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

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy