Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Going wobbly on Modernity and the West

There is a divide within our own little blogging community that mirrors a larger divide in that meta-entity that we like to call the "West" over our responses to the provocations of those who would represent Islam to the West. Peter Burnet sums up one side of the argument like this:
Congratulations Skipper/Harry, you have successfully used all that formidable brainpower to completely dehumanize the "other". It's a great 20th century tradition that keeps life from becoming too subtle or boring. No need to trouble ourselves with difficult strategic and intercultural issues anymore, or to judge and question ourselves. Tyrannical regimes and the people they tyrannize are now one and the same and equally guilty. And they are bad Muslims to boot, so let's just roll!

Harry's response:
Not dehumanize, humanize.

If what you call bad Muslims and I call good Muslims stopped patronizing the aggressive imams, stopped bowing at the Saudi-financed mosques, stopped giving a nod and a wink to the Muslims peddlng the Secret Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, things would settle down quickly enough.
...
Besides, as Skipper says so often, is is not ought. Whether the infidels ought to lash out and heap up hecatombs of Muslims once (some) Muslims have succeeded in their drive to inflict insufferable pain on the infidels or not is irrelevant. They will.


To Harry's point, I don't think it dehumanizes the Islamic societies in Africa and Asia to point out that a large portion of them have sided with their culture in an existential battle against the Great Satan of the West. They have made a very human choice in the clash of civilizations. I'd say that recognizing their opposition as such, and recognizing their declared status with respect to us as our enemy is to accord them the dignity of recognizing their choice as creatures of free will. To somehow deny them this existential act of self definition, of moral commitment is in itself a form of dehumanization.

This question is further developed in a long and rambling essay by Michael Vlahos in the American Conservative titled "The Fall of Modernity: Has the American narrative authored its own undoing?":
We are losing our wars in the Muslim world because our vision of history is at odds with reality. This is a well-established condition of successful societies, a condition that inevitably grows more worrisome with time and continuing success. In fact, what empires have most in common is how their sacred narratives come to rule their strategic behavior—and rule it badly. In America’s case, our war narrative works against us to promote our deepest fear: the end of modernity.
...
Does it matter whether we pursue grand drama for wholly narcissistic reasons, as long as we win? What if we don’t? Failure might lead to the collapse of friendly tyrannies like Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia or even to economic crisis and an expansion of the war. Longstanding alliances could come apart. But even then our military power, our vast economy, and the strength of the American people would still be intact. Strategic recovery should still be possible. The old narrative might be in tatters, but that might turn out to be a good thing because we could then build a more modest national story.

Such recovery is foreclosed, however, in a script of civilization and its enemies. Not only did American leaders go for the existential War of History instead of dealing with reality, they chose the worst possible dramatic vehicle for restaging the national passion play. For what we are experiencing is no war of civilizations. It is not even a war.
...
First, the American war narrative rejects modernity’s future constituents: its message is that we are foreclosing on them. We do this knowing that American modernity cannot long survive repossessing its promise of a universal vision for humankind.

Second, American modernity loses authority because our war promotes alternative and resistant communities. Demonizing them elevates them, and their new stature creates competing alternatives to modernity.

Third, the American war narrative shows modernity helpless in its own defense. Military failure becomes a literal stripping of our world authority, actually pushing the global future away from us.

Here Vlahos makes the same mistake I believe that Peter does, that we've declared the whole swath of the Islamic "resistance community" irredeemable and have set ourselves the task of destroying them. I think, rather, that we're in a struggle to redeem them by destroying the forces that keep them mired in the anti-modern past.

Vlahos is doubly wrong to say that we lose authority by exercising authority. It's the other way around. The real authority of the American/Western project is the irresistible lure of modernity. The mullahs aren't reacting against unveiled women cavorting in the streets of New York City, but to unveiled women in the streets of Teheran and Islamabad and Cairo. To take no side in their war against modernity does not enhance our authority, but betrays it.

Thirdly, Vlahos is out to lunch in suggesting that we are failing militarily, and that that is undermining the whole modernity project. Which side hides in caves?
“The Promise of American Life” flung out to the world was to be a future of universal human redemption and transcendence. Americans might argue bitterly over how to achieve this, but before the war there was no argument over the desirability of the goal.

Now two-thirds of humanity is moving away from us and from our vision of one world. While sleek Tom Friedman rhapsodizes new Silicon Valleys like Bangalore, in Planet of Slums Mike Davis writes, “Half of Bangalore’s population lacks piped water, much less cappuccino, and there are more ragpickers and street children (90,000) than software geeks (about 60,000). In an archipelago of 10 slums, researchers found only 19 latrines for 102,000 residents.”3

Universal integration is no longer the human prospect but a black split between “us” and a “surplus humanity.” Globalization has become the privilege of those lucky few billions in the formal labor market. But what about the other half on their way to becoming the other two-thirds? What happens to our universal redemptive narrative in a world where modernity ends forever at 40 percent of humanity?

This is outright rubbish. If it were so then we wouldn't be fighting the war in Iraq as we are, cultivating allies among the local population and trying to separate them from the lure of tribal warlords and Al-Quaeda recruiters. Which side is building schools and which side is mining them with explosives? If we were truly at war with the surplus 40%, then our task would be a lot easier. We could fight our battles from the strategic war rooms of the Pentagon and wouldn't be putting Guardsmen at risk in Baghdad.
This story has remarkable implications for alternative communities. Our Islamofascist branding makes every movement of Muslim resistance an attack on us. Yet most resistance instead speaks to local yearnings. By seeing an enemy of civilization in every Muslim non-state actor, we unthinkingly widen the struggle. Alternative communities are indelible in the “evil” world landscape painted by the global war on terrorism—the ongoing metamorphosis of the global other into the Mordor of our imagination.

Then there are meta-communities of piety. Modernity’s greatest failure is spiritual—neon-lit in Europe, where old piety has crashed and burned. But among the global other scorched by modernity’s “creative destruction,” it is not that people have abandoned piety but that it has abandoned them. In globalization’s mixing bowl, the meditative power of old ethos has been lost. Yet American modernity offers nothing to take its place: just ask an Afghani or an Iraqi.

If piety means stoning a 14 year old girl to death, then it's not something that this world should suffer to exist. But I think that Vlahos once again has things backward. American modernity offers a very attractive alternative to this piety. People are rejecting the old piety for modernity, and that is the crux of the struggle. Vlahos has accomplished quite a dubious distinction in coining a euphemism for terrorists more despicable than "freedom fighter": "community of resistance".
A great nation continues to marshal its collective power, but it will face a changed world. There will still be grand nations like China, India, and others. The United States survives, in material terms greater than ever. But its war narrative has helped to birth a changed world and to cast off its claim to the universal. There will also be a weltering of new human combinations and re-combinations.

The subsiding of modernity may be liberating. Freed from the world center, we might find a safer place to survey an evolving humanity. No longer the object of all attack, we might productively rethink our national purpose. Old modernity’s institutions and practices will be folded into, and thus partly lost within, a new world-cultural mix. This may not be our preferred outcome. But losing our claim to the universal opens the way to new realities. We might take comfort that American modernity will be a part of them.

We might take comfort too in being history’s greatest midwife to change, if also to our own undoing.

I can't imagine a more cowardly stance than Vlahos' expectant wish to let modernity fade away for lack of will to fight for it, nor a more delusional one. Does he seriously think that the abdication of American will in foreign affairs will make the world safer? Does he think it will benefit those pious "resistance communities" to have the yolk of America's restricting power suddenly lifted? He may be right that it will benefit the pious. We'll see the outbreak of many a pious religious war among the left-out 40%, which will no doubt spread to many of the 60%.

Can an attitude that is so recklessly dismissive of one of the greatest accomplishments of civilization, modernity, be called conservative? How is it that we have gotten so wobbly about our values in the face of nihilistic obscurantism?

Update: Here is a link to a very illuminating podcast interview of Dr. David Kilcullen, the Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser to Gen. Petraeus by Austin Bay. Kilcullen makes reference to Vlahos' idea of competing civilizational narratives and demonstrates with examples how it is used by Al Quaeda to infiltrate communities in Iraq and how the coalition forces counterinsurgency effort is using competing narratives as a way to negate Al Quaeda's influence with those communities. The picture that Kilcullen paints of Al Quaeda's operations in Iraq should put paid to Vlahos' depiction of insurgent activity there as some kind rustic, hoary, authentic movement to piety in reaction to the empty cultural baggage of modernity.

95 Comments:

Blogger Brit said...

Duck, I disagree with your opening sentence.

There is a divide within our own little blogging community that mirrors a larger divide in that meta-entity that we like to call the "West" over our responses to the provocations of those who would represent Islam to the West.

That's not the divide here. The divide is over whether all Muslims, wherever they live, should be treated with fear and suspicion because of their religion.

June 20, 2007 2:09 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Forgive me if I didn't capture the exact nuance of the dabate between you, but I think that the statement is largely correct, because both the Islamists and the peaceful, moderate Muslims want to represent their expression of Islam as the correct one. I think that some general suspicion of Muslims is warranted until, to borrow a phrase from the movie Meet the Parents, they earn their way into the western family circle of trust.

Suspicion isn't a hate crime, and doesn't justify hate crimes, but it is a very natural response to cultural conflicts like the one we are currently in. The widespread response to the knighthood of Salman Rushdie, or the poll that showed one quarter of US Muslims think suicide bombing of innocents is justified shows that a general suspicion is justified.

