Logical Conclusions

Tonight, Dr. Daniel Pipes spoke at my college on radical Islam and the War on Terror. Much of what he said I agree with, some of it less so. One of Dr. Pipes's themes is that Islam must undergo a change comparable to the Christian Reformation, or the larger war cannot end. During questions, one student said words to the following effect: given that within our own community [i.e. Orthodox Judaism] we look upon so-called religious moderates with contempt, is it not hypocritical to expect the Muslims to do what we will not?

Now, I have frequently thought about this issue. I know just how resilient Halachic Judaism has been in the face of outside pressure; I also know that there are areas where great philosophical shifts took place, though the process took hundreds of years. Since Islamic law is structurally comparable to our own, I can imagine that a fundamental shift away from radicalism will be very hard to pull off, and will take time.

But that wasn't the way that the particular student asked the question. He was not saying, "Here is a problem with your proposal, which we need to think about and address." He was saying instead, "Here is why your proposal is intellectually dishonest, hypocritical, and demonstrates that you are not being fair." The word hypocritical came up several times, as well as some scurrilous comparisons between radical Islam and certain fringe Jewish groups who want a Greater Israel.

This student may have thought he was being clever, or exposing the inauthenticity of a noted conservative voice. But this whole mindset is facile for two reasons. First, hypocrisy is one of the greatest forces for good in society. Nobody is perfect; therefore, everyone is being hypocritical to some degree whenever he acts in any way more elevated than base self-interest. Hypocrisy makes the world go 'round.

Second, the student did not try to challenge Dr. Pipes's view that radical Islam is the problem, and is growing ever stronger in the Muslim world. In that case, the only conceivable alternatives to a religious reformation within Islam are total capitulation by the West, or else genocide.

To repeat: if their religion cannot change, then every Muslim would necessarily become a threat to the West. Genocide is the logical end to this line of reasoning.

By advocating a religious reformation, Dr. Pipes is not being hypocritical or imperialistic to the Muslim world. He is instead arguing for its very survival. That the Left cannot see this is just one more proof of their fundamental unseriousness on the whole issue.


Mike Maller said...

If I had some manner of documentation, I'd be jumping up and down proclaiming that I had that Protestant Reformation idea first. As I don't I can only quietly claim it here, like so many Slashdotters.

I need a blog.

Anyway, I think it isn't so much that Islam must undergo such a change because of the war and its future, but because that is the point at which the religion stands. Much as Catholicism did before it, Islam has a growing rift within, between the corrupt and hardline, and the moderate. This isn't to say that all hardliners are corrupt, merely that most of the corrupt are hardliners, as the stricter position gives the leaders more power.

Corruption didn't immediately end, nor quickly subside in Christianity with the Reformation. Hell, it led to a lot of bloody infighting that gave European wars and conflicts a method of dilineating one side from another, and we're still not quite past that. It did, however, bring the idea of reform to the forefront, and both the Protestants that broke off, and the Roman Catholic Church sought to root out and/or prevent the types of corruption that began the rift.

It wasn't a pretty time. This isn't going to be pretty either. The advantage that the Protestant Reformation had over this time is that it took place in the sixteenth century, and most of the heavy fighting took place with sixteenth, seventh, and eighteenth century technology. Still, Islam has to decide what it is to become.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I had that idea in 2001!

It must be a idea of some worth, I keep seeing smarter people than I am making some noise about it.

I hope it's not too late for a change.