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

Sept. 14 2020

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.

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Read more at Spectator

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

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy