That's because of Islam.

In majority-Muslim Bangladesh, 19.7% of the 2012 parliament members were women, which is more than the 19.5% of the members of the United States Congress (2015) who were women. That must be because Western Values are making inroads into Bangladesh. [figures are from here]

Women suffer female genital mutilation?

in Eritrea 89% of Catholics and 85% of Protestants practice female genital mutilation (FGM,) whereas in Niger (94% Muslim) 80% (more according to some surveys) of the people do NOT practice FGM. Clearly Islam is what causes FGM, since there are some Muslim-majority nations where it is very prevalent. [figures are from here]

Women can't have an abortion?

"The different schools of Shari'a have historically permitted abortion, some without the father's consent and up to three months into the pregnancy." [Massad, p. 194]

Laws in the United States prohibited abortion in accordance with Protestant as well as Roman Catholic Christianity until 1973 and there are substantial efforts to recriminalize abortion in the U.S. today.

Clearly Islam--that notoriously misogynistic religion--is the cause of the denial of legal abortion to women. And were it not for the Christian religion, women in the U.S. would STILL not be able to have a legal abortion.

[Note: it was liberal laws inspired by Protestant and Catholic Christianity, imposed on Muslim countries that made abortion illegal, not Shari'a, but nevermind.]

Women can't own property?

"Muslim women have had the right to own property since the seventh century." [Massad, p. 113-14]

European Christian married women had no right to own property until the nineteenth century.

Western women sure were lucky not to have suffered from misogynistic Islam.

Women can't initiate divorce?

"In 1913, John Weeks writes of the case of female-initiated divorce amongst the Bakongo in the Congo at a time when English women had no such rights." [Massad, p. 115]

English women didn't get the right to divorce their husband until the nineteenth century and until 1923 the sole ground for divorce was adultery. Thank goodness English women with violently abusive (but faithful) husbands lived in a land with Western Values instead of some non-Western misogynistic place like the Congo.

Women are killed in "honor killings"?

Over 30% of women killed in the United States are killed by their husbands or boyfriends. In Italy the figure is 75% are killed by their current of former husbands or boyfriends.

In comparison, in Muslim Jordan 25% of women who are killed are killed by male members of their families. This is the highest rate of the crime in Arab and Muslim countries, even though it is lower than the rate of murder of women in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends. [from Massad, pg. 207-8]

Let's apply doublegoodthink to this. We'll call these murders "honor killings" when it involves Muslims, but we'll call them "domestic violence" otherwise. We'll blame the "honor killings" on Islam, but we'll criticize the "domestic vioence" murders as acts in violation of Western Values of equality. We'll ignore the fact that, for example, the law in Jordan that protects men who commit an "honor killing" was derived from the Napoleonic code, whereas all Islamic jurisprudential schools are condemnatory of "honor crimes" as murder and refuse to offer mitigating circumstances to men who commit them. [based on Massad, pg. 208] And we'll launch international campaigns to make Muslims turn against--or fundamentally change--their misogynistic religion, which will end the "honor killings." Only then will Muslim women be safe, like they are in the United States.

Slavery?

Yes, slavery (and Jim Crow) in the United States were bad. But was this racism due to Christianity (or any other of the Western Values)? Oh no! Sure, the Bible does not prohibit slavery, but good Christians know it's wrong.

But slavery in Muslim lands? Obviously due to Islam, since the Koran doesn't prohibit it.

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[1] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, in On Liberty and Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 14-15.

[2] Patricia Springborg, Western Republicanism and the Oriental Prince (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992), 20. Springborg cites Mikhail Rostovtzeff, Caravan Cities (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932), 8-9

[3] Edmund Burke, "Speech in Opening the Impeachment," Fourth Day, Saturday, 16 February 1788, in Speeches in the Impeachment of Warren Hastings, Esquire, Late Governor-General of Bengal, in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, vol. 9 (London: John C. Nimmo, 1887), electronic version, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13968/13968-h/13968-h.htm#ARTICLES_OF_CHARGE (accessed 17 February 2014)

[4] Frederick Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa, 5th ed. (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1965), 61, 194, cited in Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil (London: Verso, 2011), 86, 100-101.

[5] Cited in Mitchell, Carbon Democracy, 114

 

 

 

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