The Weakness of Islam and the Evolution Toward Human Rights

Let me by very clear.  In the US, Islam is one faith among many; Muslims in the US are every bit as technologically sophisticated, committed to democracy, and citizens of a modern, pluralistic nation as are their Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and atheist neighbors.  American Muslims in many ways are reflective of American culture.  They are “us.”

But, the weakness of Islam is an interesting challenge, captured in this phrase by Joshua Micah Marshall:

Indeed, the weakness of the world of Islam–an ideology and culture that sees itself not only as superior to the West and the world’s other great civilizations but as properly in the vanguard of history–is the kernel of the threat it poses, the heart of violent Islamism’s toxicity. At the beginning of the 21st century most of the world is, for better or worse, rushing along the current of globalization. By any measure, the world of Islam lags far behind. With the exception of a few countries with vast amounts of wealth based on natural resources, it is impoverished and trailing the rest of the world on numerous fronts. Where is the great Muslim power? There is none. Where is the world of Islam’s advanced technology-driven economy? There is none.

It’s a paradox for which there isn’t an easy answer.

The dissonance between the Islamic world’s historic self-conception and present-day reality is what produces so much of the rage in the Middle East, which grows cancerous when filtered into various extremist ideologies. Much of the rest is produced by Muslims who exist both in this world of Islam and in the very different world of the West, adding a further toxic blend to the mix–what historians once called “colonial rage.” Unlike fascism or communism, militant Islam isn’t a rising power, but a threat precisely because of its dysfunction and weakness.

If it weren’t for the fact that fanatical Islamist terrorists might get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, the sad fact is that few would even care. Of course, the fact that they could get their hands on weapons of mass destruction is a serious caveat. But it does place the issue in a certain context. It is a grave threat, but in a very specific, physical way–a threat to liberal societies but hardly the kind of ideological or political threat that great totalitarianisms posed a half a century ago. Islamist fanatics might destroy a whole city in the West, a catastrophic event. But they’ll never conquer or subvert a country. And this is the heart of the difference. To paraphrase Arthur Schlesinger, Islamism is a danger to the West but hardly a danger in the West–or China, or Latin America, or anywhere else where Islam is not already the dominant religion.

With Osama bin Laden’s death and al Qaeda’s threats of revenge, it seems a good time to put things into context.  To whom does bin Laden’s version of Islam appeal?  Perhaps not ironically, the reason so many in the West have taken the various isms of the last century seriously is that they were Western – they at least pretended to offer solutions to Western problems.  To some people in the 30s, fascism represented perhaps the only possible defense against socialism; to later thinkers, socialism seemed to offer a response to the problems of corporate capitalism and social inequality.  Who, aside from some pathetic losers and a handful of immigrants from Islamic nations, does radical Islam appeal to in the West?  It self-evidently offers no solutions to Western problems.

The basic impulse towards fundamentalism is the same everywhere. Fundamentalism, for all its flaws, weaknesses, bigotries, lies and failings, doesn’t preach to its followers that they must destroy us – it preaches they must convert us.  Fundamentalism is built on a complex attitude of simultaneously accepting and rejecting the modern world (fundamentalists argue for the factual accuracy of scripture because they accept the premise that facts matter, as for example).  The reason, for example, that so many anti-abortion laws require all kinds of increasingly absurd demands that women have ultrasounds and listen to the fetal heartbeat and have counseling about how fetuses are all human and so on is that most anti-abortion activists are trying to intellectually persuade people to change their actions not using violence to accomplish that end.

A radical faith that preaches destruction is many things but it is not mere fundamentalism.  Like the people who murder doctors who perform abortions or who blow up clinics with people in them, radical muslims are dressing up their hatred with faith, using faith as a cover for their own twisted failings as persons.  The people who bomb abortion clinics or murder doctors may get intellectual cover from the rest of the anti-abortion movement, but they are using the movement for their own ends; they’d be killing someone else if they hadn’t latched onto abortion as their issue.

Good, bad or ugly, such individuals will probably always be with us.  Our challenge is to treat them as we’d treat a dangerous virus – isolate it, immunize people against it and manage the symptoms.  We cannot meet their howling barbarism with our own howling barbarism.  Tempting as it may be, we cannot go blow for blow with them in the realm of barbaric misbehavior; they’ll always win that battle.

We can, however, reach out to the democratic movements in various Islamic nations, encourage the people there, let them know we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their efforts to move into a democratic, egalitarian, global future.  This isn’t a battle of civilizations, it is instead an evolution of human rights, a recognition that so long as one person is in chains, the rest of us are not free.

  1. #1 by brewski on May 9, 2011 - 8:12 pm

    So let me summarize:
    We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with twisted violent extemists. We want to encourage democracy in the MIddle East.

    Sounds exactly like the “Freedom Agenda”

    Thanks Glenden “W” Brown.

    • #2 by Glenden Brown on May 9, 2011 - 8:47 pm

      Aw, brewski. It took you how many days to think up that “witty” reply? Your slipping in your dotage.

  2. #3 by brewski on May 10, 2011 - 8:59 am

    Three seconds.

