Liberty and Culture, where we analyze the ideas behind the movements that undermine or directly threaten civilization and individual liberty.
Western intellectuals, commentators, and political leaders fail to face the Islamic threat to Western Civilization. This failure is first and foremost a philosophical failure that manifests itself in our inability to clearly define and champion our cultural superiority. The decay into multi-cultural relativism undercuts our resolve. We are unduly hesitant to oppose the bellicose posturing of Islamic supremacists with appropriate moral condemnation and unequivocal contempt. And our response to the actual physical attacks of these dark-age savages is slow, tepid, and uncertain.
We launch our website with the question:
Is Islam Evil?
This question is curiously absent from mainstream debates. Yet, in many conventional venues, there is no hesitation to ask if America is evil. Why the double standard? What is Islam? Is it only a “few evil ones” – extremists – who pose the problem or is there something fundamentally wrong with Islam? Is there a difference in kind between “fundamentalists” and “moderates” or is it only a difference in degree – fundamentalists being devout, moderates lax in their practice? (3/5/04)
For a quick outline to our commentary on Islam, see our
blog summary. (1/31/06)
Few on the left are willing to face the threat of Islam. Why? The left has never been afraid to criticize religion in the past. Amber Pawlik addresses this issue in her
“Defending Islam: The Height of Leftist Hypocrisy.”
David Horowitz, in “Unholy Alliance,” provides an in-depth description of the problem. See my review of this important
the criticism of the loyal opposition from deliberate anti-American propaganda that is designed to undermine our efforts and help the enemy. He discusses the latter in his book and briefly in a Georgetown University
The far left embraces the politics of “the New Lie” to vilify America and help our enemies. How can deliberate deceit be so acceptable in today’s world? Let’s examine the latest
and see why. (12/31/04)
is an analysis of the Koran. She systematically categorizes the Koran and suggests a way for you to efficiently crack this poorly organized book. But that’s not all, she takes on several of the rhetorical ploys and dubious philosophical assumptions used to trip-up and undermine the unsuspecting. (2/28/05)
believes we face a virulent strain of Islam and we must wage an ideological war. This war “requires recognizing and defeating the body of ideas known as militant Islam or Islamism. The war cannot be won until politicians and others focus on this ideology rather than on terrorism, which is merely its manifestation.” That is true, but it is more than just a virulent strain: it goes to the heart of the religion – a pure religion undiluted by reason. I disagree with Pipes – that moderate Islam is the solution to radical Islam. He has graciously printed
to his thesis on his website. (1/29/05)
Should we lie and feign a respect of Islam for strategic purposes? For over a decade, government officials have gushingly praised Islam in the hopes of winning over Muslims. This has accompanied actions that included saving Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia, liberating Kuwait, helping to defeat the USSR in Afghanistan, protecting Arabia from Saddam, trying to establish a democracy in Iraq, etc. Polls have shown that Muslims hate Americans even more and they increasingly support the attacks against our country and allies. Obviously the policy hasn’t worked.
discusses attempts to appease our enemies by false praise and pandering. Perhaps it is time to try the truth!
Conservatives claim they have the “right stuff” for the “war on terrorism.” But do they? Are they able to face the threat that we face today or are they narrowly tooled for the Cold War and blind to the depths of the problem? See a summary
or read the whole
The clash of cultures in nowhere greater than it is in Europe where the secular Western culture of toleration faces the recalcitrant intolerant Islamic religion. Will Europe be a fundamentalist Islamic state by the century’s end?
is required reading for anyone following the problem. However, there are
that Europe is waking up. (12/4/04)
It is unusual to find a succinct article describing the essential nature of our Islamic enemy and the great difficulty we have facing this threat.
article gets it right and it is all the more amazing that it was written shortly after 9/11. Also, see ARI’s
on foreign policy. These hard-hitting uncompromising essays advocate a strong defense backed up with a vision of the moral superiority our civilization deserves. People don’t speak like that today. Until we do, we will hobble along on the edge of failure.
