The statement by Madeleine Albright that "Islam is maybe the most democratic religion because there is nobody between you and God" is akin to that of Yusuf Estes, whose deficient understanding of democracy, and willful misrepresentation of Islam, were discussed last week at Jihad Watch in an article, "Fitzgerald: Islam According To Yusuf Estes: "Basically, there's God and there's you." It can be found here.
The article notes that Islam, far from being democratic, is -- as quite a few of the great Western scholars of Islam noted -- collectivist in its lack of concern for the individual Muslim and emphasis on the Community of Believers, the Umma, and on the reducing of the individual to a mere "slave of Allah" whose duty is to submit. And many of the same scholars, those who had the word "totalitarian" available to them, did not hesitate to apply it to Islam, for as a Total Belief-System that regulates every single area of existence, calling this haram and that halal, and setting out punishments for every infraction of the rules laid down by the Shari'a, the Holy Law of Islam, Islam has earned the right to be called totalitarian. It offers not only a Complete Regulation of Life, but a Total Explanation of the Universe.
Indeed, Madeleine Albright should actually study Islam before making her pronouncements on it, and cease relying on some sly Muslim apologist for her "understanding" of Islam -- in a recent book, she thanks such an apologist for "helping her" to understand Islam, unaware of how gullible she has been, and of how obvious her gullibility will be to any intelligent and wary reader. If she had talked to even one apostate, one defector from the Army of Islam -- Ayaan Hirsi Ali, say, or Wafa Sultan, or Ibn Warraq -- she would have learned of how oppressive Islam is, how deeply disturbing it is to the personalities of those who are, through no fault of their own, born into it and raised within it, and it was not only Czeslaw Milosz (in "The Captive Mind"), but many who endured Communism who have noted the similarities between the ways that people tried to cope with the nonsense and lies of the Communist system, with the ways they try to cope with the nonsense and lies of Islam.
Madeleine Albright married money and became a Washington hostess, and puts one in mind of Perle Mesta in more ways than one. She attracted the attention of Bill Clinton, who irresponsibly, with his usual carelessness, chose her as his Secretary of State. She did not impress. Her lack of historical training, her understanding of the world no deeper than what any newspaper reader could acquire, her officious and physically comical bustling about the world, her constantly telling us that "she knows" that "the Arab leaders" want thus and so because, you see, "they tell me," are all by now the stuff of legend.
And then there is, in addition to her ignorance of Islam, her failure to understand what advanced Western democracy has required for its own development. It has required a view of the individual as important -- which is lacking in Islam -- but also a theory of political legitimacy, one that locates such legitimacy in the will expressed by the people, a view derived from social contract theorists (see Hobbes, see Locke, see Rousseau). But in Islam political legitimacy does not depend on the will expressed by the people, whether through the vote or through other means. It depends only on the will expressed by Allah in the Qur'an, as glossed by the Sunnah. If the ruler is a Muslim, and a good Muslim, he can be as despotic as he wishes. And the very idea that the individual liberties guaranteed by advanced Western democracies should be part of what the Ruler guarantees, would seem ridiculous to any true Muslim Believer.
Part of Madeleine Albright's problem is that in the aery regions of power she has inhabited, and in her selling of contacts and influence to foreign interests, through "The Albright Group" -- or is it "Albright Associates"? -- she has followed former Secretary of State Kissinger (and of course Brent Scowcroft, one of his hires), and former Secretary of Defense Cohen, and so many others who managed to "devote" themselves so selflessly to what they like to call Public Service, and then to return to what they like to call, demurely, the Private Sector. There they can cash in all those public-service chips by selling their influence and contacts, especially for those foreign companies and foreign interests best able to pay. I wonder -- do you wonder too? -- just who is on the client list of The Albright Group. Or is it Albright Associates? I forget.
