Anti-Semitism, the Six-Day War, and the Islamic Enlightenment

Raised in Damascus, and having spent most of his life in Germany, Bassam Tibi is a leading expert in radical Islam, sharia law, and Muslim intellectual history more broadly. He is also a passionate critic of Islamism, and an advocate for enlightened Islam rooted in the ideas of the great Muslim philosophers of yore. Although brought up—by his own admission—to be an anti-Semite, Tibi credits Jewish thinkers such as Ernst Bloch not only with his discarding of this prejudice, but with his current ideas about his own religion. Ed Husain writes:

Ernst Bloch anchored Tibi’s thinking in Islamic rationalism. Bloch wrote about Ibn Sina [a/k/a Avicenna]—born in the Samanid Empire in around 980, the golden age of Muslim civilization—who had plenty to say about human equality and the intertwining of Arabic and western thought.

“Bloch says the [European] Enlightenment started in medieval Islam,” Tibi tells me. Tibi makes an important distinction between “mufti Islam,” the world of the fatwa-givers (a type of Islam that’s on the rise in Britain too), and the world of Enlightenment Islam, highlighted by Bloch. The mufti world of Islam is “leading Muslims backwards,” Tibi says. He seeks to explain, revive, and promote the Islam of early Enlightenment—the “Islam of Light.”

I ask him when he first noticed that something was going wrong in the Muslim world. “It started with the Six-Day War,” he says. Israel’s victory was a massive humiliation for the secular Arab regimes in the eyes of their citizens, especially when Israel gained the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. At the time, Tibi hoped that the response to this would be a new Arab Enlightenment. Instead, religious extremists rose to positions of power.

Using the language of medieval Muslim rationalists from al-Farabi to Ibn Rushd, famous in the Latin West as Averroes, Tibi defines Islam of the Enlightenment as advocating the primacy of reason. He also takes a definition of Enlightenment from Kant: that reason is the court in front of which everything must establish itself. But Ibn Rushd made this point in the 12th century, he says.

Read more at Spectator

More about: Anti-Semitism, Enlightenment, Moderate Islam, Radical Islam, Six-Day War

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security