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Another view on the Koran Burning and Afghanistan Killing


This is cross posted by Kendrick MacDowell who blogs at The Prince and the Little Prince

Let us take great care with recent events, so that we are true to our best American traditions.small church in Florida symbolically burned a KoranThousands of protesters in Afghanistan, ginned up by three mullahs angry about the Koran burning, stormed a UN compound and killed at least 12 people.

To be sure, words and symbolic actions have consequences. But our response to the words, the consequences, and the conclusions we draw, tests mightily how we as Americans think about speech, bigotry, religion and murder.

First, the fairly incontestable conclusions.

1. Burning a Koran, the Muslim holy scripture, is indefensible bigotry. It is a hateful condemnation of an entire religion, of many millions of people who draw inspiration, guidance and daily grounding from their holy scripture. It is a grotesque failure to appreciate the range of Islam and an ignorant obsession with a few high-profile extremists who push one violent interpretation of the Koran.

2. Violence — never mind murder — in the name of, or based upon a perceived slight against, Islam, is indefensible. What the Afghani mullahs promoted and what the protesters committed was a horrible crime. People in Afghanistan to help Afghanistan lost their lives because of irrational and indefensible rage.

This much is clear — and the rest of the more difficult conversation can only happen with people who acknowledge that this much is clear. To any who hesitate as to one or the other above conclusions, you are part of the problem, and no longer part of the dialogue. Please consider rejoining.

For the rest of us, seeking to build bridges rather than borders, I want to suggest additional fair conclusions.

1. The Koran burning “caused” the Afghanistan protests. It did not cause the violence and it did not cause the murders. Committing violence against, or killing, someone, particularly an innocent person, is an act of moral agency entirely independent from whatever prompted the anger. One may feel insulted and react passionately. Violence against innocents, and most certainly murder, is a plainly indefensible overreaction — an independent immoral decision that must be universally condemned without regard to what prompted the anger.

2. Muslim communities need to be as forthright as possible about the proper response to insult. Part of the suspicion problem in America and abroad is the notion that Islam gets a pass from what every other world religion routinely endures. Christians and Jews in America, for example, are well accustomed to frequent and repugnant insults against their beliefs, their scriptures, their icons– and the reaction is frequently passionate, but not violent, and certainly not murderous. The vast majority of Muslim-Americans embrace exactly the same calibration of protest without violence — and they need to say it.

3. Americans need to stop thinking about “Islam” and “Muslims” and the “Koran” and “sharia law” as uniform and codified “things” about which one can speak generally. Before any person presumes to speak a negative word about Islam, Muslims, the Koran, or sharia law, he or she better have a thorough understanding of each. Otherwise, confine yourself to criticisms of what you perceive to be objectionable interpretations of Islam. Then dialogue happens.

4. We have an uncommon First Amendment tradition in America. We permit the American flag to be burned, we permit a crucifix to be placed in a jar of urine and deemed “art” called “Piss Christ,” we permit atheists to accuse organized religion of all manner of vile historical and current atrocity (see #2 and #3 above). We accept these instances of sacrilege, in the American tradition, because we know that religious dispute must always be handled with words, even angry words, but never with violence. We can never return to the bygone age of settling religious dispute with violence. Every American, of every religious, non-religious, and irreligious stripe, benefits from that American commitment to freedom to be religious, in whatever way, or anti-religious, in whatever way.

5. I count Muslim-Americans — and this may be controversial abroad — as a special class of Muslims, a class of Muslims who have thrived because of American religious freedom, who are not a victim class but a success story, precisely because America respectfully lets religions be themselves. This is our shared greatness. This is how we talk with each other — on the basis of shared American values. This is how the vast majority of Muslim-Americans blend appreciatively into being Americans. And more Americans need to appreciate that.

There is a high-profile discussion now about Islamist extremism. I am hopeful that more Muslim-Americans step up and speak forthrightly in opposition to extremism and violence and in defense of both American and Islamic values. And I am hopeful that more non-Muslim Americans join that discussion respectfully, and come to see Muslim-Americans as their partners in preserving what makes this country great.

37 replies »

  1. “1. Burning a Koran, the Muslim holy scripture, is indefensible bigotry. It is a hateful condemnation of an entire religion, of many millions of people who draw inspiration, guidance and daily grounding from their holy scripture.”

