ZenPundit
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
LESS A CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS THAN CIVILIZATION'S UNIVERSAL STRUGGLE AGAINST BARBARISM

At Whirledview, Patricia Lee Sharpe has an outstanding post on the larger issue that the so-called "cartoon crisis", partly genuine and partly orchestrated political theater, epitomizes:

"Let’s broaden the context for any discussion of the political cartoons that cropped up in Denmark last September. Let look back to a moment in the very recent past when much of the world was trying to prevent a stunning act of iconoclasm.

Certain Muslims had threatened to destroy some precious images belonging to another religion. Buddhists protested, because the images under threat were images of Buddha. Art lovers protested because the sculptures, they said, were an ancient and irreplaceable human heritage.

What happened? The Taliban of Afghanistan ignored all appeals. They shattered the huge Buddha statues at Bamian. They were also set on destroying all the Buddhist materials at the national museum in Kabul. Fortunately museum officials (also Muslims, please note) had done their best to hide or disguise the vulnerable items and many have survived to serve their proper function as part of the history of Afghanistan. (Note: the Taliban could have begged the museums of the world to remove the objectionable items (small or bulky) from Afghanistan, but total destruction not preservation

...The current demand to protect “religious sensibilities or sensitivities” would be far more credible if there were more remorse in the Muslim world over the destruction of the Bamian treasures. In addition, the “popular” nature of the protesting is highly suspect. There had been little or no violence until a gathering of Muslim heads of state in Mecca in December produced an inflammatory joint statement."


Very true. Islamic civilization has an amazing cultural heritage, of incredible breadth and diversity stretching back almost fourteen-hundred years. Most Muslims, as Juan Cole pointed out, did not engage in violent protest over cartoons in a Danish newspaper. Neither the elite nor the devout middle-class of the Muslim world are embassy burners or jihadists. These things should be remembered.

But as Germany, once the apex of European culture and science, fell into the hands of a brutal and barbaric political minority, the Muslim world appears to be daunted by the barabarism of the minority of postmodern, neo-Salafi radicals with their engineering degrees from German universities and the takfiri -venom rhetoric of the Mosque-addict. These fanatics oppose civilization itself, be it in the form of a tolerant, cosmolpolitan, modernizing Islamic state or the secular West. What I wrote at the time of the destruction of the Buddhist statues of Bamian holds true today:

"What has stirred the world's wrath over the Buddhist statues is the Taliban's sheer defiance of not only civilizational norms but itscontemptuous rejection of civilization itself, of which the impulse tocreate and preserve art for its own sake is an exemplary value. A morecalculated gesture of purified barbarism would be hard to imagine. Notthat this is surprising because the Taliban are in fact unreconstructed tribal barbarians even if they may have laptops. cell phones and
mechanized armor at their disposal. The Taliban does not oppose Western
civilization so much as they do any complex and rationally ordered society
that generates ideas, Buddhism for example, foreign to their narrow and
primitive cultural horizons. The Taliban's wanton destruction merited the near unanimous outrage of nations that it received."

The Jihadi -Takfiri radicals by their words and deeds have marked themselves as the enemy of all mankind. We can neither ignore them nor make concessions on the nature of Western society to their grandiose, world-historical, totalitarian claims on behalf of Islam, a religion they interpret with the greatest selectivity to meet their current political need. The devout middle class of the Muslim world, ultimately, will have to choose where to throw in their lot, with a global modernity which can accomodate ascetic piety if it does not trouble others holding different views or with the mentality of the suicide belt and the videotaped beheading.

There is no third way.

ADDENDUM:

Oliver Roy on the Cartoon crisis ( Hat tip: the UK Spectator magazine)
 
Comments:
It doesn't help when a minority in the West is screaming that Islam itself is barbaric, immature and savage. If we are to call moderate Muslims to check their irrational elements, shouldn't we first do the same to ours?
 
