Islam has been in the headlines lately and (reasons incomprehensible to the Left) whenever Islam is in the news, it’s associated with violence — bombs, beheadings, shootings, stabbings, church and people burnings, mass slaughters, mass rapes, tossing people off buildings, child soldiers, hangings, honor killings, etc. The Leftists are left scratching their heads: What is it about Islam that leads to this bad press?
M. Steven Fish, a UC Berkeley political scientist, takes a stab at figuring out this vexing problem. Herewith, a little fisking (hint: it’s all Christians’ fault).
To give him credit, Fish begins by noting that (a) Muslims account for the bulk of the world’s terrorism and have done so for more than 20 years. He has also figured out that, while we like to say that most Muslims aren’t terrorists, the fact is that their “anti-terrorist” credentials are invisible. Those who don’t bomb still aren’t out there protesting the bombings. Having started off so well, though, Fish lapses into stupid:
One explanation we can rule out is that Muslims are violent people. Predominantly, Muslim countries average 2.4 murders per annum per 100,000 people, compared to 7.5 in non-Muslim countries. The percentage of the society that is made up of Muslims is an extraordinarily good predictor of a country’s murder rate. More authoritarianism in Muslim countries does not account for the difference. I have found that controlling for political regime in statistical analysis does not change the findings. More Muslims, less homicide.
The fact is that the same religious dictates that tell Muslims to slaughter, rape, enslave, torture, and otherwise brutalize non-Muslims, the wrong kind of Muslims, Christians, Jews, women, Hindus, homosexuals, dogs, etc., also tells them to leave their own tribe alone. And that tribe is very small indeed. It consists of your kind of Muslims and their properly subordinated women. Those people you can leave alive.
It’s also dishonest for Fish to separate murder from terrorism. Terrorism is a form of murder, and as to that type of murder, Muslims excel.
Fish then tries the old “the Bible is just as bad as the Koran” argument.
Some writers explain it in terms of religious doctrine. According to Robert Spencer, the Koran contains ample rationalizations for violence against outsiders.
But the Old Testament does so as well. For example, it reports Joshua’s conquering armies massacring entire captured cities — putting sobbing children to the sword, hanging people on trees and carrying off the plunder and booty — all under God’s orders. In terms of savagery and divine enthusiasm for the slaughter of innocents, the Koran contains nothing analogous to the account in Joshua chapters 10-11.
That is a red herring. As we have repeatedly discussed here, while it is true that the Old Testament, especially the story of Joshua, reports on terrible, violent, even genocidal conquests, it does not include general directives. Yes, the Lord says to Joshua something along the lines of “Don’t worry; you’ll win,” and yes, Joshua kills everyone in his path. This Bronze Age approach to total war makes for very disturbing reading now.
Importantly, though, the Old Testament is quite clearly a historical record. That is, at some point in time, the Jews wrote down an oral history telling how they, with a small, rag-tag army, were able to conquer established tribes in Canaan. This is the past recorded. The history does not contain future directives.
Likewise, to the extent that the New Testament does contain future directives, rather than just history recorded, Christ’s teachings are exceptionally humane. He dreams of a world without war and hypocrisy, of one in which the greater care for the lesser, and one that cherishes separation of church and state.
As I’ve repeatedly told everyone who will listen, Christ didn’t bring violence to the Europeans when they converted from paganism; instead, the mostly still pagan Europeans did violence in Christ’s name. (By the way, has anyone noticed that, as the Europeans march further away from the humane Christianity of the Enlightenment and beyond, they seem to be reverting to that same Gaia-worshipping paganism?)
It’s only Islam that has a holy book containing broad forward-looking directives regarding the killing and enslavement of non-Muslims, homosexuals, Jews, and “dishonorable” women, all with the ultimate goal of a worldwide Caliphate. These aren’t historic stories that try to use God’s will to explain past events. They are a rigid set of permanent instructions, and faithful Muslims believe that they are required to follow them.
(Another aside here, which is that the Old Testament’s “permanent,” forward-looking instructions aren’t about rape, pillage, enslavement, and slaughter. Instead, they are about (a) just and moral relationships between people, and between People and God; and (b) dietary and lifestyle restrictions that are limited to practicing Jews, rather than being imposed everyone.
Fish also dismisses the theory that Muslims are violent because of sexual frustration:
But what little we know about the sex lives of terrorists leaves room for skepticism. In his sample of Islamist terrorists for whom he obtained family status information, Marc Sageman found that most were married men who had children. The top leaders of terrorist organizations, moreover, have been polygynous rock stars in their own earthly communities. For Osama bin Laden, heaven could wait; for Ayman al-Zawahiri, it still can.
I think sex is a problem, but it’s not the virginity of the terrorists that’s the issue. It is, instead, the Muslim world’s mortal fear that it will lose control of the women under Islamic domination. True Western feminism (not the misanthropic Marxist garbage that passes for feminism in America’s colleges) posits that women are men’s equals. If this is true, the entire Islamic infrastructure, which is based upon completely dominating and controlling half the population, suddenly collapses. It’s also worth noting that men raised by women in a profoundly misgynistic culture must suffer serious head trips as they make their way through adolescence.
Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that the whole tribal/sexual thing puts a premium on first-cousin marriages. There are a lot of young people born into the Muslim world with incest-based genetic problems, and these too could help promulgate the murderous pathologies cropping up in Muslim societies.
