A Letter to the Editor of Wall Street Journal Europe
Ali A. Allawi
To: The Editor
The Wall Street Journal Europe
Since September 11, hardly a day passes without the Wall Street Journal devoting several column inches to an attack on Islam, Muslims and Arabs. I suppose your readers will have to get used to this barrage of hate and invective as a price for your ongoing Kulturkampf against Islam. You have opened your newspaper to the most discredited commentators who can barely disguise their contempt and hatred for Islam. Some of these writers, such as the deracinated Farrukh Dhondy, notorious for their servile attempts to pander to whatever is the West’s current hate targets, have made a career in trashing Muslims and belittling their culture and worth . The flip side of this one-sided tirade is a veritable love-fest that you are indulging in with that glorious example of civilized custom, Turkey. We are now being lectured by every hack who has been given access to the Western media about the virtues of the Turkish example, and how Muslims will always be backward unless and until they jettison their entire world view and begin to behave like the sycophantic Istanbul commercial elite and their officer protectors, the upholders of that proto-fascist 1930’s doctrine called Kemalism. Your editor, Tunku Varadarajan, has reflected perfectly the WSJ’s new party line, a curious combination of celebrating greed, moralizing, western triumphalism and islamophobia. All this needed was the tragedy of September 11 to bring it out to the open. The western media, with a few notable exceptions, is using September 11 in the same manner that the Nazis used the Reichstag fire to launch a no-holds barred attack on the Jews. The intention was always there, the hatred was always lurking below the surface, but it needed an outrage to which all types of accusations and claims could be pinned. It is shameful that the premier business journal in the US, if not the west, stoops to this miserable level of prejudiced opinion-mongering.
I am an Arab and a Muslim and have spent most of my working life in the west. I have tried to wrestle with the questions of the reasons behind the failure of Muslims to chart out for themselves in modern times the good society for which Islam clearly calls. I have reached certain conclusions, none of which bear the slightest resemblance to the gibberish that is plastered on your editorial pages. Your reductionist critique has no connection whatsoever with the concerns and cares of the ordinary Muslim or Arab. You skirt around issues that have bedeviled Muslim societies for a hundred years; issues of illegitimate ruling groups who are persistently and pervasively dependent on foreign support, massive inequalities in wealth and opportunity, corrupt elites that positively despise the common folk and often do not even share their culture or language, massive hoarding of wealth abroad, oppressive security and military systems that are propped up by foreign powers, indiscriminate uprooting of age-old codes and systems of law and governance, wholesale and inappropriate adoption of western institutions and mores, and on and on. This is not the place to present a counter-critique to the prevailing anti-Islamic madness that has seized the western media and some political and social circles. The times are not propitious for a sensible dialogue, especially when the Muslim interlocutor is acutely aware of the degraded levels to which his society and culture has been reduced by internal and external abuse.
Mr. Varadarajan celebrates the presence of alcohol in an official function in Turkey as an example of an up-to date Islam. It reminds me of the bitter joke making the rounds, that the definition of a moderate Muslim these days is one who drinks moderately! To Muslims this is a shocking disregard for one of the basic tenets of the faith. His article takes so many cheap shots at Islam, perhaps because he knows that he has the field clear to himself and the WSJ will not allow a rebuttal or refutation of his claims. Bernard Lewis, whose right to pre-eminence amongst scholars of Islam is disputable to say the least, is juxtaposed with Hassan Hanafi; the former the erudite scholar- the West in all its glory- and the other a bumbling , ersatz version, the Muslim Professor. Mr.Varadarajan seems to be a fully paid-up member of the Mustafa Kemal fan club. For a person whom I suppose is a democrat, I find it curious that Mr. Vardarajan does not enlighten us about the despotic acts of his hero. The truth of the matter is that official Turkey is not Muslim in any shape or form. It is the only state that has made secularism into a religion, and a rejection of the secularist ideology is deemed an attack on the sacred; a bizarre condition where religion is de-sacralised while secularism is sanctified. And this religion of Kemalism has its own rituals, gatekeepers, legists, high priests, protectors and proselytizers. This is not the West in spite of what the apologists for Kemalism may lead us to believe. It is cowardly and false to claim that the cures of the supposed ailments of Islam should come from the adoption of the Kemalist creed. Mr.Varadarajan and those of similar inclination and background should come out and say openly that they hate Islam and are embarrassed by its continuing presence, rather than pretend that they care for “reforming” it. There are many people in the West and elsewhere who are genuinely and sympathetically committed to trying to understand why Islam has not easily accommodated to the more brazen of modernity’s claims. Mr.Varadarjan is not one of them. His islamophobia is too clear. It is only proper that such writers are identified as such, as a caveat to your readers.
No one- not even Mustafa Kemal - could eliminate the Muslim consciousness of the Turk. And despite the best efforts of Bernard Lewis and the WSJ’s editors, Islam will not vanish into the pathetic caricature it has been reduced to in official Turkey, or into a peculiar relic from some pre-modern times. Islam will allow aspects of modernity to be accommodated into its world view, but not the other way around where a mishmash of transient western obsessions is forced onto the community of Islam. And it will be for the simple reason that the great majority of Muslims, be they urban or rural, rich or poor, illiterate or educated, do not want to decouple their lives from the vast moral and spiritual edifice of Islam.