13 April 2007

The Rise Of Islam

"Not long before the British surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown in 1781, assurances were still being given in parliament that ‘so vast is our superiority everywhere that no resistance on their part is to be apprehended’. Today, with not even Baghdad secured after over four years of war — and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars — the White House still talks in terms of a ‘victory’ over ‘extremists’ and ‘killers’, even if the delusion that a Jeffersonian democracy can be created in Mesopotamia appears to have been abandoned."

Drawing parallels between George Bush's war in Iraq and George III's war against the American colonists, David Selbourne argues in The Spectator that "the American imperium has entered on its decline after only some six decades" and that it is now "the turn of Islam to assert itself, for the third time in history, across large swaths of the globe."

If he is right, then not only is it imperative that we in the West should understand the contribution of Christianity to Western culture, but we also need to understand Islam and the differences between moderate Islam and fundamentalist Islam, or Islamism.

One of the principal differences between Islamism and Western democracy is in their approach to academic scrutiny. Like the predominant threat against our Western ideals throughout much of the last century, namely Communism, Islamism is intolerant of dissent, looking to and justifying its ideas and beliefs on the basis of an ultimate authority that cannot be questioned. By contrast, ideas in the West are accepted by submitting them to public inspection.

For Islamists, truth and knowledge are thus not to be discovered through open criticism and public enquiry but are represented by the revelation of God to the prophet Mohammed as recorded in the Koran and supplemented by the record of Mohammed's actions and sayings. As far as such Muslim fundamentalists are concerned, Western society is corrupt and weak because it is different from, and therefore inferior to, the perfect society described in their Scriptures – one that dictates, for instance, inequality between men and women and between Muslims and non-Muslims. By denying the equivalent of the separation between Church and State that allowed Western society to flourish, they promise those who accept their worldview not utopia in this life but paradise in the next and promise their martyrs a certain salvation that is unavailable in Islam by any other means.

You may recall a year or so ago when producers of Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great at the Barbican censored references to Islam in order to avoid the risk of a violent backlash from Muslims to the playwright's scenes in which the hero burns the Koran and says that Mohammed is "not worthy to be worshipped" and "remains in hell." Such censorship was not only a victory for political correctness over common sense but a defeat in our attempt to defend the Western tradition of freedom in the ongoing clash of civilisations that is the wider stage upon which the so-called war on terror is being conducted.

Countries such as Indonesia prove to the world that Islam is able to embrace the concept of individual liberties, such as freedom of expression. We whose societies are founded upon the freedoms imparted by our Christian heritage need to engage constructively with such moderates, seeking to understand their faith from their perspective, if we are to prevent the freedoms that are the building blocks of our way of life from being increasingly eroded over the coming years.


A Brit Abroad said...

Presumably you've heard that the British Council has (or soon will) shut 10 out of its 19 European offices, with most of the English language libraries closing as well, to focus more on the Islamic world?

The Difference said...

Thanks for that tip, Brit Abroad. I see from CyberCast News that the Council has also begun "to promote the view that the world is in grave danger from global warming." However, I'm not sure how that fits with their stated purpose of building mutually beneficial relationships between people in the UK and other countries and increasing appreciation of the UK’s creative ideas and achievements...

Layreader said...

Hugh Fitzgerald has an excellent piece on "The Qur'an and Higher Criticism" at Dhimmi Watch. I quote:

There is a controversy surrounding the work of the philologist of Syriac (that is, the Aramaic used in and around Edessa), Christoph Luxenberg. He suggests that the best way to clear up the approximately 20% of the Qur'an that does not make sense, or that contains a meaning that is only guessed at, is to posit an Ur-text, in Aramaic, or rather in Syriac, a text that begins as a Christian lectionary.
Luxenberg's evidence for the Aramaic words in the Qur'an, and his demonstration that many of the otherwise incomprehensible passages in the Qur'an make sense when we read the words as Syriac, not Arabic, is formidable and convincing. There is also doubt, among the handful of serious Western scholars capable of working in this area, even as to the existence of the "historical Muhammad"

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