    • #4 by Glenden Brown on May 10, 2011 - 12:07 pm

      Oh. That’s so sad. Is that what passes for wit in your social circle? You know, the social circle where your wife is going to be buried in a Y shaped coffin so the neighbors can recognize her.

  3. #5 by brewski on May 10, 2011 - 1:29 pm

    Go put your knee pads back on. You are far more skilled at that than anything else.

    • #6 by Glenden Brown on May 10, 2011 - 1:38 pm

      I am very gifted at Roller Derby, I’ve been thinking of taking it up again.

      You, on the other hand, have no skill at throwing shade. It’s okay, tonight when you’re looking at the back of your wife’s head, you can take comfort in your heterosexuality (sort of).

  4. #7 by brewski on May 10, 2011 - 1:50 pm

    Actually, I usually look at her tramp stamp.

    I assume you have your eyes closed when you hold your ankles.

    What does any of this have to do with you copying and pasting GWB’s foreign policy?

  5. #8 by Glenden Brown on May 10, 2011 - 1:52 pm

    I haven’t done Yoga in ages!

    What passes for wit in your social circle is apparently not unlike Getrude Stein’s comment about Sacramento – there’s no there there.

  6. #9 by brewski on May 10, 2011 - 2:19 pm

    It was Oakland you dumbass.

    What passes for knowledge in your social circle is apparently not unlike Albert Einstein’s comment about stupidity – Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.

    • #10 by Glenden Brown on May 10, 2011 - 2:27 pm

      You know, brewski, you love to be insulting but you have no idea how to do it with any style. You’re just not any good at it. You try, you really do, but it’s not your thing. And you’re actually incredibly thin-skinned and spew your nastiness without any attempt at making yourself sound interesting. You’re like that drunk guy at a bar who just knows he’s full of anger and wants to spew and doesn’t care if he makes sense or is actually angry at the person he’s screaming at. He’s just angry and wants to get it out.

      It’s okay, some day you can visit the wizard and maybe he’ll give you a personality.

  7. #11 by Rico on May 10, 2011 - 2:41 pm

    I’m starting to get aroused by all this dirty talk. Are you guys gonna pull hair and scratch each other next?

    • #12 by Glenden Brown on May 10, 2011 - 2:46 pm

      What dirty talk? I’ve said nothing dirty.

  8. #13 by brewski on May 10, 2011 - 3:53 pm

    Glenden, I admit you are funny. It is funny to not know the difference between Sacramento and Oakland. I know you try to be accurate, but it’s just not your thing. You’re like John Bellushi in Animal House when he says “was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

    You are the scarecrow.

    • #14 by Glenden Brown on May 10, 2011 - 4:39 pm

      You know you used to be interesting brewski and you’re just not anymore – seriously, you basically just retyped my last comment; seriously put some effort in.

      You used to have interesting things to say and unique insights. Where has that brewski gone?

  9. #15 by brewski on May 10, 2011 - 4:59 pm

    You mean the Germans didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor?

    • #16 by Glenden Brown on May 10, 2011 - 5:33 pm

      That’s beer drinking straight guy humor and it’s like the three stooges – the joke was never that funny in the first place. I guess you earn credit for trying.

  10. #17 by brewski on May 10, 2011 - 8:18 pm

    You don’t get any credit for not knowing the difference between Sacramento and Oakland.

  11. #18 by ecks why on July 12, 2011 - 9:21 pm

    “human rights” in islam is based on their sharia law theocracy which is completely incompatible with western society democracies.

    the twin fogs of political correctness & ignorance must be dispersed before western society better understands this menace. even a brief review of islamic theology & history quickly exposes the deadly roots of this evil ideology.

    islam is a horrible ideology for human rights

    5 key things about islam

    1. mythical beliefs – all religions have these (faith) because its part of being a religion: having beliefs without proof until after the believer dies. the problem is people will believe almost anything.

    2. totalitarianism – islam has no seperation of church and state: sharia law governs all. there is no free will in islam: only submission to the will of allah as conveniently determined by the imams who spew vapors to feather their own nests. there are no moderate muslims: they all support sharia law.

    3. violence – islam leads the pack of all religions in violent tenets for their ideology & history: having eternal canonical imperatives for supremacy at all costs and calling for violence & intimidation as basic tools to achieve these goals.

    4. dishonesty – only islam has dishonesty as a fundamental tenet: this stems from allah speaking to mohamhead & abrogation in the koran which is used to explain how mo’s peaceful early life was superseded by his warlord role later.

    5. misogyny – present day islam is still rooted in 8th century social ethics: treating females as property of men good only for children, severely limiting their activities, dressing them in shower curtains and worse.

    conclusions ??

    there really are NO redeeming qualities for this muddled pile of propaganda.

    islam is just another fascist totalitarian ideology used by power hungry fanatics on yet another quest for worldwide domination and includes all the usual human rights abuses & suppression of freedoms.

  12. #19 by cav on July 13, 2011 - 5:59 pm

    Under Sharia Law, it can not take more than one lick to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

  13. #20 by cav on July 13, 2011 - 6:12 pm

    The group’s website states that “the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma”.

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