Derbyshire, reviewing Spencer, says any resistance to Islam is futile

In his long article at about Robert Spencer’s book, Religion of Peace?—Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t, John Derbyshire does several distinct things, which need to be filtered from each other:

  • Derbyshire scores Spencer for his long-winded comparison of Christianity with Islam, in which, Derbyshire says, Spencer fails to realize that Christianity, which Spencer praises as the religion of peace, is—because it’s a religion of peace—responsible for our Islam problem. (Spencer in his reply has a good answer: it is precisely because the left constantly argues for a moral equivalency between Islam and Christianity that Spencer needs to demonstrate the falsity of this idea. By the way, Spencer’s reply is strangely off-key, filled with inappropriately florid praise for Derbyshire’s article, which, in the end, is a total dismissal of everything Spencer stands for.)

  • Derbyshire criticizes Spencer for not having any solutions to the Islam problem. Hurray! Finally, a writer other than myself has pointed out—at length—the bizarre fact that leading Islam critics such as Spencer thunder prophetically about the horrors of Islam, while remaining silent about any meaningful defensive measures, particularly immigration reductions. (Spencer in his reply to Derbyshire insists that he has been calling for immigration restrictions all along. This is not true, as I explain in a note at the end of this entry.)

  • Derbyshire does a 180, from his previous denials that Islam is a problem, to agreeing now with Spencer that it is a problem, and he even follows through to where Spencer has never gone: proposing the steady removal of most Muslims from the West. He even calls this program separationism.

  • But Derbyshire’s call for a separationist policy comes to naught, as you will see in the below excerpt from his article. Indeed, everything must come to naught with Derbyshire, since he is a nihilist.

  • The specific reason he dismisses separationism or any defensive policy against Islam is that our society, led by Christian ethics, has a welcoming stance to all foreigners that would make it impossible for us to exclude anyone. Far from urging us to oppose this suicidal mentality, he brusquely says there’s nothing we can do about it. The West is finished, because of Christianity. And that’s where he ends.

Apart from his overweening sin, which is either despair or hatred depending on how you look at it and which distorts all his other thoughts, Derbyshire’s key intellectual error in this article is his assumption that today’s extremely liberalized type of Christianity is real Christianity. Obviously it was Christianity, Christian Europe, Christendom, that successfully held off Islam for a thousand years, while it is the de-Christianized Europe of today that is allowing Islam to take it over. A treatment of the role of Christianity in the current Western surrender to Islam that ignores these salient facts is not to be trusted.

Though in the end Derbyshire cancels out everything of value that he has to say, particularly his argument for a Western strategy of self-defense against Islam, the piece is quite interesting along the way, so here is a long excerpt. At the end I sum up what it means. (Also, I have further remarks on Derbyshire’s article in the next blog entry on Mark Lilla.)

Derbyshire writes:

Whatever the facts of that, it can hardly be disputed that we have got into the mess we are in with Islam today not so much because of the letter of Islamic theology, or the failure of enough of us to knuckle down to our citizenly duty and read the Koran (personally, I would rather undergo radical dentistry), as because we have executed policies of staggering idiocy.

There are now tens of millions of Muslims living in Christian nations; and this is the case because our nations allowed the tens of millions to enter. We need not have done so. Wise men as long as forty years ago were sounding the alarm about the gross folly of opening our territories to such numbers of strangers with whom we had nothing in common. If Islamia has sunk into the grip of a poisonous ideology—the ideology of jihadism—the Christian West (Spencer actually says “Judeo-Christian,” but that is just a lagniappe) has been seized by an even more destructive ideology: globalization.

The second ideology has in fact been the great enabler of the first. And, very uncomfortably for a Christian apologist like Robert Spencer (so uncomfortably he has not confronted it in this book, nor in any of the other writings of his I have perused; nor have I ever seen it mentioned in the rest of the burgeoning literature of Islamophobia), a great enabler of globalization has been the Christian tradition. If all men are brothers, heathens only a little less enlightened than Christians, they why should not a Pakistani, or a Somali, or for that matter a Mexican, come to live in the U.S.A.? Why should not ten million of each do so? Would it not in fact be un-Christian to refuse entry to those tens of millions? It beggars belief that anyone should hold such a civilizationally-suicidal view, but many Christians do—the current President of the United States, for example.

