“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Daniel Pipes: On Middle East Red Mosque

If there existed a nascent Nazi Party, that was hijacking airplanes, setting off terroristic suicide bombing missions and meeting in beer halls, the beer halls would be shut down. Mosques are the beer halls of the Islamists. This today:
Three Moroccan terrorism suspects have been arrested in central Italy amid claims a local mosque was being used to recruit and train militants.

Police reportedly believe they have broken up a cell linked to al Qaeda. They are still hunting a fourth Moroccan national who is thought to be abroad. Security forces swooped on a building used as a mosque in the suburbs of the city of Perugia, detaining an imam and two of his aides. It is alleged the mosque operated as a training camp for international terrorism. Materials seized are said to include instructions on how to fly a Boeing 747.

Beer halls or Mosques, shut them down.

Daniel Pipes: On Middle East
Red Mosque In Rebellion In Pakistan

By: Daniel Pipes, The Bulletin

Imagine that an Islamist central command exists - and you are its chief strategist, with a mandate to spread full application of the Islamic law (the Sharia), through all means available, with the ultimate goal of a worldwide caliphate. What advice would you offer your comrades in the aftermath of the eight-day Red Mosque rebellion in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan?

Probably, you would review the past six decades of Islamist efforts and conclude that you have three main options: overthrowing the government, working through the system, or a combination of the two.
Islamists can use several catalysts to seize power. (I draw here on Cameron Brown, "Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop: How Inevitable is an Islamist Future?")
  • Revolution, meaning a wide-scale social revolt: Successful only in Iran in 1978-79, because it requires special circumstances.
  • Coup d'├ętat: Successful only in Sudan in 1989, because rulers generally know how to protect themselves.
  • Civil war: Successful only in Afghanistan in 1996, because dominant, cruel states generally put down insurrections (as in Algeria, Egypt and Syria).
  • Terrorism: Never successful, nor is it ever likely to be. It can cause massive damage but without changing regimes. Can one really imagine a people raising the white flag and succumbing to terrorist threats? This did not happen after the assassination of Anwar Sadat in Egypt in 1981, nor after 9/11 in the United States, nor even after the Madrid bombings of 2004.
A clever strategist should conclude from this survey that overthrowing the government rarely leads to victory. In contrast, recent events show that working through the system offers better odds - note the Islamist electoral successes in Algeria (1992), Bangladesh (2001), Turkey (2002) and Iraq (2005). But working within the system, these cases also suggest, has its limitations.

Best is a combination of softening up the enemy through lawful means, then seizing power. The Palestinian Authority (2006) offers a case of this one-two punch succeeding, with Hamas winning the elections, then staging an insurrection. Another, quite different example of this combination just occurred in Pakistan.

The vast Red Mosque complex, also known as Lal Masjid, is geographically in the midst of Pakistan's ruling institutions, boasts long-standing connections to the regime's elite and includes huge male and female madrasas. But, turning on its benefactors, Kalashnikov-toting students confronted the police in January 2007 to prevent them from demolishing an illegally constructed building.

In April, the mega-mosque's deputy imam, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, announced the imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) "in the areas in our control" and established an Islamic court that issued decrees and judgments, rivaling those of the government.

The mosque then sent some of its thousands of madrasa students to serve as a morals police force in Islamabad to enforce a Taliban-style regime locally with the ultimate goal of spreading it countrywide. Students closed barbershops, occupied a children's library, pillaged music and video stores, attacked alleged brothels and tortured the alleged madams. They even kidnapped police officers.

The Red Mosque leadership threatened suicide bombings if the government of Pervez Musharraf tried to rein in its bid for quasi-sovereignty. Security forces duly stayed away. The six-month standoff culminated on July 3 when students from the mosque, some masked and armed, rushed a police checkpoint, ransacked nearby government ministries and set cars on fire, leaving sixteen dead.

This confrontation with the government aimed at nothing less than overthrowing it, proclaimed the mosque's deputy imam on July 7: "We have firm belief in God that our blood will lead to a[n Islamic] revolution." Threatened, the government attacked the mega-mosque early on July 10. The 36-hour raid turned up a stockpiled arsenal of suicide vests, machine guns, gasoline bombs, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, anti-tank mines - and letters of instruction from Al-Qaeda's leadership.

Musharraf termed the madrasa "a fortress for war." In all, the revolt directly caused over 100 deaths.

Mosques have been used as places for inciting violence, planning operations, and storing weapons, but deploying one as a base to overthrow the government creates a precedent. The Red Mosque model offers Islamists a bold tactic, one they likely will try again, especially if the recent episode, which has shaken the country, succeeds in pushing Musharraf out of office.
Our imaginary Islamist strategist, in short, can now deploy another tactic to attain power.


  1. Seems that the casualty count is quite a bit higher than just the 100 of so killed in the Mosque battle itself.
    The Government has, since the raid, lost another 100 or so soldiers to bombings and ambushes.

    The Government has not taken any reported offensive actions, yet, against the Tribal lands of Warizistan.
    One wonders if they will.

  2. Elephant Bar Alert--Ian Punnett--Coast-To-Coast--on your AM dial--interviews the D.C. Madam--10pmPDT--you should be able to look up and see if your Congressman has been taking advantage of the recreation offered in D.C.--promises to have a list of phone numbers.....developing.

    Check out the chicks web site.

  3. bob doing his best to keep the EB on the librarians restricted list.

    Gotta love it.

  4. Bob, your wife's gonna tear that thing off and beat you over the head with it. :)

    Pretty girls, btw.

  5. I thot Librarians were foursquare against censorship and all for legalized Pot?
    Mellow out, vote Librarian!

  6. Trish is a left-leaning Librarian.