Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Islam: What the West Needs to Know

James M. Kushiner posts a review of Islam: What the West Needs to Know at Mere Comments.

It was a rational and non-hysterical inquiry into the history and teachings of Islam. Major interviewees from inside Islam: Bat Ye'or, Walid Shoebat, Abdullah Al-Araby, plus Serge Trifkovic and Robert Spencer. It made a pretty compelling case for viewing Islam as much more than a religion but really a political/religious ideology for world domination.

Here is my response:

I am not familiar with Serge Trifkovic but the other four names on the list are all either apostates from, or Western critics of, Islam. Not that that makes them wrong, but it is hard to get an accurate picture when all the voices are from one side of the debate. Unfortunately the advocates of Islam are uniformly more ideological, which make me despair of ever getting a straight story on this crucial subject. Perhaps the post-modernists are right and there really is no straight story, only a mass of competing ideologies, but I can't quite bring myself to believe that. Even if pure objectivity is impossible, its pursuit is still worthwhile.

One of the sources whom I find helpful is Bernard Lewis. The Mohammad he paints is (in my words, not his) essentially a wannabe Moses whose promised land was not Canaan but the entire world. That is problematic, of course, for at least two reasons: 1) Mohammad lacks the authority of Moses and 2) that authority has been fulfilled and superceded by Jesus. But it is worth noting that Mohammad's plan of conquest was law-bound, if not objecitvely lawful, and virtue-centric if not virtuous. The present Jihadist mentality is an aberration characteristic of the 20th century and a variant of the secularism and relativism that have infected the West. It is, in other words, a symptom of the loss of faith that there are objective standards promoted by evolution and Marxism, rather than a logical result of the religion of Islam itself.

Now, one might critique Lewis' characterization by noting that Mohammad was a false prophet and therefor subject to the rule that those that are at war with God will find themselves abandoned to their own destruction. Just as the prophets of Baal began by worshipping fertility and ended by sacrificing their children, so Islam began with the sword and ends with the exploding belt. In this view, the current trajectory of Islam which is at odds with the previous 13 centuries is explainable by the conjecture that God has finally removed his hand of restraint and given Islam over to the fullness of its iniquity. This is plausible, and I even have some sympathy for it, but, not being a prophet myself, I lack the certainty that this is indeed the case.

But it is worth noting that under both of these hypotheses, it is a grave error to promote secularism and a modern point of view among Muslims. The critique that the West is more advanced than the medieval Islam seems dangerously wrong-headed. Perhaps this is because my sympathies are somewhat medieval themselves. I would much rather have a beer with Dante than with George W. Bush (though admittedly in the latter case, it would probably be better beer). But in any case, the advancement of the West I would attribute to the salutary influence of Christianity and it is an influence that our culture is trying its hardest to undo. If Christians continue to promote this sort of chronological snobbery in order to combat the evil of Islam, we may succeed only to find ourselves at war with a united front of Western and Middle-Eastern secularists.

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