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P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
12.2 (Spring 2012)
faith and cultural meltdown
courtesy of artrenewal.org
Communist Totalitarianism and Radical Islam: A Marriage-From-Hell Made in Heaven
I asked a knowledgeable colleague several years ago—not more than five years back, when 9/11 remained vivid in the popular imagination but when things in Iraq were looking quasi-rosy—why Muslims should not be the natural allies of traditional Christians in our global culture wars. We both loathe trash TV and the anomic propaganda churned out by Hollywood, we both believe homosexuality to be an aberration that should not be hallowed with marriage vows, we both place a major emphasis upon family life, and (thanks to the family’s importance) we both refuse to discount the contribution of women as wives and mothers. The progressive world, with its paradoxical commitment to individual fulfillment and to the social/political unit as family, is at odds with both our faiths on these points. The word “paradox”, in fact, is charitable: the progressive vision, lacking a metaphysical source of value, can only produce contradiction, and it therefore constantly undermines the individual in the great march forward even as it champions the individual’s right to mate with animals or to clone and cryo-preserve himself. The forces of such anarchy and insanity are now corroding virtually every society on the face of the planet. Why, then, should not good Muslim people form a coalition with good Christian people to resist these acidic tides? The Internet would be the perfect place to start.
My colleague was lukewarm. He seemed to know something that he was unwilling to share; or perhaps he would have shared it, if only he could have found the words. Perhaps his coolness was no more than a misgiving—but a profound misgiving. He was not about to sign on to my coalition, in any case.
In the intervening years, I think I finally figured out why. I hasten to stress that what I am about to write concerns fundamentalist Islam. I have a couple of Muslim friends who would be living evidence of my coalition’s viability, if only their kind were more common and more outspoken. How abundant their enlightened views actually are, I cannot begin to say. Pollsters cannot simply circulate questionnaires through this community of believers in the way that has become so familiar to us in the West—and that, of course, is a large part of the problem. Muslim voices that dissent from the culture of vengeance and intimidation dominant in the Middle East may be bullied with impunity, and are sometimes murdered in fumes of righteous indignation that a Western judicial system finds too radioactive to approach. Muslims of the sort that I would love to have as neighbors always seem, at least potentially, to have a price on their head.
To avoid unnecessary friction, however, allow me simply to address my remarks to Muslim communities abroad: not only to the leadership of hard-line mullahs in Iran, but also to the “Arab Spring” whose prevailing winds seem stirred by the Muslim Brotherhood; not only to Iraq’s volatile Shi’ite majority, but also to the Syrian Suni whose hatreds are nourished by the supposedly hated Shia of Iran by way of Iraq. The whole political hornet’s nest, one must concede at the outset, is incapable of any Moral Majority boycott against Hollywood. One must practically ignore all the claims of conservative values antithetical to Western corruption and depravity. These are the same people, remember—these militant advocates of a return to holy scripture and common decency—who gang-raped Lara Logan during a “celebration” in Cairo’s streets. I do not consider my personal friends as sharing a religious faith with such rabid brigands. I can scarcely even consider them as belonging to a single species, but that I know us all to have a wild animal concealed deep within.
Furthermore, heroic proponents of a humane Islam like Nonie Darwish insist that the teaching in many American mosques is growing more radical as money and influence from the Islamic beehive around the Mediterranean insidiously buzz their way to our shores. So I cannot inscribe my observations within tidy parameters, but I can say rather confidently that the epicenter of Islamic activity in the early twenty-first century is not where we would wish. The Middle East may be a backwater as far as science, culture, and technology are concerned—and it may be a desiccated wadi as far as women’s rights and constitutional government are concerned; but it is the wellspring of the faith’s current trends and ideological exports, unfortunately.