June 20, 2007 5:49 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

My, my, where to start? How about by putting these three quotes from your thoughts together:

a large portion of them have sided with their culture in an existential battle against the Great Satan of the West. They have made a very human choice in the clash of civilizations. I'd say that recognizing their opposition as such, and recognizing their declared status with respect to us as our enemy is to accord them the dignity of recognizing their choice as creatures of free will.

I think, rather, that we're in a struggle to redeem them by destroying the forces that keep them mired in the anti-modern past.

The real authority of the American/Western project is the irresistible lure of modernity.

OK, so we stand for an irresistible force that they are driving us crazy by resisting in large numbers as a exercise of their free will, so we're going destroy, not them hopefully, but the "forces" that "keep" them "mired" in the past and unable to choose freely? That's some free will and some irresistable force.

Still, it all sounds very familiar to any student of historical relations between Christians and Jews in Europe. You know Duck, I'm having trouble figuring out whether the destruction of Islam and its one billion adherents is a war aim directed against people who have chosen their evil fate freely or unfortunate collateral damage against innocent victims. Both at the same time, it appears. Either way, it looks pretty bleak for them, doesn't it?

It's been six years since 9/11, the world is obviously safer, at least from threats from Muslimland, and there have been hardly any attacks on U.S. soil or facilities and only a few elsewhere in the West. Yet your yearning for Armageddon seems to be growing. Are you bored?

As to your rather insulting equating of those who decline to join in the bigotry with wobbly appeasers, may I remind you there is a real, dangerous, immediate threat from Iran the West is fumbling badly? Part of this is indeed because of appeasers on the left, but Duckians who think the real priority is how to rid ourselves of Good Bad Muslims and Bad Good Muslims from places like Tunisia and Indonesia aren't helping much.

June 20, 2007 6:33 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

You're quite wrong, Duck.

Muslims have been living happily with 'us' for many years. Muslims are us. Harry thinks it trivial and irrelevant that the last captain of the England cricket team was a 'bad' Muslim. It's not - it just doesn't fit with the Islamophobic stereotype that has only come into circulation since 9/11.

Muslim communities and Muslim countries are our greatest allies in the fight against Islamism.

Your "some general suspicion of Muslims is warranted until...they earn their way into the western family circle of trust" ultimately reduces, in practical terms, to "Muslims should be ostracised and dehumanised until they stop going to the Mosque and wearing funny clothes."

June 20, 2007 6:48 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Where are you getting this Armageddon stuff from? You didn't read me closely enough.

"If we were truly at war with the surplus 40%, then our task would be a lot easier. We could fight our battles from the strategic war rooms of the Pentagon and wouldn't be putting Guardsmen at risk in Baghdad."

It's somewhere between Armageddon and a denial that we have nothing to fear from Islam because it is a "religion of peace".

Your excellent rhetorical skills are in evidence by the contradictions you've found in my text. Of course modernity is resistible, that's why we're seeing resistance from the likes of Al Quaeda. In that sense the use of the word is hyperbole. Call it a powerful attractive force. A force that is destabilizing the existing socio-political paradigms of the Muslim world by affording a choice between them and modernity. A choice that the inhabitants of that world are forced to make, either for or against.

Sorry if I implied that your and Vlahos' arguments were the same. I took the existing debate as a jumping off point into Vlahos' essay.

June 20, 2007 7:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Muslim communities and Muslim countries are our greatest allies in the fight against Islamism.

Not to mention its greatest victims.

June 20, 2007 7:40 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Your "some general suspicion of Muslims is warranted until...they earn their way into the western family circle of trust" ultimately reduces, in practical terms, to "Muslims should be ostracised and dehumanised until they stop going to the Mosque and wearing funny clothes."

No it doesn't. They don't have to stop being Muslims, they have to become Westerners. General suspicion doesn't mean that individual Muslims aren't allowed into the "circle of trust", it just means that they aren't granted trust en-masse. Neither does suspicion equate to ostracism and dehumanization. We know that radicalized Muslims are emigrating to the West. That is a fact. We know that there are Al Quaeda cells in the US and in Britain. Suspicion is prudence. Your Westernized Muslim friends shouldn't take offense at that suspicion, they should share it.

June 20, 2007 9:20 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Trust, but verify.

June 20, 2007 9:43 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

You have to forget a lot to make an argument that Muslim communities, as such, are nothing to worry about, or that the trope of Muslim danger emerged only after 9/11.

Or, what has not been raised here but is raised all the time (including by Sen. Feinstein yesterday in her questioning of the CIA lawyer), that they are just reacting against American atrocities.

Remember the Saudi-financed coup against the government of Trinidad-Tobago in 1990?

Try shoehorning that into your 'Move along, folks, nothing to see' narrative.

(My wife worked with a Trinidadian Hindu. Trinidadian Hindus are one of the smallest, most inoffensive groups you will find anywhere. They play cricket, too.

(Their views of Muslims are not quite so rosy as Brit's.)

++++

'Not to mention its greatest victims.'

Yes, exactly.

I have several times, when demanding (or even asking politely) why moderate Muslims do not speak out against the hijacking of their religion of peace, gotten a reply along this line: 'Why do we have to respond to you every time some idiot, who is not associated with us in any way, does something bad under color of Islam?'

They're not getting it. The reaction called for is not for my benefit but for their own, so that they may recognize each other as meaningful members of the ulama and gain strength to resist forces that are taking their religion down a wrong path.

If it has the extra benefit of allowing revengers like me to separate the sheep from the goats once the real war breaks out, all the better for them, you'd think.

Believe me, I am aware of the irony of my calling for people to be better (insert name of religion here).

June 20, 2007 9:45 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Duck:

I can't see why any non-Muslim should accord the tiniest respect to the religion itself, or a significant minority of its believers.

As for the rest, they simply aren't Good Muslims, although they do provide, advertantly or not, cover for those who are.

Because someone is Muslim means that someone should want to kill you; a lack of desire can only be attributed to Q'uranic ignorance, or a lack of faith.

Skipper, June 18th, 2007

Now, are we going to give those words their ordinary meanings and follow where they lead or not? It seems the assignment for the stalwart is to kill pre-emptorily the lethal Good Muslims and collectively ostracize and heap mistrust and contempt on the non-lethal Bad ones. Reserving to we clever folks, of course, the task of telling the difference. I pass.

June 20, 2007 10:10 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

You'll have to get Skipper to answer questions related to his thoughts. I don't agree with him on the idea that the moderate Christians and Muslims provide cover for the extreme ones. And I don't care to judge how good/bad a Muslim is with regard to his faith. I am, however, willing to make judgments of individuals as to how good or bad they are with regard to our values, Western values. I'm no relativist with regard to those.

June 20, 2007 10:25 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I'm having trouble figuring out whether the destruction of Islam and its one billion adherents is a war aim directed against people who have chosen their evil fate freely or unfortunate collateral damage against innocent victims...
Either way, it looks pretty bleak for them, doesn't it?

Yes, the future looks extremely bleak for them, but not due to any directed action by the advanced societies.

Roughly half of all Muslims are Arabs and Persians, and for the most part those groups seem pretty happy being dysfunctional and actively taking steps which will cause them to be completely devastated in the near future - certainly by 2050, when the Middle East is very likely to be entirely dependent on food aid from the advanced nations for basic survival.

So the advanced nations can simply wait out Islam, and that's also the overwhelmingly preferred course by the populations of advanced societies.

The question is whether the Islamofascists will let us be so disengaged, as their world continues to implode.

June 20, 2007 11:44 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

You're also utterly wrong on the 'wobbling', Duck.

Screw 'modernism'. I don't side with western liberalism because of Nike trainers and hamburger joints. The things I like are such things as freedom of conscience and speech, the rule of law, innocent until proven guilty and the refusal to hassle minorities because they dress funny.

But look at you guys. Your immediate, craven response to a group that apparently doesn't share these views is to ditch them yourselves. So much for believing in anything. The moment the Fear and Loathing machine is cranked up you absolutely can't wait to bring in the surveillance cameras, alert the thought police, ditch habeus corpus and herd the Other into the concentration camps. You're the wobblers.

June 21, 2007 1:14 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Fear and Loathing? You remind me of Flew's reply to the secular humanists who objected when Reagan called the USSR an evil empire.

He said, are you saying it is not evil or not an empire?

I think the fear part is pretty much nailed down.

As for loathing, I've got a laundry list. Dressing funny isn't on it.

Hanging 16-year-old girls from cranes is.

Murdering girls who get raped by their brothers makes the list.

Murdering Jews. Oh yeah, let's find room for that one.

Crittenden linked to a site earlier this week that, if reliable, was telling.

In Gaza, Hamas men were about to execute (with as much rule of law as anybody's ever likely to get in that neighborhood) a Fatah man.

Ever since Homer, we've thought that soldiers about to die call for their mothers. Not Fatah men.

This one purportedly said, 'Why are you killing me? I'm not a Jew.'

The voice of moderate Islam, so we're told.

Deconstruct that.

June 21, 2007 1:26 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Irrelevant to my argument. You've listed criminal activities (and a few bits of hysterical hate propaganda). Anyone who performed such activities in Britain should be punished, and I'm firmly opposed to any foreign regime that commits such atrocities.

But British people should not be punished because they share a religion with such criminals or regimes. Judge them by their actions, as you keep telling me to do, but failing to do yourself.

By the way, I've no doubt that in another thread, you would have come up with a similar list for Christians. And we could easily do it for secular states.

June 21, 2007 2:06 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Brit,
You're wildly misrepresenting my argument. You've mentioned those aspects of modernity that I do want to defend: freedom of conscience and speech, the rule of law, innocent until proven guilty. Noone's mentioned dispensing with these, and as to why you jump to extreme assumptions like these because I mention that we are justified in having a general susipicion of Islam is beyond me.

