The Rise of Islam
Published on: September 10, 2011
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  • vanderleun

    “Evidence refutes the argument that Islam encourages violence more than other religions.” — Gallup

    “All I have is a voice
    To undo the folded lie,
    The romantic lie in the brain
    Of the sensual man-in-the-street
    And the lie of Authority
    Whose buildings grope the sky….”
    — Auden

    “You just keep thinking Butch. That’s what you’re good at.” — The Sundance Kid

  • Jim.

    “Those who think that politics in the 21st century will steadily grow more secular, which is what the overwhelming majority of American policymakers and opinion shapers believed for many years, were utterly deceived. We are in for an age of identity politics and religious competition.”

    If the West abandons Christianity, the West will lose this fight. Europe will vanish under a wave of Islamic migration, and America will not have the moral foundation it needs to domesticate the animal spirits of capitalism.

    For centuries, Christianity has been consistent with (and in fact has provided the intellectual and moral foundation for) scientific, pluralistic democracy. Atheists and agnostics need not destroy traditional Christianity to maintain a safe place for themselves in this world. In fact, they are safest and best off if they support the traditional, scriptural, pluralistic Christianity that propelled the rise of the West, to counterbalance the rise of Islam.

  • Paul

    The revulsion which violence against civilians inspires among peoples of all faiths would indeed be a good and a healthy thing, if it were real. Sadly, it is not. People do not naturally shun or despise violence against civilians; absent other moral training, they abhor violence against people whom they understand to be likenesses of themselves, to the precise degree that it is present to their consideration. Such violence moves them to imagine its infliction upon their own persons, and provides them with a certain degree of detail with which to create images of their own suffering. This is unpleasant for the vast majority, and generates the abhorrence.

    The idea that all human beings are in some sense like oneself is a fairly obvious one; the idea that this sense is a morally meaningful one, and that the equally obvious differences do not outweigh the likeness for the purposes of morality, including the morality of violence, is not obvious at all. Were it so, I submit that Aristotle, among many, many others, would probably have attained this insight.

    Rather, these ideas are the product of Jewish ideas further developed in Christianity, and most fully implemented in the modern West. Though — for example — they are not wholly absent from orthodox Islam, in that religion there is an even more significant way in which those who fail or refuse to submit to the will of God are not equally “meaningful,” and that violence against them and theft of their property is not only permissible, but often encouraged, and occasionally enjoined. The revealed Recitation, the Traditions of the Prophet, the Customs of the Prophet, and their interpretation by the orthodox schools of jurisprudence all make this perfectly clear. For one who accepts this revelation, the status of its bearer as exemplar, and the reliability of the historical transmission of the community’s understanding of these, this position on violence is mandatory. One may call those who take another position reformers or apostates — depending on one’s own view of Protestantism, I suspect — but to call them “moderates,” as if the difference were one of degree, is disingenuous.

    Of course, having a belief about violence, or failing to feel revulsion concerning violence, are not the same as the will or resolve to actively employ violence, especially at material disadvantage or risk to one’s own safety. It should surprise no one that most orthodox Muslims will not fly to America and seek out homosexual atheists to murder; nor will most even physically attack Jews and Christians present in their midst. But most will not abhor video images of distant towers crashing to the ground, or clipped press reports of the bombing of Israeli cafe-goers. This is true despite their answers to verbal questions concerning abstractions of situations and categories — as all who answer such questions know that answers are easy to give, and are explicitly visible and subject to external evaluation.

    A failure to engage honestly with the moral question of violence is hardly something confined to Islam or to Muslims; neither is a theory which segregates humanity into subsets which differ in value. These have been failings of all civilizations. But to pretend that currently existing civilizations are equivalent on these issues is either deceptive or delusory.

  • topcat

    “Evidence refutes the argument that Islam encourages violence more than other religions.”

    Muslims are at war with Christians in Africa, with Jews in the Middle Easr, with Hindus in India, with Buhists in Thailand, and with others in the Phillipines.

