Liberals and Islamofascists

What merit is there in not stealing because you fear that your hand will be cut off? In not drinking because you have no alcohol? In not being aroused by a woman in a burqa?

An Islamofascist walks the streets of America and sees a man enter a massage parlor. "What an immoral society!" he thinks. He does not notice the men who do not go in. He sees the temptations Americans are subject to, but not their resistance to those temptations. He sees their immorality, but not their morality.

Americans are free to be either moral or immoral. How immoral would our enemies be if they were free?

America is free to be immoral, but when America is moral, its morality is genuine—because it is free to be immoral. No one praises prison inmates for not breaking into houses—or Saudi women for not having automobile accidents.

The Islamofascist cannot conceive of morality without coercion. To the Islamofascist, coercion is morality, and freedom is immorality. Freedom is license to him, not the arena in which we choose good or evil. Morality is imposed and external, not free and internal.

To the Biblically—grounded Christian or Jew, 'the battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man,' in the glorious words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. For too many Muslims, the battle line between good and evil runs between the Islamic world and the world yet to be conquered.

Christians and Jews do have a duty to fight evil outside themselves, but their primary adversary must always be the enemy within. The rhetoric of Islamofascists reverses this priority, sometimes to the point of completely forgetting their own sins. America does not need lessons in sexual morality from men who take baths and perfume themselves in expectation of the seventy—two virgins they will each enjoy as soon as they blow themselves up next to Christians or Jews.

Ideological Affinities

Unfortunately, many in the West also see only the sins of America. They also confuse license and freedom, repression and self—control, taxation and charity. They also equate good conduct motivated by fear of temporal rulers and good conduct motivated by love of God and man.

Above all, they too focus on the sins and alleged sins of others to the exclusion of their own sins and thereby equate changing someone else's behavior with doing the right thing. The most moral people are, in their view, the people who most vigorously condemn traditional American values. An ordinary person might strive to benefit society by giving to a charity or volunteering; they strive to benefit society by promoting political and social change.

They confuse poverty imposed by an economic system and voluntary poverty, destitution and poverty of spirit, backwardness and protection of the environment. They think that Americans are more materialist than people with fewer material goods—as if people in other countries don't desire the same things. They think that socialism is compatible with Christianity and capitalism is not, forgetting that socialism is as much a system for producing material goods as capitalism is, just a less efficient one. They think that there is something inherently wrong with wanting a car that does not break down or a computer that does not crash, but cars, computers, and other consumer goods are not evil. Making idols of them is evil; putting them to good use is not. They think that because Native Americans were technologically backward, they must have been environmentalists. Again and again, they confuse morality with constraint: the constraint of poverty, the constraint of inefficiency, the constraint of backwardness, ultimately the constraint of tyranny.

To their way of thinking, the Internal Revenue Service is a charitable organization, like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army; indeed it is more charitable because contributions to it are involuntary. Charity consists precisely in the taking of the money. Taxation is thus a virtue in and of itself, reflecting the merit of the society imposing it.

Money that is freely given falls short of true charity because it lacks the element of coercion essential to their morality. How can a society be moral if it allows people to forgo charity? What kind of charity is it that allows people not to give?

Morality consists in telling other people what to do, and charity consists in aiding the poor with other people's money. Thus, Hillary Clinton says that conservatives place too much emphasis on 'private morality' (obeying the Ten Commandments) and not enough emphasis on 'public morality' (obeying her).

But surely I am being unfair. What, other than enemies, does Hillary Clinton share with Islamofascists? Liberals in America support gay rights; Islamofascists want to stone homosexuals. Liberals are feminists; Islamofascists don't want to let women out of the house. Liberals hate war; the terrorists want to set the world ablaze with it.

Well, similar contradictions were not too much for liberals in the Cold War. The Soviet Union did not embody their values. Or so they tell us.

