Or, Is the Western tent big enough to hold Islam?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Head on over to the Globe and Mail to vote on today's poll: "In your opinion, are Western values fundamentally at odds with those of Islam?" (The poll is in the top right-hand corner of the screen. And while you're there you can read up on why Canada looks like it will soon be in the swing of a federal election.)

Interestingly, 65% are presently voting in the affirmative, surprising since the Globe is the paper of Canada's left-liberal elites who are so far making room for Islam, in its moderate forms of course. Perhaps the Globe is being exposed to the linking power of the VRWC on the internet, or perhaps 65% of Globe readers are only part-time dhimmis to our liberal elites. (Hat Tip: Fjordman)

30 comments:

Peter UK said...

It only takes a few bombings and beheadngs to strip back the veneer of "civilisation",when their arses are on the line the Liberals are as human as the rest of us.

Knucklehead said...

The western civilization tent is only big enough to hold those who do no insist on tearing it down. If the salafists can't change their ways then there is no room for them in the tent. Ultimately the same will prove true of the extreme factions of the Left.

flenser said...

I know this will seem like a pedantic response, but it all depends on what we think are the values of Islam, and of the West.

I know the West well enough to say that it is not at all homogenous. I'd guess the same is true for the Islamic world. I'd say that whether the two can coexist depends on which faction wins out in each camp.

gumshoe1 said...

flenser,you know better.

on the Mohammedan side...
...*The Quran* wins out.


if you're waiting for
the Islamic Reformation
you might want to get
a firm grip on your head.

gumshoe1 said...

anyone note the
choice of phrasing??:

"In your opinion, are Western values fundamentally at odds with those of Islam?"

if the Globe had any intention at all of defending it's own(?)culture
(and not offering its neck
to the blade),
wouldn't this wording be more appropriate?:

"In your opinion, are Islamic values fundamentally at odds with those of Western democracies?"

flenser said...

gumshoe1

From what I can tell, both the West and Islam are split in two. What is generally called "the right" in the West is allied with certain factions in the Muslim world. These factions are typically called moderate. The Kurds, the Turks, the Afghans and Iraqi Shia on our side, all can be considered "moderate".

The Western Left is also allied with factions in the Muslim world, both with secular gangsters like Saddam, and with the religious extremists as in Iran.

All four of these groups are made up of sub-groups, which may not care for each other very much. But at a minimum I think we need to recognize at least the four factions I mentioned. There is no "West" or "Islamic world" in any real sense. Under the current administration the US is closer to the Iraqi Kurds than to the French. That may well get reversed if the other US party regains power.

truepeers said...

Yes, I take your point Gumshoe. BUt then a third possibility entered my mind: the 65% voting in the affirmative are the Globe's Muslim readers{:-)

I think it's pretty clear that living by the Koran is only compatible with western ways if one accepts that not every society must be a Muslim dominated society and that non-Muslims are not lesser sorts who need to be re-directed to the true faith. BUt then it's not clear to me that this would be a position compatible with a serious reading of the Koran. Perhaps only semi-serious, or semi-secular Islam is compatible with the west.

As long as Muslims in the west take religious freedom as simply the right to proselytize with a zeal that condemns the ideas of other religions, then Islam and the west are not compatible.

On the other hand, it is easy to forget that western multiculti tolerance is itself the outgrowth of specific religious ideas, i.e. the antisacrificial universalism of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is not strictly true that secular western liberals believe all cultures or faiths are equal in some respect. In reality, they are often just ignorant of the historical basis for their ideas, and are promoting a Judeo-Christian ethos without really knowing what they are doing.
Relativism is merely a tactic; it is not really a core belief or strategy.

Faced with western tactical duplicity, can Islam be satisfied with simply existing as just another private religion, competing in the free marketplace of ideas and faiths, a market that is only guaranteed by a secular outgrowth of J-C ideas?

