Sunday, August 20, 2006

Finding fault in the failure of the Muslim world 

What accounts for the manifest social, political and economic failure of the countries of the world that consider themselves Muslim, or which in fact are majority Muslim? I got an email today from a friend asking essentially that question, and a couple of hours later I stumbled across this passage in Ralph Peters' new book, Never Quit The Fight:

If we list the cardinal factors (out of a complex of thousands, large and small) that enabled the most-developoed states, led by the robust, meritocratic civilizations of anglophone nations, to succeed beyond the dreams of even our own parents, we find that each enabling characteristic is anathema to most states with majority Islamic populations -- and nowhere more so than in the old Muslim heartlands. We thrive and we compound our successes because of the degree to which we have broken down barriers of privilege, gender, race, and religion. Our societies cherish the freedom of information and have developed, over centuries, an innate sense of what is true and false. We are scrupulous bookkeepers (and the recent Enron scandal in the United States demonstrated what happens to those who cheat). We minimize corruption throughout our societies and enjoy the mechanisms for pulling even the might down when their misbehavior becomes evident. We do not rely on bloodlines for protection and have broken the tyranny of the extended family (one of the greatest impediments to human progress). We have learned an astonishing degree of tolerance (excepting British football hooligans). We value education and have struck a functional balance between extending its benefits equitably and ensuring that the most talented are not stymied. We view work as a virtue in itself, and last but not least, we have learned the painful art of self criticism: When things go wrong we sometimes lose our tempers, but soon enough we ask ourselves what went wrong, and then we apply sophisticated skills to fixing the problem.

If you turn each of these points into its negative, you have described Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, and many another state that is little more than a cultural prison. And here we must state firmly: Every one of these failures is homegrown. The Crusades are a worse excuse for nonperformance than "The dog ate my homework." Islam's blows against Europe were far harsher, enduring into the nineteenth century in the Balkins and on the marches of the Russian empire. Islam's failure is in no sense the fault of the West. The development of Muslim societies is crippled by their core values, by the lies they tell to each other and to themselves, and by the cruelty with which they have organized their societies.

Even if we substitute "Colonialism" for "The Crusades" in the paragraph above, Peters is obviously right, which makes it all the more baffling when multiculturalists in the West glorify the accomplishments of Islamic antiquity. Do they not notice that they are damning Muslim societies with their deafeningly faint praise?


By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sun Aug 20, 10:09:00 PM:

Without oil, the exports of all the ME is about equal to Finland's alone.  

By Blogger Papa Ray, at Sun Aug 20, 11:57:00 PM:

If one were to check out the facts, Islam's accomplishments are very slim. Most of the attributed greatness, they stole from those that they subjugated.

Just wanted to clairfy that.

Papa Ray
West Texas

By Blogger Dan Kauffman, at Mon Aug 21, 01:25:00 AM:

"What accounts for the manifest social, political and economic failure of the countries of the world that consider themselves Muslim,"

To my mind the demarcation point for the decline and fall of the Muslim Empire was the Debate during the 12th Century between

Two Schools of Thought

Enlightened Analysis by Ibn Rushd
Ibn Rushd maintained that the deepest truths must be approached by means of rational analysis and that philosophy could lead to the final truth. He accepted revelation, and attempted to harmonize religion with philosophy without synthesizing them or obliterating their differences. He believed the Qur'an contained the highest truth while maintaining that its words should not be taken literally. He argued that as the milk-sister of religion, philosophy confirms and does not contradict the revelation.


Two guesses as to which School of Thought came out on top?

Oddly enought Ibn Rushd may have had an effect on the European Enlightenment


By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Mon Aug 21, 09:10:00 AM:


Again? I'm not going to point out the multitude of ironies in the quote you selected, but I have a question for you:

Your post infers that United States culture is superior to all Muslim cultures. In your many travels, have you spent time with muslims in any muslim nation? As jet-set as you are, I'll assume you have. It's confusing to me how you could have spent time immersed in such a culture and not come away with a deep appreciation for it.

This is not a culture war or a war of religions. It is several thousand people who have become radicalized and chosen terrorism against the world. When folks keep insisting on looking down their noses at Islam and muslims, we add fuel to the fire. The hundreds of thousands of moderate (even liberal!) muslims who don't like terrorism will seek alternatives. This kind of patronizing nonsense doesn't give them one. This type of broad-brush anti-muslim sentiment is part of the problem.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 21, 09:31:00 AM:

Hmmm... the criticism of the muslim terrorists by muslims and the religious leaders is deafening.

One can only assume that there is a support level across muslim nations for what these relative handful (what's few thousand as a percent of a billion or two?) of disaffected young men are doing.

And why is it that it took a week or two of devastation by Israel to convince the Lebanese that it's time to take a stand - terrorists or the free world. Harboring and/or financing them is tacit approval for what they do.  

By Blogger Dan Kauffman, at Mon Aug 21, 09:47:00 AM:

"The hundreds of thousands of moderate (even liberal!) muslims who don't like terrorism will seek alternatives."

Not supported by recent events.

I can recall NO Fatwa by a major Islamic figure stating that those
who commit Terrorist acts are NOT Shaheed and therefore automatically assured of Paradise.

There were some mealy mouthed statements about Bombing the innocent, which lose any value since some Mullahs declared that Infidels cannot be considered "inocent" not matter how tender their years.

Some polls taken in ENGLAND show as high as 25% of the Muslim population APPROVED of the bombings in their country, that is a tad more than a few thousand and the case cannot be made they are illliterae, uneducated peasants in some 3rd world spot.  

