"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Challenge The West Must Confront

While American forces are on the battlefield in Iraq to thwart the influence of radical Islamists, the West seems to be engaged in a form of preemptive surrender.

Targeted assassinations in the Netherlands have intimidated Dutch leaders.

The British in one provincial government are voluntarily covering porcine images fearing some offense against Muslims in their midst.

American military leaders were engaged in a thorough examination of allegations about urine splattered Korans in the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Four people died in Alexandria, Egypt when a stage play deemed offensive to Muslims was recorded and distributed on a DVD. Five thousand Muslim rioters rampaged through two predominately Christian neighborhoods.

Although the French government was primarily concerned about Muslim garb in this ostensibly Christian nation, it banned all religious displays so that Muslims would not consider themselves targeted.

The willingness of radical Islamists to employ violence in response to real or perceived grievances is a tactic that has intimidated many leaders worldwide. There is scarcely a Western leader – I cannot think of one – who has been critical of Islam’s violent Koranic characteristics.

By contrast, when a soi disant artist plastered elephant dung on a portrait of Madonna in the Brooklyn Museum most establishment figures defended the artist’s right of expression. I can only imagine what would happen if a likeness of Prophet Mohammed were treated in similar fashion.

Where, for example, are the demonstrations of the movie industry over the murder of the Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh by a Muslim extremist? It is instructive that these same film makers are still aggrieved over the stifling tactics of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950’s, but cannot marshal indignation when one of their brethren is murdered for a film about Islamic women. This can only be described as the silence of intimidation.

For Muslim extremists a willingness, alas an eagerness, to die offers them a distinct public advantage over Westerners who put a justifiable premium on life. As one Muslim critic asked of his detractors in Europe: “Are there causes for which you would die?” In secular societies the answer is increasingly “no”.

Many American students who don’t know that the American Revolution preceded the French Revolution and wear Che Guevara tee shirts with pride would never consider a disparaging word about Islam. They have been trained in incapacity and assume that any form of discrimination is wrong.

The West contends that the separation of church and state is an overarching characteristic of stable societies. For Islam, there is only Sharia, religious law, which transcends governmental decisions. As a consequence, Islamists have great difficulty with the secularization of the laws. Allah is not merely a focus of worship, but the inspiration for all legal and governmental matters.

As Hegel noted, the state is secure when citizens can engage in the renunciation of appetites in behalf of the law. In the West, law is abiding because the law abides. But what emerges when religious fervor doesn’t permit limitation? What happens to Western permissiveness when a sub-culture refuses to embrace the secular dimensions of the law?

The answers are already apparent. Islam is treated as special, a state of religion different from the others. Western authorities avert their gaze from the horrors in their midst. They refuse to consider the necessary steps for stability such as forced deportation. They are confused by religious zealotry at the very moment they have lost their own religious impulses.

We have come to tolerate an intolerant, totalistic sub-culture that prospers in liberal societies that offer ideological cover. Now we must experiment with techniques to control the enemy from within. Thusfar, the score card is not in our favor. Can this condition be reversed? Will the West come to appreciate the threat to their democracies? The future of the West depends on answers to these questions.

26 comments:

The Driving Buddha said...

This comment is off thread.... I'm a friend of Hunter's here (and occasional reader of The Reform Club) and happened to be reading this week's Newsweek at lunch. Reformclub.blogspot.com got a mention on Newsweek's Blogwatch. Congrats!

Evanston said...

Absolutely, the secular West is blinded by its mantra that "all religions are alike" and cannot see that Islam is absolutist and does not recognize such a thing as secularism, nor its right to exist. The so-called academic intelligentsia and progressive elite are ironically uninformed and are the last to see how regressive Islam can be, at full flower. Romans 1:22 applies, “Thinking themselves wise, they became fools...”

James Elliott said...

The West contends that the separation of church and state is an overarching characteristic of stable societies. For Islam, there is only Sharia, religious law, which transcends governmental decisions. As a consequence, Islamists have great difficulty with the secularization of the laws. Allah is not merely a focus of worship, but the inspiration for all legal and governmental matters.

