Last night my friend Calvin Freiburger took issue with the rhetoric in my friend Jeanette Pryor’s provocatively titled post “It’s Time to Put the Coffee Down and Eradicate Islam in the West.”
Calvin cites the constitutional provisions of freedom of religion, cautions that we need to support Muslim reformers, and strategizes that it’s important that we temper our rhetoric to engage the moderate center. These are all thoughtful, well-intended sentiments that I supported not long ago. But I don’t anymore. And here’s why.
1. It’s time to stop regarding Islam as though it’s a religion. It’s not. The “faith” practiced as written and following the example of its founder is a totalitarian political program seeking world domination. That’s always been the core of what Islam is all about. The “religious practices” inherent in the ideology are mere window dressing.
2. I suppose we should highlight and encourage Muslim reformers but the more I learn about Islam the less and less this seems like a project that will bear fruit. For Islam to truly become an apolitical, personal faith it has to disregard the tenet at its heart: that the Koran is the perfect book that has been with Allah since the beginning of time and was perfectly dictated to Muhammad. Remove that component and everything falls apart. (This is a far different spiritual cornerstone than the one at the heart of the Christian faith — that the documents making up New and Old Testaments are merely “divinely inspired” translations and open to a variety of interpretations and debate.) Sure, we can point to peaceful, seemingly “moderate” Muslims that we’ve all encountered in our daily lives. But they’re akin to lapsed Catholics who use birth control and support legalized abortion. They don’t really take Islam seriously.
3. Provoking and disturbing the moderate center is another way of engaging them — and it can work. When I tweeted Jeanette’s post I got a response from a follower of mine who I’d guesstimate could be characterized as an open-minded, center-left type. He bristled at Jeanette’s rhetoric and feared that she was advocating our own kind of fascism to oppose Islam. I explained that we certainly were not — a “fascist” response to Islam would be to build concentration camps, exterminate Muslims, and nuke Mecca (all things that no sane person advocates.) I then challenged him to tell me what books he’d read on Islam. He confessed to having read very little. I complimented him for his intellectual honesty and recommended Robert Spencer’s books. The conversation ended on a friendly, encouraging note — quite the opposite of what Calvin fears.