By Blogger MTF, at Mon Aug 21, 10:34:00 AM:

From the outside, Islamic culture looks like it's completely dominated by tribal and religious elites, and Arab culture particularly looks highly structured under those elites. How can we now persuade those people who matter to reject terror and terrorists, and to abandon the ummah’s nostalgic anti-western imperialism?

When our country made oil deals with the Saudi elites in the fifties and sixties, we never included cultural change on the list of things we wanted and negotiated for, because we were happy simply buying oil. That was our mistake then, and now.

The cultural "tolerance" Peters speaks of hurt us badly in this instance. If we as a society demanded change long ago from these cultures, as a critical and non-negotiable part of the deal, we might then have had a shot at moderating beliefs like Wahabism. Instead we merely enabled their vision financially.

Peters isn't very useful in understanding how to fix the problem.  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Mon Aug 21, 11:33:00 AM:

Here is the central issue the civilized world must confront.

Another poster said this:

This type of broad-brush anti-muslim sentiment is part of the problem

there are two issues here: first, how do we, the victims of repeated bombing attacks and plots against our society, differentiate when there is almost NO condemnation of these attacks by the non terrorists? I can find no body of writting, speeches, fatwas or whatever that attempts to convey the message to the west that there are differences among muslims.

In fact during the lebanese campaign my local mosques held candlelight vigils for the lebanese people without uttering a word concerning the israelis living in bomb shelters.

they demanded that condi rice do something but never suggested that Nasrallah simply return his captives.

If the muslims don't want to be tarred with this broad brush, they had better speak up, time is not on their side.

next, the incessant plotting, attacking and threatening will ultimately result in an alliance of western countries against the muslims.

The germans uncovered a bomb threat just in the past few days. Again, I cannot find any muslim anywhere that condemns the senseless slaughter of everyone who isn't muslim, or the right kind of muslim.

the Germans perhaps hoped to squeek by. but it's not possible. The muslims have lost control of their hatred and now we must face the fact that they are a threat to everyone, everywhere.

finally, this statement attempts to substituted soft headed emotion for cold rational thought. It is not bigoted if its the truth and the truth is the Muslims contribute nothing to modern life. Nothing.

I have nothing in my house that says "made in Syria" and I doubt anyone else does either.

If the muslims chose to live insular lives, if they wish to be left alone to beat their women and herd their goats, they should have done something other than dance in the streets on 9/11.  

By Blogger ScurvyOaks, at Mon Aug 21, 12:00:00 PM:

The self-criticism point is absolutely crucial. No other civilization has the tradition of reform that Western Civilization has. Reform has been the source of many of the great current attributes of the West. (What I have in mind primarily is the degree of adherence to the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights; see the scorecord at Freedom House.) In this sense, Screwy, we are all proud to be progressives.

And this history of self-criticism goes straight back to the Judeo-Christian prophetic tradition. (Before you roll your eyes, go reread MLK's letter from Birmingham jail or Wilberforce's anti-slavery writings.)

I don't have anything constructuve to suggest, unfortunately. I do think we need to have a realistic understanding of the limitations of honor/shame cultures and how long it takes for them to change. (See, e.g., the American South, which is now very different culturally from what it was like 150 years ago.)  

By Blogger Jason_Pappas, at Mon Aug 21, 12:13:00 PM:

Good point, Dan Kauffman, on Averroes vs. Ghazali … and essentially the key point to the difference between the two cultures. Islam ultimately rejected the secular rationalism of the Greco-Roman culture while the West had a rebirth and went on from there.

It’s interesting how the growth of fundamentalism is spreading like wild-fire in the Islamic world -- virtually eliminating any moderation by Western norms. Even the New York Times, yesterday, noticed that it isn’t only a few that comprise what should be called the Islamic Revival.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Aug 21, 10:22:00 PM:

The ultimate problem is that that Islam does indeed tell its adherents, in fairly clear language, that killing infidels is God's work that will get you into heaven, most commonly and clearly presented in Sayyid Qutb's work, Milestones. (which I have mentioned here before)

The Westernized muslims that I know don't disagree with this (and quickly become embarrassed when they find out that I've read Qutb); they just choose to ignore it, rather like Jews and Christians prefer to ignore the harsh 'Eye for and Eye' laws. Our culture allows for the picking and choosing by people which religious precepts to emphasize and which to ignore, and likewise encourages mutual tolerance for the sake of a greater public good. Their's doesn't; rather, it emphasizes religious identity and purity.

This idea that the Islamists are some pissed off fringe of youth, like Communist revolutionaries or emoes, who can somehow be placated by improvements in their quality of life, is sadly mistaken. It doesn't matter how much money he has, except insofar as he has enough to hurt us if he chooses. What matters is his depth of religious conviction; if he cares enough about following God's commands to leave home and take up a rifle, he'll do it, no matter what his finances.  

By Blogger Dan Kauffman, at Tue Aug 22, 01:10:00 AM:

"Good point, Dan Kauffman, on Averroes vs. Ghazali … and essentially the key point to the difference between the two cultures. Islam ultimately rejected the secular rationalism of the Greco-Roman culture while the West had a rebirth and went on from there. "

Coming from a member of Infidel Bloggers Alliance I will take that as a real complement, thankyou.

I ran accross that website the other night, and meant to add it to my blogroll, but while I was doing somehting else I had a system crash and lost the address.  

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