Having examined and discarded all of the possible theories he doesn’t like, Fish gets to the real cause of Muslim violence: It’s the fault of Christians. And it’s their fault in a profound way. Just be existing as successfully as they do, they are a living enticement to Islam to destroy them.
Fish begins by rejecting Karen Armstrong’s claim that anti-Western Muslim violence is all the fault of the Crusaders. That, Fish concedes, happened too long ago to matter and, in any event, the Muslims gave as good as they got in Crusader versus Muslim battles. Indeed, it was the Muslims who managed to keep the Holy Land that they had conquered.
No, says Fish, the real problem is that Christians did better in the modern world and they made the Muslims feel bad about themselves. (As you read the following quotation, you’ll notice that it doesn’t seem to occur to Fish that Christians did better because they had a faith that encouraged thinking, exploration, analysis, etc., while Muslims did badly because they had a stultifying faith that gave them no way out of the Dark Ages.):
But the truth is, in the contemporary world, Christians won big. And the frustration and humiliation that Muslims now feel as a result can help explain terrorism. That frustration and humiliation is rooted in politics rather than sex and in modern experience rather than deep history. And it has little to do with the Koran.
Let’s consider a few simple facts: Christians drew the boundaries of the states in which most Muslims live. They named those same formations, from “Senegal” to “Jordan” to “Indonesia.” Currently, people in Christian countries make up one-third of the world’s population, while holding two-thirds of its wealth and nine-tenths of its military might.
And then Fish really takes off. Imagine, he says, if Christians and the Western world as a whole were on the economic downside and the wheel of fate and the world was instead subject to Sino-Muslim control. He spends several paragraphs spelling out a scenario in which Christians are an ignorant backwater subordinate to a new world order. In that case, Christians, he posits, would become the terrorists.
In order to participate successfully in the global economy as well as scholarly discourse and cultural production, Americans, Frenchmen, Brazilians and Russians now must master Mandarin and Modern Standard Arabic — with Turkish and Indonesian strongly recommended. Arab countries easily dismantle the state of Israel. The occasional invasion and occupation of parts of Russia, Southeastern Europe and the Philippines at moments when China or the Muslim countries believe they detect a security threat from those Christian lands becomes part of the rhythm of global politics. Such actions spark outrage in Christendom. But they do not prompt concerted, effective counteractions, since Christian countries no longer have the ability or will to resist.
In fact, many leaders in Europe and the Americas cannot resist financial enticements offered by China and the Muslim states, which help fund electoral campaigns and personal consumption. The lucre cools Western leaders’ passions for resisting what at any rate seem like inexorable trends in world politics.
Would everyone in Christendom accept these developments calmly? Some might not. Disregard for their cultures, languages, forms of government, products, services and security concerns may even ignite a widespread, slow-burning rage. The suspicion that even some of their own leaders were complicit in their countries’ degradation might be the final straw.
The final straw, that is, that broke a healthy human abhorrence of deadly violence against innocents and a normal human capacity for distinguishing between innocents and oppressors. Under such conditions, is it difficult to imagine that some self-proclaimed soldiers of Christianity would lash out by committing terrorist acts? Might not Eric Robert Rudolph of the Christian Identity movement, who carried out the Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics and a string of other bombings to protest abortion and homosexuality;, and James Charles Kopp, an affiliate of The Lambs of Christ movement who murdered a physician who performed abortions in 1998, turn their ire on those whom they regard as enemies of their country and faith? Is it not possible that Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, might target Muslim overlords rather than the Feds?
And might not some Christians countenance such acts — or even applaud them? The slaughterers just mentioned enjoyed vocal support among some extremist groups as well as quieter, more diffuse sympathy among broader sections of the American population. Rudolph was feted in popular music and lore and shielded by local communities in North Carolina where he hid during his years as a fugitive prior to his 2003 arrest. McVeigh was lionized by some antigovernment extremists and became an object of fascination among many others. In the hypothetical scenario sketched here, isn’t it possible that some Christians would sympathize with terrorism against Muslims and non-Muslims who they regard as collaborators?
Fish’s scenario makes for good science fiction. In this, as in all things, though, a man of the Left is incapable of understanding our basic traits tend to carry us through even harrowing times, as well as forgetting that there is a difference in makes people fight.
Both the Chinese and the Muslims are statists — one is a socialist statist and the other a theocratic statist, but both seek to destroy the individual and subordinate everything to the good of the state (and, mostly, the apparatchiks in charge of the state). In other words, were they to dominate the world in the early 21st century, we would be looking at a world that more closely resembles Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea, all rolled into one. That’s a far cry from the world here, one in which Muslims could free themselves from their Medieval changes and embrace the benefits of an individualist, free market world.
In addition, were modern Christians to fight, it’s unlikely that they’d do it the way the Muslims do, trying to destroy all things that offend their delicate sensibilities. That is not the Judeo-Christian way, with its almost obsessive focus on the individual’s value. When we go to war, we seek to free, not to enslave. Yes, we will fight to defend those freedoms, and kill too, but the ultimate goal isn’t to gain dominance over the people’s of the world; it is, instead, to free them so that they can govern themselves.
To wrap this up, let me haul out my now-ragged poster on that point: