Hugh Fitzgerald: From The Azzi Archives Of “Ask a Muslim Anything” (Part One)

Robert Azzi has for several years been staging his “Ask a Muslim Anything” events in New Hampshire. In a display of ostentatious openness, he presents a sanitized version of Islam, describes  Muslims in America feeling besieged and deserving of our sympathy, and mocks our  baseless  “fears” about Islam, and about the need to understand the “real Islam.”
Here’s one more of the write-ups of his appearance, this dating from 2017.
“Exeter resident and photojournalist, columnist, public speaker and education consultant Robert Azzi, who is Muslim, was on hand to lead a dialogue about issues of identity, fear, conflict, interfaith relations, international affairs and Islamophobia for the sizable crowd that filled up the Levenson Room in the library.
“We definitely live in changing times, it’s important we come together and have a dialogue,” said Portsmouth Library Director Steve Butzel before introducing Azzi. “We’re going to come together as a community and we’re probably going to learn a few things.”
“What’s happening in Washington is not just marginalization of Muslims but it’s an indication of how communities of color and minority communities may be treated in the future in this country,” said Azzi. “No one people stands alone and no person or community is discriminated against without it affecting other communities. To the extent Muslims are marginalized or not heard in this country, whether we are Muslim or non-Muslim; part of the 1 percent or the 99 percent, it makes us all less secure.”
What ‘marginalization of Muslims” has taken place in this country? In 2017 there was what Azzi and other Muslim apologists call a “Muslim ban.” But in fact, that “Muslim ban” included both North Korea and Venezuela, both non-Muslim countries, and the five Muslim countries included represented only 5% of the world’s Muslims. The ban was directed not at Muslim countries, otherwise another fifty of them would have been included, but only at countries whose security measures were deemed insufficient by the Department of Homeland Security. This was soberly explained by Mr. Justice Roberts, in his opinion in Trump v. Hawaii.
Only five Muslim states were affected in any way by the travel ban. Two Muslim states, Iraq and Chad, were initially included, but then were dropped from the original list after further study of their domestic security.  No Muslims coming from Pakistan,  Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt, Algeria, Indonesia, and 45 other Muslim countries see any change in their status. No Muslims coming from France or Great Britain or Germany or a dozen other European countries are affected. This has to be kept constantly in mind, and constantly repeated in the face of so many shrill cries about “a Muslim ban.’ . Those who are outraged by what they misleadingly  call a “travel ban on Muslims” should be reminded that for 95% of the world’s Muslims, nothing has changed. Furthermore, individuals from the affected countries can even apply for an exemption.
“The conversation [at Azzi’s event] shifted to some of the root causes that lead to misunderstanding between the West and the Muslim world. The majority of which stems from a long history of economic and political control on the part of Western powers.
″The anger felt in the Middle East is not just at America but at a West that they believe, in part, spent a century or two colonizing and exploiting their resources, of limiting their opportunities, of keeping them subservient in many cases to the great powers, to denying them access to freedoms that which[sic] the West was enjoying and not giving anything back,” said Azzi. “It created cultures that are fractured and more tribal. If we just take today, the United States is militarily involved in the seven countries that are part of the immigration ban.”
Muslims have been waging Jihad against non-Muslims for the past 1,400 years. They did so in 700, 1000, 1200, 1500, 1800, and in all the centuries and years between, right through to 2019, for the same immutable reason: that they are commanded to do so in 109 verses in the Qur’an — “to fight” and “to kill” and “to strike terror” in the hearts of the Infidels. They don’t need a specific reason, as Azzi thinks, to wage jihad against those they believe to be the  “most vile of created beings” (98:6).
Besides, there has been no “long history of economic and political control [of Muslim lands] on the part of Western powers.” In North Africa in the 19th century, exactly two  Muslim lands came under the control of Western powers:  Algeria, which the French did conquer in 1830, and Tunisia, which became a French protectorate in 1881. Morocco became a protectorate only in 1912; both Morocco and Tunisia became independent in 1956. Libya was an Italian colony from 1912 until 1951. As for Egypt, English administrators who first arrived with Lord Cromer in 1883 remained to help create an efficient and non-corrupt civil service. Egypt continued to be part of the Ottoman Empire until 1914, when Great Britain declared it to be a protectorate; in 1922 Egypt declared its independence. The British were there not to exploit but to help Egypt to better administer itself; a handful  British troops remained in Egypt until 1956, but only for the narrow purpose of protecting the Suez Canal.from possible attack.
What “long history of economic and political control” by Western powers in North Africa does Azzi have in mind? Only in Algeria was there arguably a “long” history, from 1830 to 1962 (Azzi airily refers to “one or two centuries” of European involvement in lots of Muslim lands) of such control. The French came in small numbers to Morocco, and stayed for only 44 years (1912-1956), they initially arrived to prevent the Spanish from taking all of Morocco for itself, and they then remained,  helping the king to modernize the administration, and to introduce modern systems of agriculture.  Azzi talks about European  “economic control,” by which he means economic exploitation by Western powers. But in most cases, the Western powers spent far more to improve these lands than they received in revenues. Modern methods of agriculture, including in improvements in irrigation and choice of crops, were introduced by the French to Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia; Algeria became known as one vast vineyard, and its wine exports exploded when the phylloxera epidemic destroyed French vineyards in the 1880s. The first modern hospitals, universities, and school systems (real schools, not madrasas) were built by the French in these lands, as were roads, bridges, ports, permanent dwellings, and modern markets (for Arabs as well as for the French). The French language was taught to the local elites, enabling them to learn of Western advancements in science and technology, and to have access to French newspapers, books, and radio programs,  all of which introduced them to Western politics, history, philosophy, literature, after the centuriesof of mental stasis and neglect under Ottoman Turkish rule.  In Libya, Italians built an infrastructure that had not been added to since the time of the Romans — chiefly roads and  bridges — and enlarged the Port of Tripoli, which  improved the lives of Libyans and Italians alike.The presence of the Western powers throughout North Africa also kept inter-tribal warfare (think of Libya today) to a minimum.

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