I'm getting the feeling that your argument comes down to political correctness. You are so worried about anti-Muslim hysteria that you want to deny that there is any connection whatsoever between the content of Islamic beliefs as popularly taught in Muslim countries, and the behaviors that Muslim immigrants to the West may adopt. Any mention that there is the slightest chance that these immigrants will have the slightest difficulty in conforming to western secular democratic values when they get here is cause for accusations of wanting to round them up and put them in concentration camps. You can do better than that.

Muslims aren't being rounded up in the west. For the most part they are not being harassed either, unless you consider it harassment that they submit to secular law and not Sharia law. Many of them don't wish to do so.

I don't know why you are so resistant to the idea that trust must be earned.

June 21, 2007 2:55 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

I'm arguing against the merry Duckian promotion of a Phobia.

June 21, 2007 3:18 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Phobias don't destroy skyscrapers or blow up trains.

June 21, 2007 3:30 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Of course they do.

Peter above hints at something I've been suspecting.

Al-Qaeda haven't done anything for a while, have they? Half a decade since 9/11. You guys are getting itchy waiting for the Clash of Civilisations.

June 21, 2007 3:40 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Al-Qaeda haven't done anything for a while, have they?

I'm sure that has nothing to do with the war we're waging against them in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So Brit, are you ok with this? Or shouldn't I be reading the Telegraph. Is that one of those low brow papers?

June 21, 2007 3:50 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Brilliant, Duck, you've really got me there. You used Google and found a newspaper article from last November that might support your prejudices. Run for the hills.

You're only confirming my worst fears here.

June 21, 2007 4:17 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Another thing, Brit. How do you square your anti-phobist position vis a vis Islam with your admiration for Richard Dawkins, who is one of the biggest fearmongers of religion out there?

June 21, 2007 4:18 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Brilliant, Brit! You avoided answering the question.

June 21, 2007 4:20 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Duck, if you are looking for evidence of threats to civilization as we know it, you will have to do a lot better than that article. Are you aware that if you and I have a legal dispute and decide to settle it under ancient Summarian law, we are perfectly entitled to do so? It's called freedom. There isn't a thing in that article about coercion.

But freedom is not a word I'm hearing around here much. What I'm hearing about is something called "modernity", which seems to describe an inevitable and irresistible pathway to a wonderful future that is paradoxically so fragile it can't bear a world where every person on the planet doesn't embrace it wholeheartedly. Does this capture the spirit of your new faith? You certainly seem to be more preoccupied with altering mindsets than securing any objective standards of government and social order.

June 21, 2007 4:43 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I think you royal subjects are becoming America-phobic.

Peter, how much freedom do you think a young Muslim woman is exercising when she "chooses" to have her disputes against her abusive husband adjuticated by Sharia law? You can't maintain a civil society using multiple, competing systems of law. You have to acculturate immigrants to the national system of justice, there is no option unless you want to become a Yugoslavia.

Early Sicilian immigrants to the US had their own traditional modes of adjudicating disputes as well. Should we have let them practice it?

Freedom that is not under the law is not freedom, but anarchy.

June 21, 2007 4:59 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Since when did I admire Dawkins's views on religion? Dawkins doesn't understand humans any better than Harry (although his project is actually somewhat different and not quite the lunacy that his enemies portray.)

However, those subtleties are scarcely worth going into when you fail to grasp the great big clunking point at issue here.

There is a difference between being anti-Islamism (which I am), and Islamophobic (which I am not).

When I point this out, and stress the importance of not carelessly slipping from one to the other, you have this astonishing habit of nodding in agreement, and then coming out with a piece of 'evidence' (generally some Islamist atrocity or newspaper survey statistic) and saying that therefore we need to wary of Muslims. Thus endlessly falling into the same trap you pretend to be able to avoid.

June 21, 2007 5:29 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

It's not a trap. These Somalis may be well meaning in wanting to carry the judicial system they know with them to England, but the English would be foolish to let them do it.

I don't know what it would take to make it past your phobia filter, other than to say "we have nothing to fear from Islam, Islam is a religion of peace and anyone who questions that is mentally ill". But I really don't need to, since I'm not afraid to admit to fear. I am not a phobophobe. Fear is a useful thing.

I'm sure that many Muslims will emigrate to the west and adapt to western values just fine, eventually. But I'm also sure that there will be a significant minority that won't. And accomodating the demands of the few because of islaomophobophobia, or the fear of being labeled an islamophobe, is foolish and a betrayal of western values.

June 21, 2007 6:24 AM  
Blogger David said...

I find that I'm having a hard time approaching this discussion, and I think I've figured out why. The idea that Islam presents an existential threat to the West (assuming, for the moment, that we can sensibly speak of the "West" as a parallel to "Islam," which it isn't) is completely unreal. Certain Muslims can and have killed a bunch of "us," but except in the fantasies they share with some of their enemies, they pose no threat to our institutions at all.

Second, what is this "West" we're so desperate to preserve, why is it so fragile and what's the point of preserving it if it's so fragile? There's a certain poignancy to Duck's statement that, in order to preserve the presumption of innocence, we need to be suspicious of "Islam," which here is obviously just a marker Duck uses to avoid saying "Muslims" since the irony of that statement ("we have to preserve the presumption of innocence by suspecting Muslims") would just be too sharp to avoid.

The irony becomes somewhat blunter when we come to freedom of conscience, which has to be at the top of any list of the West's signal achievements and defining characteristics. "In order to preserve freedom of conscience, we need to stamp out Islam" isn't even poignant.

Another important feature of Western thought -- and I assume that by "the West" we all mean Western thought, not skyscrapers -- is that when reality and theory disagree, reality wins. (Although G-d knows we honor that one more in the breach than the observance.) There are a billion Muslims, of whom maybe 100,000 belong to organizations that are attacking the West. We can say all we want that those who refuse to denounce the Islamists are enablers who are equally to blame, but that's (I was going to say "nuts", but that's wrong. It's) unWestern. I do note that, since 9/11, CAIR has lost almost all its membership.

All this without even noting that, as Brit has repeatedly said, Muslims can self-evidently comfortably live in Western civilization. They do it every day. They are, every bit as much as any of us, Westerners. Just on a practical level, it would be a huge waste of resources to be suspicious of every Muslim we come across.

And while we're at it, it's worth noting that the next idea killed by a bullet will be the first.

I'm all for stopping people from killing us. I regret, but accept the collateral damage involved in killing our enemies before they kill us. If I thought that our defining institutions were in jeopardy, I'd be as ruthless as any of you. But that's not even remotely where we are.

June 21, 2007 6:36 AM  
Blogger David said...

Oh, and the whole Sharia in the West thing is overblown. Most of it is done by contract and is no different than choosing any other arbitrator operating under a particular set of rules. Jews have been doing this for decades if not centuries in the US without anyone complaining. But, more importantly, if the ideas that are the West aren't supported by Westerners, what exactly is the point? Don't blame Islam just because it makes manifest our lack of self-confidence.

June 21, 2007 6:39 AM  
Blogger David said...

And, as I keep mentioning, the unreality of this whole discussion is underlined by the fact that we've killed a lot more of them than they've killed of us.

June 21, 2007 6:41 AM  
Blogger David said...

Of course, they've killed a lot more of them than either they've killed of us or we've killed of them.

June 21, 2007 6:41 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

There's a certain poignancy to Duck's statement that, in order to preserve the presumption of innocence, we need to be suspicious of "Islam," which here is obviously just a marker Duck uses to avoid saying "Muslims" since the irony of that statement ("we have to preserve the presumption of innocence by suspecting Muslims") would just be too sharp to avoid.

I think the lot of you need to go back to remedial reading school. Since when does suspicion equate to the suspension of presumed innocence until proven guilty? You would be equally false in saying that an individual choosing to vote for someone based on their religious views equates to the suspension of the constitutional guarantee against religious tests for office.

I'm so awed to be amongst people who have cleansed their souls of all fears and suspicions of others. I am unworthy to converse with such living saints.

David, your absolute confidence in the institutions of the West is admirable, but do you think that those institutions have survived because of the suppression of all fears regarding external and internal threats to those institutions? Is this an example of imagineering?

June 21, 2007 6:56 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

And another thing. What's with all the serial commenting?

June 21, 2007 6:56 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Brit

Here's where you express your admiration for Dawkins.

June 21, 2007 7:01 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

You guys are getting itchy waiting for the Clash of Civilisations.

It would indeed be "itchy" to wait for the Clash, since in its latest incarnation it's been ongoing for about seventy years, (longer than anyone engaged in this discussion has been alive), and will likely continue for another forty years or so.

In the meta sense, the Clash began around 1375 years ago, in 632 A.D., and they've been losing for about 1275 years, since Charles "the Hammer" Martel and the Battle of Tours in 732 - and it's still going to end, even in the meta, over the next forty years.

They were moribund and withering away before petroleum came into universal use, but the petro respite is temporary, and they've so far squandered the opportunity to make permanent and positive changes with the windfall.

[T]he unreality of this whole discussion is underlined by the fact that we've killed a lot more of them than they've killed of us.

This thread started as an offshoot of the "Jesus" thread, in which the question was raised, "how many of them will we have to kill before they stop killing any of us ?"

Until they are willing to leave us alone, the kill ratios aren't high enough. They don't yet feel the pain.

In Vietnam, American forces had kill ratios of 20:1, but in the end, Saigon fell.

June 21, 2007 7:25 AM  
Blogger David said...

