September 29, 2006

What I Have to Say to Dean Esmay(bumped)

News flash #1: we're propagandists. That's what we do. I think we all try to make our propaganda as focused on the "bad guys" as we can, but our propaganda is generally a brute force weapon rather than a precision munition. Sometimes, being succinct and funny takes precedence over being precise. To paraphrase Mike Ditka, some propagandists are named "Smith." Some are named "Grabowski." We're the Grabowskis. I do my best to tell the truth. If I fail to do a good job at it, I find the commenters are generally merciless--and rightly so.

News flash #2: we are at war. In the narrowest sense, we've been at war since at least October 2001, when American forces went after the Taliban in Afghanistan. The current fighting is, however, only the latest round of activity. In a broader sense, we (the West) have been at war with the Islamicists since at least the fall of the Caliphate and the ascension of Sayyid Qutb in the early 20th Century. Before that, there were the Muslim incursions into Europe centuries ago, which had been on hold since 1492. In an even broader sense, we (the religious pluralists) have been at war since Mohammed first attacked the Quraysh tribes 14 centuries ago.

Despite what some may think, we can lose this war. If we lose, it won't, of course, be on the battlefield. No army can stand against ours in a straght-up fight. If we lose this fight, we will lose it right here at home. Accordingly, propaganda is very important. We have a dedicated enemy on our hands, and that enemy seeks nothing less than an end to our way of life. Ideally, our enemy wants us to reliquish our way of life and submit to his. I'm not a big fan of Bush, but he does have one thing right: they really do hate us for our freedom.


Early in the 20th Century, Qutb (an Egyptian Muslim) traveled to the U.S. and was appalled by what he saw here. He wrote of a church social in Colorado as if it were a scene out of Eyes Wide Shut. In general, what Qutb saw here wasn't enough to push a movie into the "PG" category, but his traditionalist eyes were seared with the images of bare American ankles and bare American shoulders.

Building on the success of the church social, Western scientists continued their groundbreaking work, inventing things like bikinis, Israel, miniskirts, feminism, porn, VHS and Pamela Anderson. And then they invented radio, television and the internet to deliver it into homes around the world. In the eyes of the Sayyid Qutbs of the world, these Western technologies threaten to turn their daughters into sluts and their sons into perverts. This is silly, of course, because--well, okay, perhaps they have a point.

At any rate, in order to counter the threat from our technology, Islamicist scientists invented the Wahhabi mosque, the suicide bomber and the videotaped beheading. These technologies are designed to save them from us, and to save us from ourselves. The first invention has been wildly successful. The last two--not so much. Of course, the Islamicists aren't too proud to use our own technology against us, including the Internet.

The Islamicists look back to a golden age, when their prophet Mohammed saved the Arabs from perverts and polytheists by enacting strict controls on every area of public and private behavior. They look forward to a time when they can do that same "favor" for the whole world. They look forward to "commanding virtue" and "forbidding vice," as demanded by their holy book. It's not enough, of course, to merely "encourage virtue" and "discourage vice." The Christian concept that "he who has no sin should throw the first stone" is alien to them. In the Islamicist view, a man is just too weak to be expected withstand temptation on his own. He is like a child who must be kept far from the candy store, lest he indulge. He must be shielded from temptation at all costs--and he must be punished severely if he succumbs to it. To the Islamicist, Islam is not something that occurs in a private life or in a mosque down the street. Islam is all-encompassing. Islam is the government, the science, the philosophy and the law. This was the "innovation" of Islam, and it is this "innovation" that the Islamicists seek to bring to the entire world.

