The unreformable Islamitude of Muslims, and why Melanie Phillips doesn’t get it
In this article, I solve the mystery of Melanie Phillips’s contradictory position on Islam which I’ve written about so often.
David Cameron, leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, set up the Conservative Muslim Forum to advise the party on Muslim issues. To Cameron’s great but entirely predictable embarrassment, this group of Tory Muslims in a recently released document has, as the Telegraph reports, “criticised the Government’s relationship with Israel and concluded that Iran has ‘legitimate’ reasons for wanting nuclear weapons;” it “wants the compulsory history curriculum in schools changed to give ‘full recognition to the massive contribution that Islam has made to the development of Western civilisation’”; and it “argues that preachers who advocate a rejection of democracy and its institutions should not be denied entry into Britain.” As I point out in the previous entry, the fact that so-called Conservative Muslims take such positions should be enough to end forever the notion of a moderate Islam in Britain.
However, as revealed by Melanie Phillips who quotes the document at more length, the Tory Muslims’ report is far more radical than Andrew Porter of the Telegraph let on. For one thing, it insists that the Tory party drop its “Zionist” position as offensive to Muslims, even as it makes explicitly clear that “Zionism” simply means support for the existence of Israel. So, to satisfy these Tory Muslims, the Tory party must stop supporting the existence of a sovereign state, sit back, and let its would-be destroyers destroy it.
The document also says “that the Conservative Party should not explicitly or implicitly link terrorism with Islam as, similar to other major religions, Islam forbids terrorism.” Meaning that Tories must never speak of Islamic terrorism. When Islamic suicide bombers acting in the name of Islam mass murder people, and are cheered by other Muslims who see the terrorism as a glorious Islamic “martyrdom” bringing the suicide bombers to heaven, non-Muslims cannot describe this as Islamic terrorism.
Also, as Phillips points out, the document defends the Muslim Council of Britain, even though the spokesman of that organization says he is committed to the Islamization of Britain.
In short, the Tory Muslims demand complete surrender to the Muslim program and to the Muslim view of the world, in which Muslims by definition can never do anything wrong, even as they use every stratagem and act of intimidation and violence to subjugate non-Muslims to the power of Islam.
From the Muslim Tory document, Melanie Phillips grasps the fact that there really are no moderate Muslims in Britain to speak of. “These extremist attitudes are mainstream among British Muslims,” she writes (italics added). Yet in her ongoing “mental lock” which I have documented at such length, she draws no larger conclusions about the nature of Islam and what ought to be done about it. Partly this is because of the way she conceives of the Muslims’ objectionable attitudes. Her censure of the document and of another recent Muslim pronouncement is expressed in highly emotional, morally judgmental language: “diabolical,” “vile,” “shocking,” “treacherous, bigoted and lethal.” The problem with such language is that it condemns the Muslims for immoral attitudes, when, from the point of view of the Muslims, their attitudes are not immoral but simply Islamic. For example, that Muslims oppose the existence of Israel is not “diabolical,” as Phillips calls it, but Islamic, since serious Muslims cannot accept non-Islamic sovereignty in formerly Muslim lands. Similarly, that Muslims threaten the Christian church is not “treacherous, bigoted and lethal,” as she calls it (in reference to another recent statement by 138 Muslim religious leaders), but simply what is commanded by the Koran and Islamic law.
Thus the conceptual framework Phillips uses for understanding Islam remains resolutely Western and non-Islamic. As she sees it, the Muslims in Britain are violating common moral standards, and this is “vile,” “shocking,” and “bigoted.” The implication is that Muslims must change their behavior and start to conform to the liberal Western moral code. And she holds out the hope that the Muslims will do that, if only Britain’s government and opinion-forming elite insist that they do so. This hope has always been at the heart of Phillips’s writings on Islam (and it’s the reason why, as I show below, she doesn’t feel that Islamic immigration must be terminated or reduced). British leaders and institutions must stop approving of the Muslims’ immoral attitudes and require that Muslims conform themselves to Western morality. The problem with this idea is that Muslims cannot conform to Western morality without ceasing to be Muslims, and therefore the change of heart Phillips expects and hopes for can never come about. She doesn’t get this.
