Thursday, September 22, 2005

Intellectual Surrender

The fight for civilization has to be first and foremost intellectual. Without powerful language, we are defeated. Without potent concepts, we are blind. We are not being defeated on the battlefield. Nor do we lack facts to justify our actions. However, we are surrendering in the field of ideas without much of a fight. Our unilateral disarmament is first and foremost intellectual.

We start by giving up on any attempt to understand the enemy and judge them appropriately. This leaves us ignorant of key aspects of their ideology and motivation. The first pitfall is the doctrine of nominalism. Words are treated as mere labels, without potent meaning, used only as conveniences for vague resemblances; they are not to be taken too seriously. Thus, we are told, Islam is anything Muslims want it to mean. Immediately, this removes the ideology from criticism. If you don’t know what it is, if they still haven’t decided what it entails (after 14 centuries), how can you be so unfair as to dismiss it – are you prejudiced? Or so it goes.

This was a common tactic during the rise of communism. Russian communism was called a “noble experiment” of which we should withhold judgment until we see what it means in practice. Pragmatism, the dominant philosophy in early 20th century America, is rife with the nominalist’s fluid contortions of word-labels in search of a reality. And, as we’ve seen, it was the pragmatists, whose agnosticism helped blind us to the threat of communism during the 1930s. Today, nominalist blinders undercut our ability to make solid judgment required to vigorously maintain our resolve.

In domestic politics, we see nominalism in attempts to redefine the word racism. Pervious attacks on our language have confused people about concepts such as rights, democracy, liberty, etc. The attack is an epistemological one – take away a man’s concepts and he is blind. Muddy them and he is uncertain. Trivialize them and he knows little.

Coupled with nominialism, is the sterile word games that reduce concepts to their key attribute. For example, Islam we are told, means nothing more that submission to God; that’s the definition of the word and the word means just its defining attribute. According to this line of thinking, you can’t say anything more with certainty. Any attempt to say more is met with spurious counter-examples that are allowable given broad meaning - the word now excludes next to nothing. Presumably, Islam goes with everything: individual liberty, communism, pluralism, supremacy, peace, war, etc. A Muslim, in good standing, can define the rest of his religion as he sees fit.

You may not hear this view too often unless you argue with academics as I recently did in another thread. Once again, this is an attempt to squash further critical examination of Islam by making you feel unfair about asserting anything more than a tautology. Of course, you’re quickly told it’s only unfair to assert negative attributes about Islam: “How dare you say a Muslim can’t favor democracy. There’s nothing about submission to God that prevents that.” But say a good Muslim can be a terrorist and you’ll be told that that is bigotry - derived from a few malcontents who hijacked a religion!

A religion is far more than the acceptance of God (for a monotheistic religion.) It necessarily involves a view of God, his role in the world, and his demands on human behavior that results in a society with distinctive ethical and political mores. The question of God’s existence is minor in comparison to the question of God’s identity. What do you think God wants you to do? That’s the crux of the matter. The God that wants you to love your neighbor has a very different identity than the God that wants to you wage jihad and subjugate others. For those of us who are not religious, we still need to ask that question when trying to understand the character of our neighbors.

Nominalism is common with demographers and it has some usages in that regard. My Almanac says that 99.8% of Turks are Muslims. But what does this mean? Turkey is the most secular country in the Middle East after Israel. The Kamalist revolution decimated the Islamic religion. At this point, calling Turks Muslims means the word has become so broad as to mean nothing more than at sometime one’s ancestors practiced the Islamic religion. Note that this virtually makes it a racial-type label. Thus, criticism of Muslims thus becomes racism.

If the word Muslim is to mean practitioner of a religion, one has to know what Islam is before you can tell if someone is a Muslim. Self-proclamations are not automatically true. Demographic Muslims don’t define Islam. It’s the ideology of Islam that defines who is a Muslim, if we are talking about actual practitioners of the religion. There are no grounds to treat religious ideologies different from secular ideologies in regards to the ascertaining of the content and scope of its definition. Would you rush to the local meeting of the Communist Party to get an answer to the question: what is communism? Likewise, it is intellectually bankrupt to take a nominal-Muslim and ask him to define the religion. The religion is a historical fact created and defined by Mohammad 14 centuries ago, according to the mythology. If you want to learn about Islam consult some well-written books.

