Thursday, December 21, 2006

2006 Top Stories

Top Stories of the Year: The Cartoon Jihad

The #3 top story of the year is the improbably named "cartoon jihad," which made clear to the West the nature of our enemy's goal in the War on Terrorism: not any specific demand or goal, but an all-encompassing Western submission to Muslim rule. This is covered in the first three news links below, and in the first feature article (a longer version of which appeared in our print magazine).

But while the "cartoon jihad" demonstrates the Muslim world's threat to the West, we also pose a cultural threat to fanatical Islam. The single most under-appreciated story of this year is the steady drumbeat of opposition to Islam coming from Muslims living in the West, and from liberal Muslims within the Middle East. TIA has covered this story in detail, but when I started to compile the top stories of the year, even I was surprised by the number and frequency of these reports (up to as recently as a few weeks ago), a sampling of which is provided in links #3 through #9 below, and in the second feature article.

The abstraction that integrates both stories—the Cartoon Jihad and the Muslim Civil War—is provided in link #4: this is a "global civil war." Islam and the West are not simply fighting each other; each side is fighting an internal battle of ideas.

Top Stories of the Year

Are There Two Sides to the Clash of Civilizations?

Cartoon Jihad and World War

"The Critical Spirit"

The Global Civil War

The Next Iranian Revolution

Islam "Within the Limits of Reason"

Aayan Hirsi Ali Escapes the "Mental Cage of Submission"

Freedom Fighters Against the Iranian Regime

The Muslim Civil War: Afghanistan vs. Pakistan

Feature Articles

Publish or Perish, by Robert Tracinski

The Lessons of the "Cartoon Jihad"

"The Escaped Prisoner", by Robert Tracinski Wafa Sultan's Forward Strategy of Intellectual Freedom

Top Stories of the Year Commentary by Robert Tracinski

1. Are There Two Sides to the Clash of Civilizations?

February 7, 2006

Europe's confrontation with the threat of Islam has been building from some time, especially since the murder early last year of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh for making a film critical of Islam. The choice Europe faces is whether to assert its own semi-forgotten Enlightenment legacy—or to accept submission to Muslim overlordship. Today's papers are filled with assessments of this conflict.

In today'sNew York Post, Fred Siegel calls this a "time of testing" for Europe, and comes to a pessimistic conclusion: "It has long seemed almost inevitable that either Islam would be Europeanized or Europe would be Islamized. The European reaction to date suggests that the latter seems more likely." That is echoed by Lee Harris in National Review Online, who doubts whether the "clash of civilizations" between Europe and Islam actually has two contestants: "In order for there to be a clash of civilizations, it is necessary for there to be two civilizations, both of which are prepared to defend their deepest cultural values."

Meanwhile, back at the New York Post, Ralph Peters shows why US conservatives, who have generally sounded the alarm against Islam in this case, are still not quite up to the job. In his column today, his religious-right premises override his pro-American sense of life, as he condemns the Mohammed cartoons as "irresponsible" for showing "intolerance of faith." Peters does get one thing right: this is Europe's comeuppance for spending the past few decades disengaged, taking the Muslims' side in the deadly conflicts in the Middle East while imagining that Muslim violence is only aimed at Israel or at American "imperialism"—and not at our civilization. For my main link on this topic, however, I haven't chosen any of these items. Rather than choosing Europe's critics—even when they have a point—I want to end by giving the floor to those who are actually involved in the fight. Here, a European newspaperman defends his paper's decision to reprint the cartoons and says of the Muslims: "they are asking not for respect but for submission." This is the essential issue.

"Tolerance toward Intolerance," Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Washington Post, February 7
Much of the US reporting about the fracas made it appear as if Europeans just don't get it—again. They struggle with immigration. They struggle with religion. They struggle with respect for minorities. And in the end they find their cities burning, as evidenced in Paris. Bill Clinton even detected an "anti-Islamic prejudice" and equated it with a previous "anti-Semitic prejudice." The former president has turned the argument upside down. In this jihad over humor, tolerance is disdained by people who demand it of others. The authoritarian governments that claim to speak on behalf of Europe's supposedly oppressed Muslim minorities practice systematic repression against their own religious minorities….

Now they are asking not for respect but for submission. They want non-Muslims in Europe to live by Muslim rules. Does Bill Clinton want to counsel tolerance toward intolerance?

2. Cartoon Jihad and World War, February 7

It is interesting that there is one country in the Middle East that has actually defended Europe in what commentators are now calling the "cartoon jihad": Lebanon, where a liberal, Westernized majority is still struggling to break free from the fascist-turned-Islamist dictatorship of Syria. The article below also indicates a wider pattern: the "cartoon jihad" is part of the wider world war between Islam and the West. Note the pattern of connections: Syria is using the cartoon jihad to stir up factional violence in Lebanon, in order to maintain its control there—while the Syrian dictator meets with Muqtada al-Sadr, who is using the cartoons to incite violence against Danish coalition soldiers in Iraq.

"Syria Seen as Instigator," Washington Times , February 7

In Beirut, the anti-Syrian coalition that dominates the Lebanese government apologized to Denmark for the burning of its consulate on Sunday, while charging that Syrian intelligence agents had sparked the trouble to destabilize their country. "The acts of sabotage that happened in [Sunday's] protest are the start of a coup d'etat by the Syrian regime that aims to transform Lebanon into another Iraq," said the coalition.…

Protesters demanded that Danish troops be removed from Iraq when more than 4,000 people rallied yesterday in the southern [Iraqi] city of Kut. Such demonstrations have largely been organized by Sheik al-Sadr, whose Shiite religious party won 30 seats in December parliamentary elections. Sheik al-Sadr held talks yesterday in the Syrian capital, where he expressed solidarity with the government and said "our common enemies—Israel, the United States, and Britain—are trying to spread strife among us. The people will not fall for this."
3. "The Critical Spirit," March 21
[T]hings are not all going the Islamists' way. Yesterday, I linked to an article about a little-reported pro-secularism manifesto by 12 Western intellectuals, most of them Muslim apostates who escaped (both physically and mentally) from the Middle East. Below is a link and excerpt from the manifesto itself. Note that, in condemning "religious totalitarianism," these intellectuals also feel the need to pointedly reject "cultural relativism," grasping that subjectivism actually empowers dogmatism, rather than offering an alternative to it.

Combine this with Wafa Sultan's impassioned defense of the Enlightenment, and a new MEMRI transcript of a Syrian poet declaring (courtesy of MEMRI) that the Arabs are culturally "extinct", and you have the early beginnings of a broader intellectual reformation of the Muslim world.

"Together Facing the New Totalitarianism," Salman Rushdie, et al., Jyllands-Posten, February 28

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field….

We reject "cultural relativism," which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom, and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia," an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas. We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism. back to top
4. The Global Civil War, March 23

Today's Washington Times column by Suzanne Fields is a bit rambling (like most of her columns), but it offers one big idea that is very clarifying: her description of the War on Terrorism as a global civil war, inspired by Tony Blair's recent comment that this is not a clash of civilizations, but "a clash about civilization"—which I suspect was inspired, in turn, by Wafa Sultan's similar comments.

This captures the most striking fact about this war: only half of the conflict is being fought overseas—and the other half is an internal cultural and ideological struggle against anti-American, anti-Western intellectuals on the home front.

"The World at Civil War," Suzanne Fields, Washington Times, March 23

The contentious and ever more partisan argument over whether Iraq is finally convulsed in a civil war misses the point, it seems to me. Maybe it's the entire world that is finally convulsed in a civil war.

Tony Blair, who is even more embattled at home than George W. Bush is here, put that proposition in play this week, though not exactly in those terms. "This is not a clash between civilizations," the British prime minister told a press luncheon in London. "It is a clash about civilization."…

"The only way to win is to recognize that this phenomenon is a global ideology," Mr. Blair said, "to see all areas in which it operates as linked, and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists." Just so. But the weakness of the West is that a lot of us want to believe that we can wish the clash of, or about, civilization(s) away if we just wish hard enough.

5. The Next Iranian Revolution, May 5

One of the most important facts to realize about Iran is that it has a tradition of secular thought, a tradition that was submerged by Khomeini's Islamic revolution but never eradicated. That's why there is a rich vein of dissent within Iran. Below, I link to two stories on this issue.

The second of these stories is an interview with an Iranian living outside of Iran, who is trying to organize a non-violent uprising against the regime and wants America's support. He opposes military action, but it is interesting that he thinks cutting off Iran's oil—something TIA Daily has been advocating—would cause the regime's collapse.