    Nonsense. I for myself don´t recognize the Koran as anything sacred.
    In my view, the Koran is a hateful piece of disgusting nonsense dictated by a murderous epileptic with pedophiliac tendencies. This text inspire millions (not only a minority) to hate the West, to despise the infidels, to subject women, to murder and rape, that is to disrespect many millions of people who draw inspiration, guidance and dayly grounding from the painstaking achievements of the western tradition, based on freedom, reason, tolerance, democracy, science and the rule of law.

    Though burning the Koran could be infantile or tasteless, in the current climate, it is instead an instructive and truly symbolic and healthy exercise of that same freedom of thought and opinion that the islamic tradition utterly despises.

    ” It is a grotesque failure to appreciate the range of Islam and an ignorant obsession with a few high-profile extremists who push one violent interpretation of the Koran.”

    Another classcial PC-line. The only obsession one finds is from the islamic world with the West, which they envy and hate, fear and desire, and this permanent state of outrage of muslims is just a sign of their supreme insecurity in their faith confronted with the modern world. Those murderers
    only used the burning as a ridiculous excuse to engage in yet another destructive rampage, as they did before and will continue to do, all the more appeasing the rest of the world remains.

    Finally, where are those muslim “moderates” that´s talk about all the time, but that *never* appear to condemn the endless series of crimes committed in the name of islam and inspired by the Koran?

  2. “Before any person presumes to speak a negative word about Islam, Muslims, the Koran, or sharia law, he or she better have a thorough understanding of each.”

    This isn’t much removed from the claim that you can’t understand the Koran unless you know Arabic.

    I don’t claim expertise in Islam or even the ability to read a person’s heart. Yet when I compare the phenomenon of Jews and Christians speaking for homosexual rights despite the Bible’s stance on the matter, and compare it to the total lack of Muslim condemning jihad, except in the vaguest of terms (“We condemn attacks against innocent people,” where “innocent people” is left to interpretation), I can know something is very, very different here. Lastly, when I add the fact that true instances of Muslims who condemn jihad are all in hiding, if not already assassinated, then I can only conclude that these fantasies of “varieties of Islam” have no leg to stand on.

  3. Whatever motivates the likes of Terry Jones, there are many who would not burn a Koran – or any other book without subscribing to these views:

    “Burning a Koran, the Muslim holy scripture, is indefensible bigotry. It is a hateful condemnation of an entire religion, of many millions of people who draw inspiration, guidance and daily grounding from their holy scripture”

    The problem is that the “many millions” seem, by and large, to see nothing wrong in calling for themurder of all jews and proably most Christians. The Koran is a book filled with hate and weird and warped views of what human behaviour should be, and it fuels similar emotiuons and then actions among its adherent.

    Islam, as far as I am concerned, is a vile religion, at least as it currently is.Trying to dress it up is a futile exercise in the face of the daily bombings, beheadings, murders (even of Muslims themselves if they are from a different sect) calls for mass murder that fill the media now that they cannot be hidden in mosques and languages that no-one in the West understands or hears.

    For Islam to be acceptable, it will need to go through a reformation at least as severe as the changes in the Christian Churches that finally put an end to the Inquisition, burnings of heretics (and remember that as recently as Salem this was still going on) and so forth. It has about 5 centuries of change to absorb and internalize.

  4. “Burning a Koran, the Muslim holy scripture, is indefensible bigotry. It is a hateful condemnation of an entire religion”

    No, it’s not, since Islam is not simply a religion; rather, Islam is a particularly aggressive amalgam of religion with an authoritarian, expansionist, oppressive political ideology. Burning the Koran is no more bigotry than burning Mein Kampf.

  5. If one burns a koran that has been written in a fashion so that it becomes beautiful or sanctified in its physical form then destroying that form is a reaction to those to whom itisbeautiful or sacred.

    However a koran that can be purchased is an item of retail merchandise and not sacred in itself. Books contain ideas. Burning a book is a futile attempt to destroy the ideas contained in it. Those who are attached to the physical reality of the book and outraged by its bad treatment are those who are unable to defend the ideas it contains.

  6. SerJew,

    “…Nonsense. I for myself don´t recognize the Koran as anything sacred.
    In my view, the Koran is a hateful piece of disgusting nonsense dictated by a murderous epileptic with pedophiliac tendencies…”

    The Tora meant nothing for those Germans and Czechs running riot in 1938 on that cold winter night.
    They burnt the Synagogues and books which are holy to us Jews.

    when you burn books, bad things follow.

    You, like the Nazi scum and the Muslim Scum who burn and destroy other people’s holy places and other people’s holy items no nothing about respect.

