Get PJ Media on your Apple

The PJ Tatler

by
Robert Wargas

Bio

April 23, 2013 - 7:38 am

There are several phony arguments making their way through the “progressive” quarters of the commentariat that need to be addressed at once. One of them goes like this: We can’t blame Islam for the the Boston terror bombings because that would be committing “the sin of essentialism,” to quote Marc Ambinder at The Week. The brilliant if unintended non-sequitur is that since not all Muslims are terrorists, therefore no Muslims are terrorists, or at least no terrorists are actually Muslim. Think about that one. This has actually cleared an editor.

But the anti-essentialists want to have it both ways. They chide others for thinking (allegedly, as I’ve never seen one credible writer actually make this argument) that Islam is a completely violent religion, even as they argue that it is a “religion of peace.” Well, if it is a sin to boil Islam down to any single essence, the proscription works in both directions, and it’s just as ridiculous to say it’s completely evil than that it’s completely peaceful.

The other pernicious argument is a variation on the anti-essentialist theme. These people adopt a form of linguistic slipperiness, in which “Islam” as a concept is said to be undefinable and amorphous. To use the unfortunate language of postmodernism, it is an “unstable” concept.  Nobody, then, is *really* a Muslim. Following this internal logic, nobody can *really* be a Muslim terrorist. Get it?

The obvious flaw in this argument is that if no one can really be motivated by Islam, nobody can really be motivated by Islamophobia. (How can you hate that which doesn’t exist?) I doubt the anti-essentialists would consent to this corollary. It also ignores the, well, pretty important fact that the bombers were obsessed with radical Islam!

I have put the following question to many people since last week, and no one has chosen to answer it. If a black church is burned to the ground, and the crime traced to a white kid with a swastika hanging in his room and a YouTube account full of KKK and Nazi videos, are we allowed to say the crime was the result of white supremacism? What we have in the Boston terror attacks is, mutatis mutandis, the exact analogue of that crime.

Robert Wargas is a regular contributor to PJ Media. A native of Long Island, he was educated at the City University of New York and Yale University, and has contributed reports and opinion pieces to Newsday and FrontPage Magazine on a range of topics. He also maintains an independent blog at http://robertwargas.typepad.com. Outside of his political writing, Wargas has worked as a professional historian for a large cancer-research institution, documenting the history of biotechnology since the 1970s. He can be reached at rwargas22@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertWargas

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (13)
All Comments   (13)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Having studied Islam's founding documents and the exegeses of its interpreters these past twelve years, I will state that if Islam did not claim to be God's Will, and Muhammad God's Prophet -- in other words, if Islam did not claim the protected status of a RELIGION -- it would be justly and universally deemed as evil as Nazism.

Given the teachings in the Koran alone, the wonder is that so few Muslims become killers or terrorists.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
What former U.S. president said, applies to liberoids: it's a terrible thing to loose your mind.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Want to understand a religion? Look at their founders, at who they hold out as a moral exemplar.

Contrast the Prince of Peace to the Prince of Rape, Theft, and Slavery.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good point comparing Jesus with Muhammad and Moses with Muhammad for that matter.

No offence intended, isn't Paul one of the founders of Christianity?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's another aspect to this that I'm surprised you didn't comment on. That is, it's unacceptable to label Islam as violent even though its adherents have compiled an impressive record of violent acts.

Likewise it's impermissible to say the OWS crowd is lawless, filthy and violent even though their camps were, well, lawless, filthy and violent.

However, it IS acceptable to label conservatives and especially the Tea Party as violent even though you can't trace a single act of violence to the movement.

So for those of you confused by this logic I'll spell it out for you:
1) conservatives and libertarians are violent even if they don't act violently.
2) Muslims and leftists are non-violent even when they do act violently.

Welcome to the other side of the GD looking glass.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Islam” as a concept is said to be undefinable and amorphous. To use the unfortunate language of postmodernism, it is an “unstable” concept. Nobody, then, is *really* a Muslim."

Sort of like the No True Scotsman fallacy, isn't it? An exception to an absolute rule does not invalidate the rule but the exception.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Exactly. Crawford gave the perfect example with communism. Mao wasn't *really* communist, so his 70 million skulls don't reflect at all on the ideology on communism.

On the other hand, Everett Dirksen's work on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 doesn't reflect well on conservatism, since if Dirksen worked on Civil Rights legislation, then he wasn't *really* a conservative. No *true* conservative would do that.

It's a word game.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
To restate: An ideology is defined as good. Insofar as it is bad, it isn't the ideology, which by definition is good.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Keep in mind that the left will tell you (endlessly) that communism has never been tried, because what was tried didn't work, and since it didn't work, it wasn't communism, because they KNOW that communism will work.

They play the same game with Islam.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pfft! Forget Nazis. Just being in the GOP is white supremacy to the eternally stupid liberal.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Noble gases are stable aren't they?

Inert gases don't react with many substances.

But, sometimes...some of them become unstable.


Religions are noble gases. Most adherents are inert. But sometimes, they become unstable.

However, when a movement of significant regularity begins to emerge, then something in the atmosphere or surrounding "universe" of interactions is setting off the unstable...we are simply fools if we ignore the resulting explosions.

If the Koran is inert...then what is it reacting with to cause the the violent reaction? Clearly it is not either the New Testament or the Old Testament of the Bible. Nor is it skin color, pigmentation of Westerners.

Violent jihad is a radical extremism that is a binding of the Koran with an element that renders it unstable. It must be that...or...the Koran itself is simply not a noble gas.

It's an either/or proposition.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I like your analogy. It's important to realize, though, that any ideology can become violent, because ultimately ideologies are only as good as the people who adhere to them. It's possible, for instance, to conceive of a "peace" activist committing murder in the name of peace.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I understand, Robert. "Any" ideology can be hijacked, I suppose.

Except, it usually takes a catalytic event or an underlying weakness in the stability of the ideology itself. In the absence of an answer for a consistent catalyst...that is...the ideology turns violent in all directions at the same time...then, one must be willing to consider the prospect of an unstable ideology.

Radical Islam is unstable with Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism, Christianity in a variety of sects, Western society, women's rights, gay rights, ...and it is hyper-unstable in its rejection and intolerance of these things.

In other words, it doesn't merely disagree...it beheads and puts out "hits" like a Mafia don, for "offenses" to its "sensibilities".

Even to cartoons and anyone "leaving" the near cult-like "omerta".

Not every or "any" ideology can be hijacked to that extreme, I don't believe. Only one that is unstable at its core.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
View All