Us and Muslims
“What should be the opinion of Americans and Westerners about these elections? In a sane world, we would not have any opinion about them. They would not concern us.”
We really do see things differently. I say that in a sane world we would consider an election in Egypt or Libya or Tunisia to be just as real and meaningful and worth paying attention to as one in England or France or Germany.
That you feel that way goes without saying. This is like you telling me that you believe in liberalism.
Ken Hechtman replies:
Let me put it this way. I wouldn’t have found it eye-opening if we were cheering for different teams. What I find a bit eye-opening is that you’re annoyed the game is on TV at all.
That’s right. In a sane world, the internal affairs of Muslim countries would be off our radar screen. I say this not because I don’t care about certain people, but because, as I’ve been explaining for the last many years (especially here, and more particularly here), ANY close involvement with or concern about Muslims cannot help but deeply screw us up.
- end of initial entry -
Maybe you thought I was just joking when I said to the Muslims (adapting Dylan):
I don’t want to meet your kin,
Make you spin or do you in,
Or select you or dissect you,
Or inspect you or reject you.
All I really want to do
Is be far away from you.
I don’t want to fake you out,
Take or shake or forsake you out,
I ain’t lookin’ for you to feel like me,
See like me or be like me.
All I really want to do
Is be far away from you.
Here is the relevant section from “The Search for Moderate Islam, Part II” (FrontPage Magazine, January 28, 2005), which I linked in the initial entry:
While the analogy [between the search for moderate Islam and the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”] is not perfect (most importantly, the Oslo “peace process” included unrepentant terrorists, while Pipes is firm on the fact that we must have nothing to do with radicals or terrorists), the Oslo process nevertheless demonstrates the kinds of perplexities into which the search for a moderate Islam must lead us. The Palestinian leadership, corresponding in our analogy to the jihadist core of Islam under its “moderate” clothing, never wanted peace on terms that were compatible with Israel’s survival. In order to keep the process alive, the Israelis systematically ignored the Palestinians’ radical lack of compliance with their obligations under the Oslo Accords and treated them as though they were civilized men engaged in good-faith discussions. The effect of such conciliation was to liberate Palestinian aggression as never before. Within a few months of the signing of the Oslo agreement, the first suicide bombings of Israeli buses began. This initiated a pattern that lasted throughout the years of the “peace” process, in which intensified suicide bombings would be followed by Israeli crack-downs on the Palestinians, which in turn would lead to a quieting of terror, until the Israelis would once again get their hopes up and let their guard down, and the suicide mass-murders would re-commence.
- end of initial entry -
Similarly, if we embrace the idea that moderate Islam is the cure for extremist Islam, we will have to carry out a cultural peace process, in which we strive to build up the “moderate” Muslims (whether in our own country or in the Mideast) and turn them into leaders of the Islamic community. The path is filled with punji traps. In light of Pipes’s desolating observation that we often cannot even tell a moderate from a radical, our efforts to raise the influence of “moderate” Muslims—many of whom will turn out not to be moderate—will simply mean giving Muslims qua Muslims more caché and power in our society, with their demands and perhaps their threats ever increasing, while we get more and more entangled in the process of instructing, exhorting, bribing, and (maybe) changing them, even as we keep desperately assuring ourselves that moderate Muslim solution will work in the long run.
Because the search for moderate Muslims requires us not to see the other side as it really is, we must replace truthful speech with politically correct slogans that demoralize us and encourage our enemies. For example, almost every time Pipes criticizes radical Muslims, he must—in order to prove that he’s not a bigot and that he still believes in an ecumenic resolution—assure his audience that “moderate Islam is the answer.” Varieties of this double message, repeated constantly by the government and the intelligentsia, create deep confusion and ambivalence in the public mind. On one hand we’re being told that radical Muslims are a remorseless wicked enemy; on the other hand, we’re being told that almost all Muslims are moderate and harmless, and that we are bigoted if we think otherwise. The net effect of these two contradictory statements is to establish the unassailable legitimacy of Islam in our country. But, since there is no moderate Islam, the Islam that gets legitimized will, inevitably, be radical Islam. [LA notes, Nov. 23, 2011: Hasn’t my prediction, made in January 2005, been borne out? We started off saying that we supported moderate Muslims and rejected radical Muslims. But later in 2005 we pushed Israel to include Hamas in the Palestinian Authority election, which resulted in Hamas winning majority control of the PA legislature and then taking over Gaza; and by 2011 we were supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al Qaeda affiliates in Libya.]
The cultural peace process would distract and weaken us in other ways. Instead of spending our energy building up our own society and culture, which is within our power to do, we would be attempting to build up the Muslims’ society and culture, which is not within our power to do. We would be gambling our freedom and survival on the chance that we can bring something into existence that has never existed. We would be making our safety contingent on whether the moderate Muslims can be what we want them to be. We would keep gazing expectantly at each Muslim as a potential moderate, and averting our eyes when he turned out not to be one—just as the leaders of Israel and the U.S. kept closing their eyes to the real nature of the Palestinians for all those years and are closing them still. We would have to keep refusing to acknowledge failure, because that would wreck our fantasy of an ecumenic and peaceful world. Regardless of all disappointments, we will still keep telling ourselves that some wonderful “moderates” are just around the corner and that we have to reach out to them.
In the end, our refusal to face the truth about Muslims, our flattery of non-moderate Moslems as “moderates,” will convince them that we are saps lacking the wit and will to defend ourselves, which will increase their aggression against us. Like the Marxist dream with its 150 years on the road to nowhere, our dream of a moderate Islam will inevitably collapse one day, and the price might be nearly as high.
[end of excerpt from “The Search for Moderate Islam.”]
Mark Jaws writes:
Excellent article on the non-existence of moderate Islam. On most matters, I think just as you do, but you are more capable in expressing your thoughts. I will tell you Don Lorenzo, it is a curse to be as we are and to live in such a society where reason and truth are as evasive as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
James R. writes:
Ken Hechtman wrote:
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 23, 2011 08:44 PM | Send
“I wouldn’t have found it eye-opening if we were cheering for different teams.”
This is one thing I think liberals don’t understand about conservatives. While in many ways they are “opposing teams” and are analogs of each other, at bottom they aren’t. When I was a liberal I mostly thought this way. But I wonder what “team” Mr. Hechtman thought you might be “cheering for” in Egypt? Since he reads you he should know it’s not the Muslim Brotherhood; and he knows you wouldn’t want liberalism inflicted on your worst enemies, so that leaves out the urban secular liberal team he’s rooting for (and, I admit, I might root for as being the “least worst of a bad lot,” if I thought they had a prayer. But, then, I’m less of a traditionalist than you, and I must admit my views are still a bit incoherent).
I suppose you might cheer for the Copts but what chance have they got? Other than to flee? (By the way, the Copts might be an example of what would happen to us if we were to adopt the meek, low-tech, pose-no-threat-to-the-dominant-left approach recommended by one commenter recently, using South Africa as an example).
But the larger point is that traditionalist conservatism is not a global phenomenon; a traditionalist in America or Europe is not the same thing as a traditionalist in Egypt or China. They may have to make common cause together from time to time in venues like the UN to work together to combat transnationalist measures that liberalism, which is a universal phenomenon, wants to inflict upon all of them. This gives short-sighted “conservatives” the mistaken belief that conservatism can be a global phenomenon (see the theories of Ramesh Ponnuru on uniting with conservative Muslims against liberals), but at bottom each traditionalism is distinct: they aren’t analogs to liberalism and don’t have a dog in every fight each other has.
Of course, Moldbug would say otherwise.