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November 22, 2007

Israel 'last, best chance for the Islamic world to come to terms with the modern world'

B. Spengler's highly informative November 20 piece in Asia Times offers the compelling suggestion that despite what received wisdom in the foreign ministries of the West holds (and what the Muslim world would have us believe) - that relations with Muslims would be ever so much easier without the annoying presence of the Jewish state, which humiliates the Muslim world - the exact opposite is true. According to Spengler: "The state of Israel embodies the last, best chance for the Islamic world to come to terms with the modern world because it constitutes a humiliation":

The premise of Western policy is to tread lightly upon Muslim sensibilities. That is an error of first magnitude, for Muslim sensibilities are what prevents the Islamic world from creating modern states. Islam cannot produce the preconditions for democracy in the Western sense out of its own resources.

Free elections in Muslim lands tend to hand power to fanatical despots. Why should that be true? The first premise of Western democracy, that the rights of the weakest and most despised citizens are sacred, stems from the Judeo-Christian notion of divine humility. The creator of the universe suffers along with his creatures, and bears a special love for the weak and helpless, a belief that appears absurd in Islam. Islam has no inherent concept of humility; it can only be imported to Muslim countries from the outside.

Democracy in its modern form is the almost exclusive province of Christian (and in the single case of Israel, Jewish) countries. I have argued that it is the Judeo-Christian experience of divine love that makes it possible for representative democracy to flourish, because imitation of God reveres the rights of the weak and helpless. "Almost exclusive" is the operative term, for democracy functions well in some Asian countries. Next to love is humility, which acknowledges the limits of one man to impose his will upon another. For example, Japanese culture contains no concept of divine love in the Christian sense, but it does know humility, thanks to the instruction of the United States during 1941-1945 and the succeeding occupation.

No concept of intermediate cause, or rational ordering of the universe, is to be found in mainstream Islam. Allah personally and directly orders every event, from the trifling to the grandiose. The Muslim submits to Allah, the absolutely transcendent ruler of the universe, in return for his mercy and beneficence. That is why Muslim faith hinges upon success. As I observed in a 2004 essay, Horror and humiliation in Fallujah, the Muslim call to prayer begins,

Allah is the Greatest.
I bear witness that nothing deserves to be worshipped except Allah.
Come to prayer.
Come to success.
No injunction to "turn the other cheek" is found in the Koran, no reflection on how to learn from defeat. Something like the Book of Lamentations, which tradition attributes to the Prophet Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem, is unimaginable in Islam. Jeremiah tells defeated Israel, "It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young ... Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace."

The words "humble" and "humility" occur rarely in the Koran, and in most cases (7:206 and 17:109) refer not to Muslims but rather to Jews or other conquered peoples, as in "And [the children of Israel] fall down on their faces weeping, and it adds to their humility", or "We sent [apostles] to nations before you then We seized them with distress and affliction in order that they might humble themselves." There are a few references to the virtue of being humble before Allah, but not one suggestion that it is good to show humility to other human beings. Nothing like Hannah's praise of YHWH, (I Samuel 2:28), "You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low," occurs in Muslim scripture.

Continue reading: Israel, the hope of the Muslim world.

The alternatives aren't promising. As Spengler notes in his closing paragraph, "Washington's misguided effort to foster Islamic democracy might be the stupidest idea in the history of foreign policy. It began in the late 1970s with Jimmy Carter's backing for the Ayatollah Khomeini against the Shah of Iran. It may end with simultaneous civil war in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Lebanon and the West Bank. If that occurs, think of Rwanda and multiply by a thousand."

Hat tip - Backspin

Posted by Richard at November 22, 2007 9:34 AM

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