Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Moderate Islam" is Not the Answer

Hugh Fitzgerald explains why not:
The next step is for Infidels to understand why it is that the many failures of Muslim states and societies stem from Islam itself. This includes political failures: that tendency to despotism, that inability, save in kemalist-exceptional Turkey and one or two other places, to accept democracy, and even then what is in place is not democracy in the advanced Western sense of that word. It also includes economic failures: despite ten trillion dollars in unmerited oil revenues since 1973 alone, the Muslim states have failed to create modern economies, and are still helplessly dependent on Western and other foreign workers. And save in kemalist-exceptional Turkey and Bourguiba-exceptionalist Tunisia, they either have that oil money, or where the manna of oil wealth is unavailable, they rely in large part on the disguised Jizyah of foreign aid from Infidels. Or the local Muslims rely on exactions of wealth from their more industrious non-Muslim fellows, as in Malaysia with its Bumiputra system. The social failures -- the grotesque mistreatment of women and of non-Muslim minorities -- are again less evident in that handful of Muslim countries, such as Kemalist Turkey, where Islam has been systematically constrained, or in one or two of the stans where the anti-religious campaigns of the Soviets, and the very large non-Muslim populations, have helped to reduce the power of Islam. An example of that is Kazakhatan.

The intellectual failures of Islam are a result of two things: the severe discouragement of free and skeptical inquiry, which is in the first place prompted by the desire to prevent Islam itself from being questioned, and which in turn leads to a climate in which no questioning can take place. In a world where those who dare to openly question the faith can be attacked and killed -- by mobs if not by the forces of the government -- it is unsurprising that intellectual development, including but hardly limited to the kind of thing measured in very rough fashion by Nobel Prizes, is limited. There has been hardly any development of science under Islam in the past thousand years. Arab literature, according to the poet Adonis, is in a permanent state of crisis; it "does not exist." Indeed, the greatest achievements in literature have been those by Persian poets, such as Firdowsi, Sa'adi, Hafiz, and Omar Khayyam, who stand much higher in the Western consciousness, standing virtually alone, than in the Iranian mental pantheon. And all of them sang of matters -- wine, women, song, and so on, and in Firdowsi's important case of the Shahnameh, of pre-Islamic Iranian history -- that can be said to violate both the spirit and the letter of Islam.