Martin Amis writes an incredible piece in the Observer on the rise and status of Islamism (distinct from Islam). The piece is also incredibly long and though I recommend it, I will do you the service of snipping a few of the good bits. Do let this tempt you to read it all:
So, to repeat, we respect Islam – the donor of countless benefits to mankind, and the possessor of a thrilling history. But Islamism? No, we can hardly be asked to respect a creedal wave that calls for our own elimination. More, we regard the Great Leap Backwards as a tragic development in Islam’s story, and now in ours. Naturally we respect Islam. But we do not respect Islamism, just as we respect Muhammad and do not respect Muhammad Atta. . . . . . .
The most extreme Islamists want to kill everyone on earth except the most extreme Islamists; but every jihadi sees the need for eliminating all non-Muslims, either by conversion or by execution. And we now know what happens when Islamism gets its hands on an army (Algeria) or on something resembling a nation state (Sudan). In the first case, the result was fratricide, with 100,000 dead; in the second, following the Islamist coup in 1989, the result has been a kind of rolling genocide, and the figure is perhaps two million. . . .
[On the world view of Sayyid Qutb, founder of Islamism, whose story Amis tells:] The emptiness, the mere iteration, at the heart of his philosophy is steadily colonised by a vast entanglement of bitternesses; and here, too, we detect the presence of that peculiarly Islamist triumvirate (codified early on by Christopher Hitchens) of self-righteousness, self-pity, and self-hatred – the self-righteousness dating from the seventh century, the self-pity from the 13th (when the ‘last’ Caliph was kicked to death in Baghdad by the Mongol warlord Hulagu), and the self-hatred from the 20th. And most astounding of all, in Qutb, is the level of self-awareness, which is less than zero. It is as if the very act of self-examination were something unmanly or profane: something unrighteous, in a word.
Still, one way or the other, Qutb is the father of Islamism. Here are the chief tenets he inspired: that America, and its clients, are jahiliyya (the word classically applied to pre-Muhammadan Arabia – barbarous and benighted); that America is controlled by Jews; that Americans are infidels, that they are animals, and, worse, arrogant animals, and are unworthy of life; that America promotes pride and promiscuity in the service of human degradation; that America seeks to ‘exterminate’ Islam – and that it will accomplish this not by conquest, not by colonial annexation, but by example. . . .
[And then on the use of suicide and murder as Islamism’s weapon of choice:] Suicide-mass murder is more than terrorism: it is horrorism. It is a maximum malevolence. . . .
By the summer of 2005, suicide-mass murder had evolved. In Iraq, foreign jihadis, pilgrims of war, were filing across the borders to be strapped up with explosives and nails and nuts and bolts, often by godless Baathists with entirely secular aims – to be primed like pieces of ordnance and then sent out the same day to slaughter their fellow Muslims. Suicide-mass murder, in other words, had passed through a phase of decadence and was now on the point of debauchery. In a single month (May), there were more human bombings in Iraq than during the entire intifada. And this, on 25 July, was the considered response of the Mayor of London to the events of 7 July:
‘Given that they don’t have jet planes, don’t have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons. In an unfair balance, that’s what people use.’
I remember a miserable little drip of a poem, c2002, that made exactly the same case. No, they don’t have F-16s. Question: would the Mayor like them to have F-16s? And, no, their bodies are not what ‘people’ use. They are what Islamists use. And we should weigh, too, the spiritual paltriness of such martyrdoms. ‘Martyr’ means witness. The suicide-mass murderer witnesses nothing – and sacrifices nothing. He dies for vulgar and delusive gain. And on another level, too, the rationale for ‘martyrdom operations’ is a theological sophistry of the blackest cynicism. Its aim is simply the procurement of delivery systems. . . .
[On Islamism against other isms:] Like fundamentalist Judaism and medieval Christianity, Islam is totalist. That is to say, it makes a total claim on the individual. Indeed, there is no individual; there is only the umma – the community of believers. . . .
So Islam, in the end, proved responsive to European influence: the influence of Hitler and Stalin. And one hardly needs to labour the similarities between Islamism and the totalitarian cults of the last century. Anti-semitic, anti-liberal, anti-individualist, anti-democratic, and, most crucially, anti-rational, they too were cults of death, death-driven and death-fuelled. The main distinction is that the paradise which the Nazis (pagan) and the Bolsheviks (atheist) sought to bring about was an earthly one, raised from the mulch of millions of corpses. For them, death was creative, right enough, but death was still death. For the Islamists, death is a consummation and a sacrament; death is a beginning. . . .
There is no momentum, in Islam, for a reformation. And there is no time, now, for a leisurely, slow-lob enlightenment. The necessary upheaval is a revolution – the liberation of women. . . .
Millennial Islamism is an ideology superimposed upon a religion – illusion upon illusion. It is not merely violent in tendency. Violence is all that is there. . . .