Comments on Imam McCarthy’s newest fatwa by CK MacLeod

@ forecastle casady:
Someone else just having read Strauss-Kojève has probably already said the same thing.

@ forecastle casady:
I guess that really was unforgivable of me.

@ narciso:
Ask the Benjaminites about who "started out" with aggressive ideas about in-group and out-group. Since, in point of fact, we weren't around and have precious little to guide us regarding the misty origins of humankind, we have no idea. The fact that Islam is a successor faith, not a "brand new idea" also presents certain problems.

Most of the West is already Islamic theologically and juridically, but just doesn't recognize it yet - not really believing in the divinity of Jesus Christ but accepting him as a prophet, endlessly debating the fine points of logic and law, aware that surrender to fate brings peace, advocating the universal state in which all share the same fundamental moral precepts. Of course, that's because Islamic civilization is already really Western - a culture of the logos, word and reason. All those comical Imams with their rulings on breast exposure and sex with goats are epiphenomena of that culture, not the culture itself. Islam is so obsessed with word and reason that its bad philosophizing - its sophistries and absurdities - get translated almost immediately into bad and inhuman acts. But the same thing makes it accessible, someday, if we ever get past our fear and hatred, or far enough, to the West. Neither side can "win," because they're already the same side, each "sub-side" overly fascinated with its own half-truths.

@ Sully:
The "book" calls for a lot of things, often contradictory things, and is as subject to a range of interpretations as the other frequently warlike, xenophobic, and even genocidalist scriptures at the roots of all great and most small and forgotten religions and cultures. If Muslims hadn't found ways to re-interpret the Koran and Koranic injunctions for changing circumstances and deepening understandings, the religion would have died out 1000 years ago.

@ Rocketman:
I'll refrain from quibbling on the description of how Islam spread, and just point out that even under your description the "Islamic hordes" hardly qualify as standouts in the the long and wondrous history of humanity. As for comparisons to the Christians of the time, at least the Muslims didn't believe bathing was sinful.

@ Sully:
But Imperial Way Shintoism and Nazi-as-you-wanna-be were not abolished here. You could tomorrow start up a new Nazi-Shintoist anti-Islamist party, group-sing paeans to the Emperor and Adolf Hitler, publish double-sided paperbacks like those old ACE sci-fi editions holding an injudiciously abridged MEIN KAMPF with suitable Frazetta-ish illustration on one side, turn it over and around and get Yukio Mishima's missing head calling for a Bushido revival from the other, and hold rallies and try to get funding for a cultural center two blocks from Pearl Harbor and another two blocks from the Washington Monument.

Even in Germany, though distribution of MEIN KAMPF is restricted, it is still available in annotated student editions and to scholars, and I don't believe there's a penalty for possessing it. The symbols of the Nazi Party are barred, but you're allowed to be a moronic thug who probably keeps a home made version in his closet and logs on to probably American-based Neo-Nazi web-sites. In Japan, we relaxed significantly when the Emperor himself declared himself not to be divine. It didn't hurt in either case that the people came to see us as liberators, providers, and winners - and that we, overall, in our deeds, proved ourselves different from what the losers claimed about us. (In Germany, most of the people already knew we were preferable both to the Nazis and to the Reds - they didn't blame us as passionately for bombing their cities to the Rubble Age because by the end of the war the belief was already widespread that Germany was experiencing just retribution for the Nazi crimes.)

As for ideological examination of immigrants and visitors, that's a practical question. I don't think anything in our tradition bars us from doing that, though we'd (almost) all object to, say, an explicitly racist immigration policy, or to a policy that aimed to exclude everyone who wouldn't automatically vote McCain-Palin. We've already discussed the oath of allegiance required of new citizens. The extent to which we close our borders to certain types of visitors would be a different issue, but, even if we could come up with an acceptable standard and practical method of examination for screening would-be visitors, beyond what we have already, there will be costs and trade-offs. An overly and overtly hostile policy might, for instance, greatly complicate diplomatic, political, military, and economic objectives of other types.

Sully wrote:

An excellent analogy for use as a model for after we address the problem in a decisive fashion, although I suspect it will take a number of additional attacks on us, the catalyzing one likely with nuclear weapons, before our children or grandchildren implement it.

Suspect or prophesy whatever you like, but there is no Islamic equivalent of Germany or Japan for us to make war with and then to de-Islamify. "Addressing the problem in a decisive fashion" does however echo certain other historical traditions other than the ones that we stood up for during and after World War 2. In fact, it sounds a lot like one of the main ones we stood against.

Shall we put you down in favor of a "final solution to the Islamic problem"?

narciso wrote:

The problem is CK, that we’re not speaking of collective punishment, but a project underwritten by a member of the Perdana movement, which help support the MV Marmara and the Rachel Corrie this week,
among other enterprises, Just like we turned down Prince Talal’s offering of danegold after September 11th, unless you think Guiliani was wrong and Cynthia McKinney was right.

