Middle East Resources

The West's Inability or Unwillingness to Understand Islam

Bassam Michael Madany

1 December 2020

Not withstanding’s the horrific crimes perpetrated by Islamists recently in France and in Austria, Western political and religious leaders seem to be unable, or perhaps unwilling to recognize the true nature of Islam.

I have been reflecting on this matter for the last two decades. The first sign for this condition became clear at the beginning of 2000, when Public Broadcasting System (PBS) began telecasting a documentary “Islam: Empire of Faith.”

I couldn’t believe the title, “Islam: Empire of Faith!”  Whom are they kidding? The Empire was built by the Futuhat (Arabic term for conquests) that Muslims have always celebrated. However, the American Public, and those students at Public Schools who saw the documentary, didn’t realize that it was sheer propaganda.

One more glaring falsehood. In an episode of the documentary, referring to the Ottoman Turks’ practice of the “Devshirma,” in the Balkans, that snatched young Christian boys from their families and enrolled them into a branch of the army known as the Janissaries. The narrator described the system as a recruiting event!

The first telecasting of “Islam: Empire of Faith” took place about one year prior to 9/11. I thought after that horrific attack, the documentary would never be shown again. I was wrong, it was telecast on PBS stations in January 2002! 

Two decades later, the Ignorance of the true nature of Islam persists, while the Islamist attacks have intensified. Thankfully, there are several voices rising to dispel this ignorance. William Kilpatrick dealt with this subject on 5 November, in an article posted on Crisis Magazinei.

After a series of terror attacks in France, including one that left three people dead at a Catholic Church in Nice, Vatican Cardinal Robert Sarah said that the West must wake up to the threat of Islamism. ‘Islamism,’ His Eminence said, ‘is a monstrous fanaticism which must be fought with force and determination.’

“But you can’t fight something with determination unless you first believe it exists. Unfortunately, many authorities in the West, including many of Sarah’s fellow cardinals and bishops, refuse to acknowledge the existence of some obvious facts about Islam. Cardinal Sarah is one of a few prelates willing to break with the semiofficial narrative about Islam now prevalent in the Church—namely, that terrorists who kill in the name of Islam both misunderstand and pervert their religion.

“Secular authorities, particularly in Europe, have adopted a similar line. There’s nothing wrong with Islam, they maintain; jihadists have simply misunderstood their faith. Thus, government-sponsored “deradicalization” programs are based on the premise that learning more about Islam will cure the would-be jihadist of his extremism. But that works only if authentic Islam really is the religion of peace, justice, fraternity, and equality that secular and Church leaders hold it to be.

“In fact, the deradicalization programs in France and other countries haven’t been successful. Why? Because, as a number of European studies have concluded, increased devotion among Muslims correlates with increased radicalization. After reviewing an extensive German study, Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels observed, ‘the many interviews showed that Islam is distinguished by being the only religion that makes people more prone to violence the more religious one becomes.’”

It is not only that some Western writers are pointing to the intimate connection between Islamism and Islam, but even nationals of Muslim countries have also asserted this fact. We may point to the German-Egyptian scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad, and to the Algerian born Hamid Zanazii, who published in 2012, « L'islamisme, vrai visage de l'islam »
L'islamisme, vrai visage de l'islam - Hamid Zanaz - Livres - Furet du Nord

The following is a translation of the summary of “Islamism is the True Face of Islam”

“Islamic fundamentalism is among us, insidious at first then affirmed, claiming its rights until the moment when, strong enough, it imposes its law and punishes those who tend to shirk its tyranny, as we see in some suburbs with the forced veiling of the girls and the attacks against those who refuse to do so. State within State, nurturing communitarianism, refusing to comply with the laws of the Republic, it proclaims that it is up to the Republic to adapt to Islam.

“Hamid Zanaz, from a Muslim family, knows Islam and its avatars from having lived in Algeria where he taught philosophy at the University. His mastery of the language gives him access to scholarly texts and articles which are usually inaccessible. Writer and free thinker, he reveals the double face of Islam, its complicity and its strategies. At the time of the Arab Spring, we can read with profit here the words of an Egyptian medical student ready to get rid of the vestiges of the Pharaonic civilization and who considers that history begins with Islam.

“We will also discover Al Quassimi, a "repentant" sheikh of Wahhabism, who has become one of its most radical critics. The author shows that Islamism and Islam in reality have the same goal: to impose Muslim law everywhere in the world, one openly, the other masked. This book is a cry of alarm launched by a courageous man: open your eyes instead of practicing the ostrich policy, do not distort the debate by junk indignation.

“First learn to know the peril that threatens democracy, freedom of conscience and that of women, and know how to thwart traps and lies because, according to taqîya, lying for the good of religion is not a sin in Islam. Behind the assertion of an alleged superiority of Islam over any social and republican pact, looms the vanguard of jihad. It is high time to find out.”

Seven years after publishing Islamism is the True Face of Islam, Hamid Zanaz followed with a second book,  «L'Europe face à l'invasion islamique : Une civilisation en péril»  

“Europe facing the Islamic invasion - A civilization in danger”           


The following is a translated summary of the book:
“France, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain and Norway ... are today in the mouth of the wolf, refusing to understand that Islam never seeks to enrich a culture or integrate into a civilization. Its final goal is to supplant them before eradicating them. How, then, can we not be afraid of the threats posed by Islamism in view of the violence, attacks and murders that have become our daily lot?”


i https://www.crisismagazine.com/2020/the-churchs-islam-problem?mc_cid=ac650561e6&mc_eid

ii Biography of Hamid Zanaz
Freelance translator and journalist, Hamid Zanaz contributes to various Arabic and French publications. Permanent contributor to Al Awan, journal of the League of Arab Rationalists. He is the author of numerous essays, in both Arabic and French, touching on religion, politics or science in the Islamic world.