Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Islam is not to blame"

From an op-ed in The Telegraph by Ed West:
Many people kill in the name of jihad but they do not represent Islam or Muslims, the vast majority of whom will be horrified by the Toulouse killings. It is not religion that turns some young Muslim men in the West violent, but the sense of alienation and frustration that inevitably comes from being a second-generation immigrant. Confused and angry young men easily attach themselves to something greater than themselves, especially a strong, confident inter-national identity historically opposed to the West from which they feel so rejected.

Many of the campaigners who earlier blamed these attacks on a xenophobic atmosphere across Europe are now very keen to point out that they are nothing to do with Islam. Not because they care about Islam, but because their faith is “diversity”, the catchy term for universalism, the idea that all limits to human altruism are immoral.

Universalism is the basis of the post-war European moral settlement, and it has motivated two of its great revolutions – European integration and the creation of multi-ethnic societies. This followed two appalling nationalist-fuelled wars, and Europe’s universalist leaders believe that nations “lead to war”, in the words of EU President Herman Van Rompuy. Any opposition to universalism, whether to trans-national governments or open borders, is therefore racism, xenophobia or “far-Right rhetoric”.

And yet, as GK Chesterton put it, to condemn patriotism because people go to war for patriotic reasons, is like condemning love because some love leads to murder.
Islam is not to blame for the Toulouse killings. But had it been the work of white extremists, neither would patriotism have been the problem.

You cannot buck human nature, and universalism is an unsustainable, unworkable idea based on a utopian vision of humanity. One of the sadder ironies is that it is motivated partly by our revulsion over the Holocaust, yet this idea has helped to introduce Middle Eastern anti-Semitism into Europe....

But at the same time this universalism has become the moral basis for a worldwide intellectual assault on the state of Israel, whose citizens are charged with the crime of wishing to form a separate, Jewish state, an idea called “apartheid” by Europeans who have the moral good luck to be able to voice such absurdities without facing any consequences.

People should reconsider this idea, but as for the tragedy in France, it does not say anything about Islam, only of human nature and its potential for evil. All that matters ultimately is that three innocent children, a father and three young soldiers are now dead.
West is trying to say the right things, and his point about 'universalism" being morphed into modern anti-semitism is on target, but he has a huge blind spot.

I agree that the religion of Islam is not to blame for the murders. The religion itself, in the narrow Western sense of religion, is no more likely to create murderers than Christianity (or Judaism.)

Yet there were the Crusades in the past, and there are jihadists today. For West's theory to be true, he must explain how those could exist; how people can kill "infidels" in the name of religion. His attempt to blame "the sense of alienation and frustration that inevitably comes from being a second-generation immigrant" is ridiculous and offensive, because practically everyone in the Western world is either such a second-generation immigrant or descended from one. And the idea that being a second-generation immigrant from a Muslim country in Europe is somehow more frustrating than the daily lives of a couple of billion people elsewhere who don't go around killing people is beyond absurd. West falls in the same trap of oversimplifying things that he is blaming others for.

But today's jihadists have something in common with the Crusaders. To them, religion is not a personal belief system meant to improve themselves. It is an aggressive political framework whose philosophy includes the idea of  gaining power at the expense of everyone else.

Westerners like West are so protective of the idea of "religion" that they cannot see the basic fact that to hundreds of millions of people, Islam is not merely a religion but a political philosophy. And as a political movement, it is no less toxic than Communism or Nazism. 

Islam itself does not distinguish between its personal and political aspects. It is up to the Muslims themselves to modernize the religion to make such a separation. Modern Westerners do it instinctively, as no doubt most Muslims who grow up in the West do. But that distinction is a Western invention over the past couple hundred years, not something inherent in Islam.

To the vast majority of Muslims living in the Middle East, such fine-honed distinctions do not exist.

Not that most of them are jihadists - but a lot of them are potential jihadists, because there is no overriding moral code that discourages it. Islam is political; it wants to divide up the entire world into Dar al Islam (the Muslim house) and Dar al Harb (the "house of war.")

And, sad to say, there are a large number of Muslims who glorify violence.  A Gallup poll that was disgustingly whitewashed by the pollsters found that about one third of Muslims worldwide found the 9/11 attacks partially or completely justified. 

That is half a billion Muslims who support violent  jihad against innocent civilians.

It is true that most of them will not become violent, but it is equally true that the Muslim world has not done nearly enough to discourage and vilify such thinking. It is mainstream.

That brings up another issue about Islam. It is not only a religion and a political movement, but it is also a culture. And too often, that culture is toxic.

To give some examples, the "moderate" Palestinian Authority has officially honored the worst terrorists and child murderers like Dalal Mughrabi and Samir Kuntar. While Salam Fayyad condemned the fact that Jewish kids were murdered in a school in France, 84% of Palestinian Arabs approved of the murder of other Jewish kids in a school in Jerusalem in 2008. And the 9/11 attacks were celebrated in many Muslim communities worldwide, not just by Palestinian Arabs.

It is not a problem that can be swept under the rug as merely disenchanted youths who need an excuse to murder people - it is a culture where large swaths of people openly celebrate murders.

That is the problem that must be attacked, and it must be attacked from within the Muslim community. Unfortunately, the reactions we've seen from the French Muslim community has been more defensive than introspective. They are far more interested in distancing themselves from the murderer than in looking to see what in their culture might have created him.

Islam, in a narrow sense, might not be to blame for Toulouse. But mainstream Islamic culture and Islamism as a political movement, today, supports the thinking that can lead to such outrages. Until that problem is dealt with, nothing will change.