Is Islam or liberalism the greater threat?
I’ve been having a discussion, with a monarchistic, Catholic blogger who calls himself Bonald, about whether Islam or liberalism is the greater threat. Bonald holds that liberalism is the greater threat; I disagree, while acknowledging that liberalism is a massive threat.
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The conversation began here when I posted a comment that we should support Geert Wilders even though he is a secular liberal on most issues other than Islam. It continues here, with Bonald hoping I’m right but expressing skepticism. In this second post, I offer an analogy: Western society is like a society living in a sewer, and pious Moslems in the West are like arsonists. Since arson kills you more quickly than sewage, one ought to support a politician who opposes arsonists, even if he approves of sewage.
Alan Roebuck writes:
I realize what I said is slightly misleading. When I said “Bonald hop[es] I’m right but express[es] skepticism,” I was referring to liberalism being the lesser threat, not to supporting Wilders. Regarding Wilders, he has not made any more comment that I’m aware of; he’s focused on whether liberalism is the supreme threat.
Now that I think of it, he has also not acknowledged the magnitude of the threat of Islam. He’s hoping that liberalism is not a world-conquering juggernaut, and my arguments are welcome words to him.
Maybe if he sees liberalism as non-invincible, he’ll be more willing to acknowledge the full truth of the Moslem menace.
Kilroy M. writes:
The funny thing about analogies is that there’s one for every occasion and argument. Here’s mine: an organism can fight a viral or bacterial infection, but once it gets bone marrow cancer, it’s good night ladies. Islam is a foreign threat, imported into the West due to liberal utopian idiocies. Liberalism, on the other hand is an internal problem that has made fertile ground for an existential crisis within the West rendering it incapable of principled opposition to another culture/religion/order. Therefore, although co-operation with Wilders and other superliberals is a good tactical move for the short term to fight the bacterium, liberalism is ontologically the greater evil because it is far more fatal in and of itself.
Ian B. writes:
I’d actually have to say that liberalism is the greater threat. The fact is, if our society were still strong, Islam would pose very little threat to us, due to our technological superiority. We have the raw ability to shut down any threat they might pose with ease.
However, liberalism has torn our society apart from the inside, and made us weak and vulnerable by plunging us into the mire of decadence and moral relativism, which has left us vulnerable to the threat of Islam. However, even if Islam were to suddenly go away, liberalism would still remain a mortal threat to our existence as a free peoples.
So, while Islam is responsible only for the threat of Islam, liberalism is responsible for both the threats of liberalism and of Islam.
Buck O. writes:
Andrew McCarthy argues that the left and Islam are working together and that that is a problem.
Modern liberalism isn’t working with Islam, though it is, by its nature, working on Islam’s behalf. It’s the worship of tolerance by modern liberalism that is working for Islam.
In an interview with Diana West, McCarthy again describes an alliance between Islam and the left. Again, I think that is mistaken. Two burglars, aware of each other only by reputation, who are robbing in the same neighborhood are not an alliance unless they met and planned together—dividing up the neighborhood. They are separate crimes against society. Modern liberals were robbing the neighborhood well before Islam arrived. Modern liberalism established the unlocked-window policy that invited Islam in.
Until modern liberalism is defeated or discredited there is no way for the neighborhood to protect itself from the growing invasion of Islam. Modern liberalism is an open-source security system, Islam a savvy hacker. Modern liberalism is a broken immune system, Islam an opportunity infection.
If we can’t defeat modern liberalism, then we won’t defend ourselves against Islam.
We still don’t even have the guts to call it by it’s name.
You make a very cogent point.
Carrying Kilroy M.’s analogy forward just a bit, there are cancers that are caused by viral infections, as well as those caused by environmental factors. So let us consider liberalism to be a lifestyle tumor such as lung cancer, while Islam is a virus that will in time induce different cancers. Either one is capable of creating huge damage, often by similar mechanisms: prohibition of free speech being one of the more obvious.
Liberalism has welcomed Islam into the West, therefore it is a threat. Wherever Islam goes, Sharia follows, and thus it also is a threat.
Consider an elderly person with diabetes and a slow growing tumor, can we really say one is more dangerous than the other? Or can we agree that both conditions are threats and should be treated accordingly? Different cures are likely required, to be sure, and one may prioritize one condition at one time, another at a different time.
Richard P. writes:
I think there may be a different way to look at this question. Rather than considering whether Islam or liberalism is the greater threat, let’s consider the consequences should we defeat one and not the other.
Let’s say we were able completely to crush Islam as a threat. Liberalism would be unchanged, or even strengthened by portraying the conquering of Islam as some form of cultural genocide. If you defeat liberalism, on the other hand, Islam is no longer a significant threat to the West.