Once again, you see the same silliness that we saw with communism. Does Communism, mean nothing else but community? Of course, not! It never meant a community of individuals. It was a collectivist doctrine where individuals can be sacrificed for the good of the whole. And after 100 million lives were so sacrificed, the evil is clear to all people who have their eyes open. Then, we are told, that Communism was never tried since Marx says a country has to become capitalist first and the 20th century examples skipped that step. This is another attempt at silly word games that academics play.

Islam, too, has a specific nature. The doctrines of the religion are found by a study of the Koran and Hadith. Their cash value is clear from Islam’s history once you properly analyze the influence of the religion amidst other influences. When the religion is practiced, as Mohammad illustrated in Medina, it is a supremacist ideology of conquest, plunder and oppression. When it is marginalized and philosophical influences have an effect, we see some semblance of creativity resulting in narrow scientific achievements and periods of reprieve from the pervasive oppression.

Thus, the effect of nominalism is to reduce concepts to thin emaciated shadows of themselves, where only tautological certainty is found by the association of the label with the essential attribute - all other inferences are completely undercut. Real people (i.e. non-academics), of course, don’t think like this. A far more natural description of human thought is one that holds concepts to be judgments – not stipulations. By grouping objects as similar in kind and abstracting what is essential, one grasps reality in the most efficient way. In the course one has to sort out what is central from the peripheral, what is significant from the trivial, and establish the breath and scope of our knowledge.

We understand communism when we see how individuals can be sacrificed for the collective in the name of the good of the whole. This attempt at collectivism is total, in its control of the population in an attempt to defy human nature in the creation of a “new man” that conforms to utopian notions of altruism. In the name of the health of the whole, any amputation of the population is acceptable. Classical liberalism, which upholds the sovereignty of the individual in his person and property, is the antithesis of communism.

Islam, as we’ve noted, is a political philosophy in religious garb that is a supremacist ideology of conquest, plunder and oppression. This is the example Mohammad set. Without Mohammad there is no Islam. The Koran, uttered by Mohammad, is augmented by the Hadith – his sayings and deeds. The central idea, once abstracted, is the essence that organizes and makes intelligible the documents and, when operative in Muslim societies, the results in practice.

This is a substantial approach that we owe to Greco-Roman heritage. It seeks to see matters in proportion by putting them in context, establishing centrality, and ordering the rest relative to the core foundation of our knowledge. Being rational (derive from the word ratio) involves such proportional thinking.

Ref: see Leonard Peikoff’s “The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy” for a technical discussion of related problems in academic philosophy.

17 Comments:

Blogger Caroline said...

Jason - as usual, your post leaves me somewhat tongue-tied (which is why I never comment!) It raises so many issues, any one of which could merit a post in itself. I do recognize the central thrust of your argument because I've debated this same point with someone on another blog. He kept claiming what Charles Steele essentially claimed - Christianity evolved, Christians ignore the violence in the OT, Muslims can do the same thing about the violent passages in the Koran. They can make Islam what they want to make it. They can pick and choose the peaceful over the violent verses.

The only way I know how to deal with this sort of argument is to point out that Jesus represents a radical departure from the OT. Caveat here before I go any farther - I am an ex-Catholic from the age of 19 and I'm 45 now so it's been a very long time since I underwent my Catholic upbringing and education or even went to church. Nevertheless, its my fundamental understanding that to be a Christian is to accept the divinity of Christ (whatever all the other differences between Christian sects) and thus for a Christian, one looks to the New Testament and the example of Jesus Christ. As an ex-Catholic, I used to consider myself at least a nominal Christian because I never really asked myself that fundamental question - Do I beleieve in the divinity of Christ? Actually, it was this whole issue of "real" vs "nominal" Muslim that led me to ask myself what I am and I concluded that I do not accept the divinity of Jesus (I could be wrong about it but I am not convinced of it) and therefore I am not a Christian - period. I lean towards the belief that Jesus was an enlightened human being like the Buddha and I interpret his message in those terms, i.e. the death and resurrection as a metaphor for enlightenment. And it is because I think he was an enlightened human being that I still look to him and to the New Testament as a guide to ethical behavior.

But all that aside - it is apparent that the argument that Islam can be whatever one wants it to be is false. Just as Christianity ultimately relies on the New Testament and the example of Jesus himself, Islam ultimately rests on the example of Muhammad. I would be inclined to cut Muhammad a little slack if his history had been reversed - if he had started out as a warrior and a killer and then later in life repented and "seen the light". But his history is exactly the opposite. This is what ultimately reveals him to be the charlatan that he obviously is.

