The burning of the Institute d’Egypte, and what it means
The 200 year old Institute d’Egypte, housing 200,000 volumes, was destroyed by a fire-wielding Cairo mob on December 17. The feckless Daniel Pipes, who last winter and spring supported the “pro-democracy” overthrow of the Mubarak regime on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (he dismissed the prospects for Muslim democracy on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and on Sundays he wasn’t sure), is unhappy about the destruction of the library, where he hung out when he was imbibing his romantic love of Islam back in the ’70s. Of course he does not derive any lessons from the event, except to note that it fits a pattern of destructiveness of non-Muslim cultural artifacts that has extended throughout Muslim history. But from this pattern of destruction he derives no lesson. Remember, Pipes wrote just five year ago that the way to end Islamic radicalism was for Islam to regain its historic power and confidence, so that (in the words of Wilfred Smith which Pipes approvingly quoted) “Islamic society may once again flourish as a divinely guided society should and must.” Sounds like an endorsement of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Leaving aside the terminally confused Pipes (and I remain the only writer in the world who has pointed out his massive contradictions, no one else seems to care), let us turn to columnist Michael Walsh. Writing in today’s New York Post, Walsh repeats and expands on Pipes’s point about Islam’s destructiveness toward the cultures of the countries it dominates, and he does derive a lesson: that militant Islam’s “cultural jihad against the West will advance until we stop it,” that “in addition to the mortal threat militant Islam poses to the Western political system, it poses an even greater danger to our cultural history and that of non-Western cultures,” and that “Only a clear and unmistakable declaration by civilized nations—backed up with force, if necessary—can stem the tide of destructiveness.”
A declaration of what , backed by force directed to what end? Walsh does not say. He could have said that we must stop and reverse Muslim immigration into the West, so as to stop and reverse the growth of Muslim numbers and power in the West, but he does not say that, or remotely hint at that. Evidently he would sooner have us invade and make war on Muslim countries than peacefully prevent Muslims from coming here. But wait—isn’t making war on Muslim countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya), plus using our influence to topple the ruling regimes of Muslim countries (Egypt) in the name of democracy the very thing we’ve already been doing, the very thing that has helped liberate and empower the militant Islam that Walsh fears? Walsh is still intellectually asleep. Let me know when he shows a sign of consciousness.
I’m no happier than most people about the burning of a 200-year-old library, but Walsh’s proposed response, apart from being inadequate in the ways you pointed out, also seems to overlook the fact that if the Egyptian mobs want to burn down every library in their country, it’s not really our problem. (Rather hard on the Copts, whom I imagine were statistically disproportionate users of the library, but they should be probably be thinking about getting out of the country as soon as possible in any case, if they’ve somewhere better to go). Am I missing something?LA replies:
What if an Islamic Egyptian regime set about destroying, or rather defacing (since outright destruction would be impossible) the ancient Egyptian monuments? Ancient Egypt is a heritage belonging to the entire world. I think we would have to take some action to stop that.Ken Hechtman writes:
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a Pakistani Talib ten years ago. He wanted to know why “you people” (meaning Westerners) cared so much about the Bamiyan Buddhas. I answered that we don’t really, not that much, but we care a whole lot about the Pyramids and the Sphinx and Abu Simbel and our reaction to the destruction of the Buddhas was taken with Egypt very much in mind. If anyone in Egypt was thinking about destroying those sites, we’d want them to know now how personally we’d take it. Every grade school in the West teaches that ancient Egypt is the beginning of “our” history. We all learn the progression—Egypt, Greece, Rome, Medieval Europe, England, America … So even if Egyptian Muslims don’t want to acknowledge the Pyramids as their heritage and the people who built them as their ancestors, we do. Too few Egyptian Muslims understand that. They know that the Pyramids are a major tourist attraction. They don’t really know why.Paul T. writes:
You wrote: “What if an Islamic Egyptian regime set about destroying, or rather defacing (since outright destruction would be impossible) the ancient Egyptian monuments? Ancient Egypt is a heritage belonging to the entire world. I think we would have to take some action to stop that.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 29, 2011 09:02 AM | Send