About a week and half ago, I posted my concerns about one of those chain e-mails that was going around, because I was concerned about what kind of message was being sent. That blog post, Ayekha, can be found by clicking the link. Today, I received another chain e-mail, this time ending with the claim that "the Marines want this to roll" on the internet.
You've got to be kidding. Which marines? I am sure that the contents, anonymous and unsourced did not come from the commander of the United States Marines. But so many people seem to reflexively re-post these things, without giving a thought to what is being said, or the fact that readers really don't know by whom it is being said. In this case, the first three quarters of the post was largely true, and the argument interesting, though unsourced. (It argued that when Islamists become a certain percentage of the population of a Western and relatively free society, they begin agitating for privileges that end up underming the core values of liberty and tolerance that the society has extended to the Islamists). And the overall sentiment of the message was one that I can agree with--that the principles and values of Islamic Totalitarianism are incompatible with those of the United States.
However . . .you knew that a however was coming, didn't you?
However, my concern came with a bit of unreason purported to be by an American who had lived in Saudi Arabia for twenty years, that was completely contrary to the principles of individualism and liberty that we are claiming to defend. The piece called "Can Muslims be Good Americans" has passed through my in-box before, and contains ten arguments all of which contain factual errors, and all of which could be used to argue that Catholics or all Christians or Jews could not be good Americans either. In fact the first time I saw this non-argument, I set about doing exactly that by substituting the word "Christian" and then the word "Jew" into it, and constructing the particular arguments based on what I know about those religions. The one "proving" that Jews cannot be good Americans was particularly devastating, because I know a lot more about Judaism. I just did what the author of this piece did an combined ideas and laws from all over the 5,000 year history of Judaism, without rhyme, reason or qualification, and generalized them to all Jews, and viola! Jews cannot be good Americans.
I am not going to argue the particulars of this piece of badly written propaganda because the fundamental flaw is that it is overgeneralized,and each point can be simply refuted by this argument. If you wish to see the propaganda, it has been published here, and there are numerous rebuttals to each and every point all over the internet.
In this case, what we see is a well-meaning discussion of the very real dangers of Islamic Totalitarianism and its goals combined to which the unknown author appended this piece of drivel, wrote that the marines really want readers to pass it on, and then hit send to several thousand of his or her closest friends and relatives. In this case, it was BCC'ed to me, preventing me from responding to everyone that the person who sent it to me sent it to, so I responded to the person who sent it to me, and the person who sent it to her. After that, the origins are lost in cyberspace.
Here is my reply:
The first three quarters of this message is in great part correct. Islam is a complete system of life just as Christianity was in Europe in the Medieval period (the 5th to 15th Century C.E.) The danger to us is that Western individualism is in conflict with such a complete system (this is why that system ruled by the Roman Catholic Church in Europe did not survive modernity), and the modern Western way of life based on individual liberty cannot coexist with a theocracy. Further, although it is identified as a Western Religion because Mohammed was influenced by Judaism and Christianity, Islam is not at all Western in its thought. Western thought can be identified as thought that was heavily influenced by Greek logic and by the Rule of Law as understood by Greeks, Romans and Jews of the Hellenic period (500 B.C.E. - 400 C.E.). Because Islam is NOT Western, we are making a huge mistake if we believe that we can reason with the rulers of Islam, or if we believe that tolerance extended to them will cause them to be tolerant of us. The idea that we live and let live so long as no ones rights are being violated is a Western idea that took the whole of the Hellenic Period and the Medieval Period to come to full fruit in the West. It took 2000 years of religious development, philosophical development, and many religious wars to move from the concept of the Divine Right of Kings to the concept of Individual Sovereignty.
Islam, isolated in the middle east after the Battle of Vienna, bypassed a good deal of that development, and although Islam--in the form of the Caliphate of Spain--can be credited with preserving certain Greek ideas, it did nothing with them. It was, rather, the careful preservation of Greek writings by the Christian Monastics that led to the Renaissance, and the flowering of modern Western culture.
I agree with you both in that I hardly think it is our duty to allow the world to plunge into the chaos of religious war and theocracy by surrendering our values for the dross of multiculturalism and thereby honoring the barbaric values of a desert culture that wants to take over the world. And multiculturalism is not a modern Western value, it is a post-modernist fantasy. In order to prevent the destruction of the West, we must defend our principles and our values, and understand that no one has the right to destroy the rights of others, and that our Constitution cannot be used to destroy itself.
And that leads me to the last quarter of this e-mail, entitled "Why Muslims Cannot be Good Americans" . . .
I have seen this before, and I have replaced "Muslims" with "Christians" and "Jews" for each of the points and came up with similarly absurd results. Apparently neither Christians nor Jews can be good Americans! This is because the assumption in the piece is based on the collectivist notion that every Muslim, Christian or Jew is exactly the same as any other, and the equally collectivist notion that the United States was built on the principles of a Christian Theocracy. By the time of the Enlightenment, during which the values of individual rights and liberty became fully developed, theocracy had been tried by the West and found wanting.
Here is the crucial piece: Individual Muslims can be good Americans, as can individual Christians and individual Jews, so long as they accept the values of individualism as opposed to those of collectivism. In our system, rights are inherent in each human being, are therefore individual rights. There are no "group rights." Islam as individual religious expression can and should be tolerated, but any demand for collective privileges (a better term than "group rights" which is a contradiction in terms) must be repulsed at once. IOW, we ought to do as MacArthur did with Shinto during the occupation of Japan. As an individual religious expression, he told the Japanese to have at it. But any attempt by an individual or group to form an oligarchy--that is any attempt to gain privileges or power over any individuals sanctioned by government based on Shinto emperor worship--was firmly stopped. MacArthur did this with the blessings of James Byrne, from the US State Department, who wrote to the General in a telegram:
"Shintoism, insofar as it is a religion of individual Japanese, is not to be interfered with. Shintoism, however, insofar as it is directed by the Japanese government, and as a measure enforced from above by the government, is to be done away with. People would not be taxed to support National Shinto and there will be no place for Shintoism in the schools. Shintoism as a state religion—National Shinto, that is—will go . . . Our policy on this goes beyond Shinto . . . The dissemination of Japanese militaristic and ultra-nationalistic ideology in any form will be completely suppressed. And the Japanese Government will be required to cease financial and other support of Shinto establishments." (Quoted in : No Substitute for Victory: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism by John David Lewis in The Objective Standard, Winter 2006-2007)
(By the way, this article is excellent intellectual ammunition for those of us concerned with preserving our values, and can be read for free at the link I put on the title).
What was done in the occupation of another country in order to pacify it, is certainly the proper policy to pursue on our own shores in order to protect the rights of Americans, which is the purpose of our government in the first place. Certainly, Islam as individual religious expression must be left alone according to our own values, but just as certainly Islam as an attempt to dominate our people must be fought according to those very same values. And we must go beyond the vague feel-good statements of the multiculturalists, as well as the diatribes of religious dominionists of the Christian persuasion, to define the difference according to the values of individual liberty enshrined in our founding documents.
Some of my readers may believe that my attempts to fight drivel on the internet are quixotic, and in general, they probably are. But, after all, my replies to to the people I know who send the stuff to me with a flick of the finger. And my goal is to get those people for whom what I say may have some influence to think before they push the "forward" icon. Undoubtedly, I will be unsuccessful in a large number of cases--especially among those who have confused religion with the Constitution. But for those who really do believe in individual liberty, I hope my arguments may cause them to consider what they are supporting when they forward this kind of stuff.