An exchange with Paul Gottfried on Islamo-fascism and Islam

I wrote to Paul Gottfried:


I’m not writing about the current controversy at Taki, which I have heard about but haven’t read, but rather about your article on the “Islamo-fascism” term that I just came upon.

I of course agree with you that “Islamo-fascism” is a ridiculous, false concept. I’ve written about this a lot.

But where I disagree with you is in your complete dismissal of the Islamic threat. Your reasoning is, because there’s no such thing as an Islamo-fascist enemy, therefore there’s no such thing as the Islamic enemy. This is shown when you call bin Laden a mere “terrorist” and criminal, rather than someone who is waging the 1,400 year old Koran-mandated Islamic holy war to dominate the earth and submit humanity to sharia law.

Is your reasoning like this: since neocons warn about a false Islamic threat, therefore you are going to dismiss the real Islamic threat?

PG replies:

I never deny that Muslims are vile or that I would be delighted to be rid of them. But I despise these neocon opportunists who are trying to piggyback on leftist “antifascist” hysteria by presenting Muslims as the latest manifestation of an eternal fascist enemy. I also don’t want loathsome antifascist creeps like Hitchens as my political allies.

LA replies:

We’re not discussing whether Muslims are vile. The question is: does Islam—as distinct from “Islamofascism”—represent a threat? Your article suggested no, since you described bin Laden as a terrorist and criminal, not mentioning that he pursues an Islamic program of jihad.

PG replies:

I think bin Laden is a terrorist and criminal and should be treated as such. But what I was addressing is the misleading, ideologically tendentious notion of an “Islamofascist” threat, which is entirely non-existent. For your information, I’ve just contributed a long essay in German to a volume coming out at Marburg, on how Europe may be on the way to becoming irreversibly Islamicized. I certainly don’t not favor letting Muslims into the West and I think, moreover, that the Europeans should try to send back as many of them as they can and should then proceed to hang their multiculturalists governments from lamp posts. But I won’t join the neocons in screaming about Mussolini or even Hitler coming back in the form of some Muslim immigrant. In fact I am sick of the word “fascist,” which should never be allowed into a serious discussion of any European problem since 1945.

LA replies:

Thank you for not addressing my point for the second time in a row, Paul!

PG replies:

I was not writing the article to make your point. I was attempting to make my argument.

LA replies:

I understand that you wrote your article to make your point. And I wrote to you asking you about a different point implied by your article, and you’ve refused to address it.

Your position comes down to this. You think Muslim immigration is a serious problem for Europe, you think Europe is in process of being Islamicized. Yet, under my repeated questions, you will not say that Islam itself is the problem. So I conclude that you see Muslim people as a particularly troublesome and unassimilable non-Western immigrant group, but you refuse to say that this has something to do with Islam itself. For you, any criticism of Islam itself is an aid to the neocon propaganda against “Islamo-fascism.”

You recognize that Islamo-fascism is a false description of the problem, but you refuse to say what the true description of the problem is.

In short, you refuse to think, when thinking is what is most needed.

P.S. Your position is something like John Derbyshire’s. He says Islamic immigration is bad, because Muslims at this particular moment of time happen to be particularly angry, violent people. But he won’t say that the source of this anger and violence is something called Islam, because to him that would mean building up the idea of an “enemy.” And that is something we must not do.

In the same way, you see neocons building up the idea of an enemy for the sake of maintaining perpetual foreign involvements; so you react against any idea of an enemy. For you, there may be vile and dangerous Muslim aliens, but they are no different in kind from other aliens; there may be violent and murderous Muslim criminals and terrorists, but they are no different in kind from other criminals and terrorists, say, Puerto Rican terrorists. For you there is no larger entity that these aliens and criminals are a part of, the sacralized dictates of which they are following, and which we need to understand if we are to defend ourselves from it.

PG replies:

You may be right about my being less intensely anti-Muslim on principle than you are. I have known many Muslims, particularly moderate Muslims from Turkey, who did not seem at all to be subversive. My not being as adamant as you are has nothing to do with disliking neocons, who usually appear to be less anti-Muslim than anti-Christian, if by Christian one includes traditional European Christians. In fact I recall being told by a multitude of Orthodox rabbis that “Muslims are like us but Christians are idolators.” When I was in Israel, I met no one who sounded as passionately anti-Islamic as you are; the only people who share the depth of your antipathy are the Catholic converts at Chronicles and the Serb nationalist Trifkovich. While I don’t want to allow Muslims, with the exception of upper-class Turks, to come into Western countries, because the ones who come in are preponderantly destructive, I can’t say that I fear and loathe any Muslim immigrant as much as I do the multicultural elites that have brought them in. In fact I despise the decadent yuppies whom the Muslims are replacing far more than any towelhead.

