Saturday, October 07, 2006

Do we need a "Star Wars" strategy for Islam?

Remember when Ronald Reagan challenged the Soviet Union with his "Star Wars" missle defense system? It turned out to be a smart move, which pushed a weakened Soviet Union to it's collapse and ended the Cold War. Is it possible that Jihadist Islam is also weaker than it seems? If it were stood up to vigorously and consistantly, might it also crumble? Here are two articles that address the first of those two questions.

From Theodore Dalrymple:

When Islam Breaks Down:
What the West can learn from the Muslim youths who throng my city’s prisons.

In this article for City Journal magazine, Dalrymple makes a case for the idea that Islam, in it's clash with modernity, might be acting up violently now precisely because it knows the end is near, and we are witnessing it's death throws.

At first I found this idea difficult to consider, but then I read about Dalrymple's experiences, and considered his reasoning. I'm not sure I'm completely convinced, yet this theory does explain a lot. Dalrymple's career as a psychiatrist working in British Hospitals and prisons has given him a front row seat in witnessing Islams clash with modernity, and it's often tragic and painful consequences.

The article begins with his experiences in Afghanistan, where he worked as a doctor for a time, and where he first encountered Muslims, and his impressions there and what he thought. From observing them in their own culture and country, he has since observed Muslims in Britain, trying to live in the modern world like the did in the old world... often with tragic consequences. Here are some excerpts from the article, starting with some of his observances of Muslims in Britain:

[...] Every Muslim girl in my city has heard of the killing of such as she back in Pakistan, on refusal to marry her first cousin, betrothed to her by her father, all unknown to her, in the earliest years of her childhood. The girl is killed because she has impugned family honor by breaking her father’s word, and any halfhearted official inquiry into the death by the Pakistani authorities is easily and cheaply bought off. And even if she is not killed, she is expelled from the household—O sweet my mother, cast me not away!—and regarded by her “community” as virtually a prostitute, fair game for any man who wants her.

This pattern of betrothal causes suffering as intense as any I know of. It has terrible consequences. One father prevented his daughter, highly intelligent and ambitious to be a journalist, from attending school, precisely to ensure her lack of Westernization and economic independence. He then took her, aged 16, to Pakistan for the traditional forced marriage (silence, or a lack of open objection, amounts to consent in these circumstances, according to Islamic law) to a first cousin whom she disliked from the first and who forced his attentions on her. Granted a visa to come to Britain, as if the marriage were a bona fide one—the British authorities having turned a cowardly blind eye to the real nature of such marriages in order to avoid the charge of racial discrimination—he was violent toward her.

She had two children in quick succession, both of whom were so severely handicapped that they would be bedridden for the rest of their short lives and would require nursing 24 hours a day. (For fear of giving offense, the press almost never alludes to the extremely high rate of genetic illnesses among the offspring of consanguineous marriages.) Her husband, deciding that the blame for the illnesses was entirely hers, and not wishing to devote himself to looking after such useless creatures, left her, divorcing her after Islamic custom. Her family ostracized her, having concluded that a woman whose husband had left her must have been to blame and was the next thing to a whore. She threw herself off a cliff, but was saved by a ledge.

I’ve heard a hundred variations of her emblematic story. Here, for once, are instances of unadulterated female victimhood, yet the silence of the feminists is deafening. Where two pieties—feminism and multiculturalism—come into conflict, the only way of preserving both is an indecent silence. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) Dalrymple goes into some detail about Muslim communities he's dealt with, the difficulties they find themselves confronted with, and the STRUCTURE of their religious system which makes it even more difficult to find any accomodation with their host country:

[...] The Muslim immigrants to these areas were not seeking a new way of life when they arrived; they expected to continue their old lives, but more prosperously. They neither anticipated, nor wanted, the inevitable cultural tensions of translocation, and they certainly never suspected that in the long run they could not maintain their culture and their religion intact. The older generation is only now realizing that even outward conformity to traditional codes of dress and behavior by the young is no longer a guarantee of inner acceptance (a perception that makes their vigilantism all the more pronounced and desperate). Recently I stood at the taxi stand outside my hospital, beside two young women in full black costume, with only a slit for the eyes. One said to the other, “Give us a light for a fag, love; I’m gasping.” Release the social pressure on the girls, and they would abandon their costume in an instant.

