Saturday, June 29, 2013

Reflexions on my outburst yesterday and on how to best deal with the Wahabi phenomenon

This morning when I woke up and re-read my post yesterday and the comments it elicited - in particular the amazing comment by Lysander -  I felt that this was such an important issue that I decided to return to it in a separate post rather than to do so in the comments section.

First, I have to admit that what I posted yesterday was not so much a post as it was an angry outburst: in a few short paragraphs, I counted four "exterminate", one "shot on sight" and several attempts at adequately characterize these people including "crazed Wahabi thugs", "most evil and bloodthirsty animals", "beasts" and "vicious thugs".  Clearly, I was truly disgusted and angry.

And then I read Lysander's very moving comment and I realized that for all our superficial differences in nationality or religion, he feels exactly the same way as I do, and I think that there is something very important here.

(Lysander, I hope that you will forgive me for putting the spotlight on you, but your beautiful comment deserves no less; and since we are both using an alias, I hope that there is no harm done by this).

Lysander wrote: And this sort of thing happens so often and in so many different circumstances, that it is impossible to believe it is an "isolated incident."  I fully agree.  One can find all sorts of excuses, engage in endless discussions about "oppression" or even "alienation", but this is rubbish.  All sorts of people have been oppressed worldwide, and millions still are.  Most ethnic groups and probably all religions have, at one time or another, been oppressed.  But there seems to be only one group which always and systematically feels the urge to literally soak their hands into the blood of victims whose throats they slowly slit while screaming "God is great" from the top of their lungs.  Just in the 20th century there are many nations which suffered horrendously at the hands of oppressors (must I really write the full long list here?) and none of them engaged in such behavior.

Any normal and sane person feels sympathy and compassion for the victims of oppression, but what happens when this same person realizes that the victim itself is far more evil and vicious than the oppressor?  Does that not trigger a natural sense of rage?

Lysander wrote: I'd rather live under the most extreme police state of Hafez al Assad than under rule of these reptiles.  Exactly!

God knows I am no fan of the Assads (or of Gaddafi, or even Saddam), but when I see the actions of these Wahabi I also feel that we are talking about two different dimensions, different orders of magnitude, different species even: on one hand, we observe a typical corrupt and repressive regime with its Mukhabarat and torture jails, while on the other hand we have reptiles, inhuman crazed fanatical zombies (what else can I call them?!) who make the former look almost decent!

Lysander wrote: Nor is this barbarity confined to Syria. Somehow it has metastasized to my own Egypt, where you may have heard about the mob murder of an Egyptian Shia' cleric and his 4 companions this past Sunday.

I got a lot of flak for my categorical stance in full and unconditional support for Putin's mercyless war on the Chechen insurgency.  And I assume that a lot of people concluded that because of my Russian ethnicity I was supporting "my side".  Honestly, I was not.  First, I also supported the actions of the Russian military and security services in the first Chechen war even though the country was ruled by Eltsin whom I loathe to a degree hard to express in a few short sentences.   And second, believe it or not, I actually had rather sympathetic feelings towards the Chechen desire for independence.  First, because they never invited the Russians to the Caucasus (like the Georgians had) and, second, because they always courageously resisted the Russian presence in Chechnia.  At a time when so much historically Russian land was being artificially cut off from Russia (like the Ukraine!), the secession of tiny Chechnia really did not matter to me, or to most Russians.  Anyway, whether one believes me or not, my reason for supporting Putin's merciless war on the Chechen insurgency is because, unlike most people in the West, I was fully aware of what these reptiles, as Lysander calls them, where doing: the exact same stuff as they are doing today in Syria.

But of course, when they were doing so in Chechnia and Russia, nobody could give a damn: the West was, as always, supporting anything anti-Russian while the Muslim world - with the huge exception of Iran - was engaging in the usual "right or wrong my Ummah" the knee jerk support for anybody claiming to be Muslim.  The same happened in Bosnia and Kosovo.

