Some months after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the former Conservative prime minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, wrote about Muslim terror and its ideology, Islamism, as the new form of Bolshevism threatening the free world. She observed, "The enemy is not, of course, a religion . . . Nor is it a single state, though this form of terrorism needs the support of states to give it succour. Perhaps the best parallel is with early communism. Islamic extremism today, like bolshevism in the past, is an armed doctrine. It is an aggressive ideology promoted by fanatical, well-armed devotees. And, like communism, it requires an all-embracing long-term strategy to defeat it."
Thatcher had it right, and so did President George W. Bush. Following the arrests on Aug. 10 of 24 suspects in Britain for plotting multiple suicide bombings of 10 transatlantic airliners headed for the U.S., Bush remarked that "this nation is at war with Islamic fascists." Still, much of the free world, particularly those among the liberal left, remain in denial.
Islamism is not Islam, however confusing this might be to most people. Islamism is the ideology of a modern totalitarian movement in the guise of a religion with a confused program of reconstituting a first millennium political system—an empire based on sharia (Islamic law devised by men a thousand years ago), run by medieval-minded clerics with their politico-military gnomes in command—at the beginning of the third millennium. Islamists drool over past glories of a dolled-up Muslim history, unlike old Bolsheviks imagining a utopian classless future. But like Bolshevism, Islamism propagates a universal appeal--unlike Nazism based on a limiting ideology of race supremacy.
Again, like Bolshevism, and unlike Nazism, Islamism presents itself as a movement of the oppressed against oppressors, identified as worldwide capitalism with America at its head and international Jewry as its local client in the heartland of the Arab-Muslim world. This provides Islamism with some political appeal, especially to the self-loathing left in the West, closet anti-Semites, alienated, angry or resentful individuals in search of a political cause, and those seeking group bonding by converting to Islam and pursuing holy war (for instance, John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, or Richard Reid, the British shoe bomber).
Then again, like Bolshevism, which eventually split into rival camps between post-Stalin Moscow and Mao's Beijing, Islamism is also split into warring camps. One camp has a physical centre in Tehran, headed by the Shiite clerics loyal to the Islamist ideology of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. Its primary line of influence runs through the heart of modern-day militant Shiism (Islam's largest minority sect) in Iraq and Lebanon.
Islamism among Sunni Muslims—Islam's largest sect, by a ratio of four to one--has no one centre. All the Sunni Muslim majority states—irrespective of whether they are monarchies, such as Morocco and Jordan, or some sort of authoritarian or quasi-democratic republics, such as Egypt and Turkey—are formally opposed to Islamism, or at least feign opposition to it, as in the case of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. But many Muslim nations (Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Yemen, Afghanistan, et cetera) also exist as something between being failed states and rogue states. Public support for Islamism as an opposition movement in those places is often in direct proportion to the failure of political-military-intellectual elite to build a minimally decent society.
Islamism is an ideology crafted by Muslim intellectuals. It has many fathers, but its founding theoreticians were Egyptians Hassan al-Banna (1906-49) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), Maulana Maududi (1903-79) of Pakistan, and Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini (1900-89). Islamism, in common with Bolshevism and Nazism, is an ideology seeking power to implement a program totalitarian in scope and brutal in means for achieving its medieval ends.
Mao Tse Tung, as his recent biographers Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have pointed out in their meticulously researched study of the communist tyrant, was "responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other 20th-century leader." Yet his portrait still hangs like the benign face of a modern-day Buddha overlooking Tiananmen Square. Similarly, Islamist leaders and their rank-and-file followers bear no scruple in killing by whatever means available (suicide bombings have proven to be an unanswerable weapon of choice against opponents with superior conventional arms) while they are uninhibited by any ideological consideration or ethical constraint in their readiness to commit genocide for a cause espoused in apocalyptic terms in the name of religion.
The recent war in Lebanon, started by the Shiite Hezbollah's Islamist warriors against Israel, illustrates how these new Bolsheviks behave much as the old Bolsheviks did. Hezbollah organizers, as quislings of the Islamists in power in Tehran, unleashed a war, as communists did on the Korean peninsula in 1950, in pursuit of a strategy to widen the regional influence of Islamism and consolidate Islamist control of a putatively independent Lebanon. Much as the communists succeeded in dividing Korea, Hezbollah has succeeded in its objectives, emerging in the aftermath of the war as the de facto power in Lebanon.
Interestingly, old Bolsheviks under Stalin, and even Mao, were prepared to pause and abridge their international movement for the sake of "socialism in one country," and to avoid direct confrontation with advanced western democracies. It was a pause that placed their fifth column in the West under cautionary notice, and provided the "useful idiots" (as Lenin called them) living in free western societies ample disinformation to sing praises of Marx's utopia. It would take Stalin's army arriving in the heart of divided Europe as a result of the Second World War, and later armed with nuclear weapons, for a sufficient number of people in the West to realize the global threat of Bolshevism.
But Islamists are on a roll, contemptuous of those—the so-called decadent "infidels" of North America and Europe—against whom they make war. Meanwhile, their own fifth column has become deeply embedded in the multicultural West. They have taken to heart the old Bolshevik tale that the greedy capitalist will sell the rope for his hanging, or in its Islamist rendition, the West will finance its own defeat by its insatiable addiction to Middle Eastern oil. The question that hangs over us all like the sword of Damocles is whether the West will awaken in time from its stupor, or whether Islamists will set the term for its surrender.
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