Feral House's Adam Parfrey Brings Us Extreme Islam: Anti-American Propaganda of Muslim Fundamentalism Just in Time
Consider, Adam Parfrey suggests, that no fewer than a dozen nations have issued stamps commemorating that little Palestinian boy shot dead cowering in the street with his dad, in full view of the news cameras, at the start of the second Intifada. Read what some young radical Muslims are writing, from a post-9/11 ode to anthrax to an essay entitled "You Have Made Me Your Human Bomb." Calculate that even if only a tiny minority of the world's Muslim population embraces militant ideals, that still represents millions of people.
Then recognize that when the Bush administration warns that the "war on terrorism" may be years in the prosecution, it's no joke. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda may be only the spear-tip of a very large movement, spread throughout the globe.
Parfrey has edited, and published through his L.A.-based small press Feral House, a collection of primary texts and images called Extreme Islam: Anti-American Propaganda of Muslim Fundamentalism (318 pages, $16). He's no newcomer to extreme ideas, having edited and published previous anthologies like Apocalypse Culture, Apocalypse Culture II and Rants & Incendiary Tracts.
Extreme Islam is an enlightening, disturbing and often frightening primer on radical Muslim thought. In the post-9/11 environment, it may well be slammed as yellow journalism, slanted to pander to current fear and hatred of Muslims. Parfrey's response, I think, is a good one: If you don't read what the radicals are declaring in their own words, how can you know how to defend yourself against them?
Some of this is familiar material, like a list of the mad restrictions the Taliban imposed, or the extravagant promises of heavenly rewards that help a bin Laden turn young Muslim men into camelkazes?excuse me, "martyrs." For example: "'Allah will bring forward the martyrs, on the Day of Judgment, with such pomp and splendor, that even the prophets if mounted, will dismount to show their respect for them.' With such grandeur, will a martyr appear on the Day of Judgment." And the assurance that "Every man who enters paradise shall be given 72 houris; no matter at what age he had died, when he is admitted into paradise, he will become a 30-year-old, and shall not age any further... A man in paradise shall be given virility equal to that of 100 men." To demonstrate that Islamic militants think of "Jihad" as nothing less than a global holy war of conquest (or liberation, depending on whose side you're on), there's the extremely influential Sayyid Quib explaining that "The reasons for Jihad... are these: to establish God's authority on the earth; to arrange human affairs according to the true guidance provided by God; to abolish all the Satanic forces and Satanic systems of life; to end the lordship of one man over others, since all men are creatures of God and no one has the authority to make them his servants or to make arbitrary laws for them."
There's also plenty here that may be new and surprising to the Western reader. Like a gloss of a conversation between Hitler and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in 1941, excerpted from Walter Lacquer's The Israel-Arab Reader, in which Arabs and Nazis pledge their total support for each other's plans to eradicate Jews and destroy other common enemies like the British. And a grimly funny speech by the Ayatollah Khomeini to his people in 1983, which begins: "Honorable nation of Iran; I have received the news of the severing of relations between the U.S. and Iran. If Carter has ever in his life done a good thing for the oppressed, it is this very severing of relations. Relations between a world-devouring looter and a nation that has risen up to liberate itself from the claws of the international looters, will always be to the loss of the oppressed nation and in the interest of the looter. We consider this severing of relations as a good omen; it shows that the U.S. government has given up all its hopes for Iran."
The book contains many distressing post-9/11 texts, from bin Laden speeches to that ode to anthrax, written by a Hamas journalist:
The truth is that I wondered how to begin! Should I greet you [i.e., anthrax], or should I curse you? Should I hold my tongue? ...I will begin by saying: Oh Anthrax, despite your wretchedness, you have sown horror in the heart of the lady of arrogance, of tyranny, of boastfulness! Your gentle touch has made the US's life rough and pointless...
You have entered the most fortified of places; [you have entered] the White House and they left it like horrified mice... The Pentagon was a monster before you entered its corridors... And behold, it now transpires that its men are of paper and its commanders are of cardboard, and they hasten to flee as soon as they see?only see?chalk dust!
Nevertheless, you have found your way to only eight American breasts so far... May you continue to advance, to permeate, and to spread. If I may give you a word of advice, enter the air...the water faucets from which they drink, and the pens with which they draft their traps and conspiracies against the wretched peoples.