    You are obviously not a Jew, and learnt nothing from the Torah or from Moses.

    Sad your words come so close to Pesach.

    You shame us all.

  7. At least this piece is trying to unpick the cultural relativity theme used time after time as excuse for barbarianism.

    However, well meaning as this is, the whole thing kicks off with the, by now usual boilerplate….

    ‘It is a grotesque failure to appreciate the range of Islam and an ignorant obsession with a few high-profile extremists who push one violent interpretation of the Koran.’

    How many ‘interpretations’ are there? When Erdogan exclaims that there is only one Islam, there is no ‘moderate’ Islam did anyone listen?

    Granted there are moderate Muslims but watching as the scene unfolds it’s impossible to ignore that these are being rapidly overwhelmed by Wahabbis and Deobandis. We’re not seeing much of that famed ‘moderation’ in Pakistan and Afghanistan right now. Or, judging by the size of the mobs, that it’s a mere ‘few’.

    Islam has to be supreme. They are told this time after time. (And incidentally, so are we). However facts on the ground prove otherwise as the various panaceas of the post war attempts at revival fail.

    Marxism, nationalism, Pan-Arab alignments, all relegated to history as failures.

    They are perplexed. How can this be? And as perplexity turns to envy, rage and blame they reach back to Qutb and his line via Wahhab to Taymyyas purifying edicts.

    Islam is the answer. The problems must lie in Westernisation, virtual jahiliyya and the abandonment of core edicts which lead to greatness and a global caliphate in the first place. And thus, flailing around for the formula of revived success they reach back to first principles.

    However hypocrisy rears its head. Unlike other sects who seek the simple beauty, purity and surety of earlier times such as the Shakers, Amish and even the pastoral back to nature hippies, they don’t ride around in horse drawn buggies or reject the symbols of technological modernity.

    They want all that stuff from cell phones to nuclear weaponry. Yet they deny the very systems of democratic governance, liberal theology, philosophy, scientific exploration and cultural advancement which from our European Rennaisance onwards powered human progress.

    Islam’s ‘Golden Age’ is refered to time after time. This Andalusian dream was the high point yet they’ll never admit that many of those Cordoban Muslims were apostates freed up from the cloying backwardness by an intersection with emerging European liberality. And they’ll also skip by the appaling conditions they imposed upon the indiginous Christian Spanish by way of dhimmidom.

    In other words the self contained Islam they so love to spout about is a myth. Islam by its very self defeating nature can only survive by piggybacking onto other cultures. It can only survive by expansion and that expansion is achieved either by violent jihad or the migratory penetration of other cultures.

    The most ridiculous aspect of all this is that once they’ve got a toe hold within the lands of those other cultures they attempt to dominate and destroy them. Geese and golden eggs have nothing on this lot.

    And thus we return to the original premise. All this tolerance and glorious pacivity western pundits so love to bandy around isn’t because of Islam itself but the remnant of colonialy subdued Muslim heartlands. As these places have reasserted themselves, what was basically a very long hudna is unravelling and the truth re-emerging.

    Islamis not pluralistic. It is not designed to share or accomodate, it’s central drive is domination and its core principle is submission to one only and that’s Allah. Until some serious revisionary thought is applied to the immutable status of the Koran nothing will change.

    That, for the foreseeable future is an impossibility
    .
    Until a Caesar redering unto Caesar moment arrives this political theology will stagnate. Its circularity of self perceived perfection will blame all ills on others.

    Those others happen to be Jews and infidels. In other words us.

  8. “You, like the Nazi scum and the Muslim Scum who burn and destroy other people’s holy places and other people’s holy items no nothing about respect.

    You are obviously not a Jew, and learnt nothing from the Torah or from Moses.” Itsikwhatever

    Hmm, wasn´t it Hermann Göring who famously said ´I decide who is a Jew’?

    Methinks you are in great company, herr Itsik.

  9. The murder of 10 UN workers in response to the burning of a book is the ultimate in “disproportionate response”.l

  10. I’m no book burner and I don’t regard Muslims as my enemy. People’s identity is, in part, chosen for them. Islamic doctrine, though, is a different matter, and I can no more approve of its being taught than I can the teaching of Nazi doctrine, other than as examples of what is wrong. But Islam retains its undeserved respectability as a “great religion” and the Archbish, no less, foresees the inevitability of elements of Sharia being reflected in the law of the land. The war of ideas is ours to lose. But I don’t see anyone leading the way intellectually and politically. That frustration makes me understand the symbolism of this book burning and why someone felt they had to resort to it, even though I know that insults are no substitute for reasoned argument, that ideas can’t be destroyed physically and that the distinction between ideas and those who hold them is sacrosanct.