So to come back to this issue of 'what is a Muslim' - as far as i can tell - a Muslim is someone who believes that Muhammad was the final prophet of God - someone who believes that Muhammad is the ultimate conduit of God's word to mankind and that Muhammad himself is the ultimate example. If someone raised in the Muslim tradition does NOT believe that central tenet of the Muslim faith, then in my opinion they are not really Muslim, no matter their background or whether they follow certain cultural practices like fasting and so on. But someone who DOES believe that IS A MUSLIM - same as someone who believes in the divinity of Jesus is basically a Christian. Someone who is a Muslim, by this definition, is dangerous. That's all there is to it as far as I am concerned. Someone who thinks Muhammad is the final prophet of God and that the Koran is God's word - has fallen under the spell of a very dangerous man and will always be capable of following Muhammad's example - just as real Christians will look to Jesus's example. Really, all the rest is irrelevant to me - whether they claim to be peaceful, whether they follow the peaceful Meccan verses and so on. To me, Muhammad is the lynchpin. All I need to know is "Do you think Muhammad is the final prophet of God" or not? If so, you're a Muslim and in my opinion potentially dangerous to me and other infidels.

9/22/05, 6:58 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Thanks, Caroline, the clarity of your thought makes it a joy to read your comments. I, too, am struck by Mohammad’s disintegration once he came to power. What an example for a religion! There are just some salient facts that are part and parcel of this religion. It’s the big picture, for Islam, and it isn’t a pretty picture at all.

I was disappointed Dr. Steele doesn't find the need to learn about Islam before coming to a conclusion. I'm not surprised; as a matter of fact I just wrote about this disposition.

Thanks, for reading my long article on the conservative movement and the challenge they are having with the Islamic threat. The good news is that they are starting to take interest. I just got a promotion for Human Events magazine which included a copy of Robert Spencer's new book, "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam ..." That's quite a change. National Review still avoids Spencer but this is a step forward.

9/22/05, 7:27 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Jason - I just read your "disposition" link. I have to admit that to someone raised as a "liberal", it's pretty darned shocking to have these epithets thrown at one - racist, bigot, hate-monger and so on. I literally cried the first dozen times I was attacked that way - even when it was simply an anonymous comment on a blog! No more. I am getting hardened and immune. The non-Muslim folks who hurl those epithets are useful idiots. That's all. I have no intention of being a useful idiot. For us to defeat the jihad it's apparent that us soft westerners will need to toughen our skin. I recall telling one guy on a blog - if I'm wrong - then I've insulted people - if you're wrong, then God help us. That's what everyone needs to keep in mind. Besides which - Christianity (and Christians) has undergone, and continues to undergo, the most merciless scrutiny. Knowing that, I have no problem with subjecting Islam to scrutiny. What is shocking is the reluctance of intellectuals to subject Islam to the same scrutiny and rational assault that they have so eagerly subjected Christianity to. Fact is, Islam cannot withstand any rational assault whatsoever. Which is obviously why Islam has its long history of killing apostates and blasphemers. You don't need to kill people when you have truth on your side. The emperoror's clothes is the perfect metaphor for Islam! Given its obvious falseness - and its inability to withstand rational scrutiny, one of the first lines of your current post is utterly chilling: "...we are surrendering in the field of ideas without much of a fight." Honestly, I don't understand how this could possibly be happening.

I did read through your entire article on conservatism. It was extremely challenging. it left me with many questions. But the main question that stands out for me is - Doesn't "Classical liberalism" provide a sufficient intellectual foundation to defeat the jihad?
I see what you mean about conservatism essentially devolving into merely defending the status quo. But on the other hand, I have been a regular reader of Laurence Auster at rightnation.com (especially since reading his excellent critique of moderate islam in his debate with Daniel Pipes) - but Auster relentlessly attacks liberalism (he despises the neo-cons and Bush as liberals). He would seem to be the traditionalist conservative that you describe. And from following his arguments I can sort of grasp the shortfalls of "liberalism" as he describes liberalism. But I'm always left with the sense that he just wants to defend some fixed historical American ideal of his imagination - say the 1950's or something!

In short, I'm a bit confused between these different perspectives: "Classical liberalism", "Liberalism" (what Auster rejects even in the neo-cons), and "Conservatism" as hinted at by Auster - which seems to be the traditionalist conservatism you were describing in your article.

The reason I ask is because I agree with you that we don't seem to know who we are or what we are defending , from an intellectual POV. I suppose I would have called it "enlightenment principles" but man! One practically needs a degree in philosophy to get an intellectual handle on this!!

(BTW - are you a philosophy professor or do you have a degree in philosophy?)

