Why Do Western Intellectuals Fail to Understand Islam?
Why Do Western Intellectuals Fail to Understand Islam?
By Jacob Thomas
8 November, 2016
At a time when Muslim migrants have been arriving in great numbers into Europe, Canada, and the United States, it’s important that Western intellectuals consider the demographic impact of this phenomenon on the West.
I have a great sympathy for the plight of Muslim migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere. They have endured many hardships in their trek across hundreds of miles, in search for security. However, much as we may sympathize with them, it’s irresponsible to ignore the Islamic ideological baggage that is part and parcel of their identity. When they settle in the West, they create a milieu, and practice a life-style, that are in accord with the tenets of Islam. They establish mosques, and open grocery stores to sell “Halal,” food, the Arabic term for “Kosher.”
This scenario is based on the 75-year-presence of large numbers of Muslims in the West (1950s – 2015.) They show no signs of assimilation; for them to do so, would be tantamount to leaving Islam, their core identity. This fact is ignored by some Western intellectuals, since they consider Islam simply as a religion, in the accepted sense of this word. In fact, Islam is, and has always been, an amalgam of Religion, State, and Culture, in one indivisible entity.
Let me give an example. The New Yorker Magazine published on the 7th of November, 2016, an article by Kelefa Sanneh entitled:
“The New Evangelical Moral Minority: If the Southern Baptist church can’t be bigger, Russell Moore wants it to be better.”
It’s not my intention to comment on the main thrust of the article. In fact, I consider myself on the same page about most of the religious and cultural issues that Dr. Moore has taken.
Unfortunately, his references to Islam manifested a serious misunderstanding. Dr. Moore seems to be unaware that Islam is not merely a religious faith! I should add that he is the President of the “Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission,” of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Referring to comments that Dr. Moore made on the presence of Muslims in America, Mr. Sanneh wrote,
“Many in Moore’s denomination would like him to adopt a more confrontational position toward Islam. At the annual S.B.C. meeting, held this June in St. Louis, a pastor from a small church in Arkansas asked Moore, ‘How in the world can someone within the Southern Baptist Convention support the defending of rights for Muslims to construct mosques in the United States, when these people threaten our way of existence?’ Soon after the conference call began, someone asked Moore about a controversy in Farmersville, Texas, where local residents were opposing plans for a Muslim cemetery. Moore urged the pastors to stand firm in defense of religious freedom, arguing that Baptists should ‘reclaim’ the language of ‘separation of church and state,’ which many evangelicals consider a euphemism for secularization.
“Moore likes to cite the centuries-old Baptist tradition of ‘soul freedom’—the right to resist what Roger Williams, a Baptist and the founder of Rhode Island, called ‘enforced uniformity of religion.’ At the annual meeting, he said, ‘Brothers and sisters, when you have a government that says we can decide whether or not a house of worship can be constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship, then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build.’”
Dr. Moore’s reference to the need to “reclaim’ the language of ‘separation of church and state,” and to the legacy of Roger Williams, is not helpful at all when dealing with Islam’s presence in the USA. In fact, it muddied the waters. There is no equivalence between the “Christian view of Church and State” and Islam’s view of “Mosque and State!” Muhammad’s mosque in Medina was a house of worship, a seat of government, and the headquarters of the nascent Islamic Empire.
During the last 25 years, several works on the true nature of Islam have been published. They tell the true story of Islam, and its global challenge. For example, the late Professor Samuel P. Huntington, who taught Political Science at Harvard University, authored in 1996, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.” (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 10020)
In Chapter 10, he referred to the combative nature of Islam, a trait that originate from its core beliefs.
“In all these places, [reference is to Middle East and Africa] the relations between Muslims and peoples of other civilizations — Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, Jewish — have been generally antagonistic; most of these relations have been violent at some point in the past; many have been violent in the 1990s. Wherever one looks at the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors. The questions naturally rises as to whether this pattern of late- twentieth-century conflict between Muslim and non-Muslim groups is equally true of relations between groups from other civilizations. In fact, it is not. Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in intergroup violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming. P. 256
Another pertinent work, “Islamic Imperialism: A History,” is very helpful when we consider the importance of our subject. It was authored by Efraim Karsh, Professor and Head of the Mediterranean Studies Programme, King’s College, University of London, published by Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2006.
In his Introduction to the book, Professor Karsh writes:
“The worlds of Christianity and Islam, however, have developed differently in one fundamental respect. The Christian faith won over an existing empire in an extremely slow and painful process and its universalism was originally conceived in spiritual terms that made a clear distinction between God and Caesar. By the time it was embraced by the Byzantine emperors as a tool for buttressing their imperial claims, three centuries after its foundation, Christianity had in place a countervailing ecclesiastical institution with an abiding authority over the wills and actions of all believers. The birth of Islam, by contrast, was inextricably linked with the creation of a world empire and its universalism was inherently imperialist. It did not distinguish between temporal and religious powers, which were combined in the person of Muhammad, who derived his authority directly from Allah and acted at one and the same time as head of the state and head of the church. This allowed the prophet to cloak his political ambitions with a religious aura and to channel Islam’s energies into ‘its instruments of aggressive expansion, there [being] no internal organism of equal force to counterbalance it.’” (P. 5)
It’s not Islamophobia that impelled professors Huntington and Karsh to speak the truth about Islam. Relating the story of Islam’s 1400 years, as it spread from the Arabian Peninsula to occupy huge swaths of Asia, North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Eastern and Central Europe; requires telling it truthfully.
I defer to the British author, V.S. Naipaul, who described succinctly what happens to a society when it is taken over by Islam:
“Islam is in its origins an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert’s worldview alters. His holy places are in Arab lands; his language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story. The convert has to turn away from everything that is his. The disturbance for societies is immense, and even after a thousand years can remain unresolved; the turning away has to be done again and again. People develop fantasies about who and what they are; and in the Islam of the converted countries there is an element of neurosis and nihilism. These countries can be easily set on the boil. P. xi
“Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among Converted People” Published in the United States by Random House. Inc. New York, 1998; Published in Great Britain by Little Brown & Company (UK)