The latest non-Islam theory of Islamic extremism

Folks, no matter how many non-Islam theories of Islamic extremism I have identified, new ones keep popping up, almost by the week.

The latest is out today, by our friend Ralph Peters, currently the world’s leading anti-anti-Islamite, writing in the New York Post.

According to Peters, Islamic extremism is not caused by Islam. Islamic extremism is caused by the Middle East. The Middle East has a sick culture, pre-dating Islam by thousands of years, and Islam was sadly infected by it, while Judaism and Christianity escaped their Mideast cradle and so became civilized. Like the florid crackpot he is, Peters announces this off-the-wall theory as if it were the unquestionable, final truth.

However, let me clarify that as with most false theories there is some truth in this one. As I’ve said before, Muhammad took the most violent aspects of Arab culture, such as the non-stop blood feuds among the respective Arab tribes, and the shame-honor syndrome which says that once a person has dishonored you, the world is out of joint until you have avenged yourself, and he universalized them. Instead of the Arab tribes being in eternal war with each other, he joined the Arabs into one Islamic nation and set them in eternal war against all non-Muslims. Instead of Arabs avenging themselves against each other over insults to honor, the entire Islamic community had to avenge itself against all non-Muslims for the monstrous insult of having rejected Allah and his prophet.

So, yes, Islam was born of the Mideast, or rather of the Arabs of the Mideast. But those Arab traits are not extraneous to Islam, as Peters claims. They are constitutive of Islam. Where Islam goes, Arab warfare, universalized into the Islamic command to wage jihad against all infidels, goes too.

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Michael Jose writes:

There is some truth to what Peters said. [LA adds: I already said the same.] I wouldn’t say that the Middle East culture infected Islam. I would, however, say that the Middle East culture caused Islam. [LA: Or, more precisely, that Arab culture caused Islam.]

Put another way; Islam is not the entirety of the problem, but Islam is not unrelated to the problem, either, it is a symptom of it. I do not believe that Islam made these cultures violent, rather, it came out of these cultures because they were violent and thus suited for it.

This is an important point for one basic reason: if you think Islam as the problem, there is always the thought that you could solve the problem by forcibly converting everyone away from Islam (not that you feel this way, but I think that many would come to that conclusion). If the problem would exist even without Islam, then isolation becomes the only solution. [I am assuming and hoping that even those who would support forcible conversion would mostly keep genocide off the table].

I suspect that even if all of the Arabs were converted to some other faith, they would turn it into something more like Islam, as many Africans did in turning Catholicism into Santeria.

LA replies:

First, the idea of forcibly converting a billion Muslims is so ludicrous that no one would propose it. Second, you’re taking the arguably correct assumption that Islam was an originally an outgrowth of the Arab culture to mean that Islam is a mere epiphenomenon of Arab culture. Not true. Islam has its own integral existence. Though originally stemming from the Arab culture, it does not require the Arab culture. There are jihads in Indonesia and Africa and Pakistan. The Ottomans were not Arabs, yet their conquests and treatment of non-Muslims followed the same pattern as the Arabs, as Bat Ye’or shows in The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam. Third, granted that without Islam the Arabs would still be a problematic people, but the hypothetical of a non-Islamic Arab world is so far from the actual reality we’re facing that it’s of no help in this discussion.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 15, 2006 01:04 PM | Send

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