  11. ItsikDeWembley,

    “when you burn books, bad things follow. … You are obviously not a Jew, and learnt nothing from the Torah or from Moses. … You shame us all.”

    I do not advocate burning books, and I have maintained that Jones is an attention-seeking time-waster, because in an age of a multitude of easily-made copies, burning books amounts to nothing but theatrics.

    That said, it is you who shame Jews everywhere by sticking a moral sentiment onto Judaism that is not to be found in any of the Jewish sources. The Shulkhan Arukh, from which all Jewish Law is derived, says that there are certain books that a Jew is obliged to burn (an example would be a book like Daniel Dennett’s The God Delusion, being a book that calls for people to stop believing in God). Now, I don’t go burning books, because as I said it achieves nothing, but it is either dishonest or ignorant to ascribe the prohibition of book-burning to Judaism.

    All you have against book-burning is the fact that the Nazis did it. It would be like telling vegetarians to start eating meat because Hitler was a vegetarian, or telling members of the Jain religion to stop featuring the swastika on their buildings. In a way it’s even worse, because you’re making the Nazis posthumous layers of Jewish Law. No, that cannot be. Our laws are timeless and independent of what others do. I don’t advocate book-burning but I don’t try to say Judaism forbids it. I don’t advocate executing homosexuals, but I don’t say Judaism considers homosexuality OK. And I don’t go saying such ignorant things like the Jewish Leftists’ mantra, “Ethnic cleansing is not a Jewish value!”, when the fact is it most certainly is.

    Stop remaking Judaism in a Politically Correct image. Judaism is the middle road: Neither wantonly barbarous like the old Assyrians and current Islam, and neither cravenly capitulationist like Gandhi and those who wish to appease the Muslims today. Judaism is a sensible religion.

  12. “…(an example would be a book like Daniel Dennett’s The God Delusion, being a book that calls for people to stop believing in God). ” ziontruth

    That book is by Richard Dawkins, who BTW, has proven to be a typical modern day moron when he decides to pontificate on the I-P conflict. That book is weak in many respects, but is spot on when it says that religions still get undeserved/unwarranted respect/authority these days, even in secular west. Tolerance is mandatory but respectability/authority is has to be earned.
    So, just by being a priest/rabbi/iman won´t give you any authority whatsoever, beyond that which is assumed of any other citizen.

  13. “…cravenly capitulationist like Gandhi” ziontruth

    Spot on. As you probably know, this gentleman, when asked how his non-violent tactic could have been used against the nazis, proposed
    that the best Jews could have done was to commit suicide.

    What a grotesque amoral gnome.

  14. Some lively and intelligent comments. The thrust of certain of the more pointed disagreements with my column appears to be that Islam, based upon evidence assessed by the comment authors, is assertedly “vile” and “hateful,” and therefore unworthy of rudimentary respect. See, that’s a non-starter — never mind the ugliness about Mohammed, the Koran, etc. It’s one thing to revile particular practitioners or particular interpretations of Islam — I’ve done it — but quite another to sweep with the broadest negative brush possible about an entire religion, comprising over one-fifth of the world’s population.

    I’m an American, and right-of-center in my thinking, but my beloved son is Israeli and one of my best friends is Palestinian-American. I have them both in mind when I think and write about these subjects. Embracing that kind of cognitive dissonance can, I think, have a civilizing influence on discourse. And that’s the project, isn’t it? Dialogue — indeed, “civilized” dialogue, yes? That cultural achievement, according to some commenters, belonging entirely to the West and utterly lacking in Islam? Civilized dialogue finds points of connection in topics fraught with volatility — and isolates genuine points of disagreement on the basis of mutual respect.

    I smile at the anti-PC diatribes because I frankly tend to agree. I usually can’t stand the impact of PC on dialogue, especially when it’s PC-power-tripping. But if “PC” now means simply “mutual respect,” count me in the PC camp.

    Make no mistake as to my view. Muslim communities need to be more forthright in their condemnations of violence in the name of Islam, and I’ve said it repeatedly, including most recently in an updated post focused on the First Amendment.
    http://kendrickmacdowell.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/koran-burning-afghanistan-killing-and-what-should-be-unnecessary-defense-of-the-first-amendment/

    But one way to *discourage* such salutary developments in Muslim communities is to demonize the entire religion of Islam. That’s not merely an abortion of dialogue, but, in my opinion, a terrible net negative because people end up pointlessly polarized on subjects that cry out most urgently for a little less belligerence.