The first link below is to a story about the arrest of a liberal Iranian philosopher. Pat Mullins sent me this link with the following comment: "The Iranian philosopher and intellectual historian, Ramin Jahanbegloo, has been imprisoned by the ayatollahs. Why? As one spokesman for the Iranian regime said, 'Nobody is being detained in Iran because of expression of ideas.'
What a perfect Orwellianism!
"No, the ayatollahs have good reason to fear him.

"Educated at the Sorbonne, he has taught at Harvard, published dozens of books and articles on figures like Machiavelli and Von Clauswitz, and interviewed such Western intellectuals as Isaiah Berlin. Happily, he is not Iran's answer to Edward Said, another regurgitation of the West's queasy academic stomach. "In a September 2000 article—introduced with a quotation from dissident-turned-president Vaclav Havel—Jahanbegloo called on Iranian intellectuals to challenge the authority of the theocratic mullahs.

"More important, if you can get through the academic jargon, he also urges them to reject Marxism and postmodernism in the name of 'humanism,' 'liberalism,' 'critical rationality,' and 'individualist and democratic ideals,' including 'negative liberty'—Isaiah Berlin's concept of the individual's freedom from the state.

"How many intellectuals in the West would condemn Marxism, Postmodernism, and Islamism as all variations on the theme of 'anti-humanism'? Jahangeloo isn't a great philosopher by any means, but he is a thinker of intellectual independence and moral courage. Perhaps he'd make a good candidate as first president of the Secular Republic of Iran."

"Iran Detains Liberal Intellectual,"AP via New York Times, May 4
A liberal intellectual has been arrested in Iran, the first detention of a prominent academic since the election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year, a Cabinet minister said Thursday. Ramin Jahanbegloo, head of the office of contemporary studies at the private Cultural Research Bureau in Tehran, was arrested earlier in the week on charges of espionage and violating security measures, the state-controlled IRAN Persian daily newspaper said…. The philosopher was arrested April 27 at a Tehran airport, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences said Thursday. It said he was to have arrived in Hungary on May 3 as part of a European trip that would have included stops in Austria and Poland.

Jahanbegloo was scheduled to participate in a round-table of philosophers in Hungary….
"Undoing the Ayatollahs," David Horovitz, Jerusalem Post, May 4
In Washington a few days ago, I met with a longtime Iranian-born opposition activist who, among other efforts, is a member of the National Union for Democracy in Iran, a three-year-old, US-based opposition group which seeks, it says, "to promote a strategy of nonviolent political defiance to the rule of the dictatorial theocracy in Iran, and set the conditions for a transparent national referendum," under which Iranians would "determine their future form of government in a free, fair and democratic manner."

At first, the people of Iran supported the revolution because they were afraid of modernity; it created an identity crisis. Five minutes after the regime was in power, they realized their mistake, realized that religion is not an answer for politics. The people are now, for the most part, completely opposed to the regime. And the regime needs crisis after crisis—whether it is taking American diplomats hostage, war with Saddam, Salman Rushdie—to distract attention from its inability to deliver. Everybody who knows the regime knows that it is impossible for it to reform from within….

But the opposition leaders haven't really stepped up to the plate. Those who truly don't like this regime and really want the regime to go, they don't have a political message beyond that. Hating the regime is not sufficient. You need to have a plan for what happens next. They lack that. And they are so disunited….

The message from those outside, particularly America, has to be that they will be with the Iranian people to the end…. People in Iran need to feel in their bones that America is with them and behind them…. If the right message is sent, if there is some organization outside, they will regroup…. It starts with small groups of students gathering at different strategic locations at the university and all starting to sing the national anthem at the same time. Other students join them. Some guards come and beat them, there's a small fight, and then other students come. If the number rises above 10,000 and the protest lasts more than four hours, then the regime cannot sustain itself. As few as that? Yes, because people would quickly join en masse. Everyone is waiting to join something….

How worried should the West be by the nuclear drive and horrible rhetoric? Extremely worried. They should not be sleeping at night. If they are sleeping at night they are fools….

This is a war between two opposing ideologies that only one can survive. There can be no coexistence. Therefore the West needs to defeat this ideology completely, and it should do this by supporting the people of Iran to overthrow the Islamic regime, create a democratic definition of Islam, institutionalize that, and then spread it through the other Islamic countries. Otherwise Western civilization is in grave danger.

We should take this regime seriously and try to end it as quickly as possible. We should not only focus on the nuclear program. What about biological weapons, a single bottle poured into a lake? It's a mindset. There are so many ways that they can harm the West….

Stop the flow of oil into Iran. Iran is a net importer of refined oil products. The transportation system will collapse within a few months and the regime with it.

6. Islam "Within the Limits of Reason," May 5

It is not just Iran where Islamic theocracy is in trouble. For a thousand years, Islam has needed its Thomas Aquinas—the philosopher who elevated philosophy from being "the handmaiden of theology" and established the idea that reason sets the limits for religion. Now some intellectuals in the Muslim world are starting to argue for the same idea.

Below are profiles of two such intellectuals, courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute. One of them offers, not 95 theses, but 27 propositions in favor of a secularized interpretation of Islam. The other proposes "religion within the limits of reason." Both are philosophical mixtures—but reason and secularism seem to be the dominant elements of the mixture.

"Algerian Reformist Malek Chebel: 27 Propositions for Reforming Islam," Nathalie Szerman,
Middle East Media Research Institution, May 5

Malek Chebel, a renowned anthropologist focusing on the Arab world, is one of today's prominent French-speaking North African intellectuals. In 2004, he established, in France, the Foundation for an Enlightened Islam…. In his Manifesto for an Enlightened Islam (Manifeste pour un islam des lumières), Chebel puts forth 27 proposals for extensively reforming Islam. He turns to the values of the 18th-century European Enlightenment for guidance, when rationalism and secularism guided the drive towards cultural, social, and political progress.

Chebel suggests a number of basic comprehensive reforms to enable profound change in the Arab world. He combines reform in religion, politics, the judiciary, education, women's rights, etc….

The Preeminence of Reason over All Other Forms of Thought and Beliefs: There is a general phenomenon of denial of science and progress in the Islamic world. In order to reform Islam, Islamic countries must review their religious education and adapt the Koran to the realities of the modern world. In so doing, they should get in touch with the lost, enlightened, Islamic civilization.

Society to Be Managed by Politics, Not Religion: This proposition refers to secularization (Ilmaniyya). Politics should be separated from religion and enjoy supremacy over religion. Chebel clarifies that the West was capable of such huge progress only because it escaped the hold of the Church….

The Preeminence of the Individual over the Community: The fact that the community prevails over the individuals in Islam has delayed—and sometimes prevented—the emergence of a private sector encouraging self-expression. However, by claiming and repeating that Muslims are responsible for their actions and must bear their consequences, we begin to establish a distinction between the collective level and the individual level. According to Chebel, free choice allows for individual responsibility, which in turns allows for progress. "Religion Within the
Limits of Reason: Lafif Lakhdar," Middle East Media Research Institute, May 5
On March 17, 2006, the weekly magazine of the Israeli daily Haaretz published an intellectual profile of Tunisian-born reformist thinker Lafif Lakhdar…. Lakhdar, a former columnist for the Saudi-owned London daily Al-Hayat, was fired on the instructions of the paper's owner, Saudi Prince Khaled ibn Sultan, for describing the Saudi regime as "barbaric" on an Al-Jazeera talk show…. "The plan I proposed includes the introduction of modern sciences in the institutions of religious education, as well as comparative history of religion and psychology and sociology of religion, so that students will be able to understand the religious text in terms of modern logic….
"Culture should be free, and every artist and every researcher should be free to write about all religions without any restriction."

Q: "Does that include the Danish cartoonist?"

"Yes. It includes humor and satire…. That is a secular principle: separation between religion and politics, and between religion and artistic and literary creation, and between religion and scientific research. This is the greatest achievement of modernity. The clerics must not be allowed to intervene in these matters."

7. Aayan Hirsi Ali Escapes the "Mental Cage of Submission," May 18

Why is it that women are emerging as the strongest, most principled, most courageous critics of Islam? I know that women have the most reason to fight Islam, since they are its most oppressed victims. But I find it interesting—and somewhat sad—that I cannot think of a single Arab or Muslim man who has spoken out as boldly as Wafa Sultan or Aayan Hirsi Ali (or, among Europeans, with the passion of Oriana Fallaci).