Anyone who lives in a city like mine and interests himself in the fate of the world cannot help wondering whether, deeper than this immediate cultural desperation, there is anything intrinsic to Islam—beyond the devout Muslim’s instinctive understanding that secularization, once it starts, is like an unstoppable chain reaction—that renders it unable to adapt itself comfortably to the modern world. Is there an essential element that condemns the Dar al-Islam to permanent backwardness with regard to the Dar al-Harb, a backwardness that is felt as a deep humiliation, and is exemplified, though not proved, by the fact that the whole of the Arab world, minus its oil, matters less to the rest of the world economically than the Nokia telephone company of Finland?

I think the answer is yes, and that the problem begins with Islam’s failure to make a distinction between church and state. Unlike Christianity, which had to spend its first centuries developing institutions clandestinely and so from the outset clearly had to separate church from state, Islam was from its inception both church and state, one and indivisible, with no possible distinction between temporal and religious authority. Muhammad’s power was seamlessly spiritual and secular (although the latter grew ultimately out of the former), and he bequeathed this model to his followers. Since he was, by Islamic definition, the last prophet of God upon earth, his was a political model whose perfection could not be challenged or questioned without the total abandonment of the pretensions of the entire religion.

But his model left Islam with two intractable problems. One was political. Muhammad unfortunately bequeathed no institutional arrangements by which his successors in the role of omnicompetent ruler could be chosen (and, of course, a schism occurred immediately after the Prophet’s death, with some—today’s Sunnites—following his father-in-law, and some—today’s Shi’ites—his son-in-law). Compounding this difficulty, the legitimacy of temporal power could always be challenged by those who, citing Muhammad’s spiritual role, claimed greater religious purity or authority; the fanatic in Islam is always at a moral advantage vis-√†-vis the moderate. Moreover, Islam—in which the mosque is a meetinghouse, not an institutional church—has no established, anointed ecclesiastical hierarchy to decide such claims authoritatively. With political power constantly liable to challenge from the pious, or the allegedly pious, tyranny becomes the only guarantor of stability, and assassination the only means of reform. Hence the Saudi time bomb: sooner or later, religious revolt will depose a dynasty founded upon its supposed piety but long since corrupted by the ways of the world.

The second problem is intellectual. In the West, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, acting upon the space that had always existed, at least potentially, in Christianity between church and state, liberated individual men to think for themselves, and thus set in motion an unprecedented and still unstoppable material advancement. Islam, with no separate, secular sphere where inquiry could flourish free from the claims of religion, if only for technical purposes, was hopelessly left behind: as, several centuries later, it still is.

The indivisibility of any aspect of life from any other in Islam is a source of strength, but also of fragility and weakness, for individuals as well as for polities. Where all conduct, all custom, has a religious sanction and justification, any change is a threat to the whole system of belief. Certainty that their way of life is the right one thus coexists with fear that the whole edifice—intellectual and political—will come tumbling down if it is tampered with in any way. Intransigence is a defense against doubt and makes living on terms of true equality with others who do not share the creed impossible.

Not coincidentally, the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death: apostates are regarded as far worse than infidels, and punished far more rigorously. In every Islamic society, and indeed among Britain’s Muslim immigrants, there are people who take this idea quite literally, as their rage against Salman Rushdie testified. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) Dalrymple continues on with some very astute comparisons of Islam with Christianity, and the many ways the inflexibility of Islam forces it's adherents into a self-imposed ghetto of thought, which Christianity was able to avoid.

It's worth noting that Dalrymple does not describe himself as a Christian in a religious sense, so his observations about Muslims and their dealings with modern Britain are rather impartial at that level. He is even able to agree with some of their adverse reactions to what he also sees as the unseemly parts of Western culture. Yet he can also see the ways in which many Muslims, especially the youth, are made to suffer, ways that are uniquely and directly attributable to fundamentalist Islam. To demonstrate this, he compares Muslims and Sikh immigrants, who both come to Britain from the Punjab:

[...] People grow angry when faced with an intractable dilemma; they lash out. Whenever I have described in print the cruelties my young Muslim patients endure, I receive angry replies: I am either denounced outright as a liar, or the writer acknowledges that such cruelties take place but are attributable to a local culture, in this case Punjabi, not to Islam, and that I am ignorant not to know it.

But Punjabi Sikhs also arrange marriages: they do not, however, force consanguineous marriages of the kind that take place from Madras to Morocco. Moreover—and not, I believe, coincidentally—Sikh immigrants from the Punjab, of no higher original social status than their Muslim confr√®res from the same provinces, integrate far better into the local society once they have immigrated. Precisely because their religion is a more modest one, with fewer universalist pretensions, they find the duality of their new identity more easily navigable. On the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, for example, the Sikh temples were festooned with perfectly genuine protestations of congratulations and loyalty. No such protestations on the part of Muslims would be thinkable.