Though the book is primarily Islamic rants, Parfrey has included enough material from both sides of, for example, the Arab-Israeli conflict to skinny past complaints that the book is one-sided and anti-Muslim. He balances historical readings on the centuries-long plight of Jews in Arab lands with equally damning material on the arbitrary and violent creation of the Jewish state, the terrible treatment of Palestinians subsequently and the vilely racist ravings of Zionist loonies. And there are a few entries by American Christian fundamentalists who can sound more Zionist than the Zionists. ("I don't think Ground Zero is in New York," Parfrey says to me. "Ground Zero seems to be East Jerusalem," where Jewish and Christian Zionists keep plotting to blow up the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount to make way for the Third Temple and kick-start Armageddon. It was Sharon's visit to the cornerstone for the Third Temple in the fall of 2000 that prompted the second Intifada.)
Also, to counter our tendency to think of "Islam" and "Arabs" in monolithic terms, the book presents some moderate voices like Sadat, some background on the ongoing conflicts between Iran and Iraq and among various factions inside Algeria, and the text of a 1998 fatwa pronounced by Italian Muslims against Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. (There's also a communique calling for Islam to destroy Western democracy, from a man calling himself Shaykh Abdalqadir as-sufi al-Murabit, "thought to be formerly known as the Scots author Ian Dallas." Italian Muslims? Scottish Muslims? Who knew?) Parfrey delineates as well a distinction often lost on Americans: between Arab nation-states and the historical growth of the Pan-Islamic movement as evidenced by groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, wherein Islamic radicals pledge their primary allegiance to no nation, but to the faith itself.
At first glance many people will think Extreme Islam is just another post-9/11 quickie, but Parfrey contends, "I've been wanting to do a book like this for years," and estimates he'd collected maybe 40 percent of the material in the book before 9/11. He does concede, however, that the September attacks were a giant prod to get the book finished and into stores. His sources range from books, pamphlets and magazines to a philatelist in Jordan to the Internet?where, he says, a number of good sources of radical Islamic thought have been blocked in the U.S. in the wake of 9/11.
We discuss the plethora of palliative post-9/11 editorials about how peaceful the Koran is, and how extremists represent a tiny minority of an overwhelmingly peaceful religion. While Parfrey does not claim the ideas he's gathered in the book are representative of all Islam, "I do say the Koran is an extremist document, like the Old Testament and the Babylonian Talmud are extreme documents? The thing about the fundamentalist extremists is they're more true to the Koran, I believe, than the moderates. Obviously there are the peaceful sentences and passages...but it's like these people pick and choose what to read and believe."
Parfrey agrees that radical Islam is "an undercurrent," but it's one that has shown a great strength and ability to spread its revolutionary ideas throughout Islam. "It is remarkable how extreme a lot of this undercurrent is. One would think from reading the papers it's just a few guys in Afghanistan, and just maybe a few splinter groups. It's far bigger than that... What's incredible to me is why this book hasn't been done before." There are plenty of books about Islam, of course, and some, like Sacred Rage, about Muslim radicals, but Parfrey insists this is the "first and only" one to present a sampling of texts by the radicals themselves. "I'm trying to show the way these people really communicate... You should know what these people are saying about you. And it's not just a couple. Let's say it's only one percent of Muslims?that's millions of people."
How does he think American Muslims might react to this book?
"I hope they read the thing," he replies. "If they truly are a moderate force, then they would understand that in their own religion there are people who would like to see the death of Western Culture, absolutely."
Two New York Press folks have new writing out. Music writer Jessica Hundley has co-authored with Jon Alain Guzik a paperback guidebook with the engaging title Horny? Los Angeles: A Sexy, Steamy, Downright Sleazy Handbook to the City (Really Great Books, 205 pages, $18.95). Now, I don't know this guy Guzik but I've met Hundley and she's a nice young lady, so I'm not amazed to find that Horny? hardly meets the New York City definition of "downright sleazy." What it is is a guide to L.A.'s strip clubs, nude beaches, sex shops, pickup bars and fetish joints, written for both gays and straights, and you may well find it handy next time you're planning a trip there.
Our research editor and frequent writer Daria Vaisman has a cool essay in the latest issue of Cabinet, still my favorite arts and culture quarterly. It was just a few years ago that conspiracy theorists, as well as fans (and research contractors) of advanced military hardware, were all abuzz about Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW), and one of the more intriguing avenues of research was the use of sound. There was much talk of weapons that could disorient you with low-frequency infrasound, and sound cannons that could knock you off your feet, and Russian "sound bullets," and so on.
Now Vaisman finds that the research has largely dried up. Turns out that focusing and projecting sound for antipersonnel purposes is harder than was believed. File "acoustic warfare" next to your 70s books about "psychic warfare" on the shelf of fascinating but apparently unfeasible military research schemes.
Cabinet is $8 an issue or $24 for a year's subscription, from Immaterial Incorporated, 181 Wyckoff St., Brooklyn, NY 11217 ([www.immaterial.net/cabinet](http://www.immaterial.net/cabinet)).
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