Interestingly enough, the inability of Arab Muslims to create a stable separate political system stems from Islam's birth as a unifying force among tribal cultures. Even the caliphate was, at best, a union of contentious principalities. Christians, on the other hand, benefitted from the examples of the Greeks and the Romans before the Apostle Paul kicked all the other gnostic cults' out and formed what we now know as Christianity. Thanks to the Romans, the political unification had begun before the religious one. This is a principal underlying facet of secularism's success that is oft-ignored by people eager to criticize Muslims. The institutional violence inherent in Arab Muslim politics stems far more from traditional tribal culture than it does Islam.

James Elliott said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James Elliott said...

The whole argument is tautological.

Radicals in general are prone to using violence to achieve their goals. Witness radical anarchists at the end of the 19th century in Russia. Witness the network of Christians who aided a terrorist abortion clinic bomber. Witness a nation of people who support the torture and murder of innocent civilians so long as it accomplishes their goals. Because that's what people who excuse the behavior at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay support.

The only difference between supporters of the war on terrorism and Middle Eastern terrorists is that the terrorists are bound by a single fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, while the Americans have no such overarching moral excuse.

I take it back, there's one more difference: violent radical Muslim terrorists are willing to put their lives on the line for what they believe. Violence loving, torture-enabling Americans prefer that someone else do their dirty work.

James Elliott said...

The middle east is indeed a fractured land but it's not been all their doing now has it?

Never meant to imply that it was. However, the historical inability of Arab Muslims to delineate a political form of governance apart from or out of Islam is a crucial factor.

Oftentimes Westerners forget that they're dealing with disparate tribal cultures that have been under one Imperial (and often foreign) heel after another for over two thousand years.

Tlaloc said...

Sorry JE, while I was quoting you my point was more meant for the larger audience.

connie deady said...

We have come to tolerate an intolerant, totalistic sub-culture that prospers in liberal societies that offer ideological cover. Now we must experiment with techniques to control the enemy from within.

I have no idea what this means. It seems like incitational verbage to me.

I'm willing to see the threat that radical Islam is to western cultures. I'd like to see all of us unite as one in jointly responding to and abhoring terrorism.

However, I'd like to know what you propose to do about it. Nuke the whole middle East?

I can appreciate attempts to build up and strengthen secular or non-radical leaders and countries in the middle east. It seems the more we stabilize, the less of a forum and a platform for radical Islam exists. However, our incursion into Iraq seems to have only de-stabilized things rather than increased stability.

Are you calling for the United States to unilaterally invade radical Islamic nations? We are only hanging on in Iraq by our fingernails. Surely we lack the strength to go elsewhere.

I am completely open to a debate and discussion as to the problem. I don't believe that Liberals don't see the threat. We just believe the best answer to the threat is not unilateral militarism.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Connie, I believe in referring to "an intolerant, totalistic sub-culture that prospers in liberal societies that offer ideological cover," Dr. London's point is illustrated on this very cyberpage.

This comment thread has been ruined by a sub-culture that has taken advantage of our good will, a sub-culture that does not share the values of The Reform Club, and is in fact committed to subverting them.

About four feet of column space has been clogged, and there will now be no legitimate discussion of Dr. London's central concern, which is not Islamism as much as the West's inability to defend or even define its own foundations.

I would have enjoyed that discussion.

connie deady said...

Thanks Tom, I really didn't know what he was referring to.

Tuning out the noise, though I wouldn't classify all of it as noise, I agree that the threat is real. I believe the only way that western nations can defend their borders is to band together. To me it's a war of thought not of military might, because I don't know how we can defend ourselves militarily against terrorism. You have to make terrorists personas non grata in the Islamic countries.

It seems to me that any attempt to push back militarily only increases the appeal of terrorism, because we confirm their perception of American imperialists.

My gut level is that the more we manage to "infiltrate" Islamic nations with western ideas and improve quality of life, the safer we become.

But I suspect you somehow want a solution that involves nuking the nutjobs. We may be at impasse, because I refuse to accept any solution that decreases my freedoms as an American or turns us into a militarist state. I'm not that afraid

Tom Van Dyke said...