LA replies:

You keep describing my position on Islam in terms of personal feelings and hatreds. Thus I am “intensely anti-Muslim,” “passionately anti-Islamic,” I have an “antipathy” to Muslims, and so on.

I do not harbor, and, to my knowledge, I have not expressed such feelings toward Muslims. What I have attempted to convey over and over again is the FACT of what Islam is and has always been: a tyrannical system mandated by God to subdue all mankind to that system and crush everything that is non-Islamic; a program of sacralized hate and war directed against all non-believers. This has nothing to do with what I feel; it has to do with what Islam is. Innumerable observers over the centuries, both Islamic and non-Islamic, have made the same observations. And it is these unchangeable facts about Islam that lead me to the concluson that we must prevent the world of Islam from having any presence in or influence on our world. I am no more “anti-Islamic” than all of Christendom was for a thousand years, when it defended itself from Islam, until modern liberalism came along, and the West stopped defending itself from Islam.

But you seem incapable of grasping the issue on an intellectual, conceptual level. Since you are centered in your hatred for neocons, you see other people in terms of the particular hatreds which, you imagine, motivate them. For you, all issues come down to “which group does one detest the most.”

PG replies:
That’s fine!

LA continues:

Moreover, I don’t recall seeing a single article by you showing any knowledge of or interest in Islamic doctrines, beliefs, and practices. For you, Muslims are just another non-Western ethnic group, they have their good people, their bad people, and, yes, we’d just as soon not have them here. But there’s nothing particular about Islam that stands out. For you Muslims are mainly a foil in your battle against neocons.

I have written many articles on what I call the non-Islam theories of Islamic extremism, that tendency by which Western intellectuals see Islam, not in its own terms, but through the filter of some Western theory or preoccupation that is completely irrelevant to the objective and internal reality of Islam. There are many non-Islam theories of Islamic extremism, and you have yours. It is this: “Neocons say that Islamic extremism is a threat; therefore it’s not a threat.”

- end of initial entry -

N. writes:

Paul Gottfried appears to be laboring under the fallacy of composition.

He writes: “I have known many Muslims, particularly moderate Muslims from Turkey, who did not seem at all to be subversive.”

I see this quite often in debates over Islam. “Well, I know a Moslem and he never tried to cut my head off, so you’re wrong!” is one actual rejoinder I received. It reminds me of the liberals of the 1970s who pointed to the nice Communists they knew as proof that Communism was not a dangerous ideology. The notion that the property of “niceness” in a subset of people could be generalized to all people in a set seems to be a common fallacy.

There seems to be a genuine inability on the part of some people to pull themselves away from particular cases and focus on the general, or abstract, situation. Thus we are constantly being bogged down in these “I know a nice Moslem, therefore Islam cannot be a dangerous ideology” kind of non-arguments, in response to factual and calm observations about Islam and its history. So far, the only thing that one can do is to persevere in presenting the facts in as calm a way as possible, persisting in presenting reality.

Finally, the use of the term “subversive” by Gottfried is IMO quite revealing. It suggests strongly that he only believes that Moslems who are actively attempting to attack or subvert Western civilization are a threat. The reality, that Moslems who are living a peaceful but Sharia-centered life are just as dangerous to Western civilization as the Mahmood Abbas types, simply seems to be something Gottfried cannot grasp. He just doesn’t seem to be able to look at the big picture.

Mencius Moldbug writes:

It’s a pleasure to see you debating PG—my two favorite paleo intellectuals.

May I suggest that the problem is that the two of you are operating under different definitions of “Islam”? Professor Gottfried appears to be using the conventional American usage, in which a “Muslim” is anyone who says he’s a Muslim. You appear to be discussing the actual tenets of orthodox Islam.

I forget who said that in America there are Protestant Protestants, Protestant Catholics, and Protestant Jews. Likewise, I suspect the good professor’s “moderate Muslims” are Protestant Muslims. Or to be more exact, Unitarian Muslims. That is, they consider themselves Muslim, but their general outlook on life is not much different from that of the average “Stuff White People Like” intellectual fashion victim.

A Protestant Islam is the great fantasy of our multiculturalist (ie, Unitarian) masters. In the Unitarian worldview, the only reason that all Muslims do not instantly convert to Unitarianism (while remaining, of course, Muslims) is the “hate” they encounter from those, such as you and Professor Gottfried, who have not yet submitted to multiculturalism. The resemblance between this strategy and Ann Coulter’s plan for solving the Muslim Problem (“invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity”) is rather striking, I find.