I have also tracked the actions of these Wahabis in Bosnia and Kosovo, and while I will gladly admit that most Bosnian Muslims and Kosovars were not nearly as vicious and cruel as the Chechen insurgents, a non-trivial amount of them was.  In fact, in Bosnia a lot of so-called Mujahideens had been flown in by NATO and they also behaved exactly in the same manner.  Again, nobody cared or, if somebody did, it was, of course, the fully support the Wahabis again.

Do you remember the famous quote by Putin about Chechen terrorists?  Here is what he said:  We will hunt them down everywhere.  If we find them at the airport - then at the airport.  If, forgive me, we find them in the toilets, we will exterminate them there.  Enough, this topic has been settled. (Мы будем преследовать террористов везде. В аэропорту — в аэропорту. Значит, вы уж меня извините, в туалете поймаем, мы в сортире их замочим, в конце концов. Всё, вопрос закрыт окончательно).  Since he was using rather slangish expressions, it is hard to accurately render the strong emotion of his words, but I will say that Putin clearly, even crudely, conveyed two simple thoughts: 1) no negotiations 2) extermination.  Clearly, the man "had it".  And so do I.  And so does Lysander.

Here again, I have to return to Lysander's own words: quite frankly, I'm of the opinion that Bashar's mistake was not that he was a dictator, but rather that he was far too lenient with these lizard men. His father would have dealt with them in such a way that "hell would have held no surprises for them" as one pro-Syria blogger I like to read would say.  How can I possibly argue with Lysander in this case, while fully agreeing with Putin?!  Of course I can't.  He is absolutely right.

I will honestly tell you that this is very disturbing for me.  Both my religion and my personal philosophical and ethical outlook on life give me a strong disinclination towards concepts such as "merciless extermination" or "giving hell", but what can I say: when I think of Wahabis I really, sincerely and honestly do not see any other possible way.

This is why I speak of "crazed thugs" and Lysander speaks of "reptiles".  I think that we are trying to express a very disturbing and even distressing notion: that these people are not fully human anymore.  And while I hate this thought, and while I am disturbed by its implications, I have to agree with it.  People who crucify others, who slit their throats of elderly men, who issue fatwas allowing for the rape of girls in the name of God, people who can torture while screaming "God is great" are simply of a qualitatively different nature.  The same goes for cannibals who eat warm blood soaked organs on video to make a point.  If I think long and hard of the best way to describe them I can only come up with the following word: Satanists.

Lysander then wrote this: That latter incident has in the last few days caused me to embrace Shia Islam. Now I'm not very religious, but in terms of world view I'm very much in agreement with the Shia' values of resisting injustice and overcoming betrayal.

Lysander  - these are beautiful words and may God bless and protect you for such a movement of your heart!  Did you know that in the first centuries, when Rome was still pagan, there were quite a few instances of Roman pagans witnessing the martyrdom of Christians who suddenly spontaneously spoke up and declared themselves Christians only to be either thrown to the bests or beheaded on the spot.

I believe that there is a profound human instinct which tells us that if we cannot help an innocent victim then we have to join it and share its fate.  Furthermore, when people are killed for their faith, especially by Satanists, they are considered as "martyrs" or "shahids" which in both Greek and Arabic means "witness".  Witnesses of God's truth in the face of a worldly lie.  Christianity even believes that such people are "baptized in their blood" and therefore are recognized as Christians saints even if they never were formally baptized or even educated in the faith.  Yup - we believe that a pagan who sides with a martyr and gets killed for that himself instantly becomes a Christian martyr and saint!

Lysander - you say that you are not very religious (-: although it is quite obvious to me that you are far more religions than you know :-) but that "in terms of world view I'm very much in agreement with the Shia' values of resisting injustice and overcoming betrayal."  Well, I can tell you that while I am neither a Shia nor a Muslim, I also fully share that worldview and that I immensely admire the Shia with whom I feel a very deep sense of common ethos even if our dogmatic theology (to use a Christian expression) is different.  I can certainly honest say that I feel much much closer to Shia Islam than to any other form of Islam and that my admiration for the Shia themselves is also deep and heartfelt.
I think that your way of embracing Shia Islam (especially in the spirit of the beautiful words of Iran's FM Salehi) is indeed not a renunciation of genuine Sunni Islam.  In fact, I see your action as supra-sectarian: it is aimed at bringing you as close as possible to all the martyrs/shahids and God which you currently see as most effectively/consistently done through Shia Islam.  I see your decision and declaration as a deeply ethical and moral one and I commend you for it!

