For centuries Americans have been reading the hyper-individualistic purity of Henry David Thoreau’s life on Walden Pond — the way he cut himself off from crass commercialism and lived on a pure spiritual plane. Writing in The New Yorker, Kathryn Schulz points out in “Pond Scum” that Thoreau was a misanthropic, arrogant, self-righteous prig. He was coldhearted in the face of others’ suffering. Highly ascetic, he sustained the shallow American tendency to equate eating habits with moral health.
He tried philanthropic enterprises but found they did “not agree with my constitution.” Schulz accurately notes that Thoreau’s most famous sentence, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” is at once insufferable and absurd.
“Islamophobia” is the name given to a certain type of thought-crime. It was invented by the International Institute for Islamic Thought in the early 90’s and first began to appear in British newspapers in the mid to late 90s. Blogger Cheradenine Zakalwe researched the term and found that prior to 1997 it hardly ever appeared in public discourse.
Afraid to speak out. Self-censorship is sweeping the corridors of power.
Once Islamophobia began to be adopted more widely by the mainstream liberal media, it began functioning as an ideological weapon that enabled Muslims and their sympathizers to short-circuit crucial debate through the assumption that criticism of Islam is at best a symptom of irrational fear, and at worst a species of racism.
On the surface it seems preposterous that criticism of Islam (“Islamophobia”) could have anything to do with racisim. After all, Islam is a religion and not a race. However, the press frequently obscures this fact by using the terms ‘Muslim’ and ‘Arab’ interchangeably, even though the majority of Muslims are not Arabs. This semantic gymnastics allows the media to give the impression that Islam is a race and, consequently, to dismiss criticism of Islam as a racist offense or a hate crime against a certain people group.
The notion that Islamophobia is a form of racism is now taken as axiomatic by the liberal press. Huffington Post writer Nathan Lean declares that “Islamophobia is undeniably a form of racism” while Stephen Goeman writes that “race is what moves Islamophobes to hate.” Similarly, Sarah Ismail announced that “Islamophobia is one of the many varieties of this racism.” The testimony of dozens of other writers and public figures could be added to this chorus, all testifying to the idea that Islamophobia is a form of racism.
The only problem with the association of “Islamophobia” with racism is that it is false. Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, former member of International Institute for Islamic Thought, later revealed the true intention of those who invented the term: “This loathsome term” he later confessed, “is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics.”
This use of “Islamophobia” represents the ultimate inconsistency among Muslims who want to see their religion defended on rational grounds while simultaneously wishing to banish objective discussion of Islam’s more controversial tenets and historical origins (i.e., such as whether the Koran mandates violence, and whether the historical Muhammad was a paedophile, madman, murderer or imperialist).
(Robin Phillips) Phillips’ focus is on shutting down free speech on Islam in Britain, but seems to me more broadly applicable.
If I ever call anyone an “Islamophobe” in this blog, you may call me on it. Like “homophobe,” it may have a small slice of legitimate application, but is so widespread as to have become almost useless.
(It appears that I have used it four prior times, three justified, one slightly dubious, referring to Islamophobes of Murfreesboro who fought construction of a mosque.)
As long as I’m on Islamophobia:
The politician who declares Islam a “religion of peace” almost certainly has no idea what he’s talking about. He makes the claim assuming that some Americans await the excuse to release their inner Islamophobe, which though true doesn’t settle the vexing question of what Islam is and where its beliefs lead.
(David Mills) Mills continues: “The popes have not been as helpful in answering the question as they might have been,” but then provides his own help. After discussing “genuine religion” in the Christian mold, as described by Pope Benedict XVI, he concludes:
Islam is the religion we need to understand at the moment. Some Muslims kill innocent people and a greater number wish innocent people to be killed. They’re also the religious group most likely to suffer harassment and abuse and to find themselves the targets of louts, fools, and demagogues (and demagogues who are also louts and fools).
