Bernie Sanders at the Islamic Society of North America (Part 2)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019
By Paul Martin

SEP 10, 2019

Eventually, having discussed income inequality, and global warming, and health care as a human right, and cancelling all student debt and making the “billionaire class” pay their “fair share of taxes,” Bernie Sanders gave the members of the Islamic Society of North America just what they wanted to hear. He denounced Trump for once saying that “Islam hates us.” There are many people other than Donald Trump who believe that Islam hates us. They are not all right-wing white nationalists. The famously left-wing Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci believed, from her extensive dealings with them, that Muslims were taught to hate non-Muslims. The ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali has described being raised in a society where people were taught to hate Infidels. Trump carefully did not say that “all Muslims hate us.” He was referring to an ideology, Islam, and not to the human beings, Muslims, who may accept, or reject, in whole or in part, what the Qur’an inculcates about non-Muslims. Some Muslims clearly do not hate all non-Muslims, do not wish to “fight” and to “kill” them, to “smite at their necks” and “strike terror in their hearts,” as the Qur’an instructs. But many Muslims around the world clearly do. The existence of “moderate Muslims” does not vitiate the claim that “Islam hates us.” We have only to read the Qur’an and some of the most celebrated hadith to come to that melancholy conclusion. One wonders if Bernie Sanders will ever take the time to read the Qur’an, or will he instead remain happily secure within his complacent ignorance, convinced that “of course” Islam, like all religions, must be based on the principles of “justice, compassion, and tolerance.” Doesn’t his own campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, demonstrate those very principles in his dealings with his Jewish employer and friend, Bernie Sanders? And surely, Sanders assumes, Faiz must be a representative, rather than an exceptional, Muslim.

Sanders told his audience that because of Trump, many more Muslims ran for office and won elections in 2018. Is this true? There were two Muslim members of Congress before 2018; now there are three, a gain of exactly one. There does not appear to have been any discernible increase in the number of Muslims elected at the state or local level. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have simply attracted a great deal of attention as Muslim politicians, and made them seem more numerous and significant than in fact they are. Muslims are 1.1% of the American population; they constitute 0% of the Senate, 0.75% of the House, 0% of the Governors. Sanders needs to look again at the results of the 2018 election before making these psephological gaffes.

Muslims in America and around the world are being unjustly tarred, Sanders insisted, with the brush of “terrorism.” Could the association of Muslims with terrorism have anything to do with the more than 35,000 terrorist attacks by Muslims since 9/11? Could it have anything to do with the existence of such groups of Islamic terrorists as Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Boko Haram, Abu Sayyaf, Al Nusra Front, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al Shebaab, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad? How much Islamic reality does Bernie Sanders expect us to ignore?

Sanders told his Houston audience that he deplored the rise of authoritarian rulers, which he appeared, confusedly and unfairly, to blame on the West. But he left out aspects of recent history: some of the worst despots in the Islamic world have been eliminated, often with the indispensable help of the Western powers. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein, a sadistic monster, was deposed by the American military. Should we be apologetic for that? Would Sanders prefer that Saddam Hussein were still ruling over Iraq? in Libya, Muammar Qaddafi was removed – killed – by Libyans who had received critical military assistance from NATO, including naval bombardments by American and British ships, and aerial bombings by the French, of Qaddafi’s forces. Was his removal to be deplored? Other authoritarians, like the massively corrupt Ben Ali in Tunisia, were chased out of office by opponents, many of whom – like the technocrat Mohamed Ghannouchi — had been raised in a Franco-Tunisian intellectual milieu, with Western democratic ideals. Ben Ali and his wife grabbed 1.5 tons of government gold and managed to flee to Saudi Arabia, which had always supported Ben Ali and has refused to extradite him. It’s not the West that should be embarrassed about Ben Ali, but the Saudis.

Authoritarianism, whose “rise” Sanders deplores, is nothing new in the Islamic world; the West is not to be blamed. It is the default political system for Islam. In the advanced democratic West, a government’s legitimacy is judged by how well it reflects the will of the people, however imperfectly expressed through elections. In the lands of Islam, a ruler’s legitimacy is judged by how well he reflects the will of Allah, as expressed in the Qur’an. As long as he remains a good Muslim, a despot must be obeyed. The ruling families of the Arab Gulf — the Al-Saud, the Al-Maktoum, the Al-Nahyan, the Al-Khalifa, the Al-Said, the Al-Mualla, Al-Nuaimi, Al-Qasimi, Al-Sabah, Al-Sharqi, Al-Thani – are all authoritarians, but they profit from the legitimacy of being considered good Muslims. They lavish their support on influential clerics; the clerics, in turn, provide their imprimatur to the rulers.