Duck: Far from being overly confident in the institutions of the West, I'm not entirely sure that they exist. "West" is too diffuse a concept. It's not Christendom, it's not NATO, it's not Europe, the US and Canada. Is it democracy and freedom? Is it wealth? As Japan is generally accepted as being part of the West, it's not a useful idea. Personally, I'll fight ruthlessly for the constitution. Of course, saying that we're in a clash of Islam v. the constitution makes clear how silly the whole thing is.

And that's the big point that you entirely miss. I'm not saying that our civilization is impervious to danger. I'm saying that it's not in danger, at least from Islam. I'm much more worried about the Modern Language Association, which is as bitterly opposed to our institutions as the Islamists, but more firmly established within them.

June 21, 2007 8:01 AM  
Blogger David said...

O: Killing people who aren't threatening us does nothing to dissuade those who are threatening us. In this case, it's more the opposite: our enemy thinks that the more innocents we kill, the better off they are. In fact, they're killing more than we're killing.

June 21, 2007 8:03 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I just love the way you fellows cling to the image of the abused Muslim woman to justify your yearnings for Gog vs. Magog, even though you can't point to one of the 500 million of them who would agree with you that religion is the problem and needs to be rooted out. They just don't know their Koran, I guess. The Sharia issue is interesting because it actually undermines you meta-phobes. A few years ago, there was a well-publicized effort in Ontario to train and formalize Sharia courts to handle family law and other (already lawful)arbitrations. Mainstream opinion went all gooey/multicult, but a vocal, well-organized opposition was spearheaded by people who you guys say can't exist by definition---Muslim women standing up for themselves against the imams while proclaiming belief and reverence for their faith. They succeeded in forcing through amendments to the Arbitrations Act that would ensure no woman would be coerced into family law arbitrations and excluded from ordinary courts and that there would be no legal effect to a decision if they were.

Don't you just hate it when meta-clashes get sidetracked by meta-subtleties?

June 21, 2007 8:05 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

"West" is too diffuse a concept.

So is "The Muslim World".

June 21, 2007 8:36 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

It's not a question of being a saint, Duck, it's a question of understanding the concepts.

Your post is based on an idea of "Islam versus the West".

This is meaningless, if the concept of "the West" is to be meaningful. The "West" is a concept that includes, among many other things, a tolerance of Muslims when all they're doing is being Muslims. You can't cut out Islam and think that the "West" continues to exist. All you're left with is geographical states.

June 21, 2007 9:01 AM  
Blogger David said...

In Vietnam, American forces had kill ratios of 20:1, but in the end, Saigon fell.

Which was bad, but not an existential threat to the US. Which is what it means to say that the Islamists are not an existential threat: we can lose this war and yet our country/institutions/culture/civilization will continue to exist.

Which brings up an interesting question: do you guys think that an existential threat is necessary to justify the war?

June 21, 2007 9:06 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Not me. Unlike Orrin, I'm not prepared to shrug and say, well, even if they blow up N.Y., we'll still have Chicago.

We disagree about what the program of Islam is. Yhis is because for the past 300 years, Islam has been dramatically weaker, militarily, than Europe. Up until 1683, no one in Europe would have had any problem understanding that Islam was an existential threat.

And up to 1878, no one in Europe failed to understand that Islam was in fact incompatible with western values. That was why the national/religious movements in the Balkans were regarded as liberating.

You cannot be liberated from a non-oppressor, merely separated.

++++

'Al-Qaeda haven't done anything for a while, have they?'

Aside from burning down schools in Afghanistan, blowing up government buildings in Lahore, murdering tourists in Indonesia, you mean?

I cannot say I am surprised to find an appeaser in England.

Brit's remark is so close to what was said in England between October 1937 and March 1938 that it ain't funny.

Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

Type 'appeasement' into the Amazon.com search engine and read the reviews of recent scholarship on appeasement. I've been saying it's back in style.

Is it ever!

June 21, 2007 9:36 AM  
Blogger David said...

Islam did all that? If it did, then I'm a believer! All the rest of the world's religions need human agency.

June 21, 2007 9:52 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

I cannot say I am surprised to find an appeaser in England.

If you think I'm an 'appeaser' Harry, you'd better not come here. Don't think your poor old ticker would be able to take the shock. Some people even opposed the Iraq invasion don'tcha know.

June 21, 2007 10:54 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

These are some of the things that define the West:

secular, representative government

individual vs group/tribal rights

the rule of law

women and children are not property

no arranged marriages or dowrys

not on the "honor" system

universal education & literacy

private property

weak or nonexistent class system

upward mobility - merit based

religious freedom

achievement vs egalitarian

unfettered academic/scientific institutions

June 21, 2007 12:01 PM  
Blogger David said...

And, of course Harry, the unavoidable implication of your thesis is that Christianity saved western civilization. If it got a little over enthusiastic and also killed some innocents, well, how is that any different from what you propose now?

June 21, 2007 12:03 PM  
Blogger Ali said...

Yeah, if radical Islamists pose a threat anywhere, it's to Muslim societies themselves.

Outside of areas where they can count on a vast, sympathetic population to aid them, they don't rise above the annoyance level and certainly nothing like a serious threat to Western societies which are far richer and militarily stronger. Most of the victims in WoT have been and will continue to be Muslims, not Westerners.

Contemplating the eventuality of using nuclear bombers seems like a overreaction born of hysterics.

Oro: I think you're overly pessimistic about the prospects of Arab\Persian economies. There is serious excess liquidity in capital markets that's likely to last a while yet and is hunting all over the globe for investment opportunities.

There are plenty of those in the ME who are aware of this and the presence of Dubai right in their line of sight is a pretty big signal about what happens if you dump the West-hating BS and shake the invisible hand. I'd expect more economic liberalisation in the years ahead.

June 21, 2007 2:07 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Contemplating the eventuality of using nuclear bombers seems like a overreaction born of hysterics.

The original scenario under which the use of nukes by the advanced nations was mentioned, was if terrorists nuked an American city first.

Were that to come to pass, expecting America to not lash out is, IMO, a sucker bet.

There are plenty of those in the ME who are aware of this and the presence of Dubai...

I'd expect more economic liberalisation in the years ahead.

That is my hope, but not my expectation.

Yes, the ruling elites in every ME nation are very well aware of the dynamics, but for whatever reasons, they have mostly failed to act to secure their futures.

Dubai is so notable because it's a clear exception - they actually are looking beyond the oil. (Maybe because they don't have that much of it).

Susan's Husband postulates that much of the problem with long-term planning in the ME is that the interests of the ruling elites aren't necessarily aligned with the best interests of their nations' populations.

June 21, 2007 7:28 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

I just love the way you fellows cling to the image of the abused Muslim woman to justify your yearnings for Gog vs. Magog, even though you can't point to one of the 500 million of them who would agree with you that religion is the problem and needs to be rooted out.

I can point one out.

They succeeded in forcing through amendments to the Arbitrations Act that would ensure no woman would be coerced into family law arbitrations and excluded from ordinary courts and that there would be no legal effect to a decision if they were.

So the law can't ensure that women aren't coerced into family law arbitration? Well, it's nice to know that the decision wouldn't be legally enforceable, but if the coercion worked, it seems that the woman would also be successfully coerced into not appealing for relief if the family court didn't protect her interests.

I hope I'm not getting too subtle.

June 21, 2007 7:54 PM  
Blogger David said...

O: What do you make of Israel's forbearance.

June 21, 2007 8:04 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'the unavoidable conclusion is that Christianity saved western civilization.'

I can avoid it by judging the Europe wasn't very civilized before the 17th c.

++++

'Contemplating the eventuality of using nuclear bombers seems like a overreaction born of hysterics.'

Perhaps. A friend of mine taught law at the U. of Jos, Nigeria. Two Christian women walked past a mosque on Friday. When the smoke cleared,500 people were dead.

If you want hysteria, try Jos.

I once, long ago, recommended a little book by Owen Wister, 'The Pentecost of Calamity.' Wister was taking the waters in Germany in August 1914. 'Pentecost' is about how he couldn't believe that the gentle, cultured, music-loving Germans he knew had proven themselves so adept at shreklichkeit in Belgium.

Hysterical or not, I believe there are enough Muslims who would drop a nuke if they could get one to worry about it. And I know where some nukes are, and I'm not counting on the political maturity and stability of Pakistan to cover for me.

The schmucks who were going to blow up a pipeline at JFK were not much of a threat because they were ignorant and incompetent, not because they had their hearts in the right place.

Anyhow, I don't quite get how we can assume that Muslims in the Oil Regions will adapt to modern business technology but not also to modern destructive technology.

How does that work?

June 21, 2007 8:07 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Which is what it means to say that the Islamists are not an existential threat: we can lose this war and yet our country/institutions/culture/civilization will continue to exist.

Did the Nazis pose an existential threat?

Our interests are not limited to what goes on within our shores, although the possibility that tens of thousands of us could be killed by a well-planned and executed Al-Quaeda attack is bad enough to warrant a war against the terrorists and the nations that harbor them.

You either proactively control events or events will control you. America is not the only nation with nuclear weapons, and some of those nations have an even greater incentive to act proactively than we do. If Iran gets nuclear weapons, then any worldwide nuclear event that is even suspected of having their fingerprints on it would trigger a massive nuclear response from Israel and India.

Our interests would not be well served by a nuclear war in Asia.

June 21, 2007 8:09 PM  
Blogger David said...

Harry: In that case, Islam could hardly have threatened western civ.

Duck: The Nazis may have become an existential threat in time, but they certainly weren't an imminent existential threat in 1942. Given how tough they were in 42, it's a good thing we acted preemptively. As I suspected, however, you think that an existential threat is necessary to justify the war.

June 21, 2007 9:33 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Islam threatened Hindu and Chinese civilization, though.

