Unwelcome to ourselves
Tom Friedman has an idea. Writing in the New York Times about the proper response to the murder of Jamal Kashoggi he argues that the West should aim at reforming Islam in Saudi Arabia. His strategic goal is not regime change but civilization change across the wider Islamic world. (Italics mine)
How should America think about balancing our values and our interests going forward? The best way to answer that, for me, is to go back to the basics. I always knew that M.B.S.’s reform agenda was a long shot to succeed, but I was rooting for its success — while urging the Trump administration to draw redlines around his dark side — for a very specific reason. It had nothing to do with M.B.S. personally. Personally, I don’t care if Saudi Arabia is ruled by M.B.S., S.O.S. or K.F.C.
It had to do with how I defined our most important national interest in Saudi Arabia since 9/11. And it is not oil, it’s not arms sales, it’s not standing up to Iran. It’s Islamic religious reform, which can come only from Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina. ...
And we have to make sure that the social/religious reform process in Saudi Arabia proceeds — whoever is in charge there. Because that is a vital U.S. interest.
Unfortunately Friedman's plan to reform Saudi Islam maybe as feasible as drilling rock with wet spaghetti. Experience suggests Islam may be far more likely to gain in the West than vice versa. That tendency to lose ground in fact drives the fear that underpins the populist revolt. But it wasn't always so. This tendency to lose ground may be due more to Western weakness than Muslim strength.
For most of the 20th century radical Islam was in relative decline until it was revived with trillions of petrodollars and the outburst of cultural self loathing and political correctness we see today. As Nervana Mahmoud, explaining why the NYT (Friedman's publisher) has the embarrassing problem of canceling its guided tours to Saudi Arabia has tweeted the "NYT has made a strategic [decision] long time ago, to embrace and glamorize all form of Islamism hence visiting the Mullahs-controlled land seems desirable. A kind of Neo-Orientalism, in which forcing hijab is exotic."
If Friedman's program of Islamic reform is to have any hope of success it must be on the back of Western energy independence and a renewed self confidence. Otherwise Europe's fate will be contingent on hopes of Saudi reform and the availability of wind and solar power on which the Greens chiefly depend.
A civilization that believes in postmodern nothing, which regards gender and race as fluid, treats religion as superstition and adjudges itself guilty of every historical accusation -- besides depopulating itself -- is not very attractive. The best way to "reform Islam" is by reviving the counterexample of Western success, returning to standards honorable behavior and demonstrating sanity in public life. Why would Islamic culture want to imitate a civilization that sees itself as horrible? If one imagines for a moment what the Woke West looks like to an external observer one might have a clue. The Chinese have a word for the Western Woke Left: it Baizuo.