The time has come, and indeed, has long passed for a frank and open discussion of the growing confrontation between the Western democracies and the Muslim world.
Were there no other issue than the fact that there are some 1.3 billion world inhabitants who consider themselves Muslim, whatever their differences, the issue is moot. Now the combination of the continuing chaos in the Arab and Muslim world and the massive Muslim migration into the formerly non-Islamic societies requires it.
It perhaps goes without saying that the issues are complex and fraught.
Islam, despite its hundreds of millions of peaceful adherents, has never been a “religion of peace” as so many contemporary politicians espouse, including Pres. George W. Bush. From its very origins, Islam – a political as well as a religious movement – has confronted the Judeo-Christian West, more often than not relying on its sword to settle ensuing arguments It is equally false, as Pres. Barack Obama has repeatedly said, that Islam has played a great role in the development of the American ethic; indeed, the opposite is true when the first U.S. armed conflict abroad was a war against pirates espousing the Islamic cause on “The Barbary Coast” of North Africa.
In the current explosion of old arguments, Muslims are far more likely – given their inferior military and other aspects of stable government – to seek other means than military to win arguments and concessions. In fact, the most powerful transnational organization in the Islamic world today is the Muslim Brotherhood whose origins lie in a strategy of using such Western institutions as a representative government to gain influence, power. The brief regime of Egypt’s Pres. Mohammed Morsi proved the Brotherhood concept is “one man, one vote, one time” [only].
The cliché that Islam is an “Abrahamic” religion thereby sharing the concepts of Christianity and Judaism today toward the two other beliefs is false. Yes, Islam does borrow from the Jewish and Christian legends, but it has never met the test and modifications of the Jews through 19th Century Haskalah [Enlightenment] and the Christian Reformation and the Counter-Reformations. Ironically, the highly influential 12th century Spanish Muslim philosopher Averroes [Ibn Rushd] contributed mightily to the origins of modern syncretic Christianity, but Islam lost the 12th-Century debate to the fundamentalists and had never recovered.
Toleration of all religions is a foundation of modern democratic society. In countries today where Muslims are in the majority, such tolerance is next to zero. Even Pakistan, with its enormous inheritance of British Indian law and pluralism, restricts Christian practice, and there is almost monthly violence – often deadly — against “nonbelievers”. The concept that Sharia, the great and ambiguous body of Islamic law, could have precedence over the American Constitution is unacceptable.
How, then, is the West to respond to these new demands of Muslims as individuals and sometimes as organized entities to participate in the power structures of the nation states created even in Afro-Asia by the European world?
The only response is that Muslims and their faith must meet the requirements of modern, tolerant and pluralistic democracy in the same way as other religions and philosophies. The current tendency to accommodate Muslims and Islam through special courtesies is mistaken and can only lead to disaster. This is true not only in legal and political terms but also in the world of culture.
When Simon & Schuster create a new imprint called Salaam Reads targeted to young-Muslim-adults, it is a misplaced effort. The publisher says it is to help integrate these new arrivals into our culture. But Simon & Schuster do not have Catholic, Jewish or Buddhist subsidiaries. And they are abandoning the essence of the American concept that the U.S. was created as a place that welcomes immigrants from all over the world precisely so they can have the freedom to believe what they wish, and live unbound by birth or class or government restriction – or incentive.
Nor can the majority of Muslims be excused from facing the cold fact that Islam, however falsely, is the foundation on which the contemporary world’s greatest threat to peace and security arises. They, above others, must be able to discuss openly and honestly why this is the case, and what concepts remain still unpurged from Islamic belief that gives rise to these attacks on the civilized world.
Open covenants openly arrived at was not just a cliché which Woodrow Wilson hoped would be the foundation of the peace after World War I. but is as appropriately applicable today to the problem of Islam and Islamic terrorism. Ignoring or obfuscating the problem of Islam in the 21st Century is as much a threat to world peace and stability, as the acts of terror themselves.
* This commentary has been posted on yeoldecrabb.com on February 28, 2016