Think big.

You and I do not agree, but as far as I am concerned the essential act of modern civilization was Article VI of the US Constitution.

It was a truly world-shaking event, so much so that 21st c. Christians can no longer remember what religion meant before the 1780s.

++++

Not only can I be convicted of not understanding alien cultures like Islam, I guess, I cannot even understand this homegrown existentialism argument.

The way I dope it out, it is some sort of invidious oversuspiciousness of my fellow citizens if I don't leave my keys in the car because, even if somebody steals my car, he could not also steal my house.

So I shouldn't worry.

June 22, 2007 12:39 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Harry's comments about 'appeasement' got me thinking.

I am explicitly anti-Islamism, I supported the war against the Taleban and I was pro the Iraq invasion. So the question is: if I'm an appeaser, who in Britain is not one?

Having looked long and hard, I've managed to find one small, brave group still holding out and meeting Harry's high standards. The BNP.

Congrats, Harry.

June 22, 2007 1:43 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Everything I have ever read about appeasement argued that it was a big mistake not to go to war with Hitler earlier. I don't recall anything about failing to eradicate Teutonism or banning Germans from our shores to protect the West. Maybe we should go to war with the Taliban. Oh...

Our interests would not be well served by a nuclear war in Asia.

So we should wipe them all out (trying to distinguish wiping them out from wiping out their religion ain't going to fool anybody) pre-emptorily from Rabat to Jakarta to make sure that doesn't happen? Ban Muslim immigration? Duck, what exactly is it you want to do that isn't already being done? Are you under the impression that you are arguing with leftists about the war in Iraq? And given all those fragile defining characteristics of the West you list, when do we take out China and put the Chinese-Americans under surveillance?

These meta-histories of Harry and Oro are fascinating and would impress the most doctrinaire Marxist. I've never encountered such straightline fatalism independant of human agency and choice in my life. Well, maybe except for Oro's meta-future. You are so determined to put the blame for the whole story squarely on the Prophet and all who revere him, and you are so anxious to see this as a resurgence of centuries of immutable tradition, that you have put yourselves completely out of step with what the Islamist actors themselves are experiencing. I feel like I am arguing with the sort of religious type who likes to draw straight causal lines between Galileo and Bolshevism.

Here is a thought. You are genuinely concerned about the resilience of the West and its ability to recognize and respond to threats. You smell a whiff of fecklessness and decline in many of your co-citizens and much of our politics. But, celebrating everything about "modernity" as you do, you can't put your finger on what exactly the problem is or what needs to be done, so you crave an "existential" fight with people you consistently define as backward and doomed inevitably to fall into history's dustbin. Sometimes you think liberation, sometimes you think dragon-slaying, but either way you need this to reassure yourselves we're still number one.

June 22, 2007 3:42 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Peter, read these comments of mine again:
Forgive me if I didn't capture the exact nuance of the dabate between you, but I think that the statement is largely correct, because both the Islamists and the peaceful, moderate Muslims want to represent their expression of Islam as the correct one. I think that some general suspicion of Muslims is warranted until, to borrow a phrase from the movie Meet the Parents, they earn their way into the western family circle of trust.

Suspicion isn't a hate crime, and doesn't justify hate crimes, but it is a very natural response to cultural conflicts like the one we are currently in. The widespread response to the knighthood of Salman Rushdie, or the poll that showed one quarter of US Muslims think suicide bombing of innocents is justified shows that a general suspicion is justified.


Judging by how you took those words to mean an all out war on every Muslim in the world, I'm prepared to take back my compliment of your analytical skills. And no, we don't need to be in existential danger to justify a war against Al Quaeda, the Taliban and the states that support them. I'm not sure that the US has ever faced an existential threat, but we've gone to war many times. As with Harry's example, how much of your property must you stand to lose before you call the cops?

As to what we should be doing differently? We should base our airport security on a proper profiling for threats, like the Israelis do, and stop making grandma take her shoes off. We should continue the surveillance of suspicious overseas phone calls and not give in to libertarian hysteria. We should tighten up on our visa granting procedure with suspect nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. And we should stop giving in to whiny Muslims who demand foot washing stations and the right to refuse airport passengers from their cabs who are carrying alcohol in their baggage, and tell them to get with the American program.

June 22, 2007 4:53 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Duck:

We should tighten up on our visa granting procedure with suspect nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. And we should stop giving in to whiny Muslims who demand foot washing stations and the right to refuse airport passengers...

What the hell do the things in the first sentence have to do with the things in the second? Why would one sentence blend effortlessly into the other?

Can you not spot the category difference? You're a nice guy, Duck. You really do not want to be siding with Harry and this lot on this one.

June 22, 2007 5:28 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Ditto. What difference is there between that last statement and:

And we should stop giving in to whiny Jews who demand frosted glass on YMCA windows so they don't have to see fat womyn exercising in spandex?

And we should stop giving into whiny Christians who demand a say in what we teach their kids in science class?

And we should stop giving into whiny Hindus who demand dietary considerations for their kids in school cafeterias

I was glad you included religious freedom on your list, even if it did come far below more crucial things like "no dowries" and even if women and children have never been property in any non-pagan society, but what does it mean to you Duckians? I'm beginning to suspect it means the religious must all be civil and repectful to other religions, but the non-religious are free to heap opprobrium and scorn on them all and act on their most paranoid suspicions.

June 22, 2007 5:59 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

No, the religious are allowed to heap all the scorn and opprobrium that they wish onto other religions and the non-religious. And they do. You can't have religious freedom without it. But you have to stop at scorn and opprobrium. Okay, ridicule is allowed too. Have you gotten a whiff at the evangelical reaction to Mitt Romney?

Part of the assimilation process is that you have to be willing to live with people who do so. Everyone must respect your right to worship as you wish, but noone is required to respect what or how you worship. The Danish cartoon fiasco is a perfect example of how many Muslims don't get it. Muslim culture is still very much on the honor system. Insults to the family, religion or culture must be answered. We don't work that way. You can insult back, but you can't use the law or violence to protect your honor.

Did either of you read Vlahos' article? Do you think he's right on, or is he missing something? Do you see anything about modernity as he defines it that is worth defending? My wobbly comment was directed at him.

June 22, 2007 6:33 AM  
Blogger David said...

Harry: If civilization started in 1789, then it has never been threatened by Islam. As Brit and Peter note, you're not arguing with people who oppose the war. We're all for the war. We just think that it's helpful to be realistic about who we're at war with and why. To use your analogy, feel free to shotgun the car thief. Shooting the next guy you see who resembles the car thief, or enforcing a three block cordon sanitaire around your house, might just be overkill.

Brit: I doubt Harry really supports the BNP. I don't even think he has anything against Muslims. It's just that the idea of going to war with a religion -- any religion -- is too tantalizing to resist.

Duck: Exactly. The US has never faced an existential threat; we go to war too quickly for that. I'm perfectly happy with that state of affairs.

As for your list of what we should do, you do understand that it comes down to a bunch of things we are doing, banning foot washing stations(?!) and relaxing airport security? Yes, that's right, relaxing. Because contrary to your assumption, some Muslims look just like Grandma. And of course not a small number of black Americans belong to a particularly vicious quasi-Islamic sect, so I guess we need to profile blacks in the airport. But at least there's no chance whatsoever that Al Qaeda will adapt to our procedures and go out of their way to find "Americans" to carry out their attacks while we're pulling young Arab men and blacks out of the line.

June 22, 2007 6:34 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

The point about foot washing stations and such is that because of terrorism activity by radical Muslims, many people in the west have become intimidated by Muslims and are willing to make special concessions to the whiny complainers that they wouldn't make to the whiny Orthodox Jew who doesn't want to see female flesh in spandex. And so the assimilation pathways become subverted. This is more a problem in Europe than the US, but it is a problem wherever is. I don't want to shut out Muslims, I want them to become like us. They won't do so in a multicultural environment.

June 22, 2007 6:57 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Well, Duck, you called the YMCA wrong. They did agree to install frosted glass (the building is in the middle of an Orthodox neighbourhood) and everybody initially saw it as a triumph for respect, compromise and civility. Not a word about group vs. individual rights or special concessions to whiny anybody. But then some of the ladies screamed that sweating and puffing and jiggling the flesh in front of clear glass with a view of the distant hills was part of their "exercise experience" guaranteed by the constitution and the principles of freedom and secular democracy, so out went the compromise. I can't imagine what they would think of foot-baths.

I don't want to shut out Muslims, I want them to become like us. They won't do so in a multicultural environment.

Yes, they will and are, in rather large numbers, unless you mean hiding all trace of the fact they are Muslims so as not to put you off your biscuits.

June 22, 2007 7:44 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

The Vlahos article was one of those wistful, insightful pieces that has nuggets of gold worth pondering but doesn't add up to much of a whole. However, to the extent that this thread is pretty good proof that, six years after 9/11, conservatives are very far apart on who we are fighting and why, I'd say he's worth listening to. Thanks for the link.

June 22, 2007 7:49 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

We don't share the same definition of multiculturalism. I couldn't care less about food or religion or dress, other than the humiliation that Muslim women are forced to endure with the burka. This article describes more of what I mean, and why, contrary to your assertion, multiculturalism does not promote assimilation:

http://www.forbes.com/business/2006/11/17/multiculturalism-assimilation-europe-biz-cx_1120oxford.html

Assimililation doesn't mean changing religion, or dress(mostly), or food preferences. It does mean parents can't arrange marriages for their children against their will. It means girls are required to get an education. It means that women can't be confined to homes or forbidden to drive cars or go out in pubic against their will.

Do you understand what I'm talking about now?