Hirsi Ali has written a book titled The Caged Virgin (which I will review soon), denouncing Islam's criminal mistreatment of women. But her decision to leave Holland and come to America—the true homeland of anyone who has broken free from what Hirsi Ali calls "the mental cage of submission"—reminds me of the title Wafa Sultan has given to the book she is writing to denounce Islam: The Escaped Prisoner.

FrontPage Magazine deserves a mention for its article describing Hirsi Ali as "Holland's Cassandra." In another excellent article, Christopher Hitchens recalls an event at which he met Hirsi Ali and muses: "I never know whether or not it's right to mention, with female public figures, the fact of arresting and hypnotizing beauty." But the fact that Hirsi Ali is a beautiful woman is crucially important, because it makes her that much more powerful a symbol of Islam's sexual oppression of women—and, more broadly, of the life-hating evil of Islamic fundamentalism.

But I will give the last word on Hirsi Ali's move to America to Hirsi Ali herself, in the resignation letter she sent to the Dutch parliament. (This link was brought to my attention by Harald Waage via HBL.)

"Tweede-Kamerfractie/Persverklaring Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Engels)," Aayan Hirsi Ali, Verdieping Trouw (Netherlands), May 16

I came to Holland in the summer of 1992 because I wanted to be able to determine my own future. I didn’t want to be forced into a destiny that other people had chosen for me, so I opted for the protection of the rule of law. Here in Holland, I found freedom and opportunities, and I took those opportunities to speak out against religious terror….

Issues related to Islam—such as impediments to free speech; refusal of the separation of Church and State; widespread domestic violence; honor killings…—these subjects can no longer be swept under the carpet in our country’s capital. Some of the measures that this government has begun taking give me satisfaction. Many illusions of how easy it will be to establish a multicultural society have disappeared forever. We are now more realistic and more open in this debate, and I am proud to have contributed to that process….

In the fall of 2005 I told Gerrit Zalm and Jozias van Aartsen, the leaders of the VVD, that I would not be a candidate for the parliamentary elections in 2007. I had decided to opt for a more international platform, because I wanted to contribute to the international debate on the emancipation of Muslim women and the complex relationship between Islam and the West…. [I]t is difficult to live with so many threats on your life and such a level of police protection. It is difficult to work as a parliamentarian if you have nowhere to live. All that is difficult, but not impossible. It has become impossible since last night, when Minister Verdonk informed me that she would strip me of my Dutch citizenship.

I am therefore preparing to leave Holland. But the questions for our society remain. The future of Islam in our country; the subjugation of women in Islamic culture; the integration of the many Muslims in the West: it is self-deceit to imagine that these issues will disappear.
I will continue to ask uncomfortable questions, despite the obvious resistance that they elicit. I feel that I should help other people to live in freedom, as many people have helped me….

That transition from becoming a member of a clan to becoming a citizen in an open society is what public service has come to mean for me. Only clear thinking and strong action can lead to real change, and free many people within our society from the mental cage of submission. The idea that I can contribute to their freedom, whether in the Netherlands or in another country, gives me deep satisfaction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as of today, I resign from Parliament. I regret that I will be leaving the Netherlands, the country which has given me so many opportunities and enriched my life, but I am glad that I will be able to continue my work. I will go on.

8. Freedom Fighters Against the Iranian Regime, May 25

As [Michael] Ledeen points out, the real news from Iran is a new wave of protests by secular dissidents against the theocratic dictatorship. Regime Change Iran has posted photos of student protesters holding signs that read, among other things, "This is not a seminary, it is a university."

MEMRI is also reporting on the protests, including declarations by the students that "We Don't Want Nuclear Energy"—a clear contradiction of the oft-repeated claim that Iranians are so "nationalistic" that even dissidents will back the regime in a standoff over Iran's nuclear program. Finally, the New York Sun, the only newspaper that, despite its small size and meager resources, has repeatedly devoted coverage to Iranian dissidents, has a good round-up covering the whole range of anti-regime protests, which I link to below.

" Determined Foes Mount Challenge to Iran's Mullahs," Eli Lake, New York Sun, May 25
In Tehran, university students staged a second day of strikes over the firing of eight professors and the new policies enacted by Tehran University's president.

In Tabriz, the regime tried to quell riots earlier this week over a cartoon depicting members of the Azeri minority as cockroaches. In Qom, the theocracy was absorbing the aftershocks of a candid interview from Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who told an Iraqi news agency that the current Islamic Republic has failed to deliver the democracy it promised in the 1979 revolution. The stirrings inside Iran are the most serious challenge to befall the mullahs since the protests that accompanied the 2003 commemorations of the July 9, 1999, Tehran University student rebellions. They also suggest the regime that America and Europe are now hoping to cajole into suspending its nuclear program may be more fragile than intelligence agencies recognize. One of the steering committee members of Iran's largest student organization chapter at Tehran Polytechnic University, Abbas Hakim Zadeh said in an interview from Tehran Tuesday that his organization was now 90% in favor of rejecting slow reform in favor of nonviolent resistance…. Yesterday, Mr. Zadeh said the country's largest student organization, Takhim Vahdat, rejected any direct talks between America and Iran if the negotiations centered around security guarantees in exchange for promises on nuclear enrichment. "If there is any dialogue and conversations or negotiations between the Islamic Republic and the international community, whether the United States or other countries individually or collectively, if it is around the nucleus of human rights, democracy and the openness in Iran, it is something worthwhile to consider," he said…. A colleague of Mr. Zadeh at Tehran Polytechnic University, Bijan Pouryousefi, said yesterday that Iran's student movement was reaching out to form a more unified front with labor unions and women's groups.
9. The Muslim Civil War: Afghanistan vs. Pakistan, September 26

While President Bush has so far offered no clear response to Pakistan's surrender, there is one man in Washington who is raising a spirited protest: Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, whose nation is in danger of once again becoming the victim of Pakistan's treachery. Musharraf is also in the US, and the two men have engaged in a war of words over the past few days, recounted in the two stories below.

Karzai's performance on this issue is heroic and extraordinary. Note here that he pretty clearly accuses Pakistan of becoming a state sponsor of terrorism, while he advocates shutting down the Pakistani madrassahs—fanatical religious schools that are used to indoctrinate terrorists—and imprisoning the fanatics who run them.

"Afghan Leader Slams Musharraf's Policies," Sharon Behn, Washington Times, September 26
The political divide between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf became increasingly acerbic yesterday, with the Afghan leader accusing his counterpart of pursuing policies that foster terrorism.

The outburst came on the eve of a critical meeting in which the two men will join President Bush in the Oval Office to discuss ways to improve their cooperation in fighting a revitalized Taliban insurgency. In a reference to Pakistan, Mr. Karzai said in an address at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars yesterday that there will be no peace in the region until nations stopped using religious extremism as a means of promoting policy.

"For all of us in the world to be safer, we must remove the need for groups, organizations or state entities—and here I am beginning to be very careful in my remarks—of reliance on religious radicalism as instruments of policy," he said. "The increased attacks on Afghanistan and the cross-border activities; the loss of US, Canadian soldiers; the burning of mosques and attacks on the continuing of reliance on radicalism as an instrument of policy," Mr. Karzai said….

In his Washington address yesterday, Mr. Karzai said many of the terrorists afflicting his country get their start in religious schools, or madrassas, in Pakistan…. Mr. Karzai…urged Gen. Musharraf to shut down the madrassas and imprison those who teach there.

"Military action in Afghanistan alone is not going to free us of terrorism. Going to the source of terrorism—where they get trained, motivated, financed and deployed—is necessary now," he said.

"Musharraf Lashes Out on US 'Book Tour'," Daily Telegraph, September 26

General Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, has attacked his Afghan counterpart on his controversial tour of America. Gen Musharraf, who is visiting the US with the twin aims of promoting his memoirs and representing his country, told Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, that he should stop blaming Pakistan for his own country's instability.

Responding to Mr Karzai's claims that Pakistani religious schools are fanning terrorism across the border, he said: "The sooner that President Karzai understands his own country, the better."

