LESS A CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS THAN CIVILIZATION'S UNIVERSAL STRUGGLE AGAINST BARBARISM
, 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 andmechanized armor at their disposal. The Taliban does not oppose Westerncivilization so much as they do any complex and rationally ordered societythat generates ideas, Buddhism for example, foreign to their narrow andprimitive 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