This is not a website about Islam; but about our response to the Islamic threat and what it reveals about our culture. For those who want to research Islam we have a list of introductory
references. Islam is neither a new phenomena nor new to Western writers. There is much that should be agreed upon. However, there is a deliberate blindness and positive prejudice that prevents fruitful discussions from going beyond the initial stages. It is our inability to deal with the subject that tells us something about our culture. That is what this website will address.
The failure to criticize the enemy’s ideology, Islam, is not only pervasive on the multi-cultural Left but is also widespread on the conservative Right. Both show utmost respect for this backwards religion
while its most devout believers commit attack after gruesome attack in reaffirmation of their faith. Our commentators, conservatives among them, attribute these attacks to a “terrorist” group that we have decided do not represent the religion! President Bush,2
in particular, has gone out of his way to praise the religion. Although a minority of conservatives cautioned the President against his blind embrace of this bellicose religion,3
those with influence have encouraged his outreach. He has shamefully embraced “moderate” Muslims,4
later shown to have terrorist leanings or actual terrorist ties. His continual praise – vacuous, syrupy and downright silly – is all the more ludicrous when you realize that he is referring to what at the core is an incorrigible warrior religion. Why is it so hard for conservatives to attack the Islamic ideology as they attacked and vilified the communist ideology?
The limitations of conservatism in the current crisis stems from the ad hoc nature of the movement’s founding as a solution to an earlier problem: the threat of the expanding state at home and totalitarianism abroad.5
The latter wrought unparalleled atrocities, seemingly beyond belief and explanation. In any attempt to understand these crimes, we must first and foremost hold the prevailing intellectuals accountable. The totalitarian movements that ravaged continental Europe were championed by European intellectuals in countries thought to be cultured and civilized. From German universities to French cafes, one type of totalitarianism or another was in fashion. Philosophers, artists, novelists, and scholars pushed the socialist line in its internationalist or nationalist variant. From theory to practice, the horror unfolded: Nazi slaughter through out Europe was followed by the rapid spread of Communism first over half of Europe then half of Asia. The dream-turned-nightmare exposed the betrayal of the culture’s leaders. It was in this post-war intellectual vacuum, that conservatism was born.
Conservatism was a blend or fusion, as it became to be known, of the individualism of the classical liberal school and the traditionalism influenced by the writings of Edmund Burke.6
The traditionalists were hostile to doctrines and ideologies on principle (often including individualism itself). Instead the traditionalists argued for a backwards-looking disposition with an emphasis on the sentiments of Judeo-Christian religion. Both camps united on a common platform solidified by the Communist threat. However, this fusion was ultimately dominated by the traditionalist spirit. After the horrors in continental Europe, obviously something was right about Anglo-American culture. In lieu of an explicit and systematic understanding perhaps this disposition was the best one could hope for. It enabled conservatives to maintain the faith in America’s greatness and stand steadfast in the face of Communism.
The conservative attack on Communism was unequivocal and relentless.7
While many on the Left saw communism as a perversion of a noble idea – good in theory but bad in practice – conservatives attacked communism as pure unadulterated evil. However, their basis for doing so often became a stilted ideology in itself,8
bashing the secular tradition of Western Civilization as a materialistic value-barren relativism, while making outrageous claims about our indebtedness to the Judeo-Christian tradition. A few, mainly literate conservatives, gave perfunctory respect to our Hellenic heritage although at times only as esoteric knowledge.
The conservative mischaracterization of the communist threat
as a conflict between religion and secularism has ramifications as we face the threat of Islam. Just as the battle against “Godless” Communism was winding down, God-filled Islam reared its ugly head. No longer are “Atheistic” Communists the problem – not when the enemy is waging a Holy War by flying planes into our tallest buildings and, in their minds, into God’s paradise. Holy War (i.e. Jihad) is actually part of the enemy’s religion from inception. Islam’s founder, Muhammad, slaughtered, plundered, conquered and oppressed unlike that other fellow who died on the cross. While Christianity’s began as a road to personal salvation, Islam was created as a political religion with imperialist aims. Why do conservatives have such a hard time facing the difference?
