Libby, a Bookworm Room friend, came up with one of the most accurate statements I’ve ever seen distinguishing Islam from other religions. I have to share it with you:
The difference between Islam and other religions is that while other religions inspire their followers to control themselves to avoid sin, the followers of Islam seek to control their environment to avoid sin.
I was trolling through Facebook, where one of my friends posted this article about last weekend’s events in Kenya. (Read only if you have a very strong stomach or, if you don’t, are willing to be sick to yours.) One of his friends, in turn, commented that Al Shabab’s acts are the kind of things that give religion a bad reputation. I thought that was a surprisingly ecumenical comment.* I sat for quite a while afterwards trying to think of a single religion other than Islam that has, in the last, say 300 years, done anything even remotely like that. I came up empty.
Until people are willing to admit that the problem isn’t religion, or even some generic “extremism,” but is, in fact, Islam, I don’t see us making any progress whatsoever in pushing back the barbarian onslaught.
*I know “ecumenical” isn’t quite the right word, since it pertains to all Christians faiths, not all faiths, but I’m tired, and it was the best I could come up with.
Defending what is good about your country is racist. So is describing Islam and its cultural and political practices.
Regarding Islam, let me be clear that this is not the same as the antisemites making things up about Jews, as they have since time immemorial. Instead, what we know about Islam comes from the Muslim world itself: from their concrete (and bloody) acts, from their media, from their speeches, and from their houses of worship. They are open about what they are. It is we who bury their true nature under platitudes and lies.
I enjoy reading my Liberal-Lefty friends’ Facebook posts because they are so insightful into the mindsets of the Left.
One insight that I have gained over time is that the differences between us conservatives and the Progressive/Left are so profound that they are unlikely to ever be bridged, barring some cataclysmic, life-changing events. What I have tried to do is understand why this is so. I share this with you because I greatly appreciate the insights that Bookworm group has to offer on such issues – be it “yay” or “nay”.
Our disagreements appear to come down to three levels of separation.
1) First, there are objective facts (OK, I am being deliberately redundant here). These are easy enough to resolve. Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock world has arrived: everybody is so overwhelmed with information that we can’t absorb and process all there is to know and we therefore choose our facts selectively.
As Ronald Reagan said, ““It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”
In discussions, factual disputes are easy enough to resolve: my typical response to Liberal /Lefties is simply tell them to “Google it”. Amazingly, many apparently don’t know that you can Google entire texts or sentences. A good example was the recent George Zimmerman trial…many people with whom I disagreed told me outright they were too busy to bother looking up facts. The Left operates on so many facts that just aren’t so.
2) The second level of separation involves our assumptions or premises. These are tougher to resolve, because we assume and presume events based on our past experiences. I suspect that we humans are hard-wired to build assumptions (true or false) as a defense mechanism: for example, my cave ancestors probably assumed that to allow a saber-tooth tiger to stand in their path was not a good thing and that such assumption is one reason why I stand here today.
We go through life building mental templates on how the world works in order to short-circuit decision making and evaluation. Otherwise, we would soon be overwhelmed with indecision. As long as our world templates work for us, we continue to hold onto them. Many formerly Liberals (e.g., David Horowitz, Bookworm) only became conservative when one or more events (e.g., 9/11) rendered their previously comfortable world views untenable. For me it was Reagan’s second term, when his policies led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic resurgence. I, young man at the time, knew then that my Democrat world template had been very, very wrong.
I use the word “comfortable” deliberately, because our templates represent our comfort zones. Losing that comfort zone is terrifying. Imagine if all of a sudden nothing in the world made any sense to you; you would feel totally deracinated and quite possibly insane. You would also feel a deep sense of personal failure, as in “how in the world could I have been so deluded?”
And, the older you get, the more frightening that sense of loss, confusion and failure would be. So, the older we get, the more desperately we defend our mental templates, selecting and force-fitting “facts” to fit our own perceptions of reality. I believe this is where modern Liberalism and Progressivism are today (Google “Paul Krugman”). As Thomas Sowell put it, people of the Left expect the world to conform to their misperceptions. Eventually, however, reality hits like a 2 x 4 between the brow…as in “Detroit”.
