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The Last Totalitarians
By Robert Maynard, Williston, Vermont
Click here for youtube video segment 8A, 8B, 8C, 8D, 8E, 8F

The 19th Century saw the American inspired vision of individual liberty and a free society characterized by "spontaneous order" challenged by a utopian, collectivist ideology. In noting this shift Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini had this to say about the 20th Century in his 1932 piece "What is Fascism?": "For if the nineteenth century was a century of individualism it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism and hence the century of the State." And the 20th Century certainly was the century of centralized political power in the hands of the State. The practical result of such centralization has been the sacrificing of individual liberty to a totalitarian State.

Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek predicted such a result in his 1944 work, "Road to Serfdom." Hayek observed that the growing collectivism in German society had led to the rise of the Nazis and noted that the rest of the Western world was heading down the same road, though at a slower pace.

Totalitarianism presents today’s gravest threat to human wellbeing. This threat became fully manifested in the 20th Century. It is no coincident that the 20th Century was also "the century of collectivism and hence the century of the State."

R. J. Rummel, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, has written extensively on the threat of totalitarianism. On his website, titled "Democratic Peace," he presents much of his research concluding that wars are more likely to be caused by totalitarian states. The corollary is that economic- and political-free states are more likely to pursue a path of peace. The rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century was accompanied by the rise of total worldwide wars. Dr. Rummel estimates that just over 35 million people have been killed by war during the 20th Century. This is a very significant amount when compared to previous centuries. Yet, as sobering as this statistic is, it does not tell the whole story.

During the same time period, apart from war, just over 262 million people have been killed by their own totalitarian governments. In other words, more than six times as many people have been killed by totalitarian governments during the 20th Century than all the wars combined during the same time period. Dr. Rummel refers to the mass murder of their own people by their own governments as "democide" in his books "Death by Government" and "Power Kills."

Totalitarianism arises as a reaction to the widespread ideal of individual liberty, which poses an existential threat to the utopian ideal that drives totalitarianism. The focus on individual liberty is seen as selfish and an obstacle to realizing the public good. What starts out as a "Conflict of Visions" ends up as a violent clash where those who promote the idea of individual liberty must be eliminated as enemies of the utopian order that is seen as a coming reality. Liberty for the individual must be curtailed by the State. According to Mussolini, "The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone."

The latest such reaction, which really is not new at all, has come from Jihadi terrorists such as Osama bin Laden. Brink Lindsey, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, wrote the following in a September 28, 2001 article entitled "The Last Totalitarians:"

"At first glance, shadowy Islamist terrorists look very different from any enemy we have ever faced. And indeed, the tactics they employ are novel, as are the tactics that must be used to defeat them. But the fundamental nature of our present adversaries, once seen plainly, is all too familiar. The evil we confront today is the evil of totalitarianism: Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and their coconspirators are the modern-day successors of Lenin and Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot.

The atrocities of today's terrorists are the last shudder of a historical convulsion of unprecedented fury and destructive power. It was spawned by the spiritual confusion that accompanied the coming of the modern age, and consists of a profound hostility toward the disciplines and opportunities of human freedom. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire we thought we were done with totalitarianism. But it lives still, and lives to do harm. As we prepare once more to face this old and dangerous adversary, we need to reacquaint ourselves with its origins and nature."

If we are serious about defending our heritage of liberty from this latest attack, we need to gain an understanding about the nature of the attacker. And a good place to start is by looking into the life and thought of Sayyid Qutb. Sayyid Qutb was one of the most important figures in the development of jihadi Salafi ideology. As pointed out on the Global Security website:

"Salafi is a term often used to describe fundamentalist Islamic thought.

The teachings of the reformer Abd Al-Wahhab are more often referred to by adherents as Salafi, that is, "following the forefathers of Islam." This branch of Islam is often referred to as "Wahhabi," a term that many adherents to this tradition do not use. ... Wahhabism is a particular orientation within Salafism. Most puritanical groups in the Muslim world are Salafi in orientation, but not necessarily Wahhabi."

Despite coming from a slum area along the Nile Valley, Qutb enjoyed both a Western education and an Islamic education, a typical background for a Salafi intellectual. He saw Western Civilization as hopelessly decadent and incapable of nourishing the human soul. No doubt reading the writings of thinkers like Nietzsche helped him to form his opinion. The notion that "God is Dead" and that the modern age is heading down the path of "nihilism," could not have been very appealing to someone coming from a culture that takes God seriously.

