Friday, 15 February 2013
The Anti-Alarmist Argument in Defense of Islam

Andrew Bostom has recently published a deferential yet hard hitting  article which challenges the eminent and revered Mideast scholar, Bernard Lewis, regarding the strange head fake Lewis and many Mideast scholars give on the virulent anti-Semitism and  virulence against Christians and infidels generally as found in the Koran and in the actions of Mideastern based Islamic leadership. There is an interesting comment to the article. Interesting because I think it is a succinct presentation of the “anti-alarmist” position taken by those who shrug off current Islamic violence and promised violence against Jews and Christians as being typical of the story of mankind’s inhumanity to mankind as aided and abetted in the guise of  religion generally.

Let me just post one current fact to set the stage for the discussion. Since the “liberation” of Iraq Christians have been hounded, persecuted, their daughters kidnapped, their churches destroyed until their numbers have been decimated. For a register of the continuing brutality against non-Muslims in the Ummah and its peripheries see Raymond Ibrahim’s site.

Here is a presentation of the post.

Take a look at our own Christian history. Take a look at Charlemagne. He was a great military conqueror, and channeled this talent into the service of the church. He took over most of Western Europe and a fair bit of the east, he used military force to compel all his subject peoples to become Christian. What about the Inquisition? Torturing Muslims just because they were Muslims.

The Spanish in the New World destroyed temples to make their churches. “Christian nations have warred on each other non-stop, enslaved, booted out Jews and Muslims. So has Islam. There’s been little to choose from in history.”

Not only have Christian nations warred against each other, Islamic nations have warred against one another. It is basically a story of culturally oppressing those they have militarily conquered and asserting their own cultural superiority and dominance.

“In what empire have the vanquished not been second class citizens? People do not war on each other or enslave one another because of ideology or religion. Rather they often use these as an excuse to simply war, rape and steal, when prevented from preying on their own.”

“The Ottomans militarily subjugated all areas of the Muslim world formerly dominated by Arab Islam they could. That was not a friendly act against their ostensibly fellow Muslims. Timurlane (sic), reportedly a devout Muslim, defeated Bayezid at the Battle of Ankara, Bayezid defeated a Christian coalition at the Battle of Nicopolis before that. It’s a half dozen of one and six of the other.”

“People do not war on each other or enslave one another because of ideology or religion. Rather they often use these as an excuse to simply war, rape and steal, when prevented from preying on their own.“

The implication is that what we are dealing with is really just a story of man’s inhumanity to man and religion is used to aid and abet and justify mankind’s lust for power and domination.

“Naturally the empire builders culturally oppress those they have militarily conquered and assert their own cultural superiority and dominance.”

“The Jews and Christians are in the bull’s-eye of parts of Islamic culture because they represent the formerly vanquished, and Islam itself is based on events that cannot be separated from military conquest. Of course laws which manage conquered populations will figure prominently in such a culture.”

The post goes on to claim that the alarmist position is also absurd because the Islamic world has neither the power not the ideological cache to pose any real threat to Western nations.

There are basically three components to this anti-alarmist line of “reasoning”.

(1) The you-too component, (2) it’s just basically man’s inhumanity to man under the cover of religion, (3)  historically there is nothing to choose between Islam and Christianity in terms of violence.

(1) It has always puzzled me why the “you-too”, “who are you to talk” has any force at all regarding the subject at issue. Regardless of who does the accusation, the action(s) in reference is reprehensible or not own its own terms. The accuser does not, mirabile dictu, somehow  change the action(s). Fine.  I’m no one to talk. But what I’m talking about? How does that register? The claim that current Islam persecution of religious minorities and recruiting children and adults into suicide bombing schools  to maim and butcher  infidels is reprehensible, stands or falls regardless of who makes such a claim.

(2) Even  if it is just man’s inhumanity to man under the cover of religion, it does not follow that such inhumanity is not to be condemned. Under the guise of religion or not, people who call themselves Muslims are to be condemned for their actions. Moreover, that religion is not itself the motivating factor, when leader after leader of the Muslim world from the ayatollahs to the political leaders claim to the contrary openly and repeatedly, makes the burden of proof on those that claim that religion is just a cover.

(3) Look at the history? Ok. Western cultures have evolved. Which takes us to the here and now. That Islam and its leaders are so far removed from the current presentation and actions of current world religions, from Christianity to Hinduism, is precisely the issue. There is no Muslim leader, political or religious, that claims that Muslims are free to pick and choose what parts of the Koran they choose to follow. Islam has not evolved. That is the issue.

There is, of course, consolation in the anti-alarmist, Numanesque position. The “Oh there is no difference between them and the rest of us” frame of mind implies that there is no need to get excited and apprehensive - much less get into a defensive us-vs.-them mode.  Relax, just give them time and consideration and they will come around.  Of course it is possible that accommodation will temper  Islamic leaders in their rhetoric and actions against non-Islamic nations, peoples and cultures. But until then why gloss over their obvious and continuing inexcusable horrors that are being perpetrated in the name of Islam?

