Theodore Roosevelt on the prospects of Muslim liberalization

Paul K. writes:

The situation in “liberated” Egypt, where Muslims are attacking the Christian Copt minority and burning their churches, brings to mind observations former president Theodore Roosevelt made after visiting that country in 1910. Discussing the Egyptian Nationalist movement, which sought to expel the British imperialists, Roosevelt noted that while some of its leaders had liberal ideas, their views would not prevail. He wrote:

The real strength of the Nationalist movement in Egypt, however, lay not with these Levantines of the cafes, but with the mass of practically unchanged bigoted Moslems to whom the movement meant driving out the foreigner, plundering and slaying the local Christian, and a return to all the violence and corruption which festered under the old-style Moslem rule, whether Asiatic or African.

Roosevelt is condemned by many on the right as the original progressive, but on many issues he was quite clear-sighted..

LA replies:
A hundred years ago, the American leadership class clearly understood and forthrightly stated that the adherents of Islam were antithetical to us and our civilization. Today, our “leaders” tell us that Muslims are just like us, and that if we believe otherwise we are morally defective and un-American. As I’ve written:

What would have been inconceivable 70 or 80 years ago is unquestionable today. A society that 70 years ago wouldn’t have dreamed of admitting large numbers of Muslims, today doesn’t dream of reducing, let alone stopping, the immigration of Muslims.

- end of initial entry -

David G. writes:

As an exclamation point to your recent comments I would simply add the following. In Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe he cites both Ernest Renan in 1883 and Hilaire Belloc in 1938 as examples of European intellectuals who warned that the West should be neither impressed by Islam or forgetful of it. Renan is quoted as follows:

Those liberals who defend Islam do not know Islam. Islam is the seamless union of the spiritual and the temporal, it is the reign of dogma, it is the heaviest chain mankind has ever borne. In the early Middle Ages, Islam tolerated philosophy because it could not stop it. It could not stop it because it was as yet disorganized, and poorly armed for terror … But as soon as Islam had a mass of ardent believers at its disposal, it destroyed everything in its path. Religious terror and hypocrisy were the order of the day. Islam has been liberal when weak, and violent when strong. Let us not give it credit for what was merely unable to suppress.

Belloc is quoted as follows:

[Westerners] have forgotten all about Islam. They never come in contact with it. They take for granted that it is decaying, and that, anyway, it is just a foreign religion which will not concern them. It is, as a fact, the most formidable and persistent enemy which our civilization has had, and may at any moment become as large a menace in the future as it has been in the past … It has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons and grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.

Caldwell states that Belloc’s general thoughts on Islam were only those of most Europeans in most eras. And, as what I’m sure is an unintended double entendre, Caldwell closes the section by writing, “The first European generations in 1,300 years that did not see Islam as a threat turned out to be the last ones.” (That’s us!)

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 16, 2011 04:13 PM | Send

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