My beliefs about the Islamicists are not my own personal paranoid fantasies. I acquired them by reading the Koran. I acquired them from the words of Mohammed. I acquired them from the words of the Islamicists themselves. If you think I've gotten them wrong, I encourage you to correct me, but please do us all the courtesy of educating yourself before you spout off. Calling me a "bigot" or an "Islamophobe" serves no other purpose but to confirm that you have nothing substantive to say. If you think I've gotten the views of the Islamicists wrong, and you think this all just some big misunderstanding about control of Shebaa Farms, please set me straight. But please don't embarrass yourself. Back it up with some substance. If you can't, please don't waste my time throwing epithets at me or anyone else who raises legitimate--though uncomfortable-- issues about the world's fastest growing Religion of Peace(tm). I get plenty of the personal attacks, and they only convince the casual observer that you have no substantive answer to my position. So back it up, or shut up.

Now, I've been told that there are many "moderate Muslims" who practice an official, but "moderate," form of Islam. I've heard those statements many times, and I've even reviewed "evidence" of this position. After reviewing this "evidence," I can only say that I do not think that word means what you think it means. There are, to be sure, more moderate and more radical official interpretations of Islam, but I have yet to see an official pluralist, secularist interpretation of Islam in which Islam accepts a permanent place within a community of equals. That is not to say that there are not individual Muslims who believe in this view of Islam. I believe there are. I believe, in fact, that there are many. I'm not, however, aware of any official, clerical recognition of a purely personal view of Islam, such as that practiced by most Christians, Jews and Buddhists, for example. I don't know of an official clerical interpretation of Islam which calls on Muslims to work toward a secular, pluralist society in which each person is encouraged to practice his or her own faith freely according to his or her own conscience. I'd be curious to know which of the major schools of Islamic thought provides for a Muslim-dominated government to "encourage virtue" but yet "permit vice." I'd be curious to know which school teaches that men and women are equal. Which of the major schools provides for equal freedom of speech for all faiths, or teaches that it's wrong for Muslims to punish apostates? Who is the imam who preaches this "moderate" Islam? Unless and until someone can answer these questions for me, I will not have much faith in the idea of an officially "moderate" Islam. "Institute Islamic control, but do it democratically" is, in my opinion, "moderate" in only a very narrow sense of that word.

Yes, there are Muslims who believe in a more broadly "moderate" (i.e., pluralist) idea of Islam. I'm all for this idea. I would like nothing better than for our all of our Muslim brothers and sisters to practice their religion in the private sphere as they see fit, and yet publicly promote secularism, accept our lack of shared faith and allow us to live as we see fit. Uncomfortable as it may be to accept, these Muslims have few, if any, allies in the upper echelons of Islam, there are far too many Muslims who are not prepared to accept pluralism as a principle and it is the Islamicists who are receiving the most philosophical and material support for the Islamic "powers that be." Pretending and lying about these facts will not serve anyone's interests, least of all those Muslims who would stand up against the radicals who work around the clock to put into practice their strident Islamicist view of the way the world should be.

Although I don't place all Muslims in the same camp as the Islamicists, I do have a serious problem with the non-Islamicist Muslims. If they are out there, why do we not hear from them? If they disagree with the Islamicist message, why are they so quiet? Don't they understand that it would be in their interests to distance themselves from the radicals and the dissemblers? They can only keep silent for so long. The uncomfortable questions are not going away.

So, the Islamicists have their philosophy and we have ours. Perhaps adult men and women need to be treated like children for their own good. Whatever the merits of their position (and there are several), it is in the very core of my marrow that grown men and women must be left free to make their own decisions--even stupid decisions. If I believe in anything, I believe passionately in free will and individual liberty, including the liberty to make mistakes. I, and many others, are willing to die for that principle. These are prices we are willing to pay. And rightly so.

As tough as it may be for the "peace at any price" crowd to accept, there is simply no room for compromise with the true Islamicists. There is no "middle ground" between the absolute moral guidance and control they seek to assert over their fellow men and women and the basic human liberty we passionately believe in. Whatever wiggle room there may be in some principles, there can be very little in these.

We are at war, friends. There is, for better or worse, no room for a permanent compromise between these two radically different views of the world. Ultimately, one side in this conflict will be brought into "submission." The only question is: which side will it be?

By Ragnar Danneskjold, Typical Bitter Gun-Clinger at 01:50 PM | Comments |