9/22/05, 8:12 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I agree, we are too polite when it comes to Islam. Even those that criticize Islam do so in the most polite tones as if to say “excuse me but you’re mistaken here!” Islam should be vilified as we would any other supremacist group – say Aryan supremacists, for example. We see not shortage of vilification of America, the West, Christianity, etc. If we see Islam as barbaric, why should there be a taboo against a vigorous critical condemnation?

I think my article on conservatism didn’t explain the differences between the concepts as they are used in different venues. Liberal originally meant an advocate of individual liberty (free speech, due process, freedom or conscience, free trade, and private property.) This is still the meaning of the word outside the USA. From the early part of the 20th century, American advocates of government control and the welfare state seized the word instead of using the “s” word (socialism.) Sometimes today’s liberals are referred to as modern liberals or left-liberals.

After WWII, some advocates of individual rights wanted to reclaim the word liberal as it has a rich heritage, others wanted to borrow the British word “conservatism” and use it in a uniquely American way. The old-style liberals (advocates of individual rights) eventually joined the conservatives in a fusion that we know simply as conservatism. “Classical liberalism” is sometimes used to refer to original “individual rights” liberalism. Or sometimes “libertarian” is used as a replacement for this “individual rights” liberalism.

Under the conservative tent you have those that are traditionalists in the sense that they want to maintain whatever has served us well, libertarians that advocate individual rights and free enterprise, and recently the religious right that wants religion to play a greater role in government. Some people see themselves in all three categories.

In fighting Islam, I think we can have a broad coalition of people who understand the core belief that human beings should deal with each other by reason and rhetoric rather than force; that they find mutual interests for associations or otherwise go their own way while respecting each others rights; that we seek in government the protection of our common interests as unique sovereign individuals - each entitled to decide how to live our own lives. I think the vast majority of Americans a sympathetic to that orientation even if they don’t live up to the ideal or allow for some exceptions – far more than I’d like.

Thus, a broad coalition should involve people on the left and right, religious and secular. The far left isn’t sympathetic to these core principles and hate America. But I think most other people are reachable and would fight vigorously to defend America. Remember, in WWII, there was broad support and during the early stages of the cold war, moderate leftists (i.e. modern liberals) joined with the right to fight communism. JKF was a case in point.

The problem is the multi-culturalism, smuggled in from the far left, that has diminished our righteous anger. There is a relativism that holds there is no right or wrong except by arbitrary group norms. This diminishes our ability to criticize and diminishes our ability to feel the passion and pride in being the standard-bearers and saviors of civilization as we’ve been this past century and continue to be.

Perhaps this should have been a blog entry. I’m not familiar with Right Nation (if that's the right link). I’ll have to check it out. I agreed with Auster in his debate with Pipes. My degrees are in other subject but I have a passion for reading philosophy.

9/22/05, 11:03 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

Islam is not able to function as the supremacist ideology of conquest, plunder and oppression in the modern world and you are right there are outside influences effecting Islam today. This is a period of reprieve for the majority of Muslims.

The terrorists (who are trying to practice truely Muhammadic Islam) do not generate their own strength through plunder, conquest or oppression. Their strength derives secondhand from a spirit of nostalgia for the 200 years of plunder, nostalgia exploited by secular dictators of Saudi Arabia and the religious dictators of Iran. These regimes benefit from the nationalist and supremacist myths which scapegoat outsiders for the poor state of Muslim countries, providing a sense of united community victimhood (dictators included) of Muslims by the world. The terrorists are a mere side effect from this, they exist on the charity of the relatively weak economies of the Muslim states.

9/23/05, 12:18 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Jason - my mistake. Auster's site isn't Right Nation - it's amnation.com/vfr

Auster's blog

Prior to Katrina, the bulk of his entries dealt with Islam. (you can see a list of his longer articles on the right of his blog). He defines himself as a traditionalist conservative and relentlessly attacks Bush as a liberal.

Here's a representative post of his:

"As immigration is to multiculturalism, democracy-spreading is to sharia

The mutation of the goal of spreading democracy into the reality of spreading sharia follows exactly the same pattern as the mutation of the open immigration of equal individuals into the ideology of multiculturalism.
In the case of immigration, as I explain here, America starting in 1965 allowed in people from every country and culture on earth, on the basis that a person’s cultural background doesn’t matter, only the equal rights of all persons as individuals matters. But because the people we were letting into America were not coming here as universal individuals, but as members of particular cultures, as soon as they were here in appreciable numbers, they started to manifest themselves as distinct cultural groups, not as universal individuals. But America, having already let all these people in, felt it had no choice but to turn around and recognize these cultural groups as cultural groups. Thus individual-rights immigration (right-liberalism) morphed into group-rights multiculturalism (left-liberalism), without anyone’s acknowledging that the former had led directly to the latter, and that we were getting the exact opposite of what we had thought we were getting, and that this was a catastrophe for our civilization, since we were now in the business of welcoming into our country alien cultures whose very presence meant the steady diminution and delegitimization of our culture.