So far, we have no basis for making a definitive answer. Only time and the laboratory of history will tell. BUt maybe it's time to stop fooling ourselves about what we are; or maybe the duplicity inherent in multiculturalism is essential if we are to go forward in integrating the world into the now global marketplace. Thoughts?

gumshoe1 said...

Thoughts??...here's mine:

"On the other hand, it is easy to forget that western multiculti tolerance is itself the outgrowth of specific religious ideas, i.e. the antisacrificial universalism of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is not strictly true that secular western liberals believe all cultures or faiths are equal in some respect. In reality, they are often just ignorant of the historical basis for their ideas, and are promoting a Judeo-Christian ethos without really knowing what they are doing.
Relativism is merely a tactic; it is not really a core belief or strategy."

i'd agree with that.
it's my opinion that Marxism
sought to co-opt Christian beliefs
while eliminating God and transcendence...that modern
Che worshippers have no understanding of this doesn't surpise me.

"Faced with western tactical duplicity(??explain.),

...can Islam be satisfied with simply existing as just another private religion, competing in the free marketplace of ideas and faiths, a market that is only guaranteed by a secular outgrowth of J-C ideas?"

i'd refer back to my earlier comment.
the Quran doesn't allow for
"other religions"...Islam
is *not* compatible with
peaceful,"side-by-side" relations
with "the other"...
Islam demands that it be in a dominant position,
with dissenting world-views
subjugated or eliminated.

the believe otherwise
is to be kafir,
an infidel.

"marketplace of ideas" is,
by Islamic definition,kafir.

pending a massive Islamic Reformation and completely new
means of interpreting
its historical texts,
(or adopting Sufism),
the rest of this stuff
is just empty poll taking.

Syl said...

I read the results of some of the recent polls. I was surprised to find that about 75% think that something like what's happening in France will happen in Canada too.

Of course, as you say, it's an internet poll and who knows who dropped by.

gumshoe1 said...

"From what I can tell, both the West and Islam are split in two."
-flenser

pardon me for not agreeing.

the "two groups" or ,as you went on to describe them "four groups"
aren't what i would call "equivalent" or comparable.

how can you gauge
the sympathies of the Islamic world?

the opinions of western democratic voting blocks are identifiable.

sure,i think we can agree on that.

nations and political groups within those nations change their
views and their votes when circumstances allow or entice or demand.

with luck,they actually do so with some regard for their constitutions.

but what changes the views of the populace where voting is not allowed??

and what is the equivalent of
these peoples' "constitution"??

truepeers said...

western tactical duplicity? - I just meant that we speak a multiculti line but we don't often believe in it, if our actions are any guide. ANyone who has been in a seriously PC environment knows that it is often something of a straitjacket, not a real openness to living with real and significant differences.

Westerners on both the left and right have a tactic of opening our culture to the world because we implicitly believe it is the best for living in/against modern market society, and that everyone around the world needs somehow to integrate themselves with our culture accordingly.

THe fact that some of the people unwittingly leading this accomodation are, on the surface, full of anti-western venom and "postcolonial" sympathies is simply the sign of the west's duplicity. We forget that even in the colonial age we had elites clamoring for power by speaking on behalf of the world's victims. Today's left has only learned a more sophisticated version of this old game. Getting everyone in the world to see themselves as victims of the west, is just a crude, perhaps dangerous, way of getting them into some kind of extended relationship with us.

I happen to think the only decent accomodation will be one in which we encourage people to integrate with us because of our accomplishments not because they feel obliged to make victimary protests against our superiority. THe left's implicit belief in their own superiority, even while they talk up multiculturalism, is a kind of self-destructive arrogance, and an opening, in the form of radical Islam, to all the hatreds the left ostensibly despises. They presently accept this unholy alliance as long as self-destructive anti-Americanism and antisemitism can be indulged.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

As long as Muslims in the west take religious freedom as simply the right to proselytize with a zeal that condemns the ideas of other religions, then Islam and the west are not compatible.

Yes. But the West is not yet awake to this reality. By the time sufficiently many people wake up, it may well be too late.

