The Crisis in France, Europe and Here at Home
This is a two pronged war, one prong of which is steadfastly aimed at destroying secular liberal civilization. The second prong has spawned a deadly, multifocal war within the precincts and outposts of Islam. Clearly there are decent, well-meaning elements within Islam, until now smothered, intimidated, covert and confused. The blatant French attacks on the Western free press (and its most potent weapon, satire) have finally forced a few temperate Muslim voices to emerge from the background noise and protective shadows. They are beginning to speak out.
This is just the beginning.
The internal contradictions of postmodern liberalism are exposed, just as the fragile strands of a civil Islam, one capable of productively coexisting with modern Western life are being tested.
This situation is unstable, meaning it could go either way.
Postmodern liberalism has embraced tolerance as if it were a foundational moral value. But the reality of the matter is deeply different: Tolerance is a virtue practiced by individuals and societies that are held together by a well ordered and vital moral understanding that contains some tough boundaries between the permissible and the impermissible, the good and the reprehensible, the deeply honored and the evil.
When tolerance is allowed to slip out of its moral foundations, it becomes an agent of social suicide.
France may be waking up.
But we Americans need to take our situational understanding to a heightened level of alertness and depth. The few, timid Muslim voices that are tentatively seeking to form a moderate front in the intra-Islamic part of this war would not have emerged without our own country’s relentless retaliation on al Qaeda and its spawn. These voices will fade and die unless we in the West continue to defend the vital boundaries on which a modern free society is based, including especially our hallowed traditions a free press (print and electronic). A truly free press is uniquely sacrosanct in just one major world power – The USA.
Required reading: a major new article by a Christian scholar who spent years living in a Muslim cultural environment. It has been released by the respected American journal, FIRST THINGS. It is “Challenging Radical Islam, An Explanation of Islam’s Relation to Terrorism and Violence”, by John Azumah. Go to –
The author is informed, sympathetic to the decent, law abiding Muslims, and he pulls no punches when discussing Muslim and American leadership. He reminds us that this war is, at its very core, a moral struggle. This thoughtful and balanced piece is well worth your time to copy, read and reread. Here are a few key quotes:
“Since the oil boom of the 1970s and ’80s, Saudi Arabia, whose official creed is Wahhabi Islam, has exported Wahhabism to parts of Africa, Asia, and the West through scholarships and the funding of radical mosques, preachers, and groups. Al-Qaeda is a direct spinoff of Wahhabi Islam, and IS an outgrowth from al-Qaeda, while the origins of Boko Haram lie in a network of Wahhabi-Salafi groups in Nigeria. This religious context provides the framework for justifying violence. Jihadists quote from Islamic scripture, prophetic traditions, and legal opinions to support their claims and activities. Jihad against non-Muslims and the ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a special tax, or be killed are in fact based on Islamic law. The same is true of the tactic of capturing women and children as war booty and keeping or disposing of them as slaves. Islam also promises rewards and pleasures awaiting the martyr. It is therefore simplistic if not misleading to argue that groups like IS and Boko Haram have nothing to do with Islam.”
“…as is the case in Christian just-war theory, in which the power to declare war is carefully limited to governments, in Islamic law only legitimate Islamic governments can declare a jihad, not individuals or nonstate actors. An exception is made when a Muslim land comes under attack or occupation by an enemy force, which renders jihad or resistance an individual responsibility. But even then, jihad has to have been formally declared by the legitimate authority properly representing the people of the occupied nation. By declaring and conducting jihad on their own, al-Qaeda, IS, Boko Haram, and other such groups act as heretical usurpers.”
“Given the clear consensus of the Islamic tradition, it is no surprise that Muslim leaders around the world have repeatedly and publicly denounced al-Qaeda, IS, and Boko Haram.”
“While these public renunciations and fatwas may have little impact on the leadership of jihadi groups, they play a significant role in delegitimizing jihadi ideology and thereby undermining its appeal to young Muslims.”
“Undoubtedly the disorientation caused by modernity and postmodernity is key. Economic development and an increasingly global commerce in movies, TV, and other forms of popular culture weaken traditional Islamic institutions and disturb and disorient many Muslims. It is in this context that heretical groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State flourish. They’re part zealot, part thug, part political entrepreneur, in societies undergoing profound social transformations.
“What, then, are we to say about Islam and terrorism? There is no question that the jihadists quote mainstream Islamic texts to justify their actions. But bear in mind that, in itself, quoting Islamic texts does not necessarily make one’s views and actions Islamic. The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda quotes the Bible, as did the Branch Davidians of David Koresh, the People’s Temple of Jim Jones, and many other eccentric Christian cults. That does not make their views and actions Christian.”
“While jihadi groups are heretical in their claim that they have the authority to interpret and impose these laws, the existence of the teaching alone is an invitation to rebellion and extremism. In other words, while it is neither true nor fair to argue that Islam is the problem, there is no doubt that Islam has a problem. When Jesus said that we will be able to discern the faithfulness of his followers by their fruits, he was speaking a common truth. And so, is it not time for Islamic scholars and leaders to reexamine the doctrines that are so easily abused by extremists? Isn’t the orgy of blood we are witnessing today a clear sign of the need for important and thoroughgoing reforms?”
“…A wind is blowing in the house of Islam, and a battle for the soul of Islam is earnestly underway. Disillusioned young Iranians are leaving Islam in droves and giving up on religion altogether. Other ordinary Muslims are turning away from Islam to other religions, including Christianity. We see also in Islam a growing progressive trend toward a critical rereading of Islamic texts and history. These are signs that a serious introspection is taking place across the Muslim world.”
We are not just spectators. An American withdrawal or premature holiday from the war declared by radical Islam against modernity and the Western freedom traditions will surely snatch the defeat of our sworn enemies from the jaws of victory.
To go forward, we, the French and the other ambivalent European cultures need to reestablish the moral foundations of modern civilization.
Years ago, the Jewish writer Dennis Prager asked us, “Can Believers Defeat Unbelievers?” (See my 2003 article “Secular Steel” and its reference to Dr. Prager’s trenchant piece at this link - http://jaygaskill.com/secular.htm)
That, my fellow Americans, is the question of the moment.
Jay B Gaskill 1-9-2015
Copyright © 2015 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at law