Recent events seem ripe for an Islamist edition of Animal Farm. Granted, George Orwell’s classic fairy tale would need to be changed here and there. For one thing, having pigs as the central characters might not be appropriate. Perhaps goats would be better. But the basic story, a tale of bitter infight-ing among power-hungry “revolutionaries,” could be adapted easily enough. And it just might help disabuse the chattering classes in Washington and Europe of their fear that a supposedly monolithic Muslim political front is about to take over the Middle East—and someday maybe even Middle America.

Lest some sheik or mullah mistakenly think I’m mocking his faith, let’s make ourselves clear: we’re not talking about God here. We’re talking about a parable of all-too-human politics. We could talk about communism (as Orwell does), or fascism, or for that matter Jacobinism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Hinduism—you name it. Political ideology and political religiosity inevitably become the domain of intense, driven individuals out to impose their visions on others. In quest of their own ends, they speak in the name of the people, or of God, or both. Their first, worst enemies are usually fellow believers whose ideas slightly diverge from theirs—or those who simply stand in the way of their ravening ambition. And once they gain power, purges follow.

For a deathly grim sense of how that worked in Stalin’s day, reread Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. Or go back to Animal Farm, and look at the way Napoleon (Stalin) dispatches Snowball (Trotsky) after they take over the Manor Farm from Mr. Jones. History offers countless examples. But let’s stick to the present-day Middle East.

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