It is not strictly true that secular western liberals believe all cultures or faiths are equal in some respect. In reality, they are often just ignorant of the historical basis for their ideas, and are promoting a Judeo-Christian ethos without really knowing what they are doing.

That's an excellent point. Whereas I tend to ascribe the rankest hypocrisy and most nefarious motives to these people, in truth they're probably just ignorant of their own motivations.

Relativism is merely a tactic; it is not really a core belief or strategy..

True for some but not for all.

Faced with western tactical duplicity, can Islam be satisfied with simply existing as just another private religion, competing in the free marketplace of ideas and faiths, a market that is only guaranteed by a secular outgrowth of J-C ideas?

I don't believe the free marketplace of ideas, particularly religious ideas, is sustainable in the long term. It is not a stable solution to the equation. Historically, everything we know about points to the stable points as being a single religion or religious grouping dominating everything within its purview. That's why Judaism was gradually squeezed out of the Roman Empire, why Christianity has never made great headway in India, why China pretty much eliminated the Buddhists, and why Twentieth Century Germany wasn't even able to tolerate a Jewish population that was on the order of 1%. And now, the newest iteration of monothesism, the "Left" is unable any longer to tolerate Christians within Western society.

So, short answer, I think the concept of two very different religions living side by side and competing like English gentlemen is a pipe-dream.

...maybe the duplicity inherent in multiculturalism is essential if we are to go forward in integrating the world into the now global marketplace.

That's an interesting thought. It has long been my view that the message of Christianity, regardless of the sincerity of its adherents, has been at least partially successful ipso facto for the unparalleled success of the Western nations. What can the Muslims and the Chinese offer in opposition to this message? We will behead you? We will bomb your cities? Not exactly recipes for hope.

gumshoe1 said...

so truepeers -

you're saying the left is
ignorant and arrogant enough
to imagine it can control
Islam/Islamic Radicalism?


i'm sure they imagine
they dismantled Christianity.

perhaps it's not a stretch.

gumshoe1 said...

"So, short answer, I think the concept of two very different religions living side by side and competing like English gentlemen is a pipe-dream."
-MHA

MHA -

i sense that TP is more widely read
in religion than i(his references to Rene Girard are ones i intend to pursue) so maybe he will give his view on my deeply held impression:

religions are what i call
*totalizing*...

they seek to explain
*everything*...including the fact that they CANNOT explain *everything*,nor can we ,as humans,comprehend *everything*.

religions,imo,exist to answer these ,and similar,*totalizing*questions:
death,meaning-of-existence,
life-after-death,
what-does-justice-look-like,
who-is-the-legitimate-victim-of-my-wrath,etc.

it would seem very few individuals
who commit themselves to a particular religious worldview,
can also grant that another religious worldview could
be a path to Truth with a capital T.

i think this "fact",
if one is willing to call it that,
condemns most religious adherents
to identifying "other religions"
as competitors.

to my knowledge,buddhism
is the only one that does not.

but now i'm totalizing.

truepeers said...

Gumshoe, I think you are basically right. Why would anyone believe in a religion if he didn't believe it was the truth, or at least the most honest form of taking our limited grasp of truth to the point where mystery and the need for faith must be accepted?

More to the point, religion is one elemement of human culture that clearly evolves over time - which is why, to speak like a Girardian, we no longer sacrifice our children to the gods. Not even the Palistinian cult of hte suicide bomber is as draped in sacrificial mythology as what went on, for example, only five hundred odd years ago in pre-Columbian America.

One of the most amazing things to a student of history is that there are times when, in very short order, world views can be destroyed by historical circumstances when their failure to continue to explain the world and sustain faith become apparent. The collapse of the Aztec civilization before Cortez is a classic example. Something similar may happen to Islam in the coming years. I think something similar may also occur to the western left.
As a centrist, I may have to start honing my rhetoric against the right, before too long.