The same is happening with our democracy-spreading efforts. President Bush and his neoconservative supporters justified spreading democracy to Iraq on the basis that all people are the same, all people want the same individual freedoms that we want, and therefore all people are ready and able to adopt liberal democracy based on universal individual rights. But the people to whom Bush was spreading this democracy were not universalist individuals, they were members of a very particular religion, a religion that makes the imposition of the totalitarian and anti-egalitarian sharia law a primary goal. So, as soon as Bush gave the Iraqis individual-rights democracy, they elected a national assembly that adopted a constitution in which sharia is the ultimate authority. But Bush and his supporters, having already committed themselves to Iraqi democracy, and thus having to accept whatever was chosen by the elected representatives of the Iraqi people, felt they had no choice but to turn around and support this sharia-based constitution. Thus the Bush/neocon crusade to spread individual-rights democracy has instantly morphed into a multicultural endorsement of Islamic sharia, without its promoters acknowledging that the former has led directly to the latter, and that they are getting the exact opposite of what they had thought they were getting, and that this is a catastrophe for our civilization, since we are now in the business of waging foreign wars and occupying foreign countries in order to set up sharia governments which are commanded by Allah to wage jihad against us."

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 25, 2005 08:13 AM
Auster

9/23/05, 8:00 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Thanks, Caroline. I think I understand Auster’s view. Although I put matters differently they amount to the same concern. Immigration is good if people come in order to become part of our culture or they come in a measured amount that makes assimilation possible. That’s the way it used to be. The group-rights ideology (part of multi-culturalism) is home-grown and it compounds the problem of too much immigration by removing the pressure to assimilate.

I also agree that there are cultural constraints – namely Islam – that make these countries unsuitable as candidates for liberal democracy (i.e. a constitution democracy that protects individual rights.) I used to write about my reservations in the first months of this blog. In general, I prefer we not try to engineer cultural changes; this is something that takes a generation or more to evolve. I appreciate the motivation of trying to establish a better society in Iraq but I’d be less ambitious – although I don’t focus on the battle plan.

He has some interesting points about rights that I’ve been meaning to write about. It has to do with the distinction between human identity and character identity (if we speak about an individual) and individual rights and culture (if we speak about a society.) Culture can’t be ignored. As a matter of fact, it should be the central focus. Here Auster is right, many are trying to ignore culture as if every human being is identical in thoughts, desires, and values. Thus, we expect people to just walk away from the character they’ve cultivated their whole lives and act in a civilized manner. (I’ve been meaning to talk about that more.)

This is apparent with the Palestinians, who’ve reached a low in barbarism and inculcate their young with hate from childhood. People talk as if they can now just decide to live peacefully next to Israel. It will take a generation or more for that culture to change. It is also true with Saudi Arabia. People talk as if they can just shrug off their religion if we put pressure on them.

I think if we look at the revival of Islam among Muslims, we see that they are seriously returning to their religion in growing numbers. This cultural change won’t be reversed by what we are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan. We may buy some time but the main problem isn’t being addressed. The influence of Islam is the overriding factor that limits gains by political and military means. I don’t focus on the battle plan because most Americans are still ignorant about the enemy.

It amazes me that we still welcome travel and immigration from Islamic countries! Stopping that is the 1st thing to do to contain the problem. My wife and I were shocked that after 9/11 nothing happened to stop entry. We thought maybe it was happening behind the scenes. Then, 9 months after 9/11, we heard that Saudi citizens can still enter the country under the State department’s “Visa Express” program – just go to a travel agent! People should be outraged. Both parties are at fault and Bush is acting too much like a Democrat.

9/23/05, 8:52 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

There is no place in Islam for individual thinking and individual rights. Perhaps some Muslims can reconcile the Islamic conflict with Western ideals, but when the Koran and Hadith become the standards for the governance of a nation, any such compromise has not been successful for long.

