Friday, May 20, 2005

Islamists Want The Stuff Of Western Civilization
Without The Civilization


Victor Davis Hanson, at National Review discusses the Newsweek article (about the Koran being flushed down a toilet) and the chaos which has ensued as a result:


... there is something far more to these bizarre events than mere "interconnectedness," or even media-savvy fundamentalists who have got the hang of Western telecommunications and know how to use them to stir up the mob.

There is not a necessary connection in the Middle East — or anywhere else — between the occasional appearance of technological sophistication and what we might call humanism, or the commitment to explain phenomena through reason and empiricism. We forget that far too often as we kow-tow to extremists and seek to apologize or fathom the holy protocols surrounding a religious text.

In the West, the wonder of a cell phone in some sense is the ultimate expression of a long struggle for the primacy of scientific reason, tolerance, critical consciousness, and free expression. That intellectual journey goes back to Galileo, Newton, and Socrates.

Everything from CDs to Starbucks that we take for granted is a representation of millions of past Western lives. These forgotten scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs, along with other reformers in politics, journalism, economics, and religion, created our present liberal environment. Only its institutions led to our prosperous modernity.

Without them, thinkers cannot discuss ideas freely. They will not find legal protection for their accomplishments, status for their contributions, and profit for their benefactions — and thus would end up hopeless and adrift in a society such as present-day Syria, Iran, or Egypt.

That long odyssey is not so in the world of bin Laden or an Iranian theocrat — or the ignorant who stream out of the madrassas and Friday fundamentalist harangues along the Afghan-Pakistani border. These fist-shaking, flag-burning Islamic fascists all came late to the Western tradition and now cherry-pick its technology. As classic parasites, a Zawahiri or al-Zarqawi wants Western sophisticated weapons and playthings — without the bothersome foundations that made them all possible.

An Afghan who riots because he learns of a rumor in a Western magazine, and those like him who explode and behead in Iraq, are emblematic of this hypocrisy. Nothing they have accomplished in their lives, either materially or philosophically, would result in a free opinion magazine, much less the technology to send out the story instantaneously — or, in the case of al-Zarqawi, to have his murdering transmitted globally on the Internet.

Instead, our Afghan rioters, and the Islamist organizations that have endorsed them, live in the eighth century of rumor, sexual and religious intolerance, tribal chauvinism, and gratuitous violence — but now electrified by the veneer of the 21st-century civilization that is not their own, but sometimes fools the naïve that it is.

Yet all the illumination in the modern world — neon, fluorescent, or incandescent — cannot light up the illiberal Dark Age mind if it is not willing (or forced) to begin the long ordeal of democracy, tolerance, legality, and individual rights.

Despite cheap, accessible, and easy-to-operate consumer goods imported from the Westernized world, the thinking of a bin Laden or Muslim Brotherhood still leads back to swords, horses, and jihad, not ahead to iPods and Microsoft.

They want such things to use to destroy, but not along with them the institutions like democracy and freedom that would allow such progress in their own countries — and shortly make al Qaeda and the fundamentalists not merely irrelevant, but ridiculous as well. Thus, we can understand the increasing hatred of the United States and its policy of democratic idealism abroad that threatens to put them out of business.

As we learned on September 11, they try to kill us now with our own appurtenances before they are buried themselves under modernism, liberality, and freedom. That really is what this war is about: a last-ditch effort by primordial fascists to prevent the liberalization of the Muslim world and the union of Islamic society with the protocols found in the rest of the globe and which many in the Middle East prefer if given a chance.

Only democracy and freedom, not Western money or cheap guilt, will remedy the deep sickness of radical Islam that now so tires and sickens the rest of the world that daily has to watch and endure it.