Nuking? Nah. I'm a pussycat.

But I think many Americans would and will be surprised at the curtailing of personal freedoms that Europe may be forced into.

We can consider the problem efficiently without rehashing Iraq. Europe is largely out of the Iraq loop, and its problems are demographic and internal. (Strangely enough, the US is largely insulated from them.) The news out of Paris is quite shocking, and is what Dr. London is really talking about.

connie deady said...

But I think many Americans would and will be surprised at the curtailing of personal freedoms that Europe may be forced into.

We've definitely been lucky in America, as we are physically more isolated.

But I don't see how they are being manipulated by an intolerant subculture. Tolerance is still good in my book. The evil isn't in tolerance. Though I'm honestly not sure where the evil exists. Islam isn't inherently evil. I believe the evil is in people who misuse it.

Evanston said...

Tom, thank you for focusing us on Mr. London's article. He closes with an important question, "Will the West come to appreciate the threat to their democracies?" I believe it is now self-evident, even to Europeans, that there is a threat but the tactics to counteract are the critical issue. As you put it, "Dr. London's central concern, which is not Islamism as much as the West's inability to defend or even define its own foundations." Now, reading the comments from James Elliot and tlaloc, they are not altogether off topic since they do deal with how the West defines "its own foundations." They do, however, waste a lot of space defining things and not saying what they would DO. Do they propose any solutions, or at least some thematic approaches? Connie suggests that if we "'infiltrate' Islamic nations with western ideas and improve quality of life, the safer we become." This is where things get interesting. Which western ideas? Simpsons reruns? PBS? Politically correct fare from modern academia such as Orgasm Fests and Gay marriages? It's easy to slam Christians and accuse conservatives of simply backing the "nuke 'em" option, but do Connie, James and tlaloc recognize that most of our popular culture is more likely to antagonize (rather than "infiltrate") muslims? Notice how tlaloc has no problem making sure the US military respects Korans when he also states that "Nor do I think Islam should be protected from ridicule which CHristianity is subject to." So tlaloc, exactly how do you propose that Americans exercise their rights without antagonizing Islam? James, how do you propose dealing with Islam, not only its overt terrorism but its internal Sharia practices that attack most "progressive" civil rights? Connie, since "Islam isn't inherently evil" but you "believe the evil is in people who misuse it" then how do we figure out who is "misusing" and what do we DO about them?
American conservatives have recognized the Islamic threat and took action but secular liberals have been content to sit back and criticize and never offer specifics. In France and elsewhere, the "intelligentsia" are now being forced by Islam to do something. Well, here's your chance, liberal Americans, to offer some actual solutions. Hava at it. Enquiring minds want to know!

James Elliott said...

Tom, deleting Tlaloc's posts was rather churlish. They were no more off-topic or pusilanimous than mine. If you're going to apply a standard for deletion in a forum priding itself on intellectual honesty, you should be honest enough to have a better standard than not liking someone.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I've been described as worse than churlish, James. Sort of a mid-level insult, and I thank you for your temperance.

That your posts are off-topic or pusilanimous and still remain is a compliment to the good will you have accrued, not a gauge of their merit.

But I do admire your loyalty and willingness to speak out accordingly. One day, they will be put to the test by someone who has earned them.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Evanston---Welcome to the Club.

You do a yeoman's job in recapping the discussion to date, and I sincerely appreciate your closing of the circle around Dr. London's original post.

Attempts at deriving a common language among all parties involved are far rarer than the rendering of opinions. Diplomats are in shorter supply than prophets.

Blessed are the peacemakers, then, especially when they are obliged to tell one side that they have their heads up their bottoms.

But conclusions and magic wands are too much to hope for in this modern age; to fairly lay out the premises is enough, and you have done so. You have the thanks of a grateful nation.

tbmbuzz said...

James Elliott said...
.........er. Witness a nation of people who support the torture and murder of innocent civilians so long as it accomplishes their goals. Because that's what people who excuse the behavior at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay support.

The only difference between supporters of the war on terrorism and Middle Eastern terrorists is that the terrorists are bound by a single fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, while the Americans have no such overarching moral excuse.