That leads more or less directly to this book’s most surprising omission: a failure to prescribe. If things are as Robert Spencer says they are, what is to be done? He offers nothing but a vague, half-hearted statement about the need for an “alliance” between “Hindus, Buddhists, secular Muslims [huh?—the previous 206 pages have left the rather strong impression that the only secular Muslim is a dead Muslim, and atheists.” (p. 207) What should we of the West do if such an alliance fails to appear? Or if, having appeared, it dissolves in squabbling, as it surely would? What shall we do to be saved?

It is true that the author is under no obligation to give detailed political prescriptions. He can fairly say: “I am a diagnostician. I have made a close study of Islamic texts. This is what I have found. These are the implications, so far as the behavior we can expect from Muslims is concerned. It is not for me, a retired and uncourtly scholar, to prescribe social policies.” That is a tenable point of view.

The degree of restraint it implies, though, is wellnigh superhuman. Most of us, if we knew as much as Robert Spencer does about the problem, would feel the urge, perhaps even the moral imperative, to suggest a solution.

Possibly the author takes the division-of-labor view I have just mentioned—“Not my job!” Possibly he has laid out a program in one of his other books (none of which I have read) and feels no need to repeat himself. Or perhaps he thinks that the solution that obviously follows from all his painstaking exegeses is so radical that if he were to state it clearly, he would be cast out from the sphere of “acceptable” commentary into the outer darkness of fringe politics and “hate groups”—a term which nowadays seems to embrace anyone who speaks unwelcome truths out loud.

If the last, that is a pity, for what Robert Spencer leaves unsaid needs saying.

If what he has told us is true—and so far as the present state if Islam is concerned, I think it is—then the West should proscribe Islam, and the sooner the better. We should not allow Muslims into our countries, other than for necessary diplomatic or scholarly purposes. We should revoke the visas and permits of resident aliens who are Muslims, and ensure their departure. We should offer to purchase the citizenship of Muslim citizens, and bribe them to leave. Those who will not leave should be carefully watched by the police, and subjected to social disabilities—they should not, for example, be admitted to the armed forces, or allowed to proselytize in prisons. (Take a religion addled with violence and infused with a hatred of our society, and teach it in prisons to the most violent and antisocial of our people? Have we gone stark raving mad?) Mosques and madrassahs should be closed, or at the least punitively taxed.

For the U.S.A. there would be some constitutional niceties to be sorted out, but I am not speaking of any grave injustices here, still less of any cruelty or harm, which no civilized person wishes to a fellow human being who has done nothing wrong. Millions of harmless, peaceful Muslims will of course be inconvenienced, but life comes with no guarantee of uninterrupted convenience, and moving from one country to another is not especially arduous—I have done it myself several times. Nothing in such a program of “separationism” is immoral or improper, unless the first word in the phrase “sovereign nation” has lost all meaning.

But there, of course, is the rub. There, too, perhaps, is the real reason why Robert Spencer does not follow his analysis with the separationist prescription it so clearly implies: the reason being, that there is no chance whatsoever of such a prescription being applied in any western nation.

For if there is a sickness in the soul of Islam, there is a corresponding sickness in the soul of the West. As the darkness, cruelty, and obscurantism of jihadist Islam, described in such detail in this book, descend on our lands, our souls rise joyfully to greet them….

Perhaps the humane forbearance of the Prince of Peace, and the moral universalism that His teachings imply, bear the seeds of self-destruction. Those seeds were slow to germinate in the long centuries when great mass migrations of people into well-settled lands could only be military affairs. However, the globalization movement of the past fifty years has allowed millions of souls to move and settle peaceably into the old Christian lands; and our old ideals, with whatever contribution—major and critical, according to Spencer—from their Christian component, have urged us to welcome the settlers, and have called fierce obloquy on anyone who complains.

Spencer can’t have it both ways. If “even the secularists” are “rooted in the Judeo-Christian culture,” then so are their impulses to hate that culture and yield to its enemies. So what does he expect? Indeed, the secularists, with all their Christophobia, are a better bet for standing and fighting against jihadism than Christians are. If there were a proposal to impose Sharia law in your town, who would you rather see riding to your aid: Christopher Hitchens, or Bishop Muskens [the Dutch bishop who says Christians should call God Allah?

This last point is sophomoric. Is Muskens the only Christian in the world? Is he the representative Christian? The disease of the West is not Christianity, it is liberalism.