On the other hand, the communists did hold up before their apologists a utopian vision, while the Islamofascists don't even bother to present a positive message. It turns out that the Islamofascists know a lot of things that we don't. For instance, that a message of pure negativity has as much appeal as the demagogic ideal of a world without poverty or strife. Liberals are just as energetic in explaining away the mass murder of Kurdish villagers by Saddam Hussein as they were in praising Potemkin villages in the Soviet Union. How long does it take a liberal to turn a discussion of the use of poison gas on Kurds to a discussion of the evils of Reagan and Bush?

So perhaps liberals are not responding to the Islamofascist message after all. They will simply excuse the behavior of enemies of the United States no matter how opposed the values of those enemies are to the values of liberals. Indeed, liberals and Islamofascists are opposites. Or so they tell us.

However, as the agreement between liberals and Islamofascists on the fundamental issue of the relationship between freedom and morality suggests, there is a deep ideological affinity between liberals and Islamofascists. They do not simply share hatred of President Bush. They are bound by more than their enemies.

An examination of the history of Islam and of the relationship of the West to it shows that there are always those in the West who will make common cause with Islam. Without their aid, Islam would have long ago collapsed.

Out of pure expediency or Realpolitik, Western merchants will trade with Islamic enemies of the West and even sell them arms, and Western powers will ally themselves with Islam, as when the Austro—Hungarian Empire allied with the Ottoman Empire in World War I or when the United States and the Soviet Union vied for allies in the Middle East during the Cold War.

Out of what might be called ideological expediency, some in the West have attempted to take ideological advantage of the Islamic threat. During the height of religious strife in Europe, for instance, many Protestants saw in Islam a critique of Catholicism similar to their own, and many Catholics saw in it a warning against schism and heresy. This ideological expediency can develop into a genuine ideological affinity, as is happening today and has been happening for hundreds of years.

For a striking example of this ideological expediency/affinity, ask yourself who wrote the following poem, translated from the original German. Hint: the author was not a Muslim.

A Song to Mahomet

See the mountain spring
Flash gladdening
Like a glance of stars;
Higher than the clouds
Kindly spirits
Fuelled his youth
In thickets twixt the crags.
Brisk as a young blade
Out of cloud he dances
Down to marble rocks
And leaps again
Skyward exultant.
Down passages that hang from peaks
He chases pebbles many—coloured,
Early like a leader striding
Snatches up and carries onward
Brother torrents.
Flowers are born beneath his footprint
In the valley down below,
From his breathing
Pastures live.
Yet no valley of the shadows
Can contain him
And no flowers that clasp his knees,
Blandishing with looks of love;
To the lowland bursts his way,
A snake uncoiling.
Freshets nestle
Flocking to his side. He comes
Into the lowland, silver sparkling
And with him the lowland sparkles,
And the lowland rivers call,
Mountain freshets call exultant:
Brother, take your brothers with you,
With you to your ancient father,
To the everlasting ocean,
Who with open arms awaits us,
Arms which, ah, open in vain
To clasp us who are craving for him;
Avid sands consume us
In the desert, sun overhead
Will suck our blood, blocked by a hill
To pools we shrink! Brother, take us,
Take your lowland brothers with you,
Take your brothers of the mountains,
To your father take us all!
Join me then!
And now he swells
More lordly still; one single kin,
They loft the prince and bear him high
Onward as he rolls triumphant,
Naming countries, in his track
Towns and cities come to be.
On he rushes, unrelenting,
Leaves the turrets tipped with flame,
Marble palaces, creation
Of his plentitude, behind him.
Cedar houses he like Atlas
Carries on his giant shoulders;
Flags a thousand rustling flutter
In the air above his head,
Testifying to his glory.
So he bears his brothers, bears
His treasures and his children surging
In a wave of joy tumultuous
To their waiting father's heart.

Who is it who says that Muhammad makes the lowland sparkle, that flowers spring from his footsteps and cities from his track? Who is it who celebrates the tumultuous joy of Muhammad's followers and the plenitude of his creation?
"A Song to Mahomet" was written in 1772—1773 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the least romantic of the German Romantics, the least insane of the German intellectual giants of the last 250 years.