Think back to when the West was dominant and confident. From the Barbary Wars to WWI, the Islamic world was almost irrelevant to the West. Jihad grew rapidly in the 20th century in areas where you had the retreat of declining empires. You start seeing jihadist movements in Arabia after WWI as the Turks retreated. It grew rapidly in British Palestine and British India, both times as the British were leaving. Jihad movements have repeatedly attacked Russia and torn apart the Balkans in the years since the Soviet Union dissolved. It’s likely no coincidence that is has grown significantly against the U.S. post-Vietnam.
If you defeated liberalism, and once again had a West that was confident in itself, Islam would disappear as a threat. The Islamic world has no capability to project hard power at any distance. They would be nothing more than a nuisance.
It seems to me that liberalism is the greater threat. If it were not for liberalism, and its complete dominance of our culture and political systems, the West would know how to deal effectively with Islam and would takes such steps as necessary to render it harmless to us. Islam can not seriously hurt the West if we do not allow it to. It does not have the capability in the face of strong proactive measures by the Western nations. We are still the powers on this earth, and will remain so for a long time if we actively choose to do so.
VFR’s style is not to capitalize liberalism. Many readers do capitalize it, and I generally uncapitalize it with a suite of macros I run on comments before they are posted.
Alan Roebuck writes:
If a society were completely to be taken over by liberalism, with the ruling classes able to do whatever they wished, all indications are that utter destruction would ensue, as the insane beliefs of liberalism would render human functioning impossible. We saw some of this happen in the Communist world. But if a society is taken over by Moslems, a non-Islamic remnant can survive, as has happened historically. For these reasons, one could identify liberalism as the greater menace.
But it’s not much comfort to imagine Christian America surviving as Dhimmis within an Islamic nation of North America.
Some also argue (correctly) that we could easily defend ourselves from Islam if we were not self-crippled by liberalism. They then conclude that liberalism is the greater menace.
But these two threats differ in kind as well as degree. Islam is a crude bully; liberalism is a seductive vice (I speak of society’s overall reaction; obviously the VFR crew are not much enticed by liberalism.) Long-term, liberalism is the greater enemy because it arises from within. But short-term, it is Islam, which kills quickly, which is the greater and more tangible danger.
Here’s another analogy: Liberalism is like cancer, in which the normal functioning of the body is perverted and turned against itself. The threat of cancer is comprehensive, but relatively slow. Islam is like a knife attack: When the body is threatened with being cut open, defending against this is the first order of business.
Perhaps, then, what I meant by calling Islam the greater threat was that it is the more urgent threat. As Lawrence has said, we cannot afford to wait to defeat liberalism before taking on Islam.
There is also the fact that too many conservatives, and too many people known as conservatives, seem sympathetic to Islam, or at least apathetic to its menace. Islam is more popular on the right than liberalism is, which adds to its danger.
Mark Jaws writes:
To me it is a no brainer. Liberalism is by far the greater danger. It is well entrenched and its tentacles are strangling all aspects of our culture. Now, are Moslems capable of running universities or credible news organizations, or for that matter producing anything on a world-class level? Not a chance. Maybe the Moslems could seize 8th century Spain and 16th century Hungary, but that was the zenith of their power. We have just witnessed how a few US divisions were capable of seizing the entire country of Iraq, a well-armed and well-educated country (by Islamic standards).
Lydia McGrew writes:
I wanted to add my perspective on the “which is the greater danger” thread regarding liberalism and Islam. It seems to me that these questions may be miscast. I think that the two evils are incommensurable. Each is worse than the other in some respects. I discuss this a bit in this old post of mine.
It seems to me that the greatest danger of making “greater evil” claims lies in the alliances such claims will tempt us to form. On the one hand, it would be a very dangerous idea for cultural conservatives to make common cause with Islam to fight the homosexual agenda, pornography, or abortion. Nor are any of your readers suggesting that we do so, but some cultural conservatives (such as Catholic writer Peter Kreeft) have suggested exactly that. On the other hand, it is also dangerous to make common cause with cultural liberals against Islam, since it can tempt us to seem to endorse the homosexual agenda and to pour anathemas on fellow cultural conservatives as allegedly bigots. I think Robert Spencer is falling into this trap to some extent recently with his distancing himself (even more than did Geert Wilders himself) from an anti-Islam group when that group turned out to be vehemently opposed to the homosexual agenda.
So we need to be careful of such comparative statements lest we start making alliances that limit our ability to criticize the other type of evil—either Islam or liberalism.
I completely agree.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 12, 2010 07:04 AM | Send
Another point is: our society is already liberal; it is not yet Islamic. Liberalism means slow death, and we’re living through that slow death now. But Islam means extinction. In that sense Islam represents a greater threat and I agree with Mr. Roebuck. Another point: the liberals are our fellow Westerners; they could conceivably give up their liberalism. But, with a relative handful of exceptions, Muslims are not going to give up Islam. So the West could conceivably be cured of liberalism, but once it becomes Islamized, it will be finished.