Before we tackle that question let’s distinguish between intellectual conservatives – generally writers and academics – and the religious Right. The intellectual conservatives take an ecumenical approach emphasizing sentiment more than doctrine. Their patron saint, Edmund Burke, not only worried about the “rationalism” of the French Revolution, but he was also critical of religious enthusiasts: his contemporary John Wesley, and the Puritans that backed Oliver Cromwell’s rise a century earlier. Conservatives appreciate religious tolerance, well aware of the religious wars of the 16th and 17th century. But tolerance can take many forms.
For example, some secularists condescendingly tolerate religion as an “antiquated superstition;” while some religious sectarians tolerate the other “corrupt” denominations. Intellectual conservatives, on the other hand, tend towards religious relativism. This is sometimes disguised as respect for a fundamental equivalence among all religious traditions. But a promiscuous tolerance only encourages the rise of intolerance. Relativism of any kind disarms a culture leaving it susceptible to the rise of harden dogma and demagogues. Some people understandably worry about intolerant elements on the religious Right. Fortunately, we have a strong constitutional tradition respected by the vast majority or Americans – including most of the religious Right. Today’s religious threat is foreign.
Can conservatives face the threat of Islam? So far the record is unsatisfactory. At first the Shiite theocracy in Iran was dismissed as an enthusiasm that differed from the more sedate Sunni mainstream – such as our Saudi “friends”. However, the atrocity of 9/11, perpetrated by devout Sunni Muslims from Saudi Arabia, refuted all previous theories about Islam.
Muslims through out the world cheered 9/11; a fact that is difficult for conservatives (and others) to face. It is even harder to come to grips with religion’s central role in that event. The Islamic religion, its history and doctrines, all point to a disturbing fact that conservatives evade. If during the Cold War, many social democrats found it difficult to keep the full horror of Communism in mind, today conservatives can’t believe the full horror of today’s enemy – a religious enemy.
There are some signs that people are starting to understand the ideological nature of the enemy. But in all cases, Islam per se is not criticized. The problem is attributed to militant Muslims who are supposedly not practicing their religion correctly! Over and over again we see the absurd spectacle of our intellectual and political leaders engaged in rationalizations and evasions as they attempt to dupe themselves into believing there is such a thing called moderate Islam. Usually, that’s the enemy’s job! Conservatives, in particular, just can’t believe a religion can be bad.
What conservatives won’t acknowledge is that it’s our secular heritage that makes us great and vastly superior to the Islamic barbarians.
The triumph of reason, liberty and individualism is in stark contrast to the failure of the faith-based, submission-oriented tribalist mentality of Islam. In many Islamic countries one is fed a steady diet of propaganda scapegoating Jews or America. Their standard of living is diminishing, women are covered from head to toe, music may be forbidden, public cinema non-existent, and education is religious indoctrination. Islam, in countries where the religion is taken seriously, is an unreformed religion consisting of faith, dogma, and religious authority.
If conservatives are to face the current threat effectively, they must understand and champion our rational secular heritage that provides a foundation for individual rights, liberal democracy, scientific progress, secular humanism, and human dignity.
This war isn’t against Godlessness and it isn’t against the wrong God. God isn’t objectionable to our Islamic enemies – modernity, with all the freedoms that tempts young Muslims away from the religion, is the enemy of the devout Muslim just as it is for the religious Right. Most conservatives, however, accept a modernized religion that has made peace with the rational secular tradition that is at the core of Western Civilization. Contemporary Christianity has been modified by centuries of rationalism; while Islam is a pure religion undiluted by reason. Conservatives together with the moderate Left – those that accept the idea of ethical absolutes and the greatness of our culture – can form a strong basis for a sustained struggle that will win the fight.