Thursday, December 12, 2013 | RubinReports | By Barry Rubin
Times have changed,
And we’ve often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
Any shock they should try to stem,
‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.
In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
— Cole Porter
The first thing is that everything in the Middle East has changed. And so has the U.S. relationship with it.
Why does the Obama administration treat the Middle East in the way that it does? Simple, it’s their culture. Think about it, previous White Houses view the foreign policy of the United States as being set by U.S. interests. They focus on monetization, and they think that the rest of the world should catch up to Western life.
But for the Obama administration, the preference of social monetization and Western life is an arrogant construct. After all, who says that Western society is better than any other?
Think about this, in the 1850s in India, a Hindu priest complained to General Charles Napier about the outlawing of suttee. He said, “We have a custom of burning our widows,” to which Napier replied:
“This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”
In contemporary context — now that Islam and not British colonial doctrine is supposed to rule — countries will burn windows again. However, since death is usually but not always the “reward” of an erring daughter or wife, this would not be publishable by law. And of course, the Koranic law, or a milder version of it, should be reinforced — in other words, the situation is like this: Colonialism has been repealed and opposing Western customs — if only modern — are racist.
In other words, the goal is not modernization or Westernization, but not imposing colonial Western “modern” laws on people — and look at politics. The right of “terrorism” is really a rational response to say the existence of Israel. Or even the existence of a non-Shari’a Afghanistan. The Muslim Brotherhood, or Islamism, is a pro-traditional custom response, not a reactionary response.
Again, Western society, culture, and civilization should not be imposed. What does this mean? It means that Islamic traditional customs should be in response. It is Western imposition of customs that is reactionary. It seems that this key concept is not understood. Of course, this is what is taught in the media, in newspapers. By the way, this is true of European society too. If you impose a law in Europe that makes Islamic garb illegal, that is a racist reactionary response, according to the new view. If you impose a law mandating that covering a woman’s face is illegal, that is a racist reactionary response. This means that countries lose control of their own internal laws, and no nation can exist if it doesn’t do that.
If you don’t understand this — that Shari’a schools within a country can oppose any family law that they want — you are wrong. That is the real issue here. Once you accept that Islamist religious law should triumph, even if the country itself is forcibly secular, you have given way. A country that imposes public secularism — the refusal of any public religious observance — but embraces Islamic religiosity is doomed.
And that is what the Obama administration and many European governments have done. For example, why is it that Islamic Iran can be a good government when run by Islamic law?
It is not acceptable that certain behavior which would be considered in other places should be met with death or imprisonment. No longer do Western states desire to transform India into a modern country, but say to transform Turkey, Syria, or Iran, whose legitimate customs are governed by Shari’a. In other words, the Obama administration has a new doctrine. If Obama were General Napier, you want to keep your widow’s pyre? You can keep it.
The modern society is “victimizer,” and the widow maker becomes victim because of the political cultures.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His next book, “Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East,” written with Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, will be published by Yale University Press, available February 25, 2014. Pre-order here. His latest book is “Israel: An Introduction,” also published by Yale. Thirteen of his books can be read and downloaded for free at the website of the GLORIA Center including “The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict,” “The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East” and “The Truth About Syria.” His blog is Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.