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Pat Buchanan’s “Why the War is Coming Home” has sparked a lively debate on this website, revealing that there are some very hard views that quickly surface in any debate about Islam and the West. I tend to agree with Pat and Ron Paul that a growing number of Muslims is in our face because we are in their faces “over there,” frequently killing them. At the same time, I think it is quite reasonable to accept that Islam has some extremely rough edges that have nothing to do with American empire. Islam has bloody borders, many Muslims are intolerant, most terrorists are Muslims, Islam is only occasionally a “religion of peace,” and the expression “moderate Islamists” is pretty much an oxymoron. In addition, the largely Islamic Third World is a demographic threat to our Christian culture. But what is true of some Muslims is not true of most. Terrorists are only a tiny percentage of Muslims and few believe in the forcible conversion of infidels. Also, the repeated groupthink characterization of Muslims as inimical to the values that we hold dear is somewhat simplistic and contrived. It ignores the cultural, national, and intellectual diversity of what constitutes Islam. In a sense, the evils of Islam are largely externalized and really amount to blaming the wrong party. It should be acknowledged that we in the West are often the problem, not the Muslims, due to our failure to value that Christian and Western culture that we have all but discarded. Poor Muslims seeking work in wealthy Europe have not set out with a plan to overwhelm the West any more than a Mexican picking tomatoes in the Imperial Valley is doing so in hopes of creating Mexifornia.

My point is that unless I am missing something we have to learn to coexist with Islam and the world’s more than one billion Muslims, like it or not. Clearly, it is possible selectively to revisit history and to play with historical analogies all day to come up with damning conclusions about the interplay of Islam and the West. In the fifteenth century, the Ottoman Turks were both admired and reviled by Europeans, seen positively as a dynamic state that was heir to the traditions of the Byzantine Empire and negatively as the cutting edge of the sword of Islam. Probably they were both, but the current reality is what matters. By all means let us seriously revisit the God-awful immigration policies both in Europe and the US that will ultimately transform by sheer weight of numbers the Christian and Western culture that we rightly should be protecting. But as we examine the very real issues in a reasonable fashion, it behooves us as good Christians to regard Muslims as moral and responsible individuals very much like ourselves, not as part of an undifferentiated gray mass that exists in our minds only as a threat.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Islam 
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  1. tz says:

    Excellent. We have killer bees in the US, and we seem to co-exist, but we also don’t go around banging on every hive we find.

    The other half of the “undifferentiated gray mass” of things we ought to consider a threat contains atheistic ideas and secularism which are far more opposed and are warring (sometimes literally) against Christianity. Few want to talk about abortion, fewer still want to compare a million deaths per year with anything else going on or that might be an actual existential threat.

    Muslims have occasionally fought, but it was obvious – not with the subtle slanders in universities, but with drawn scimitars. And Christians and Muslims have a great deal in common from a cultural view.

  2. HoweeCarr says:

    Yes, but Islam also needs to learn to “co-exist” with us, and w/ any/everyone else that is not Muslim. And leaders- political and private- of Muslim-majority nations need to make/take more effort to build up their nations, their economies, create opportunities for their people to prosper in their lands, rather than simply blame the West (or, “the Joooos.”)

  3. tz,

    Who are these “atheistic ideas” that are “warring” against Christianity?

  4. MattSwartz says: • Website

    Uncertainty about the “other” is really just a manifestation of uncertainty about oneself, or in this case, one’s home culture.

    There are a lot of things about Islam that I do not like, but it cannot be denied that it is a step ahead of what pre-muslim Arabs had going on. Islam has had a huge positive impact on literacy around the world, and monotheism is always superior to polytheism from a rule of law perspective.

    America reacts schizophrenically to Islam (either they’re always dangerous radicals or they’re always oppressed near-innocents, depending whom you ask) because we as westerners no longer have any frame of reference into which we can fit them. Christians can react to Islam, so can secularists, so can Jews, but if these three groups of people think that they have enough in common with one another to form a common, coherent reaction to Islam, then they’re delirious.

  5. tbraton says:

    “There are a lot of things about Islam that I do not like, but it cannot be denied that it is a step ahead of what pre-muslim Arabs had going on. Islam has had a huge positive impact on literacy around the world, and monotheism is always superior to polytheism from a rule of law perspective.”