Goethe was not an aberration. Anyone wishing to understand the long tradition of Western affinity with Islam, a tradition that is as old as Islam itself, should read Islam and the West by Bernard Lewis, especially the chapter "Gibbon on Muhammad," in which Lewis says

"the image of Muhammad as a wise, tolerant [!], unmystical [!], and undogmatic [!] ruler became widespread in the period of the Enlightenment, and it finds expression in writers as diverse as Goethe, Condercet, and Voltaire." [exclamation points added]

What started as the (rather absurd) idea that Muhammad was a forerunner of Luther and Calvin and that Islam could as a result be an ally of the Protestants against Roman Catholicism morphed into the (also absurd) idea that Islam was refreshingly free from the dogmatism of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular and that it could as a result be an ally of the Enlightenment against the forces of darkness, that is, Christianity, which in turn morphed into the (beyond absurd) idea that Islam is an innocent victim of the warmongering Bush Administration and that as a result progressives in the United States should stand with the resistance in Iraq against imperialism, Zionism, Neo—Conservatism, capitalism, globalism, unilateralism, consumerism, racism, sexism, speciesism, heterosexism, homophobia, Halliburton, homework, hot weather, hurricanes, homemakers, electoral fraud, SUVs, McDonalds, AIDS, Starbucks, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, conservative bloggers, censorship, carnivorousness, second—hand smoke, the CIA, cell phone rays, and impurities in paint thinner.

George Orwell said that only university professors could be stupid enough to believe that the capitalist democracies were no better than Nazi Germany. Stupidity, or at least education, must be more widespread in our day because an equivalent belief is held by respectable churchman and tenured radical alike. America is no better than Iraq under Saddam Hussein or Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini, they think, and we should not impose our way of life on others.

Of course, most Americans had more in mind imposing death on Hussein and Khomeini than our way of life on Iraq and Iran, but the charm of this belief is that it appeals to robed religious leaders as much as to campus radicals in academic gowns, not to speak of similarly appareled sheiks.

Liberals posing as Christians reason, if one can call it reason, as follows: Sexual exploitation is all around us, along with crass materialism and a callous disregard for the unfortunate. Americans are spoiled, selfish, and stupid. Our insatiable desire to remake the world in our image is matched only by our ignorance of it. Who are we to tell people how they should live? The United States is the only country ever to drop atomic bombs on anyone. We have tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, but we begrudge other nations even a few. What hypocrites! What right do we have to tell Iran and North Korea that they can't have nuclear weapons?

The radicals fear that we will create a virtuous Iraq, these Christians that we will create an immoral one. The trouble is that nowadays one can hardly tell the difference between the radicals and some religious leaders. Certainly the difference between debauched sinners and Anglican bishops is increasingly indiscernible. Madonna is a slut who found religion and went whoring after false gods; they might as well make her an archbishop of certain denominations.

The bishops of some churches think that we could have peace for the asking. We have asked. Have they not heard the answer? "Peace! Peace!" they cry, though there is no peace. They fancy themselves prophetic witnesses to an unjust society. Unjust it may be, though not as unjust as they think, but if they are prophets, all that is necessary for prophecy is to repeat what network anchors say. They style themselves learned and get their information from newspapers, television, government radio, and oddball magazines. What have these prophets ever foreseen?

They call us to charity and denounce us for donating our best blood and hundreds of billions of dollars to the freedom of Iraq. They say that we are addicted to consumer goods and shriek when we spend our money to help the most downtrodden. They call us racists when we fight for the well being of Arabs. They call us Crusaders as we spread religious freedom. They call us selfish as we give them money. They attribute our prosperity to exploitation of the Third World, but never refuse the donations we give them out of our allegedly ill—gotten gains. They repeat enemy propaganda and huffily complain that we doubt their patriotism.

Islamofascists, religious big wigs, and campus radicals say that America is ruled by plutocrats who use sex to sell to a consumer society. Then Saudi moneybags buy girls from India and Pakistan, American prelates hide child molesters from the police, and campus radicals, who say that what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is none of our business, celebrate 'transgressive' sexual acts in public. Certainly, these groups deserve each other. But do the rest of us deserve them?