9/23/05, 10:44 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

OK - let me try to step back. There is no question that "liberal" has become a dirty word. It has come to mean "collectivism". I do understand the fact that the far left has essentially hijacked the word "liberal" - which has forced the "classical" liberals to re-define themselves as conservatives - as in "neo-conservatives". Opposed to them, we appear to have "traditionalist conservatives", like Auster. Unfortunately, folks like Auster come across to me, at least, as racists. Traditionalism comes across as a vaguely white suprecamist POV. I'm not really happy with that either.

So, I come back to this notion of "Classic Liberal". Individualist in essence, as Jason points out.

So why isn't "classical liberalism" sufficent intellectually to defeat the jihad?

Does it have anything to do with "freedom of religion"? Obviously that's the big issue. Classical liberals believe in freedom of religion. They also presumably mean by "freedom of religion" - "freedom of conscience". But here's where we obviously confront the problem - because islam ( a religion) denies freedom of conscience.

So how are we supposed to deal with this issue, from an intellectual and philosophical POV? In other words, the dichotomy between "freedom of religion" and "freedom of conscience"? Because where Islam is concerned, freedom of religion usurps freedom of conscience. But obviously that's not what our forefathers intended. Even most folks on the left wouldn't choose to forfeit their freedom of conscience, if they properly understood what was at stake.

Jason - help me here. You know your philosophy and your American history. How do we reconcile these two demands - freedom of religion vs. freedom of conscience? (in the case where the former eliminates the latter?).

Because I know most liberals - even lefties I know - would defend freedom of conscience. And isn't that "classical liberalism" as we all know it?

And do words matter? Admittedly "liberalism" has become a dirty word, even to many conservatives who might otherwise recognize themselves as classic "liberals".

But by the same token, perhaps many liberals could be persuaded away from their suicidal sentiments if they understood the LIMITS of liberalism. If they came away from the left, for example, and recognized themselves as "classic liberals".

It does seem stupid in some sense to focus on labels so much. But if there's anyhing true about human beings, it would seem to be that they feel a need to DEFINE themselves - and to feel comfortable and moral and self-righteous in those self-definitions. So realistically, that's what we have to deal with - the fact that people feel comfortable and secure with their labels that define for them who they are.

From that perspective, the word "liberal" should be a good thing, shouldn't it? Jason, as you pointed out, the world "liberal", from an international POV - means what we understand to be "classical liberalism" - which may be conservative as we understand the term, but which ought to have a universal definition. The word "liberal" does have a good connotation from an internationalist POV.

Sorry. I know this is a ridiculously long post. All I'm trying to say is that perhaps we need to get our labels straight. Maybe labels ARE important. People define themselves by labels. It's just the way people are.

Aren't we westerners "liberals" ultimately? To triumph against the jihadists - the farthest right fascist, theocratic force we can imagine - don't we need to define ourselves as westerners - as LIBERALS? Can't we get the left on board that way? Can't we get the right (classic liberals) on board that way?

In other words, can't we define ourselves as "classic liberals'? Won't that do the trick to pull the left and the right together?

9/23/05, 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Old Peculier said...

What an excellent post and set of comments.

It is time to debunk the nonsense that Islam is what Muslims make of it. Islam is what it is. Muslims may follow it properly, in which case, in the West, they must logically become terrorists, or they may be apathetic, or they may follow in a woolly way. But Islam is what it is.

Mohammed's transformation (and that of the Koran verses) when he attained power in Medina, is the only benign idea that can be drawn from Islam, but as an object lesson about what happens when you mix religion and politics, not as an example for all time.

People who are not religious, particularly on the Left, often do not realise the significance of religion and do not acknowledge that religions are different - some are better than others. It is frustrating to argue with such people - they will point to the Spanish Inquisition in an attempt to argue that Christianity is just as bad as Islam. However, whether you are a Christian or not, one thing is for sure - all Christians are worse than Christ; most Muslims are better than Mohammed.

Even pointing to the Old Testament for moral equivalence is a nonsense. The bloodthirsty characters in the Old Testament were object lessons, not role models for all time.

Islam is what it is, a reactionary fascist, supremacist, imperialist ideology. Mohammed was what he was, a murderer, a conqueror, a narcicist, a rapist, a paedophile and a sadist. Those who truly believe in this ideology and its 'prophet' are a menace and a danger to civilisation.

9/24/05, 8:06 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Hear, hear, OP! That certainly says it all.

Caroline, I think I understand what you’re asking but correctly me if I’m wrong. Of course, by liberty one doesn’t mean a promiscuous toleration of anything and everything including rights-violating behavior. Nor does liberty mean we respect the choices everyone makes. It does mean we have to endure speech that is caustic but we do have an obligation to counter that speech with the appropriate condemnations. I think it’s important that we assume the responsibilities of liberty: speaking out – including speaking against caustic ideologies, religious or otherwise.