Timely enough Eugene Volokh explains the legal aspects of religious accomodation law in today's National Review online:

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YTRkYTE5MmEzYWFlZjhiZTA1MTQ0ODljZTI0YjI5OGU=

June 22, 2007 8:10 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

What in the world are you talking about??!!! I live in the country that invented multiculturalism and in a city that has Muslims all over the place. The girls all go to school, the women work and drive in large numbers, play sports and go everywhere. A burqa is a rare (and disquieting) thing, but the hijab is ubiquitous. Lots of them show up to celebrate Canada Day. I don't know much about their marriage arrangements, but I think I would have heard about mass forced marches to the alter.

But they are all obviously faithful and proud Muslims.

Duck, there are always going to be fervent believers in all faiths pushing the envelope on this or that privilege, special consideration, etc., just as you have ACLU-supported atheists trying to re-write dollar bills or tell southern courts what they can put on their walls. Abstract baseline legal principles give an important context to successful inter-cultural relations, but at some point people from different communities have to just sit down and bang out reasonable, respectful compromises based on the hard reality before their eyes and the principle that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. The religious have to accommodate and make their peace with pluralism and the non-religious have to stop freaking out about creeping group rights and security threats emanating from head coverings and foot-washing stations.

June 22, 2007 8:55 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Well then why can't they make it work in Europe?

June 22, 2007 9:17 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I am confused about how my call for Muslims to come out and be good ("bad") Muslims and participate in the wider society in an open and identifiable manner becomes, in Brit's mind anyway, a call to exclude Muslims.

How does that work?

I had opened my computer this morning intending just a short post: Suicide bombing. What's up with that?

But Peter beat me to it, linking to a long article about the difficulties young Pakistani Muslims face being second-generation Englishmen.

If that was supposed to move me to Brit's view that suspicion of cricket-playing Muslims is unfounded, it had the opposite effect.

'Everyday morality told him that his brother had committed a cold-blooded act of terror, while his own Islamic theology told him that there was no clear answer and maybe his brother was a hero. How many thousands of young British Muslims are similarly conflicted?'

In the Prospect story, it is claimed that the family and closest associates of the 7/7 bombers were 'surprised.'

Well, if they cannot tell the murderous Muslims from the peaceful ones, how do I?

June 22, 2007 11:33 AM  
Blogger David said...

Harry: How can you tell pick out any murderer from the crowd. It would be convenient if potential murderers came with "M"s on their foreheads, but that's not how we were designed.

June 22, 2007 11:45 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

David,
The killer isn't the only one to worry about here. The brother who can't decide if the murders are wrong because of what his religion says is a symptom of the problem too. For any other religious group this wouldn't be the case. A Christian murderer likely wouldn't be driven to kill by his religion, and his law abiding brother wouldn't be tempted to justify his murder because of religion. So that is a case where their religion wasn't a "risk" factor. But for this Muslim and his brother, it clearly was.

June 22, 2007 11:57 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

How to pick the murderer out from the crowd is exactly my problem. Brit thinks we can exclude beer-drinkers.

I doubt that.

Anyhow, Brit doesn't seem to have any difficulty about suspecting all BNP members of something, or even with associating me with them, though until his post I'd never heard of the BNP.

Seems that charges of oversuspiciousness are, um, selective.

So riddle me this, courtesy of NancyGee, a poster at Protein Wisdom answering the question, if you could ask God one question, what would it be?:

'Dear God: If it’s OK for Muslims to blow up Christians because Allah said so, is it OK for Christians to blow up Muslims in return, because YOU said it’s OK?'

More generally, does anyone who thinks that if Muslims lapsed into mere screaming fits, without the bombs, 99.9% of the infidels wouldn't quickly revert to ignoring them? Including, I suspect, all those who are exercised about FGM, burkas, honor killings etc.

And speaking of honor killings, Brit has been mighty quiet about the reopening of forensic inquiries into 2,000 or so 'suicides' in England that are now suspected of being intraMuslim murders.

That would be 40 times the 7/7 butcher's bill. As Ali says, Muslim are most at risk.

Move along folks, nothing to see.

June 22, 2007 12:43 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

O: What do you make of Israel's forbearance.

That they aren't as powerful as are the U.S., and also that they are rewarded by the U.S. for forbearing.

June 22, 2007 3:00 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Further to playing 'Clue' in the garden of Allah.

By the same rule that the captain of England cannot be a Muslim fanatic, Anthony Blunt cannot be a communist.

However, there are some signals that groups can take. Here is a short list:

Pray at mosques where the imam does not preach that Jews are descendants of apes and pigs.

Refuse Saudi money.

Don't throw acid in girls' faces.

Don't burn schools.

Be reluctant to call for the murder of authors who wrote a book in a language you don't read. (That one is a knife that cuts two ways.)

If you are lucky enough to be one of the approximately 0.001% of Muslims who gets to participate in free elections, don't deliver all the heavily Muslim precincts to violently anti-western maniacs.

If you're the only Muslim peer in the House of Lords, refrain from comparing Salman Rushdie even-steven with Mohammed Atta.

June 22, 2007 4:20 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

These meta-histories of Harry and Oro are fascinating and would impress the most doctrinaire Marxist. I've never encountered such straightline fatalism independant of human agency and choice in my life.

As to the former, are you contending that there was not a "clash of civilizations" from ~700, when Muslim armies started invading Europe, through maybe the Battle of Senta in 1697, where the Ottomans got whipped, and the resulting Treaty of Karlovci in 1699, which marked the beginning of the Ottoman Empire's long slow slide into oblivion ?

Or are you contending that today's Islamofascists are not motivated by the clashing cultures of modern societies and the Arab world, and by the general decay and failure of said Arab societies ?

As for the latter, it's not straightline at all, it's simply that "human agency and choice" has led today's Arab and Persian Muslim societies to the brink of ruin.

In their despair, some hotheads from that world blame the West, since if it were true that the West was oppressing and plotting against them, then they wouldn't have to accept the fact that their own cultures and leaders are dysfunctional, incompetent, and doomed, propped up now by the very societies that the terrorists hate, and that when that prop is gone by the middle of this century, they won't even be able to feed themselves.

June 22, 2007 10:45 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Don't throw acid in girls' faces.

It's always been puzzling to me why non-Western Muslims are so scared of women.

It's also pathetic.

June 22, 2007 10:51 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I've been puzzling over the accustion of being a 'meta-historian.'

Not sure what that means.

There have been a whole lot of Muslim states and statelets, and I'm not informed about most of them.

But the intersection of Islam and Europe (and China and India and Africa) is clear enough. From its inception, Islam was expansionist. Nothing special about that.

However, most expansionist states, which come and go, when they go, take their ideology (often, nothing more complicated than greed) with them.

Islam, as a political system, does have a continuity through 14 centuries, what I have called its program.

If I am any sort of historian, it's the recognition that the program was not abandoned after Senta (or, the date I'd pick, 1709, death of Aurangzeb).

From feebleness, the program was not pursued, but it was not abandoned, the way Europe abandoned colonialism after 1945.

This 300-year pause has been mistaken, so that the new onslaught is described as something novel and blamed on some kook named Qtub or something. It isn't new. The Muslim Brotherhood represents not change but stasis.

From about 20 years ago, active prosecution of the program resumed. I have never found a clear statement by any Muslim, of whatever theological or political outlook, that the program should be abandoned.

Possibly some suppose that its abandonment is implied by their adoption of what we are loosely calling 'modernity.'

The Ostrogoths, Mongols etc. no longer are knocking at the gates of Europe. One group still is.

June 23, 2007 12:14 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

I didn't say Harry supported the BNP.

I said the BNP is the only group in England I can think of who could escape Harry's definition of 'appeasers'.

June 23, 2007 1:42 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

The girls all go to school, the women work and drive in large numbers, play sports and go everywhere. A burqa is a rare (and disquieting) thing, but the hijab is ubiquitous. Lots of them show up to celebrate Canada Day. I don't know much about their marriage arrangements, but I think I would have heard about mass forced marches to the alter.

You sound like Skipper saying that sexual slavery is a myth because otherwise he'd have heard more about it. You'd be shocked at what goes on behind the doors in quiet neighborhoods.

Permit me to describe a few anecdotes. When I was first married and stationed at the Marine Corps base in El Toro, my wife worked at a bridal shop and one of her coworkers was a young, 19 0r 20 year old Korean girl. She seemed cheerful and bright, a typical American youth. But in private she told my wife of her woes. Her family was very traditional. Her parents were trying to pressure her into someone who she did not love. She wanted to go on to college, but they would not let her go. Her younger brother was commanding and abusive toward her, and this was normal in their culture for males to command and rule the females.

This is a problem with many immigrant cultures, not just Islam. They don't just assimilate magically. There are like problems with many Hmong immigrant families to Minnesota. The first generation parents expect that they will the direct the lives of their sons and daughters like in the old country. Many of the young acquiesce out of loyalty or fear. You're not going to see a headline in your paper saying "another forced Muslim marriage today in Ottawa", because it will all look legal and legit from the outside. You'll learn about it later when she tries to leave the abusive lout, and he murders her, and usually himself as well. Most of the murder-suicides that I've read about in the Twin Cities in the last 10 years or so have been Hmong.

It's interesting that you're able to read into the lack of blaring headlines about troubled Muslim marriages an indication that all is well. I think it shows that you are so down on modern, secular society that you view any traditional, orthodox society as some Edenic, holy state that modern man has tossed aside in his arrogance. You can't bear the thought that maybe in modern society, even with its divorce and promiscuity, we may be better off than in the past in many ways.

