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The Death Throes of Islam

Commentary by Greg Lewis / NewMediaJournal.US
October 25, 2006


The increasingly cataclysmic events of the past decade, characterized especially by the escalation of threats and violent acts by Muslim extremists against western insitutions and other Muslims, signal not so much a struggle between western civilization and the religion of Islam, as they do the death throes of the religion of Islam itself.

Islam is — in the important sense of being a religion that has historically supported a vital and vibrant and legitimate culture — dying.

The emergence of such foolish, although admittedly dangerous, Islamist bullies as Usama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, along with a cadre of militant mullahs and other Islamist "political" leaders, signals not the rise of a new Islamic order, but the demise of an old and outmoded one. We are witnessing the death throes of a once-powerful religious/spiritual force, one that has lost its relevance and its ability to provide spiritual and cultural sustenance to its adherents in the contemporary world.

One of the first signs that this political-religious force is hemhorraging power has been the rise of the very Islamist terrorist militias that purport to demonstrate how powerful Islam is. While such groups came into ascendancy with the emergence of Al Qaeda as a means of resisting the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, and while Al Qaeda certainly received support from the United States during that time, Al Qaeda's assumption of governmental control and its imposition of a fundamentalist Islamic dictatorship in Afghanistan could hardly have been predicted more than a decade before the Soviets were repulsed in Afghanistan.

The result was Al Qaeda's relatively unfettered ability to put together in Afghanistan an Islamist terrorist organization that managed to stage a deadly attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001 — an attack that in effect woke Americans up to the fact that there was indeed an anti-American terrorist force to be reckoned with.

It can be argued that during the 1990s Al Qaeda's and other terrorist groups' killing Americans randomly and in small numbers through attacks concentrated in the Middle East simply did not resonate with America's leaders, not to mention the American public, as a direct threat to our national interests. 9/11 taught us that there was indeed an Islamist terrorist enemy which sought to bring its "holy war" against infidels to the very shores of what they perceived to be the world's infidel haven.

But while we are today most certainly engaged in a life-and-death struggle against a treacherous enemy that seeks nothing less than our total destruction, it is instructive to step back and examine what the current war Islam has declared on western civilization really means.

Do not misunderstand me: Islam is the enemy. Islamist terrorists have highjacked one of the world's historically great religions and have intimidated moderate and reasonable Muslim leaders into silence, for fear that if they speak out against terrorism they and their families will be slaughtered without consideration or mercy by the jackals who now dominate the world stage in the name of Islam.

Because the moderate leaders of this great religion have not found the will or a way to speak out against their religion's terrorist minority, they have in fact abdicated their right, nay their duty, to represent Islam to the world. Islam today is Islamist terrorism, and, if we examine the historical picture, it can be argued that Islam has no one to blame but itself.

Simply put, the restrictions of Islamic religious law have served for more than a millennium to enslave Muslims around the world by putting up insurmountable barriers to the societal advances that could have been realized by the acceptance, even the acknowledgment, of western scientific and legal principles. By closing themselves off from the objectively verifiable conclusions that have in the main characterized western philosophical and scientific thought since the enlightenment, Islamic civilizations have denied themselves the opportunity to expand — as Julian Jaynes has named it in his seminal book, "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" — the "space behind the forehead" of their subjects.

It's very clear that, over at least the past ten centuries, what has distinguished western, predominantly Christian and Jewish, peoples from their African and Middle Eastern Muslim counterparts has been westerners' ability to separate religious from secular interests in governmental and societal affairs. Western civilization's (albeit gradual and grudging) acceptance of empirical science as an important foundation block of societal progress, along with the expansion of westerners' understanding of what it means to be human, gradually found a place in the laws of their maturing nations.

As Bernard Lewis so convincingly demonstrates in his book, "What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response," the result of the radical divergence of western nationalistic Judaeo-Christian civilization and African-Middle Eastern Islamic civilization could not be more pronounced, nor could it have led to a more divisive outcome in terms of societal and cultural differences than what we are experiencing today.

Societies which have maintained an allegiance to government based on Islamic religious principles at the expense of evolution along the lines set forth by western nations now invariably find themselves desperately cocooned in the trap of a primitive cultural/political consciousness. They are prisoners of a consciousness that in its adherence to an early medieval mindset is incapable of acknowledging such fundamentals of western democracies as the efficacy of science; the importance of women's and minorities' contributions to public life and the necessity to work toward the goal of equal rights for all people; and the urgency — nay, the utter necessity — of separating the secular interests of government from the spiritual interests of the church.