I believe that this dynamic also explains the sheer viciousness expressed by many on the Left when the presumptions of their world templates are threatened (as by Sarah Palin or by black conservatives, for example). This is also the reason why I believe that world Islam will fail, because it doesn’t work and eventually people in Muslim worlds, aided by the internet, will eventually realize this (some of my Middle Eastern friends assure me that many already do). Reality is a harsh mistress.
This level of separation helps to explain why Liberals and Conservatives usually talk past each other. We try to rationalize our positions to each other, but our rationalizations only make sense if the other party shares the same assumptions and understandings of how the world works. We operate from completely different templates.
3) Faith. This the most difficult and potentially dangerous degree of separation, because it addresses fundamental values that are non-negotiable. Our “faith” defines how we perceive ourselves and our place in the world, irrespective of facts, logic and reason. I cannot, for example, “prove” the veracity of my Christian faith. Environmental extremists and atheists cannot “prove” the righteousness of their positions. We just “know” that what we believe to be true is true. There is no logical argument that I know of that can challenge faith-based values. Our values define who we are and how we perceive the world to be. Utopian fascist ideals (Progressivism, Nazism, communism, Islamism, etc.), for example, are defined by a faith in a future to come – they require no proof. Abortion is a similar issue of faith and values – there is no middle-of-the-road compromise if you believe abortion to be murder and that murder is wrong (a value proposition). Psychologists have claimed that only very powerful shocks to the system can challenge faith.
I have no dealing with the first degree of separation. I admit, however, that I am totally stumped on how to address (2) and (3). Any ideas?
Michael Totten is a true journalist — an endlessly curious, extremely brave, open-minded but opinionated man who doesn’t just sit in a field office taking information from locals who have an agenda. Instead, he goes out there and investigates.
Totten’s most recent foray took him to Hezbollah’s very own theme park, an homage to Hezbollah’s fight against the “evil Zionist entity.” The description of the theme park reads almost like parody, except that the parodists have guns (and possible WMDs), and aren’t afraid to use them, preferably (from their point of view) in a genocidal fury against Jews.
For a bibliophile, one of the joys of blogging is getting to review books. I actually don’t review a significant percentage of the books I get because I find them unreadable. This isn’t always an indictment of the books I receive. They may be exquisite examples of their genre, but they just don’t work for me.* Some books, however, are wonderful, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Douglas Murray’s Islamophilia : A Very Metropolitan Malady is one of those books.
Murray’s premise is a simple one: Western culture is caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of thought about Islam, both as an abstract religion and as a lifestyle force that a billion people around the world practice. Scylla is the fact that anything that doesn’t affirmatively praise Islam, its prophet, its practices, or its practitioners is designated as Islamophobia. Islamophobia differs from other phobias in a few ways. First, it implies an irrational fear of Islam, which is rather funny when you consider that committing acts of Islamophobia, either intentionally or unintentionally, is tantamount to signing your own death warrant — and I don’t mean that as a figure of speech. Salman Rushdie got real death threats, not poetic ones; and Theo Van Gogh got real death, never mind the predicate threats.
The Charybdis is that many people in positions of authority, rather than just falling silent about Islam have gone the opposite way and heap it with fatuous, extreme, and often extremely ignorant praise. Some do this because they hate Western culture (American, British, European, etc.) and will praise any doctrine, entity, person, or organization that is intent upon destroying the West; some because they are too ignorant to know better; some because they inadvertently spoke the truth about Islam and, to avoid death, must do more than just walk their statements back; some because they want to skip the death threats entirely and just get straight down to fawning over Islam; and some because they actually like a religion built around submission, misogyny, and war.
Murray offers examples of each class of Islamophile, whether in the world of politics, literature, or entertainment, all described in pithy, witty, pointed, and very accessible prose. Politics? Learn about former British PM Tony Blair, who converted to Catholicism, but nevertheless boasts that he reads the Koran daily “mainly just because it immensely instructive.” You don’t have to go as far as England to find fatuous politics at work in the world of Islamophilia. We’ve got plenty of Islamophilia in American politics, starting with George Bush’s oft repeated phrase about Islam being a “religion of peace” (and you’d better say that or we’ll kill you) and going through to CIA Director John Brennan’s manifest adoration for all things Muslim, including “Al Quds” (the place Israel and the Bible call Jerusalem).
