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More on the Epistemology Deficit and ‘Moderate’ Islamism

My last two blogs were, respectively, about the Muslim epistemology deficit and the mirage of moderate Islamism. As if the gods of punditry had pulled my name out of a hat for blessings, this week’s news is chock full of dramatic new developments in these very stories.

First, on epistemology. I had noted reports in the Palestinian press that the Israeli Mossad had trained rats to infest the homes of Arab residents of Jerusalem while passing over those of their Jewish neighbors and that a high Egyptian official had attributed lethal attacks on bathers to Mossad-trained sharks who apparently avoided Israeli tourists. Now, Saudi news organizations have reported the capture of an Israeli Mossad spy bird.

The bird is a vulture, and its exact mission has yet to be deciphered. How did the Saudis discover that this particular vulture was not a run-of-the-mill consumer of carrion, but an Israeli spy? Because the creature wore a leg bracelet on which were imprinted the words “Tel Aviv University.”

Sherlock Holmes, eat your heart out. What a neat piece of detective work. What makes the whole ploy fiendishly clever is that vultures are not kosher. Who would think that a non-kosher bird would be spying for Israel? And for that matter, sharks and rats aren’t kosher either.

It is not yet clear whether the sharks and rats were also tagged with Tel Aviv University labels — or some other slick cover like the Hebrew University of Jerusalem or Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. But perhaps J-Ass (as in J-Lo or T-Mac) of WikiLeaks will soon lay this bare.

Which brings me to moderate Islamism, my other recent blog topic. I wrote that the vicious shenanigans of Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, proved that moderate Islamism is a mirage because the essence of Islamism is an us-against-them worldview.

This week, dozens of Egyptian Christians at worship were slaughtered and scores injured in the bombing of an Alexandria church (only days after a similar attack on Iraqi Christians). Many Muslims in Egypt and elsewhere decried this atrocity. Hussein Ibish and Ziad Asali, leaders of the American Task Force on Palestine, denounced not only the violence but more courageously and more to the point, the culture behind it.

But the response of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the granddaddy of all Islamism, was diametrically different, telling us all we need to know about that ideology even in its “moderate” form. Only a few years ago, American officials were inching toward a dialog with the Brotherhood. And Foreign Affairs, the flagship journal of the foreign policy establishment, carried a highly touted piece titled “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood.”

As it happens, the Brotherhood, which opposes violence in some circumstances (but exhorts it against Israelis anywhere and Americans in Iraq), spoke out against the bombing of the Coptic church in Alexandria, and blamed it on, you guessed it, the Mossad. Perhaps the Saudi-captured vulture was sent to scout Coptic targets but overflew its mission. Perhaps, dear Watson, it was scouting churches to bomb in Saudi Arabia! No, scratch that. There are no churches in Saudi Arabia, praise Allah.

But the Brotherhood, as Foreign Affairs pointed out, has varying strains within it. Although the more extreme and benighted are in control, there are also moderate elements. True enough, no doubt. Alas on this occasion the most outspoken Brotherhood leaders in blaming Mossad (and thereby exonerating Islamist extremists) are the most well-known “moderates.” Abdel Moneim Aboul Fattouh, described last year by Marc Lynch of Foreign Policy as “a leading moderate and pragmatic figure within the Egyptian MB,” said that Egyptians could not have done this, so it must have been outsiders, Mossad or others.

Essam al-Arian, frequently the public face of the Brotherhood because he is regarded as such an appealing “moderate,” declared more flatly that “the Mossad was behind the incident.” Then he went further, suggesting that the Mossad might also be behind al-Qaeda.

Bingo! That would explain why it was able — as millions of Arabs and also many Westerners know — to warn 4,000 Jewish employees not to show up for work on 9/11. And now the last piece of the puzzle falls into place. It has always been unclear how the Mossad transmitted these warnings since no phone, e-mail, or postal records have ever come to light. The messages were sent by spy bird!

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