June 23, 2007 1:55 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Brit,
For the record, let me just say that I don't think you're an appeaser. Neither do I think you're wobbly. This debate is not two-sided, there are many sides being represented here.

I tried to get Peter to comment on Vlahos' article, but he took a pass. This is what I think is wobbly:

Then there are meta-communities of piety. Modernity’s greatest failure is spiritual—neon-lit in Europe, where old piety has crashed and burned. But among the global other scorched by modernity’s “creative destruction,” it is not that people have abandoned piety but that it has abandoned them. In globalization’s mixing bowl, the meditative power of old ethos has been lost. Yet American modernity offers nothing to take its place: just ask an Afghani or an Iraqi.

Vlahos looks on the resistance to modernity of the theocrats and fanatics as an opportunity to navel-gaze and dredge up doubts about our purpose and our values. It's just a repackaged version of "we are to blame", or "God is punishing us" for being modern. He is also delusional in thinking that once we stop asserting modern western values like individual human rights, democracy, freedom of religion and conscience as universal, then they'll leave us alone and we'll be safe within our cocoon.

June 23, 2007 2:11 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I guess you are right, Duck. I shouldn't be listening to Muslim voices about Muslim marriages. I should be listening to bloggers from Minnesota and Hawaii. And what idiot let those subversive Hmong in?

I'm beginning to think you are doing exactly what I understand Vlahos to be getting at--using your distaste for Muslims and any other culture that doesn't faithfully practice or openly yearn for your world and your private list of Western values (much of which would be unrecognizable to the Founders)as a call to arms in the fight between Good and Evil. And I also think you are using your 100% certainty that any non-Westerner who demurs is a fanatic and a threat in order to sidestep a very Western debate. The conservative argument that the breakdown of traditional order and authority leaves dangerous, bloody vacuums is as old as the hills. Eastern Europe seeths with ethnic hostility over blood-soaked land because of it. And the argument that raw secular liberalism unsupported by faith or tradition does nothing for the soul and undermines both personal fuflfillment and social cohesion is likewise timeless. Originally it was never intended to, it was a restriction on authority defined with reference to certain objectively recognizable political arrangements. But you have turned it into a compulsory mindset that must direct all aspects of one's personal and social life. Down with honour! Freedom of religion for all, provided we all remember God is not Great.

Also, I really don't detect much confidence in your position, another of Vlahos's points. Your seamless equating of fundamentalist terrorists and honour killings in remote Muslimland with unhappy Korean brides you happen to run into in a shop or anyone whose family is trying to direct or influence their lives, or who believes their faith constricts their material freedoms, is telling. You see a universal message and mission in the dysfunctions of one obscure immigrant culture. Well, I've warned you before about too much meta-thinking. I assume that is why, as with immigration, you are putting such emphasis on protecting yourself from "the other" or shooting them rather than preaching and converting by example, which would require a respect you aren't prepared to accord. You have lost any sense of the potential for reform without destruction.

Time and time again you guys return to this theme about oppressed young women around the world, even though none of you ever respond to my challenge to name any of them who are asking for your help on your terms. It's the Fermi's Paradox of worldwide gender relations, but you are still 100% sure there is life out there anyway.

You seem to have locked yourself into a "meta-narrative" whereby absolutely everything you personally believe in is universally desirable if only those boobies could see it. No serious downsides worth mentioning. Lucky you, 'o blessed one! And anyone anywhere who says otherwise keeps you awake at night, presumably because he/she is inexorably linked to the dark forces somehow. Winning and conquering the globe was supposed to be inevitable and, boy, are you discombobulated when that pre-ordained fate gets sidetracked. Vlahos thinks you are losing the battle. I don't, but if we keep insisting on traipsing around the globe scorning and attacking everybody's faith, tradition and family authority, we soon will.

Duck, I think it is time for you to take a page from the modern religious and understand it is indeed possible to be a firm, faithful, undiluted, believing Christian without seeking to destroy or even thwart Judaism. You can even celebrate and learn from it. Your declared religion of Americanism or secularism or Westernism or whatever you call it might benefit from similar openess and humility. It is actually quite liberating. Lots of Muslims would agree.

June 23, 2007 4:56 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Time and time again you guys return to this theme about oppressed young women around the world, even though none of you ever respond to my challenge to name any of them who are asking for your help on your terms.

And therefore they aren't actually oppressed ?

Women in Afghanistan begged for our help after the Taliban wore out their welcome, and women in Arabia welcome the mentoring from American feminists.

Peter, your concept that any woman/slave who accepts her chains isn't oppressed is hilarious, and reminds me strongly of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

June 23, 2007 5:22 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

Harry:

I don't know about the expansionist program. Even the radicals know the Muslim world is severely outgunned by the West and whatever Mark Steyn might say, Muslims are unlikely to breed themselves to a dominant position in European society.

Mostly they seem concerned with a defensive strategy - get the Westerner and his followers out of Muslim lands so they can enact Islam as they see it. Like Oro points out, Islamist terrorism is a militarily pathetic reaction to failure, not a harbinger of a dangerously formidable force on the world stage like the commies and Nazis.

You're also ascribing religion as the sole reason for Muslim expansionism. It was a motivator but desire for loot and territory were much bigger ones as they were in the numerous wars between various Muslim powers.

June 23, 2007 6:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Yes they did, Oro, but they didn't beg us to save them from Islam. Did the folks in Uncle Tom's Cabin make their peace with slavery?

June 23, 2007 6:26 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Peter, you really need to read more carefully. I am not at war with Islam, but with cultural traditions that are incompatible with modernity. If immigrants to America are able to adopt those values and reconcile them with their Islamic faith, more power to them.

I suspect that is easier said than done. Christians invented modernity, and some of them still have problems with it. But Islam is a religion that is more tightly bound to law and to culture than Christianity or any other major faith.

I've met your challenge and have named one woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Were it not for the fact that the punishment for apostasy is death, I think I could provide you with a lot more names.

Also, I really don't detect much confidence in your position, another of Vlahos's points.

I'm not an End of History believer. We're perfectly capable of frittering away the benefits of our way of life. Especially if so many of us go wobbly and start envying the simple structured life of traditional orthodox cultures where everyone knows their place and God rules on the placement of every mote of dust. I'm a worrier. You should worry about the things that you value.

June 23, 2007 8:22 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

It's always been puzzling to me why non-Western Muslims are so scared of women.

That's a result of the honor system. Honor cultures imprison both men and women in a relentless test of honor. A husband or father's honor is constantly under threat from the perception by outsiders that there is any question regarding the chastity or faithfulness of their wife/wives or daughters. It really is pathetic. And inhuman.

June 23, 2007 8:34 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Yes they did, Oro, but they didn't beg us to save them from Islam.

They don't need to be saved from Islam qua Islam.

They need to be saved from cultures which make it illegal to promote any religion other than Islam, which, along with the oppression of women and other vile policies, are symptoms of an underlying fear and weakness.

June 23, 2007 9:34 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'Eastern Europe seeths with ethnic hostility over blood-soaked land because of it'

It seethed just as much -- or even more -- before anybody there ever heard of modernity.

++++

The Hmong would repay more study in the context of 'oppression.' It isn't only forced marriages.

Back in Hmong-land, the groom and his buddies kidnap the bride. In the early '80s, several Hmong men ended up in the Minnesota pentitentiary.

It was never clear to me whether this was a miscarriage of justice or not.

I'll add an anecdote. A woman friend of mine, a banker, hired a young girl from Lanai, a small island which at that time had a population of about 2,000, mostly descendants of Filipinos from rural backgrounds.

There is a notion, heavily promoted by sociologists from the University of Hawaii, that Lanai is (or was before development as a resort) a kind of paradise of quiet, traditional, family-oriented society apart from the hell of Waikiki.

Anyhow, the clerk came to her boss and told her that she had been regularly raped by 13 of her brothers and cousins growing up.

Happens all the time, despite the traditional religious values of that (and similar) communities.

And, no, the women in them do not typically run to American men and beg for help.

But I don't think that means they wouldn't like the situation to change.

Anyhow, I think we have established that the transition from rural backwardness to life in a western city is difficult.

What we have not established, but might well ask ourselves, is, where are the Hmong, Irish, Filipino and Guatemalan suicide bombers?

I also noted, in the Prospect piece, something called the '30-year rule.' In England, allegedly, each immigrant group (Irish, Jews, South Asians) riots 30 years after the first large influx of immigrants.

Why doesn't that happen in North America?

++++

Ali, I'm not alleging that Muslims throughout history have been any less enticed by plunder than anybody else.

It is the added incentive of the eternal war -- and divinely promised eventual triumph -- of Islam vs. everybody else that worries me.

My assessment of (at least) the extremists is that they know they cannot win a standup fight, but they do think they can chip away at a sick, corrupt west until eventually it collapses from sin.

A Marxian attitude: The west deserves to fall, so it will.

There are Christians who preach something similar.

June 23, 2007 9:40 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

Harry: And like I said, they don't have the heft to come close to being a threat to the West. A nuke or dirty bomb going off somewhere is always going to be a worry but mass casualty causing schemes seem to be beyond their capabilities. Besides even if the Iranians get a nuke, like Pakistan, they're not going to ship one off to a terrorist group they can't directly control.

Duck: Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a liar. She blames Islam for the hardship she endured in her life, hardship which was later found to be fabricated. I have no respect for her whatsoever.

June 24, 2007 6:08 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Ali: so, a plot involving a nuke or a dirty bomb is now not a "mass casualty causing scheme"? When did that happen?

June 24, 2007 9:22 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Agree the extremists cannot successfully attack the west.