When it comes to the world of the mind (or perhaps it’s more accurate to call it “the world of the mindless”), Murray talks about the intellectual corruption that sees the London Science Museum, the New York Hall of Science, and the California Science Center in Los Angeles all host a vast exhibit touting “1000 Islamic Inventions.” We all know about Arabic numerals (for which we are grateful, even if they did actually originate in India), but did you know that Muslims invented everything else? Flight? A Muslim invention. Cameras? A Muslim invention. And if you’re silly enough to think Erno Rubik invented the cube of that name, please disabuse yourself of that silly notion. Muslims invented that too. It’s one thing politely to avoid pointing out the paucity of Muslim contributions to the world of the mind; it’s another thing altogether to propagate gross falsehoods — but that’s what Islamophiles do.
Do I even need to point out about Hollywood? No. I won’t bother. Read the book and watch Murray slice, dice, and eviscerate the Hollywood crowd that, out of fear, keeps resurrecting Nazis or parading corporate monsters about, all the while pretending that there hasn’t been a serious existential threat to America since 1945.
Murray seems to reserve his greatest disdain for the literati, describing in quite embarrassing detail how such intellectual luminaries as Martin Amis and Sebastian Faulks backed down from criticizing (fairly mildly, one might add) Islam. They didn’t just say “we misspoke.” Nooo. When the long knives (or scimitars) were turned their way, these two “men of letters” became groveling sycophants who exhausted their impressive vocabularies heaping praise upon every aspect of Islam.
All these people are fools if they believe their slobbering love affair with Islam will protect them. Like Churchill’s famous appeasers, they’re hoping to delay the crocodile’s jaws, but they’re deluding themselves. Even saying complimentary things about Islam can be dangerous. In a hysterically funny, but still depressing, chapter entitled “Islamophilia is no defence,” Murray relates the history of Sherry Jones’ The Jewel of Medina, which was meant to be a nice book about Islam. Unfortunately, it made too many people aware of some habits Mohammed had that tend to rub at least some Westerners the wrong, with a child bride topping the list. After you’re done reading the chapter, you’ll also want to weep when you realize how little faith the West has in the values and virtues of its own culture.
Murray is a delightful writer. His prose is clear and assured; his wit pointed, but controlled; and his fund of knowledge satisfyingly vast — although what he knows and shares is inevitably depressing. I recommend this book wholeheartedly, all the more so because it’s a very user-friendly length. I read it in a couple of hours, despite my family’s constant interruptions.
It might interest you to know that Islamophilia is published by EMBooks, which is Melanie Phillips’ ebook press. Phillips writes regular about Islam and antisemitism in England. Read her non-fiction Londonistan if you want to have nightmares about the toxic combination of Islam and British Leftism. Although written a few years ago, the book is as applicable now as it was when originally published.
* An example of this — a really good book that I just couldn’t read — is Dakota Meyer’s Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, which he wrote with Bing West. It’s extremely well-written and very interesting. I’ve started it three times, but every time I get to that fatal day in Ganjigal, Afghanistan, the one that earned Meyer his Medal of Honor, I just can’t bear to read it. I seem to have exhausted my courage reading Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. I highly recommend the book, though, because I’ve read enough of it to know that the rest will be fascinating for people more courageous than I am.
The photo above must be one of the most iconic images from the hippie, anti-war period. A youthful anti-Vietnam War protester, faced with a ring of National Guard troops pointing their rifles at him, carefully places a flower in each muzzle. He thinks, no doubt, that the flowers have magically converted the guns into harmless instruments. The troops, however, know that their rifles are still rifles. The only thing that’s preventing them from firing is their inherent decency and, of course, the lack of any order telling them to pull the trigger. The flower didn’t change anything; it’s the underlying morality that matters.
I thought of this liberal delusion — that guns can magically be transformed into harmless flowers — when Hube brought to my attention the clarity with which Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the existential threat facing Israel, and about the West’s passivity in the face of this threat:
“The leaders of the Allies knew about the Holocaust in real time,” Netanyahu said at the opening of a permanent exhibit called “Shoah” in Block 27 at the Auschwitz- Birkenau State Museum.
