I am sorry I have not responded to your new letter sooner, but my day job here at PJM keeps me a bit busy. Moreover, to be completely honest, I was not really sure what I wanted to say. I have been rendered relatively speechless by events, violent and otherwise, in the Islamic world, trying to make heads or tails of them. By that I mean largely the Arab Islamic world — Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, etc. — but also the always popular Islamic Republic of Iran, whose hideous government is close to the greatest misuse of religion in the history of the world.
But it is those events that are prompting me now to write back in our ongoing discussion of Islam and the West and I hope you will bear with me as I try to connect them up. I am not happy and I am not optimistic.
Of course, at the beginning of the events in Egypt I was trying to be, optimistic that is. Democracy is generally a good thing and Mubarak a bad thing — simple (almost simple-minded) as those statements are. I picked up my Skype phone and made a call to an acquaintance of mine, the estimable blogger Sandmonkey (Mahmoud Salem), who was in the thick of things in Cairo. The interview I recorded with him made the rounds of the Internet and contained such information as the Muslim Brotherhood was not that heavily involved in the demonstrations and that both sides in Egypt were accusing the other of being under the influence of The Jews.
The latter did not surprise me. The former proved to be dead wrong. Several days later the Islamist al-Qaradawi was able to muster two million supporters in Tahrir Square, the largest demonstration, I believe, so far. The Al-Jazeera commentator banned Google-activist Wael Ghonim from the stage, as I imagine you know.
Since that time, I have been trying to reach Sandmonkey because I was disappointed to learn he too has now appeared to have joined the rabid pack seeking a rapid renegotiation of the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel. I thought my friend Mahmoud would have had the maturity and sophistication to realize that the Jews are the least of Egypt’s problems. In fact, it is obviously the reverse — the more Egyptians fixate on Israel, the less they fix themselves. Indeed I suspect Mahmoud knows that. But you have to go along to get along — or something like that.
Not that the Europeans are any better. Indeed, they may be worse. The recent revelations of corruption at the vaunted London School of Economics — administrators enriching themselves from Gaddafi, who has always been nothing more or less than a mass-murdering sociopath — is again, like the obsession of both sides of the Egypt crisis with the Jews, as totally unsurprising as it is typical of the European intellectual classes. Also typical is the etiology of the LSE affair. It is not just greed and a cozying up to another tyrannical dictator/energy source; it is also, once again, a covert attack on the Jews under the guise of anti-Zionism, for it was nowhere more than at LSE that endless chastisement of Israel, accompanied by calls for economic sanctions and educational boycotts, was and is a constant drumbeat.
Although you will never see it on the pages of the Guardian or the Independent, the cause of that drumbeat, that need to hold Israel to a higher standard than any other nation, could also not be more obvious. It is titanic (and justifiable) guilt over the Holocaust. What Europe did to the Jews, marching innocent human beings into gas chambers, is arguably the most monstrous crime in recorded history. Europeans desperately want something to be wrong with the Jews to exonerate themselves, to some degree anyway, for that unconscionably reprehensible act.
Which leads me back to your recent letter. You would like us to be patient with the Islamic world because it took the West so long to reach even a modicum of civilized maturity.
Well, you’ve got a point there. We are, after all, not so many years from Robespierre and the Reign of Terror, not to mention that Holocaust and the Gulag and other similar atrocities. We should give the Islamic world another couple of centuries to right itself.
The questions are: Can we and Will it?
Excuse me if I am skeptical on both counts.
On the question of “can we?” afford to give Islam as much room as Christendom had to find a way to behave civilly, much as I would like to be comforted by the historical narrative in your letter, I don’t think we have anywhere near the time. We live in a nuclear world now. With apocalyptically minded madmen like Khamenei and Ahmadinejad on the brink of atomic weapons, with untold other Islamofascist nut cases looking for nukes of their own, dirty and otherwise, disasters could unfold that will make the Crusades seem like a game of capture-the-flag at summer camp.
So there really is no extended time for Islam to reform. It must be done now. But will it?
Alas, I am even more skeptical here.
Since, as you know, I am an agnostic, I see religions anthropologically and psychoanalytically far more than I do theologically. I am also ever mindful that the Three Great Monotheisms were devised during an era when mankind thought the world was flat. We now understand we live on some planet in some solar system among hundreds of sextillions of stars in multiple universes. People who still take those old belief systems literally would seem to me more than a bit behind the times.
And yet the Islamic world seems so mired. Their religion, whose prophet married a nine-year-old girl (unfortunately I think this horrifying fact is extremely important), appears to be headed backwards, not forwards. Their shame that modern society has so far outgrown them in terms of technological development is so great that they have developed a kind of unremitting rage against the West. Only moderate Muslims can really correct this. Yet who are they? Where are they? I know only two — you and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser — both incredible, loving human beings but still…
Of course, there are more, but not really a lot. Very few speak up. Extraordinarily few. Indeed it is almost always the reverse. When the slightest hint of criticism occurs Muslim groups come forward instantly — Western soi-disant liberals obediently in tow. It’s an orgy of self-destruction on both ends — the Islamic and the Western. Our reactionary/liberalist government won’t even admit that Fort Hood, Times Square, the recent murders in Germany and on and on, had anything to do with, let alone were caused by, Islamist ideology.
Or is it Islamic ideology? That’s the question you still haven’t really answered to my satisfaction. A few gentle quotations from the Koran don’t count, I’m sorry to tell you. But I’m tough, I admit it. I am not predisposed to religious doctrine.
But allow me to be a tad more specific. Correct me if I am wrong here, but I understand since the Koran is regarded as the verbatim word of Allah, imams deal with (the inevitable) conflicts within the text by declaring that everything written last supersedes what comes before. And that the more violent proselytizing versions of jihad, alas, come later in the Koran. They are, therefore, the more definitive versions. How do we deal with that? Coupled with the aforementioned envious rage, it is a lethal cocktail.
I hope Rep. Peter King will be asking some of these questions at his hearing this week. As you know they attempt to discredit him as an Islamophobe. In another posting, I have rejected this bogus terminology altogether, but never mind. Perhaps I am one. Islam’s misogynist ideology is just too repugnant to me. When I was a schoolboy Marxist, we used to recite the Mao Tse Tung quotation: “Women hold up half the sky!” Unlike virtually everything else Mao wrote, that is demonstrably true. Islam oppresses half the sky. Until that changes, I reject it unequivocally. I admire Salim Mansur, the person, immensely. But his religion I have no use for. And I feel terrible about it, because I don’t know what to do with this information. We are in a terrible pickle.
With greatest respect,