The Yellow Dog Blog

More meaningless ramblings from another guy you don't know

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Muslim diagnosis

I'm not a Catholic, but like the Pope (in some cases, anyway), I stand on the side of reason and western civilization. The following is a letter to the editor from Richard Reay of Riverdale, New York in response to a 9/21 WSJ op ed by Reuel Marc Gerecht. It's not available on-line (that I can find) so I re-type the letter in its entirety:

As Reuel Marc Gerecht points out in his September 21 editorial-page commentary "The Pope's Divisions," many Muslims wrongly perceive Islam as a political and military tool of conquest ? which will only corrupt it as Christianity was during the Middle Ages. On the other hand, Jews are often accused of doing the opposite: using Judaism to insulate themselves and exclude others in order to concentrate their own power. Therefore, the power of spirituality can be misunderstood and abused, which is why reason is an integral part of faith and a solution to the infirmities of the mind and soul.

Pope Benedict is right to appeal to logos, that nexus of reason and spirituality, to compel people to ask what is going wrong in the world at large, and Islam in particular. When you look at history, Islam is simply one of many groups through which the intellectual legacy of the world has passed. Violence, therefore, is the cartharsis of its passingand the antithesis of reason and humanism, which are the basis of monotheism and the Greek philosophical tradition. As Christianity and Judaism work toward an interfaith understanding, Islam is the prodigal son that needs to return home to the cradle of civilization that it shares with its monotheistic brethren.

But reason, as a basis for understanding revealed truth, is the same foundation for understanding politics. And when people don?t want to acknowledge the conclusions that derive from reason and logic, they become dissonant, dissociated, even violent. ?Choice? is often considered the mark of intellectual independence, but it?s also a mask for denying what follows from reason. In other words, I have a right to believe what I wish, even if I know I?m wrong. This attitude often manifests itself in liberal democracies among social militants of the left. But you also see the ideology of victimhood ? one of its offshoots ? taking root in the Middle Eastern critique of the West?s alleged intent to subjugate Arabs through ?colonialism? ? when it is really their own culture and intellectual inertia that is holding them back.

It is this intellectual inertia that is now being institutionalized through jihad that Pope Benedict wants Muslims to reject through reason. Unfortunately, and to their shame, the pope?s critics don?t understand that his dialectic approach to dialogue by using Emperor Manuel?s statement as a starting point for inquiry. Thus the violent reaction on the Arab street. However, Pope Benedict is trying to prevent the world from devolving into a Tower of Babel where the ?us vs. them? mentality can bring down the tower of universitas and its richness of human variety. The antidote to this gathering chaos and nihilism is the appeal to reason as our salvation. And it is the universality of reason, as echoed in the words of Lincoln, that is the spiritual and civic religion of all people everywhere.

I wish that I were as sanguine as Mr. Reay about the universality of reason. Islam has a particularly difficult time with self criticism and self examination, let alone abiding either from an outsider. But I do agree that the violence and terrorism that has been displayed by elements of Islam in the last fifteen years or so (along with the reluctance to confront it from within by moderate Muslims) is a reaction to a sort of dissociative pathology and the politics of victimhood that have been promoted by the Muslim world?s dictatorial strongmen for over two generations. The Muslim world is being left behind, both socially and economically as a result of its own cultural inertia. This stagnation has negatively impacted almost a billion people across the globe and provides the basis for further claims of victimhood that feeds a self-perpetuating cycle.

I don't know if democratization in Iraq is right course to conter-act this. If nothing else, the violent responses by reactionary Muslims and the scorn among western leftists should be a positive indicator. Something, however, must be done or the problem will only get worse.


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