"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Liberalism, fundamentalism and Islamism

Having quoted me largely with approval about liberal attitudes toward Islam today, Dr. Bill Vallicella of Maverick Philosopher raises a fair criticism. I respond here.

Here's what I said that he quoted:

Shouldn't liberals be the most concerned about Islamic fundamentalism, given that the things they profess to value are the first things they would lose under Islamist pressure? It's hard to avoid the conclusion that this sort of liberal hates political conservatives and orthodox Christians more than he loves his own liberty. And he wishes to cling desperately to his own self-image as a defender of the poor, oppressed minorities, even when some of those poor, oppressed minorities would just as soon see him and his kind swinging from the gallows.

Substantially correct. But if I may quibble, 'Islamic fundamentalism' may not be the right term. A fundamentalist, as I understand the word, is one who interprets the scriptures of his religion literally, as God's own inerrant word. Thus Islam, if I am not mistaken, holds that the Koran was literally dictated by God to Muhammad in Arabic. Whatever one thinks of fundamentalists in this sense, it seems obvious that they should not be confused with militants or terrorists. Although fundamentalists and terrorists are sets with a non-null intersection, there are fundamentalists who are not terrorists and terrorists who are not fundamentalists.

Bill certainly has a point, but I believe he's missing one I was trying to make. That's not surprising since I didn't make it clear. That is what I shall now do.

I used 'fundamentalism' rather than 'terrorism' for two reasons. First, almost everybody except terrorists abhors terrorism, and terrorists are a quite small minority of Muslims. But Islam today, whether in its Saudi-backed, Sunni-inspired Wahabbi theocratism or in its Iranian-backed, Shi'a-inspired theocratism, is effectively more "fundamentalist" than it's been in centuries. That is what I mean by "Islamic fundamentalism," which is perhaps better termed "Islamism." The vast numbers of Muslim fundamentalists or Islamists, whatever they may feel as individuals about terrorism, seem unable or unwilling to close ranks against the terrorists from their own ranks who claim to act according to Islam. Indeed, throughout the Muslim world, hatred of the West and of Christianity—indeed of almost any way of life that is not Islamist—is commonly preached and believed. That is a breeding ground for terrorists, not a basis for resistance to them on their home turf. But liberals seem unwilling to face the significance of that fact even when they acknowledge the fact in the abstract. They think that if we would just distinguish between the nice majority of Muslims and the small minority of nasty terrorists, treating the former as brothers and the latter as criminals, we could make the problem of Islamist terrorism go away. But the main root of the problem is Islamic fundamentalism itself.

The term 'fundamentalism' in this context does not just mean acceptance of certain religious beliefs in their literal sense. To breed Islamism it is necessary, but not sufficient, that most Muslims believe the Qu'ran to have been literally dictated by God in Arabic. What I mean by 'Islamic fundamentalism' is still more specific: the belief that violent jihad against non-Muslims, and even against the wrong kinds of Muslims, is a duty of Muslims given today's geopolitical situation. The purpose of such jihad is nothing less than the conquest of the world for the strictest brands of Islam. Liberals, specifically secular liberals, seem incapable of taking such a threat seriously; indeed, they seem much more concerned with upholding a PC multiculturalism that would embrace Islam and everything else, except of course any form of traditional Christianity. That is the proximate reason why the Islamization of Europe is proceeding apace with only token resistance from the natives. This is why American liberals can call for withdrawal from Iraq, leaving Iraqis to an all-out sectarian war and bequeathing a playground for al-Qaeda, while at the same time believing that our enemies would be less mean to us if we did so.

So, I should say that liberals ought to be much more concerned about Islamic fundamentalism. But I agree that a different term would have clearer connotations. So, how about "Islamism"?
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