In his eyes, America was the leading power in the advance of Western Civilization, which was typified ideologically by communism. American supposedly was locked in a struggle against communism, but from an ideological standpoint, he saw no real difference. Both were driven by a materialistic ideology that posed a mortal threat to human flourishing. In visiting America, he noted that the Churches were full and Christianity seemed to have widespread acceptance among the American population. The problem, as he saw it, was that Christianity was to "other worldly" focused. He saw this as escapist and incapable of providing a guide for every day living. Because of this, he did not think that Christianity posed a non-materialist alternative to communism. Communism was a complete worldview that provided a guide for living here and now. Its materialistic worldview must be opposed by an equally comprehensive non-materialistic worldview. He did not see America as possessing such a worldview, so it would eventually fall prey to the materialistic worldview of communism. Only Islam offered a non-materialist alternative to communism.

His most significant work is a piece entitled "Milestones" This work is the essential charter of the jihad movement -- its Mein Kampf. In Milestones, Qutb deals with the reason for the impotence of global Islam. His conclusion is that there is no "Islamic community." In fact, there has not been one for several centuries. How can this be? Well, without the "laws of God," i.e. Shari'ah law, Islam does not exist, so today's Muslims, or people who call themselves Muslim, live not in an Islamic world, but in Jahiliyyah, pre-Islamic ignorance. According to Qutb, the problem with those who proclaim belief in God, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever, but embrace western style democracy is:

"not that they believe in other deities besides God or because they worship anyone other than God, but [that] their way of life is not based on submission to God alone. Although they believe in the Unity of God, still they have relegated the legislative attribute of God to others and submit to this authority. [p.82]"

And "accepting the sovereignty of others besides God," (the others in question being human beings), is shirk, (polytheism) [p.45]. You may not think you are worshiping priests or presidents when you obey the regulations or laws legislated by their governance, but you are.

"The Prophet - peace be on him - clearly stated that, according to the Shari'ah, 'to obey' is 'to worship'. ... Anyone who serves someone other than God in this sense is outside God's religion, although he may claim to profess this religion. [p.60]"

"Obedience to the Shari'ah, of God, is" not just as important as the five pillars; it is "even more necessary than the establishment of the Islamic belief" [p.89] in making a Muslim a Muslim. Thus (as noted above), ... the Muslim community ... vanished ... the moment the laws of God became suspended on earth... [p.9

Of course, "Obedience to the Shari’ah of God" and the waging of Jihad are not part of the five pillars of Islam. As pointed out by the Islam 101 website:

The 'Five Pillars' of Islam are the foundation of Muslim life:

  • Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
  • Establishment of the daily prayers;
  • Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;
  • Self-purification through fasting; and
  • The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.
  • For moderate Muslims, the essence of Islam is the Five Pillars, which are seen as the only permanent commandments to the Muslim faithful.

    Never the less, for Salafi Muslims, the embrace of western style democracy is a form of idolatry and poses an existential threat to Islam. America, by virtue of being the chief vehicle by which the heretical notion of democratic freedom has been spread around the world, poses the biggest threat to Islam and is thus known as "The Great Satan."

    Qutb is viewed by most Jihadis as an Islamic Reformer who cut though all of the foreign influence that had corrupted Islam and returned to the original teaching of Mohammad.

    The current generation of Jihadis has been even more explicit identifying the most serious source of ideological corruption. In a NEW YORK POST September 4, 2003 piece entitled: "AL QAEDA'S AGENDA FOR IRAQ," Amir Taheri quotes extensively from a book entitled: "The Future of Iraq and The Arabian Peninsula After The Fall of Baghdad" by Yussuf al-Ayyeri, one of Osama bin Laden's closest associates since the early '90s. In the book, al-Ayyeri makes the claim that:

    "It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy."

    When we look further, we note that he sees democracy as a form of "unbelief" which is more threatening to Islam than all the other forms combined. The reason for this is that:

    This form of "unbelief" persuades the people that they are in charge of their destiny and that, using their collective reasoning, they can shape policies and pass laws as they see fit. That leads them into ignoring the "unalterable laws" promulgated by God for the whole of mankind, and codified in the Islamic Shari’ah (jurisprudence) until the end of time.

    This is what he sees as at stake in Iraq:

    "In Iraq today, there are only two sides," Al-Ayyeri asserts. "Here we have a clash of two visions of the world and the future of mankind. The side prepared to accept more sacrifices will win."

    It is quite clear here that he, and others like him, view the freedoms we associate with our democratic tradition as heretical, sacrilegious and incompatible with Islam. Herein lies the basic nature of the conflict of visions, which we are engaged in. The American notion of ordered liberty, which is derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition, sees freedom as a sacred gift, which our creator has endowed us with. The God who gave us dominion over the creation expects us to exercise self-dominion as well. Self-dominion means self-government.