    How is this the “religion of peace”?

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    “Evidence refutes the argument that Islam encourages violence more than other religions.”
    This is a lie, what evidence? Here’s some, 99% of all terrorist attacks are committed by Islamic males between the ages of 16 and 45.
    There is no Rise of Islam; the evidence is that this is a culture that is going Postal. Islamic culture is moribund, and the terrorist attacks on both other Muslims and every other culture on earth, are the death throes of its demise. I challenge anyone to name one thing Islamic culture has created in the last 500 years that has advanced mankind. Even their greatest source of wealth, the oil under their lands, was found, developed, and paid for by westerners
    Polling is not evidence, and that polling can be perverted to misrepresent the Truth, is a common tactic of the Left.

  • WigWag

    “Sometimes it’s important to step back from the daily news and look at the bigger picture.” (Walter Russell Mead)

    The problem is that the “bigger picture” is far bleaker than Professor Mead suggests in this post.

    There are polls and then there are polls, but regardless of how much stock you place in one poll or another, they are not the only data point.

    There are few if any Arabic speaking nations where Islamic extremists are not in a better position today than they were prior to September 11, 2001. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is now part of the government. In the “Palestinian” territories, Gaza is now ruled by Hamas. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that supports terrorism, is about to emerge as the largest political party. In Syria, it is entirely possible that if Assad falls, Sunni extremists associated with the Brotherhood will lead the government. In Libya, there are at least some indications that the rebels who are now in charge, owe fealty to radical Islamists who Kaddafi was keeping under control. In Iraq, a brutal secular dictator was replaced by a Shia regime devoted (at least in part) to Iran.

    Outside the Arabic speaking world, the situation isn’t much better. In Iran, Seyed Khātamī, a relative moderate, was replaced by the far more radical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In Turkey, Kemalism appears dead, at least for the moment, and the Islamist Erdogan Government is threatening to go to war with Israel (even if it is mostly bluster). Pakistan remains as dysfunctional as ever and if anything, the country is even less stable than it was in 2001. Nations where a “cooler” form of Islam once prospered like Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh are experiencing a dramatic and seemingly inescapable rise in Islamic radicalism.

    And while the anti-immigrant parties that are gaining more adherents in Europe may exaggerate the situation, there is simply no question that there are now neighborhoods in cities like London, Paris, Copenhagen and Oslo that are increasingly less safe for non-Muslims to enter. In Marseilles, Muslims now outnumber Christians. In the tiny Italian island of Lampudesa, Muslim refugees from North Africa now outnumber native Italians by a ratio of 10 to 1.

    Barry Rubin has an interesting take on all of this. It can be read here,

    He believes that prior to 2001, Al Qaeda had four objectives:

    1.To become the leader in a worldwide jihad.

    2.To persuade Muslims that America is weak and can be defeated.

    3.To stir far more Muslims to jihad, that is a Holy War that today can be defined as an Islamist revolution.

    4.To mobilize forces in order to challenge and eventually to overthrow all of the existing regimes in the Sunni Muslim areas, replacing Arab nationalism in many of those countries with Islamism as the main ideological force.

    Rubin believes that Al Qaeda has been successful with three of those four objectives. The only one they failed in is the first; they are no longer the “brand name” in world-wide Jihad because the United States has spent the better part of the decade hunting its operatives down and killing them. Unfortunately there are many more sophisticated organizations who have taken over the reigns and because they combine social welfare programs along with their Jihadist agenda, they are far more successful at winning converts to their cause.

    Rubin also points out Al Qaeda isn’t dead yet; “it plays a major role in Yemen and Somalia, not to mention its terrorist affiliates in Asia, “with Islamist terrorist activity especially significant in southern Thailand, the southern Philippines, and Indonesia.” And of course the Saudis continue to finance radical Mosques and Imams all over the world, including in the United States.