Woah - way too much guilt by association there. Yet, even if took it totally as offered, if you had the smoking gun proving that Rauf et al personally sent Rachel Corrie packing on her tractor martyrdom operation, it wouldn't be a justification for opposing Cordoba House in the way that it has been opposed. As I have now had to remind people repeatedly at multiple venues, my critique of the conservative reaction is concerned only secondarily with Cordoba House itself, mainly in relation to the proportionality of that reaction.

If you can oppose the CI in a way that doesn't sooner or later depend on "religion that kills" and other anti-Islamic utterances and characterizations or on lame attempts at character assassination and forced inference, and doesn't lead to "let's put up a bacon stand" gestures of willful bigotry, have at it.

As for the "danegeld" incident, I could accept Giuliani's action as expressing a refusal of the terrorists' self-justification at a time when action was on the table and complexities were unwelcome, but that can't equate with full acceptance of his rationale, which has in subsequent years become definitional for a certain brand of rightwing political correctness that I've commented on before. At a certain point, a refusal to view the full context of the 9/11 attacks becomes a familiar ideological straitjacket, an excuse not to think.

@ J-Bone:
Thank you for the question!

@ Sully:
It wasn't the defenders of equal rights and freedom of worship in the United States who brought up the Pearl Harbor example. It was people like Rod Dreher grasping for a way to affix some fig leaf of rationality and decency to their arguments.

Speaking of which:

@ J-Bone:
HI, J-Bone - hearty if inalienably necrotic greetings to a once-living Contender.

Before the frog linked that Japanese Culture Center (a few minutes down the Fwy from Pearl), I was going to ask if you and others were absolutely sure there isn't a "Japanese cultural center" near Pearl Harbor. Rod Dreher specified a "Shinto shrine" - though one might ask whether every Lexus and Sony TV isn't a Japanese cultural center in the 2010 context. I also wonder if there are American centers of any type near the Hiroshima and Nagasaki memorials. There is a Hiroshima baseball team - in business since 1949. For decades virtually all of Japan and West Germany were massive American cultural centers, so obviously no one on "our" side is interested in some kind of parity in mutual respect to survivor sensitivities.

You can't put anything past this country's political culture. If some Japanese group announced their intention of building a cultural center somewhere near Pearl Harbor, I wouldn't be surprised if someone tried to make a living from opposing it on behalf of those who died, their families, national honor, etc.

All the same, there are so many differences between Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks that analogies like Dreher's are, as I put it in the GR piece, profoundly incommensurate. But these differences are actually somewhat instructive.

The forces that attacked Pearl Harbor represented a nation-state, and the war that followed, though it eventually involved unconventional weapons and methods, had a conventional end, eventually leading to occupation and alliance - including an acceptable and legitimate disavowal of central tenets and expectations of Shinto militarism ("Emperor Worship" being the best-known case), but not the complete disavowal of Shintoism (something that would equate with the total eradication of Japanese traditional culture).

Of course, to the militarists, their Shintoism was authentic Shintoism, just as it was for anti-Shinto propagandists - as similarly for Islamists and anti-Islamists today. 65 years ago, we were grown-up enough to dispense with such fearful symmetries when they ran counter to our interests and values. Because we didn't believe in collective guilt, we were able more or less immediately to establish ourselves as benign occupiers, guardians of Japanese (as German) welfare, respectful of indigenous culture. When we tried war criminals - and this is crucial, I believe - they were tried as individuals, responsible for their own conduct.

Collective guilt would have operated within their defenses - "we were only following orders" is an attempt to hide within the collective rather than personal responsibility. None of which is to make an absurd claim to the effect that our administration of victor's justice was totally unself-interested or perfectly fair, or without its own serious contradictions. Yet it had an identifiable ethos, one consistent with the best American traditions and with with American policy ever since.

The "forces" that attacked the WTC represented at most the idea of a transnational state that may not ever come into existence, or that, if it does ever come into existence, may have little or no direct connection to the terrorists. Indeed, who and what the terrorists represented and are still struggling to be recognized as representing is one of the crucial political questions in the battle with them. To be seen as representative of Islam is one of their highest aspirations, and establishing themselves as the effective leaders and banner-carriers of political Islam was one of the central motivations and objectives of the attacks. There is no place within the American tradition or within the American interests to treat the terrorists as true and legitimate representatives of some pseudo-entity called "Islam" or maybe "The Caliphate To Be."

Ironically, more or less in keeping with the terrorists' intentions, the radical Islamists' self-proclaimed most ardent foes are often their chief facilitators. Many of the same people who in one breath declare the 9/11 and other terror attacks "pointless" may in the next breath reinforce the actual "point." They accept the terrorists themselves as self-legitimating representatives of authentic Islam and a Caliphate-to-Be, and they are busier than the terrorists' own publicists, and with much better access to Western media, in driving home that argument. By now, the Islamists have countless volunteer ideologues who can be found all across the internet, especially on the right side, distributing their propaganda for them.