As Secretary of State, and now as the former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright knows there will be some, too many, who will give her a forum, or who will listen to what she has to say. It's crazy. And when she talks palpable nonsense, she becomes far more irresponsible, that is to say, must take a far greater responsibility than any run-of-the-mill man-on-the-street idiot or simple simon, for her simple simony may have real consequences. When it comes to Islam, she knows nothing, and what she thinks she knows is wrong. And she presumes to instruct others, and that means she is in the business of misleading those who so badly need to understand what Islam inculcates, how Muslims are taught to view themselves in relation to Allah, to other Muslims, and -- especially -- to non-Muslims.
She's very easy on herself. She doesn't think she has any need to study deeply, ponder, read and re-read, either the texts of Islam, or the studies of the most important Western scholars of Islam. For all I know, she may never have heard of Joseph Schacht and C. Snouck Hurgronje and Henri Lammens and Arthur Jeffrey, but thinks that John Esposito is a swell fellow, and eminently reliable. How easy it would be to put her on the spot at some public forum, to simply read out a list of fifty, or twenty, or even ten little short-answer essay questions, and let's throw in 100 multiple-choice Identifications for the hell of it, to show how little she knows of what she thinks she can speak about, and no one will mock her, no one will show her up. Oh yes they will.
As for the picture above, it is certainly comical to see Madeleine Albright going native in Almaty or possibly Astana, wearing a Central Asian (Kazakh? Uzbek?) tubeteika (elaborate female version) and robe (choban?). A Kazakh friend, pleased that I had heard of and read a book by the Kazakh writer Olzhas Sulemeinov (a book on the Igor Tale), sent me, out of the blue of distant Almaty, such a costume. I earned mine. But what did Madeline Albright do to earn hers? She merely had to be, or to have been, Secretary of State, flying into some conference at Almaty or Astana and then flying out, having learned – nothing, having understood -- nothing. Meeting with this or that world leader or similar big shots, or smiling diplomats, is not the way to learn about Islam or about anything of importance. But that's the way it is with the madeleine-albrights of this earth. They somehow Sammy-glick-like slither into high positions, and once there, are accorded a mindless deference, a respect, that they have done little to deserve. In her case it was because she was a hostess-with-the-mostess with an "interest" in foreign affairs. And in Albright's case, and that of some others, out of office, and trying to flog their "contacts" and their influence-peddling wars to various foreigners, they may continue to spout off even more heedlessly than when they were in office. So when Madeleine Albright thanks some Muslim adviser in a recent book for enlightening her about Islam, or when she sometimes says that she has discovered what the Arabs want because "the Arab leaders tell me so" and of course she takes what they say at face value (I remember one of her appearances on television when she gravely noted that the other Arabs had no idea what atrocities Saddam Hussein was committing inside Iraq -- when everyone in the Middle East knew exactly what he was doing to the Kurds and the Shi'a -- because "they told me so"), then we are entitled to be infuriated, and also fearful, that such a fool was ever in the position she attained, and still can't shut up, still is managing to do harm.
There are many like her all over Washington. When they make pronouncements on the subject of Islam, without having studied -- really studied -- the matter, when they lightheartedly assume that reading the newspapers and "talking to the leaders" is all that is necessary (a kind of Tom-Friedman approach to the world), they reveal that they have no idea what level of knowledge is required of them, what level they should demand of themselves. In this respect, they remind me of those interviews with high school students in big-city schools who, with dyed hair and studs in their noses, reply so enthusiastically to a question about what they want to be as adults. One says he wants to be an astronaut, and another says she intends to be a nuclear physicist, and still a third is going to find a cure for cancer, or possibly come up with a way to establish permanent peace. We laugh, or cry, depending on our mood, knowing that the students in question can hardly keep from flunking first-year algebra or second-year English, but think no more of it. And then we realize, when we come across these badly-misinformed but powerful madeleine-albrights, that the same phenomenon, at a level where the stakes are higher, can be observed. She is just like those high school students who have no idea what is required for the kind of things they grandly plan for. She has no idea what she's talking about, and has no idea what would be required to attain the level of knowledge that would be necessary for her to make, in her position, any statement at all, about the nature of Islam.
Dumbing down. Yes, of course. It's all over. But there's an even graver problem. It's the dumbing up. Case in point: Madeleine Albright.