He added that Mr Karzai - who is also in the US—was partially to blame for disenfranchising the majority Pashtun ethnic group in Afghanistan, and warned that the Taliban cannot be defeated by military might alone. back to top
TIA Daily Feature Articles
10. Publish or Perish
The Lessons of the "Cartoon Jihad"

by Robert Tracinski The central issue of the "cartoon jihad"—the Muslim riots and death threats against a Danish newspaper that printed 12 cartoons depicting Mohammed—is obvious. The issue is freedom of speech: whether our freedom to think, write, and draw is to be subjugated to the "religious sensitivities" of anyone who threatens us with force. That is why it is necessary for every newspaper and magazine to re-publish those cartoons, as I will do in the next print issue of The Intellectual Activist. Click here.

This is not merely a symbolic expression of support; it is a practical countermeasure against censorship. Censorship—especially the violent, anarchic type threatened by Muslim fanatics—is effective only when it can isolate a specific victim, making him feel as if he alone bears the brunt of the danger. What intimidates an artist or writer is not simply some Arab fanatic in the street carrying a placard that reads "Behead those who insult Islam." What intimidates him is the feeling that, when the beheaders come after him, he will be on his own, with no allies or defenders—that everyone else will be too cowardly to stick their necks out.

The answer, for publishers, is to tell the Muslim fanatics that they can't single out any one author, or artist, or publication. The answer is to show that we're all united in defying the fanatics. That's what it means to show "solidarity" by re-publishing the cartoons. The message we need to send is: if you want to kill anyone who publishes those cartoons, or anyone who makes cartoons of Mohammed, then you're going to have to kill us all. If you make war on one independent mind, you're making war on all of us. And we'll fight back.

But the issue of freedom of speech is too clear, and too well settled, in the West, to be worth spending much time debating it. What is far more interesting is the fact that such a debate is occurring, nonetheless. This is a fact from which the Western world can draw some crucially important conclusions.

The West has long been aware that, while we hold freedom of speech as a centerpiece of our liberty, the Muslim world does not recognize this freedom. Before now, however, our worlds have rarely collided. The Muslims have not usually dared to extend their dictatorial systems to control our own behavior within our own cities. The Salman Rushdie affair—the Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 death edict against the "blasphemous" novelist—was an ominous warning, but Americans did not take it seriously.

Now, seventeen years later, the Muslim fanatics are making it clear: you don't have to come to our country, you don't have to be a Muslim. Even in your own countries and under your own laws, you will not be safe from our intimidation.

For the whole Western world, this is an opportunity to learn an important truth about the goal of the Islamists. Their goal is not to achieve any specific political demand or settlement. Their goal is submission: our submission to their will, to their laws, to their dictatorship—our submission, not just to one demand, but to any demand the Muslim mobs care to make. Europe particularly needs to learn this lesson. The Europeans have deluded themselves into thinking that this is our fight. If only Israel weren't so intransigent, if only the US weren't so belligerent, they told themselves—if only those cowboys didn't insist on stirring up trouble, we could all live in peace with the Muslims. And they have deluded themselves into thinking that they can seek a separate peace, that having the Danish flag on your backpack—as one bewildered young Dane described it—would guarantee that you could go anywhere in the world and be regarded as safe, as innocuous. Now the Europeans know better. With cries of "Death to Israel" and "Death to American" now being joined by cries of "Death to Denmark", every honest European can now see that they are in this fight, too—and they are closer to the front lines than we are. Threats against American cartoonists, when anyone bothers to make them, are toothless; there is no mob of violent young Muslims in the United States to carry them out. European writers and filmmakers, by contrast, are already being murdered in the streets. The first people to find themselves living under the sword of a would-be Muslim caliphate are Europeans, not Americans.

The lesson here is not just that the Islamist ideology of dictatorship is a threat to Europe. It is also that the dictatorships themselves are a threat. The advocates of cynical European "realpolitik" deluded themselves into thinking that, if they just made the right kind of deals with Saddam Hussein, or with the Iranian regime, or with the Syrian regime, then the dictatorships over there would have no impact on us over here. But we can now see that the anti-Danish riots did not explode spontaneously: they were instigated by the dictators, by the regimes in Iran and Syria. To their credit, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and now US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have been pointing out this connection. The lesson for Europe: if you accommodate and appease the dictators, they won't leave you alone. Having gotten some of what they want, they will come after you and take the rest. Europe ought to have learned that lesson, at terrible cost, in 1939; this ought to refresh their memory.

If we want to know why these lessons have not been learned before now, the cartoon jihad also gives us clues to the answer. Note that those who are supposed to help us learn those lessons—the left-leaning intellectuals and newspaper editors, the people who have traditionally posed as the brave defenders of free speech—have been the first to collapse in abject submission to Muslim sensibilities. The New York Times, for example, dismissed the cartoons as "juvenile" and explained that refusing to publish even a single image of the cartoons "seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols."
Note how the New York Times—like many other left-leaning newspapers—hides behind the evasion that the Danish cartoons are "silly" or "juvenile." On the contrary: the best of the Danish cartoons provided a far more serious, hard-hitting, thought-provoking commentary than has been provided in the pages of these same newspapers. While the mainstream media has drooled that Islam is "a religion of peace"—in the midst of yet another Muslim war—it was left to a Danish cartoonists to suggest that Mohammed himself, and the religion he represents, might be the bomb that has set off all of this violence. (To see these cartoons, go to the simply named website

But the prize for most abject surrender to Muslim dictatorship has to go to the leftist academics. The first to decry the Bush administration as a creeping "fascist" dictatorship, they are, perversely, the first to fawn in admiration before the world's actual fascists. If you think that's an exaggeration, read an op-ed in Sunday's New York Times by Stanley Fish, a famous "Postmodernist" university professor and defender of "political correctness." Fish writes:
"Strongly held faiths are exhibits in liberalism's museum; we appreciate them, and we congratulate ourselves for affording them a space, but should one of them ask of us more than we are prepared to give—ask for deference rather than mere respect—it will be met with the barrage of platitudinous arguments that for the last week have filled the pages of every newspaper in the country….

"[T]he editors who have run the cartoons do not believe that Muslims are evil infidels who must either be converted or vanquished. They do not publish the offending cartoons in an effort to further some religious or political vision; they do it gratuitously, almost accidentally. Concerned only to stand up for an abstract principle—free speech—they seize on whatever content happens to come their way and use it as an example of what the principle should be protecting. The fact that for others the content may be life itself is beside their point.

"This is itself a morality—the morality of a withdrawal from morality in any strong, insistent form. It is certainly different from the morality of those for whom the Danish cartoons are blasphemy and monstrously evil. And the difference, I think, is to the credit of the Muslim protesters and to the discredit of the liberal editors."

For years, the left has told us that the foundation of freedom is subjectivism; if you are never certain that you are right, you will never be certain enough to "impose" your views on others. But will you be certain enough to defend your mind against those who want to impose their beliefs on you? If Fish is any indication, the answer is "no." Note how he bows with almost superstitious awe before the fanaticism of the Muslim mobs, while describing the old-fashioned liberals' defense of free speech as hypocritical, superficial, "condescending."

And now the "hate crimes" laws pioneered by the left in the name of political correctness, are being invoked by Muslims to suppress publication of the Mohammed cartoons by a Canadian newspaper. The intellectuals of the left, having built a reputation as defenders of free speech by striking a pose of defiance against innocuous threats at home, have now become the leading advocates for self-imposed submission to the Muslim hordes abroad. Interestingly, intellectuals on the right have now become the loudest, most strident voices in defense of free speech, for which they deserve our admiration. Blogger Michelle Malkin has waged a particularly effective crusade on this issue. And she is not the only one; I linked to many good articles on the topic in last week's editions of TIA Daily.

But the right has its own contradictions, it own source of sympathy with the enemy. For years, conservative intellectuals have been demanding greater "sensitivity" to "religious sensibilities"—at least, to the religious sensibilities of Christians—and calling for a great role for religion in the "public square." The have waged a long crusade to allow religion to serve as the basis for laws against abortion and homosexuality, and for the subordination of science to religion, demanding that this be a "nation under God" rather than a "nation under Darwin."
And so we have seen a few prominent conservatives falter badly in the cartoon jihad. Prominent neoconservative scion John Podhoretz wrote a column in last Friday's New York Post that sounds an awful lot like Stanley Fish's column quoted above:

"For many people, the way to grant Muslims the recognition they crave is to patronize them—to give them nice little nods and winks and talk about what a nice religion they have. That kind of recognition is unsatisfying and condescending. The impulse behind the original publication of the cartoons in Denmark last September was to cut through the condescension. They were literally provocative—designed to provoke discussion about how to deal with the phenomenon that Carsten Juste, the editor of the newspaper that published them, called the 'self-censorship which rules large parts of the Western world.'

