February 04, 2006
Marx, Communism, Totalitarianism; Muhammed, Islam, Terrorism
I'm glad that the U.S. State Department condemned cartoons which offended many Muslims. That's their job. They are the official face of the American government to the world. And kudos to President Bush for condemning them. Again, he is America's chief diplomat. The business of diplomacy is to reduce conflict.
Luckily, I am not a diplomat. My responsibility as an online writer is to tell the truth as I see it. And the truth, as I see it, is that Islam is the cause of a great deal of evil in the world today.
So, when I see prominent bloggers that I respect saying that the above statement is based on a kind of phobia, I take humbrage. And when other prominent bloggers equate that sentiment with antisemetism, I take offense.
Many of us would like to think that Islam is just another religion. That sentiment comes from a good place. Most Americans want to believe that about our fellow Americans. In fact, I would argue that America has always had a national ecumenical spirit. But such thinking is also ignorant of Islam as it is, and not as it should be. I would like Islam to be just another religion which asks only for the soul of the Muslim and not his political fealty, but that is not the case.
As the vast majority of Muslims will readily admit to you, Islam is not simply a mode of worship, it is a total way of life that demands every aspect of a person's being. In other words, there is no render unto Ceaser that which is Ceaser's. There is no assumption of the separation of individual duty to God, and a society's duty to God. Thus, it proscribes not only what I should do as an individual, but what we should do as a society.
As such, it is not, strictly speaking, a religion. It is also a coherent socio-political system.
We normally call such socio-political constructs ideologies.
Islam as a religion I can accept, it is Islam as an ideology that I cannot.
The criticisms of those of us who are suspicious of Islam are sometimes valid. Frankly, part of the reason that I blog is to unleash my jeuvenile side. So, any accusation that The Jawa Report is often jeuvenile is spot on.
However, many recent comments by Left, Right, and Center are so far off and misinformed that they represent a kind of ideology of their own. That ideology confuses religious tolerance with religious acceptance. To tolerate Islam simply means to accept it as fact of life, but tolerance does not imply that I embrace it on equal terms with other religions.
I expect the Left to confuse tolerance and acceptance. They have always confused the two. But for the Right to do it is oddly out of place.
The Right has always been critical of ideologies which were antithetical to Liberty. We tolerated the Communist Party USA for 50 years, but were on the forefront of calling the ideology espoused by it what it was: inherently totalitarian.
I personally tolerated the head of the CPUSA as I listened to him speak on a square in front of Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre in the mid-1990s. Believe me, it took all the strength I could muster to not jump on that stage and pop him one in the mouth as he cheered the old Soviet system and lied to the Russian people that they had been far better off under Communism than Americans ever were under democracy.
I tolerated him, but did not embrace him. That is how tolerance works.
We on the Right were correct in saying that Communism was an inherently totalitarian system. It subsumed the individual to the collective, the will of the me to the you.
During that time, and even today, Communist 'fellowtraveler' apologists liked to distinguish between 'Marxism' or 'true Communism' and 'Stalinism' or 'Soviet Communism'. In their minds, it was unfair to criticize Marx or often even Lenin.
Marx and Lenin, they would say, were trying to help people, but Stalin was in it just for the power. They found it easier to believe that Stalin murdered 40 million people for the sake of his own megalomania than because he believed he was doing it for the sake of building Communism. Oddly, they could see that Hitler killed the Jews because he believed it was helping build the uber race, but it eluded them how it could be that Stalin could murder the kulaks for the sake of collectivization.
A great deal of academic work was produced during this time as a way for the followers of Marx to distinguish themselves from Communism as it was actually practiced in the Soviet Union or in China. Such work was meant to separate 'true Communism' from the Communist states.
These Communist 'fellowtravelers' we on the Right could tolerate. They made it clear that they rejected much of the heavy-handedness of the Soviet system and were often equally critical of it.
But we never embraced even the watered down version of Communism offered by these so-called fellowtravelers.
None of us cowered at the notion of saying that it was Marx's ideology itself that was evil. None of us feared offending them or alienating them by saying that Stalin was the direct and logical outcome of Marx. That the gulags were in fact started by that heroic icon of the Left, Lenin. That Communism itself was totalitarian in nature and evil.
Despite expressing our opinion about the inherent flaws of Communism and its ideological founder, Marx, we still tolerated Communists among us. And despite cries of 'McCarthyism', we attempted to boldly declare that which we truly believed.
During all of this the Left loved to bring up the fact that the vast majority of Soviet citizens would love nothing more than to live in peace. Our rejoinder was, "so what." How is that relevant to a discussion over whether or not Communism is inherently totalitarian and that Marx is responsible for it?