    The only logical conclusion is that since September 11, 2001 things have gotten continuously worse; but that’s not the only time frame worth examining. Since January 20, 2009 things have gotten much worse.

    That’s what happens when you have a President steeped in an anti-colonial world view learned at the knee of radicals like Rashid Khalidi and Jeremiah Wright.

    If Obama gets four more years I shudder to think about how much more angry and violent the Islamic world will be and how much more ill-equipped the United States will be to deal with it.

  • “Almost all residents surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa who reject attacks on civilians say religion is an important part of their daily lives. . .”

    Ah, yes. Unless, that is, the “civilians” are girls being forcibly mutilated at rates approaching 90%, or unfortunate rape victims being arrested and stoned to death, or homosexuals . . .

    I wonder what was really, precisely, asked.

  • WigWag

    “I challenge anyone to name one thing Islamic culture has created in the last 500 years that has advanced mankind.” (Jacksonian Libertarian: September 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm)

    One example I would provide is the 50 novels and 350 short stories written by the winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature, Naguib Mahfouz. I especially recommend the three books that make up his “Cairo Trilogy”

    Mahfouz was an Egyptian who was brought up in a devoutly Islamic family that was traditional in every way, although interestingly, he was named for the Coptic physician who delivered him.

    Perhaps because of his staunchly religious upbringing or maybe in spite of it, Mahfouz was very brave. He defended the Camp David accords and peace with Israel and despite the threats of Islamic radicals he defended Salman Rushdie after the publication of the “Satanic Verses.”

    Mahfouz’s bravery stands in stark contrast to the cowardice of contemporary western commentators like Ian Buruma, Timothy Garton Ash and the late Tony Judt. After filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered in Holland by a radical Islamist and after his collaborator, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was threatened as the next victim, unlike Mahfouz, these cowardly Westerners thought the actor in the drama most worthy of being criticized was Hirsi Ali.

    Sadly, Mahfouz was attacked by Egyptian Islamists in 1994. He was stabbed in the neck but survived. Unfortunately he was severely injured and rarely left his home after that.

    But he was a truly great man, who produced truly great literature who emerged from an Islamist environment.

    Another magnificent writer who, while secular, emerged from an Islamic environment is the extraordinary Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk. The 59 year old author who lived most of his life in the same house in Istanbul but now teaches at Columbia University in New York won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

    Pamuk was arrested by Turkish authorities for the crime of “insulting Turkey” in 2005. Both secular Turks and Islamists objected to statements that he had made acknowledging the reality of Turkey’s complicity in the Armenian Genocide. The charges were later dropped, but after his arrest there were mass burnings of Pamuk’s books and he is still reviled by many Turks today.

    In my opinion, Pamuk’s book, “My Name is Red” is one of the twenty five greatest fiction books in any language (Pamuk speaks fluent English by writes in Turkish) written in the past 100 years. In fact, the book is magisterial in its description of the differences in artistic outlook between the West and the East.

    Everyone should read it; more can be found here,

    and here,

    So I think that Islamic society has produced great and world changing art over the past 500 years although perhaps it is fair to say that these creations were made in spite of Islam not because of it. I’m just not sure.

  • Kris

    Great! Now we just need to agree on the definition of “innocent civilians”.

  • Toni

    “well over one billion Muslims”

    But what proportion of those Muslims have a choice? What happens if the coerced ever get a choice?

    Of course, what the “many Muslims who…consider themselves to be at war with western civilization and…American power” object to is not the West’s freedom exactly, but what we do with it. Particularly in regard to sexuality and the effects of sexual pursuits on marriage and families. E.g., affairs and ensuing divorces, porn, children with no fathers committed to their care, rampant STDs, sexual addiction, etc.

    Those Muslims aren’t entirely wrong, are they?

  • Paul

    While I would not be as quick to consign an entire civilization to the dustbin as the “Jacksonian Libertarian” publication which “Wig Wag” quotes, I have to say that his examples make their point for him.

