How the Liberals failed, so far, to recognized Islam for what it truly is.
The Liberals' Collapse, by Adrian Karatnycky: A review of Paul Berman's book:
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Paul Berman identified Sayyid Qubt (1906-1966) as the modern ''Philosopher of Islamic Terror''.It is to the Left, both in the U.S. and worldwide, that Berman addresses his volume. He challenges the Left's "root causes" explanation of terrorism from the Middle East and argues that it must instead be understood as an ideological, totalitarian threat that resembles Fascism and Communism in significant ways.
As Berman convincingly demonstrates in his brief but rich intellectual history, the international Left attempts to explain the terrorism and brutality of revolutionary Islamism and totalitarian Ba'athism by resorting to a standard arsenal of socioeconomic arguments. According to Berman, for the rationalist mind of the leftist, it is incomprehensible that "millions of people have gone out of their minds and subscribed to a pathological political tendency"; surely, leftists argue, there must be some "unspeakable social condition that has provoked the murderous impulse." The more unspeakable the act, the more unspeakable the social factors motivating the actor.
Berman convincingly demolishes the socioeconomic explanations for jihadist terrorism; he also demonstrates that the terror isn't payback for alleged cruelties perpetrated by the U.S. and the West against Arab and Islamic populations (as many on the left argue). Indeed, Berman reminds us, the record of the U.S. and the West is hardly anti-Muslim. He recalls the broad array of military actions taken over the past decade in behalf of victims of violence and oppression in Muslim Bosnia, Albania, and Afghanistan, and in Arab Somalia. To this list one can now add Iraq. In each setting, the West's intervention has served to defend Muslims and protect the exercise of the Islamic faith. The recent scenes of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites, openly expressing their faith on a pilgrimage to Karbala, only underscore this fact. (...)
The author devotes a large portion of this small volume to the ideas of the seminal Egyptian thinker Sayyid Qutb, the theoretical progenitor of jihadist revolutionary Islam and the ideological father of Osama bin Laden and the suicide-bomber terrorists that menace Israel. As Berman explains, Qutb (...) posited that "a proper understanding of the Koran can be achieved only in an atmosphere of serious struggle, and only by someone who is engaged in a ferocious campaign for Islam." The ferocity that Qutb advocated derives from a worldview shaped in Egypt in the 1950s, but the same worldview is easily applied by fanatical revolutionaries to the new millennium. For them, as for Qutb, the world of Islam -- or at least their minority version of Islam -- is under siege and must be defended at all costs and by all means. (...)
Paul Berman has written an accomplished intellectual history of fanatical Islamism and shed light on the ideas and prejudices that currently predominate in the Western Left. Although he addresses the liberal and leftist reader, his book has insights for everyone across the political spectrum who seeks a better understanding of the present danger. In this sense Terror and Liberalism is a book in the tradition of Camus, Orwell, and Koestler. Like these anti-totalitarian giants, who also emerged from the political Left, Berman is helping to illuminate the mechanisms and expose the threat of the totalitarian idea.
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Ibn Warraq:His deepest quarrel was not with America's failure to uphold its principles. His quarrel was with the principles. He opposed the United States because it was a liberal society, not because the United States failed to be a liberal society.
The truly dangerous element in American life, in his estimation, was not capitalism or foreign policy or racism or the unfortunate cult of women's independence. The truly dangerous element lay in America's separation of church and state -- the modern political legacy of Christianity's ancient division between the sacred and the secular. This was not a political criticism. This was theological -- though Qutb, or perhaps his translators, preferred the word ''ideological.''
The conflict between the Western liberal countries and the world of Islam, he explained, ''remains in essence one of ideology, although over the years it has appeared in various guises and has grown more sophisticated and, at times, more insidious.'' (...) A camouflage that was intended to make the conflict appear to be economic, political or military, and that was intended to make Muslims like himself who insisted on speaking about religion appear to be, in his words, ''fanatics'' and ''backward people.'' (...)
But this attack was not, at bottom, military. At least Qutb did not devote his energies to warning against such a danger. Nor did he spend much time worrying about the ins and outs of Israel's struggle with the Palestinians. Border disputes did not concern him. He was focused on something cosmically larger. He worried, instead, that people with liberal ideas were mounting a gigantic campaign against Islam -- ''an effort to confine Islam to the emotional and ritual circles, and to bar it from participating in the activity of life, and to check its complete predominance over every human secular activity, a pre-eminence it earns by virtue of its nature and function.'' (...)
The followers of Qutb speak, in their wild fashion, of enormous human problems, and they urge one another to death and to murder. But the enemies of these people speak of what? The political leaders speak of United Nations resolutions, of unilateralism, of multilateralism, of weapons inspectors, of coercion and noncoercion. This is no answer to the terrorists. The terrorists speak insanely of deep things. The antiterrorists had better speak sanely of equally deep things. Presidents will not do this. Presidents will dispatch armies, or decline to dispatch armies, for better and for worse.
But who will speak of the sacred and the secular, of the physical world and the spiritual world? Who will defend liberal ideas against the enemies of liberal ideas? Who will defend liberal principles in spite of liberal society's every failure? President George W. Bush, in his speech to Congress a few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, announced that he was going to wage a war of ideas. He has done no such thing. He is not the man for that.
Philosophers and religious leaders will have to do this on their own. Are they doing so? Armies are in motion, but are the philosophers and religious leaders, the liberal thinkers, likewise in motion? There is something to worry about here, an aspect of the war that liberal society seems to have trouble understanding -- one more worry, on top of all the others, and possibly the greatest worry of all.
''The final battle will not necessarily be between Islam and the West, but between those who value freedom and those who do not.''