Do me a favor.
Go to Google, type Muslims and click on Images.
Go ahead, I will wait.
If you don't feel like doing it, let me tell you what you would have seen if you did:
Niqab, burqa or hijab wearing women, submissive and cut-off from the rest of society; bearded men in shalwar kameezes sporting a hostile rictus; and enraged crowds ready to kill and destroy to punish perceived blasphemy.
A sample is presented above.
If you were an alien who came to Earth secretly and spent three months consuming various media programs, you would think that Muslim identity is based on three elements.
(a) Muslim men and women should follow a strict Islamic dress code;
(b) they should refrain from consuming alcohol and shun any place where alcohol is sold or drunk;
(c) blasphemy cannot be tolerated and any insult to Islam or to the Prophet should be punished swiftly and violently.
How did a religion that was once credited for salvaging the literary and philosophical treasures of Antiquity and developing scientific and technological principles that paved the way for the Renaissance turn into this simplistic and oppressive framework?
I have an answer that will not make me popular with anyone.
But such is the life of a contrarian.
As I recently mentioned, starting from the late 1970s (especially after 1979) Saudi Arabia spent hundreds of billions of dollars to fund madrassas in Muslim countries. They literally bribed corrupt military regimes to favor these schools.
Moreover, they dispatched radical imams not only to those madrassas but to any country with a Muslim minority, especially in Western Europe.
And these institutions and imams did everything humanly possibly to inculcate these three simple precepts.
By 2008, it was estimated that the Saudis had spent 100 billion dollars. Recently, the figure was put to 200 billion.
That is billion with a B and we are talking about the House of Saud, including and especially the current King actively raising money for this purpose.
Let's pause here for a second.
Since we have no way of knowing why exactly they did that, let's take a look at the the likely consequences of these three precepts to surmise a causality. You know, Occam's Razor.
If you convinced a sizable minority in, say France, to start wearing different clothes from one day to the next and to be adamant and defensive about their new look, what would happen?
Chances are that the rest of the population would begin to view this minority differently. They would see them as strange and not fitting in. And would react as such: "Last month you wore a jacket and a pair of jeans to work and now you are wearing these baggy things, you shaved your head and you are sporting a huge beard? Why?"
That, in turn, would likely trigger a defensive reaction among that minority: "Do you mean we cannot wear these clothes and grow a beard? What about freedoms and liberties? And who do you think you are?"
The answer to that question is the first step towards polarization.
Us and Them.
If you had conveyed to this minority beforehand that their neighbors and co-workers would react negatively to their new and righteous appearance, their disapproving reaction would prove to your minority that your perspective is credible. The larger society's reaction would also harden the minority's new and seemingly threatened identity. And this state of affairs would make them very suspicious of the society in which they live.
In other words, with a simple wardrobe change, you would have successfully isolated and ostracized your minority.
If, along with their new look, you had persuaded this minority to avoid any place where alcohol is sold or consumed, you would now have ensured that they were cut off from the larger society in which they live.
Think about it. You are a Muslim and you cannot stop by the pub or cafe to say something to your neighbor because there is alcohol being sold and consumed.
You cannot go to the local supermarket because they sell booze.
You cannot socialize with your neighbors because they occasionally drink wine in the evenings.
You can only go to Muslim stores, socialize with Muslims and stay with your own community.
And be only with those Muslims who follow the same rules as you.
Us and Them.
Your minority is now fully cognizant that they live in a hostile environment. This is the case whether they live in Western Europe or in Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt and Bangladesh.
The Us and Them framework works everywhere as they are surrounded by the enemy.
Why do these hostile people react to Muslims negatively and view them as object of derision? That is because they despise Islam, the Koran and the Prophet, as these are the only things that "true Muslims" cherish and value.
Now, as good Muslims, should you allow them to despise your religion?
What is perfect about this massive effort of social engineering is that you have created a large group of people that you can control based on visible signs and behavior pattern. There is no faith exams. Their beliefs are immaterial. The rules are simple.
Finally, this built-in suspicion and hostility enables you to get a violent reaction out of your minority at the drop of a hat.
You yell, "she burned the Koran" and a large crowd instantly reacts and kills Farkhunda.
You announce that a publication made fun of the Prophet and you have unlimited supply of murderers willing to die to punish the perpetrators.
And there is a major bonus in Western countries: once you radicalized a small group, you effectively control the much larger and secular Muslims because they too would feel the hostility from the larger society.
Maybe I can make it clearer with this analogy: As I wrote many times, Jews in Diaspora disagree with conservative Israeli governments on most issues but when they are questioned by their friends and neighbors about actions taken by Israel, they are reluctant to join in what feels like Israel-bashing.
And their neighbors usually read this as them supporting Israel unconditionally.
The same is true with secular Muslims. They don't like what these radicalized Muslims are doing. But they do not like joining in what feels like Muslim-bashing.
Not being a moralist, I find the social engineering effort to eradicate all other forms of Islam to reduce the religion to three simple precepts amazing.
And I think the framework is brilliant in its simplicity.
But I wonder about three points.
Why did Saudi Arabia spend these sums (and continue to do so despite its recent economic woes)?
Why did no country react to this?
You look at the West and you see that very few radical imams were deported and almost none of the Islamic Studies Institues closed. The radicalization process took decades and no one did anything.
You look at the Muslim countries and you notice that Tunisian, Moroccan, Libyan, Egyptian, Iraqi Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Turkish, Yemeni or Indonesian governments didn't lift a finger when their countries were flooded with Islamic Studies Institutes, Koranic courses, madrassas and billions of dollars?
In fact, in all cases, the governments seem complicit in the effort.
Finally, why did no one say a word about Saudi Arabia's huge social engineering project and their role in Muslim extremism until very recently?
Surely everyone could see where this thing was going.
Instead of discussing openly the Saudi role in radicalizing Muslims, most governments did everything humanly possible to shield the House of Saud:
In fact, most Americans don't know that 15 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens and the current Saudi king raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fund terrorism plots against the US.
Please tell me why because I have no clue.
And please don't tell me it was for oil.