I take it back, there's one more difference: violent radical Muslim terrorists are willing to put their lives on the line for what they believe. Violence loving, torture-enabling Americans prefer that someone else do their dirty work. <<<


Outrageous! Absolutely outrageous!!

I will not comment more because it would go over the line as far as this site's collegiality is concerned. However, I am amazed no one else here has picked up on this. And American liberals wonder why they keep on losing elections.....

Tlaloc said...

"While American forces are on the battlefield in Iraq to thwart the influence of radical Islamists, the West seems to be engaged in a form of preemptive surrender."

Or maybe some in the west have finally managed to internalize the fact that opressing a religion causes it to flourish. What you see as surrender then may be merely disengaging since our engagement has been an enormous boon to radicalized Islam.



"American military leaders were engaged in a thorough examination of allegations about urine splattered Korans in the Guantanamo Bay prison."

And that's bad how?



"There is scarcely a Western leader – I cannot think of one – who has been critical of Islam’s violent Koranic characteristics."

Islam is absolutely no more violent than Christianity. Both call for the killing of unbelievers with gruesome regularity. Both have been used to justify atrocities.



"Many American students who don’t know that the American Revolution preceded the French Revolution and wear Che Guevara tee shirts with pride would never consider a disparaging word about Islam."

Just be clear I have exactly the same problems with Islam that I do with Christianity. I don't desire to see Islam become our state religion either. Nor do I think Islam should be protected from ridicule which CHristianity is subject to. Both religion should be treated equally and equally prevented from assuming any real power.

Tlaloc said...

"This comment thread has been ruined by a sub-culture that has taken advantage of our good will, a sub-culture that does not share the values of The Reform Club, and is in fact committed to subverting them."

Subverting them? Just a tad melodramatic don't you think? Yes you've gotten input from people outside your clique. Now tell us again why that's such a monstrous thing...



" About four feet of column space has been clogged, and there will now be no legitimate discussion of Dr. London's central concern, which is not Islamism as much as the West's inability to defend or even define its own foundations."

Since the column space is completely unlimited I fail to see why the use of it for four feet of discussions you don't care for is such a concern.


"I would have enjoyed that discussion."

Then by all means try to have it, but if the marketplace of ideas doesn't happen to want to buy what you are selling there's no point blaming "subversives."

Tlaloc said...

"Outrageous! Absolutely outrageous!!
I will not comment more because it would go over the line as far as this site's collegiality is concerned."

Rather than being outraged why not see if you can logically dispute the argument. The emotional response may be gratifying but it proves nothing.

James Elliott said...

Evanston et al.,

I will do my best to address the topic within the parameters as defined here, the better to not be dismissed by being "off-topic." I do not believe that Tlaloc and I were off-topic, however, because the crux of Dr. London's post relies upon the assumption of Islam being a violent religion who must be opposed in a Fukuyama-esque "clash of civilizations." For his thesis to stand, this base assumption must also stand. Evanston tacitly endorses such a position in his last post, making no delineation between the hundreds of millions of Muslims not in conflict with our country and the hardline few that are. Were his and Dr. London's contention true, we would see a massive army of radical Muslims spreading their ire, and I'm pretty sure we're not looking down the barrels of 400 million AK-47s. But I digress; on to Evanston's substantive questions...

Connie suggests that if we "'infiltrate' Islamic nations with western ideas and improve quality of life, the safer we become."

This is an interesting point. It is precisely globalization that enrages fundamentalist Muslims so, because what they fear most is the end of their traditional consevative culture. They see U.S. popular culture as a diluting force for their own traditions. And it is, slowly but surely. This is one of the few areas where I think the marketplace serves a purpose, and you will see the flow of ideas slowly change the Arab marketplace of thought. Part of the difficulty we face now is that we are caught in the crossfire of the forces for change and the conservatives within Arab culture. This is where disengagement plays a role: Without the complications of political and military involvement, I would surmise that globalization will do most of the work for us, as Arab culture slowly changes from the inside (which is the only way to actually affect nation-change) into a modern, enlightened society grounded in the regions unique and wonderful cultures.