And the reason she doesn’t get it is that she doesn’t get religion. She reveals her incomprehension of religion when she says that we must “distinguish those who derive merely spiritual solace from the faith from those who use the religion of Islam to wage war upon the non-Islamic world.” Her idea of a good Muslim is a person who “derives merely spiritual solace” from the faith. This unwittingly condescending language is precisely the language that non-believing and weakly believing people always use about religion and religious people. Secularists and the superficially religious think that religion is about “comfort,” “consolation,” and “solace” in a harsh world. They reduce religion to therapy and uplifting feelings and a sense of community. But that’s not what religion is, and it’s not what Islam is. Religion is about following God, and Islam is a religion at the core of which is God-commanded eternal war upon non-Muslims, a fact made numbingly clear on almost every page of the Koran, and confirmed by innumerable jihad warriors and Islamic thinkers over the centuries.
So now we understand better where Phillips is coming from, and why all her articles about Islam are filled with the same endlessly repeated, overcharged judgmental expressions such as “diabolical,” “vile,” “shocking,” “treacherous,” “bigoted,” “lethal.” She doesn’t see the Muslims’ attitudes as Islamic. She sees the Muslims’ attitudes as an immoral rejection of morality. And this is the source of her idea that the Muslim threat to Britain can be removed without removing the Muslims from Britain. If people have immoral attitudes, those attitudes can be changed, and that is Phillips’s constant hope. But the hope for moral reform assumes that the people to be reformed share the moral framework according to which their current attitudes are seen as immoral. But Muslims do not share that moral framework. They have an Islamic framework. And the Islamic framework demands the destruction of Israel, the Islamization of Britain, the defeat of Christianity, and the removal of any moral condemnation of Islam, including Islamic terrorism.
In short, Phillips sees Islamic extremism as immoral, rather than Islamic, for the same reason that the neocons refer to Islamic extremism as “Islamo-fascist,” rather than as Islamic. In both cases the motivating impulse is to preserve the belief that Islam itself is not the problem, and therefore that Muslims can be assimilated into our societies and into a democratic global culture.
The above considerations solve the mystery of Melanie Phillips’s seemingly contradictory position on Islam about which I have been obsessing for the last couple of years. How can it be, I’ve asked a hundred times, that a person who is constantly condemning in the most virulent and alarmist terms the steady growth in Britain of Islamic extremism, and who also says that most Muslims in Britain support the extremism, refuses to call for the reduction or cessation of Islamic immigration? And the answer is that it’s not a contradiction. As it turns out, Phillips’s passionate denunciations of Muslims, and her firm commitment to continuing Muslim immigration, stem from the same source: her belief that Islamic extremism is a moral sin—a sin that, while ugly, horrible, and threatening, is not inherent, and therefore can be removed. Thus the very thing that makes her hate Islamic extremism so much, is also the thing that tells her that Islam itself is not the problem. Because she sees extremist Islam as a hideous violation of morality, rather than as a normal expression of Islam, she believes the extremism can be reformed by authoritative moral suasion, and therefore she does not feel any need to stop or reverse the Islamic immigration into Britain.