    Both Mahfouz and Pamuk are Westernized, whether by their own childhood cultural milieux or by their own choices made against those milieux. Their achievements themselves constitute examples of Western cultural forms, and are lauded by the West for this reason — primarily, I must say, as something of the status of “mascot” attaches to both as well. Reading Pamuk’s “Snow,” for example, and considering the acclaim with which it was met, one cannot avoid feeling that much of this was due to the fact that those potentialities of Turkey which Pamuk deplores and fears are substantially the same as those to which a Westerner would react in this way.

    I would not say that nothing new in form has arisen from the Islamic civilization in the last two centuries, but I would say that what has arisen has done so in response to the Western challenge. Qutb’s Salafism and its descendants, as well as Khomeini’s velayat-e-faqih, may in this way be said to be the answers given by the Sunni and Shi’a traditions. That a development takes place in response to the products of another culture does not automatically define it as merely derivative or inferior; think of Thomas Aquinas’ response to the Arabized Persian world’s interpretation of the Ancient Greek Aristotle. But Qutbism and Salafism are, really, fantasy ideologies, promising salvation through politics, and thus even the fact that they are organically developed Islamic ones does not demonstrate Islamic vitality.

    No more so did the rise of the various Western political eschatologies — Communism, Fascism, and the “Spirit of 68” — indicate vitality in the West itself. It is this that must give us pause. For if Islam is dying, then surely so also are we. After Latin Rome came Christendom, out of Christendom came the West, and the West overwhelmed and supplants all else; and what comes after the West?

  • Pete Dellas

    Christianity and Judaism needed a reformation and changed for the better when they did. Islam does, too–BADLY.

    One easily verifiable fact is that the global Islamic population is approximately 20% of the world population. They have blessed the world with FOUR Nobel prize winners, only ONE of which was for scientific advancement (chemistry).

    The global population of Islam’s biggest enemy, the Jews, is approximately 0.02% of the world population. They have given the world 129 Nobel laureates, most of which were for physics, medicine and economics. Doesn’t that say SOMETHING?

    It may be true that terrorism is rejected by many Muslims. But it is also just as true that Islam has inspired the vast majority of terrorism across the globe.

    Prof. Mead, this one comes across as too rosey a picture.

  • Pete Dellas

    Correction: My information was outdated. It is actually EIGHT Muslims who have received Nobel prizes, 3 more for peace (2003, 2005, 2006) and one more for literature (2006). This materially changes NOTHING about my original thesis.

  • Andrew P

    Islam is nothing more than a totalitarian political ideology akin to Communism, combined with a real God and an afterlife. It is great for empire building, because that is what Mohammed designed it for. Through its laws on sex and women, it is designed to maintain maximal human reproduction, and its main flaw is that it was never designed for scientific or economic progress.

    I see events progressing toward some kind of global Islamic unity under a new Caliphate and a final military conflict between The West and Islam. The conflict will be driven by an increasing shortage of resources, particularly energy. Preliminary nuclear conflicts between Israel and its neighbors (and Iran) will probably happen first, and accelerate the process of the Caliphate’s creation. Once the Third Caliphate is achieved, peak oil will give them their moment of maximum revenue, and they will feel great pressure to strike while the iron is hot.

  • WigWag

    “That a development takes place in response to the products of another culture does not automatically define it as merely derivative or inferior; think of Thomas Aquinas’ response to the Arabized Persian world’s interpretation of the Ancient Greek Aristotle.” (Paul; September 11, 2011 at 8:10 am)

    You make some excellent points, Paul, but I am bothered by the somewhat dismissive nature of your remarks about art that is “merely derivative or inferior.” Most art, including great art is “derivative” in one way or another. This is especially true of literature. There are only so many Homers, Chaucers, Shakespeares, Dantes, Cervantes or Miltons; and even their work can be called derivative.