The economic losses to us from 9/11 were enormous -- probably in the trillions even if you don't count Bush's military adventurism -- and the US is much stronger economically than it was 6 years ago.

Agree also that a segment of the extremists is focused for the moment on recapturing the area of the caliphate rather than expanding it.

But another segment -- noisiest in Indonesia, so far as I can tell -- is frankly expansionist, and the logic of the religion is expansionist. Once the caliphate is restored, then what?

Well, perhaps I understand nothing at all about Muslims. But I understand Americans, and every Muslim in the world should be looking at Mitt Romney.

I don't know if Romney is the 'hard man' I have been predicting -- I suspect not -- but he is (despite his religion) not a fringe character, and he is beginning to run for president on a 'hard' platform.

I believe the extremists believe they can get away with any outrage, that the west is spineless. They see Bush pussyfootin', afraid even to let his soldiers burn down a mosque.

Like Hitler at Munich, they don't get it. In August 1939, Hitler was certain Britain would not honor it s guarantee to Poland. 'I saw them at Munich,' he said.

The extremists are right about Bush and the Democrats. The current Republican power structure are appeasers and the Democrats are all defeatists.

Another 9/11 will bring the hard men to the fore. (A cynic might suspect that Romney knows he will never be elected as a Mormon, unless there is another 9/11 and he was the only candidate calling for hard measures.)

Americans will not, probably, be able to express their reaction very well, but it will run something like this: We asked you to leave us alone, we begged you to get control of your crazies. You never did. To hell with all of you.

Brit thinks I am advocating that. I am advocating peaceful relations. I am predicting a great slaughter.

I'm a 20th century kind of guy. The great slaughters of the last 100 years were all completely predictable.

June 24, 2007 10:13 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Ali,
What did she lie about? I'd be interested to hear the other side.

Brit apparently thinks the same of me, Harry. I'm reminded of the day after 9/11, when voices on the left came out to denounce ahead of time the horrible wave of vigilante violence that was imminent against Muslims in America, a wave that never materialized. To express even a qualified confidence that all Muslims will adapt peacefully and enthusiastically to western secular values marks one out as someone who would call for the rounding up f Muslims into prison camps, I guess.

Here's what I mean by a warranted suspicion of Muslims. When the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City was blown up in 1995, the FBI immediately suspected it was the work of Muslim extremists. Within hours they had located a Muslim who had taken an early morning flight out of Okla City and detained him for questioning. At some point in the day they realized that the bombing was perpetrated by home grown terrorists, and the line of investigation into Muslim extremist groups was dropped.

Many people concluded that the knee-jerk assumption that it was Muslim in origin was due to bigotry. Was it? I imagine Brit would say yes. But that was the best first guess for the FBI to make, based on past history. This was two years after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 by the followers of sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. The FBI would not have been doing their job had they begn their investigation with an open slate and not factored in past events that would point to the most likely suspects.

Prejudice involves prejudging without facts. Saying that the most likely perpetrators of terrorist attacks on Americans both at home and abroad are radical Islamic groups is not a prejudgment, it is based on facts. Ignoring those facts out of political correctness is irresponsible.

Of course the majority of Muslims in the West are peaceful, and everyone deserves the assumption of innocence until proven guilty. I never stated otherwise. But a significant minority of Muslims are , if not involved in directly supporting the extemists, harboring sympathies for some or all of their jihad. That's a fact.

You can look at the glass and say that it is more than half full, and that's a good thing. Of course it is. But the fact that 15% of young Muslims think suicide bombing is justifiable shows that the glass is not full enough.

Also revealing is the fact that 61% of American Muslims think that the rise of Islamic radicalism in the US is very or somewhat concerning. Are these self-hating Muslims, or Uncle Tom Muslims? Are they bigots?

June 24, 2007 11:27 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I also would like to be led to a critique of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

If she really is a phoney, I wish I had been led there last week, before I ordered her book.

Not that it would change my position about the subhuman status of women in (parts of and the heart of) Islam. Only one thing could do that:

If those Saudi schoolgirls who were burned alive rather than allowing a passing man to see their faces were to come back from the dead and tell me they were copacetic with that, I'd revise my opinion.

June 24, 2007 1:12 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I hate coming to a conversation late, particularly when circumstances will prevent my taking any regular, or possibly further, part in it.

Brit said at the outset The divide is over whether all Muslims, wherever they live, should be treated with fear and suspicion because of their religion.

He is partially right, in that all Muslims need not be treated with fear and suspicion, but he fails to complete the thought: just because individuals need to be treated as such does not mean we should not view their religion as a vile concoction that deserves no small amount of fear, and all the suspicion, we can muster.

Islam explicitly wants me dead, and has as its goal the complete destruction of everything the Enlightenment has produced. I see absolutely no reason not to take all of that fully into consideration, and conclude that Islam deserves absolutely no respect whatsoever. Any assertion that it does amounts to nothing more than thoroughgoing moral relativism.

As Harry has said, or quoted, the only good Muslim is a bad Muslim. The religion insists upon possessing complete truth, and the Q'uran is literally perfect as it stands.

Fine, I shall take it at its word. That means every element of that loathsome work has the same provenance: Allah. Unless one is a bad Muslim, that is, willing to ignore, or be ignorant of, Allah's dictates on, say, apostasy, one cannot possibly be a "good" Muslim.

This is where my agreement with Sam Harris comes into play. Islam is in the impossible position, if it wishes to be anything other than inherently toxic, of dispensing with the egregiously awful bits without causing the whole shambolic structure to ignominiously collapse.

So the "good" (in our view) Muslims provide cover for the Islamists by their failure -- indeed, their inability -- to repudiate those things that have every bit as much scriptural support as do the parts that do not constitute outright child abuse.

Pope Benedict started on this road in Bergen, then suffered either a complete spinal collapse, or ran head on into the harsh reality that by undercutting Islamic religious claims, he would invariably do the same to his own.

Peter:

All of the above should provide adequate background for you to address

I can't see why any non-Muslim should accord the tiniest respect to the religion itself, or a significant minority of its believers.

As for the rest, they simply aren't Good Muslims, although they do provide, advertantly or not, cover for those who are.

Because someone is Muslim means that someone should want to kill you; a lack of desire can only be attributed to Q'uranic ignorance, or a lack of faith.


without being apoplexed.

Instead, either attack my premises, or describe to me why my conclusions don't follow.

I think both you and Brit have fallen into the same trap, although, in your case, it is a much more ironical tumble. You have essentially presumed religion is irrelevant, that its contents make no difference whatsoever.

Unless you find that belief in a divinely revealed text that divides humanity into the houses of peace and war, demands the death penalty for apostates and those not of the book, and refers to Jews as pigs (etc, etc) really doesn't amount to anything, than I have a hard time understanding how you could object to a single word of mine you have quoted.

David:

The idea that Islam presents an existential threat to the West (assuming, for the moment, that we can sensibly speak of the "West" as a parallel to "Islam," which it isn't) is completely unreal.

Contains two mistakes.

First, and simplest, there is no need for parallelism for one thing to be a threat to another. Islam as a belief system is irreconcilable with The West, a very roughly geographic entity sharing a largely similar notion of the relationship between government and citizens.

Second, your assertion that Islam does not present an existential threat to the West is true, but static. Without taking a particularly long journey up hypothetical boulevard, Pakistan could tomorrow find itself the beneficiary of an Islamist coup, during which whatever control there is over Pakistan's nuclear weapons might completely vanish.

Subsequently, an Islamist group could claim to have placed a bomb in NYC, and then make any number of demands upon us, with calamity to quickly follow should we not come to heel.

Okay, then what?

This state of affairs, entirely plausible, is due entirely to Islam's contents. Do I advocate eradicating Islam in order to defend, among other values, freedom of conscience?

No. But I certainly advocate relentlessly attacking those elements of Islam that should be an affront to anyone's conscience, and insisting that Muslims, in order that their religion become morally acceptable, actively repudiate those elements of Islam that are stinking the place up.

This is what has Harris and Hitchens so thoroughly annoyed: the combination of atavistic beliefs with destructive technology those believers could never hope to develop on their own.

Which is also precisely the problem that Oro points out. Contemplating the use of nuclear weapons is not an overreaction born of hysterics, but a very real concern of the consequences should Islamists make good on their apocalyptic desires.

The problem lies in what I elsewhere termed the Incompleteness Principle as applied to religion: within the realm of theology, there is absolutely no way to discern a false from a true statement. Islam's assertions of absolute truth and literalism make this problem far, far, worse than it has been for Christianity.

Which, BTW, guts Peter's assertion that it is indeed possible to be a firm, faithful, undiluted, believing Christian without seeking to destroy or even thwart Judaism..

It is indeed possible to consider oneself Christian without seeking to ostracize Jews, but only by stepping outside Christianity to observe the material effects attending two thousand years of very Christian assertions to do just that.


For those who think Hitchens is off the reservation for insisting God Poisons Everything, keep this in mind: if it wasn't for Islam, we would have a whole lot less worrying, and for too many, dying, to do.


Apologies for the rambling, unedited, and late, post. I have had to compose it using stolen minutes over several days, a circumstance that will continue for quite some time.

June 25, 2007 5:55 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

I'll comment in a bit once I've got blasted work out of the way.

June 25, 2007 7:59 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Goodheart (ha!), the editor of Prospect, reads some views of his pet moderate Muslim, Tariq Ramadan, and is surprised:

'Dear Tariq,

'I was disappointed by your piece in the Guardian on Monday 4th June. For what it's worth, I have spent quite a lot of time in the past year or two defending you from the many people in the British political class who are influenced by the predominant French-American view that you are a dangerous extremist'

June 25, 2007 2:32 PM  

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