• When as a Muslim and as an Arab, I look... with envy at life in the West, I feel cheated.

Paradise Lost

To denigrate the achievement-rich West and glorify, as a role model, Islam, Islamic extremists compare the way of life in Europe and the United States to the pre-Islamic period of jahiliyya, the time of ignorance and violence swept away by the prophet Muhammad (May the prayer and blessing of Allah be upon him). The extremists represent Christianity as paganism, and say America is "wanton" because of its so-called promiscuity, prostitution, gambling, usury, violence, alcohol and homosexuality. They compare crime in the West to the mutual murder and robbery indulged in by the tribes in the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula, and compare abortions to the jahiliyya's practice of burying girls alive.

However, Islamic extremists also deliberately hide other aspects of the jahiliyya, those suitable to the most exalted values of the West that unfortunately can no longer be found in today's Arab-Muslim world. An investigation of the old Arab sources shows that the jahiliyya was a time when the honor of keeping one's word was so important that people were willing to lose their own lives and those of their loved ones rather than go back on it. According to Arab historiography, for example, a Jew named Samaua'l ibn-Adiya, who lived in the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century, allowed his hostage son to be killed rather than break his promise to Imrū' al-Qays al-Kindī (the father of Arabic poetry, and also the son of one of the last Kindite kings). Ibn-Adiya promised him he would ensure the safety of his family and preserve his armor. Al-Qays' rivals kidnapped ibn-Adiya's son, held him hostage, and demanded that he turn over al-Qays' family members and armor in return for the son's freedom. Ibn-Adiya refused, and the kidnappers killed his son.

The jahiliyya, compared to Islam today, was Paradise on earth, and in fact society was fairly similar to contemporary Western society. It was a society that valued its members and in which men behaved like gentlemen. Knowledge, music and poetry were respected and there was frank and open discourse; and people who frequent Hyde Park today could learn from the debates held in the Arab markets.

Many aspects of the jahiliyya are familiar to us from Western culture and quite different from the herd culture that now fails to respect the individual, and that insists on unquestioning obedience, terrorism and oppression, all of which have become the norms of the radicals, who interpret Islam for their own benefit and who have done so since the time of Muhammad (May the prayer and blessing of Allah be upon him).

I am convinced that life in the West, despite its many drawbacks, is Paradise on earth, and certainly in comparison to life in the Arab-Muslim world. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that radical Islamic ideologues who lived in the West, such as the Muslim Brotherhood's Sayyid Qutb, have been as envious as I. They have seen with their own eyes the startling difference between Western society, which is progressive, developed and has untold achievements to its credit, and oppressive Islamic society, which smothers its people and forces them into a life of backwardness. The shock that greeted extremist Muslims, and the realization that Islam could never achieve such greatness, caused a rush of jealousy and hatred easily seen in publications and activities, the objectives of which are to incite Muslims to destroy the West, its culture and its achievements.

The Journey to the Promise of Paradise

The result was that Islam forbade the pleasures of this world, and the gratification of desires and enjoyment in general were postponed to the afterlife. In contrast to the value system of the jahiliyya, which included authentic physical, emotional and cultural pleasure, Islamic propagandists stress the elements of fraud and deceit in the Islamic tradition. They give Muslims permission to lie freely to infidels and to include terrorism in Islam's operational code to achieve their goals.

Instead of the pleasure of this world advocated by the jahiliyya, Islamic interpreters spur on jihad fighters by telling them they can have all the happiness and satisfaction that they condemn on earth, but only in Paradise. On the list are never-ending sex and orgies with 72 dark-eyed houris, goblets of gold and crystal overflowing with wine, and aromatic gardens hung over rivers of milk and honey. Included in the package are immortal youths with bowls and ewers and a cup of purest wine, with boys of their own, as fair as virgin pearls, refilling their glasses.

When, as a Muslim and as an Arab, I read Islamic historiography that paints the jahiliyya in negative colors and then look with envy at life in the West, I feel cheated. I am convinced that we, the Arabs, despite the violence prevalent during the jahiliyya, were far in advance of the West when it came to freedom, the rights of the individual, education, pluralism and the arts. All of these disappeared when the Islamic interpreters came along and extinguished the fire of Islamic progress -- when all the jahiliyya really needed was to evolve. Had it evolved and not been extinguished at birth, it would stand shoulder-to-shoulder in accomplishments with the West today.