Anyway, all religions probably are afraid of being surpassed by competitors, though I think some show in their actions that they are more confident than others that they speak to fundamental human truths in a way that gives them real and sustaining value. THe smart thing, in this day and age, is for religions not to be too certain, to have some sense of their limits and to accept that they have to exist in competition with other faiths. Accepting the need for such competition is the way to make one stronger. In religious terms, putting aside certainty and patiently awaiting God's full revelation is a wise move. Both Judaism and Christianity are capable of great patience in awaiting the (return of the) Messiah. THis is one of the reasons for their strength. THey are able to adapt to historical developments because they have not already put all their eggs in one basket as, it may be, has Islam in its claim to have the eternal and uncreated revelation in the form of the Koran.

Anyway, after you read Girard, read him against his student Eric Gans, if you want to really struggle to integrate the Christian (Girardian) viewpoint with the secular judaism of Gans. Such an accomodation is possible. And we don't have to fight over what to call it or who owns the new synthesis. History waits for no one and in future all the faith systems around today will either be gone or significantly developed.

truepeers said...

Relativism is merely a tactic; it is not really a core belief or strategy..

-True for some but not for all


Oh I think it's true for all of us, except perhaps the mentally ill.

No system of sustained thought can be grounded in relativism; relativism can only emerge as a dogma from premises that are not themselves relativist, but rather ways of making claims on truth. The fact that many people hide these premises when they engage in debate is just a sign of their dishonesty or ignorance about themselves.

The "belief" in relativism can be nothing more than belief in the pragmatic or political necessity of some accomodating tolerance of all and sundry, and as such it must at least be justified by an argument that sees some kind of truth in this pragmatic necessity.

flenser said...

"pardon me for not agreeing."
Granted


"the "two groups" or ,as you went on to describe them "four groups"
aren't what i would call "equivalent" or comparable."
I don't know what this means. They are "equivalent" in that they exist.


"how can you gauge
the sympathies of the Islamic world?"
We can observe that the Islamic world is in constant combat with itself, which undermines the fantasy that is is some monolithic entity. We can also observe that many Muslims are on "our" side. I suggest reading Michael Yon if you need evidence on this point.


"the opinions of western democratic voting blocks are identifiable."
Are they? What are the opinions of the voting block which voted for George Bush last November?




"nations and political groups within those nations change their
views and their votes when circumstances allow or entice or demand."
This seems to assume that some type of democratic system is in place. The European Union, to pick one example, is being implemented without any regard for the views or votes of the people affected.



"but what changes the views of the populace where voting is not allowed??"

Voting does not change the views of the populace, anywhere. It sometimes reflects the fact that the views of the populace have changed, but it never leads to change. Peoples views are changed by exposure to other views which they find compelling.

So, what exactly do you dsagree with? I'm arguing that "the West" and the Islamic world are merely geographical terms, not distinct schools of thought. If you believe that the opposite is true, can you explain why?

flenser said...

truepeers

"As a centrist, I may have to start honing my rhetoric against the right, before too long."

Seriously, what is a "centerist"?

Knucklehead said...

Flenser,

Near as I can tell a "centrist" is someone who doesn't agree with the extremists on either right of left and is somewhat "left-leaning" on some issues and somewhat "right-leaning" on other issues they find important.

The problem, of course, is that no two centrists will have the same list of important issues and even where the issues they find important overlap they will not always agree on them - one will be "right-leaning" for Issue X while the other is "left-leaning" for Issue X.

The "center" is the big, nasty scrum happening out there on the playing field while the extremists march up and down the sidelines shrieking and trying to send in plays and waving pom-poms and clipboards and chatting over secure communications with the coaches in the skyboxes.

truepeers said...

Knucklehead has centrism just about right. But I would add a thing or two. Centrism must somehow relate to the belief that, historically, humanity is modelled on its vision of the god(s) - i.e. of the center - and not vice versa. In other words, our ideas about the sacred and divine are not projections of some pre-existing human community (as Emile Durkheim thought) but are rather deduced from our language and representations that mysteriously transcend our worldly condition.

