The Rhetoric of Appeasement

by Rebecca Bynum (Aug. 2007)


The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language --Emerson


Lately, the American public has been bombarded by propaganda of the most insidious kind. Propaganda that tells us not only that we needn’t take sides in the current conflict with Islam, but that tells us there are, in fact, no sides to take.

This kind of thinking stems directly from material secularism, the very secularism that so many are convinced will be bulwark against religious totalitarianism, but in fact is a weakness so fatal it cannot help but deliver humanity directly into totalitarian hands, including the grasping hands of Islam. Modern secularism has, over the last century, consistently undermined the concept of objective truth and has relegated value to the realm of the subjective, meaning in its current usage, the fanciful or the unreal.  Furthermore, it has corrupted vocabulary, so that words no longer have a fixed meaning: we each have “our own truth” and words can mean whatever we want them to mean depending on the whim, or the politics, of the moment. Consider how the word "fascism" is used today. One might think it a synonym for "conservative."

Sir Richard Livingstone, writing in 1945, observed that citizens of the Western world “do not know the meaning of certain words, which had assumed to belong to the permanent vocabulary of mankind, certain ideals which, if ignored in practice under pressure, were accepted in theory. The least important of these words is Freedom. The most important are Justice, Mercy, and Truth. In the past we have slurred this revolution over as a difference in ‘ideology.’ In fact it is the greatest transformation that the world has undergone, since, in Palestine or Greece, these ideals came into being or at least were recognized as principles of conduct.” (The Future in Education, pgs. 109-110)

In July, a week-long series called Muslims Speak Out ran in the Washington Post. At the same time, its affiliated publication, Newsweek, ran a cover story on Islam in America in what seemed to be a coordinated effort by the editors to convince Americans that Islam is a religion like any other and Muslim immigrants are no different from Catholic or Jewish immigrants in our past. They seem to be making a concerted effort to blur distinctions and conceal definitions in a mass of amorphous new-age rhetoric, the kind that belongs more on The Oprah Show than in newspapers and news magazines. But it makes one wonder, when it comes to the coverage of religion at any rate, if the editors know the difference.

The spirit of our age is plainly that of democratic equalitarianism. It seems that differences between people, or peoples, must be discounted and divisions avoided at all costs. Truth is sacrificed to harmony, Mercy to pragmatism and Justice to utilitarianism. The age of the individual has long past. This is the age of “community.” 

Language, as a metaphysical system of symbols, ideas, meanings and values, is by its very nature “sermonic” (to quote Richard Weaver). As such, it cannot help but carry us in one direction or another with regard to value.

The point at issue is explained by a fundamental proposition of Aquinas: “Every form is accompanied by an inclination.” Now language is a system of forms, which both singly and collectively have this inclination or intention…

Since language expresses tendency and tendency has direction, those who differ over tendency can remain at harmony only in two ways: (1) by developing a complacency which makes possible the ignoring of contradictions and (2) by referring to first principles, which will finally remove the difference at the expense of one side. If truth exists and is attainable by man, it is not to be expected that there will be unison among those who have different degrees of it. This is one of the painful conditions of existence which the bourgeoisie like to shut from their sight. (Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences, pgs. 153-154)

The Washington Post series on Islam is a telling example of the bourgeoisie shutting truth from their sight. The fact that language is no longer the bearer of fixed meanings makes this deception all the easier. As the editors Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn explain:

Put bluntly and broadly, many people today wish to portray Islam as a peaceful faith with a violent few, arguing that “jihad” (literally, “struggle”) is a spiritual term encompassing the Muslim’s daily religious life and that it can only be used for armed struggles that are defensive. On the other end of the spectrum are those who believe Islam is a violent faith in which jihad is a perpetual militaristic element. The truth, it seems reasonable to say, lies somewhere in between. Believers of all kinds have killed in the name of their conception of God, or of the gods. Historically, some of the blood has been shed in what some traditions think of as “just wars,” some in unjustifiable atrocities, some in battles of conquest. And yet believers of all kinds have done great good in the name of their conception of God, or of the gods, in acts of mercy, charity and liberation. (Why ‘Muslims Speak Out’ Matters)

“The truth lies somewhere in between.” There is not better illustration of the spirit the age we live in. Contradictions must be ignored in order to avoid the pain of having to choose, and these editors have decided to buttress this bourgeois complacency.

