The View From 1776

Hope for Relations with Islam?

The latest edition of Imprimis on the Hillsdale College website features an address by Bernard Lewis.  Professor Lewis provides a useful historical perspective, as well as a glimmer of hope that a path may exist on which the Islamic world can find its way back to civilization.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/28 at 12:04 AM
  1. I found this to be full of information. We should learn all we can about enemies or potential enemies.
    I have sent the link to many of those on my fairly extensive email list.
    Since my birth in 1922 I have lived through a lot of history: Depression, World WAr II, Korea, student revolt, Vietnam, the Cold War (it got rather hot a couple of times), stagflation, 1994, Bill Clinton's Presidency, and the war so far with radical Islam since 1979. It has been and continues to be very interesting and now extremely threatening-all the more so because so many do not realize how serious it is.
    Posted by Donald W. Bales  on  09/28  at  10:58 AM
  2. Mr. Brewton quotes Bernard Lewis as saying there is " a glimmer of hope that a path exists on which the Islamic world can find its way back to civilization".

    I have had difficulty defining 'civilization' in this context. What is civilization in the context used here? Is it a universal civilization? What does it involve? Does it refer to a mode of operation. Or does it just refer to a civility? Perhaps Mr. Brewton or someone else can help explain it.

    I know that one of the problems the Islamic world has with us, the 'Western' world, is that it feels we are imposing are civilization on them.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/28  at  12:54 PM
  3. We are not imposing "our" civilization on them. Their young people may be attracted to some of our customs and values. The rich Arabs seem to take to the some of our so-called "degenerate" or "decadent" behaviors-alcohol and loose women.
    Representative government has not accomplished exactly what W. wanted. They seem to want Sharia law and some, maybe most, are not tolerant of other religions.
    Posted by Donald W. Bales  on  09/28  at  03:05 PM
  4. Many in the Islamic world do think we are imposing "our" civilization on them. We want them to be democratic and they don't. They don't believe in equality for women but we do. Saying that all people are equal under the law is an imposition on them because they don't believe it.

    If we want them to act democratically we are imposing on them our values. Democracy and capitalism are our values and customs, not theirs.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/28  at  03:51 PM
  5. A good many, maybe most, in Europe and many in the U.S. seem to believe in socialism as much or more than they believe in capitalism. We have a mixed system-part free enterprise and part government regulated and controlled.
    Some of them have accepted elections-not always free, but still elections. Equality of women and unbelievers is not part of their idea of freedom. To them freedom meant that you were not a slave, a woman or an unbeliever.
    Posted by Donald W. Bales  on  09/28  at  04:03 PM
  6. We have also imposed on them the modern world. Modernity is a Western notion. The Islamic world has problems with modernity and its complex and contradictory demands. Nevertheless, the Islamic world has grudgingly and schizophrenically adopted the modern world because it has had to in order to survive. However, there is a resentment towards us because they have had to adapt to our ways, not us to theirs.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/28  at  04:30 PM
  7. They have a 7th century view of life, but have modern communications and weapons. They use our openness and freedom against us-with the help of some of our citizens who don't get that we are in a life and death struggle with radical Wahabbi Islam.
    Posted by Donald W. Bales  on  09/28  at  04:48 PM
  8. Donald,

    Many do not take it seriously because they are determined not to. They cling to the idea these people mean no more than to posture and make political points, and are not serious in wanting us converted, enslaved, or, failing that, dead. They do not take serious they have arms long enough and means great enough to do more than kill a few thousand of us at a time. Nor do they believe there is widespread support for them among their coreligionists.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  04:54 PM
  9. There are said to be 1.3 billions Muslims. Not all of them are as bad as the Arabs and the Iranians, but some of the others are not that good either.
    There are said to be 1.9 billion nominal Christians, but most of them (us) are just that nominal. Most Old Europeans are secular or post-Christian, and a lot of U.S. citizens are not only post-Christian but anti-Christian. Granted Christians have not always, maybe never, behaved in a truly Christian manner. But most Christian misdeeds were in the past.
    Islam has the benefit of a religious revival while the Christian world has a "devival." The Wahabbis and others are exploiting the religious fervor to carry out their evil plots.
    Muhammad is said to have said, "He who kills one innocent kills all innocents." Of course, the radical Islamists (some call them IslamoFascists, but I perceive that to be an insult to the real Fascists. Bad as they were these radical Islamists are much worse and more dangerous.)
    In addition they have oil and the wealth it brings. Germany had no oil nor did the Japanese. And the USSR did not have the wealth. None of those had the numbers. Even 10% of 1.3 billion is a very large number of people and it may be that more than that back the radicals even if they do not directly participate.
    Things have looked grim before-during the Depression, during World War II, during the Cold War (it got rather hot in Korea and Vietnam). Many back then talked and wrote that Communism was the wave of the future. However, back then both parties and the Presidents of both parties were willing to fight.
    I am concerned that so many do not seem to realize that we are in a life and death war with an implacable, determined, well financed and numerous enemy who wants to kill or subdue all of us.
    Posted by Donald W. Bales  on  09/29  at  05:40 PM
  10. I see that I left a sentence hanging. The radical Muslims define who is innocent. Anyone who opposes them even another Muslim who does not adhere to their brand of Islam, is not innocent. And the women and children of men who oppose them are not innocent either. So everyone is fair game as not being innocent. So killing women and children are supposed to get them 72 virgins (do Muslim women have a Paradise) if they die while killing them.
    Posted by Donald W. Bales  on  09/29  at  05:45 PM
  11. "We have also imposed on them the modern world. Modernity is a Western notion."

