Islam on Its Own Terms

Philosopher and historian of science Thomas Kuhn is among the more notable proponents of the view that "facts" are always laden with theoretical presuppositions.  This may be an exaggeration, but there is nothing like commentary on Middle Eastern affairs to show that it is not devoid of truth. 

Almost everyone on the left, and some on the right, insist that Islamic hostilities toward America stem from America's support of the state of Israel.  That is, ultimately, it is the existence of Israel that accounts for why Muslims throughout the Middle East (and elsewhere) hate us.  For the leftist, however, Israel is just the latest chapter in a long history of "oppression" that Muslims -- "people of color" -- have experienced for over a millennium. 

The conventional wisdom among establishment Republicans is that Islamic aggression toward America is due solely to "the radical Islamists'" contempt for "our freedoms," a disdain born of an ignorance to which "the democratization" of the Islamic world would be an antidote.  Within recent days, much of the Republican commentary on Egypt has reflected this bias.

These competing positions on the question of the West's relationship to Islam are as long on ideology as they are short on reality, for they each fail to take seriously the elephant in the room: Islam. 

It isn't that they are wrong, necessarily.  There can be no question that legions of Muslims resent the existence of Israel -- and the support that the latter receives from the United States.  It is also doubtless correct that similar numbers of Muslims despise the cultural and political arrangements of America and the West.  But because neither view recognizes the other, what truth each possesses is obscured.

It doesn't require much familiarity with the Islamic tradition, and the Quran in particular, to discover that Islam is an intrinsically militant religion.  It demands even less familiarity with the contemporary experience of Muslims throughout the world to realize that true Islam calls on its adherents to conquer, or destroy, all non-Muslims. 

I will not embark upon the enterprise -- well-accomplished by now, thanks to such brave souls as Robert Spencer, Brigitte Gabriel, and others -- of quoting the many passages from the Quran that substantiate this point.  But however unpleasant a thought this may be, it is a reality. 

Anyone seriously concerned with coming to terms with "the nature of our enemy" must give up all of this silly talk of "Islamofascists," "Islamonazis," "Islamists," "radical Muslims," and "Islamic extremists."  The "enemy" -- and anyone who looks upon me as an "infidel" to be converted or killed I do indeed consider my enemy -- is the orthodox Muslim.  America and the West are in conflict with "Quranic literalists" -- or "Islamic fundamentalists," if you will -- and no one else.

Interestingly, in refusing to take the Islamic fundamentalist at his word, the leftist betrays his own "Eurocentrism" -- those parochial proclivities that he deplores in others -- for he judges Muslims not by their own standards, by his own.

Self-avowed "conservatives," on the other hand, are no less guilty of contradicting themselves.  In staunch contrast to their leftist counterparts, conservatives have always been keenly aware of the fact that culture is fundamentally, ultimately more important to human life than politics.  To borrow the Marxist's idiom, culture is "the substructure," politics "the superstructure."  Yet in ignoring the "second nature" with which the religion of Islam has clothed the inhabitants of the Islamic world, in treating the problems of the Middle East as if they were primarily a matter of political arrangements, "the conservative" has betrayed his own position.

If we really want to take our situation seriously, it is high time that we left ideology behind.
Philosopher and historian of science Thomas Kuhn is among the more notable proponents of the view that "facts" are always laden with theoretical presuppositions.  This may be an exaggeration, but there is nothing like commentary on Middle Eastern affairs to show that it is not devoid of truth. 

Almost everyone on the left, and some on the right, insist that Islamic hostilities toward America stem from America's support of the state of Israel.  That is, ultimately, it is the existence of Israel that accounts for why Muslims throughout the Middle East (and elsewhere) hate us.  For the leftist, however, Israel is just the latest chapter in a long history of "oppression" that Muslims -- "people of color" -- have experienced for over a millennium. 

The conventional wisdom among establishment Republicans is that Islamic aggression toward America is due solely to "the radical Islamists'" contempt for "our freedoms," a disdain born of an ignorance to which "the democratization" of the Islamic world would be an antidote.  Within recent days, much of the Republican commentary on Egypt has reflected this bias.

These competing positions on the question of the West's relationship to Islam are as long on ideology as they are short on reality, for they each fail to take seriously the elephant in the room: Islam. 

It isn't that they are wrong, necessarily.  There can be no question that legions of Muslims resent the existence of Israel -- and the support that the latter receives from the United States.  It is also doubtless correct that similar numbers of Muslims despise the cultural and political arrangements of America and the West.  But because neither view recognizes the other, what truth each possesses is obscured.

It doesn't require much familiarity with the Islamic tradition, and the Quran in particular, to discover that Islam is an intrinsically militant religion.  It demands even less familiarity with the contemporary experience of Muslims throughout the world to realize that true Islam calls on its adherents to conquer, or destroy, all non-Muslims. 

I will not embark upon the enterprise -- well-accomplished by now, thanks to such brave souls as Robert Spencer, Brigitte Gabriel, and others -- of quoting the many passages from the Quran that substantiate this point.  But however unpleasant a thought this may be, it is a reality. 

Anyone seriously concerned with coming to terms with "the nature of our enemy" must give up all of this silly talk of "Islamofascists," "Islamonazis," "Islamists," "radical Muslims," and "Islamic extremists."  The "enemy" -- and anyone who looks upon me as an "infidel" to be converted or killed I do indeed consider my enemy -- is the orthodox Muslim.  America and the West are in conflict with "Quranic literalists" -- or "Islamic fundamentalists," if you will -- and no one else.

Interestingly, in refusing to take the Islamic fundamentalist at his word, the leftist betrays his own "Eurocentrism" -- those parochial proclivities that he deplores in others -- for he judges Muslims not by their own standards, by his own.

Self-avowed "conservatives," on the other hand, are no less guilty of contradicting themselves.  In staunch contrast to their leftist counterparts, conservatives have always been keenly aware of the fact that culture is fundamentally, ultimately more important to human life than politics.  To borrow the Marxist's idiom, culture is "the substructure," politics "the superstructure."  Yet in ignoring the "second nature" with which the religion of Islam has clothed the inhabitants of the Islamic world, in treating the problems of the Middle East as if they were primarily a matter of political arrangements, "the conservative" has betrayed his own position.

If we really want to take our situation seriously, it is high time that we left ideology behind.