The history of religious tolerance is interesting. John Locke wrote one of the major works on religious toleration. Today, it may look disconcerting since he saw limits we wouldn’t agree with. For example, he extended toleration to any form of Protestantism but not to Catholicism. However, it wasn’t because of its beliefs but because he saw the allegiance to the Pope as a political threat. If I remember correctly, Locke and others were disappointed that James II wasn’t only a private Catholic. I don’t remember the details; perhaps OP knows her English history better than I.

By the time of the American Revolution, 100 years later, we were able to move to the next step as Catholicism had changed and our view of toleration expanded.

Thus, if a religion is political, to that extent it should be treated just like any other political ideology – allowable under free speech but not given any other protection. Unlike Christianity, including Catholicism today, Islam is inherently political – as Mohammad was a political and military leader. I think we should oppose it a vigorously as we opposed communism and Nazism.

9/24/05, 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This discussion has been great i almost agree with all that has been said, Islam is a political ideology, and must therefore not be given any protection in the US by the state, this applies to all pseudo religious ideologies including Catholicism.

I agree with Caroline’s definition of who a "true" muslim is:- to become a muslim everyone must recite:-

“Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim: Lā ilāha Illallāh Muhammad u’r Rasūlullāh “
“In (or with) the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. No one is worthy of worship except Allāh Muhammad is the Messenger of Allāh”


By Caroline's definition, anybody who has is inherently dangerous to our way of life.

I can't wait for the day we start to round these guys up and kick them out, I will be first in the queue!

IF we don't kick them out we should at the very least restrict what they can do in our country.

What we are doing in Iraq is probably a waste of time, these peoples just do not have basic set of values or belief structures to sustain western style democracy in a meaningful way. Better to eradicate the threat then buy time by putting in place something doomed to fail.

9/25/05, 12:45 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

If we agree that Islam is a political ideology then it is still protected under the first Amendment, as free speech, just as communism was. We need to expose it, refute it, and condemn it. American citizens are protected by the constitution. However, we need not allow non-citizens into our country just as we restricted Communist entry during the Cold War. As I welcome immigration, we should choose to invite immigrants from cultures more compatible with our liberal democracy - again, at appropriate rates that allows assimilation.

9/25/05, 10:54 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Jason - No, of course by liberalism I DO NOT mean a promiscuous toleration of everything. I mean "classical liberalism", as I think you defined it in your article on "The conservative response to the Islamic threat".

Classical liberalism CAN NEVER mean toleration of the ILLIBERAL. This is apparently where the term liberal, as used in modern discourse, meets its logical end. But I still know what it means. I recall reading Horowitz's account of how the far left (totalitarians) essentially hijacked the term liberal, leaving real liberals to adopt the term conservative (or neoconservative). I recall this article in the Weekly Standard, attempting to call foul, and I agree:

Take Back the Word (Liberal)

Theoretically, it shouldn't really matter what us "counter-jihadists" call ourselves but I think it does. We are classical liberals. Classical liberals must not be fooled into accepting ILLIBERALISM, just because it comes in the form of brown-skinned people. That's racist isn't it? Anyone with half a brain ought to recognize that.

Should it matter how one defines oneself? Well, yes, I think it does. Freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, anti-theocratic authority, pro minority freedoms and so on - those are liberal values. As you pointed out in your article on conservatism, conservatism can merely stand for the status quo. How far back does one go to define the status quo? - last year? 10 years ago? 50 years ago? 200 years ago? Conservatism doesn't have an ideological foundation, as I think I understood you to say in your article. But liberalism does. I understand how that term has been perverted to accomodate ILLIBERALISM". But that is just a lie. It's a basic distortion of language - Orwellian really - where white means black and black means white. Still - I think most westerners are most comfortable with the appellation "liberal" (if we can simply "take back the word"). That's what we are and it's what we understand and I think we have a better chance of bringing more folks on board for the cause of defeating the global jihad, the most anti-liberal, far-right (anti women, anti gay, anti free speech, anti freedom of conscience and so on and so on) movement us westerners have ever known, if we define ourselves as the true liberals. (Look what happens when you define yourself as a conservative. You get folks like Charles Steele saying that you're just as threatening as the jihadists. So yes, labels may matter.)

We have to remind our fellow "liberals" that to be truly liberal THEY MUST NOT TOLERATE INTOLERANCE.