"Well, as Juste and his staff have learned to their sorrow, while some of that self-censorship may be the result of cowardly political correctness, some of it is clearly due to simple prudence. Juste and his underlings have been in grave physical danger for months, ever since the cartoons were published. And it would not be too much to say that they and the world would have been better off if they had exercised a little more self-protective caution in the first place."

Meanwhile, Hugh Hewitt—a much more dedicated religious conservative—practically squirms with discomfort at the idea of someone criticizing religion. He echoes the idea that the Danish editors were "irresponsible" for printing the cartoons because they could have predicted that it would "provoke" a violent reaction—but he adds a more pro-American gloss to it. He says that the cartoons were irresponsible because the enemy will use them as propaganda to incite riots and try to gain support among Muslims.

"In a wired world, there aren't any inconsequential actions, and everything is grist for the propagandists among the jihadists. That doesn't mean censorship, or even self-censorship. Only a bit of reflection before rushing off to start new battles which divert attention from those already underway. There is a chasm of difference between serious commentary on the Islamic challenge facing Europe and the West…and crude, sweeping anti-Muslim propaganda. It isn't necessary to defend the latter in order to uphold and praise the former."
(See more more of Hewitt's commentary on this issue.)

The weakness of the conservatives is that they think the essence of the West is our religion, our "Judeo-Christian tradition"—rather than our Enlightenment legacy of individual rights and unfettered reason. Conservatives try to evade the clash between religious authority and freedom of thought by claiming that religion provides the moral basis for liberty. But the clash cannot be avoided, and conservatives are forced to choose where they will draw the line: where respect for religious prohibitions, in their view, takes precedence over respect for the individual mind. On this issue—involving a religion alien to American traditions—most conservatives have had no problem drawing the line in favor of freedom. But will they draw a different line when their own religious dogmas are challenged? This is the final lesson of the cartoon jihad. The real issue at stake is not just censorship versus freedom, but something much deeper: the need to recognize the real essence of the West. The distinctive power and vibrancy of our culture, the source of our liberty, our happiness, and our unprecedented prosperity, is our Enlightenment tradition of regard for the unfettered reasoning mind, left free to follow the evidence wherever it leads. And this controversy has given our minds plenty of evidence to follow, and plenty of fearless conclusions to draw.

11. "The Escaped Prisoner"

Wafa Sultan's Forward Strategy of Intellectual Freedom
by Robert Tracinski
On March 1, TIA Daily linked to a MEMRI TV video of Arab-American psychologist Wafa Sultan on al-Jazeera television, in which she denounced Islam as the source of the warfare and oppression in the Middle East and declared:

The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality.

This was, I thought at the time, a statement that ought to set off a revolution. And that is precisely what it is doing. Dr. Sultan's remarks set off a wave of reaction in the Muslim world, and thanks to the efforts of MEMRI, she has been profiled by several major newspapers over the weekend. What Wafa Sultan has to say is crucially important. How she says it is inspiring.
Here is a longer excerpt from the MEMRI transcript of her appearance on al-Jazeera. Bear in mind as you read this that she was speaking in Arabic to an Arab audience.

(To appreciate even better Dr. Sultan's fiery, uncompromising manner, see the MEMRI TV video, available at or alongside the New York Times article linked to below. One TIA Daily reader who recommended that link to me compared Dr. Sultan's performance, quite accurately, to the kind of intensity of conviction one sees in old interviews with Ayn Rand.) Wafa Sultan: The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete….

Host: I understand from your words that what is happening today is a clash between the culture of the West, and the backwardness and ignorance of the Muslims?
Wafa Sultan: Yes, that is what I mean….
Host: Who came up with the concept of a clash of civilizations? Was it not Samuel Huntington? It was not Bin Laden. I would like to discuss this issue, if you don't mind...

Wafa Sultan: The Muslims are the ones who began using this expression. The Muslims are the ones who began the clash of civilizations. The Prophet of Islam said: "I was ordered to fight the people until they believe in Allah and His Messenger." When the Muslims divided the people into Muslims and non-Muslims, and called to fight the others until they believe in what they themselves believe, they started this clash, and began this war. In order to start this war, they must reexamine their Islamic books and curricula, which are full of calls for takfir and fighting the infidels. My colleague has said that he never offends other people's beliefs…. Who told you that they are "People of the Book"? They are not the People of the Book, they are people of many books. All the useful scientific books that you have today are theirs, the fruit of their free and creative thinking. What gives you the right to call them "those who incur Allah's wrath," or "those who have gone astray," and then come here and say that your religion commands you to refrain from offending the beliefs of others?

I am not a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew. I am a secular human being. I do not believe in the supernatural, but I respect others' right to believe in it. Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: Are you a heretic?

Wafa Sultan: You can say whatever you like. I am a secular human being who does not believe in the supernatural...

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran....
Wafa Sultan: Brother, you can believe in stones, as long as you don't throw them at me. You are free to worship whoever you want, but other people's beliefs are not your concern….

Wafa Sultan: The Jews have come from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. Fifteen million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a Mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.

This was Wafa Sultan's declaration of intellectual independence from Islam. It was a declaration, by an Arab speaking in Arabic to an Arab audience, that Islam is a backward, violent religion, and that a secular, free society—a culture of science, independent creative thought, and political freedom—is superior to the Islamic culture of faith. I have been in favor the Forward Strategy of Freedom as a military and diplomatic policy, a policy of knocking down Muslim tyrannies in the Middle East and replacing them, as far as is possible, with the institutions of a free society. But we can't expect the generals and politicians to win this kind of broad cultural battle all on their own, with only the tools available to soldiers and diplomats. Western intellectuals have to get into this fight, too. What we need even more than the Forward Strategy of Freedom is a Forward Strategy of Intellectual Freedom—an attempt to spread the values of reason, secularism, and independent thought to the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Mainstream Western intellectuals are not interested in this task. Their allegiance is not to reason, but to subjectivism, which has led them full circle to an admiration for dogmatism—so long as it is the dogmatism of others, which we are not to judge. Thus, the intellectuals are too busy appeasing Islam, like the administrators at Yale, who eagerly recruited a former Taliban spokesman as a "special student" to be considered for a subsidized enrollment at an Ivy League college, despite the fact that he has only fourth-grade education. (See the latest on this.)
So the Forward Strategy of Intellectual Freedom has been left to Wafa Sultan.

Who is Wafa Sultan? A profile in Sunday's New York Times tells her remarkable story. It begins with a remarkable act of intellectual independence: the decision, not just to question one particular interpretation of Islam, but to question all of the religion, down to the root. Dr. Sultan grew up in a large traditional Muslim family in Banias, Syria, a small city on the Mediterranean about a two-hour drive north of Beirut. Her father was a grain trader and a devout Muslim, and she followed the faith's strictures into adulthood. But, she said, her life changed in 1979 when she was a medical student at the University of Aleppo, in northern Syria. At that time, the radical Muslim Brotherhood was using terrorism to try to undermine the government of President Hafez al-Assad. Gunmen of the Muslim Brotherhood burst into a classroom at the university and killed her professor as she watched, she said. "They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, 'God is great!' " she said. "At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god." She and her husband, who now goes by the Americanized name of David, laid plans to leave for the United States. Their visas finally came in 1989, and the Sultans and their two children (they have since had a third) settled in with friends in Cerritos, Calif., a prosperous bedroom community on the edge of Los Angeles County…. All are now American citizens. But even as she settled into a comfortable middle-class American life, Dr. Sultan's anger burned within. She took to writing, first for herself, then for an Islamic reform Web site called Annaqed (The Critic), run by a Syrian expatriate in Phoenix.

Her writings brought her to the attention of al-Jazeera which—though it may now regret the decision—started having her as a guest on its talk shows in July of last year.

The New York Times profile describes the effect Dr. Sultan has had on others. It is a tribute to the liberating effect that the example of one courageous individual can have on others.

