I am flattered you chose me as the recipient of your eloquent A Letter from a Fearfully Concerned Muslim to an American-Jewish Friend. In many ways I don’t feel worthy, not the least of which is that I am not particularly religious. Though not anti-religious like Christopher Hitchens, I have been close to a village atheist for decades, beginning when I went to see Inherit the Wind on the night of my Bar Mitzvah.
At this point, call me a skeptical agnostic who has reached an age where he desperately wishes he could have faith and believe in an afterlife (or, failing that, the resurrection of the dead referred to by some Orthodox Jews). So far, alas, it has not happened.
Nonetheless, I acknowledge that my values and writings have been immensely influenced by the American Jewish tradition. Also, I completely agree with the concerns you express in your letter. We are living at a critical moment when the death of Western civilization appears imminent.
So I will do my best to comment and expand upon your thoughts. I hope you don’t mind, but in the process I intend to ask some uncomfortable questions I have always wanted to address to a moderate Muslim. I have hitherto been too polite to do this directly, but here we are.
First, regarding Georgi Arbatov, I concur the old Central Committee member was correct and put the finger on recent history’s greatest unintended consequence: The fall of the Soviet Union allowed the “useful idiots” of the West free rein for their reactionary narcissistic impulses. It is sad but true: responsible freedom in the West appears to have depended on having a communist enemy.
And I don’t think it’s surprising a Russian should have seen us more clearly than we do ourselves. The narcissism that infects our culture, and that has grown substantially since the fall of the Berlin Wall, has blinded us. It has particularly blinded our media who helped ensure the election of Barack Obama — a phenomenon you describe so well in your letter and an election based largely on self-congratulation and misdirection. A (Democratic) party that relies on racism for its power — with endless African-American and Hispanic-American caucuses oppressing the very people they purport to represent by exaggerating and exacerbating their exclusion — accuses the other party of being the racists. What a world.
Further, those same media bien-pensants, not to mention self-described liberal and progressive politicians, and even our own military, refuse to identify our enemy to the extent that they are loathe to use even the meaningless term War on Terror, let alone the obvious War on Radical Islam or War on Islamism. How can you win a war, or save a civilization, when you don’t acknowledge what or whom you are fighting?
Which leads me to the uncomfortable part of my letter.
Salim, I read through the many comments, pro and con, to your initial letter. The many positive comments justifiably lauded you for your courage, but a number of the negative ones attacked you for essentially “passing the buck” and blaming the weak West for the evils of Islam. I think they were being unfair or they misread you. You didn’t intend that at all. The topic of your letter was the West, not Islam.