Language, culture, and divine revelation emerge in chaotic events that are ways of transcending previous social limits. And it is never fully possible to explain how the culture that emerges has emerged out of the previous (limited) human experience because it transcends that experience in a mysterious process that the centrist respects - i.e. the centrist does not pretend to know everything, he is not inclined to be impressed by the more certain ideologies of left or right.

A centrist worships the sacredness of the communion that centers humanity. Knucklehead can call it a messy scrum if he likes, but a scrum can also be a thing of great beauty, as every rugby fan knows. The point is that a scrum, like a Hurricane, is apt to spin one way or the other and veer left or right depending on the point in time. Eventually, to keep the game going, we need to redirect the spin, or simply insure our world keeps spinning.

In other words, centrism is the recognition that humanity is first a political and ethical being before it is a decentralizing economic being. Thus we reject the libertarian argument that letting the free market decide everything is the best policy. The free market, while generally admirable, can only be guaranteed by a political consensus, something best determined by a democratic (and arguably nation-centred) political market. While freedom in the economic market will tend to social inequality as capital begets more capital, the centrist recognizes that while maximizing freedoms in all markets is generally desirable, at times the political market must have the right to limit the range of social or economic inqualities in the name of the original democratic human community that was founded in an equal sharing in the sacred center. This is the precondition for the language that we all share.

Primitive societies are equalitarian and we will never lose our intuition of a fundamental moral equality of all human beings. The centrist is one who respects this fundamental intuition of equality while recognizing that in the present world we have to allow for and respect our differences - to a certain extent - in the name of freedom.

truepeers said...

In the present situation, i believe the left is more of a threat to the center and human survival than the right. THat is why I spend most of my time condemning the left. In the future, this may change.

truepeers said...

Unlike the hurricane, the human community must find renewed strength in its centrifugal (economic) tendencies. Politics, the competition for the center, must respect these decentralizing tendencies without letting them get out of hand.

truepeers said...

The goal is to make every human being a strong center in his or her own right.

truepeers said...

For the record, the final results of yesterday's Globe poll:

In your opinion, are Western values fundamentally at odds with those of Islam?

Yes
12953 votes (65 %)

No
6852 votes (35 %)


Total Votes: 19805

MeaninglessHotAir said...

I'm arguing that "the West" and the Islamic world are merely geographical terms, not distinct schools of thought. If you believe that the opposite is true, can you explain why?

Sorry, flenser, no way I agree with that.

Geographic locations are secondary to my way of thinking. The important thing that controls thought, in my point of view, is religion, one's religious beliefs. In my view, everyone has them, and the religious beliefs one holds are some sort of amalgam or synthesis or derivative of the religious matrix in which one finds oneself. This is where geography comes into it. Religious beliefs are not, however, what people usually think they are. They are the unspoken beliefs beneath the surface which people are unaware of.

Religious beliefs clearly occur in groupings. It is natural for people to want to be in some sort of agreement with the people around them. So one geographic area will tend to have one belief system, but that is secondary.

There are clearly two quite distinctive belief complexes we're dealing with here, the Western "Judeo-Christian" and the Islamic. The primary belief system in Western society is of course Christianity. Recently, Christianity has given birth to a new, secular, version of itself often referred to as "Leftism', but for which "Statism" is probably a better term. This new religion, operating within the Western cultural arena, is seeking to destroy and replace Christianity. The Western and the Islamic belief structures have come into intimate contact in recent years and are consequently at loggerheads.

flenser said...

MHA

How is that any different from what I said? You seem to be agreeing with me.

Yes, the "West" is bitterly divided in terms of what it belives in. And broadly speaking the split is between those who are religious and those who detest religion. That means that the "West" is not a distinct school of thought. In fact, the religious people in the US can and do oftem make common cause with other religious people around the world, including Muslms.

flenser said...

