Sunday, May 16, 2010

Taking Islam Seriously

The story about how Eric Holder, America's Attorney General, refused to name radical Islam as a culprit for the three recent attacks on the US has been rocketing around the Internet. (I first came across it via Powerline, where they've got the video and a transcript). Holder was at a House hearing, Rep. Lamar Smith asked him if radical Islam might be relevant to what's going on, and Holder refused to entertain the possibility until the congressman essentially put the words in his mouth.

The part I found most interesting was how Holder tried to explain that it's not Islam it's a false interpretation of it. Which of course begs the question: How does he know? You can't be the Attorney General unless you're an intelligent and educated person, of that I have no doubt, but in order to be able to make the statement Holder was trying to make you'd have to have a particular sort of education. You'd have to know Arabic, for starters, and have spent lots of time learning about Islam, either by living it or by studying its books or - preferably - both. None of which Holder has ever done.

Had he wished to say that Islam is many things and radical Islam is but one of them, that would have been fine. But to preach about what it isn't, and what's a false interpretation of it?

The reluctance, not to say refusal, of some people to accept that ideology can be a prime motivator of actions is not new; it has been around for generations, perhaps even longer; it predates the current radicalization of Islam. It was the same with Nazism ("they can't really mean what they say about the Jews, or the Slavs, or any of that stuff"), and undoubtedly many others. A serious analysis of this phenomenon would likely start with an examination of a frame of mind, not the particular historical context. Not the kind of thing a blog is likely to be able to do.

In the meantime, it's comforting to know that some people take the ideology very seriously.
SMUGGLERS complain that Egypt hampers three things imported through the blockade-busting tunnels that supply Gaza: weapons, dishwashers (their timers can double as detonators), and books. Of the three, the last may be the most regulated. One smuggler complained that the Egyptian authorities confiscated a delivery of 10,000 books, the bulk of them a classical commentary on the Koran. In the eyes of the impounders, the people of Gaza, who are governed by the Islamists of Hamas, are quite Islamic enough already.
It's a sad state of affairs, however, when the rather nasty Egyptian police (who are mostly Muslims) understand the world considerably better than a powerful and important American official who's job it is to know better.


Jon said...

I think it's ironic when civil rights activist types don't take the possibility of radical Islamic ideology motivating terrorism seriously, when they believe that their Enlightenment Humanism is the ONLY source for their own actions. It'd be fun to take apart the distortions of Kant that lead to such a perspective.

Anonymous said...

I am struck again and again how much energy people may invest in finding hidden secret unpublished stuff going on in the hope that by finding out about those secrets they will get to know what's going on.

On the other hand just listening closely to what perpetrators or wannabe perpetrators say quite openly seems to be considered to be boring and unrevealing.

But logic should tell us that perpetrators and wannabe perpetrators have to communicate with their folks and proselytize for new ones so they have to say in public what they are after and again and again they may do so with impunity because everybody wants to learn about what they hide. They hide nothing it is all there.

i.e. we the public are so keen on a chance to look through a keyhole that we fail to notice the elephants in front of our noses.

Anonymous said...

In depth New York Times piece today on Faisal Shazad's background.


Yitzchak Goodman said...

What if Holder had said, "According to many experts, it's a false interpretation of Islam"? Sometimes Muslims call the Al Qaeda types "Salafists." If we Kuffars tried to do that, however, we would end up with someone lecturing us that we are not being fair to the good Salafists. I think that's what happened to the term "Wahabi" It's all academic, anyway, unless you are an actual Muslim (or an actual academic). What we are fighting is, in any event, a widespread interpretation of Islam. What do we care if it contradicts (if such a thing exists) the essential Islam?

NormanF said...

Islam is barbaric and not moderate at all. It is quite extreme in its creed and behavior and Jews and Westerners seem to have a great deal of difficulty grasping they all want us dead. And for not lack of another successful attempt.

Sergio said...

That guy is suffering from massive cognitive dissonance.