Three weeks ago, Dr. Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims. Today, thanks to an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21, she is an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel who deserves to die…. In response, clerics throughout the Muslim world have condemned her, and her telephone answering machine has filled with dark threats. But Islamic reformers have praised her for saying out loud, in Arabic and on the most widely seen television network in the Arab world, what few Muslims dare to say even in private…. Her eyes and hair are jet black and her modest manner belies her intense words: "Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking. Somebody has to help free the Muslim people from these wrong beliefs." And I am happy to report that Dr. Sultan is just getting started. According to the New York Times report:

Dr. Sultan is "working on a book that—if it is published—it's going to turn the Islamic world upside down." "I have reached the point that doesn't allow any U-turn. I have no choice. I am questioning every single teaching of our holy book." The working title is, "The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster." "The Escaped Prisoner" is precisely what Wafa Sultan represents: an intellectual escape from the mental prison of Islamic dogmatism. The New York Times profile quoted above shows a clear admiration for Dr. Sultan. But not every Western media source approves. They don't approve because Dr. Sultan is not a "moderate Muslim." The media doesn't mind profiling Arab critics of Islamic fanaticism, so long as they don't challenge the politically correct, Multiculturalist idea that there is nothing wrong with Islam itself, that Islam has been "distorted" through wrong "interpretations," so that it's teachings merely need to be "moderated."

This explains why a profile on Wafa Sultan in today's Los Angeles Times takes such a negative, snide, dismissive tone. It practically presents Dr. Sultan as an agent of the vast Zionist conspiracy imagined by the Muslims. But the flurry of interest among non-Muslims contrasts oddly with the near silence among Muslims themselves, many of whom say she is a largely unknown figure not causing any particular stir. "I haven't come across any indication that people are discussing her," said Abdulaziz Sachedina, a University of Virginia Islamic studies professor who was blacklisted eight years ago by Iraqi Ayatollah Ali Sistani for his reformist ideas that women were equal to men and all Abrahamic faiths were equally respectable…. Sachedina said he agreed with some of her remarks, including her criticism that too many Muslim rulers fail to protect human rights. But he objected to what he called her "vilification" of the entire tradition.
Other Muslims questioned why groups outside the faith were so avidly promoting a non-Muslim to criticize Islam, a practice that has occurred before and is a sore spot in the Islamic community, particularly since many respected Muslims also advocate change. "Reform is alive and well within Islam, but it will only happen by those from within Islam and not those who hate Islam," said Hussam Ayloush, who heads the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

But the fact that Wafa Sultan is not a "moderate Muslim" is precisely what makes her so important. What the Arab world needs—and what we need to deploy as our primary intellectual offensive against Islamic fanaticism, is not such a watered-down version of the same violent Islamic dogmas. As I remarked when I originally covered this story on March 1, the reason I admire Wafa Sultan is that "She's no 'moderate Muslim'—she's an uncompromising firebrand in the defense of reason and freedom."

Let us hope that this firebrand can set off a conflagration of independent thought. And let's do whatever we can to add fuel to those flames and spread them across as much of the globe as possible.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What Has Jerusalem To Do With Athens?

TIA Daily • November 28, 2006

What Has Jerusalem to Do with Athens?

Part 1: Pope Benedict XVI Turns Tertullian on His Head

by Robert Tracinski

Editor's Note: I have not yet completed my "What Went Right?" series, but in the meantime, the story below was so timely that I thought it important to start this new article today. Over the next week, I will post the second part of this new article, as well as the next installment of "What Went Right?"—RWT

Pope Benedict XVI arrived yesterday in Istanbul on a visit that crystallizes an important aspect of the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

Radical Islam is a rising force in quasi-secular Turkey, and the pope's visit has been met with mass protests by Turkish Muslims in response to comments the pope made earlier this year regarding Islam.

In a September 12 speech at the University of Regensburg in Germany, Benedict quoted a dialogue written between 1394 and 1402 by the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus. According to Benedict, Manuel's philosophical tract, written as a dialogue between the emperor and "a learned Persian,"ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an…. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point—itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself—which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting point for my reflections on this issue. ---In the seventh conversation…, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

"God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...."

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.

The focus of Muslim outrage has been narrow and superficial: Benedict's quotation of Manuel's description of Islam as "evil and inhuman." But the speech itself is actually about faith, reason, and force, and it has wide implications for the nature of the clash between Islam and the West, for the relationship between religion and secularism within the West, and for judging the relative threats posed by Islamic and Christian fanaticism.

This speech is all the more important because Benedict is a more philosophical and readable pope than his predecessor. Popes always operate on a broad philosophical level, especially relative to Bible-thumping American Evangelicals, but in the speeches and papal encyclicals I have read, John Paul II never seemed fully comfortable with philosophical argument. His writings always vacillate between philosophical argument and quotations from scripture, as if John Paul II were vacillating between appeals to reason and appeals to Biblical authority.

Benedict, by contrast, is at home in the realm of philosophy, and with the exception of an overly scholarly vocabulary, he is capable of setting forth a clear and readable argument that is understandable to the non-believer.

The reason for this is revealed in the opening of Benedict's speech, as he recalls his experience as a theology professor at the University of Bonn in 1959. The faculty of the university, he writes, shared the ideal "that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason." Theology, then, is presented as being based on the same rationality as secular academic disciplines. In that spirit, Benedict also describes his tolerant reaction to an atheist colleague: "even in the face of such radical skepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason…: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question."

This statement is the context in which Benedict introduces his comments on Islam. He introduces Islam's belief in spreading religion through the sword as a contrast to contemporary Christianity's dedication to defending the faith through reason and persuasion.
Much of Benedict's contrast between Christianity and Islam focuses on the theological issue of whether God is bound by reason (the Catholic view) or inscrutable to reason (the Muslim view). Remember earlier that he described Manuel's view that "not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature" as "the decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion." He then quotes a commentator on the text of Manuel's dialogue: "For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." If the Muslim god is not bound to obey the dictates of reason, then his followers are not required to respect reason in the minds of their fellow men.

But Benedict has larger goals for which this theological difference is merely a springboard. Those goals are revealed by his reference to Manuel's Christian religious views as being "shaped by Greek philosophy"—something of which Benedict approves. In fact, he makes the connection between Christianity and the Greek philosophical tradition the main subject of his speech.

Previous Catholic theologians and philosophers, from Thomas Aquinas on down, have argued that Christian religious faith and secular classical learning are compatible. Benedict goes a step further.

The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10)—this vision can be interpreted as a distillation of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry….

[D]espite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature.

Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria—the Septuagint—is more than a simple…translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: not to act "with logos" [i.e., according to reason] is contrary to God's nature. [Emphasis added.]

What is really radical about Benedict's speech is not its references to Islam, but its attempt to argue that the classical Greek tradition of reason is an indispensable part of Christianity. The idea that Christianity did not spread to Greece "by chance" and that the Greek translation of the Old Testament is an "important step in the history of revelation," together with his later claim that the New Testament "bears the imprint of the Greek spirit"—all of this implies the absorption of the Greek tradition into the foundations of the Christian faith. In effect, Benedict is adopting the works of Plato and Aristotle as part of the revealed word of God.

Benedict spends much of the rest of his speech decrying the "dehellenization" of Christianity—that is, attempts to separate Christianity from the Greek influence.

The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a dehellenization of Christianity—a call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. He argues against these various attempts, including the most recent one, "which is now in progress."

In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux.

See what I mean about an overly scholarly vocabulary? Translated into more familiar terms, Benedict is arguing against a kind of Christian Multiculturalism in which Greek-influenced Christianity is just a European variant on Christianity, with other regions free to adopt non-Western interpretations of the faith. I don't know much about the political power struggles within the Church, but I suspect that this theory is an attempt to legitimize African Christianity, which tends to be more mystical and emotionalist—that is to say, more un-Greek—than European Christianity.

Benedict has some tart words for this Christian Multiculturalism.

This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed…. [T]he fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself. [Emphasis added.]

The integration of Greek philosophy and Christianity, in Benedict's view, is the foundation both of Christianity and of Western Civilization in general.

This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history—it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.

In Benedict's view, the founding tradition of the West is not the Judeo-Christian tradition but rather the Judeo-Christian-Greco-Roman tradition—as one unified tradition.
This is an extraordinary claim, and one that departs from much of the history of the Church—and one that is, as the rest of Benedict's speech will demonstrate, philosophically untenable.

The early Church father Tertullian (c. 155–230 AD), despite being born into the late classical world, was contemptuous of secular classical learning, and once asked, rhetorically, "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem, or the Academy with the Church?" (This is the same Tertullian who said, of the doctrine of the Trinity, "I believe it because it is absurd.") In his view, the philosophical tradition of Athens was irrelevant to and incompatible with the religious tradition of Jerusalem. Yet that is precisely the view that Benedict is turning on its head.

