Ikle On Nuking Mecca Or Racism Lives

Ikle on Nuking Mecca: Or, Racism Lives

Date: Sun, 02 Jun 2002 14:17:39 -0400

From: Juan Cole

Re: Fred Ikle, Stopping the Next Sept. 11


Where Ikle writes: “Those who out of cowardice use their wealth to pay danegeld to the

preachers of hate and destruction must be taught that this aggression will

boomerang. A nuclear war stirred up against the “infidels” might end up

displacing Mecca and Medina with two large radioactive craters.”

Cole replies:

My problem with the racist invocation of nuking Mecca and Medina on the

Right (first Lowry [see below] and now Ikle) is that it is ignorant,

counterproductive, and monstrous.

It is ignorant because if the point is to menace the Saudis into ceasing

their export of Wahhabism throughout the Muslim world, the center of

Wahhabism is Riyadh and Najd, not the Hijaz where Mecca and Medina are

located. Indeed, the Hijaz has been, along with Shi`ite al-Hasa, a major

center of Muslim opposition to Wahhabism ever since the Saudi conquest of

1924-26, and a hotbed of Sufism, non-Hanbali law, and Muslim

cosmopolitanism (because of the pilgrimage and the desire of Muslims from

all over the world to study and live near these sacred centers). So, it

seems a hard thing that Mecca and Medina should be obliterated for the

(alleged) sins of the Wahhabis.

It is counterproductive because Mecca and Medina are very dear to the

hearts of all Muslims, even secular ones. The very mention of “nuking

Mecca” stings their eyes to tears and enrages them. There are over a

billion Muslims in the world and there are going to be 2 billion before

very long. The task of the United States is to get them on its side, not

to alienate or enrage them. This is something George W. Bush, himself a

man of faith, understood instinctively, and got perfectly correct after

September 11. The Wall Street Journal should be ashamed of itself for

printing this kind of drivel, and Mr. Ikle should be ashamed of himself

for writing it.

It is monstrous because it is morally bankrupt to threaten nuclear

holocaust against millions of innocent persons and against the center of a

world religion. Lowry and Ikle no doubt deeply disliked the Latin

American liberation theologians who melded Catholic theology with leftist

ideas. Did they therefore advocate nuking the Vatican? What is the

difference between talking about nuking Mecca for political purposes and

Mulla Omar’s destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, which was rightly

denounced as barbaric? (The difference is that no human beings were

vaporized at Bamiyan).

I have asked it before, and ask it now again. What would happen to the

editor of an op-ed page who allowed a columnist to call for nuking the

Vatican or the Wailing Wall? Would we consider such an organ part of the

civilized world? Isn’t the real reason this sort of thing is allowed is

that anti-Arab racism is still considered acceptable at the cocktail

parties of the American wealthy? Why aren’t Paul Gigot and James Taranto

forced to resign over this monstrosity?


Juan Cole

U of Michigan

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