Posted on 02/15/2013 7:34 AM by Richard Butrick
15 Feb 2013
Hugh Fitzgerald

That all needed to be said, and needs to keep being said.

15 Feb 2013
Send an emailDavid Hayden

 Ditto.  Thanks Richard Butrick and Hugh Fitzgerald.

15 Feb 2013

Lewis is right. Anyone who is interested in the lives of jews under Muslims should look into the story of Salonika.

Of course this is widely ignored by the anti-Muslim movement since Islam must always bad, bad, bad (how could it be otherwise ?)

15 Feb 2013
Christina McIntosh

 Gavroche, above, has obviously not read Andrew Bostom's "The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism'.  Nor David Littman's new book, 'Exile in the Maghreb'.  Nor, for that matter, Maimonides' letter to the Jews of Yemen in which Moshe ben Maimon states plainly that it is the Arabs - the Muslims - who have persecuted Jews worse than anybody else ever did (and he was writing around 1200 AD).  Muslims - some Muslims - may have been nice to some Jews, at Salonika (when, and for how long? and are there Jews in Salonika today?  How many Jews are there in Turkey, and how safe are they?  How popular are antisemitic ideas in modern, rapidly re-Islamising Turkey?) swallow does not a summer make, and exceptions do not prove the rule.

My own view of the matter is that there is, on the one hand, human nature, which is very much inclined to what the church grimly calls Sin (though the church also recognises something that might be called conscience, and 'common grace').   On the other, there are assorted religions: some of which, like Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, appear to demand that in various ways human beings should live 'beyond' and 'against' what they commonly and woefully tend to do.  But then there is Islam which appears to me, on the other hand, from its canonical texts, and the documented behaviour of many Muslims, to unloose, sacralise, and even *command* behaviours that most other known human belief systems condemn as evil and wrong (even if their adherents frequently practise them anyway).  

It is one thing to rape and know as you do  that your religion does not sacralise it or command it; another, to rape and regard it as a holy and meritorious act. It is one thing to murder someone in defiance of the Sixth Commandment; it is quite another, to do so while ecstatically shouting allahu akbar and believing that the death of your murder victim is your personal ticket to paradise.

it is one thing to seduce or rape another man's wife if you are a Jew or a Christian who knows the commandment 'thou shalt not commit adultery'; it is something else again to be a Muslim who believes that if you rape an Infidel's wife and kidnap her and add her to your harem, this is not adultery, because her infidel marriage vows are somehow magically nullified by your act of kidnapping her.

Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews have frequently failed to 'live up' to the ethical demands of their religions; in so doing, they have been 'smaller' than their religions.

Muslims, on the other hand, have frequently throughout history enthusiastically and readily fulfilled the entirely - from the POV of non-Muslim victims - NON-ETHICAL commands of their cult (which, if anything, seems calculated to destroy what Christians call the 'voice of conscience', to erase empathy); but, nevertheless, the Christian concept of conscience and of common grace is confirmed by those brief moments where persons or even communities within the Ummah have behaved toward the non-Muslims - whom they are, by their cult, enjoined to hate and mistreat - in a manner that could be called decent and compassionate; when, that is, human beings who were Muslim acted against, or in defiance of, the evil core teachings of their cult, when what we would call their humanity has been bigger than their ugly cult-programming.

And Gavroche needs to read, and reflect upon, Mark Durie's exposition of the 'twelve bad ideas' that - if a person holds one or more of same - cripple people's ability to recognise the distinctive meaning and menace of Islam.

16 Feb 2013

I think of authors like Bostom as reductionist and essentialist (e.g. Islam is evil and I will ignore all evidence to the contrary since I have already decided that Islam is evil). This is why for example, Salonika, was for centuries the safest Jewish city in Europe but unfiortunately for some writers, it was under Muslim rule.  A balanced writer would discuss Salonika in the context of a study on Jewish life under Muslim rule. An anti-Muslim writer would spent days looking for a single example of a possible injustice committed against a jew under centuries of Muslim rule and reduce Salonika to that lone example. If that writer could not find an example, he would ignore Salonika. This is also why for example that Maimonides citation is always quoted by anti-Muslim writers as if it encapsulates the entirety of Jewish life under Islam. Why dont we mention for example his life in Egypt (also under Muslim rule)? Or why dont we mention that life for jews In Visigothic Spain was infinitely worse than what came with Muslim conquest (the forced conversion of Jewish children to Christianity)? 

I think Lewis is a true scholar with a balanced and scientific approach to the Islamic question.

ps. thanks for posting my comments by the way. Some NER writers refuse to post counter-arguments, which is strange since they appear to feel that their case against Islam and Muslims is strong.