Thus, reversing Tertullian's question, we may ask of Benedict: what has Jerusalem to do with Athens?

This article will be continued in a future edition of TIA Daily.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What Went Right? Part IV: The Metaphysics of "Normal Life"

Thanksgiving Day Treat:
This series of articles by philosopher-journalist Robert Tracinski is continued from last Thursday's edition of TIA Daily.

The topic of this series of articles—the question posed in its title—is "what went right?" The paradox we need to unravel is the fact that explicit Objectivist ideas have obviously not swept the world—and yet civilization, far from collapsing, is expanding in many respects and in many areas of the world. For that to happen, something must be going right in the minds of an awful lot of people. So what is going right?

In the last part of this series, I gave part of my answer and concluded by calling for "a healthy respect for the thinking of the common man, and a grasp of the living institutions by which the mass of men in the developed world, and in rapidly developing areas of the world, actively sustain the civilization of the Enlightenment, even in the face of indifference or opposition from today's academic philosophers and professional intellectuals."

The "living institutions" I was referring to are the three cultural institutions that are most visibly spreading across the globe and directly reshaping the lives of billions of people—or rather, I should say that these institutions are the means by which billions of people are enabled and encouraged to reshape their own lives. Those institutions are: scientific and technological education, global capitalism, and representative government.

In the previous installment of this series, I pointed out that, while philosophy can be viewed as providing a "foundation" for specialized fields, it is also true that specialized knowledge provides a foundation for philosophy: it provides the facts and lower-level integrations that are the inductive base for broad philosophical conclusions.

Similarly, one can look at the three institutions I have just mentioned and regard them as products of the philosophy and culture of the Enlightenment, which they certainly are. But observation of today's world indicates that these institutions are self-reinforcing and self-propagating. And I think the evidence suggests something more: that these institutions are not just a product of the influence of Enlightenment ideas across the world; they are the leading edge of that influence. The legacy of the Enlightenment is spreading, not because people are reading Aristotle, or because they are reading John Locke and Adam Smith or any other Enlightenment thinker and deciding to adopt his ideas (though that does happen, to some extent). Rather, the legacy of the Enlightenment is spreading because people are embracing and being transformed by the concrete institutions of the Enlightenment.

I've had a few people object to the earlier installments of this series by saying that, while the examples I have cited don't involve the influence of explicitly stated philosophical ideas, they do involve men's implicit philosophy. But that is precisely my point, and spelling out exactly how good ideas are grasped implicitly, in what form and by what process, is part of what I want to address in looking at the global influence of scientific and technological education, global capitalism, and representative government.

My views on the importance of scientific and technological education were inspired in part by research I did a few years ago for lectures on the history of the British Empire, particularly in India. One of the most important facts about that history, and one that explains a great deal about what is happening today, is the educational system that the British created in India.

The British did not exactly set out to bring the Enlightenment to India. The system they created was designed primarily to serve a practical purpose: to create a class of English-speaking Indians capable of serving in the Indian Civil Service and administering the Empire. Thomas Macaulay, who encouraged the development of this educational system in the early 19th century, described its future graduates as "a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” In my lectures, here is how I described the effect:

Just as Europe had revived itself, intellectually and morally, in the Renaissance through the rediscovery of Aristotle, so a discovery of Aristotle was necessary for a transformation of Africa, India, China, and the rest of the non-Western world.

But you cannot start by taking people from an ignorant…state and just give them Aristotle right away. What is more realistic, and far more effective, is to induct them into the concrete methods and practices of Aristotelian thinking. What I mean is that you begin by teaching them mathematics, basic science, engineering; you have them study law, history, and Western literature; you induct them—literally, through an inductive process—in the concrete methods of Western thinking, so that they acquire the same base of knowledge and habitual method of thinking that is normally instilled in Westerners.

After all, most people in the West have never studied Aristotle directly. Many have never even heard of him. But an entire Western education is, or at least used to be, implicitly grounded in the Greek foundation and implicitly reflecting an Aristotelian method. Westerners acquire an Aristotelian outlook almost by osmosis. It is the intellectual atmosphere they breathe.

So if you were to try to import the Enlightenment into India, the first thing you would want to do—an ideal, most effective measure—would be to introduce a Western-style classical education, teaching science, mathematics, history, and Western literature. This is precisely what the British began to do in India in the mid-19th century.

By contrast, I observed that when the British came to Africa, they mainly set up religious schools run by missionaries for the purpose of teaching the Bible. India got Aristotelianism, while Africa got Christianity—and that explains some of the difference in their subsequent history and current state.

That people should learn a rational outlook on life through the details of a scientific and technological education, rather than directly from explicit philosophy, is normal and necessary, for the same reason that you begin a child's education with addition and multiplication instead of the Law of the Excluded Middle.

Both an individual and a culture have to learn a rational method and world view, not just from instruction in explicit philosophical tenets, but first from learning the specific methods and world view of the sciences, seeing the validity and power of that method in all of the myriad concretes it can explain to them and all of the concrete problems it allows them to solve. If people who have been trained in a scientific education then encounter the basic tenets of a pro-reason philosophy, they will regard them as practically self-evident. That is, although those principles are not all self-evident, they will feel as if they were, because the broad philosophic truths are implicit in so many of the truths that the individual has grasped in his studies of mathematics, geometry, physics, engineering, medicine, and so on.

This, incidentally, is what secular pro-science activists (of the type profiled in item #5 above) mean when they say science education is crucial to defending a secular world view. It is not the specifics of any particular science that are necessary; no one will become an atheist just because he has memorized Avagadro's number. What is needed is the implicit world view and method of thinking that science teaches, which emerges from all of those details.

This also explains an observation first made to me by Jack Wakeland and Shrikant Rangnekar (who is himself an example of this phenomenon): that the leading edge of Western influence around the world can always be seen among engineers. An engineering degree is the one form of advanced education that benefits from a kind of global gold standard, so that an engineering degree from the Indian Institutes of Technology is worth as much (if not more) than one from the Illinois Institute of Technology. (And even in Chicago's IIT, it should be noted, many of the students are from overseas.) And an engineering degree is the form of education that is most economically rewarding in developing nations, because it allows a graduate to connect to the extraordinary wealth and vitality of the global economy.

That is the mutually reinforcing link between scientific education and the second factor remaking today's world: global capitalism.

Wherever it goes—and to the extent that it is applied—global capitalism is not merely a practical or material force; it is a moral force. Capitalism does not have a moral impact by preaching any particular virtues; it is mute. It simply re-arranges the incentives that men face—lowering the resistance and massively increasing the reward for certain kinds of behavior. Hard work, ambition, innovation, independence are traits that would earn you resentment at best (in a socialist system) and a term in the gulag at worst (in a Communist dictatorship)—but under capitalism, suddenly these traits produce a shower of rewards.

And the more a society progresses morally, the greater the rewards. Once a society tastes capitalism, it is pulled into a virtuous cycle in which it is pushed to expand its understanding of and commitment to the morality of capitalism. I remember hearing a business reporter on the radio broadcasting from China, where he discussed the struggle to create mail-order businesses there. The problem, he explained, is the challenge of establishing the values of honesty and trust. In most areas of China, no buyer will pay for anything unless he receives the goods immediately, and no seller will hand over the goods unless he is paid immediately. Under those terms, the Western business model of making an order on a credit card, then having it mailed to you, is impossible. So the Chinese now have an enormous incentive to create a reliable system of credit and trust, with honest and objective enforcement of contract. They have an incentive to further entrench the value of honesty because of everything it will make possible to them economically.

If the main effect of scientific and technological education is to induct men into a rational method of thinking, the main effect of global capitalism is to induct them into rational egoism. And in both cases, I mean the word "induct" in an epistemological sense: capitalism encourages individualism inductively, by giving men the experience of being independent agents seeking self-interest through rational, productive effort.

I remember years ago talking with an Objectivist in Hong Kong who was trying to figure out how to explain the moral issue of collectivism versus individualism in an op-ed written for a local audience. I told him that this was the easiest job in the world—because his audience is one for whom collectivism versus individualism would not be an abstract difference. All he had to do, I told him, was to invoke the life stories of millions of people in Hong Kong. Hong Kong (and today, mainland China as well) is full of 50-year-old businessmen who lived through the horrors of Mao's Cultural Revolution when they were young, then either escaped to Hong Kong or were liberated by Deng's free-market reforms in the 1980s—and subsequently experienced the myriad blessings of life in a free (or relatively free) economy. (For examples, I recently linked to an excerpt from John Pomfret's Chinese Lessons, which tells the life stories of five of his classmates from a stint at a Chinese university in the early 1980s, just at the beginning of China's reforms.)