One form of authoritarianism, monarchy, was replaced in Iran by another form, theocracy, when the Shah fled and the Ayatollah Khomeini took his place as Absolute Leader. In Pakistan, a pseudo-democracy has disguised a series of authoritarian rulers, mostly military men, some more (such as General Zia ul-Haq) and some less (such as the politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) fervent in their Islamic faith. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become increasingly authoritarian, having exploited the failed July 2016 coup attempt as an excuse to imprison thousands of his political enemies, including many journalists, and to cause many others to lose their employment — as judges, lawyers, teachers, civil servants of every type — with the government. Erdogan has even built himself a 1,500-room palace, as befits the Ottoman Sultan he would no doubt like to be. Neither in Iran, nor in Pakistan, nor in Turkey, has the West been responsible for these authoritarian regimes. They are home grown. Sanders’ attempt to blame the Americans for this “rise in authoritarianism” is distinctly unfair. The Americans did not help put the Pakistani rulers in office. Nor did they promote or support Erdogan, who has always been anti-American and has become ever more so as he foresees a military contest “between the crescent and the cross.” Nor can the Americans be blamed for the seizure of power by the fanatically anti-American Khomeini in Iran. The Americans are to be faulted only for a naïve faith in the universal appeal of democracy. They tried, with a colossal investment in men and money, to install real democracy in Iraq; the failure of that attempt should be blamed not on America for trying, but on the Iraqis themselves for being so unwilling to compromise through electoral politics. The minority Sunnis in Iraq refuse to acquiesce in their loss of political and economic power when Saddam fell; the majority Shi’a are unwilling to relinquish any of the power that devolved to them when Hussein’s Sunni rule ended.

Sanders blames America for the rise of ISIS. He didn’t explain this in his Houston speech, but presumably he means that Saddam Hussein had been sufficiently ruthless to suppress the most fanatical Muslims and should not have been overthrown. It was only in the chaos that followed his downfall that ISIS managed to fill the power vacuum in northern Iraq, and from there enlarge the Islamic State to control more of Iraq, including the key city of Mosul, and eastern Syria as well. Should the Americans have foreseen the rise of ISIS? Why? It was an unprecedented phenomenon, an attempt by fanatics to set up what they called a “caliphate” where life would be lived strictly according to the laws of the earliest Muslims. If the Arabs and Muslims could not have predicted the rise of ISIS, why should the Americans be criticized for failing to do so? Sanders might have told his audience the truth: “We went to Iraq with good intentions. We saw Saddam Hussein – correctly – as a monster of oppression and murder. He killed 182,000 Kurds in order to “Arabize” the Kurdish lands. He killed hundreds of thousands of Shi’a Iraqis to maintain the supremacy of his fellow Sunnis. But we underestimated the difficulty of transplanting democracy. It is a plant that requires long nurturing, and in our naïve enthusiasm we failed to realize that. We aimed too high. An enlightened authoritarian might have been the proper goal, as a political way-station on the path to a future democracy.” He might have; it would have been salutary; he chose to stick instead to the script his audience favored: Muslims always as victims.

Bernie Sanders seems, however, to be determined to make the same mistakes that the Americans made in Iraq. He claims that “I will make the promotion of democracy and human rights a priority for the USA.” How does he hope to plant democracy in the stony soil of Islam? Where has a true “democracy” ever been successfully established, for the long term, in any Muslim country? As for “human rights,” how does Sanders hope to have women and minorities treated equally in Muslim countries, given what is said about women and non-Muslims in the Qur’an and Hadith?

Sanders was indignant about India’s action in Kashmir, in abrogating Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which had given the Kashmiris a high degree of autonomy. He claimed that “India’s action is unacceptable…The U.S. government must speak out boldly….in support of a U.N.-backed resolution that respects the will of the Kashmiri people.”

What “Kashmiri people” is he talking about? Does he mean to include the 300,000-600,000 Hindus (the “Pandits”) who were killed or fled Kashmir since 1990? Are they part of the “Kashmiri people” or does that phrase, for Sanders, only refer to the 96.4% of the population that is Muslim, now that so many Hindus have fled? Shouldn’t the hundreds of thousands of Hindus who were indigenous to Kashmir, but fled Muslim persecution and murder, also be counted as part of the “Kashmiri people”? And what about the people in Jammu, which has administratively always been, with Kashmir, part of one state: Jammu-Kashmir, J&K? Two-thirds of the people in Jammu are Hindus. Shouldn’t they be counted as well, as part of the population of the newly-declared “Union territory” of “Jammu and Kashmir”?

Sanders has no understanding of what the Hindus of Kashmir have endured over the past 30 years. He thinks that the Muslims can justly claim to be the only “Kashmiri people” who count. Can Sanders really be unaware of the fate of the Kashmiri Pandits? Yes, I think he can; worse still, he assumes he is well-informed about the matter. Perhaps his campaign manager Faiz Shakir has provided him with a potted Muslim history of Kashmir. And what does Sanders know about Muslim terror attacks inside India? Does he know how many of those attacks were carried out by Pakistan-based terrorists? He fails to mention the role of Pakistan, for example, in supporting the terrorists who struck Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people. Did he notice that just the day before he gave his Houston speech, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, becoming more hysterical every day, threatened to use nuclear weapons against India if the situation in Kashmir was not resolved to his liking? Shouldn’t Sanders have mentioned that astounding threat, or was he so dead set on taking the Muslim side, for that ISNA audience, that he wouldn’t admit to anything that might give others pause about Pakistan?

Leave a Reply

Join the revolution in 2018. Revolution Radio is 100% volunteer ran. Any contributions are greatly appreciated. God bless!

Follow us on Twitter