Me in City Journal:
Islamism is the great evil of our age, and the great question of our age is whether this foulness is the natural child of Islam itself or a cancer on its body. This is not a question that can be decided by comparing the number of “good” Muslims to the number of “bad” ones. A religion is a form of philosophy, and a philosophy shapes not just individuals but whole cultures and nations into its own image over time. Any individual may do right or wrong in the name of any given idea. You have to see a much bigger picture before you can judge the moral quality of the idea itself.
The West, over the centuries, has become increasingly tolerant and diversified. This did not happen in spite of our dominant religion but because of it. If you look at a map of the nations that accept the concept of gay rights, for example, you will find that they are almost without exception nations formed by Christianity. Indeed, when one Westerner argues for gay rights and another argues against them, they are both arguing on Christian principles—the Judge-Not versus the Shall-Not. Though it infuriates both sides to hear it, it is nonetheless true: this is an internecine quarrel, a family feud. Our very ability to disagree on such basic issues without murdering one another is what makes all of us, believers or not, helplessly Christian in the end.
When I look at the nations of Islam, I do not see the same sort of development toward tolerance and multiplicity. Almost everywhere Islam is dominant, there is oppression, ignorance, and violence at levels the West does not experience. Almost every act of terrorism worldwide is associated with Islam—so much so that those wishing to defend the creed have to seize on the occasional outlying act of non-Islamic terrorism, or descend into childish moral equivalencies or try to spin the issue as one of “guns” or “hate” or “religion” in order to distract us from the painfully obvious.