China is filled with men who have made a transition from living under totalitarian collectivism to living under a relatively high degree of individualism. As a consequence, they have also made a transition from wood huts and dusty village streets to skyscrapers and modern shopping malls.
This kind of example won't be a shock to regular readers of TIA Daily, because I link to them as often as I can. I found a recent example particularly poignant. A story on the economic reforms in Vietnam described a 28-year-old woman who works at a garment factory. "My parents were very poor," she explained to the reporter, then added with evident pride,

"But I will be able to give my son a good education," she said, describing a modest Prudential life insurance policy she bought for her 2-year-old son that includes a savings fund for educational expenses. "He will have more opportunities."

But the biggest example that sticks in my mind is "Bilgay." I began this series with the story of a 14-year-old Indian boy that Gurcharan Das met in a small rural village, who described how he was taking computer classes and wanted to become the owner of a software company, because he saw a man named "Bilgay" on the television.

Wherever Bill Gates goes in the developing world, he is treated as a hero. Just last week I linked to a story about the rise of Vietnam, which reported that "In a recent poll, Bill Gates was named as a hero by the Vietnamese. When he visited in April, young men wearing "I {heart} Bill Gates" T-shirts lined the streets and cheered."

In The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman describes how "I was talking to a Chinese-American who works for Microsoft and has accompanied Bill Gates on Visits to China. He said Gates is recognized everywhere he goes in China. Young people there hang from the rafters and scalp tickets just to hear him speak. Same with Jerry Yang, the founder of Yahoo!" Friedman concludes, "In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears." (He then tartly adds, "In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears—and that is our problem.")

In every society in the world that is joining the system of global capitalism, Bill Gates stands as a symbol of ambition and success. Every young engineer or software programmer in the world looks to him as the measure of what it is possible to achieve in the world.

The historical evidence, especially in East Asian countries like Taiwan and South Korea, suggests that capitalism tends to lead to representative government. That should be no surprise. Historically, in the West, economic and political liberty were born at the same time and in the same place. Philosophically, it is clear why individuals who see themselves as independent thinkers engaged in the pursuit of happiness won't accept a political dictatorship.

I have noticed a tendency among Objectivists to minimize the importance of the spread of representative government, possibly because it is tempting, in all of the intellectual confusion about "democracy"—which is a package deal of collectivism and political liberty—to protest by dismissing representative government as mere "mob rule" in any society that is not already well advanced toward freedom. But I have argued that representative government is an institution that makes its own contribution to inducting men into a system of liberty. As I argued in "Three Elections" (TIA, Vol. 18, No. 12),

The deepest virtue of representative government is epistemological. Representative government is the political system that institutionalizes the subordination of government force to persuasion and rational debate. It is the only political system that mandates a voice for reason in the affairs of man.

The spread of representative government in recent decades—particularly since the fall of Communism—is as dramatic as the spread of global capitalism. Freedom House, an international organization that advocates "liberal democracy"—i.e., representative government and its supporting institutions, such as freedom of speech and freedom of association—provides a striking graph of the progress of political liberty across the world since 1972. The number of nations ranked as "free" keeps rising year after year, doubling from 1971 to 2005, while the number of nations ranked as "partly free" or "not free" keeps declining. (The year 1992 is a statistical aberration caused by the fragmentation of the Soviet Union, in which one unfree nation fragmented into a dozen unfree nations. For more on the criteria used by Freedom House, and for detailed country-by-country rankings, go here.)

It is from nations trying to make the transition to political liberty that I picked up my first clue about the cumulative effect of the cultural changes wrought by the institutions I have just described: scientific and technological education, global capitalism, and representative government. This transformation does more than change the practical or material conditions under which men live. It expands their understanding of what kind of life is possible to them and what kind of world it is possible for them to live in.

In nations struggling for liberty, and especially for those struggling to acquire the last institution of a free society, representative government, I found this yearning expressed in an unexpected form: young people talk about their longing to live a "normal life." As I observed when I first noticed this phenomenon,

What seems to be contained in the phrase "a normal life" is not the details of what constitutes a free society, but rather a vision of what kind of life is possible to man when he lives in such a society: prosperity; a profusion of opportunities for education, for _expression, for advancement; a life free of physical fear.

The "normal life" we experience in America has not been "normal" as a statistical average of man's life, either throughout history or around the world today. So that makes the fact that it is now starting to be regarded as "normal" all the more extraordinary. "Normal," in this context, is not a statistical term. Neither is it a political or even a moral term—which is why those who use it do not understand its full moral and political meaning. "Normal," in this context, is a metaphysical estimate. It means: that which is possible to man in this world.

I then offered what I described then as a hypothesis, but which I am now willing to put more confidence in:

The existence of a free society in the United States for the past 200 years, and of essentially free societies in Western Europe and Japan for the past 50 years, has created a new global standard for what kind of life is metaphysically possible to man. The life of man in a free society has become—for millions around the world—what they long for as a "normal" way of living.

At the beginning of this installment, I suggested that the progress we see across the world today is evidence that something is going right in the minds of an awful lot of people, and the "metaphysics of 'normal life'" gives us a clue about what is going right.

While it is true that few men grapple with explicit philosophical ideas, all men grapple with broad philosophical issues on the implicit level. They all have to form implicit conclusions about the nature of the world and the nature of man, and an estimate of what is possible to man in this world. To say that they do so implicitly is not to say that they do so blindly or that they must borrow their conclusion from those who do think about these issues explicitly. Most men draw their implicit conclusions based on their own experience, on what the day-to-day pressures, incentives, joys, and sorrows of their lives show to them is possible.

So what happens when their day-to-day experience shows them that it is possible to understand the world and solve problems through the use of your mind; that it is possible to be an independent individual making decisions about how to control your own life, free from physical fear and intimidation; that the reward for hard work and ambition is an ever-increasing string of achievements and rewards?

And what if their culture's intellectual propagandists—those responsible for handing down to them their explicit philosophical convictions—tell them the opposite? The result will be what is reported from Vietnam: tired old Communist speeches blared over public loudspeakers to an audience of young people who are far more interested in catching a glimpse of Bill Gates.

And notice also that those who do not yet experience the benefits of Enlightenment institutions can now see those benefits clearly, obviously, almost on the perceptual level, in the contrast between the unfree societies in which they live and the free societies that they can see next door, or (thanks to advances in telecommunications) on the television or the Internet. Thus, for example, when a small band of dissidents in Europe's last totalitarian enclave, Belarus, made a brief stand against their repressive government, a 23-year-old protester who identified himself only as Kirill explained to a reporter why he was protesting against his government: "I have been to the United States and to England, and I have seen how people live there. I know what's going on in the world."

How many Kirills are there across the world, who have "seen how people live" under reason, individualism, and liberty, and who have concluded—without fully understanding the explicit philosophical meaning of what they see—that this is what they should expect as the "normal" state of man?

Kirill doesn't just know what's going on in the world—he is what is going on in the world.

That is why I have described these institutions as the living legacy of the Enlightenment. They are animated, preserved, and expanded, not just by the effort of minds long dead, but by the mind of any individual man in any nation who grasps their importance, attempts to understand what they mean and how to preserve them, and gives them his loyalty in action.

I think you can see now why I so quickly dismiss any claim that the dominant trend of today's world is toward religious fundamentalism and theocracy. If we look out at the world, the only force we can see that is rapidly spreading across the globe and radically transforming the lives of billions of people, as a long-term trend stretching over decades, is not any form of religion. Not even Islam, the most virulent of the world's religions, can match it. The real transformation of the world is a secular phenomenon. What is transforming the world is scientific and technological education, global capitalism, and representative government. What is transforming the world is the living legacy of the Enlightenment, and it is doing so one mind at a time, in the implicit conclusions of any man who discovers what is going on in the world and chooses to work for a normal life.

So far in this series, I have emphasized cultural forces other than the direct influence of explicit philosophical ideas. I have done so because I think these factors explain what is going right in today's world.

However, I have not yet attempted to re-integrate these new observations with the question of the role of explicit philosophical ideas. That is what I will attempt in the next installment of this series.

This series will be continued in a future edition of TIA Daily.