Edited version of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, March 12, 2007.
Islamic Imperialism (2006) is the title of Efraim Karsh’s illuminating book on Islam’s relentless, global ambition.
One doesn’t have to read very far into Professor Karsh’s book to see the validity of his thesis. The first page of the Introduction begins with the following quotes:
“I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘There is no god but Allah.’”
Prophet Muhammad’s farewell address, March 632
“I shall cross this sea to their islands to pursue them until there remains no one on the face of the earth who does not acknowledge Allah.”
Saladin, January 1189
“We shall export our revolution throughout the world … until the calls ’there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah’ are echoed all over the world.”
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 1979
“I was ordered to fight people until they say there is no god but Allah, and his prophet Muhammad.”
Osama bin Laden, November 2001
Karsh goes beyond those who, like Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington, correctly interpret Islam’s 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as symbolic of a “clash of civilizations.”
As for the legions of commentators who portray Islam as a “religion of peace” hijacked by Muslim extremists, Karsh’s study shows this is sheer nonsense. This nonsense, however, leads pundits to think that the terrorist attack on 9/11 was merely an Islamic reaction to American foreign policy in the Middle East in general, and to its allegedly pro-Israel stance vis-à-vis the Palestinians in particular. This apologetic view of Islam is actually tainted by anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.
Karsh brilliantly reformulates the dynamism of Islam going back to Muhammad himself. He shows that in contrast to the gradual development of Christianity and its doctrine of separating the church from the state, the birth of Islam was initially and ideologically linked to the creation of a world power. Karsh boldly states that “Muhammad used God’s name to build an earthly kingdom”—the goal of Islam to this day.
By rejecting the dichotomy of God and Caesar, Islam rejected the very concept of independent nation-states. For Muhammad and all true believers, there is only the Arab nation, the umma, and it has no borders. A world empire has thus been the logic of Islam since its inception. This is what pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism is all about.
Moreover, whereas Western imperialism maintained political and cultural separation from its colonies in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, Islamic imperialism spread throughout these continents by converting the inhabitants to the creed of Muhammad. And insofar as Islam tolerated, when it did not slaughter, these “infidels,” the surviving victims were reduced to a condition of “dhimmitude,” which, according to Bat Ye’or, was often worse than slavery.
On the other hand, and as Karsh explains, some Muslim rulers “were less interested in the mass conversion of the conquered populations than in enjoying the material fruits of their subjugation. For them the triumph of Islam was not so much a cultural or civilization issue as it was a territorial and political matter. The lands they occupied became an integral part of the House of Islam whether or not most of their inhabitants became Muslims.”
Islamic imperialism, never simply political, remains the driving force of the Middle East. Even a “secular” pan-Arab leader like Saddam Hussein had to “brandish his religious credentials” to justify his invasion of Kuwait. Karsh adds: “For all its professed secularism … pan-Arabism has not only been forced to claim allegiance to the religious beliefs … to which most Arabs remain attached to date, but has effectively been Muslim in its ethos.” Even Christian Arabs have been urged to preserve Islam as “the most precious element in their Arabism.”
The inescapable logic of Islamic doctrine, fortified by a lust for Islam’s lost and lamented glory, is the inexorable reason why no Arab or Muslim ruler has ever recognized, except for tactical reasons, the land called “Palestine” as separate from the House of Islam. Arab rhetoric about a “Palestinian” state is intended solely for Western consumption—yes, and it also prompts the U.S. and the E.U. to bankroll the Palestinians and their supremely cunning terrorist leaders.
Karsh quotes the eminent Arab-American historian Philip Hitti, who in 1946 described the common Arab view: “There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.”
It was never “perceived as a distinct entity deserving national self-determination but as an integral part of a unified regional Arab order, no element of which should be conceded at any cost.”
As late as 1974, ten years after the formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Syrian president Hafez Assad still referred to Palestine not only as part of the Arab homeland but as a basic part of southern Syria. There is no evidence that his son and successor, Bashar Assad, has renounced the power-lust of Islamic imperialism.
Syria is particularly revealing. Its multi-ethnic and multi-religious character facilitates the presence in Damascus of a variety of terrorist organizations linked to diverse Arab or Muslims regimes. This linkage confirms that Middle Eastern leaders and ideologues have remained under “the spell of the imperial dream.” In the words of the senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar: “Islamic and traditional views reject the notion of establishing an independent Palestinian state … [Hence] our main goal is to establish a great Islamic state, be it pan-Arabic or pan-Islamic.”
These would-be Saladins may have delusions of grandeur; but they now have within their reach weapons of mass destruction. This makes the world-conquering aspiration of Islam in the past Islam’s vision of the future.
Even now al-Qaeda has terrorist networks in England and Europe. Even now Muslims have in sight the conquest of England and Europe where, in a few decades, they may outnumber the native populations. And this is not all.
Even now, with more than a thousand mosques in the United States, imams are preaching anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and Islamic imperialism. Even now, with all this in front of his nose, an American president insists on the establishment of an Arab Palestinian state along side Israel—a fantasy embraced by Israel’s prime minister! Yes, and there is not a single party in the Knesset that stands up and calls for an end to this appeasement of Islam—nay, an end to this cowardice.
What statesman has the courage to call upon his country to go on the offensive against Islam—a “culture of hate” now spreading throughout the world? Islamic imperialism is animated by a political religion that denies the sanctity of human life, the foundation of Judeo-Christian civilization. Throughout the world Muslims cheered and chanted “Allahu Akbar” when Muslim kamikazes murdered 3,000 innocents on 9/11.
Infinitely more is needed of America than a military “surge” in Iraq and negotiations with Iran. Islam has declared war against America as well as against Israel. Yet neither country has truly identified the enemy, let alone developed a strategy for defeating this deadliest of foes—the overriding issue and challenge of our century.
As I read Karsh’s exhaustive study of Islamic history, the only rational response to Islamic imperialism is a war strategy whose goal is victory. Needed to achieve this victory is the realism and ruthlessness that animated Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman in the Second World War. One does not negotiate with Nazis or their Islamic successors.