The Brotherhood’s Just Deserts
The really important news from Egypt is not the “martyrdom” of some hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and underage human shields set up for sacrifice by their leaders. It is not the brutality of the security forces fighting the emergence of a Khalifate within the state. It is the targeting of dozens of Christian churches, institutions and individuals all over Egypt by the MB, instigated by the leaders and eagerly carried out by the rank-and-file.
The Brotherhood has finally shown its terrorist character (a host of Western news editors excusing and implicitly justifying its acts as “reprisal attacks” notwithstanding). Attacking the helpless infidel has always been the essence of the MB’s scriptural sources of inspiration, the record of its predecessors through history, and the practice of its contemporary peers. As assorted jihadists fight Assad in Syria, the Christians suffer the most by far proportionate to their numbers. In Libya there were no Christians left after Gaddafy’s fall, so several Allied war cemeteries were vandalized. In Iraq, Saddam’s pious Shiite successors and their Sunni foes have effectively destroyed the two-million-strong Christian community, one of the oldest in the world.
At least the “Bulgarian Massacres” of 1878 and the Turkish genocide of a million-plus Armenians in 1915 and thereafter had a grim logic to it, following the Russian victories at Plevna and in the Caucasus respectively. The logic of the Brotherhood’s assault on Egypt’s Christians is to be found in chapter 9, verse 5, of the Kuran and in the example set by Muhammad and his early successors, the four “rightly guided” khalifs. That logic outweighs the pragmatic need not to dissipate forces and not to lose foreign support—not that the West cares. Had a Christian mob put to torch fifty-plus mosques and Islamic centers in Russia, say, that would have been the MSM lead story for days and weeks, never mind the dead. But the persecution, violence and bloodshed that is the daily lot of Christians in most majority-Muslim countries is under-reported or else grotesquely misrepresented.
As Wael Nawara, a former fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, pointed out in an excellent article last Wednesday, the question is not “Why was it so necessary to clear the sit-ins fully knowing that the blood toll was to be high,” but rather, “If it’s not too important, why did the Muslim Brothers’ react by setting the whole country on fire?” For six weeks, Nawara explains, the Rabia al-Adawiya encampment gradually expanded its borders, creeping to claim mile after mile of neighboring streets, including the highway which connects much of Cairo to the airport. The “sit-in” gradually morphed into a sprawling, fortified city-state with its own police force, complete with torture chambers and border guards. It came to manifest the MB’s “Parallel State,” and its conflict with the state of Egypt has now reached an existential phase “where for one to survive, the other had to go, at least ideologically and organizationally:
Over the past two and half years of the Egyptian revolution, several sit-ins were dispersed in Tahrir and other squares, with very few casualties, if any. It was never a big deal. But this was not just a sit-in, this was the flashpoint in an 85-year conflict between two states, the Muslim Brotherhood’s with its promised Caliphate state and the Egyptian national state, the oldest state history has known. Political factions can negotiate and split seats of power; people from different races, faiths and walks of life can coexist, but two states trying to govern the same people on the same piece of land cannot be together. This is the nature of the conflict now in Egypt and this is one explanation why the Brotherhood fights this battle as if it was Armageddon.
Three weeks ago Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the Egyptian army did not carry out a coup on July 3 but was only “restoring democracy.” (He retracted it with some waffle a day later.) That is nonsense. There had never been any democracy in Egypt so there is nothing to restore. The Muslim Brotherhood in general—as manifested by Morsi’s year in power—and its assault on the dwindling Coptic community in particular, are the living testimonial to the incompatibility of Islam with democracy as it is commonly understood in the postmodern West.
It cannot be otherwise. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his now famous lecture at the University of Regensburg six years ago, not to act reasonably—not to act with logos—is contrary to the nature of God. For a Muslim, God is absolutely transcendent, however; his will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Indeed, it is impossible to have total transcendence and self-limitation at the same time. Logos cannot be assumed in a supreme being that is so transcendent as to be devoid of personality. As then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger wrote in 1979, “the unrelated, unrelatable, absolutely one could not be a person. There is no such thing as a person in the categorical singular.” The result is a moral philosophy and a legal code that excludes the possibility of judgment based on any other source of authority but itself: the letter of revealed law and the precedent. Analogies thus derived stand above reason, conscience, or nature. A Muslim knows that a thing is right or not simply because Allah says so, or because his prophet has thus said or done. No other standard can be invoked.
