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Michael Flynn: A combustive cocktail of ignorance and arrogance

Released recordings show Trump's national security adviser is not only ignorant about the history of Islam and Arabs, but arrogant as well

To dislike Islam and the Muslims, even to hate them, is one thing. To speak out of utter ignorance about them is something else. 

It is abundantly clear that in dealing with Islam and 1.7 billion Muslims, Trump and his appointees emanate from a combination of sheer ignorance and arrogance

According to recently released video recordings, Michael Flynn, US president-elect Donald Trump’s appointee for the position of national security adviser, seems to think that Islam started less than 1,000 years ago. He even believes that the golden age of the Arabs was pre-Islamic and that it was Prophet Muhammad and the Quran that pushed the Arabs over the edge into an abyss of darkness.

Not only is he ignorant about the history of Islam, but also about the history of the Arabs. 

In fact, pre-Islam Arabs were mostly nomads restricted to the land of Arabia with limited contact with the outside world. Arabs before Islam were known to be an illiterate nation; very few of them had the chance to learn to read and write. Their treatment of women was despicable and their attitude toward coloured people smacked of racism. They made the idols they worshiped from dates and when they became hungry they ate them. 

The Quran criticises and even condemns many such abhorrent practices and attitudes of pre-Islam Arabs, including the burial of daughters alive lest they bring shame unto them when they grow older. If only Flynn had the time to read through the Quran, he would immediately come to conclusions that contradict the very ideas he now has about Islam, its book and its Prophet. 

The great Islamic civilisation

Flynn may be shocked to learn that my own ancestors, the Arabs, never saw a golden age until they embraced Islam and not before it as he claimed. It was after Muhammad came to them with the Quran, the source of their and many other nations’ enlightenment, that a great Islamic civilisation was built. 

One wonders how much Flynn knows about our religion so as to suggest to us that we needed to get rid of it in order to progress?

He may even find it difficult to believe that many modern advances in science, technology, medicine and astronomy find their roots in discoveries made by the Muslims during that golden age, which also saw the revival of Greek, Hellenistic and other ancient philosophies.   

Flynn tells us that things won’t be fine and modernity cannot progress so long as we, Muslims, insist on keeping our religion, a religion he seems to despise or trivialise to the extent of saying when talking about it “quote-unquote religion”.

One wonders how much Flynn knows about our religion so as to suggest to us that we needed to get rid of it in order to progress? Describing the Quran as a text that is ancient and not helpful smacks not only of ignorance but also of arrogance. 

When ignorance is combined with arrogance, the person is blinded and deafened. Is this the sort of national security adviser the American people need or can trust? 

The source of our miseries

Flynn proves us wrong when we, the Arabs, think that we alone have idiotic leaders who lack basic knowledge of world and regional history and geography and who are least qualified to shoulder any responsibility. 

Take for example this Iraqi minister who claimed that the ancient Sumerians travelled to Pluto in spaceships thousands of years ago. Kazem Finjan, Iraq’s Transport Minister, told reporters in Dhi Qar, south Iraq, that the world’s first airport was built there in around 5000 BC.

He said the ancient civilisation of Sumer, one of the oldest known societies, used the airport for space exploration and even discovered Pluto. 

Another example is that of the Head of Egyptian Museums Brigadier General Najm Al-Din Mahmoud who shocked viewers of the first Egyptian TV channel as he exhibited how ignorant he was about the history of his own country. Citing a historic role played by the Egyptian armed forces he referred to the battle of Hittin, which actually took place in 1187 CE, as having been won for the Egyptians by Ramses the Third, who was actually assassinated in 1155 BC. 

This is ominous indeed. The American people will be made to rely for their security and safety on someone who is as ignorant and pompous as the above-cited Arab officials who, together with their leaders, have been the source of our miseries. 

Ignorance, the root of evil

Flynn’s ignorance is further exhibited in his silly likening of Prophet Muhammad to modern Christian priests who were accused of rape or accused of a cover-up. Prophet Muhammad was not a priest or a cardinal. He was the Messenger of God just as Moses and Jesus were the Messengers of God.  The respect and veneration shown by Muslims to Prophets Moses and Jesus are contrasted here by the disrespect and contempt shown by Flynn and his likes to the Prophet of Islam. 

It would seem now that Flynn and his boss Trump will make George W Bush look like an angel

It really makes you wonder what the word ‘modernity’ means to Flynn. Here is a man who on the one hand derides 1.7 billion Muslims for not qualifying to join modernity so long as they keep their religion, Quran and Prophet while on the other hand heaps praise on a military dictator who aborted democratic transition in Egypt in a military coup against the first ever democratically elected president in the history of the country, Mohamed Morsi.

So is military dictatorship a criterion of modernity as understood by Flynn?

Many people thought that America could not produce a worst leader than George W Bush who caused an uproar when he used the term "Crusade" to describe his war on Iraq. It would seem now that Flynn and his boss Trump will make Bush look like an angel and his offence a mere slip of the tongue. 

It is abundantly clear that in dealing with Islam and 1.7 billion Muslims, Trump and his appointees emanate from a combination of sheer ignorance and arrogance. They would fail any general knowledge test about Islam, its history and the history of the nations that embrace it.

Plato, the great Greek philosopher, once described ignorance as the root and stem of all evil. This is very true indeed!

- Azzam Tamimi is a Palestinian-British academic and chairman of Alhiwar TV channel. His books include: Hamas: Unwritten Chapters (Hurst, 2007) and Rachid Ghannouchi: a Democrat within Islamism (OUP, 2001)

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn delivers a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on 18 July 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio (AFP)

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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