The above statement rests on the entirely unfounded assumption that all religions are of equal consequence to mankind. This is especially odd since the great demonstration project of Islamic societies is in full swing. Witnessing Islam in action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should be enough to show all but the most willfully blind, that Islamic societies are vastly different from Christian, Buddhist or Hindu ones. And nothing is as misleading as the current Administration effort to invoke Japanese culture as a parallel.

The clear doctrine of Islam itself, they tell us, should to be put to one side, and the profound differences between Islam and Christianity should not even be acknowledged for the sake of the peace and the greater good. Former President Jimmy Carter complacently asserts:

There is no clear or uniform distinction regarding human rights between Christian and Islamic societies. Adherents of both would be wise to heed the commandment to look first to our own shortcomings before harshly judging our neighbors. We must not demonize each other. (People of Faith Share Much Common Ground)

Even though Islam asserts that there is a fundamental inequality between the souls of Muslims and non-Muslims, and that Allah purposefully created human beings in a state of inequality, with basic repercussions with regard to the concept of human rights, (see The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam in contrast to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both documents Mr. Carter must surely be aware of) our former President asserts that we must refrain from “judging our neighbors” or even drawing distinctions over fundamental differences in our world views. If we see no evil, the former President seems to be saying, evil will magically cease to exist. This is the reasoning of children. 

The former (and very short-term) President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, demonstrates how thoroughly he has imbibed secular western new-age attitudes as an overlay to his Islam:

The personal experiences of any one human being can never be exactly identical with those of anyone else. These experiences invariably color the understanding and perceptions of those who have them, within the context of their respective religious traditions. I myself have undergone a continual process of transformation regarding my personal understanding of Islam from the time of earliest childhood until today. From this I conclude that the Islam which I conceive and experience is unique to me, and may rightly be termed, “My Islam.” The character of My Islam is the outgrowth of my cumulative personal experience, which it may be appropriate to share, but never to force upon others. Should I try to force my personal understanding of Islam and its teachings upon others, the result will inevitably be a serious “dislocation” for those so affected, annihilating the perceived beauty and joy of their own respective opinions…

The desire for Our Islam appears to be inherent in the nature of most Muslims. Yet the only realistic way to establish such a phenomenon is for My Islam and Your Islam to peacefully coexist in mutual respect and toleration, without trying to annihilate our differences. Rather than seek to repress or destroy the nearly infinite, beautiful variety of God’s creation, we would be better advised to pursue al-jihad al-akbar and annihilate our own egos, so that we may unite in a common spiritual apprehension of the One – which gives rise to inner peace and a joyful tolerance of differences here on earth. (My Islam, Your Islam, Our Islam, Their Islam)

In other words, the actual doctrines or tenets of Islam (the words contained in the Qur’an, Hadith and Sira) are irrelevant. Each individual, we are told, has his own perception of Islam, so Islam can be whatever Muslims want it to be, because there is no objective truth about Islam or religion in general. Religion is portrayed as an entirely individual subjective experience, the soothing effect of a bedtime story for adults, with nothing concrete or objective about it. This view is echoed by another thoroughly modern Muslim, Princess Rania of Jordan:

All faith, after all, is based on an intensely personal, private relationship with God. And I believe that if we are to build true understanding among and within our societies, we must approach each other as fellow human beings, not representatives of one religion or another… Perhaps that is why I have never been preoccupied with defining “the true meaning” of Islam. (The True Meaning of Islam)

No, we must not trace the sharp and disturbing lines of Islam and we certainly mustn’t define it in Western terms, as that wouldn’t be respectful of others. It would be rude and it might even be..."racist." Here is The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane telling us that the only thing we need to know about Islam is that it is monotheistic (which, coincidentally, is the only superficiality Islam has in common with Judaism and Christianity):

Most importantly we are monotheistic, believing in “the one God” that we all share in common. There are those in both Christianity and Judaism who do not believe that we share the same God. But in truth, we see our common connection with the same God to be critical in interfaith dialogue, and in our understanding of each others Holy Books. There can be no meaningful inter-faith engagement and dialogue unless we come to the table, Muslims, Jews and Christians with this as our initial binding theological truth. We are in fact the sons and daughters of Abraham, the first monotheist. (Equals Under God)

In other words, the reason Reverend Bryson insists we “share the same God” is he thinks that is the only way interfaith dialogue can progress. The actual nature of God as envisioned by different religions seems to him to be irrelevant. We must not seek definition, only common ground, no matter how narrow that strip of real estate might be. Rabbi Bruce Lustig’s devotion to interfaith dialogue is no less intense. Indeed it would be hard to find a more fervent declaration than that Lustig offers that doctrine is irrelevant interfaith understanding:

Basic to Judaism, Christianity and Islam is monotheism, the belief in one god. In each faith, the relationship to the one God is demonstrated not only in a life of prayer and devotion, but, more importantly, in how one lives his or her life. How we act in this world is central to all three faiths; the philosophical and theological tenets of the faith are meaningless unless they are demonstrated in daily life. How we treat each other as human beings, all children of one God “created in the Divine image” is more important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam than what is written in our sacred books or professed by our clerics. Each faith emphasizes social justice, partnering with God to make our world a more just and compassionate world--how we care for the widow, the orphan, the poor and the powerless is the measure of our faith. The words that grace the entrance to our congregation from Micah 6:8: “Oh man what is good and what is required of you--to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God” - these very words may not be found at the door of the mosque or the church but they are in common upon the heart of every Jew, Christian and Muslim. (Reconciled in Relationship)

Rabbi lustig, one realizes, simply assumes the relationship between God and man (“all children of one God”) is the same in Islam as it is in Judaism and Christianity. In actuality the relationship between God and man in Islam is that of master and slave.

And finally, here is an illustration of a complete disconnect from reality by Kofi Annan:

Faiths, in themselves, do not generate hatred or violence. It is the exploitation of faith for political ends that has created hostility among the faithful. (Bridging the Divide)

In all these declarations the unwritten assumption is that all “faiths,” meaning, I suppose, religions, are equal and good, even though there is no rule of logic to prevent the concept of evil in religion. Certainly, evil in Christian practice has been minutely analyzed in the west. But, the idea that Islam might promote evil is portrayed as beyond contemplation even though by any objective standard, it is productive of evil action on a massive and historic scale.

It seems, too, that in order to be humanly satisfying, philosophy needs to take into account origins, actuals and potentials (past, present and future). Materialism, for example, is a closed system limiting reality to the material world, its explanation of past and present is secure, however, by shearing away teleology, materialism leaves both the individual and society directionless, which may explain the appeal of Marxism which gave direction to materialism. In fact, Islam does the same thing.

Analysis of Islam will quickly yield the fact that, like materialism, it is a closed system of thought with logic operating within a limited set of constraints. It might even be said that Islam is simply materialism with the addition of direction (increasing perfection of Islamic practice both personally and socially) and certainty of destiny (destiny of the individual in an eternal Islamic Paradise, and destiny of society in a temporal Islamic Paradise).

In Islam, Paradise is given to the individual as a reward, like a bone to a dog. Allah himself is not conceived as either approachable or attainable, even in the afterlife. There is no bridge between God and man in Islam, which was one of the main points the Pope tried to make at Regensburg, but which was ignored in the melee over his use of an ancient quotation.

Here is a major difference between Islam and Christianity that needs to be understood. For Christians, following the teaching and example of Christ leads one closer to God, but under Islam, growing closer to Allah is not possible because he is portrayed as absolutely transcendent and ultimately unknowable. Even in the supposed “paradise” of Islam, man is still shut away from God and truth is not revealed.

It is also useful to remember that the goal of Islam is not to advance human happiness, morality or salvation, but to advance Islam itself, regardless of the cost to human happiness, morality and salvation.

True religion, on the other hand, is an open system with a direction (god-ward) for both society and the individual, but without a defined end point. In true religious systems, God is approachable, that is, the individual may self-identify with the attributes of God (Truth, Beauty and Goodness) in order to grow closer to God and, at the same time, increase in righteousness, peace and happiness. Variations on this theme are fairly universal in religion with the glaring exception of Islam.

Socialism and Islam both envision a material end-point when, under world socialism or world Islam, utopia is realized. True religious systems allow for growth (both for society and the individual) which is open-ended, owing to the perceived nature of God as being infinite and eternal. In Islam, Allah has decreed “this far and no farther,” and thus both man and his society are conceived as essentially unprogressive: indeed, evolution is an abhorrent idea. This world view cannot help but have real consequences in human societies, consequences we see from Thailand to Iran and from Bosnia to Sudan.

Defining religions in this way does not “create divisions” (for they are pre-existent) but rather helps to make the reality of these religions more intelligible. The pretence that to ignore differences aids understanding is pure sophistry and those engaging in it are self-deluded if they think they serve humanity well.


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