    Maybe a step ahead for the desert dwelling Arabs (whose civilization even then was backward compared to their neighbors), but Islam was spread by the sword to other areas like Persia and eventually India, not to mention the immediate Greco-Roman-Byzantine areas of the Near East, North Africa and Europe. Persia was the foundation of the world’s first large empire under Cyrus the Great a thousand years before Mohammed came along. Zorastrianism was a monotheistic religion which probably inspired the ancient Jews to think along similar lines themselves (compare the First Commandment of Exodus (“no other gods before me”) with deutero-Isaiah (“I am the Lord and there is none else, there is no God beside me” Isaiah 45:5). Both India and China were great civilizations long before they had any contact with the Moslems.

    The Arabs who spread Islam through conquest wound up being the beneficiaries of the much more sophisticated and advanced civilizations they inherited as a result of their conquests. They deserve credit for preserving much of the Greek philosophic and scientific and mathematical heritage (although they destroyed much of the literature in an early sign of their basic intolerance and, of course, had they not conquered their more advanced neighbors, there might not have been a need to preserve the intellectual heritage of the Greeks). What I was taught in grade school as “arabic numerals” were actually invented by the Hindus in India a few centuries before Mohammed was born. The intellectual accomplishments of the Moslems in their nearly 1000-year era of dominance were relatively paltry and unoriginal compared to the advances both before and after by a wide range of peoples.

    As far as your claim about the role of Islam in spreading literacy, how do you explain the fact that Afghanistan, a country almost 100 percent Moslem, has an illiteracy rate of 70 to 80 percent? I would venture an off-hand guess that Christian countries around the world have much higher literacy rates than Moslem countries.

    As to your claim that “montheism is always superior to polytheism from a rule of law perspective,” would you really choose Pakistan, a montheistic Islamic country, over India, with its predominant polytheistic Hinduism? Here we have the basically same ethnic peoples, and one country is a failed state governed mostly by military dictatorships since its modern inception while the other has been a basically stable democracy that is beginning to emerge as a world power.

  6. Mustafa says:

    There are some things in this post a Muslims could object to, at least from the “you did it too” point of view (like the claim about the bloody borders and intolerance for example). However, I am very happy to see traditional, conservative Christian making a sober analysis about Islam and Muslims, and making much more sense the those who are considered the “public face” of conservative Christianity, and who have nothing but contempt and hatred for Islam. I am Muslim, and I’m not even American (I’m from Bosnia), but AmCon represents, in my view, a symbol of the branch of conservative Christianity that orthodox, conservative Muslims can talk to with a real hope of reaching an agreement on different issues of concern and importance.

  7. MattSwartz says: • Website

    tbraton,
    I’ll grant your point that Persia was rather advanced before Islam, but Muslims advanced learning quite a bit as well, as is evidenced by their huge libraries, etc. As far as Afghanistan goes, it’s worth pointing out that she is a tribal, remote place full of people who practice Islam in conjunction with folk religious practices that orthodox Muslims don’t endorse. To make Afghanistan stand in for Islam-in-general is a stretch in the same way that making Haiti serve in that manner for Christians would be.

    I agree that Muslim countries tend to do a bad job of respecting religious and social dissent, but I believe that my broader assertion about law and order stands. We tend to see the face that India presents to the world, which overlooks racial (caste) discrimination that would make Jim Crow blush and frequent intimidation and violence from Hindu fundamentalists. The western privince of Gujarat, for example, has purged Christians and Muslims almost completely through a combination of legal discrimination and armed mob terror.

  8. […] Poor Muslims seeking work in wealthy Europe have not set out with a plan to overwhelm the West any more than a Mexican picking tomatoes in the Imperial Valley is doing so in hopes of creating Mexifornia. – “More on the Clash of Civilizations,” Philip Giraldi, American Conservative, May 11, 201… […]

  9. “It should be acknowledged that we in the West are often the problem, not the Muslims, due to our failure to value that Christian and Western culture that we have all but discarded. Poor Muslims seeking work in wealthy Europe have not set out with a plan to overwhelm the West any more than a Mexican picking tomatoes in the Imperial Valley is doing so in hopes of creating Mexifornia.”

    We in the West could get back on track if we repealed the farcical ‘free trade’ policies that impel people to emigrate from their native lands. As Ralph Nader would remind us “Part of the problem involves NAFTA. The flood of cheap corn into Mexico has dispossessed over a million Mexican farmers, and, with their families, they either go to the slums or, in their desperation, head north.” The flow of Mexican illegals would be diverted if we but ceased the dumping of surfeit goods that ruin their agrarian livelihoods. Paleoconservatives must convince paleolibertarians of the need for protectionism in the face of flagrantly disastrous trading policies. It should not be too hard to do as a luminary of the Old Right, Garet Garrett, was supportive of tariffs.

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