  15. Serjew,

    Yeah, I know that about Gandhi. It’s especially shameful for a Hindu to call for such passivity, because the Hindus are themselves victims of a little-publicized but nonetheless horrendous genocide, perpetrated by, guess who, the Muslims, in the 10th and 11th centuries. The most conservative estimate has the number of Hindu victims of Islam at 90 million.

    Kendrick Macdowell,

    “…but quite another to sweep with the broadest negative brush possible about an entire religion, comprising over one-fifth of the world’s population.”

    What do numbers (“over one-fifth of the world’s population”) have to do with the issue? If it has been established that the mainstream, orthodox, canonical doctrines of Islam call for subjecting the entire non-Muslim world to Islamic rule, then condemnation of Islam is a duty to every lover of liberty.

    “Muslim communities need to be more forthright in their condemnations of violence in the name of Islam,…”

    You ask the impossible of them. They cannot sincerely condemn jihad, because they would then mark themselves as apostates and be targeted for assassination.

    “But one way to *discourage* such salutary developments in Muslim communities is to demonize the entire religion of Islam.”

    There is no evidence Islam could ever be reformed. Even if it’s possible, that would take a lot of time, time which only works in favor of the advocates of subjugating the world to shariah law (jihad through demographic overpowerment). The risk is too great to be taken.

  16. “but quite another to sweep with the broadest negative brush possible about an entire religion, comprising over one-fifth of the world’s population.” kendrik

    Well, four-fifths of the world doesn´t care about islam. So, we win! But, seriously, this numbers thing just reveals fear.

    “But one way to *discourage* such salutary developments in Muslim communities is to demonize the entire religion of Islam. That’s not merely an abortion of dialogue, but, in my opinion, a terrible net negative because people end up pointlessly polarized on subjects that cry out most urgently for a little less belligerence.” kendrick

    Well, a dialogue involves reciprocity, not capitulation nor appeasement. The polarization is already there and guess who´s the culprit? It´s up to islamic peoples and/or leadership to decide if they want to engage in dialogue instead of practicing taqqya, throwing murderous tantrums or engaging in violence. Right now, the west needs to be hyperpolarized against an encroaching islam. The time for dialogue without real reciprocity
    is over.

  17. ziontruth, not to put too fine a point on it, but numbers do matter here, in a narrow sense. When you’re talking about one-fifth of the world’s population, it becomes implausible, to the point of absurdity, to make broad sweeping generalizations. I guess our point of departure is your conditional contention that “it has been established that the mainstream, orthodox, canonical doctrines of Islam call for subjecting the entire non-Muslim world to Islamic rule.” That’s one virulent, supremacist interpretation of Islam — far too popular to be sure — but by no means “mainstream, orthodox, and canonical.” Many Muslim communities have nothing but disgust for that interpretation. And the question, I think, is how best to engage, encourage and empower those communities. It certainly isn’t by slamming their religion and scripture as backward, benighted nonsense.

    Similarly your notion that no Muslim could condemn jihad without inviting apostasy and assassination. With due respect, that’s way overwrought. Many Muslims do it every day. What you and Serjew essentially say, I think, is that the dialogue is over. It’s all of “us” against all of “them.” Lock and load. And in this respect, ironically, you share something of the sensibility of the supremacist Islamists. The more they can gin up a lock-and-load mentality in the West, the more their agenda, and their quest for converts, succeeds.

    I hasten to emphasize, I’m not comparing either of you to Islamists. I’m simply suggesting that your categorical conclusion that dialogue is dead, and it’s war, plays into a narrative energetically promoted by the radical Islamists themselves.

    Serjew, your linking of dialogue to reciprocity is excellent. Subject to what I said above, I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I have used the concept of reciprocity in discussing the Ground Zero mosque controversy. But the language you use in your comments seems designed to ensure that no Muslim would ever approach you on the basis of reciprocity, because you’ve torpedoed any such possibility. You don’t seem to really believe in it. If I said, hey Serjew, you and all your kind stink and you suck, and it’s your obligation to engage in dialogue with reciprocity, would you be inclined to engage me?