    David, what rubbish. Ancient Greeks spoke of modernity. So too did the Ottomans when contrasting themselves with Byzantines. The word, itself, is from Latin (Modernus). Every culture contrasts its innovations with the norms of the past. Mohammed contrasted his new religion with the 'ancient' religion of the Jews and the more recent (yet still outmoded to him) religions of Christianity and Zoroastrianism. Mohammed argued the times had changed, declaring what once had been tolerated would no longer be tolerated.

    Just because they don't use our word for
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:02 PM
  12. David says,
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  07:32 PM
  13. Bob,

    I don't understand what you are calling rubbish in what I said about modernity. You refer to the ancient Greeks speaking of modernity. The ancient Greeks are pointed to as the starters of Western culture and the idea of modernity, as you say, supporting my point.

    The Western world has dragged Islam, kicking and screaming, into the modern world. There is a hidden resentment in Islam because it has become dependent on the West for its survival. It dependence on the West for the technology that keeps it afloat. What would Islam and the Arab world be without our dependence on their oil, which the West discovered and transformed into a "life blood"? Islam feels inferior to the West, and thus hostile, because it has not come up with any new ideas to help run the world in five hundred years.

    Modernity is more than about being modern and contemporary. It is about progress and adapting to new ideas. Western civilization has done this naturally; it's part of its philosophy. Islam has not naturally followed this route, thought some in Islam like the Turks (the Ottoman before) have realized that they have had to follow in order to be keep up and remain part of the world.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/01  at  12:06 PM
  14. We have presented modernity. How have we imposed it on them? We have bought their oil giving them vast wealth. It is said that 1/3 to 1/4 of the world's wealth has been transferred the oil containing countries. The only time any such transfer has occured in the past was the gold the Spanish took from the new world.
    Graham Leonard described riches as unearned rewards and wealth as adding value to something such as converting wool into cloth or cloth into clothing.
    Those sitting on the oil fields have riches, but they have really done nothing to produce value added. Outside people came in and showed how to get the oil.
    Apropos of pragmatism, why couldn't a king or a dictator or an oligarchy or a hunta use pragmatism? Being pragmatic is a human action. I don't see how democracy is required to allow for pragmatism.
    Posted by Donald W. Bales  on  10/01  at  02:02 PM
  15. Bob,

    A lot of people have been naive about establishing democracy in Iraq. One was a noted scholar and teacher of democracy at Stanford University, Larry Diamond. He eagerly went to Iraq to help establish it. In doing so he felt part of developing a new frontier. He soon left in despair because he knew democracy could not be established in an insecure environment. Iraq is socially, politically and militarily insecure.

    Some people naively think that because America managed to establish democracy in Germany and Japan the same can be done in Iraq. Iraq is a very different place. Japan and Germany were socially homogenous countries. Iraq is not. Homogeny is one fundamental basis for democracy. Germany and Japan were industrially based, Iraq is not. Industrialization has give the populations of those countries, through individual participation in the market place, the initial voice which is also an essential for grass roots democracy.

    One thing I have learned is that democracy takes hold best and lastingly in developed and complex societies. Iraq is not a very developed or complex society. Democracy, to work, requires many masters, making many demands on it. This is something Bernard Lewis, a scholar of Islam, mentioned in his book "What Went Wrong?", meaning what went wrong in Islam. He said that one think wrong in Islamic societies is the lack of polyphony. That is something democracy requires and thrives on.