    For some fascinating ruminations on this subject, I highly recommend Harold Bloom’s brand new book, “The Anatomy of Influence.”



    The book is a sequel to his famous “The Anxiety of Influence” written more than 30 years ago. More information can be found here,

    I think that you are right that Mahfouz and Pamuk can be characterized, at least to some extent, as having escaped from the strictures of Islam, but I think it is important to remember that when Mahfouz wrote his Cairo Trilogy several decades ago, those strictures were not quite as confining as they are now. The Islamic world may be going through paroxysms of religiosity, but in the modern world this is a relatively recent phenomon.

    Jacksonian Libertarian may be right that the Arab world has contributed little of an artistic or scientific nature to the world in the past several hundred years, but this is hardly surprising; after all, for the greater part of the last thousand years they were a tribal and nomadic people. Great cultural achievements rarely come from that environment although admittedly the ancient Hebrews are an exception with their creation of the Bible. With the exception of Egypt, it has only been since World War I that most of the Arab world has been organized into nation-states which facilitate scientific and cultural achievement.

    There is an irony I think, in the fact that the “George Washington” of the Arabs, T.E. Lawrence was an illegitimate lapsed Anglican who was both a homosexual and a practitioner of sado-masochism (he enjoyed being caned).

    It is no surprise that like the Egyptians, the Persians who enjoy an ancient tradition of nationalism also have a great cultural tradition with the work of Omar Khayyám and Rumi being two obvious examples.

    And while the Arabic world has produced little that is word class, I don’t think that it is fair to say that virtually nothing of artistic value comes out of the Arab world. While I don’t think that the recently deceased Palestinian, Mahmoud Darwish, was much of a poet he probably had as much talent as American literary figures who owe their success to the politically correct content of their work such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and even Langston Hughes.

    One last thing, Paul, Pamuk’s “My Name is Red” is a much better book than his “Snow.” The reason in particular that I bring it up is that the subject of the book is the subject that we are discussing here; the difference between the art of the West and the art of the Islamic world.

  • Paul

    I appreciate Wig Wag points, and must clarify my own remarks by adding that I agree that “derivative” art is not to be dismissed, as nearly all art (beyond the first cave painting) could be so classified. But if we are discussing the vitality of the high culture of a civilization, certainly art which is merely imitative, and nothing more, fails to demonstrate vitality.

    I agree that we should not be too hard on the Arabs for failing to continually churn out JS Bachs, or too quick to conclude that they owe all of their really great achievements to Persians (if I am correct in believing that this is what Wig Wag meant). And as is obvious from my last paragraph above, I endorse his comparison of Darwish with Angelou as the perfect illustration.

    I am grateful for the recommendation of “My Name is Red,” and am more than ready to concede that even great authors can write unimpressive books, as I found “Snow” (admittedly in translation) to be.

  • Susan

    Wig-Wag says Lawrence of Arabia was gay. I think that is very hard to believe. Peter O’Toole might have been gay but I doubt that the real Lawrence was.

    Is there any proof?

  • Kris

    “Is there any proof?”

    Yes. [Statement removed which cannot be true unless the commenter is too old to be believed.]

  • WigWag

    Susan (September 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm) asks for proof that T.E. Lawrence (the George Washington of the Arabs) was a homosexual.

    Once a person has been dead for 75 years like T.E. Lawrence has, it takes a particularly well refined “gaydar” to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was actually gay. But I think the evidence is pretty convincing.

    Lawrence never admitted to being homosexual. In his only comment on the subject, he said that that while he did not find homosexuality morally wrong he did find it “distasteful.” After his death, most of Lawrence’s friends denied that he was gay.

    I don’t find these denials particularly compelling. After all, when he was a teenager and probably just becoming aware of his sexual preferences, Queen Victoria was still the Monarch of his country; she had a famous aversion for homosexuality. In addition, when Lawrence was a young boy of 7, Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for “the crime that dare not speak its name.” If he was gay, all of this provided Lawrence with a powerful incentive to deny his sexual preferences.