    Believe me, ziontruth and Serjew, for many reasons beyond the ambit of this one wee column, I get the frustrations on this subject. And I would even embrace some parts of your thinking, up to, and not including, your sweeping conclusions. I think you’re both extremely well-informed but you’ve opted for a simplistic worldview, which, given the quality of your thinking in these comments, doesn’t seem inevitable.

    And I’m feeling more than passing strange, defending Islam, as a guy who went from being a bad Christian to a bad Jew, and who’s basically very annoyed with God for not making Himself more apparent, especially in these clashes of narratives about Him. Peace.

  18. Kendrick,

    You seem too concerned about offensive language rather than with acts. And, frankly speaking, crying “peace” is simplistic, naive and dangerously suicidal.

    I think it´s fair to say that it is far from clear that the bulk of the muslim world is interested in any kind of reciprocity and respect in dealing with other cultures. And there are abundant signals that this is not at the top of their list of priorities.

    In fact, and going to back to the point of *deeds*, you seem to have a misguided view of a kind of symmetry vis-a-vis the behaviors of the West and Islam, as if both are at equally at fault.

    Well, I don´t see the West as a whole menacing the islamic world with a new colonialism nor sending suicide bombers to Meca, not wanting to impose christianity, judaism or atheism on them.

    Nor do we see the western world reacting with murderous tantrums to the relentless torrent of *very popular* anti-western hatred, nazi-like antisemitism, explicit genocidal intent, gross violations of human rights, not to mention the abuse of the judeo-christian and secular-democratic western valus. On the contrary, one sees the West desperately offering acceptance and dialogue, repeatedly and to the point of a disgusting appeasement.

    There´s a widespread, absurd and unwarranted show of respect, mainly from the chattering-class and MSM, to a backwards culture, in which there are massive violations of human rights, targeting mainly muslims themselves, but also Christians, Jews, infidels and dissenters.

    And what one gets in return is an incredible amount of pure hatred, childish and murderous shows of outrage, massive disrespect to all the western values, taqqya and violence and blame-shifting.

    And their leadership, particularly those living in and benefiting from the freedom of the West, perceived quite clearly how to exploit the western fear, gullibility and appeasing behavior, so that they appropriate the very language and institutions of human rights and anti-racism to indulge and promote the opposite values, as masters demopaths.

    I´m just saying: enough of that. If muslims want to keep killing themselves in droves, putting their women in garbage bags, torturing and killing disenters, fine; let be consistent multiculturalists and leave them alone. But if they insist in killing infidels and imposing their medieval culture on us, sorry, there´s no dialogue possible and they´ll have to be stopped with the necessary means.

  19. Serjew, I’m afraid what I “seem” to you bears little relation to what I am — and perhaps that’s a problem with the categorical filters you employ for engaging people (or refusing to). I actually agree with much of your condemnation of human rights abuses in some Muslim countries, as well as the exploitation of “human rights” and blasphemy language by despots in those countries. And I’ve said so forthrightly. I certainly see no “symmetry” between offensive speech and violent deed. In fact, I’ve written that Islam is an adult religion that warrants no special solicitude or sensitivity. I have no sympathy for the species of politically correct condescension that would create a “special” category for Muslims and their supposed sensitivities. We’re all adults. Let’s act like it.

    And for those of us who are adults with children, we bear an extra responsibility to demonstrate, for the sake of our children, how to speak to people, how to show respect, how to get along in a fractured world and find connecting points that encourage the best, rather than the worst, in other people. Some of the rants against Islam generally, and some of the profound contempt for Muslims (like the video posted in one of the comments) would be object lessons I’d point to and say to my son, “this is how not to do it, this is behavior worthy of snotty brats, not adults.”

    In the end, we may agree on somewhat more than it appears, with obviously different inflections. I find it more constructive to seek out and talk with Muslims of good will, and there are many. What you call “disgusting appeasement” is a charged historical term because there is an enormous difference between blinding oneself to the destructive ambitions of a powerful leader (Chamberlain and Hitler) and raging against all Germans as vile, backward, disgusting people. I’d encourage you to stay mindful of that distinction as you pursue your eloquent rants against certain abuses in the name of Islam.

  20. Kendrick, Where are the Muslims of good will you speak of?

    How many are there?

    How many attended their latest meeting?

    Who are their spokesmen?

    What are their positions?

    What publications are they responsible for?

  21. “When you’re talking about one-fifth of the world’s population, it becomes implausible, to the point of absurdity, to make broad sweeping generalizations.”

    It’s already a generalization to note that they all share the same religion, so one more or a few more generalizations are no longer something new.