It often seems to me that the interpreters of Islam have taken the tribal violence of the jahiliyya, the looting and murder, and turned them into a killing machine to conquer and occupy, murder and terrorize Western infidels. It is a jihad against world peace, an excuse to steal what belongs to others, and an abandonment of what was good in Arab culture before Islam, and was left behind.

So while the West lives the life of jahiliyya, in its positive senses of freedom and creativity, Islam is waging a war on the permissiveness it calls jahiliyya and on modernism as defined by sex, liquor and gambling. In the mosques, however, Muslims are told they can have those all in Paradise. The problem is, the entrance requirements for that erotic garden are fairly stiff: postpone gratification and channel it into a secret perversion, or kill a Jew or a Christian or any other infidel, and die as a shaheed [a martyr for the sake of Allah], and then enter Paradise.

However, according to this view, it is perfectly permissible for a Muslim to enjoy the pleasures of this world, on the condition that he plunder them from infidels, as he is entitled to their goods, property and women -- if he can take them while he is waging jihad. Thus the interpreters of Islam legitimized the darkest of human motivations and channeled them into a rampage of religiously-justified murder and terrorism. They used our Islam to authorize prostitution by calling it "pleasure marriage," a temporary situation in which an unmarried woman or an underage girl can be used as a sex slave, by any passerby or an older man, and then discarded.

While life in the West apparently really is Paradise on earth, as Muslims we can only achieve it once we are dead, and the only way we can get there is through jihad against the infidels. The interpreters of Islam have us convinced that the ticket to Paradise can only be bought with the blood of innocent Western civilians. Thus it happened that, throughout history, the sword of Islam, wielded by Arab tribes united under the flag of the Islamic nation, cut its way through Christian communities in the Middle East and Europe. And thus it happened that the Jews of the Arabian Peninsula, especially those in Khaybar, were slaughtered, as were the Copts of Egypt, and the Byzantines, on the ruins of whose churches today sits Islamist Turkey, headed by the Muslim Brotherhood's Erdogan.

The genuine jahiliyya, characterized by individual freedom of choice, can still be found in the West, where it is the cornerstone of the progress, enlightenment, invention and technological development for which the West is famous, as opposed to our backwardness in so many ways.

Ticket to Hell

I am convinced that the regressive, extremist interpretation of Islam has turned us into a backward, perverse society. We repress our dark urges but they find their outlet in frustration, jealousy, hatred, terrorism and the desire to destroy the West. While the Islamic Paradise is sexual and permissive, it cannot be attained through normal means because it is conditioned on death and on killing innocent victims. The truth is that Paradise really does exist, but only in the West. This is evident to any shepherd in the Middle East who has access to a generator, a television set and a satellite dish.

The culture gap is frustrating and leads to a strong desire to copy the West and even belong to it; but it also leads to a destructive envy of the West by the radical Islamic ideologues, who hate music, dancing, democracy, Western society, pluralism and the pleasures of this world.

It is hard to judge what goes on in the mind of a Muslim who, every Friday, listens to the nonsense propounded by the Imam about jahiliyya and the West. I am certain that the conflict leads every observant Muslim like myself to feel a deep envy leading him to hate himself and the West, its progress and achievements. The knowledge that, apart from the Holy Qur'an, we have not contributed anything to the progress of mankind, beyond a collection of wars and terrorist attacks, frustrates and depresses many of us. An internal conflict grows as we realize that we are more than one billion strong, and that we possess an enormous amount of the geography of the world, its fresh water, its oil and its riches, but that to the world at large, we represent backwardness and violence, and that the excuses of our leaders are couched in empty, anachronistic terms such as "Western imperialism and colonialism."

I can see no magic solution for an Islamic nation that believes only in the law of the sharia, which today means enslaving, drugging and neutering our intelligence. The sharia separates the world into exactly two parts: observant Muslims on one side and enemy infidels on the other. The world as well is divided now into two parts: the region ruled by Islam and the battle zone where anyone lives who is not a Muslim.

Only when we are liberated from our catastrophes, from the things forbidden to us -- and from our unwillingness to ask why these aspects of Islam were promoted instead of others, and what the people who promoted them really wanted -- will we progress and become creative. Unless we turn Islam into a religion purely of the spirit, calling for a direct connection between man and Allah, we will never be rehabilitated. We must do without the mediation of mercenary sheikhs financed by various backward Islamic states who, like a dark religious mafia, are trying to set the world on fire. Until that happens we will remain in our own private hell and try to drag the rest of the world into it with us, our way of life will continue to represent hell for the rest of the world and we will continue to complain about Islamophobia and dream of Paradise while it is just nearby, close enough for us to reach out and touch it.

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