    This conflict of visions is what is driving the various forms of Jihad. Most of us have become familiar with violent Jihad after the events of 9/11 and the bombing in London, Madrid and the endless acts of seemingly senseless violence seen on the evening news in the name of Jihad. With the so much attention focused on foreign threats in the War On Terror there is a more insidious long-term threat that is going largely unnoticed. That is the threat of Homegrown Terrorism. It is imperative that Americans gain a better understanding of this aspect of the war on Terrorism.

    A recent study done by intelligence analysts from the New York City Police Department entitled: "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat" points out that 9/11 was an anomaly in regards to the broader War on Terror. How is this so? Essentially, 9/11 represented an attack by a foreign source. While this is the threat that has been getting most of the attention, it is the homegrown threat that has accounted for the bulk of actual attacks and attempted attacks, both here in America and around the world. If we are to preserve our freedom, we had better become more acquainted with the nature of the threat.

    The Report identifies the following stages in the process of radicalization:

    Stage 1: Pre-Radicalization
    Stage 2: Self-Identification
    Stage 3: Indoctrination
    Stage 4: Jihadization

    Pre-Radicalization is the point of origin for individuals before they begin this progression. It is their life situation before they were exposed to and adopted jihadi-Salafi Islam as their own ideology. The majority of the individuals involved in these plots began as "unremarkable" they had "ordinary" jobs, had lived "ordinary" lives and had little, if any criminal history.

    Self-Identification is the phase where individuals, influenced by both internal and external factors, begin to explore Salafi Islam, gradually gravitate away from their old identity and begin to associate themselves with like-minded individuals and adopt this ideology as their own. The catalyst for this "religious seeking" is a cognitive opening, or crisis, which shakes one’s certitude in previously held beliefs and opens an individual to be receptive to new worldviews.

    Indoctrination is the phase in which an individual progressively intensifies his beliefs, wholly adopts jihadi-Salafi ideology and concludes, without question, that the conditions and circumstances exist where action is required to support and further the cause. That action is militant jihad. This phase is typically facilitated and driven by a "spiritual sanctioner."

    Jihadization is the phase in which members of the cluster accept their individual duty to participate in jihad and self-designate themselves as holy warriors or mujahedeen. Ultimately, the group will begin operational planning for the jihad or a terrorist attack. These "acts in furtherance" will include planning, preparation and execution.

    The key to winning this battle is to familiarize ourselves with the radicalization process and counter it BEFORE a potential recruit reaches the point where he becomes a Jihadi.

    There is another more subtle form of jihad.

    With the tide of violent jihad on the battlefield turning against them, the Jihadis are increasingly turning their attention to what we refer to as "Cultural Jihad," which they label "Civilization Jihad." This is not a new concept, in fact it is spelled out in detail in a Document entitled "An Explanatory Memorandum: On the General Strategic Goal for the Group In North America." This document was written in 1991 and was the one that the Justice Department introduced into evidence at the Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas. The FBI captured it in a raid on a Muslim suspect's home in Virginia.

    This "explanatory memorandum," as it's titled, was authored by the extremist Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) and outlines the "strategic goal" for their North American operation. Here's the key paragraph:

    The process of settlement [of Islam in the United States] is a "Civilization-Jihadist" process with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that all their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" their miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim's destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who choose to slack.

    The entire 18-page platform outlines a plan for the long haul. It prescribes the Muslim Brotherhood's comprehensive plan to set down roots in civil society. It begins by both founding and taking control of American Muslim organizations, for the sake of unifying and educating the U.S. Muslim community -- to prepare it for the establishment of a global Islamic State governed by Shari’ah.

    This is not a call for violent Jihad, but of cultural subversion much in the tradition of Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci.

    The thrust is two-fold. First is to work with other revolutionary groups to undermine the traditional American heritage. This tactic is touched on by Steven Stalinisky in a May 2007 piece called "Islamist-Left alliance a growing force"

    A parallel approach is to find ways to insert Islamic propaganda into the institutions of American culture and into the American legal system.

    The so-called "education efforts" are already happening in some parts of America where students at local schools are encouraged to dress up as Muslims and learn about Muslim culture. Take a look at the five-part history text being taught in California here.

    In the name of "Diversity," the Koran is made into a significant part of the course, yet if the Bible is brought up in a classroom we have a problem with the "Separation of Church and State." At the level of higher education and think tanks, the Salafi ideology is being promoted by Saudi Oil money. Needless to say, this is where the source of what we teach about Islam in the lower levels of our education system comes from. See: Saudi in the Classroom. It is highly likely that any education programs designed to cure our ignorance of Islam would be propaganda in disguise.

    There is also the Supreme Court and legal decisions to consider. It is already the case that a lot of judges make decisions based on legal standards rooted in other cultural traditions than our own Judeo-Christian tradition. Out of fairness, why not insist that they consult Sharia Law in such decisions? Indeed, why not, the Second Court of Appeals of the State of Texas has rendered a ruling on the enforceability of Shari'ah judgments rendered by imams.