The Left also liked to point out states like Tito's Yugoslavia as examples of what they liked to believe were more open societies which were Marxist in orientation. Again, we replied, they may not be as bad as the USSR, but the citizens of Yugoslavia were also not free in any liberal sense of the word. To point out that there is a difference between Communism in Yugoslavia and the USSR is only show that one is less totalitarian than the other, not that neither are totalitarian.
It was also obvious to every one that there were different factions within the greater community of Marxists. Some of these factions had rehabilitated Marx to the point that they were no different than non-Marxist social-democrats. We didn't really care if they called themselves Marxists. That was fine. As long as they rejected the core ideas of Marxism. For instance, the last time I checked, Christopher Hithchens was calling himself a Trotskyite-Marxist. No accounting for ideological labels, I guess.
During all of this nobody said that the individual American Communist was a threat to our civil liberties. We did not think of individual Communists as bad people. We did not fear that our Communist neighbors would commit acts of terrorism. We had them over to our houses for dinner. Our kids played with their kids.
We were mature enough then to call Communism evil, while recognizing that the individual Communist was the kind of person we could go to a baseball game with. That is to say, one's ideology has little to do with how that person acts on a day to day basis. One's ideology only tells us how that person believes society ought to be organized, not how one ought to act now in the society we have today.
I am a libertarian. Nevertheless, rarely am I tempted to open a brothel, grow pot, or exceed the speed limit as political protest.
I hope the foregoing analogy has made itself clear by now. If it hasn't, I'm sorry. Allow me to explain why all of this is relevant.
Today, some on the Right wish us to remain silent on the topic of Islam. Some wish us to remain silent for strategic reasons--we need moderate Muslims to fight radical Muslims. This is a valid concern.
But the same concern existed in Europe during the Cold War. We did not wish to alienate European Marxists who opposed Soviet Aggression. Yet, we understood that these Socialists were mature enough to accept our criticisms while taking our aid.
Alliances are made out of mutual interests, not necessarily out of mutual ideologies. If Muslims are not able to accept our criticisms without rejecting our aid in the mutual fight against a form of Islam we both abbhor, then I would suggest we have an even deeper problem than even I would like to admit.
Some wish us to remain silent because they are just too lazy to open up a Koran and the traditionally accepted hadiths (sayings and traditions) and find out what the roots of the core ideology of Islam really are. To say that some branches of Islam reject many of the more odious hadiths and interpretations of the Koran, that some are fully committed to a very liberal form of Islam, or that most Muslims simply do not contemplate these doctrines on a day to day basis is all well and true, but begs the essential question which we were willing to ask in the case of Marx, but seem to be unwilling to ask about Muhammed: is there something inherent in these teachings that is incompatible with the liberal tradition?
That the vast majority of the victims of Islamic violence are fellow Muslims also is telling, but not in the way that some wish us to believe. The Muslim victims of terrorism are no less victims of Islam than the countless number of true-believing socialists murdered by Communism.
The vast majority of the victims of Communism were people living in Communist states. 40 million Soviets were killed because of Communism. Tens of millions of Chinese citizens were killed because of Communism. That the victims of Communism were largely members of socialist societies says a great deal about the ideology itself. So too with Islam and its victims.
To criticize Islam is no more to criticize the individual Muslim than criticizing Marx was an attack on the character of an individual Marxist. To criticize Islamic societies is no more an attack on Muslims than criticizing Soviet society was an attack on Russians.
What I think about Islam has absolutely nothing to do with what I think about Muslims. I hate Islam, yet in two hours a close Muslim friend will be over at my house. What I think about Communism has nothing to with what I think of Communists. So much so, in fact, that I spent nine months of my life hanging out with pro-Stalin Russian Communists!!
To say that there is a direct connection between the teachings of Muhammed, Islam, and the terrorism that it so often breeds is no different than saying that there is a direct connection between Marx, Communism, and the totalitarianism that it bred.
Islam is the root cause of Islamic terrorism, just as Marxism was the root cause of international Communist aggression.
Islam is the root cause of Islamic authoritarianism in every single nation that has a Muslim majority, just as Marxism was the root cause of authoritarianism in every single nation that adopted the Communist system.
Muhammed is the man responsible for creating the ideology of conflict and tyranny that is Islam, every bit as much as Marx is the man responsible for creating the ideology of conflict and tyranny that is Communism.
To ask me to say anything less of Islam is to ask me to lie for the sake of political expediency or political correctness. I cannot, and will not, muzzle my criticisms of Muhammed simply because it may alienate some of our allies in the war on terror, nor will I be silent about Islam simply because it may offend.
We were able to win the Cold War without resorting to such nonsense. I hope and pray that we can win the war against radical Islam under those same terms.