Derbyshire’s article concludes:

One cannot help noticing that in Japan, where Christians form less than one percent of the population, and Christian traditions are not a significant component of the national culture, Islam is neither a problem nor a threat, simply because Japan does not let Muslims—nor any other foreigners—settle in great numbers. The Japanese don’t give a fig for the universal brotherhood of man, and still cherish their national sovereignty. We no longer care much about our sovereignty, so long as our bellies are full and we have gadgets and clowns to amuse us; and our bishops, not to mention our Christian President and the globalist elites who surround him, tell us that doubts about the wisdom of mass Third World immigration are unkind, if not actually “hateful” (not to mention damaging to their stock portfolios).

It is not so much secularism that is the problem as Christianity and its legacy. If, as the subtitle of his book declares, Christianity is a religion of peace, while Islam is irredeemably militant, what on earth does Spencer think is likely to be the outcome of a conflict between the two? If—to put faces on the abstractions—Roger Cardinal Mahoney and his parishioners were to engage in a waste-lot rumble with Abu Ayyub al-Masri and his parishioners, on which party would Robert Spencer put his money?

A sensibly exclusionist, separationist policy like Japan’s is therefore not available to us, because of our principles—those principles Spencer tells us are rooted in Christian thinking, those principles that send our author into such raptures of cultural superiority. Well, well: Christianity got its start as a religion of slaves. Perhaps it is fated to end the same way.

While the end of the Christian West, contrary to what John Derbyshire suggests, is not plain, the end of John Derbyshire certainly is. He is a nihilist who, instead of looking for ways to revivify and protect our civilization, writes it off as doomed—doomed by Christianity. Thus his new-found opposition to Islam in this article, and his articulation of a policy that would defend the West from Islam, are not real. They are positions he picks up in order to discard with a contemptuous shrug. His one real agenda, his one abiding passion, is to discredit Christianity. And in order to accomplish that end, he would rather see our civilization Islamized and destroyed than try to defend it.


Note on Spencer and immigration:

As I mentioned at the beginning, Robert Spencer in response to Derbyshire claims that he has always advocated restrictions on Muslim immigration. This is false. Ever since I began criticizing Spencer for warning about Islam but proposing doing nothing to protect the West from Islam, namely a halt to Muslim immigration, he began to do an odd dance around the issue. In some articles he would hint that maybe immigration is a problem, and why weren’t other people talking about it, but he wouldn’t talk about it himself either. Or he would broadly hint that immigration restrictions were the answer, but not actually say so. Or he would claim that he had called for Muslim immigration restrictions in the past when in fact he had done nothing of the kind. Thus at Jihad Watch in December 2006, he insisted that he had a strong position on Muslim immigration, and protested the unfair treatment he had been receiving from a certain unnamed critic. But in the second paragraph of that article, as I explained here, he inadvertently revealed that his actual immigration positions added up to nothing other than his screening proposal, which would not result in any numerical reduction of Muslim immigration. Spcncer’s first unambiguous advocacy of actual Muslim immigration restrictions came in June 2007, and he has not repeated it since then. In his reply to Derbyshire, Spencer says he has advocated Muslim immigration restrictions in his earlier books, which I have not read. But not once, including in his responses to my criticisms, has ever he quoted any passage from his books calling for a reduction or cessation of Muslim immigration. Further, it is impossible that if Spencer had actually advocated immigration restrictions in his books, he would have so assiduously avoided the subject in his online writings. For an example of the extravagant lengths to which Spencer has gone in order to avoid the topic of immigration restriction, see my discussion of his weird “defense” of Rep. Virgil Goode for having said that Muslim immigration is a problem for America.

Spencer has a lot to contribute, and I have no wish to continue my criticisms of him on the immigration issue. But as long as he continues his dishonest treatment of it, I will.

- end of initial entry -

Tom S. writes:

Typical John Derbyshire; good writing, incisive analysis, humor, a willingness to face up to unpleasant truths, non-PC—all undercut by his dislike of Christianity, and his inveterate fatalism and pessimism.

What a waste of talent.

Incidentally, if Christianity is, to paraphrase James Burnham, the “religion of Western suicide” it certainly took its sweet time in manifesting itself as such. The same Christianity that JD believes is the cause of our decline was also the same religion that provided the motive for Western expansion for much of the 18th and 19th centuries. There is a sickness at the heart of the West, and it’s liberalism; unfortunately, as we have seen, Christianity is infected too.

Mark P. writes:

You wrote: “Spencer in his reply has a good answer: it is precisely because the left constantly argues for a moral equivalency between Islam and Christianity that Spencer needs to demonstrate the falsity of this idea.”