What merit is there in not stealing because you fear that your hand will be cut off? In not drinking because you have no alcohol? In not being aroused by a woman in a burqa?

An Islamofascist walks the streets of America and sees a man enter a massage parlor. "What an immoral society!" he thinks. He does not notice the men who do not go in. He sees the temptations Americans are subject to, but not their resistance to those temptations. He sees their immorality, but not their morality.

Americans are free to be either moral or immoral. How immoral would our enemies be if they were free?

America is free to be immoral, but when America is moral, its morality is genuine—because it is free to be immoral. No one praises prison inmates for not breaking into houses—or Saudi women for not having automobile accidents.

The Islamofascist cannot conceive of morality without coercion. To the Islamofascist, coercion is morality, and freedom is immorality. Freedom is license to him, not the arena in which we choose good or evil. Morality is imposed and external, not free and internal.

To the Biblically—grounded Christian or Jew, 'the battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man,' in the glorious words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. For too many Muslims, the battle line between good and evil runs between the Islamic world and the world yet to be conquered.

Christians and Jews do have a duty to fight evil outside themselves, but their primary adversary must always be the enemy within. The rhetoric of Islamofascists reverses this priority, sometimes to the point of completely forgetting their own sins. America does not need lessons in sexual morality from men who take baths and perfume themselves in expectation of the seventy—two virgins they will each enjoy as soon as they blow themselves up next to Christians or Jews.

Ideological Affinities

Unfortunately, many in the West also see only the sins of America. They also confuse license and freedom, repression and self—control, taxation and charity. They also equate good conduct motivated by fear of temporal rulers and good conduct motivated by love of God and man.

Above all, they too focus on the sins and alleged sins of others to the exclusion of their own sins and thereby equate changing someone else's behavior with doing the right thing. The most moral people are, in their view, the people who most vigorously condemn traditional American values. An ordinary person might strive to benefit society by giving to a charity or volunteering; they strive to benefit society by promoting political and social change.

They confuse poverty imposed by an economic system and voluntary poverty, destitution and poverty of spirit, backwardness and protection of the environment. They think that Americans are more materialist than people with fewer material goods—as if people in other countries don't desire the same things. They think that socialism is compatible with Christianity and capitalism is not, forgetting that socialism is as much a system for producing material goods as capitalism is, just a less efficient one. They think that there is something inherently wrong with wanting a car that does not break down or a computer that does not crash, but cars, computers, and other consumer goods are not evil. Making idols of them is evil; putting them to good use is not. They think that because Native Americans were technologically backward, they must have been environmentalists. Again and again, they confuse morality with constraint: the constraint of poverty, the constraint of inefficiency, the constraint of backwardness, ultimately the constraint of tyranny.

To their way of thinking, the Internal Revenue Service is a charitable organization, like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army; indeed it is more charitable because contributions to it are involuntary. Charity consists precisely in the taking of the money. Taxation is thus a virtue in and of itself, reflecting the merit of the society imposing it.

Money that is freely given falls short of true charity because it lacks the element of coercion essential to their morality. How can a society be moral if it allows people to forgo charity? What kind of charity is it that allows people not to give?

Morality consists in telling other people what to do, and charity consists in aiding the poor with other people's money. Thus, Hillary Clinton says that conservatives place too much emphasis on 'private morality' (obeying the Ten Commandments) and not enough emphasis on 'public morality' (obeying her).

But surely I am being unfair. What, other than enemies, does Hillary Clinton share with Islamofascists? Liberals in America support gay rights; Islamofascists want to stone homosexuals. Liberals are feminists; Islamofascists don't want to let women out of the house. Liberals hate war; the terrorists want to set the world ablaze with it.

Well, similar contradictions were not too much for liberals in the Cold War. The Soviet Union did not embody their values. Or so they tell us.