The political consequences are crucial for all societies that derive their concept of authority from this image. Any notion of politics distinct from that implicit in complete submission to Allah is forbidden and sinful. A polity not based on Sharia is infidel ab initio; the notion of a society not based on the revealed will of Allah is haram. Any Western concept of justice, prudence, equality, or individual freedom—either Christian or derived from some deist-atheist construct—is incompatible with Islam. For Muslims to live together as sovereign individuals—the hallmark of today’s West—is literally unimaginable. It is beyond incompatible with the ideal of ummah, it is its diametrical opposite. The sovereignty of the individual is inconceivable. In his 1970 Islamic Declaration the Bosnian jihadist leader Alija Izetbegovic wrote that “A Muslim generally does not exist as an individual. If he wishes to live and survive as a Muslim, he must create an environment, a community, an order; change the world or be changed himself.”
The sovereignty of the people was accepted by the Muslim Brotherhood as a perfect tool to other ends—a step on the irreversible road to Sharia—but it was always seen by Morsi and his ilk as a sinful rebellion against the sovereignty of Allah. Hence their contempt and arrogance, hence their sophistry and duplicity. Only Allah creates our acts and enables us to act, not constitutions and assemblies and courts, which can and should be manipulated and twisted to suit his will.
The result goes beyond politics. An ikhwani a priori has no capacity for logical thought. Disjointed discourse is the norm. Conspiracy theorizing passes for serious discussion. This is the result of the theological and philosophical foundations of mainstream Sunnite Islam, as they were developed in the ninth and tenth centuries. They were tantamount to an “intellectual suicide” which remains at the root of the problem to this day. Since Allah is Pure Will, outside and above reason or nature. Literally everything is possible in a world in which there is no cause and effect, where man’s thoughts and actions are subsidiary and contingent, and Allah is the only actor.
For a self-confident West of yore, confronting such confused civilization would be a breeze. “Democracy” has changed the West, however, and the rot is proceeding apace. Roger Scruton thus finds the essence of the West in what he calls the “personal state,” which he approvingly describes as characterized by constitution, rule of law, and rotation of office-holders. As I noted last fall, such “society of individuals” is the bane of the West, the poison at its core. However defined, it is also incompatible with Islam. At one level the problem is Sharia. Its key concepts are “blasphemy” and “apostasy,” both incurring the death penalty. The whole edifice is based on the basic inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims, men and women, free men and slaves.
More fundamentally, Western-style democracy—Scruton’s Personal State—is impossible in the Muslim world because the affairs of men do not belong to men in the universe not governed by natural laws. In this universe, “democracy” is reduced to the act of voting, on the one-way street to Sharia. It is an advanced form of mob rule. “Creation is not imprinted with reason,” Robert Reilly noted of Islamic voluntarism in The Closing of the Muslim Mind, and therefore cannot reflect what is not there. There is no rational order, there are only the second-to-second manifestation of God’s Will. By contrast, “democracy” presupposes an ordered universe, a Cosmos, with a detached clock-maker or an impersonal set of natural circumstances as its spiritus movens, with Man’s self-validating reason as the final check and balance.
The gap between these two Weltanschauungen is unbridgeable. An orthodox Muslim will see each act in itself as fitting an occasion rather than as a link in a chain of cause and consequence. It is blasphemous to assert that Sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning, without adding “insh’Allah!” There is no logos, no law, no freedom separate from His divine caprice. Submitting, and touching the carpet in the direction of Mecca, is the only freedom possible.
The implications are dire. On the one side the “democratic” West has divorced reason from faith and subsequently sank into moral, cultural and demographic self-destruction resulting from its embrace of an unnatural and unworkable political creed. Western decrepitude is allowing the Brotherhood and its ilk to continue divorcing faith from reason with centuries-long gusto. They are impervious now, and will always be, to the concept of democracy based on the tenet of individual freedom. In addition to demography and fanaticism, this immunity is their greatest asset in its expectation of a victory of world-historical proportions some time later this century.
The Egyptian generals sense that this world would be unpleasant in general, and dangerously uncertain for themselves personally. They have much more at stake than The New York Times editorialists and American politicians. Hence the Brotherhood’s comeuppance, well deserved and long overdue. May the state of emergency in Egypt last for another thirty years.