BTW, "orgasm fests?" I don't know what academia you read, but if you could forward me a few copies...

So tlaloc, exactly how do you propose that Americans exercise their rights without antagonizing Islam?

You would first have to demonstrate where such a clash occurs. Islam itself is a broad swath of people, and we are in conflict (at least the one Dr. London was addressing) with a hardline fundamentalist sub-group, not Islam.

Notice how tlaloc has no problem making sure the US military respects Korans when he also states that "Nor do I think Islam should be protected from ridicule which CHristianity is subject to."

Now, I'm not speaking for Tlaloc, but I'd like to address this. Speaking for myself, I view this as a completely consistent position. Say we were at war with Venezuela. As a devoutly Catholic country, taking a leak on the Bible would have much the same effect as doing so to a Koran would to a Muslim. I would, and I dare to venture that Tlaloc would as well, view that as reprehensible. Since Islam is no more and no less important or valid than Christianity, Islam should be accorded the same level of respect and derision. And therein lies the point: If we were at war with Venezuela, interrogators would not toss the Bible in the toilet, even though it would have the same effect as observed on Muslims. It thus becomes a tactic because of a broad-brush discriminatory practice (i.e. racism), which should be stamped out before it takes root.

James, how do you propose dealing with Islam, not only its overt terrorism but its internal Sharia practices that attack most "progressive" civil rights?

I would point you to the example of Muslim countries like Turkey or Malaysia, with their successful secular governments. Sharia is not the result of Islam. The Koran enshrines democracy and a woman's right to vote. It is an amazing book. Sharia is an Arab tradition rooted in Bedouin culture, interpreted through Islam after the spread of that religion. The oppression of women is a root problem in all cultures, even the more progressive Western nations. Sharia is also not specific to women, but has further roots in the inability of Arab culture to delineate a proper political culture separate from Islam, thus relying upon a mix of tribal and religious authority for all legal matters. So, the answer here is to see the above paragraph on globalization.

Connie, since "Islam isn't inherently evil" but you "believe the evil is in people who misuse it" then how do we figure out who is "misusing" and what do we DO about them?

Again, Evanston, you’re buying into the idea that Islam is “the enemy.” Islam has, say, a billion adherents (that’s a nice, safe, rounded number). Assuming, for the sake of argument, a typical demographic female-male split, it’d be around, what 52-48%, something like that? Now, for Islam itself to be the source of violent upheaval, we’d be seeing something like 300-400 million fighting age Muslim men and boys willing to take up arms against the West. I haven’t seen our 150,000 troops drowning in a morass of bodies willing to sacrifice their lives, have you? Your question needn’t be answered because it proceeds from a wholly erroneous premise. To take your question seriously, one could just as easily ask what to do about militant anti-choice fundamentalist Christians who advocate the assassination of doctors and the bombings of health clinics. You marginalize them, and one of the best ways the U.S. can do that is to de-legitimize their claims (i.e. not invading a Muslim nation, not abusing the crap out of innocent or even guilty Muslims, and so on).

American conservatives have recognized the Islamic threat and took action but secular liberals have been content to sit back and criticize and never offer specifics.

You’re asking people not in power for ideas? There’s a novel thought. Ever thought of sharing it with your Congressional representatives and senators?

In France and elsewhere, the "intelligentsia" are now being forced by Islam to do something.

This is completely ignorant of the actual pressures occurring in France and other European nations. The pressures in those countries are roughly analogous to this country’s debate about immigration from Latin America, legal or illegal. France maintains a proudly secular culture, far more so than the United States. What you are referring to has been brewing in France since they left Algeria. The Maghrebin culture in that country is roughly analogous to inner-city minorities in ours. It is a racial and socioeconomic conflict, not a religious one. It just so happens to involve ethnicities that are also Muslim. The same conflicts occur in Germany with its minority population of secular Turks, or in England with not just its Arab and Palestinian population but with its Asian Indian (and predominantly Hindu) population as well.

Tlaloc said...

"So tlaloc, exactly how do you propose that Americans exercise their rights without antagonizing Islam?"