Knucklehead

I'm sorry, but saying that a centerist is sombody who is neither on the left or on the right is a tautology. I was looking for a more substantive response.


truepeers

"In the present situation, i believe the left is more of a threat to the center and human survival than the right. THat is why I spend most of my time condemning the left. In the future, this may change."

This assumes that the center is no threat to human survival. What do you base that assumption on?

truepeers said...

The anthropological assumption I am working with is that what defines humanity is a symbolic language or culture that emerges from/as a center; or, in other words, that the human community is shaped as a periphery around a sacred and public center. Our species is scenic. If this is correct then the center-periphery relationship is the precondition for humanity and while our culture may eventually fail to evolve if we manage to kill ourselves off (being both biological and cultural beings it's possible), it cannot be entirely logical to say that the precondition for human survival is also a threat to it.

No doubt there are forces in the universe that put into question the survival of humanity, but there is no reason to believe that human cultural evolution cannot go on indefinitely, the universe allowing, even if we bomb ourselves back to the stone age many times along the way.

The center-periphery nature of human culture is in contrast to the animal pecking order which is structured in one-on-one relations of dominance and submission. In other words, the alpha animal does not have to control a public center and speak to the group as a whole. He is only concerned with his immediate rival(s), mating partners, and external enemies. (Perhaps it was the fierceness of the enemies of the first protohumans - i.e. other ape groups - that led the alpha animals to give up the pecking order in favor of the public sacred scene in which all bow down as equals, as a way of increasing the power of the community as a whole.)

THere is no public scene for animals. Certain hard-wired behaviours may have a center-periperhy appearance, think Queen Bee, but these are not equivalent to the infinite open-endedness of the human cultural scene. This is not to say we are infinitely malleable. There is a human nature, defined in terms of our biological and cultural origins. What we don't yet know are all of the potentially infininite historical possibilities inherent in those origins.

flenser said...

truepeers

I believe you are suggesting that "fringe" activity is inimcal to the survival of humanity.

I don't entirely buy that. In small doses fringe activity is probably a good thing. But that is a side issue.

The real problem I see with your propsition is that the truly fringe position is the centerist one, if the number of adherents is what confers fringe status.

I'm fairly sure that is true for the US, and I'm quite certain that it is true in global terms.

I'm using centerist here in the sense that Senator Chafee is said to be a centerist. That is, someone who trys to position himself equidistant from all others. That may not being doing justice to your argument. If so, can you suggest either persons of policy positions which exemplify centerism in your opinion?

truepeers said...

Fringe activity does not necessarily mean that one is on the extremes of the political spectrum. Being on the fringe simply means being on the outside, without a role in the present marketplace, regardless of what your politics may be. And no doubt, humanity needs people on the fringes if we are going to have creative activity - new ideas come from the margins and have to fight to be accepted by the established marketplace.

I don't think any particular policy position can be centrist in the way I am thinking of the term. For me, centrism is a way of living in general; within it one takes a number of positions on the issues of the day, some of which will be seen as conservative, some liberal. At present I feel closer to conservatives than liberals, which if fine: I'm not going out my way to be equally distant from all comers.

Lots of people claim to be centrists, though perhaps that's more normal in Canadian than American politics. But I don't want to hold up someone as exemplifying my idea because I have derived it from an anthropology that has perhaps a few hundred or thousand followers, but is not yet a mainstream way of thinking with famous exemplars.

You may be right that the centrist position as I am thinking about it is a fringe position. Might I be so direct as to suggest this has something to do with the fact that there are fewer people who embrace the humility that real centrism requires, as compared to the pride that goes with being an ideologue. Or, put it in other terms, what most people want to be in this world is masters of a specialized role or position - kings and queens in some narrowly circumscribed domain - rather than functionless generalists committed to the ultimate unity of humanity. The desire to be king of a castle will lead one to defend particular positions; the desire to love the human system as whole which is key to centrism may be seen by others as arrogant and requires a certain humility and often amateurist devotion to a not very pragmatic way of thinking and living.