There something I don’t understand about this idea of moral equivalency. Even if you assume that Christianity is as “bad” as Islam, in terms of the lack of peacefulness, why would that justify the kind of liberal treatment toward Islam that is currently granted? It doesn’t follow that generic Christian violence of the past justifies a “hands-off” approach to Islamic violence toward the West. Even “bad” people are allowed to defend themselves, or, at least, are reasonable expected to do so.

LA replies:

Hasn’t Mark heard of the liberal double standard—or, rather, the liberal single standard, by which liberalism does whatever helps tear down the West?

Carl Simpson writes:

Really interesting post on VFR—I’d been waiting in anticipation for your remarks on this exchange. Another thing I noticed in Derbyshire’s review is that although he thinks that Spencer’s failure to address the solution for the Islam problem is rooted in Spencer’s Christianity, it is in fact rooted in Spencer’s liberalism. As I see it, the thing you have consistently criticized Spencer about is his embrace of liberalism. One small example of this type of thinking on his part is the notion that there can be some sort of anti-Muslim alliance between Christians and atheists. Christopher Hitchens, the atheist writer who openly celebrated the Bolshevik destruction of the Orthodox church in Russia (with its attendant slaughter of millions), and those of his ilk are even worse than Muslims, in my view. One cannot form alliances with those whose primary objective is your complete destruction. Forming an alliance with Hitchens, et al, is every bit as insane as forming an alliance with Muslims. It’s like having a choice between ricin and cyanide.

As you mention, Derbyshire’s huge error lies in his conflation of Christianity with liberalism. While it’s true that Christianity has been deeply infested with liberal ideologies, and whole denominations have rejected Christianity and replaced it with liberalism, they are still two different things. Thanks, as always, for your continuing great work.

An Indian living in the West writes:

Sorry to be a pain but how great a problem is Islam for America? What is the total Muslim population in America and what are the odds of them (at their current rate of increase due to immigration and birth rates) becoming the majority or even a significant minority?

And strangely enough, all the illegal immigration coming from Mexico probably makes it even more unlikely that Muslims will ever become a majority—the Mexicans are almost entirely Catholic as far as I am aware.

So how is this an American problem? It is a European problem but how is it an American problem?

LA replies:

Of course, it’s vastly greater, by orders of magnitude, in Britain and Europe. The Muslim population in the U.S. is one percent. But the movement is in the same direction. The U. of Michigan has just installed foot-washing facilities in student restrooms because the Muslims were washing their feet in the sink. The intimidation and silencing is going on. The immigration is continuing.

By your implied logic, since the problem is not as bad here, we should wait until it gets much worse, until it becomes like Europe, before we worry about it. But isn’t the whole point to prevent it from becoming like Europe?

Yes, Hispanic immigration in its total impact is far greater a problem. But the Islamic challenge is to the whole West and we are a part of that.

Also, we in the U.S. need to understand what’s happening in Europe so that we can encourage the Europeans to defend themselves. If Europe is Islamized, where would we be?

The Islam threat is a seamless garment.

ILW replies:

In that case, the problem is with mass immigration.

I actually want to commend Derbyshire for showing some courage. I of course disagree with his attack on Christianity (although if this is confined to contemporary Christianity, then it is accurate).

He seems to have the courage at least to highlight what the problem is. In that great tower of intellectual coherence known as National Review, how many have the courage even to admit that there’s a real problem here? That includes spineless cowards like Mark Steyn and people of his ilk.

Jeff in England writes:

Re your comment on Spencer and immigration, this is the clarity we need. It’s hard work proving other people have been inconsistent and vague as your research on this shows. Well done. Now, if Spencer was listening without his ego getting in the way, he would understand what you have been getting at and come out with a clear irrevocable statement on what our policy to Muslim immigration should be.

He loves to play it different ways each time and then feign shock when he is accused of playing ambiguous games. In fact all the Suspects (including the female ones like Melanie and Minette Marrin and Michelle Malkin) are “faking like a woman” in one sense … playing at being tough on Muslims while not choosing to support the tough option of immigration restriction.

And then they break just like little girls when you confront them with “reality.” Blaming you or me instead of looking at their shortcomings in logic. Which is that they are not mentioning immigration restriction for Muslims. Or if like Spencer they do mention it, they conveniently forget to mention it the next thousand times. One mention of possible immigration restriction for Muslims does not make a defender of our borders!! Oh, what liberal guilt will do to tough talking commentators!!!

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 25, 2007 01:16 PM | Send

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