Goldberg says that Islam is the problem—and the solution (hmm, isn’t that where all this started?)

Malcolm Pollack writes:

I response to recent events, and the reluctance even of prominent conservative voices (in particular Jonah Goldberg) to identify Islam itself as a problem, I’ve just written a post that I think you might find yourself in broad agreement with, here.

In particular I reject the idea that the West can reasonably expect the Ummah itself to deal with the problem of fundamentalist extremism. We know what Islam is; this is a problem we have to solve.

In the second half of Mr. Pollack’s long blog entry he critiques Goldberg’s position. Goldberg writes:

People who say Islam is The Problem often overlook the fact that there are millions of Muslims who are peaceful, do not support terrorist Jihad, and so on. If all of a sudden you claim their faith in and of itself is a threat to us, you push them toward the Jihadists. The Kurds in Kurdistan are Muslims, should we stop working with them? There are millions of moderate Muslims in Pakistan, should we send the signal that they are indistinguishable from the terrorists because they share the same faith?

To which Pollack replies:

This is a serious and valid objection. I have no doubt whatsoever that he is right about this: that if the West were to acknowledge, clearly and forthrightly, the fact that Islam itself is fundamentally at odds with the core principles of our modern post-Enlightenment civilization, it would make enemies of many who might otherwise co-exist with us in peace.

But, Pollack continues:

Goldberg makes a very common error … he assumes that the existence of “moderate” Muslims indicates that there is a possible evolution of Islam that would lead, in time, to a complete extinction of fundamentalist extremism, or at least to such a broad rejection of hard-core Islamist ideology that it would be reduced to a negligible irritant. If some Muslims can be like this, goes the thinking, then in principle all of them can someday be.

This is a generous and well-intentioned view, but unfortunately it ignores both the history and ideological core of Islam …

He quotes Goldberg again:

… In short, I think those who insist that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Islam are befogged by a political correctness that blinds them to a real threat. But I also think that some of the people saying Islam is the problem often fail to recognize—or at least acknowledge—that Islam will have to be the solution as well.

He comments:

I wish Goldberg were right about this, but after years of study and reflection I think that, although there will always be modernizing influences within Islam, and millions of peaceable and non-confrontational Muslims, it is naive to imagine that the Ummah will ever extirpate its totalizing, expansionist core; to do so would be to cut out the very heart of Islam itself.

I think that Goldberg himself realizes this; in this piece he undercuts his own argument with repeated caveats and disclaimers. He clearly sees that Islam itself is a “real threat” to the West, but, correctly acknowledging the polarizing and divisive effect of a serious Western response, and unable to offer a better solution, he falls back on the faint hope that the West can safely stake its own survival on the willingness of the Muslim faithful to choose sides against their own most devout co-religionists. He also ignores the precariousness of a relationship based on the divided loyalties of Western Muslims, in which there must always be a dynamic tension between fealty to their secular host cultures and to their God and His Prophet.

No, we cannot rely on the Ummah to police and reform itself; we have had 1,400 years to see Islam in action, and it would be folly to strategize on the assumption that it will suddenly cease to do what it has always done. And it isn’t about “hating” Islam, even if we need not prostrate ourselves to offer it the “respect” that it demands. Islam simply is what it is; this is a problem for the West to solve. And we aren’t going to solve the problem without being able, first, of all, to admit that it exists.

- end of initial entry -

Malcolm Pollack writes:


I may have worked that immune-system metaphor rather hard, but it seemed apt. And Goldberg, though clearly on the fence, is tipping the wrong way; we obviously cannot stake our survival as a culture on trusting the global Islamic community to choose sides in our favor. It amazes me that he doesn’t see this.

LA replies:

Well, let’s not underestimate what a difficult, momentous thing this is for people to accept: to accept that this is the truth means permanently defining a fifth of the human race as a danger to us, and acting accordingly.

Malcolm Pollack replies:
We knew this in the past, however; Charles Martel, for example, certainly understood it! After all, we’ve had 1,400 years to figure it out, and Islam has behaved with remarkable consistency throughout. It is we who have changed, and rather recently so. But so deep is the reprogramming our culture has undergone in our lifetime that what was for centuries common knowledge throughout Western civilization now seems a startling (and deeply offensive) revelation.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 15, 2009 05:50 PM | Send

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