This is why the actual tenets of Islam don’t matter to progressives (ie, Unitarians). It’s because, in the glorious future in which everyone is a Unitarian, there will be no Islam. There will only be “Muslims,” who pray to the One God who is named Allah, and perhaps preserve some of their colorful native rituals.

Paul W. writes:

Your facetious argument with Paul Gottfried over whether he is sufficiently opposed to Islam is off-putting. Paul Gottfried is just as opposed to Islam as you are, but he’s more afraid of the untold damage the neocons have done to this great nation and will continue to do if allowed to exploit the Islamic threat with the same non-solutions that the Republican party is championing namely their invade the world and invite the world policies. It’s quite simply. Gottfried understands that the existential threat to the West isn’t Islam, it’s the West.

LA replies:

First, I think it’s clear from my exchange with Mr. Gottfried that he is not as concerned about Islam as I am; he himself said as much. Second, all you’re doing is repeating Mr. Gottfried’s flawed position: out of total obsession with necons, you and Mr. Gottfried will ignore or dismiss statements about the real nature of Islam, about the fact that it is inherently mortally dangerous to us, because in your minds that would help neocons.

As someone who is as critical of neoconservatism (this side irrationality) as anyone, I’ll say what I’ve said before: the inordinate and irrational quality of the paleocons’ obsession with the neocons has destroyed paleoconservatism as a viable alternative to the neoconservative establishment. One reason the neocon thinking has faced no real opposition during the Bush period is that paleocons oppose the neocons to such an extreme that they have placed themselves outside the terms of any useful debate.

Sam H. writes from the Netherlands:

I read your interesting exchange with Mr. Gottfried, in which you clearly have the better argument (or rather, Mr. Gottfried had none)…

P.J. Washington writes (April 9):

I was just hoping to clarify Gottfried’s opposition to Islam is substantial and indeed material. Below he chides Ron Paul for insufficiently opposing Islam.

“Ron Paul missed many opportunities to attract Republican votes. The Congressman did not really articulate a foreign policy, as opposed to telling Americans that the war in Iraq and almost all other wars the U.S. has engaged in during my lifetime have been “unconstitutional.” His attempt to place the problem of Islamic terrorism entirely at the doorstep of our government was also clearly an exaggeration: Islamic fundamentalism is a menace whether or not the neocons are trying to exploit it. Nevertheless, Paul could still play an indispensable role in the Right’s opposition to a McCain candidacy: a five percent vote for Paul running as a third-party candidate would make the point that we’re opposing McCain as Taft Republicans rather than antiwar Democrats. That may be the final service that Congressman Paul could render his now badly disappointed followers.”

LA replies

“Islamic fundamentalism is a menace whether or not the neocons are trying to exploit it.”

All right. I’m glad to see this. This was my very point in my exchange with Mr. Gottfried, but for some reason he didn’t make it himself at that time, even though he had made it in the article you link, which was posted in February. Thanks for sending.

Jim N. writes (posted April 14):

In response to Paul Gottfried’s comment, “Islamic fundamentalism is a menace whether or not the neocons are trying to exploit it,” you wrote:

All right. I’m glad to see this. This was my very point in my exchange with Mr. Gottfried, but for some reason he didn’t make it himself at that time, even though he had made it in the article you link, which was posted in February. Thanks for sending.”

I’m surprised to see you accept this so readily as evidence of Gottfried’s opposition to Islam, since “Islamic fundamentalism” can be interpreted as simply another way of saying “Islamofascism” or the like—in other words, it can be understood as being limited to Al Qaeda-style terrorist ideology exclusively—whereas I thought your position was that any reasonably orthodox interpretation of Islam was evil and dangerous.

LA replies:

I’ve said many times that “Islamic fundamentalism,” while not ideal and not completely correct, is an acceptable term for people who are not ready to criticize Islam as such. My reason for this is that the term “Islamic fundamentalism” does not contruct a fictitious entity such as “Islamism” or “Islamofascism.” It still conveys the truth that it’s something about Islam that is the problem.

Counter to my reputation, I do not insist that people agree with me 100 percent.

The main point that impressed me here was that Mr. Gottfried seemed to be backing off his earlier position and saying that there is a danger here that has to be identified and opposed, whether or not doing so seems to put oneself on the same side as neocons.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 05, 2008 06:54 PM | Send

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