Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Review: Can the West be Saved?

Here is something new: I have reviewed a blog post. Well, I did not review it so much as comment on it rather excessively; it then occurred to me that lengthy comments might as well be blog posts. If you would like to read the political opinions of a conservative European see "Can the West be Saved?". "Saved" here is intended to mean "from Islam." If you would rather read what I think of the "clash of civilizations" metaphor, read on and ignore the appended link. In all honesty I would rather suggest you make some iced tea and station yourself on a lawn chair in the shade of an oak tree, possibly with a good novel.

. . .

It seems that Dr. Trifkovic is operating under the assumption that a kind of retrogressive orthopraxy is inherent to the religious mindset – or, at the very least, that it is inherent to the mindset of Islam. The history and sociology of religion provide ample evidence to the contrary (like Anatolian Islam and Ismailism, just to name two).

In my humble opinion, the author puts too much importance on his own decontextualized interpretation of Islam when he accuses the reformers of distortion and credits the Jihadists with faithful and orthodox observance of Qur'an and Sunnah. By the same logic one might anathematize Reform Judaism for straying from the righteous Haredi path, or condemn contemporary Christianity for pretty much every accretion posterior to the Nicene Creed. Since there is no such thing as literalism (as reading is an interpretive act) such evaluations are based on a value judgement anterior to the actual analysis of the doctrines and their effects in history. Typically, the methodology of Social Science does not allow its actors to work backwards from their conclusions.

An alternative epistemology based in the observation of new religious movements might suggest that the process of ideation is intrinsically deviant from the so-called “literalist” perspectives. Consequently, it may be hypothesized that peacemaking is a more likely outcome if all of the factions involved in the inter-cultural dialogue genuinely embrace social progress.

This brings up two problems. Firstly, the “modern” paradigm in international policy which continues to support whatever Arab dictators best serves Western capitalist interests cannot reasonably be expected to pave the way to a more peaceful world. Secondly, Islamist totalitarianisms depend on the stifling of intellectual liberty to ensure the stability of the traditional structures they have hijacked to establish their undisputed authority.

In the present context, inequalities on both sides of the fence feed the rhetoric of Jihad. Might I suggest that Western societies need to make fighting fundamentalism a human rights issue, not a security issue? As long as the “clash of civilizations” metaphor endures, what we will have is precisely the kind of cynical realpolitik that substantiates the claims of every Qotb and Awlaki out there.


  1. The cartoon (hilarious) got my attention, but your post was awesome. I took a gander over to THAT web-site and then quickly backed out of the 'room'. Yikes.

  2. There are some pretty eccentric folk out there. There is an article on Holger the Dane which reads like Aryan messianism. The blogosphere is a strange, disturbing place.