I think they can grasp that idea if we push them hard to it. They're soft. They don't want to offend. But inside that soft exterior, I think most westerners I know would fight to the death for their liberal values.

Or are the values of reason and individualism actually conservative values?? Arghhhh! I hate labels! Houston, we have a language problem!

9/25/05, 6:46 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Also - as an ex-Catholic - I agree that Catholicism was a threat to liberalism. The doctrine of papal infallibility would appear to blur the necessary liberal distinction between church and state. (It's funny that I grew up as an extreme Catholic - in fact my father was part of Vatican II and I went to school in Rome as a child while he was participating in it). Nevertheless, everything isn't rocket science. By the time I was a teenager, I basically grasped the authoritarian nature of Catholicism (although it is much less dangerous IMO than Islam). Which is why I have to laugh at the idea that one has to read the Koran in Arabic or debate Islamic scholars for years to grasp the "true" Islam. Bullshit. LOL! Well maybe Barnum was right that there's a fool born every day. But if it walks like a duck...

Yes, obviously Islam is a political ideology. A year ago I was under the false assumption that we in the U.S. had actually outlawed the Nazi ideology. Then I learned that that wasn't true. And that in fact Americans had basically marginalized Nazism through RIDICULE!! Something about getting hold of some white supremacist crap and exposing it for the laughable, absurd bullshit it was. Evidently it worked. And it can work equally well for islam. Islam is a joke. Listen to Muslims talk! Listen to the MEMRI translations. It's a joke! It should be laughed off the face of the earth! Why is that we don't laugh Islam off the face of the earth?

Obviously it has something to do with political correctness. PC appears to represent THE main barrier to our defeating Islam rapidly, as it clearly cannot withstand rational scrutiny, and we are in the ridiculous and sinister situation where it appears that it could indeed triumph! So what IS PC anyway? Where does it come from?

Is it cultural marxism??

Political correctness as cultural marxism

9/25/05, 7:33 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Now I see what you’re saying and I wholeheartedly agree: liberal – individual liberty – is what this country is about. I object to the bastardization of the word to mean the welfare state and relativism. That’s why I always use the word leftist to refer to the left; I hate to surrender such a noble word. Often, when I use the phrase liberal democracy, most people know that I’m talking about a constitutional republic that protects individual rights.

And your point about Nazism is right also. We need to appreciate the power of a healthy culture; one that knows it greatness (even if it’s not perfect) and knows the enemy’s depravity. We need to vigorously condemn Islam as we do every other supremacist movement. Without a propaganda war our efforts are undercut and even counter-productive in many cases.

Moral judgment is powerful. It mobilizes our side and maintains our morale. But it also demoralizes the enemy. During the 19th century, when the West was proud of it liberal heritage and willing to look down on backwards cultures, Arab culture marginalized Islam and tried to mimic the West in many respects. Now, we hold back not to offend Muslims. This only embolden them and makes them imagine they have the moral upper-ground.

It's ironic that those who stop our words (through intimidation and taboo) only move us forward to the day when we have to respond with something more horrible. I’d rather try words before using bullets. Given the obsession with honor, Arab culture would be affected. Of course, we have the leftists giving them moral aid and comfort! And that just enables the virulent anti-Western jihadists while demoralizing pro-Western Muslims who’d welcome a more secular liberal order.

9/25/05, 8:36 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Jason - as usual, I find myself nodding at everything you write. :-)
Leftists have indeed hijacked the word liberal and made it into a dirty word. Now we have huge numbers of people saying "oh those liberals! spit." The problem is that we need "those liberals" on our side in this fight. And if we're fighting in the realm of ideas, then we need to "take back the word". As you imply, the rest of the backwards world still associates the world "liberal" with what we in the west represent - as you point out, secular, pro-Western Muslims define themselves as "liberals".

Re your statement that we need a "propoganda war". I would prefer to avoid that term. To me, "propoganda" connotes lies. I prefer to think and say that we need to be truthful. We need to simply speak the truth and continually resist the Orwellian reversal of language and meaning that is all around us, especially in the press. Speaking the truth about Islam is NOT propoganda. Rather it is fighting propoganda! I am somewhat optimistic that the folks that we currently dismiss as "liberals" will get on board and figure this out. They won't get on board for propoganda though. But I think they will get on board for truth, once they grasp the Orwellian reversal of meaning that permeates public discourse and once they recognize what is at stake in this fight. Of course, if I didn't think that, I might go mad. :-)

9/26/05, 7:21 PM  

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