But the anger of Muslims, their demand that their sensibilities should be accorded a more than normal respect, is a sign not of the strength but of the weakness—or rather, the brittleness—of Islam in the modern world, the desperation its adherents feel that it could so easily fall to pieces. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) Dalrymple goes on to talk about the young Muslim men he has dealt with in prison, and how difficult it is for Muslims to embrace secularism without completely abandoning their religion, and how tragic the consequences can be when they do. Too often, many see the choice as one of "all or nothing".

Dalrymple has a great deal more to say, the article is rather long, and I have skipped over a lot of really interesting things. I recommend reading the whole thing.

Here is another article that questions the health of Islam:

From Paul Belien at the Brussels Journal:

Is Islam Dying? Europe Certainly Is

... If a person is incapable of tolerating criticism, including mild criticism, and especially if he perceives criticism where there is none, this is often a sign of this person’s deep psychological insecurity. Rude aggression and wild rage, too, are usually not the normal behaviour of a self-confident person, but rather of someone who knows that he will lose an argument unless he can bully others into silence. Last Sunday, Catholics going to Holy Mass in London’s Westminster Cathedral were confronted by Christophobic Muslims, carrying hate posters such as “Pope go to hell,” “Benedict watch your back,” “May Allah curse the Pope,” “Jesus is the slave of Allah, “Islam will conquer Rome,” and the like. An English blogger has some photos here. What must one make of these Muslim protestors? Do they look like self-assured people?

It looks as if Muslims cannot cope with an open society and the modern globalized world. Should we interpret their aggression – the result of their inability to cope with the world – as a token of strength, or rather as a sign of inherent weakness – a sign, as Dr Elst says, that the decline of Islam has visibly begun? ...

I hope it has begun... at least, the decline of the Jihadist variety. I expect Islam in some form will always be around. We can only hope it's in a form that can accept criticism and deal with modernity. The Muslims themselves can do this, if only they would allow themselves to. If only the beheaders and Jihadists among them can be restrained or stopped.

At the top of this post in the title, I mentioned a "Star Wars" stradegy for Islam.

I remember when Presiden Reagan proposed his "Star Wars" defense plan; the liberals went crazy. They said it was too expensive, wouldn't work, and was a waste of money. They complained it was confrontational to the Soviet Union, and therby anti-peace; Reagan was a war-mongering monster.

There were rumors that the Soviet Union was crumbling internally. I remember at the time, liberals vociferously denying this. One article I read by a liberal journalist, only weeks before the fall of the Berlin wall, claimed he had visited behind the iron curtain recently, and found that their economy was as strong an vibrant as ever, and that President Reagan was insane to challenge them.

History proved Reagan to be right; challenging and standing up to the Soviet Union helped bring about their downfall.

I can't help but wonder if we are facing a similar situation with radical Islam; if it has become so strident and desparate, because is has seen it's own destruction, like the above authors suggest. If that is so, then shouldn't we be standing up to it and challenging it?

Imagine what would have happened if, when the Muhammed cartoon riots began, every newspaper in the western world published them? If they were shown on TV, and talked about? If western journalists actually did some journalism, did some digging and talked about the real causes of the cartoon riots? It would have been educational for everyone, and Muslims worldwide would have had a greater chance to learn how so many of them were duped by false information and lies.

If the media had a backbone, the deception would have been exposed, and the lying imams who instigated the propaganda campaign would be forced to think twice before attempting it again. But instead, the Western Media caved in to unreasonable demands under the threat of violence, teaching the propagandists that lies and violence work, and help achieve the dhimmi attitude they want from the press, so that they can continue their agenda unquestioned, unobserved and unreported.

We are facing a world-wide threat, that grows each time we let it continue unchallenged. Every time we back down, they declare a victory, push forward, and are encouraged to make even more unreasonable demands. I say it's time we take a page from Reagan's book, and cultivate and promote a "Star Wars" attitude towards radical Islam.

Related Links:

An interview with Theodore Dalrymple

Political Correctness and Multiculturalism:
The New Tools of "Stealth" Socialism?



lilfeathers2000 said...

Great post.

Chas said...

Thanks! It's kind of a long post, but then it was based on a long article. It had lots of stuff worth commenting on, but I only touched on some of the highlights. I didn't even mention what he said about Shakespear and the Koran ;-)

Dalrymple's experiances, viewed with the understanding of his education and background, made for an interesting and enjoyable read.