    Most people think democracy is just about voting, that is why so many people got so exited about the first election in Iraq. Well, that has not lead to democracy, at least any time soon. Democracy requires back up systems, like a truly free press, pluralism, secularism, the rule of law for all, property rights and solid individual freedom and recognition. Democracy requires a whole host of things happening at the same time for it to really work. Under this scenario Germany and Japan were ripe for democracy but Iraq and the Islamic world are not. In the West democracy has taken centuries to develop and here it is expected that Iraq pick it up just like that, as if it was natural.

    In the West democracy came in a backward fashion. First, people gained economic rights and with that came political rights. This is how women eventually got the vote, because of their economic clout within the household. This is how democracy is slowly developing in Eastern Europe and China. This is how democracy developed in South Korea.

    On another note, The Constitution. I believe it is an organic, living, breathing document, whereas you don't. I heard Judge Ruth Ginsburg of The Supreme Court say that the "We" of the Constitution means far more today than it did originally. ("We", as a scholar said, requires a liberal mindset.) The meaning has expanded to include more and different people. The original meaning was "men". Because of that expanded meaning I believe it is a living, breathing document, always working, fluid and expanding its idea.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/01  at  04:49 PM
  16. If the meaning of the words is changed to suit present values, what good is a Constitution? What is living and breathing is the provision for amendments and for action by the legislature.
    When an agenda is put in that is opposed by most of the people by judges, then that is judicial legislation. Never intended.
    But then the left wants to do it that way, because they could never get some of their policies by either the amendment route or the legislative route.
    Posted by Donald W. Bales  on  10/01  at  06:24 PM
  17. David,

    You're being disingenuous. We both know that until I mentioned Greeks, what you alluded to as 'Western' did not extend to classic times predating Islam. You said "Modernity is a Western notion." AND "We have also imposed on them the modern world.", both of which I have shown to be nonsense. They have had the notion of modernity for centuries AND modernity is something that happens to all of us all the time, and is not attributable to any single group. Muslims have had as much influence in shaping our common environment as technology rich Westerners. Remember the communication systems we put together are bi-directional, and serve extremists in the dissemination of their ideas as much they do ours. Their ideas compete with ours and those of others, and, hopefully, it will be the best of these that prevail.

    The problem for sharia-bound Muslim societies, in any case, is not exposure to modern things, ideas, or cultures. It is the exposure of bad ideas to better ones, and the exposure of those who cling to power without justification. It is a simple case of yet another despotism exposed to its own fraud. Don't make more of it than it is, as that only helps these miscreants oppress that much longer.

    I have never understood why so many good people feel the need to provide autocrats with moral equivalencies with which to justify barbarous intolerance and misrule. We did it for the Nazis, the communist; and now we do it for Islamo-fascists.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/01  at  07:47 PM
  18. I didn'tdo it for the Nazis, the Communists and I am not doing it for the radical Islamists. So don't include me in that "we."
    I never agreed with those that Lenin called, "useful idiots."
    I remember all that very well. I was born in 1922.
    Posted by Donald W. Bales  on  10/01  at  08:42 PM
  19. Donald,

    Please don't take "we" personally. By we, I meant 'Western society'. Westerners of every stripe have an overly charitable tendency of regarding aggressors as though sharing common values. It is simple empathy and charity, ingrained in even the godless among us, by which we expect others to be as civilized as we are. More people do this than not; and Westerners, with our centuries of Judeo-Christian-charity, do it to a fault. Only those of us who realize we can't deal with barbarians, fanatics, and psychopaths the same way we do ordinary people have the sense to treat them as the barbarians they are. It doesn't mean we have to become as harsh, unyielding, or vicious as they are however. As Reagan taught us, "Trust, but verify."

    It is because even the harshest of us ARE this charitable in our assessments of an aggressor that I use the collective "we". Our attitudes harden when our misplaced trust is brought home to us, but only after repeatedly trying to keep the peace.

    Don, I think we can trust most of the other readers here to be savvy enough to make the distinction between a collective "we" and a specific reference to those present, and not think I am putting you or anyone else on the spot. I will continue to use the collective "we" when contextually consistent, as it becomes cumbersome and foolish making disclaimers for each case (these expositions get windy enough with out that). Therefore, I trust you will, hereafter, take as contextual where I use a collective and where a specific referent.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/05  at  07:42 PM
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