    Whether gay or straight, Lawrence had a well documented taste for sadomasochism. There is considerable doubt about whether the claim he made of being raped by the Turks after he was captured at Deraa was true. Several Lawrence biographers say the time-frame of the incident that he described made no sense. Also, the Ottoman Commander he accused of sodomizing him went on to live a blameless life. There is a well documented history of Lawrence hiring people to whip him from his time as a young man in the Middle East right up until his fatal motorbike accident.

    Most interesting is his relationship with the young Syrian boy who served as his personal assistant, Selim Ahmed. There are two versions of how Ahmed first came to serve Lawrence. The “official” version suggests that Lawrence met Ahmed when he was conducting a pre-war archeological dig at Carchmish in Syria. Lawrence immediately began calling Ahmed his “Dahoum” (dark boy) and teaching him English. They were inseparable until Lawrence went back to England in 1914 to begin planning his role in the War effort. When he returned he discovered that Ahmed had died of Typhus.

    I have read a second version of how Lawrence met Ahmed that is more interesting but may be apocryphal. Some people claim that Ahmed was a slave given to Lawrence as a gift from Al Hussein, then the Hashemite Emir of Mecca, King of the Hijaz and King of the Arabs. Al Hussein was a rival of the Al Saud clan although both Hussein and the Al Sauds fought bravely against the Ottoman Turks at Lawrence’s side. Interestingly Al Hussein happens to be the great, great grandfather of the current Hashemite King of Jordan, King Abdullah, II.

    Regardless of how Lawrence actually met Ahmed the relationship between them was unusually close. Was it a homosexual relationship? It’s hard to know for sure.

    But Lawrence did dedicate his book “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” to “SA.” Could “SA” have been someone else? Possibly, but no one else close to Lawrence except for Selim Ahmed shared those initials.
    The dedication that Lawrence made to “SA” at the beginning of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” went like this,

    I loved you so I drew these tides of men into my hands
    and wrote my will across the sky in stars
    to earn you freedom, the seven pillared worthy house,
    that your eyes might be shining for me
    when we came.

    Death seemed my servant on the road till we were near
    and saw you waiting;
    When you smiled, and in sorrowful envy outran me
    and took you apart
    Into his quietness

    Love, the way-weary, groped to your body, our brief wage
    ours for the moment
    Before earth’s soft hand explored your shape, and the blind
    worms grew fat upon
    Your substance

    Men prayed me that I set our work, the inviolate house,
    as a memory of you.
    But for fit monument I shattered it, unfinished: and now
    The little things creep out to patch themselves hovels
    in the marred shadow
    Of your gift.

    The dedication was written in 1926 to a 15 year old boy (then deceased for 10 years) Lawrence knew when he was 23.

    Putting two and two together, the possibility that Lawrence was gay doesn’t sound so far fetched to me.

  • Kris

    Re comment #18:

    My name is Kris, and I approve this redaction.

    (I am reminded of this Sesame Street “redaction”: )

  • WigWag

    Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish reported that Ayaan Hirsi Ali married the British professor, Niall Ferguson at the Harvard Memorial Church in Cambridge, MA this past Saturday. Hirsi Ali who has acknowledged being pregnant with Ferguson’s child is an apostate refugee from Islam who is now a self-described athiest. Add to this the fact that she got married in a church.

    I wonder how that’s going to go over in her native Somalia or the rest of the Islamic world.

    Unfortunately the world is full of Islamic kooks who are trying to kill Hirsi Ali and repellant left-wing journalists, like Nick Kristoff and Ian Buruma, who are trying to assassinate her character.

    Congratulations Ayaan and Nialls; I won’t hold my breath waiting to see a wedding announcement in the New York Times anytime soon.

  • ira

    Utter Pollianaish twaddle.

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