“They understood exactly what was happening in the death camps. They were asked to act, they could have acted, and they did not.
“To us Jews the lesson is clear: We must not be complacent in the face of threats of annihilation. We must not bury our heads in the sand or allow others to do the work for us. We will never be helpless again.”
To stare down the muzzle of a rifle is a remarkably clarifying moment. Why aren’t we having such clarifying moments in America despite the Islamists’ relentless war against America and Western values? I think the problem is perfectly summed up by the young man in that photo: reality-challenged Progressive think that, by pretending the rifle is a flower, it will magically become one. That’s not how rifles or flowers work.
One of the standard paradigms of modern Western culture is that the Middle Ages were a dark, primitive time. While that’s true for the era between Rome’s fall and about 1,000 A.D., after 1,000 A.D. Europe enjoyed an explosive, intellectually vibrant time. (To understand the groundwork for this intellectual explosion, I highly recommend Thomas Cahill’s completely delightful How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, which tells how Irish monks, by preserving and spreading Christianity, set the West on its path to modernity.)
Recognizing that the Middle Ages were a splendid, dynamic isn’t just a matter of setting the historical record straight. Every PC-educated school child will tell you that Islam is good because, during the Middle Ages, when the West was mired in filth and ignorance, the Islamic world was a paradise of tolerance, beauty and learning. I’m not going to denigrate the medieval Islamic world. Certain parts of the medieval Islamic world were indeed places were Jews and Christians, although second class citizens, were able to thrive intellectually and economically; the art and architecture were beautiful (one word: Alhambra); and the culture was sophisticated and rich. The medieval Muslim world should be accorded recognition for its achievements.
The problem is that PC education, to ensure Islam its proper place in the scheme of things, then dishonestly paints the Middle Ages as a primitive, ugly, antisemitic, misanthropic world. This is true, but such a fragmented part of the truth that it distorts the whole. The fact is that medieval Europe was different from, but just as bad as — and just as good as — medieval Islam. Both were worlds of explosive intellectual growth, celebrations of God and nature, travel and conquest, artistic beauty, misogyny and antisemitism, religious bullying, and all the other stuff that makes medieval cultures fascinating and frustrating, enticing and off-putting. The crucial difference is that the European Middle Ages were a springboard, whereas the Islamic Middle Ages were an apex.
With that as a brief and scrambled intro, you might enjoy this short video about the brilliant Middle Ages.
The Economist has a chart that tracks the data Pew gathered when it polled Muslims around the world about their beliefs. It turns out (no big surprise here) that those of you who denied the existence of assimilated, “moderate” Muslims were right. To the extent these MINOs (Muslims in Name Only) exist, they’re a very, very small minority. Most other Muslims, given their dream world, see sharia as the answer, not the problem.
What I found amusing, in a grim, bitter way, was this statement from The Economist:
The report also reflects man’s infinite capacity to hold contradictory views at the same time. Almost 80% of Egyptian Muslims say they favour religious freedom and a similar number favour sharia law. Of that group, almost 90% also think people who renounce Islam should be put to death. Confused? So are they.
They don’t seem confused at all to me. When the Muslims polled speak of religious freedom, they mean the freedom to practice Islam — or else.
The elephant in the middle of the room that no one seems to want to look at is that there are people in this country, perhaps many people, who have been welcomed into this country, lived here for quite a while, embraced by Americans and treated kindly, who smile at you and seem perfectly normal, and who would happily kill you as an infidel. All of Dzhokhar’s college pals who shared joints, partied together, and played on sports teams together are shocked, and who can blame them, because he seemed so nice and normal and settled. What they don’t understand is that he only seemed nice. For quite awhile, inside he thought they were all infidels worthy of murder for the cause. It could have been all of them in the dorm or a classroom, smiles and pleasantries forgotten. He and his brother chose another more symbolic venue to declare their jihad and hatred of America and infidels, but he would have killed his dormmates, teammates or classmates just as happily.