Coming back to the situation in Syria I have to admit that I am rather dismayed by my conclusion that a negotiated settlement is impossible.  Unless all the parties join forces together and agree to expel or destroy the terrorists (as the G8 Communique urges them to), I see no point in any discussions.  And since I see no sign from the putatively "non-terrorist part of the FSA" they they are even considering turning against their own military's "shock troops" (al-Nusra & Co.) what can we expect?

These "FSA moderates" remind me of Maskhadov.  By all accounts he was not a crazed beast like Hattab, Gelaev, Basaev, Raduev or Baraev - but he simply could not do anything against them, and that gave him no other option than to fight with, rather than against, them and like the rest of them, he was eventually killed by Russian Spetsnaz forces.  Maskhadov was the prototype of the "non-terrorist part of the Ichkerian insurgency" and yet it did him - or anybody else - no good.  I fear that the putatively "non-terrorist part of the FSA" are just like Maskhadov - irrelevant.

So what then?  By the year 2000 Putin had enough forces to through at the Chechen insurgency and physically eliminate it.  By 2000 he also had the priceless help of two charismatic leaders: Akhmad Kadyrov and then his son Ramzan.

In response to a comment I recently wrote this (slightly corrected): My gut feeling is that Wahabism must be combated by non-Wahabi, traditional, Sunni Islam. The local authorities must either be Sunni Muslim themselves or, at least, support traditional Sunni Islam. Look at Chechnia - on one hand Russian soldiers killed enough insurgents to defeat them militarily, but on the other hand it took a guy like Kadyrov, who is very openly and militantly Muslim and traditionalist, to beat back the Wahabi ideology in a way which the Russian military and all its firepower could not do. As for Putin, he went as far as to grant Chechnia a degree of autonomy which, frankly, is not quite in line with the Russian Constitution. Why? Because he understood that he had to do the maximum humanly possible to accommodate the kind of society Kadyrov wants to build: a very strictly traditional Sunni society, but one with in which Wahabis are quite literally shot on sight.  The Iranians are, of course, doing the same, but being Shia they have natural limits on how much they can do. Same for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This brings three questions to my mind.  Does Bashar al-Assad have what it takes to be a "Syrian Putin"?  Can the Syrian military smash the insurgency like the Russians did it in Chechnia?  Is there a "Syrian Kadyrov" who can beat back the ideology of the insurgents?  At best, my own replies are two, rather timid, "maybes" and one "dunno".  Assad has done better than expected, the Syrian military has performed brilliantly.  And I have no idea if there is a "Syrian Kadyrov".  And if NATO intervenes directly, I am not sure at all what would happen.

There is one more thing which explains my outburst yesterday.  The fact that even though images of Wahabi atrocities are constantly showing up on the Internet, there are still so many people who chose to look away, to pretend like this is irrelevant, that this is an isolated case.  This trend to minimize or "explain away" that which is clearly satanic in nature has to be categorically denounced.  Sadly, mankind has a long history of wars, civil wars and violent uprising and insurgencies and by now we should all know what these tragedies inevitably involve (I even wrote a full article about that).  This is why the quest for a moral definition of a "just war"  from the Mahabarata to the UN Charter is such an important endeavor: it embodies mankind's quest to make sure never to engage in this ultimate evil if there are other options available.  Still, I can understand somebody trying to rationalize the truly inevitable consequences of war, in particular if this is a just war (by whatever definition), but to rationalize the actions of these Wahabis under any excuse at all is, I submit, morally categorically unacceptable.  Why?