With few exceptions — Turkey is one that comes immediately to mind — virtually every country governed by a Muslim theocracy has eschewed participation in the intellectual, cultural, and political changes that have informed western nations over the past millennium.

As a result, I would argue, we are experiencing the last desperate lashing out by Islam against western civilization through the terrorist minority that has highjacked that great religion.

For a small minority of Muslims to assert that it is powerful enough to take on western civilization, specifically the United States, and to defeat it militarily through terrorist action is absurd on its face. And I say this even understanding that it is not without the realm of possibility that Islamist terrorists might manage sometime in the future to launch one or more localized nuclear attacks on our shores, given the international community's (and particularly China's and Russia's) inability to find the will to stop the proliferation of the nuclear capability in rogue states.

In the context of contemporary international politics and diplomacy, America's waging war in Iraq represents a justifiable and worthwhile attempt to introduce in a concrete way the principles of western democracy into the Middle East while at the same time removing from power a known supporter of terrorism against the west. (I'm referring, in case you've been overwhelmed by assertions to the contrary in the mainstream media, to the deposed Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.)

That the United States is dependent on Middle-Eastern oil is, of course, part of the equation. (I won't address, except to mention it in passing, the idea that, if leftist-liberals had relaxed in the mid-1990s their ill-advised commitment to radical environmentalism and anti-corporatism, we might now be building new nuclear power plants and recovering oil from still-off-limits Alaskan and other offshore oil fields, both of which energy sources would certainly have significantly reduced our dependence on Middle-Eastern oil by now.)

If our Islamist enemies manage to commandeer a significant percentage of middle-eastern oil production, they will have a powerful weapon at their behest in their quest to destroy us. In this light, the War in Iraq serves a dual function: to establish a beachhead for democracy in the Middle East, and to protect our oil interests in that region.

(It does seem remarkable that Americans, especially Democrats and other leftists, have managed to forget that Iraq invaded Kuwait in the early 1990s for the purpose of seizing that country's oil industry and thus significantly increasing Iraq's economic leverage in any negotiations it conducted with western nations. We can only thank our lucky stars that our President at the time, George H. W. Bush, was an old oilman and recognized the nature of the Iraqi threat and the potential economic damage its success might have wreaked on America's economy, not to mention our ability to maintain our position of economic and military dominance throughout the world.)

All of this is to say: "Islam is dead! Long live Islam!"

By which I mean, of course, that, like the English Monarchy, the religion of Islam is not going to disappear from the face of the earth any time soon. But as the west — and indeed, "the west" might well mean "the United States" acting unilaterally, given the reluctance of the European Union countries to acknowledge the threat that Islam represents to their very existence as western democratic societies — subdues and ultimately negates Islamist terrorism as a significant force in international politics, and as the global community begins to see Islamism as the threat it truly is to the world's well-being, and as reason and moderation are enabled to reassert themselves in the religion of Islam, then this great religion, having died one death at the hands of the radical terrorist cohort that has taken it over, will once again assume its place as an important member of the world religious community.

I can envision a time, and in the not-too-distant future, when Islam will once again become a true participant — and not a terrorist dissident — member of world society. I can envision a time when Muslims and Christians and Jews and Hindus and members and leaders of every religious faith will understand that being a citizen of this world means acknowledging the validity of the wonderful variety of interpretations of what it means to be given the gift of life through the grace and power of an Infinite Being.

As this result manifests over time with the military defeat of the Islamist terrorist minority that has highjacked one of the world's great religions, the people of the world will be once again able to acknowledge and embrace their brothers and sisters of other religions as members of the family of man who share the same interests, including the ability to freely worship the deity of their choice, the flourishing of their children and loved ones as manifested in the freedom to explore the frontiers of knowledge and to practice their religion even as they grow as human beings. This is what all humans who believe in a benevolent deity are working toward, and this is what all humans can agree upon as the terrestrial end that every religion strives for.

The death of Islam — the Islam that has come in its contemporary public persona to stand for indiscriminate killing and repressive tyrranny — is imminent. This death will, inevitably, involve brutal military conflict that no feeling human would countenance. Would that there were some way to circumvent the murderous struggle we are currently engaged in or witnessing.

But in the wake of that struggle, we must all recognize that the impending death of Islam, as represented by the defeat of Islamist terrorist forces, can signify the rebirth of Islam as a viable member of the global religious community, and that what promises to be a difficult and painful defeat for Islamist fundamentlism will prove to be a victory for Islam as a religious force in the global community.







 

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