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September 28, 2006

On 'Muslims' Complicity With Violence'

Topics: Understanding Islam

In a remarkable event for the mainstream media, Max Boot writes at the L.A. Times what we should have been getting from the media every single day - that unless it clamps down vigorously on fanaticism, the Islamic world risks validating its worst caricatures:

EVER SINCE 9/11, a dark view of Islam has been gaining currency on what might be called the Western street. This view holds that, contrary to the protestations of our political leaders -- who claim that acts of terrorism are being carried out by a minority of extremists -- the real problem lies with Islam itself. In this interpretation, Islam is not a religion of peace but of war, and its 1.2 billion adherents will never rest until all of humanity is either converted, subjugated or simply annihilated.

Is the war on terrorism really a "clash of civilizations"? The overreaction to Pope Benedict XVI's relatively innocuous remarks at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12 would seem to lend weight to this alarming notion.

As part of a plea for combining reason with religion, the pope cited a 14th century Byzantine emperor who condemned Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman" because of "his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The pope subsequently made clear that these were not his own views, but this did not stop an explosion of animosity across the Muslim world. Amid calls from angry clerics to "hunt down" the holy father (a.k.a. "the dog of Rome" and the "worshiper of the cross"), various hotheads have taken to the streets and attacked Christian churches. This recalls the over-the-top outcry this year after a Danish newspaper dared to print cartoons depicting Muhammad as an instigator of violence.

Muslim spokesmen claim that these are unconscionable slurs. Yet, while demanding respect for their own religion, too many Muslims accord too little respect to competing faiths or even to competing brands of their own faith.

Where are the demonstrations in the Muslim street when the president of Iran denies the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel? Or when Palestinian kidnappers force two Western journalists to convert to Islam at gunpoint? Or when Sunni terrorists in Iraq bomb Shiite mosques and slaughter hundreds of worshipers? All too many Islamic leaders prefer to harp on the supposed sins of the "infidels," however exaggerated or even fictionalized (no, the CIA didn't bomb the World Trade Center to create an excuse for invading Afghanistan), rather than focusing on the problems within their own umma (community).

You do indeed want to read more.

Some of the best commentary I've found on Boot's piece is at Captain's Quarters, which compliments the L.A. Times piece.

Captain Ed writes:

Boot focuses on an aspect of the war on terror that too often gets dismissed in a drizzle of political correctness. People rush to excuse Muslims from the war by emphasizing that Islam is a "religion of peace", a phrase that finds so much repetition that some are now tempted to put it into title caps and stick a trademark notation on it. This comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the faith; it does not value peace as much as it values submission, and even its prophet insisted that his mandate included gaining that submission by force.

As Boot points out, though, that does not translate to every Muslim being a fanatic and a purveyor of violence in pursuit of religion. Islam had its Golden Age at the height of its expansion. Muslims allowed people of other faiths to live relatively unmolested, certainly more so than did the Christians of the same era, although they still had to submit to the authority of Islam, at least publicly. Upon capturing Jerusalem, the Crusaders committed a ghastly genocide, killing almost all of the non-Christians in the city. When Saladin recaptured the city, he refrained from returning the favor.

Since then, the two cultures have moved in opposite directions. While Christianity eventually reformed itself, Islam grew more moribund. The Renaissance and Reformation allowed Christendom to pursue scientific and political reforms that greatly expanded the knowledge of man and the liberty of the individual. Islam, which had led scientific progress for an age, grew hidebound and refused to look past the Qur'an for answers, an impulse that continues to this day. Islam has never experienced a Reformation, nor Arab cultures a Renaissance, and the difference has created the "clash of civilizations" of which Huntingdon warned the West.

The West has to demand that Reformation, and we have to quit relying on passive-aggressive PC platitudes to do it.

Given the perspectives offered by Boot and Captain Ed, we need just one more perspective to cap off an otherwise well-delivered take home message, and that comes from Big Lizards:
... The jihadis relentlessly misunderestimate us, the West... and they underestimate us far more egregiously and foolishly than we do them.

... The Islamists have misunderestimated and discounted us again and again, and always for the same reason: they are utterly convinced that our freedom and love of life are our weaknesses, while their own totalitarianism and love of death are their strengths.

... But of course, the Islamists have it exactly backwards: it is their very love of death that is their undoing every time; for men will stand and fight to the death because they love life; but they will not stand and fight at all if all they love is death... for what solace is there in deathwish to give a man courage? A love of death is the mark of despair, not hope.

Because we love life, we revere sacrifice -- but not suicide. Life seeks life, and all those who also love life flock to our shores, desperate to become Americans de jure, as they are already Americans de facto.

And freedom, free-thinking, and individualism have given the world all the great advances in science and technology, in philosophy, in politics, and especially in the art of war. As the aphorism goes, there are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people.

Yes, it is long past time for the Islamic world to vigorously clamp down on fanaticism, just as it is long past time for Muslims to recognize the dire need for reform in Islam. On the non-Muslim side of the equation, it's damned time that the PC among us recognize that for many if not most Muslims today, their view of Islam "does not value peace as much as it values submission, and even its prophet insisted that his mandate included gaining that submission by force." In demanding more from the Islamic world, including its reform, Muslims and non-Muslims equally benefit - it's time for that reform to begin.

Our take home message here is that the time has come for Muslims to join in and embrace the values that encompass the concept that "freedom, free-thinking, and individualism have given the world all the great advances in science and technology, in philosophy, in politics, and especially in the art of war, and that there are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people." The time has also come for the West to demand that the Islamic world embrace such values.

Posted by Richard at September 28, 2006 7:58 AM

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