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     Jun 12, 2007
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The faith that dare not speak its name
By Spengler

Islam as pagan, and Allah as an apotheosized despot. He began, that is, with a general characterization of pagan society, that is, society in the absence of God's self-revelation through love, and then considered Islam as a specific case of a paganism that parodies the outward form of revealed religion. God's self-revelation as an act of love first makes possible human individuality: the individual human is an individual precisely  



because he is loved.

Berman seems shocked to discover that radical Islam promotes a culture of death. He writes:
There is nothing especially novel or bizarre in noticing that al-Banna displayed an eager interest in the esthetic cult of death. The classic history of the Muslim Brotherhood, The Society of the Muslim Brothers by Richard P Mitchell, which appeared in 1969, was quite lucid on this topic even then.

Al-Banna came up with a double phrase about the importance of death as a goal of jihad - "the art of death" (fann al-mawt) and "death is art" (al-mawt fann). This phrase became, in Mitchell's description, a famous part of al-Banna's legacy.

Stringing together his own paraphrases with al-Banna's words, Mitchell wrote: "The Koran has commanded people to love death more than life" (which, I might add, is a phrase that we have heard more than once in terrorist statements during the last few years, for instance in the videotape that was made by the Islamist group that attacked Madrid in 2004).

And al-Banna continued, in Mitchell's presentation: "Unless the philosophy of the Koran on death replaces the love of life which has consumed Muslims, they will reach naught. Victory can only come with the mastery of the art of death."
Paganism everywhere and always is a culture of death, for the simple reason that pagans know that their time on Earth is limited. Again, Rosenzweig:
The peoples of the world foresee a time when their land with its rivers and mountains still lies under heaven as it does today, but other people dwell there; when their language is entombed in books, and their laws and customs have lost their living power.
And further:
War as it was known to the peoples of antiquity was in general only one of the natural expressions of life, and presented no fundamental complications. War meant that a people staked its life, for the sake of its life. A people that marched to war took upon itself the danger of its own death. That mattered little as long as the peoples regarded themselves as mortal. [4]
Extinction is the eventual fate of the Gentiles, which they postpone by perpetual war in defense of their land:
[Unlike the Jews] the peoples of the earth cannot be satisfied by the affinity of blood; they drive their roots into the night of the earth, itself dead but also life-giving, and take from the permanence of the earth their own permanence.

Their will towards eternity clings to the earth and its dominion, to territory. The blood of their sons flows upon the soil of their homeland; for they do not trust to the living community of blood-relation, were it not anchored in the steady ground of the earth. The earth nourishes, but it also binds, and where a people loves the soil of its homeland more than its own life, it remains subject to the danger - and this danger hangs over every people of the world - that even if that love saves the soil of the homeland from the enemy nine times, and with the soil also saves the life of the people, nonetheless the 10th time the soil will be more loved than life, and the life of the people will be spilled out upon it. [5]
Pagans fight to the death for their land and culture, knowing that each fight might be the last, and one fight inevitably must be; for that reason all pagan culture exalts death. Parenthetically Nicholas Wade, in his recent book Before the Dawn, cites new research estimating a 40% attrition rate due to war of men in primitive society.

When Western political scientists speak of "totalitarianism", they refer to "modern regimes in which the state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior" (Wikipedia). Rosenzweig explains something deeper: the individual has no identity separate from the group and therefore cannot act in opposition to it. Arthur Koestler's broken protagonist cannot help but admit absurdly false charges at his show trial; Socrates cannot help but drink the hemlock; the Germans cannot help but follow Adolf Hitler's orders. Because the individual is merely an instrument of the totality, not an individual, there is no capacity for doubt.

And that is precisely what Professor Ramadan means when he says that there is no possibility of doubt in Islam. Again, here is Berman:
In Ramadan's view, ancient Greek influences on Islam have never allowed for the kind of tension or difference between the sacred and the non-sacred that exists in Western thought. The ancient Greek influences on Islam have never allowed for a Promethean spirit of rebellion, and have never allowed for a sense of the tragic. That is because in Islam, as per Ramadan (and here he invokes the medieval philosopher Ibn Taymiyya), the zone of the sacred contains only a single concept, which is tawhid, or the oneness of God. Tawhid leaves no room for tensions, rebellions, or doubts. A deep and tragic sense of doubt is not even a conceptual possibility.

[Ian] Buruma in the [New York] Times Magazine pursued this philosophical matter sufficiently at least to ask Ramadan if he has "ever experienced any doubts himself". Ramadan replied: "Doubts about God, no." And Buruma seems not to have realized that, in responding with this easy certainty, Ramadan was surely offering more than a self-confident autobiographical observation. Doubt, in Ramadan's interpretation, can exist only within the limits allowed by tawhid - meaning that, for a proper Muslim, doubts about God are literally inconceivable. A Muslim, in Ramadan's formulation, may forget, but a Muslim cannot doubt.
This idea of oneness is an empty construct, a philosophical soap bubble that Western philosophers have popped as a preliminary exercise since the days of Parmenides. To pose unity is also to pose multiplicity, as we know from Plato's Parmenides dialogue, Immanuel Kant's antinomies, and a great deal in between and since.

As a "philosopher" Ramadan would not pass a freshman course. "Oneness" in the sense of tawhid derives from the all-consuming tyranny of traditional society. Ghazali's use of the term is quite different from the Jewish motto, "YHWH is echad," which means (as Michael Wyschogrod demonstrates clearly) "unique" rather than "one" in the Parmenidean philosophical sense. For the Judeo-Christian god to self-reveal through love, he must become differentiated, either through YHWH's anthropomorphic love for Abraham, or through the Christian Trinity in which God becomes Man.

If we ignore Ramadan's trivial philosophizing, we observe immediately that tawhid to Ramadan (and to normative Islam since no later than the 11th century) means the crushing of individual identity through the absolute demands of pagan society. For a vivid view of this from the inside of Islam, I recommend the works of the Arab world's leading poet, Adonis, as I reported in a May 8 essay on his work. [6] Here, once again, is what Adonis said about oneness in a television interview this year:
I believe it has to do with the concept of "oneness", which is reflected - in practical or political terms - in the concept of the hero, the savior, or the leader. This concept offers an inner sense of security to people who are afraid of freedom. Some human beings are afraid of freedom.

Interviewer: Because it is synonymous with anarchy?

Adonis: No, because being free is a great burden. It is by no means easy.

Interviewer: You've got to have a boss ...

Adonis: When you are free, you have to face reality, the world in its entirety. You have to deal with the world's problems, with everything ...

Interviewer: With all the issues ...

Adonis: On the other hand, if we are slaves, we can be content and not have to deal with anything. Just as Allah solves all our problems, the dictator will solve all our problems.
Precisely what relationship Professor Ramadan might have to Islamist terrorism, I will leave the experts to argue out. But his relationship to 20th-century neo-paganism is unambiguous: he preaches a much older form of paganism, next to which Europe's 20th-century totalitarians were upstarts.

Notes
1. Oil on the flames of civilizational war, Asia Times Online, December 2, 2003.
2. Islamism, fascism and terrorism, four parts, ATol, November-December 2002.
3. Franz Rosenzweig, Stern der Erloesung (Suhrkamp: Frankfurt 1988), pp 59-60 (my translation).
4. Stern, p 366.
5. Stern, p 332.
6. Are the Arabs already extinct?, ATol.

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