Forget about the moderate mythology fed the Western public by its media. Forget the comforting nonsense about reasonable masses held back from being humanitarian democrats only by manipulative dictatorships. Here’s a glimpse of what the region is really like.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one of the world’s most prestigious Muslim clerics and certainly the most internationally popular Islamist cleric. Some in the West like to think of him as some kind of pragmatic, modernizing moderate. As such he was welcomed in visiting Britain. But Qaradawi is a very hardline fellow indeed.
Siding with Hamas, Qaradawi, an Egyptian who lives in Qatar, gave a sermon urging Muslims to stone-in other words kill as a heretic-Palestinian Authority (PA) leader (often referred to as “president”) Mahmoud Abbas. Angered by this statement, PA officials ordered West Bank imams to denounce Qaradawi for this action. One of those who did so was Raed al-Mahdawi of Ramallah who took a traditional conservative Muslim position, asking Qaradawi to apologize to Abbas and adding, “Muslim scholars should not use the podiums at their disposal to incite against any ruler or offend the feelings of any people.”
But those who followed PA instructions were interrupted and forced to stop by angry worshippers; congregations walked out or chased the clerics out of the mosques altogether. In response, PA police beat up and arrested those protesting.
Thus, the PA was helpless, faced with this Islamist challenge, to keep its own people in line. And so what was their second line of defense? The Fatah Central Committee claimed that Qaradawi was acting as an Israeli stooge, objectively an ally with the Zionists.
But such anger won’t be quieted by asserting that Islamism itself is an American or Zionist plot. Rather, this incident shows the strength of Islamist appeals overriding nationalist impulses in contemporary Arab politics
This event also once again demonstrates the horrifyingly powerful extremist impulses among the Arab, Muslim, Palestinian masses, just as one sees such sentiments in strong popular support for terrorism and rejection of compromises or of a permanent peace with Israel and two-state solution. This is the kind of attitude easily whipped up by rumors and ranters to produce anti-Christian pogroms in places like Pakistan, Iraq, and Egypt. .
Of course, many Palestinians do support Abbas, and some are genuinely moderate. Yet it is hard for such people to stand against the energetic ferocity of the radicals, their willingness to use violence, and their manipulation of religious sentiments. Incipient fanaticism, once harnessed, has a tidal wave power.
Arab regimes know this well. They don’t try to counter it with liberal reform but either with ferocious repression or try to harness this energy for their own causes. Regimes often endeavor to save themselves by diverting such forces against non-Muslims, meaning the West in general or often-as in the PA’s case here-against Israel.
It is easy to find parallels with this story in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and so on throughout most of the Arabic-speaking and Muslim majority areas. This is what the innocent and naïve West is up against but doesn’t want to face. Instead, while this has virtually never happened, much of the elite views its own majority citizenry as fanatics on the verge of being incited into Islamophobic mobs.