America, Islam, and democratic tolerance

June 20, 2011

There’s an interesting post by Roger Kimball at Pajamas Media on Governor Romney’s problem with religion. No, not his Mormonism, though some blockheads might want to make that a problem, but his inability, thanks to the shackles of political correctness, to articulate why Islam poses a problem in America. And it’s not just Romney’s problem, but one shared by most politicians.

In his essay, Roger discusses the principle of religious tolerance and why it does not work when Islam is added to the mix:

Religious tolerance is a nifty idea.  As a Catholic, I’m pleased it exists. But here’s the rub: tolerance only works when practiced by all parties to the social contract.  It’s one thing for a Unitarian and a Catholic to tolerate each other.  They have  some important doctrinal differences.  But they do not endeavor to kill or enslave one another on account of those differences.

The friction of difference works differently when you add Islam to the equation.  Why?  Because Islam does not — in principle as well as in practice  — acknowledge a legitimate sphere of operation for the secular as distinct from the sacred realm.  There is no “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” in Islam because Islam — that’s mainstream, garden-variety Islam, not just its wacko Wahhabist allotropes — regards everything as subordinate to the will of Allah.

Romney, like many well-meaning liberals, wants to regard Islam as a religious phenomenon.  The thought process goes something like this:

  1. We’re in favor of religious toleration.
  2. Islam is a religion.
  3. Ergo, we should tolerate Islam. (Q., isn’t it, e. demonstrandum?)

The problem with this syllogism is what it leaves out of account — namely, as McCarthy puts it, that Islam is a “totalitarian political program masquerading as a purely spiritual doctrine.”

As with all systems of belief in a liberal democratic regime, Islam deserves tolerance to the extent that it extends tolerance. That syllogism really should begin:

  1. We’re in favor of religious toleration for those religions that practice toleration.

And therein, as Shakespeare said, lies the rub. By misunderstanding the mutualism required for genuine tolerance, muddleheaded Westerners turn what originated as a pact into unilateral intellectual disarmament, refusing to think critically about Islam lest they be labelled “judgmental,” “intolerant,” or, worst of all, “Islamophobic.” And that in turn leaves us vulnerable to the cultural or  “civilizational jihad” that the Muslim Brotherhood is waging here and elsewhere through front organizations, the goal of which is the imposition of Sharia law on us all.

While I do sympathize with Romney’s plight (this is delicate, difficult ground for Americans to cover, and rightly so), particularly since he himself was slammed by religious bigotry in the last campaign, it is nonetheless essential for would-be American leaders to grasp, wrestle, and explain to the public then dangers of tolerating the intolerant. Seeing who does it best should be one of our criteria for choosing a nominee and future president.

PS: I urge you to read McCarthy’s article, linked above in the quote, but I disagree with his description of Islam as a political system “masquerading as a religion.” This is a misstatement; Islam is a religion, for it does what any religion does, arranging the relationship between Mankind and the Divine. It is, however, a religion that encompasses a totalitarian and aggressive political program. The distinction may seem minor or semantic, but I think it’s important, for to frame it as McCarthy does would be to ignore the spiritual appeal it has for those who find relief in submission to a higher authority.

PPS: And before anyone asks, no, I am not saying “ban Islam” or “deport all Muslims.” What I am calling for is an open, critical discussion of what Islam is and what its goals are, as opposed to the platitudes we’re fed by politicians and the media. And that includes challenging American Islamic leaders to defend what’s clearly in their scriptures.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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