Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 7, 2007

Hassan Butt’s Good Sense

The eight Arabs just arrested in connection with terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow are all doctors or medical staff in a hospital, in one way or another employed by the National Health Service. The pursuit of medical careers got them into Britain without proper scrutiny and then provided a cover that cunningly shielded them from suspicion. These may well be the most educated and capable of all the Islamist terrorists revealed to date.

Their intention, clearly, is to set Muslims irretrievably against the British. Civil strife, the Islamists believe, is the necessary prelude to their victory over the degenerate infidels. In Baghdad, Afghanistan, Gaza, Pakistan, this same fantasy runs wild.

Some courage is required on the part of a Muslim to impose reality on the Islamist fantasy. Fatwas and murder prevent dialogue. But just as there once were faithful Communists whose inside knowledge of the party transformed them into informed and determined anti-Communists, so now there are jihadis whose experience has led them to expose Islamism.

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The eight Arabs just arrested in connection with terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow are all doctors or medical staff in a hospital, in one way or another employed by the National Health Service. The pursuit of medical careers got them into Britain without proper scrutiny and then provided a cover that cunningly shielded them from suspicion. These may well be the most educated and capable of all the Islamist terrorists revealed to date.

Their intention, clearly, is to set Muslims irretrievably against the British. Civil strife, the Islamists believe, is the necessary prelude to their victory over the degenerate infidels. In Baghdad, Afghanistan, Gaza, Pakistan, this same fantasy runs wild.

Some courage is required on the part of a Muslim to impose reality on the Islamist fantasy. Fatwas and murder prevent dialogue. But just as there once were faithful Communists whose inside knowledge of the party transformed them into informed and determined anti-Communists, so now there are jihadis whose experience has led them to expose Islamism.

One such is Hassan Butt. He still dresses as he would in Pakistan, with the skullcap and full beard of a pious Muslim, though he speaks with a regional British accent. By his own account, he was a recruiter for jihad. But in the past months, on the BBC and in the mainstream press, he has suddenly sprung into prominence explaining the psychology of his former comrades. What jihadis are fighting for, in his words, is “a revolutionary worldwide Islamic state that would dispense Islamic justice.” The loaded question, “Are you British or Muslim?,” is the invariable root of fantasy, alienation, and violence. About a year ago, he realized that he was promoting what he now calls “mindless killers,” a danger to themselves and everyone else. Reality, then, proved stronger than fantasy.

The jihadi vision, Hassan Butt says loudly and clearly, arises from Islamic doctrine, and it has little or nothing to do with specific grievances, let alone with the foreign policy of Western countries in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, or wherever. He offers a remedy, however. In Britain, Muslims have been allowed every freedom to assert their identity, and in return, he argues, they have to revise those passages of the Qur’an that command the killing of infidels. Muslim scholars must go back to the books and the theological doctrines, in order to come up with a revised understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Muslims. With those eight doctors now in custody and the whole country thoroughly angry over the continued Islamist threat, there is not that much time left to settle this issue according to Hassan Butt’s good sense.

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Show Trials in China

On Friday the New York Times reported that a Beijing court handed down a death sentence to Cao Wenzhuang, a former official of the State Food and Drug Administration. Cao was convicted of accepting bribes from two drug companies. The same court also imposed capital punishment on another official of that agency about two months ago for a similar offense.

After noting that Cao’s sentence can be commuted to life in prison, the Times had this to say:

But the death sentences appear to be a strong signal that China is determined to crack down on rampant fraud, corruption, and counterfeiting in the nation’s food and drug industries.

Really? If Beijing were truly determined to eliminate corruption, it would do what virtually every Chinese citizen knows must be done: allow prosecutors to go after officials without political interference and permit judges to decide cases impartially. The Communist party would have to submit to the rule of law as well.

Instead, officials in Beijing go for showy executions and then continue with governance as usual. There have been anti-corruption drives in the People’s Republic since the Three Anti’s campaign of 1951, just two years after Mao Zedong took power. China has never been more corrupt than it is now. Yes, senior officials like to execute their underlings, but let’s not mistake this for anything other than a momentary campaign.

Corruption (and show trials and executions) like this will continue in China as long as the Communist party remains in power. I suspect that, despite appearances, even the New York Times understands this simple reality.

On Friday the New York Times reported that a Beijing court handed down a death sentence to Cao Wenzhuang, a former official of the State Food and Drug Administration. Cao was convicted of accepting bribes from two drug companies. The same court also imposed capital punishment on another official of that agency about two months ago for a similar offense.

After noting that Cao’s sentence can be commuted to life in prison, the Times had this to say:

But the death sentences appear to be a strong signal that China is determined to crack down on rampant fraud, corruption, and counterfeiting in the nation’s food and drug industries.

Really? If Beijing were truly determined to eliminate corruption, it would do what virtually every Chinese citizen knows must be done: allow prosecutors to go after officials without political interference and permit judges to decide cases impartially. The Communist party would have to submit to the rule of law as well.

Instead, officials in Beijing go for showy executions and then continue with governance as usual. There have been anti-corruption drives in the People’s Republic since the Three Anti’s campaign of 1951, just two years after Mao Zedong took power. China has never been more corrupt than it is now. Yes, senior officials like to execute their underlings, but let’s not mistake this for anything other than a momentary campaign.

Corruption (and show trials and executions) like this will continue in China as long as the Communist party remains in power. I suspect that, despite appearances, even the New York Times understands this simple reality.

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