Professor Yehuda Bauer (former academic advisor to the Yad Vashem.
and currently Professor of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) would feature very highly on any list of admired historians which I found myself putting together. So having discovered a lecture which he gave about radical Islam a couple of years ago allows me to both pay homage to him as a scholar and teacher whilst at the same time fulfilling longstanding requests for an accessible introduction to the subject
I realise that watching a 50 (odd) minute lecture is a lot to ask of anyone and if you have already read Berman and Ruthven et al, then you may learn little new from it. I think however that (most) will agree that Professor Bauer is the kind of lecturer that most of us would be very happy to be taught by and that although some of our readers would like to boycott him on the grounds of where he comes from and others no doubt would do worse, he is a very humane man who is deeply concerned with the problems that he is addressing.
The lecture itself is here: Yehuda Bauer Series – Radical Islam and is hosted by the Research channel (a site dedicated to free online lectures which is itself very much worth bookmarking.)
Although I supposedly have a fast connection I got the best results by selecting 256kbps+
For those without the time or inclination to listen to the whole lecture, I suppose I should, with Professor Bauer’s own words that:
“life is infinitely more complex than any definition” ringing in my ears, attempt to define two things. The first is a very simple background which may go a little way towards explaining why somebody who has spent his life studying genocide sees such danger from radical Islam. The second is to give a potted account of the lecture itself (although again I would urge anybody who can find the time the time to actually listen to it.)
Basically Bauer has suggested that the nazis were motivated by a kind of ”redemptive antisemitism,” because an important element in Nazism was the dream of universal redemption for “Aryans”- a kind of (false) messianism that one normally finds in Christianity and Judaism. In Bauer’s own words:
This kind of pseudo-religious utopianism, which one also finds in Marxist- Leninist thought, contains the seed of mass murder. I know of no such redemptive ideology that is not murderous-from crusading Christianity, to contemporary Jewish, Muslim, or Hindi fundamentalism, to Chinese communist dreams of a leap forward. Utopias with a universal message are a sure way to mass murder.
Building on Marx’s concept of the lumpenproletariat, Bauer has suggested that the Nazi elite might be called “Lumpenintellectuals” because they were largely unemployed, exceedingly bitter regarding the bourgeois society that rejected them for a variety of reasons, and searching for explanations for their disappointment in a society that had lost a war but did not understand why, a society that appeared to them to to be disintegrating.
Translating this worldview to the context of todays radical Islamists should really not be too hard.
In the lecture itself Professor Bauer makes the points that Radical Islam today is a genocidal ideology which must be seen in the global context of the rise of radical politicised religion during the last 20 years. There is something very modern about the way radical religion operates, and it often seems concerned with establishing “ideal” societies which have never really existed at any time in the past.
That there is today a growing confrontation between modernising secular culture and radical religion.
That Fighting terrorism by force alone is impossible. (Bauer says plainly that this is what America is trying to do in Iraq and that it won’t succeed.)
That Saudi Wahibism, whilst “fundamentalist” is not modern- it is pre-modern, and that the really modern version of radical Islam has grown out of the basic efforts at education and social services provided by Hassan al Banna and the Moslem brotherhood in post-war Egypt.
That the Elements of radical Islam include:
a Fight for World supremacy.
Antisemitism (Bauer insists the word should never be hyphenated.)
And that it will target firstly non-radical muslims before turning on non-radical governments which are presently in power in “the muslim world”, and will culminate in the mass murder of Jews and anyone else who does not follow the ideology.
That the radicals feel that Democracy itself is blasphemy, and as the word of God has already been passed down all that is needed is to have clerics read the sources and decree what needs to be done at any given time. That there is a clear parallel with both the Nazis and Marxism-Leninism -but, unlike with other manifestations of radical utopias there is no central core to radical Islam. There is nothing which can be destroyed: The “Downfall” of Bin Laden will only result in yet another Bin Laden springing up.
That a Small minority of European muslims are turning to radical Islam basically because they have not been integrated into society. But that in various countries, parts of the radical agenda are being accepted and are thus moving into the mainstream. Penetrating (for instance) into the media of their opponents.
That radical Islam can only be fought from within Islam itself. The only ideological confrontations can and should come from within. Holy scriptures can be interpreted any way you wish. But non-moslems cannot do this. The only way to fight radical Islam is to stretch out the hand of friendship to Islamic communities and the Islamic world- there exist millions of non-radical muslims who non-muslims must reach out towards.
That there are four ways in which radical Islam can be fought:
Firstly non-radical muslims can attack with ideology
Secondly the poverty in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh needs to be addressed. Western governments should not put money into the pockets of dictators and corrupt monarchs. The creation of stable middle-classes in these countries should be a priority as, (and it pains me to say it) without a middle-class there is no democracy. Therefore we should ally ourselves with any government that turns against radicalism
The use of force should not be ruled out (when there is a clear target.)
But mainly we must reach out to ordinary muslims. As Bauer concludes:
“The only security we will ever achieve is by integration and not by the opposite.”
I think that at Harry’s Place there are three general positions taken whenever radical Islam is mentioned. The first, extreme-to my way of thinking, position –(let’s call it the “Farnos”) is that any mention of any muslims at all in a negative light is “islamophobic”. The second (extreme) position, (The Morgoth) is that all Muslims are to a greater of lesser extent part of the problem and that the religion itself should be destroyed. The third position (taken by myself and I think most of the other posters here) is much closer to Professor Bauer’s analysis that we should reach out to ordinary Muslims..
Personally I fail to see how the criticism of those who would subject ordinary Muslims to their unbending will is “Islamophobic” or how anyone who realises just how much those same ordinary Muslims are the targets of the islamists can seriously accuse them of all being part of the same process. So I would ask all those who think that all Muslims are being tainted by islamophobia when anybody so much as mentions the proven dangers of a radical minority, along with those who think that all Muslims are the same and are all part of the problem, and that the very “ideology” itself needs to be destroyed, “what exactly they disagree with in professor Bauer’s analysis?” And also if there is anything that they can add to it.
Indeed this question also goes out to those of us who would broadly agree that Professor Bauer is right.