UPDATED AND BUMPED, BECAUSE I THINK THE UPDATE IS WORTH READING.
Thanks to DB for bringing to my attention an op-ed Dinesh D’Souza wrote challenging the conventional wisdom holding that we should secularize all countries as fast as possible to rid the world of the menance of religious war. (Of course, the experiences of both the Soviet Union and the Nazis should warn people that anti-religion is no better than religion, and can be infinitely worse.)
D’Souza points out that some of Bin Ladin’s rhetoric indicates that his war with America is based less on America’s Christian nature and more on his sense that it carries with it the evil of secularism:
For many Western liberals – and even some conservatives – the war on terror is a clash of opposed fundamentalisms: Christian fundamentalism vs. Islamic fundamentalism. And the solution? Promote secularism both here in America and throughout the Muslim world. This means urging our Muslim allies in Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt and elsewhere to get rid of Muslim laws and have secular laws. It means closing down the Muslim schools and replacing them with secular schools. It means encouraging secular programs on radio and TV.
Not only is this diagnosis of the problem wrong, but the solutions proposed are actually fueling Muslim rage and making future terrorist attacks against us more likely. The reason is that, from the point of view of Islamic radicals, America is not hated because it is Christian. Rather, America is hated because it is secular, what Osama bin Laden has called “the leading power of the unbelievers.” So by promoting secularism, we are corroborating the charge of radical Muslims that we are the enemies of their religion, and this also alienates traditional Muslims and pushes them into the radical camp.
I think D’Souza has a point. Many years ago, a prescient friend of mine said that Islam’s problem with the west was all about women. Islam cannot accept women’s liberation, he said, since there is a pressing need in traditional Islamic communities to keep women subservient. The West’s acceptance of women’s sexuality, and it’s willingness (NOW’s protests to the contrary) to accord women equal status at all societal levels, undercut every aspect of Arabized Islamic culture.
My point about women and Islam isn’t a non-seqitur. The most traditional types of Christianity, while according women vastly more respect than Islam, still accord with Islamic culture in that they appoint the man as the head of the family, both nuclear and societal. I learned this fact in the “weekend of the two weddings. ” The first one I attended was a new age wedding, with lots of crystal talk, and spiritual gobbledy-gook about souls on astral planes. I wasn’t sure if I was attending a wedding or a space alien’s reunion. I left the ceremony wanting to giggle, and feeling strangely cold about the whole thing.
The next wedding, a few hours later, was that of two people I knew who were strongly fundamental in their religious beliefs. I’d never been to a wedding like theirs. The minister must have spent some ten minutes drilling it into the bride, the groom and all the guests that there wedded status replicated the head and body of Christ, with the man most definitely the head. I should have been offended (I was, after all, a young California feminist), but I wasn’t. I wasn’t because a large part of that ten minute talk made sure everyone understood that a head without a body is dead and meaningless. While the minister accorded the young man primacy in the wedded relationship, he made it very clear that the man’s obligation was to cherish and respect the woman, recognizing that he was nothing without her.
Islam may not appreciate the women’s “body” value, but it certainly understands that traditional religion assigns the man a lead role vis a vis women, something that is probably a tolerable situation to your average Islamist. Secularism, however, does not. Indeed, modern secular values have often gone to such extremes that men find themselves denigrated. In addition as Ariel Levy details in her depressing book Female Chauvinist Pigs, modern American women have lost sight of the relationship aspect of sexuality, and think equality means flashing their breasts, raising their skirts, and humiliating themselves in front of cameras. Indeed, DB, in the email advising me about the D’Souza article made precisely the same point, recalling how Muslims he knew were beyond offended when a young woman at a football game felt the uncontrollable urge to bare her breasts for the crowd.
Of course, secularism versus religion is not the entire answer to explain answer Mark Steyn’s repeated question asking “How do we solve a problem like Sharia?” If secularism were the only problem, Islam shouldn’t be as hostile as it is to Israel, which is a religious state. But that’s another story and another article. As it is, I think he has a point, which is that part of Islam’s problem with the West is its fear of the West’s secularist culture creating a societal revolution — especially amongst women — that would undo the entire Muslim world.
UPDATE: I agreed with D’Souza’s premise, as expressed, in the op-ed above, because I think part of the Jihadist’s intense hostility to America arises because it perceives American cultural expressions that arise from secularism as extremely threatening. That is, America might be perceived as less hostile to Islam if America generally embraced some more conservative principles. (For example, Madonna and Britney frenching on American TV is the kind of thing that could encourage the most radically conservative and misogynistic people in the world to think America is Satan incarnate.)
What I didn’t realize is that D’Souza was giving a precis of principles he expands on in his new book “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11.” I haven’t read the book, but David Forsmark’s review in FrontPage Magazine has given me some pause. Thus, while I understood D’Souza’s op-ed to mean that America’s secular culture has made the country seem more threatening to the jihadists, something I do believe to be true, it turns out that D’Souza envisions huge new alliances based on this concept:
While he dismisses as illogical and disingenuous the foreign policy reasons for Islamic radical attacks on the U.S., and as such treats them as mere propagandistic device, he chooses to accept as genuine every radical condemnation of American depravity