    “That’s one virulent, supremacist interpretation of Islam — far too popular to be sure — but by no means ‘mainstream, orthodox, and canonical.’ ”

    Do you really know this, or is this what you want to believe?

    “What you and Serjew essentially say, I think, is that the dialogue is over. It’s all of ‘us’ against all of ‘them.’ Lock and load.”

    I don’t want it to be so. In fact I wish dialog could solve the problem. But what we want and what we get are not always the same thing.

    “I think you’re both extremely well-informed but you’ve opted for a simplistic worldview,…”

    Again this intellectual word, “simplistic.” Why is “nuance” so important? If the truth is complex then it’s complex, and if the truth is simple then that’s how it is. Why force reality into intellectuals’ ideals of how things should be?

    My thoughts regarding Islam and Muslims are either true or false. If you think they’re false then please say so; I’ll disagree with you but still I’ll respect you for saying outright, “It is not true what you believe.” But kindly leave off the intellectualizing stuff–“simplistic,” “sweeping generalization” et cetera. We’re not in the ivory tower of college, we’re discussing the real world.

  22. “Serjew, I’m afraid what I “seem” to you bears little relation to what I am — and perhaps that’s a problem with the categorical filters you employ for engaging people (or refusing to).” Kendrick

    Well, by reciprocity, I could say just the same to you, as you also used *your* categorical filters to classify my viewpoint and ziontruth´s as “simplistic”. Again I have the impression you are far too worried about “offensive language” and wishful thinkiing than with facing reality as it is.

    “I’d encourage you to stay mindful of that distinction as you pursue your eloquent rants against certain abuses in the name of Islam.” Kendrick

    Again, that´s pretty condescending, don´t you think? I also would encourage you to question your “kumbaya-let´s-all-get-along” world-view
    while believing that dialogue is possible with people that want to destroy you.

  23. TGIAF, absolutely fair questions, and I wish I could answer them with comprehensive knowledge. Unfortunately, being a blogger and not an activist or scholar on the subject, my knowledge is anecdotal rather than systematic or institutional — and I’m not inclined for obvious reasons to give you a list of Muslims of good will I know or have met through blogging.

    But I can point you to an organization I discovered while blogging — the Quilliam Foundation — http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/ — and how I blogged about it. http://kendrickmacdowell.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/former-islamist-maajid-nawaz-has-a-critical-message-about-islamism/ The Quilliam Foundation is an anti-extremist think tank founded by a former Islamist extremist, who, in my opinion, is pitch-perfect in the UK about the subject of Islamist radicalism. I’m also aware of an organization in the birthing stage here in the US, and I hope to be able to write more about it soon. For me to wade further, right now, into the political waters of distinguishing various Muslim political, charitable, and social organizations would be imprudent. But your questions are fair, and spur me to seek a more thorough understanding.

    ziontruth, for a person disclaiming the “ivory tower” and “intellectualizing,” there are ten thousand angels dancing on the head of your metaphysical pin about “generalizations.” 🙂 Really? There’s no difference between the generalization that Muslims adhere to the religion Islam versus the generalization that Muslims are backward, bloodthirsty, fanatics?

    Believe me, I’m sympathetic to your distinction between academic discussions and the real world. Fair point. And sometimes an urgent one. But I don’t agree that all of your thoughts about Islam and Muslims are either true or false. That’s not merely anti-academic. It’s potentially dangerous. There actually are gradations of truth, and certainly contextual qualifications to “truth.” Sometimes my thought may contain some truth, but be so poorly framed as to look false. Conversely, sometimes my thought may be mostly false, but be framed so persuasively as to look true. In fact, real-world dialogue on this volatile topic desperately needs an appreciation for those two dangerous “nuances” on the “either-true-or-false” dichotomy.

    To come full circle, that’s why I opt for mutual respect. I think something approximating the truth is much more likely to emerge from that kind of dialogue than from dialogue filled with rants generalizing about all Muslims or the entire religion of Islam.

  24. Serjew, you make my point. I’m not likely to engage in any dialogue with people who want to destroy me. No Muslim I know wants to destroy me. See, there’s a difference. Different Muslims with different viewpoints. I’ve simply asked that you recognize that basic point.

    I intended no condescension, and apologize for any hint of it. I’m a bit outnumbered here.

  25. Kendrick,

    I do believe that there are many muslims that don´t want to destroy us, but I really can´t say whether they are the mainstream or not. I also don´t know
    what fraction of those that don´t want to destroy us “just” want to treat non-muslims as dhimmis.