First and foremost because Wahabi atrocities are presented by the Wahabi themselves as normative.  Why do others say that these are isolated incidents involving a minority of extremists when in reality they are clearly a part of a consistent pattern, repeated everywhere and justified in the name of God?

Second, while other religious have, of course, committed atrocities, this is the only case I know of where the name of God is gleefully evoked at the moment of torture and death.  True, the Jesuits are famous for their ad majorem Dei gloriam (to the greater glory of God) as a justification for the most barbaric crimes and atrocities, but this is precisely that - a justification for something otherwise hard to accept or condone, whereas the Wahabi's use of "Allahu Akbar" is not a justification as much as a Satanic doxology directly linked to the atrocity committed.

Third, while it is true that hatred breeds hatred and atrocities breed further atrocities,  I am unaware of any instances were atrocities are systematically committed in a joyful, almost festive, mood.  The only similar case I am aware of is the numerous lynchings of Blacks in the USA (south and north!) which were often announced days in advance in newspapers and which were organized with barbecues, ice-cream sales and a generally festive atmosphere.  But for all their elegant dresses and pretenses at being "gentlemen" we are dealing here with a population with no history, no culture, the primitive rudiments of pseudo-Christianity, no philosophy and with a moral and ethnically sophistication roughly equal to the one of the Cro-Magnon or Neanderthals (watching a few cowboy movies is enough to prove this point).  More importantly - the US authorities, for all their other faults, never considered these actions as normative and did take the measures needed to eventually stop them.  Finally, I would note here that Blacks in the USA, for all the horrendous atrocities which have been committed against them for centuries, never took revenge in the Wahabi manner, not the Socialist Blacks, not the Christian ones, not the Muslim ones. Huey P. Newton, Martin Luther King or Malcolm X would have been appalled if any other their followers would have acted like the Wahabis systematically do.  Yes, there have been isolated acts of Black violence, but these were either revolts against the slave owners (Nat Turner) or truly tiny groups (BLA).  The absolute majority of Black political activism in the USA was always resolutely non-violent.
Unlike the US "southern gentlemen" Wahabis pop-up in countries with a long history, a rich cultural tradition and sophisticated civilization which included several ancient and refined religions and philosophies.  As an Orthodox Christian I immediately think of such intellectual giants as Saint John of Damascus and Saint Ephrem the Syrian but I am sure that any Muslim could easily come up with his own list of famous Syrian Muslims.  Bottom line is this: the Syrians are not cowboys, and Wahabism in Syria cannot be excused or even explained by a lack of education or culture.  Neither can Egyptian Wahabism or, for that matter, Iraqi Wahabism.  These countries are all "cradles of mankind" and not some barbaric frontier.

I strongly feel that there simply cannot be any excuse for Wahabism - not in the repression from others, nor in some assumed lack of education or culture.  My personal conclusion is that we are dealing with a demonic, satanic anti-religion which is fully centered on the hate of "the other" whereas "normal" religions are all centered on the love for the other.  To speak in defense of Wahabism, to seek excuses or explanations for their atrocities is to defend Satan, literally.

Finally, in conclusion, I will say that for all the clearly emotional nature of my outburst yesterday, I do stand by my conclusion: I don't see the point of any negotiations with the FSA, "Friend of Syria", the Syrian National Coalition or any other political entity or military force which is in any way associated with, or allied to, the Wahabis in Syria.  In fact, the only people worth speaking to at this point are those who share what I call the "Putin approach" to Wahabism: immediately stop and desist or be exterminated.  Alas, at this point this means only Russia, Iran and, possibly, China.

Anyway, sorry for the long post, but after my outburst yesterday I felt like I needed to sit down and take the time to lay it all out, to get it off my chest, and to make my views available for discussion or criticisms.  If somebody can convince me that there is still room to negotiate, I will be immensely grateful as my conclusions at this point are rather disheartening if not depressing: they are a painful admission that the only way to deal with the current violence is much more violence, something which no sane person can welcome.

So please tell me I am wrong!

Kind regards,

The Saker