" If we are to call moderate Muslims to check their irrational elements, shouldn't we first do the same to ours?"

If, like as in Northern Ireland once upon a time, there was a remote equivalence in behavior, numbers and rhetoric between the two sides, I'd say yes.

Factually however there isn't that kind of equivalence. If Daniel Pipes was leading a LGF Brigades that was firebombing mosques, beheading Imams, flying planes into buildings, murdering Muslim tourists on vacation and had millions of sympathizers that would be equivalent.

Now, I've condemned Pipes here for his ugly, broadbrush suggestions of mass treason on the part of Muslim Americans. I've questioned him on other sites regarding his views ( and received no response). That is how to deal with ppl like that.

But in the end Pipes essentially is reacting to a major phenomena within the Muslim world that causes weekly if not daily outrages. Absent that phenomena no one would ever have heard of the man.
 
Mark

First, glad you have called Pipes on the carpet.

An item from your quote annoys me: "The current demand to protect “religious sensibilities or sensitivities” would be far more credible if there were more remorse in the Muslim world over the destruction of the Bamian treasures."

What does this mean?

It strikes me as part of the general idiot rhetoric such as "moderate Muslims need to do X" - how on earth does one judge the "remorse" of the Muslim world - and why should the entire Muslim world have to feel remorse over the Taleban? As far as I could tell, living in the Muslim world at the time, most Arab Muslims were in fact properly horrified by the Taleban hick barbarities.

This kind of commentary is... silly.

As a general issue, conciousness in the Islamic world could be higher, but this is a false standard to hold "the Muslim world" to.

Regardless, on your overall comment, I agree.
 
Actually, on reflexion, I don't.

The closing: he devout middle class of the Muslim world, ultimately, will have to choose where to throw in their lot, with a global modernity which can accomodate ascetic piety if it does not trouble others holding different views or with the mentality of the suicide belt and the videotaped beheading.

There is no third way.


I am not sure I see the dichotomy in that light.

Or perhaps I do, but your terms throw me off.

Mind you, I am deeply concerned with the dialogue with what I labelled 'the pious middle' of the Islamic world - partly as I live with it, partly as I do business, but as essentially the choices of the pious middle help determine whether the takfiri murderers are pushed into the fringes (as has slowly happened in Algeria) or whether they gain force (as is happening in Iraq - for the moment).

It may be the end game is indeed the stark choice, but the more essential question, which I tried to start talking about in my post, Open Discussion: MENA, Muslim Minorities & Moderation, is how does one get there.

I am not clear as on one hand I am sure by personal experience that the 'pious middle' is fully capable of siding against the takfiri murderers. At the same time, the reaction of people like Andrew Sullivan is exactely the sort of thing that tends to drive wedges.
 
Hi Col-

I'm not exactly sure "how" to get there in a way that has a "win-win" outcome - only that there is one and a lot of other less palatable alternatives.

Your point with Algeria is apt. The Emirate radicals there ultimately turned Takfiri on their own middle-class supporters and lost the support of even the Salafi kooks in the Muslim world. I think if these movements are politically cornered and frustrated on their home grounds this might be a dynamic that repeats itself. You can see that tendency festering in Zarqawi already and the alienation he is creating in some Sunnis.

But cornering the Algerian extremists required an unholy amount of spilled blood.
 
Mark:

My basic departing point is that it is necessary to talk to the "pious middle" who may range from mildly Islamist to even Salafi.

The habit of wanting only to talk to / direct engagement toward the highly Westernised secularised elites is a loser. It just doesn't get at the right crowd, and frankly the Westernised secularists are a marginal crowd. Rather like Libertarians in the US I should think. Right ideas, sometimes influential, but just not at the heart of things.

Engaging the pious, non-secular opinion is starting from near zero, I am fairly certain that at least understanding it a bit better is already a win insofar as some of the tone deaf idiocy that came out in re Iraq, for example, or the surprise re Hamas would have been tempered.
 
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