Comments on “Islam is the rock on which the liberal order broke?”

Commenter Pramathanath Sastry, quoting Omar Ali:

“If and when modern Liberalism … crashes and burns …., will future historians look back and say that Islam was the rock on which it first and decisively broke?” Will there be future historians (ones free to explore history and engage in it, speculate, publish) if modern liberalism crashes and burns?

My reply to P. Sastry, and as well to Omar Ali [cribbing old themes at this blog]:

Right and further: A non-humanist and illiberal and anti-modern “historian” would not be an “historian” of the same type as for us, or, to say the same thing, would be an “historian” as we understand the term only to the extent that he or she was “humanist” and “liberal” and “modern.”

So, in that sense, the answer to the blogger’s question must be “no.” History, if not necessarily “historians,” liberal-modern-humanist or other, may instead record that what broke this latest “liberal order” (a typical contradiction in terms), as before and likely again, as inevitably, was this latest liberal order itself.

What Omar Ali seems to be getting at, however, is:

  • 1) a set of dizzying contradictions and counter-contradictions that, impossibly but really, produce what we call (oxymoronically yet for that very same reason adequately descriptively) “liberal democracy,” the intrinsically “unstable state” or non-state state, and
  • 2) the way in which the confrontation with Islam or specifically with Islamism and its idea of a unitary politico-religious state exposes the peculiar self-contradiction and indeed the paradox, paradoxically suppressed, at the foundation of the regime of freedom and pluralism: the reliance on a form of religion, or on another form of politico-religious monism, in which the commitment to the separation of church and state is sustainable and indeed conceivable only through and as its opposite, a “civic religion,” or the integral, unitary, shared, “non-separated” commitment to and of a (re-)sacralized state.

A form of this contradiction is equally intrinsic to Islam or to Islamicate states, however. So historians may alternatively – or also – someday record that it was liberalism that finally broke Islam or the Islamic Order, and, perhaps, in so doing repaired one or both as well.


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