If the Terrorists Misinterpret Islam ...
Liberalism withholds judgment until finding an answer bulletproofed by logic and reason, and this practice is nothing less than the bedrock of the first world.
I am of course referring to classical liberalism, now tragically mistitled conservatism. The half-philosophy known as the Left co-opted that most precious word, liberty, then stopped reading at "withholds judgment." And this anti-intellectual betrayal of humanity's best idea has once again resulted in an unfathomably dangerous historical anomaly: an existential threat is flourishing, liberty and life are at stake, yet the ones we now call liberals refuse to pass judgment on the illiberal. They have access to enough logic and reason for a bombproof conclusion, yet they refuse to pass judgment.
Forbes' 2009 survey of the world's most dangerous countries is out, and the list is comprised almost entirely of Islamic-dominated lands. A second list, of the world's active conflicts, is essentially a checklist of current Islamic aggression (and describes an entirely related point -- the few non-Islamic conflicts have communist/socialist or other totalitarian participants). Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Pakistan, West Bank/Gaza Strip, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Algeria, Nigeria, Georgia -- that's Forbes' top 15.
The world's current conflicts: an Islamic revolt in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq; an Islamic butchery in Sudan; an Islamic civil war in Somalia; an Islamist civil war in Sri Lanka; an Islamic invasion into Chad (perpetrated by the Sudanese butchers); an Islamic insurgency in Thailand; an Islamist insurgency across all of Northeast Africa (the Maghreb); an Islamic separatist movement in Kashmir; an Islamist insurgency in the Philippines; and a sustained Islamic belligerency against Israel involving Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.
Besides those, the Earth is pained with a few conflicts involving Islamic, Communist, and other totalitarian movements, most of which are among the long-simmering variety and primarily feature constant human rights abuses rather than open war.
And that's it. That's all of the fighting.
Human rights? Women's rights? Islamic states -- including the supposed moderates such as Jordan -- take up virtually the entire list of worst offenders, along with a few other Communist/totalitarian regimes.
Rationalism, fairness, the death of tribalist fears, the emergence from tyranny and the plumb line from there to intellectual accomplishment -- it all seeds from the invention and military defense of the liberal. Presented with this evidence, the classical liberal is required to withhold judgment until finding an answer bulletproofed by logic and reason. This behavior is undeniably what the classical liberals among us have done -- admirably -- since 9/11.
First, we withheld judgment on the religion of the attackers. President Bush stood on rubble and promised "the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." But he also stated, again and again, that we are not at war with Islam, simply with a perverted form of the great religion. It was a subjective, anti-intellectual conclusion. It was not based on reason, and the correct response regarding liberalism's stance toward Islam should have been: "We have not reached an answer yet."
The Left took a similar stance, if only initially -- they withheld judgment on the religion of the attackers but then chose to blame Western policy towards Islamic lands for motivating the terrorists. Subjective is not a descriptive enough word for this. Essentially, that was the end of the Left's investigation -- which, stunningly, is exactly what Leftism required.
Technically, the Left preaches that the most enlightened human behavior is to withhold judgment in favor of first concluding a thorough self-examination. But that self-examination process -- the perfecting of America and the West prior to judging another culture -- can never conclude. There will always be a poor decision, a misguided decision, or a failed policy enacted by democratically elected officials. A Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam.
Our country is run by a marketplace of ideas. Some will win support and be proven right and some will win support and be proven wrong. Representatives will be voted in and out, the future will always remain unknown, and our leaders will continually take risks with our direction. So withholding judgment in favor of a thorough self-examination becomes a fraud, a half-measure. It becomes a permanently withheld judgment, which is no approach at all. Just a worthless, subjective, illogical philosophy of government, a perennial invocation of "this sentence is false," to the point that a definable Leftist international policy does not, in fact, exist.
The non-Left liberals? Those with any connection to the beliefs of the classical liberal have spent the past decade asking the questions they are required to ask:
- Do societies ever turn to terroristic, totalitarian behavior solely because of outside oppression, or do the movements arise from within?
- Is Islam as it is practiced by terrorists and aggressive Islamic countries a new phenomenon? Or does it predate contact with the West?
- Is it possible for one religion/culture to be more worthwhile to humanity as a whole than another?
- Is it racist to think Islam is inherently violent?
These questions researched, the next step was to thoroughly examine the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sira, and the accepted interpretations of such by Islamic scholars and leaders.
- Quite simply, what was Mohammad’s life like? How does it compare, objectively, to other prominent religious figures? How did subsequent Islamic leaders interpret Mohammad’s teachings, and -- most importantly -- how did they act in response? If Islam as interpreted by the terrorists is not true Islam, what is the strain of moderate Islam called? Who are its leaders and its followers? What is their literature? Where is it practiced?
Almost eight years following 9/11, eight years to address these questions, and I am hard-pressed to find any sort of sizable Leftist group of voters who know a bloody thing about the contents of the Koran.
The classical liberals? We’ve done what was required of us in the name of defending liberty. Feel free to challenge our bulletproofed conclusion, but we promise your failure:
If the terrorists misinterpret Islam, then so does Mohammad.
The evidence concerning Islam is as much logic and reason as any government can ever hope to get regarding an international crisis. As an Islamic leader chases the bomb, we do not intend to wait for the illiberal, unreasoned, irrational half-thinkers of the left to simply ask a proper question.
Because they never will.