The Phillips article was sent to me by Jeff in England, who wrote:
Here’s Melanie again, warning us for the one millionth time of the danger of Islam and Muslims in the West, and for the one millionth time, failing to offer any significant solution to deal with that danger.Jeff C. writes:
Great post on Melanie Phillips. I would love to see you address in more detail your point that weakly religious people and non religious people can’t put themselves into the mental framework of a true believer. This is a very powerful observation that I myself have had, and I am constantly puzzled by their shocking lack of ability. Is it just intellectual laziness and weakness, being not able to shift one’s framework to view the world through the eyes of the Other?LA replies:
Thank you. A brief answer to your first question is that to speak of the consolations of religion is the way that people who don’t believe in God can still speak respectfully of religion.Alan Roebuck writes:
This article provides another vital insight. And although you did not explicitly say so, I believe that this insight also applies, at least in general, to many of the Usual Suspects. They do not acknowledge the reality of Islam, so they think that we can solve the problem by applying enough moral outrage, in the same way we “solved” the problem of white bigotry starting in the 1950s.LA replies:
Mr. Roebuck is correct. My analysis applies not just to Melanie Phillips but to the entire range of Islam critics who in the fiercest and most worrying tones are constantly condemning Islamic radicalism and warning against the danger of the Islamization of our society, but who remain weirdly silent on what to do about this threat. Their refusal to suggest solutions to the Islamic radicalism growing in our midst results from the same cause as their intense condemnations of it: they see Islamic radicalism (as they see white racism and bigotry generally) as a violation of liberal morality. As a violation of liberal morality, it outrages and frightens them. But as a violation of liberal morality, it can also be ended through the assimilation of Muslims to prevailing liberal standards. When these Islam critics look at Islam, they don’t see an unassimilable religion and culture eternally opposed to our own; they see people who are failing to be liberal but who can be reformed, just as white racists could be reformed.SR writes from England:
May I offer an additional analysis of Melanie Phillips’s failure to tell it like it is?Jeff C. writes:
You write: “To me, the great division of humanity is not between those who believe in God and those who don’t. It is between those who believe in something higher and those who don’t.”Dimitri K. writes:
I really like your explanations. It also follows that if Islam is not a problem but radicalism is, the solution is education, assimilation and socialization. More (good) mosques, more reach-out and social help. Those who don’t believe that Islam itself is a problem, don’t need to do more than what is already done by the government.LA writes (10/21):
Yesterday Jeff in England wrote a very nice, respectful, and sincere e-mail to Melanie Phillips asking her, almost pleading with her, to tell what are her proposed solutions to the Islam problem about which she is constantly warning us. He also asked her to explain what she thinks about the option, which Jeff favors, of reducing Muslim immigration. He received a 12 word reply from Phillips in which she told him that all the views she wants to express appear in print.Donna E. writes:
There are many volumns written about religion but only one written about the One who wrote it. Matthew 15 talks about the wheat and the weeds. There are many weeds in/out of the organized church. Over the centuries wars have been fought in the name of religion but only the wars of the heart are fought in the name of Jesus Christ.LA replies:
Thanks, but I’m not sure what this has to do with the growing power of Islam in the West and what we should do about it. Unless you’re saying that absent the second coming of Jesus Christ, nothing can be done about it. In which case we must, until that happens, just sit here and let ourselves be taken over by Muslims.Terry Morris writes:
This is a great article.LA writes:
By the way, the reason for the word “Islamitude” in the title of this article, a word I made up, was that I needed a noun that conveyed the condition of believing in and following the religion of Islam. The only word I could think of was “Islamism,” and in draft form I titled the article, “The unreformable Islamism of Muslims.” But “Islamism,” thanks to the neocons, has been hopelessly distorted to mean something other than the condition of following Islam, namely it means a modern political movement formed of a mixture of Western totalitarian ideologies and “hijacked” elements of Islam. So I had to cast about for a new word to convey my meaning.M. Mason writes:
This is an excellent analysis. I will simply add here that all people—even atheists—have faith in something, and Melanie Phillips is no different. Therefore, it’s important to define what she does believe in to understand why she will not openly and strongly advocate for the removal of Muslims from Britain.. So let me restate your point from a somewhat different angle with a bit of further clarification. When you said that “the reason [Phillips] doesn’t get it is that she doesn’t get religion’, I believe it would be more accurate to say there (as, in fact, you later pointed out) that she doesn’t get it because she doesn’t understand—and apparently doesn’t want to understand—the imperatives of literal, fundamentalist religion.LA writes:
I’ve been informed by a correspondent that Melanie Phillips has returned to Judaism and is now “quite devout,” and that this new fact requires me to modify my argument and to group Phillips with “pious Christians” like Michael Novak who like Phillips refuse to understand Islam.Donna E. replies
Thanks for trying. I guess I’m having trouble communicating. Muslims have been a threat to the stability of the world since Mohammed invented the religion. The world has (up until recently) been able to contain them by force and will. The world as it is now doesn’t seem to have the will to confront a threat. Thomas Jefferson sent the Marines to Tripoli (thus the reason he had possession of a Koran because he was doing his homework). We in the West need to see the enemy for what he is. If we fail to do that then, yes, we will fall to the will of the Muslims.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 20, 2007 06:03 AM | Send