    Our financial institutions are not immune either. There is a concept known as "Shari’ah Compliant Financing, where adherence to Shari’ah is being pushed as a requirement for receiving a loan. The problem is not just in the requirements being imposed, but the profits are also being funneled into Jihadist activities. This has been referred to as "Jihad With Money."

    Institutions of communication can also be a target by getting the media to portray the West in general and America in particular, as an ignorant and oppressive society with Muslims as victims. Jihadi front groups are then portrayed as champions of these victims and society is encouraged to engage in efforts to educate ignorant Westerners/Americans about Islam to cure us of our oppressive ignorance. As Dr. Walid Phares points out in his book "The War of Ideas," Al-Jazeera television network is a vehicle for the spread of The Muslim Brotherhood’s version of the Salafi ideology and plays a key role in the War of Ideas.

    Some may ask whether it really is a matter to the survival of our civilization if radical Islam does emerge victorious. After all, wasn’t Islam once the inspiration of an advanced and flourishing civilization? It is true that the territory now controlled by Islamic nations was once a vibrant and flourishing civilization. However, that was long before Islam arrived on the scene. When the Arab tribes invaded the lands of the eastern half of the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire, they took control of what was then the most advanced civilization of the day. The inhabitants of that civilization, Assyrian Christian, Byzantine Christian, Persian, Jew, etc., translated the Greeks works of Plato and Aristotle into Arabic for the new rulers and still engaged in research and cultural exploration. This civilization continued to flourish for centuries. See "What Arab Civilization?"

    Some Muslims sought a synthesis of Islamic monotheism and the best of Greek thought. They took a tolerant approach to relations with such communities and shared in the development of the civilization that these communities were undertaking. In the long run, the tolerant view became to be seen as heretical and the peoples of the pre-Islamic orient were reduced to a state of servitude. Once these communities ceased to flourish and were reduced to a small minority in the lands that they earlier were the majority, that part of the world fell into a collapse of civilization from which it has never recovered. No matter which measure of civilization is used, the Islamic world ranks among the least advanced parts of the globe. From the development of the arts and science, to human rights, to economic progress, the stagnation of this part of the world is staggering and the human misery it has created is tragic.

    As is evident in the film "Islam vs. Islamists", there is a battle going on now in the Muslim world over whether Muslims can embrace pluralist democracy and still be called Muslims. The outcome of this battle should be of great interest to all those who value freedom. In a book entitled "America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It," Mark Steyn sees the coming of a global dark age of human misery ahead if radical Islam emerges victorious in its cause. Mr. Steyn sees America as the only obstacle in its way.

    Mr. Steyn points just how big a threat to our civilization Radical Islam could become. At first glance this notion seems preposterous. We represent the most advanced civilization that the world has ever known, while radical Islam is stuck in primitive squalor. In the short run, this may seem so, but it is the long-term trend, which has already begun, that Mr. Steyn is warning us of.

    The first part of the problem is one of demographics. The developed world is aging rapidly and not reproducing at a rate needed for continued growth. At the same time, the Islamic world is reproducing at a rate far above replacement level. America is about in the middle with a birth rate barely above replacement level. The result is a rapidly changing demographic balance. In 1970, the developed nations made up 30 percent of the global population and the Muslim world made up 15 percent. That was a 2 to 1 difference. By 2000, a mere 30 years later, there was parity at about 20 percent each. If anything this trend seems to be accelerating.

    The second issue is the level of confidence in one’s civilization. While we in the west are mired in nihilism, multicultural relativism and self-doubt, radical Muslims have a fanatical devotion to spreading their cause. This gives them a psychological strength that the ideologically confused societies of much of the developed world cannot hope to match.

    These two factors are not unrelated. In fact, the first can be seen as a symptom of the latter. People, who do not have confidence in their culture and the future, or have a sense of cause, are not likely to reproduce in high numbers.

    When Osama Bin Laden remarked that the Arab world would follow the "strong horse," he was not talking about military strength. He was talking about strength of will, which he sees as gone among the west in general and America in particular. Indeed, some Islamic thinkers believe that they can achieve their goal of imposing a worldwide rule of a Caliphate under Islamic Law without resorting to terrorism. In fact, they view terrorism and violence as counter productive as it could wake the West up from our moral slumber and fill us with a sense of purpose. Why risk this when they see the developed world in a demographic and cultural decline while they are ascending?

    We hope you will join us in promoting the blessing of liberty while exposing how liberty cannot be maintained without a Biblical worldview foundation. As America stands strong on this solid foundation, Americans will see clearly that the aim of the totalitarians, of all stripes, is to destroy liberty wherever possible.

    © Robert Maynard

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