Herein lie the reasons for my erstwhile colleague’s misgivings. Radical Islam cannot second the traditional Christian’s battle against the forces of cultural degeneracy because, on several practical grounds, it is far better suited to be the trustworthy ally of communist totalitarianism. I offer six of these grounds below:
a0 Communist dictatorships and radical Islamist states both feature autocratic, top-down authority whose basis lies in arbitrary claims. No logical or rational review of this basis is tolerated or considered remotely possible: the attempt at such a review would be held as definitively subversive. In both cases, rulers claim that their authority rests above the powers of ordinary human analysis: the voice of God, in the Muslim’s case; the vision of the revolutionary committee, in the communist’s.
b) Naturally, the essential view of human nature implied within these arbitrary claims is that of the blank slate; for if humans possessed certain a priori values, then only those could justify authority or recognize higher purpose. Since humans, on the contrary, are mere clay tablets stamped with external conditioning, the man is molded to suit the doctrine rather than the doctrine the man. Those who do not accede to the molding may and should be disposed of as unmalleable garbage.
c) Both systems have a vision of completion or fulfillment—an eschatology, if you will—which always thrusts the climax into an indefinitely receding future, yet that great moment is always represented as here on earth. Thus virtually any act of brutality on the part of leadership may be justified as corrective steering to keep the ship of state on course for the golden island; and since that island is Planet Earth, the persistent presence of misery shows constantly that more correction is necessary.
d) With no transcendental source ascribed to values that sends its beacon universally through human hearts, but only a Book and a Book’s Interpreter(s), both the communist dictator and the radical Muslim mullah are constantly clashing with rival interpreters. The Cause is forever being mired in intra-doctrinal struggles even as it seeks to export its vision to infidel lands in a war of conversion. A large part of our victory in the Cold War resulted from the Soviet Union’s preoccupation with China, just as we have discovered—too late—that a large part of Iran’s relative obscurity in the nineties was its rivalry with Saddam Hussein.
e) War on behalf of the Cause is always ennobling. All who resist conversion, even passively, are infidels, and no strategy for removing them can be viewed as immoral. The Koran permits unbelievers to dwell within a Muslim community, but not truly to mingle with it. They pay a heavy tax yearly (the jizyah), and the faithful are instructed never to consider them friends. Throughout the Cold War, both Soviet and Chinese premiers repeatedly lied, with system and by design, whenever an American president was foolish enough to negotiate an arms treaty with them, and their counterparts continue to do so today. As the Koran says, lying to an infidel in order to spread the faith is a duty.
e) For both the communist authoritarian and the radical Islamist, it’s a “man’s world”. All forms of social deviance (e.g., homosexuality) are severely punished. The arts are viewed with contempt (e.g., Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” and the Taliban’s destruction of Buddhist sculptures at Bamiyan) unless involved somehow in a competition with political rivals. Women are considered inferior beings (fundamentalists continue to debate whether Allah has granted them a full soul) and all shows of sexual levity are repressed and/or punished (e.g., the Chinese censorship of Western television in Hong Kong); yet a culture of carnality thrives beneath the Spartan surface wherein “fallen women” are exploited to the maximum. The fine art of belly-dancing prospers in lands where respectable women cannot unveil their faces in public. Soviet illegitimacy rates were scarcely in double digits during the first decades of the Revolution, yet abortion rates were many times higher than in the rest of Europe; and in later years, “white slavery” became a plague of equal amplitude to what we see now on our Mexican border.
I still dream of a coalition wherein people of faith—Christians, Muslims, and also Hindus and Buddhists—refuse to allow into their children’s lives the Pop Rot that has spread its cancer through the bone marrow of the United States. Muslim individuals would certainly be approachable on this score. Yet Islam as a global presence is no more capable of standing up for common decency today than the Republican Party is of standing up for limited government or the Democratic Party for the welfare of the ordinary working man. All such corporate entities have been hopelessly corrupted—for the time being, anyway—by an unsightly, unprincipled lust for power. In so very many ways and on so very many fronts, our future (and I mean the whole world’s future) depends upon what new forces are eventually shaped by those scattered pockets of frustrated individuals. ~ Pancratistes
An academic possessing a Ph.D. and several years of teaching experience at the university level, this contributor prefers not to be named lest details about his identity jeopardize his professional position in what he describes as a “very hostile work environment to all varieties of religious or political traditionalism”.