December 26, 2009

Quote of the Day

In a constitutional democracy, those elected to office are obviously as prone as everyone else to follow misconceived policies, to make miscalculations and self-serving errors; but over a period of time this will become evident and even scandalous, and representative institutions will oblige them to pay the price of losing an election and therefore office. No such correction is possible for the Arab power holder or challenger, whose miscalculations and self-serving errors must be worked through to the bitter end, which more often than not is his death.

From The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs by David Pryce-Jones.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 26, 2009 6:42 PM

It is interesting to note that you have pasted a quotation from one of the most fundamentally racist texts produced in the twentieth century. The book by Pryce-Jones is essentialist garbage, full of material such as the quotation you have highlighted. The author suggests that dictatorships and corrupt governance is unique and innate in the Arab 'psyche.' The author even suggests that the concept of lying is something Arabs are born with and persist with - claiming that when someone from the West says something, that is generally what he or she means - whereas with Arabs, its the opposite. You should be embarrassed quoting this clown. This book is a horrendous piece of racist 'scholarship' that is not worth the paper it is written on.
Posted by: David at December 27, 2009 12:46 am
Remember who Jesus spoke the truth and was cruicified, while Mohammed made a peace treaty, build an army and broke the treaty.
Posted by: Onslo at December 27, 2009 1:58 am
Good grief, David.

One of "the most fundamentally racist texts produced in the twentieth century"? Are you kidding me?

I doubt very much that you read this book. If you did, I am certain you did not understand it.

Here is another excerpt for the benefit of others.

"I walked through familiar gates, past the graceful arum lilies, and there was Mohammad Driss, unchanged, still bent over his work. Straightaway recognizing me from afar, he arrived at a run. When he embraced me, his cheeks were wet with tears, and neither of us could speak for a while."

Racists do not write about their objects of hatred like this.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 27, 2009 2:07 am
The author suggests that dictatorships and corrupt governance is unique and innate in the Arab 'psyche.'

Seems more like his argument is that the Arab world is hung up on tribalism and that's what is holding it back, and that Islamism is feeding into that.

I would agree that if he was offering the opinion you attribute to him, that would be racist. But in my opinion you've either just made that up or you are you are repeating an indictment you heard/read someplace else.
Posted by: Craig at December 27, 2009 3:14 am
I thought it was a great read. The "fundamentally racist" angle eluded me.
Posted by: steve at December 27, 2009 7:31 am
For Michael Totten,

Can you or any reader and/or experienced Middle East Hand browsing here recommend a source which may explain why the billion or so Muslims/Islamists worldwide, who claim to be "moderates", cannot seem to get organized against and control their own comparatively few barbarous terrorists?, ...or can create a religious movement against the literal interpretation of their militant Quranic texts? ....say, on the order of a Martin Luther?
The religious writers seem to me to shy away from this volatile subject. Even the "Arabists" of the between the wars era seem sort of muted on this dogmatic aspect. I don't read Arabic, but it'd be interesting to know if such texts exist in translation by their imams/mullahs, or whoever....

[...Ignore this if it's considered off topic, but I think it needs to be addressed by you or other experienced (real) independent journalists of that area....and I don't mean media "reporters".]
Posted by: Hrothgar at December 27, 2009 7:33 am
Posted by: Onslo at December 27, 2009 1:07 pm
Hrothgar: Martin Luther and the other reformers actually made Christianity more violent and less tolerant, at least in the short term. Regardless of that, comparing Christianity to Islam is apples and oranges. The Western world did not "reformed" the teachings of Yeshua ben Yosef in becoming more liberal and tolerant, it in fact actually came closer to following them. Take the story of the woman caught in adultery as an example: for hundreds of years it was edited out or ignored in religious writings because people could not yet accept that an adulteress should be shown mercy. (It's absence in many writings has even led some to erroneously believe that it was not original text.)