Hrrrm, I missed this question until JE quoted it above, apologies to whomever posted it. I'll address it now.

Read OBL's manifesto that explains his grievances aginst the US. You know what the scary thing is? Despite what a fundamentalist psycho Bin Laden is what he wants is actually quite reasonable. He wants the US out of "the Holy Land" (Saudi Arabia literally but probably all the middle east really) and he wants us to stop supporting Israel.

That's the vast majority of why he hates us. Or at least that's the vast majority of the argument he's successfully sold to Arabs for why they should hate us.

So we have to ask, can we take our troops out of the middle east? Of course we can. The only reason to have troops there is because of the geopolitical value of the oil fields but if by stationing troops there we actually encourage disruptions to that geopolitical interest then we are far better off pulling out.

Can we stop supporting Israel? Of course. It's disgusting that we give so much money to a first world nation that we suspect or know has violated the conditions we put on it's use (I can direct you to the congressional research reports on the subject if you like).

There's two easy things that would save us money and severely undercut organizations like Al Qaeda. Sure they'd crow about how they faced down the imperial west. Who cares? When it comes pledge time they'll find precious few who feel enough resentment against the west to sacrifice money or blood.

The next generation of Arabs will wonder why their parents are so worked up about the US. The generation after that wouldn't even give us a second thought. I'm talking peace between the west and the middle east in 40 years. Thats something the military option will never see short of outright genocide.

James Elliott said...

"Outrageous! Absolutely outrageous!!
I will not comment more because it would go over the line as far as this site's collegiality is concerned."


tbmbuzz, if you can poke a hole in my comment that's at all rational or cogent, please, by all means do so. See, that's what liberalism encourages: I have to defend and evolve my argument or let it go as poorly-thought out and possibly untrue. So, you know, have at it, if you can, and if I can't refute an argument that doesn't revolve around purely emotional and subjective thought, I'll cry uncle.

connie deady said...

It's easy to slam Christians and accuse conservatives of simply backing the "nuke 'em" option, but do Connie, James and tlaloc recognize that most of our popular culture is more likely to antagonize (rather than "infiltrate") muslims?

Yes, I recognize that. Personally I hate our popular culture. I'd much rather infiltrate them in better ways. But ideas and the free market are powerful persuaders.

Color me crazy, but I firmly believe that the best way to deal with isolated, ignorant haters is to have them become familiar with you and recognize that you are not so bad. We as humans have more in common that is good, than is bad. We only need to recognize our commonalities. I don't think that Islamics and Christians are completely incompatible. They share many common values.

Color me a hopelessly naive idealist. But I prefer it to blowing up the world or living in an era of fear where I have to pass through metal detectors or be searched before I go into a public place.

James Elliott said...

The only reason to have troops there is because of the geopolitical value of the oil fields but if by stationing troops there we actually encourage disruptions to that geopolitical interest then we are far better off pulling out.

This brings us to another excellent "liberal" tactic: Alternative fuel and energy policy. The violence of which we speak here is in large part a confluence of traditional Arab/Bedouin culture crashing against modernization, with a healthy dash of religious distortion and historical ill-will. The only reason the Arabs are even important to our nation's geopolitical interests is the oil. We wouldn't have given a hoot about Afghanistan if bin Laden hadn't been holed up there, for example.

So, the best way to remove the impact the upheaval of Arab culture has on us is to remove the importance of the region to our interests. That means pursuing other energy sources. If our economy wasn't fueled by a substance so prevalent in the Middle East, the Middle East would be another Africa - a lot of hand-wringing and a whole lot of inaction.

This isn't a battle for civilization and the very survival of the West. If we weren't there, the fundamentalist radicals would have a hard time getting people to care, because they would be increasingly marginalized. As Tlaloc pointed out, in forty years, the youngsters would wonder what all the fuss was about.

James Elliott said...

The news out of Paris is quite shocking...

Um, the riots in Paris are about two boys dying because the government didn't live up to its promise to secure dangerous run-down areas, like power stations. Yes, they were hiding from the police, but the power station in question was a known hazard that the community had complained about for a long time.

Don't know why I didn't catch this before.