    I just point out the facts that the strident extremist views are *very* popular, as one can check in the manifestations in Pakistan, and the people in positions of power, opinion and influence (imans, intellectual, journalists, politicians, etc) rarely manifest a truly moderate view or condemn extremism. Their silence is probably due to a mixture of fear and/or agreement.

    Also, one *has* to face the fact that islamism doesn´t encourage self-criticisim, tolerance, dialogue and reciprocity. Au contraire, it inherently displays the characteristics of a supremacist, totalitarian and violent ideology, impermeable to facts and rationality. Someone that is fed this continuous ideological diet will rarely be able to escape it. So, a harsh criticism of the islamic culture is *mandatory* and has to be brought clearly to the forefront. Without that, it is really either us or them, as unfortunately as it is.

    Now, I I think we either treat muslims are adults and confront them with harsh criticism that they must learn to tolerate and digest withtout hysterical cries of “allhahu-akbar” and “kill the Jews”, or they are dangerious children and must be contained. Surely, one should engage with the so-called moderates (wherever they are) but *only* in a reciprocity basis and *never* giving the other cheek or displaying undue respect.

  26. Excellent comment Serjew. That narrows the range of our disagreement considerably. Likewise I do not know enough about demographics and Muslim attitudes to be able to assess what is “mainstream” with any certainty. But I do not know I’m not going to get any insight or information from Muslims if I’m slamming their religion generally. And if I am slamming their religion generally, I might even be making it easier for some impressionable Muslims to radicalize. The narrative that the West, or America, is “at war with Islam” plays shockingly well in some parts of Muslim countries. Mind-boggling, I know. But why would I want to risk being a piece of evidence some mad cleric might use to prove that the West is at war with Islam?

    You’re certainly right about “Islamism” (as opposed to Islam), and thank you for making that distinction. It’s important. If we’re sincere about confronting Muslims with criticism, and expect them to engage, then we must speak to Muslim sensibilities that are not Islamist. In other words, we must ensure that part of our “criticism” dialogue speaks respectfully to those Muslims who might be inclined to criticize some cultural norms or theological interpretations — but will never do so if it means agreeing with some Westerner raging about Islam generally.

    To come full circle, on the subject that sparked this very interesting thread, I may not be able to quantify the number of Muslims of good will. But when we speak, we must assume they exist. Failure to do so perpetuates the kind of “dialogue” the mad clerics love.

  27. I would warn against engaging with so-called “moderate” Muslims – even the most moderate can at times revert stunningly to type.

    Containment perhaps is the best policy – but easier siad than done.

  28. “You’re certainly right about “Islamism” (as opposed to Islam), and thank you for making that distinction. It’s important.” Kendrick

    Sorry, but I did not mean to imply such a distinction. I still haven´t seen clear evidence that such distinction is meaningful at all. I think making this distinction without base in fact is whitewashing reality and wishful thinking. Islam as a culture, religion and ideology clearly has totalitarian, supremacist and violent outlook. And this is the core of tbe problem: islamism is *incompatible* with the modern civilization; it is still a pre-medieval world-view and this clash is part of the resentment the islamic world feels towards the West, which they simultaneously envy and loath.

    I really don´t know whether islam can go through a reform such as happened with Christianity, which led to horrible war of religions in europe but that in the end, by exhaustion, people realized that tolerance and separation of church from state, was a better deal.

  29. Hi all; Great work you’re doing over here. Come and see my take on the situation and please leave a comment.

  30. To comment like some kind of sports announcer, I must say I am impressed with this blog. Too many other blogs contain poor thinking. This one, however, shows an emergent dialogue. I feel that people out there are beginning to wake up and learn about this major issue — the Islam vs West friction. Yes, the opening analysis was cloudy in its thinking, and gave the rude impression that Islam is good and free speech is bad and that you had to agree on points 1 and 2 or you were damned. But comments that followed showed that PEOPLE HAVE BEGUN TO THINK. So, have you read the Koran and studied the issue? I have for ten years. By now, you, the reader, are sufficiently informed of the facts. My opinion? “The play is on third base.” By which I mean, forget about “Muslims” and their daily mood swings. Forget “Islam” the big fat world religion of a billion or so. Focus on the Koran. The play is on the Koran. If you can identify even one sentence of it as evil — and you can — then the whole fabric will unravel. And it will. So do so. Confront the Koran. Expose it. Don’t burn it (unless no one listens to you).