Is Islam capable of growth into a modern universalistic religion like Christianity that respects the dignity and freedom of every human person in a pluralistic society? Or isn’t it? Or is substnatially shaped by the society in which it finds itself? Are Islamist terrorists the Muslim equivalent of the Christian inquisitors of the past, something the religion will outgrow, or are they something the religion itself creates? Are they are a perversion or a product of the religion? Are they in its DNA or are they a mutation that can’t long survive? Can it develop? Will it be universalized by modernity or directed by the natural law?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. I don’t have even enough knowledge to venture a very amateur opinion, and people I trust disagree on the matter. I’m not even sure how authoritative is what seems to me the papal assumption, since as far as I can find we have no Magisterial statement on the nature of Islam. But it’s a question that must be asked, difficult though the answer may be.
From the days of Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 to his leaving office in 1989, [Russell] Kirk believed the Californian an excellent president, a man endowed with intelligence and imagination and, especially, audacity. The presidency of Ronald Reagan and the papacy of John Paul II gave Kirk more hope for the world in the 1980s than he had experienced at any other comparable length of time in his life. For an all-too-brief moment, Kirk held hope that the world had not only stopped the terrors of progressivism, but might have actually reversed progressivism. In 1988, Kirk even willingly trusted that George Bush would quietly carry on the legacy of Reagan’s foreign policy. But throughout 1990, it became quite clear to everyone that Bush had reverted to the Nixonian neo-conservatism of his CIA days.
Kirk saw Bush’s misuse of Reagan’s Cold War military apparatus as nothing but sheer betrayal of Reaganite, republican, and American principles. In private, Kirk joked that the American people should execute President Bush on the White House lawn. In public, Kirk railed against what he knew to be the beginning of American empire and never-ending war.
(Bradley J. Birzer) There’s a whole website, the Imaginative Conservative, that’s a sort of homage to Kirk. Think of it as the American Conservative after taking (or smoking) something to lower the anger level while sharpening the intellect a tad.
Kirk knew that such American desires for world domination had existed since the rise of democracy in the nineteenth century, but he also knew that countervailing forces remained and arose from time to time as well. As Kirk argued, one might reasonably identify this American tension by dividing it into its arrogant and anxious Puritan side and its confident, inward-looking, republican side. If the former one, it would consume the world in pure ecstasy, never imagining what the consequences of such actions might be. The Puritan was ruled by his own passions and his own righteous desires, willing to ride roughshod over not only his fellow citizens but all the citizens of the world as well. What he had once happily done to the Anglicans of the British Isles in the seventeenth century, the Puritan would now do to the peoples of the earth in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
For the sake of the “oilcan,” Kirk lamented, echoing Edmund Burke in 1796, President Bush had committed a vain crime against humanity itself. “After carpet-bombing the Cradle of Civilization as no country ever had before,” Kirk continued at the Heritage Foundation, “Mr. Bush sent in hundreds of thousands of soldiers to overrun the Iraqi bunkers—that were garrisoned by dead men, asphyxiated.” Not only had we violated the ethical rules of warfare, we had also bribed innumerable corrupt allies to support our cause against another corrupt power. At what point, Kirk wondered, could the use of evil against evil produce good. Nineteen-ninety-one, Kirk argued, would most likely prove as momentous for the twenty-first century (yes, the twenty-first) as 1914 had for the twentieth century. Nineteen-ninety-one marked the beginning of a new period of warfare, a progressive step back toward barbarianism.
A wonderful article, this Russell Kirk: Peacenik Prophet. Read it all, especially if you don’t like my excerpt or the title. I’m afraid those “conservatives” who yearn for the new Reagan are longing for a Bushite Reagan who never was.
How old am I? Old enough to remember when war crimes were prosecuted instead of being made into campaign promises.
As we muck around in the world Puritanically (in the Kirkian sense), for what common patrimony are we committing those crimes against humanity?
Kyrie eleison. Miserere nobis. Whatever.
Sorry for the downer. It’s going around.
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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)