Islam is an entirely different story. It was founded on a basis of cultism; chauvinism, perpetual jihad, economic, violent, and sexual domination, slavery and subjugation, ritualized superstitions to keep adherents' minds distracted... take this away and there is very little left. More importantly, Islam has built in measures to prevent reform: one becomes an apostate in the blink of an eye, and the penalty is severe, even fatal. "Moderates", when the person is in fact genuine and not simply practicing dissimulation to manipulate outsiders, are in fact "backsliders". They can have little-to-no pull, or confidence, in arguing against fundamentalists and jihadis, because the entire weight of the Koran and Hadith are on the side of those whose goal is Islamic world domination.
Posted by: Squires at December 27, 2009 1:15 pm
I didn't make myself clear, and then I compounded the murkiness by mentioning Martin Luthe
No comparison with Christianity was intended....I was wondering only why no dramatic reformer of Islam has emerged over all of these centuries who had the strength of courage to root out the interpretations apparently inherent in Islam enabling all of this killing and armed agression. I suspect that you know your Bible much better than I. My unanswered question remains why out og the billion or so adherents of Islam, that that huge majority can't tame the barbarity. The tail wagging the dog, as it were.....we can take it from here?
Posted by: Hrothgar at December 27, 2009 3:08 pm
....typo corrections: "Luthe.." should have an "r". --also "out og" should read "out of". That black and orange colored advert. was blocking the white space to type in a comment. I was typing blindly through that ad. Not too accurately...Then, there seems to be no place provided to correct text in place ...didn't we have this before? Or, is that another site?
To put things another way...why do the seemingly complacent majority of Islamists/Muslims do absolutely nothing visible to counter their co-religionists' barbarisms? Why has there not been an Iranian style uprising against this rigid dogmatism...centuries ago? Organization seems to be woefully lacking. Others have conquered apostasy. The barbarity of the small minority is leading the pack.
Posted by: Hrothgar at December 27, 2009 3:24 pm
....have just been looking at Google News, so the answer to my question above seems to be coming soon in Teheran itself...the heroism of those out in the streets just now is a major change of some sort....ignore my's now moot.
Posted by: Hrothgar at December 27, 2009 4:30 pm
I am curious about people's opinions of how a fall in the Iranian regime might impact Lebanon if that were come to pass.
Posted by: crosspatch at December 27, 2009 6:47 pm

Hezbollah will eventually have to surrender to the Lebanese state after its patron and armorer is overthrown. A liberal or moderate Iranian government might even act in such a way to hasten the process. Iraq will also be in much better shape once the Khomeinist regime is gone from the scene.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 27, 2009 6:54 pm
Thank you for sharing your opinion, Michael. One thing I have noticed is that Sistani in Iraq seems to have shared the approach that Ayatollah Montazeri had been advocating in Iran before his recent death. By that I mean that the religious leadership should be close consultants to the political leadership but not the owners of the political process. Sistani has seemed to take a more subdued approach to politics in Iraq and seemed to keep himself out of it to the extent that he is able.

Nasrallah apparently studied for a time in Najaf before Saddam kicked out Shiite religious scholars and he resumed his Islamic studies in Qom some years later. Now that Najaf would be expected to open up to religious studies and that Qom might be less accessible due to the unrest, I have to wonder if the Najaf "school" of thought concerning religion's role in government and politics might act, over time, as a moderating influence on Shiites globally. This might be particularly true if the Qom "school" of thought WRT government and politics were seen by the people in general to be tyrannical and corrupt.

If the above is true, there would be little that the Iranians clerics can do short of stepping aside and changing their role. If the sympathies of the people swing to more moderate ideologies, every extreme action by the clerics would simply serve to push the people farther away from them. In other words, the harder they might try to maintain their grip on power, the faster it would slip through their fingers.

One way or another, I believe we are going to see significant changes in the Middle East in the next ten years and things could get either much worse or much better but I don't believe it is likely that things will stay the way that they are.

Either Iran will emerge as an even more authoritative dictatorship that rules the people with an iron fist or they will moderate along the lines that Ayatollah Montazeri had been advocating. If they choose the former path, their influence in the Shiite world outside of Iran may slowly evaporate over time and it might be more difficult for them to exert influence over Shiite movements abroad.
Posted by: crosspatch at December 27, 2009 8:31 pm
Ugh, looks like manual paragraph formatting is required.
Posted by: crosspatch at December 27, 2009 8:33 pm
I will get the paragraph problem taken care of here shortly.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 27, 2009 8:39 pm
Indeed, the problem with David Pryce-Jones is that he happens to be one of the more astute and experienced scholars/commentators on the Middle East and its cultures.

And the truth sucks.

If you want to find out what's happening in the region and some of the reasons for it (and therefore, what is likely to happen here), you read him. (Not only him, of course.)

Otherwise, it's best to ignore it all and declare Pryce-Jones a rabid Zionist-loving racist.
Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 28, 2009 12:08 am
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