On the other hand, the communists did hold up before their apologists a utopian vision, while the Islamofascists don't even bother to present a positive message. It turns out that the Islamofascists know a lot of things that we don't. For instance, that a message of pure negativity has as much appeal as the demagogic ideal of a world without poverty or strife. Liberals are just as energetic in explaining away the mass murder of Kurdish villagers by Saddam Hussein as they were in praising Potemkin villages in the Soviet Union. How long does it take a liberal to turn a discussion of the use of poison gas on Kurds to a discussion of the evils of Reagan and Bush?

So perhaps liberals are not responding to the Islamofascist message after all. They will simply excuse the behavior of enemies of the United States no matter how opposed the values of those enemies are to the values of liberals. Indeed, liberals and Islamofascists are opposites. Or so they tell us.

However, as the agreement between liberals and Islamofascists on the fundamental issue of the relationship between freedom and morality suggests, there is a deep ideological affinity between liberals and Islamofascists. They do not simply share hatred of President Bush. They are bound by more than their enemies.

An examination of the history of Islam and of the relationship of the West to it shows that there are always those in the West who will make common cause with Islam. Without their aid, Islam would have long ago collapsed.

Out of pure expediency or Realpolitik, Western merchants will trade with Islamic enemies of the West and even sell them arms, and Western powers will ally themselves with Islam, as when the Austro—Hungarian Empire allied with the Ottoman Empire in World War I or when the United States and the Soviet Union vied for allies in the Middle East during the Cold War.

Out of what might be called ideological expediency, some in the West have attempted to take ideological advantage of the Islamic threat. During the height of religious strife in Europe, for instance, many Protestants saw in Islam a critique of Catholicism similar to their own, and many Catholics saw in it a warning against schism and heresy. This ideological expediency can develop into a genuine ideological affinity, as is happening today and has been happening for hundreds of years.

For a striking example of this ideological expediency/affinity, ask yourself who wrote the following poem, translated from the original German. Hint: the author was not a Muslim.

A Song to Mahomet

See the mountain spring
Flash gladdening
Like a glance of stars;
Higher than the clouds
Kindly spirits
Fuelled his youth
In thickets twixt the crags.
Brisk as a young blade
Out of cloud he dances
Down to marble rocks
And leaps again
Skyward exultant.
Down passages that hang from peaks
He chases pebbles many—coloured,
Early like a leader striding
Snatches up and carries onward
Brother torrents.
Flowers are born beneath his footprint
In the valley down below,
From his breathing
Pastures live.
Yet no valley of the shadows
Can contain him
And no flowers that clasp his knees,
Blandishing with looks of love;
To the lowland bursts his way,
A snake uncoiling.
Freshets nestle
Flocking to his side. He comes
Into the lowland, silver sparkling
And with him the lowland sparkles,
And the lowland rivers call,
Mountain freshets call exultant:
Brother, take your brothers with you,
With you to your ancient father,
To the everlasting ocean,
Who with open arms awaits us,
Arms which, ah, open in vain
To clasp us who are craving for him;
Avid sands consume us
In the desert, sun overhead
Will suck our blood, blocked by a hill
To pools we shrink! Brother, take us,
Take your lowland brothers with you,
Take your brothers of the mountains,
To your father take us all!
Join me then!
And now he swells
More lordly still; one single kin,
They loft the prince and bear him high
Onward as he rolls triumphant,
Naming countries, in his track
Towns and cities come to be.
On he rushes, unrelenting,
Leaves the turrets tipped with flame,
Marble palaces, creation
Of his plentitude, behind him.
Cedar houses he like Atlas
Carries on his giant shoulders;
Flags a thousand rustling flutter
In the air above his head,
Testifying to his glory.
So he bears his brothers, bears
His treasures and his children surging
In a wave of joy tumultuous
To their waiting father's heart.

Who is it who says that Muhammad makes the lowland sparkle, that flowers spring from his footsteps and cities from his track? Who is it who celebrates the tumultuous joy of Muhammad's followers and the plenitude of his creation?
"A Song to Mahomet" was written in 1772—1773 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the least romantic of the German Romantics, the least insane of the German intellectual giants of the last 250 years.