That’s scary and unsettling. Who wants to think that people who smile and eat lunch with us may be putting on an elaborate act, that behind the smile lies a hatred deep enough to put a bomb next to a defenseless child and kill him, horribly maim dozens of others, then go back to school, refer to himself as a “stress free kind of guy” on twitter, hit the gym, and fool the dupes around him. This is the definition of evil. Evil exists when sane people follow an evil ideology, or when people are sociopathic and warped. Which are the Boston jihadists? They are both. They show a callous indifference to human life and no doubt a triumphal game of returning to the dorm or daily routine, easy as pie, F*&% America and its slutty women and unbelievers.
The Boston politically correct brigade will try to understand them and explain their deeds, as if planting a bomb next to kids in a crowd of people enjoying a race can be explained in any way by anything we did, as if anything—anything—can explain their decision to wage jihad at the Boston Marathon. The media and academia have become accustomed to blaming external factors for everything; school failure, criminal activity, gangs, violence. But other immigrant kids don’t do this. Not every kid who feels alienated does this. Hell, not even every kid who hates America does this. The deeds of Dzhokhar and Tamerlin Tsarnaev reflect their choices and their values. Their playing a “nice guy” role to their American friends and acquaintances reflects choices and values too. They weren’t teased or bullied. You kidding? A Golden Gloves boxer and a wrestling champ? More likely they were welcomed and treated decently by naïve people perhaps, but people far better than they, people that don’t live deceitful, fraudulent lives, plotting murder with a smile on their faces.
The question for us, knowing that there are others like the Boston jihadists living here and smiling at us, is what do we do? How do we stay open as a society and safe? If the majority of decent, law abiding Moslems are appalled by these actions, how do we get them to engage in protest and widespread condemnation of the acts, instead of defensive accusations that they might be picked on? How do we become a society that accepts personal responsibility again? How do we become a people who again can face that true evil exists in the ideology of the brothers and must be fought as hard and devotedly as we fought the true evil that existed in Nazi ideology.
David Remnick, writing at The New Yorker has a very interesting article about “The Brothers Tsarnaev” (and yes, we all appreciated the little Dostoyevsky reference there). It’s interesting at two levels. At the first level, the beginning is an elegant piece of journalism that looks at the region and at Chechens, and acknowledges the region is distinctly Islamic and prone to blowing people up (although the word “Beslan” never appears). Remnick also writes about the boys themselves, noting the mixture of shallowness and venom that characterizes them. I was quite impressed. By George, I thought, I think he’s getting it. Maybe this liberal is having a reality moment.
But sadly, it was not to be. He just couldn’t hang on to enlightenment by the time he got past the first half. There was the reflexive drift towards “banality,” which James Taranto eviscerated so effectively. By the third paragraph from the end, Remnick was blaming social media for the brothers’ killing spree. I’ll agree that social media probably facilitates evil’s spread, but the evil is the particular brand of Islam the boys followed, and that seems to have been a gift to them from Chechen connections and their local radicalized mosque. Facebook was a tool, not a cause.
The second paragraph from the end spoke about their loving families, and how we should feel sympathy for them. The aunts and uncles who disavow the evil and speak of America . . . yes, I guess. The Mom who screams about conspiracies — well, she could be in denial, which is a mom thing; she could be as evil as her sons; or she could be right. As for the Dad, Remnick couldn’t resist a little selective editing. Feel pity for Daddy he writes, because Daddy loved his boys: “The father described Dzhokhar as an ‘angel.’” Somehow Remnick forgot the rest of Daddy’s quote, where he said that, if Dzhokhar died, “all hell would break loose.”
And then, in the final paragraph, Remnick finally gets to his point — it’s the fault of both America and the internet:
The Tsarnaev family had been battered by history before—by empire and the strife of displacement, by exile and emigration. Asylum in a bright new land proved little comfort. When Anzor fell sick, a few years ago, he resolved to return to the Caucasus; he could not imagine dying in America. He had travelled halfway around the world from the harrowed land of his ancestors, but something had drawn him back. The American dream wasn’t for everyone. What they could not anticipate was the abysmal fate of their sons, lives destroyed in a terror of their own making. The digital era allows no asylum from extremism, let alone from the toxic combination of high-minded zealotry and the curdled disappointments of young men. A decade in America already, I want out.
Funnily enough, in all those paragraphs, even though Remnick could acknowledge that the boys were Muslims, he could not make himself acknowledge that Islam is the core problem. Everything else is window-dressing.