Several months ago, David Brooks raised the question as to whether or not the events of the past year in the Middle East, which seem to represent a yearning for freedom on the “Arab street”, truly undermine the ideas expressed by Samuel Huntington in his landmark 1993 essay, “The Clash of Civilizations” and his book of the same name which followed. Huntington’s thesis is that the clash between the alien cultures of Islam and the West is inevitable and that the more the two cultures intermingle, the worse the conflict will be. Given the trend in events since 1979, this certainly has appeared to be the case. But the recent uprisings have given pause to this argument, and only time and events will tell.
Previously, in defending Rep. Peter King’s decision to conduct hearings on the risks of domestic infiltration by radical Muslim jihadists, I have recommended the book The Closing of the Muslim Mind, by Robert Reilly, which addresses in much detail the essence of what Pope Benedict was saying in his major lecture in Regensburg in 2006 and what Muslim intellectuals are not yet discussing in the open as forcefully as they should be—that Islam must return to the ideological choices it made in the period from the mid-ninth to the twelfth century that began its divergence with the West. In another speech that year, the Pope was clear in his reference to “a clash of civilizations…..made more acute by organized terrorism. Its causes are many and complex, not least those to do with political ideology, combined with errant religious ideas……”
As Reilly makes clear, these ideas are not simply a radical perversion of Islam, they are part and parcel of Islam itself and have been imbedded for a millennium, and I am not talking about radical jihadism, but rather the core philosophical underpinnings of the Muslim faith, which are inimical to reason. They will not overcome this without a major reformation of their faith and, for better or worse, we cannot avoid being in the midst of, if not the catalyst for, this reformation.
Lately, there are glimmers of hope from some Muslim corners, to wit: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdul Razak gave an encouraging speech at Oxford University in which he exhorted Muslim moderates to speak out forcefully against terrorism, and he used Burke’s famous quote, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Even more provocatively, Muslim writer Irshad Manji called out Muslim “moderates” as the problem, and said that what Islam needs is not more moderates, but more true and outspoken reformists who are willing to admit that their religion is used to incite Islamic radicalism and that a core problem for reform is Muslim “identity politics”. This is rare courage and there must be much more of it. Remember, the Christian Reformation lasted about 175 years, so they are just getting started, and the notion that America will not be a participant is a fantasy. And I might add that the political correctness, multicultural ideology, and inordinate fear of “Islamophobia” that is pervasive on this subject in American intellectual circles is detrimental to the advancement of the dialogue.