Goethe was not an aberration. Anyone wishing to understand the long tradition of Western affinity with Islam, a tradition that is as old as Islam itself, should read Islam and the West by Bernard Lewis, especially the chapter "Gibbon on Muhammad," in which Lewis says

"the image of Muhammad as a wise, tolerant [!], unmystical [!], and undogmatic [!] ruler became widespread in the period of the Enlightenment, and it finds expression in writers as diverse as Goethe, Condercet, and Voltaire." [exclamation points added]

What started as the (rather absurd) idea that Muhammad was a forerunner of Luther and Calvin and that Islam could as a result be an ally of the Protestants against Roman Catholicism morphed into the (also absurd) idea that Islam was refreshingly free from the dogmatism of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular and that it could as a result be an ally of the Enlightenment against the forces of darkness, that is, Christianity, which in turn morphed into the (beyond absurd) idea that Islam is an innocent victim of the warmongering Bush Administration and that as a result progressives in the United States should stand with the resistance in Iraq against imperialism, Zionism, Neo—Conservatism, capitalism, globalism, unilateralism, consumerism, racism, sexism, speciesism, heterosexism, homophobia, Halliburton, homework, hot weather, hurricanes, homemakers, electoral fraud, SUVs, McDonalds, AIDS, Starbucks, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, conservative bloggers, censorship, carnivorousness, second—hand smoke, the CIA, cell phone rays, and impurities in paint thinner.

George Orwell said that only university professors could be stupid enough to believe that the capitalist democracies were no better than Nazi Germany. Stupidity, or at least education, must be more widespread in our day because an equivalent belief is held by respectable churchman and tenured radical alike. America is no better than Iraq under Saddam Hussein or Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini, they think, and we should not impose our way of life on others.

Of course, most Americans had more in mind imposing death on Hussein and Khomeini than our way of life on Iraq and Iran, but the charm of this belief is that it appeals to robed religious leaders as much as to campus radicals in academic gowns, not to speak of similarly appareled sheiks.

Liberals posing as Christians reason, if one can call it reason, as follows: Sexual exploitation is all around us, along with crass materialism and a callous disregard for the unfortunate. Americans are spoiled, selfish, and stupid. Our insatiable desire to remake the world in our image is matched only by our ignorance of it. Who are we to tell people how they should live? The United States is the only country ever to drop atomic bombs on anyone. We have tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, but we begrudge other nations even a few. What hypocrites! What right do we have to tell Iran and North Korea that they can't have nuclear weapons?

The radicals fear that we will create a virtuous Iraq, these Christians that we will create an immoral one. The trouble is that nowadays one can hardly tell the difference between the radicals and some religious leaders. Certainly the difference between debauched sinners and Anglican bishops is increasingly indiscernible. Madonna is a slut who found religion and went whoring after false gods; they might as well make her an archbishop of certain denominations.

The bishops of some churches think that we could have peace for the asking. We have asked. Have they not heard the answer? "Peace! Peace!" they cry, though there is no peace. They fancy themselves prophetic witnesses to an unjust society. Unjust it may be, though not as unjust as they think, but if they are prophets, all that is necessary for prophecy is to repeat what network anchors say. They style themselves learned and get their information from newspapers, television, government radio, and oddball magazines. What have these prophets ever foreseen?

They call us to charity and denounce us for donating our best blood and hundreds of billions of dollars to the freedom of Iraq. They say that we are addicted to consumer goods and shriek when we spend our money to help the most downtrodden. They call us racists when we fight for the well being of Arabs. They call us Crusaders as we spread religious freedom. They call us selfish as we give them money. They attribute our prosperity to exploitation of the Third World, but never refuse the donations we give them out of our allegedly ill—gotten gains. They repeat enemy propaganda and huffily complain that we doubt their patriotism.

Islamofascists, religious big wigs, and campus radicals say that America is ruled by plutocrats who use sex to sell to a consumer society. Then Saudi moneybags buy girls from India and Pakistan, American prelates hide child molesters from the police, and campus radicals, who say that what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is none of our business, celebrate 'transgressive' sexual acts in public. Certainly, these groups deserve each other. But do the rest of us deserve them?