Assuming there isn't a Japanese cultural center or Shinto shrine near Pearl Harbor, then denying some new initiative for one would indicate that the peace between the U.S. and Japan was incomplete - despite a 65-year-old alliance and all the tearful and respectful meetings between former adversaries on anniversary days. It would give life to a conflict that for most Americans and Japanese is a thing of the remote past. Denying permission to Cordoba House to put up a relatively small building (for Manhattan, and for the site as planned) would be a tribute to the terrorists - even if everything the the Neo-McCarthyites say about it is fair and true. It would also be a dreadful admission of weakness and hypocrisy on our part.

@ Rocketman:
Not sure what you mean by the "'provocation' issue" in this context, and I mean everything I wrote about McCarthy, who, whatever his past contributions and expertise, is in my opinion a noxious demagogue on this issue, and on the "clash of civilizations" generally.

@ Ritchie Emmons:
Have made the same arguments, more or less, myself, Ritchie. I don't put myself in the place of the avg. Iraqi Islamist or nationalist. Even the ones who are glad that Saddam is gone, and thankful we got rid of them, may harbor great uncertainty and suspicion regarding our designs there, and the desirability of American/global cultural, political, and economic influence. But my point isn't really about the validity of anti-Americanism or the validity of anti-Islamism: It's about getting exercised enough over a minor building in Manhattan, affronted enough in our sensibilities, to junk the American idea, and without a second thought.

@ fuster:
Er - let's just say for the frog that was just ribbiting over on her blog about "innuendo" the second one seems a bit... lacking in foundation. You disagree with JED. I do, too. But it doesn't do much for the possibility of political dialogue to express doubt as to the other person's sanity. Tis a bit related to what we were discussing on the other thread: You have to proceed in political discussion under the assumption of the other person's good faith and susceptibility to reason, until and unless proven otherwise - and then again as soon as the peace talks start.

As for the first, chugotza nod wayer shonet.

@ fuster:
What the heck you on about now?

I'd already traveled there via the HA GR link. I fired off a fiercely fierce comment, last seen "in moderation" (my fault but not content-related), only to see that a certain green quasi-person had gotten there first.

@ Ritchie Emmons:
Hey, Ritchie.

I use "Islamist" to refer generically to supporters of "political Islam" - the idea that governments draw legitimacy from adherence to Islam. They would include a broad range of people from the current governments of Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan (the latter two literally Islamic Republics) to Osama Bin Laden and other people admiring your neckline.

The point is that we don't expect everyday Iraqis, Afghans, Turks to be upset about our presence - that is we expect them not to be upset - or at any rate that we don't usually care whether anyone is upset, mainly because we're already convinced that no one has a good reason to be upset with us.

The point of the Baghdad embassy example was simply to give an idea of proportion and one-sidedness - something I've also tried to emphasize via references, subsequent to writing this post, to the under-construction skyscrapers and memorials in and around memorials at the real WTC site.

McCarthy wants to rally opposition to the construction of a 15-story building in Manhattan because someone acting "in the name" of Islam committed an atrocity. People acting "in the name" of Western Civilization have repeatedly put large sections of Baghdad under heavy bombardment, and caused countless (literally countless) military and civilian casualties. If it's not reasonable for someone in Iraq to be upset about the new U.S. Vatican, how is it reasonable for us to be upset about said 15-story pipsqueak of a structure?

As an American, I find the idea of establishing an arbitrary "no Islamic worship allowed" zone repugnant. You're aware that Muslims other than the hijackers died on 9/11, right? That Muslims serve in the US military and are expected to die for your and my freedoms? That the lives of our soldiers and our hope for keeping another 9/11 from happening depend in large part on non-American Muslims being convinced we're on their side?

Sure, Zolt, and every synagogue can have a Baruch Goldstein diorama, and every Catholic church can have a sodomized altar boy exhibition and virtual reality Inquisition, and every Southern Baptist and Methodist church can have permanent Christmas trees with lynching ornaments.

Not your business what someone does with their property.

@ Zoltan Newberry:
Z my frem, so sadly and cruelly spamulated, probably way past your Cheekago bedtime by the time I write this reply to your no longer pending comment, please may we speak accurately about these matters? It is not slated to be built on or at or even next-door to GZ - not that I would mind, really, assuming opportunities to build were handled tastefully and ecumenically, but, anyway, since you do, you should be clear at least. Otherwise people will get the idea that if the edifice was actually to be built between two and three city blocks from GZ, with several large and impressive buildings between it and GZ, well then you wouldn't mind at all. I think the map suggests it will be around 200 meters, a two or three minutes walk, from GZ.

If 200 meters and 2-3 blocks is too close, what's far enough?

Now let us also note that said mosque is not a mosque, but rather a worship area within a 15-story cultural center - no doubt an impressive edifice to the unlettered peasants of east-south Hutuland, or late 19th Century rural Oklahoma with dreams of Kansas City, but not a BFD in Manhattan at any time in the last century or so. Even less of a BFD when you consider that - see top post - construction is already under way on some truly BFD buildings. So y'all are getting upset about a pipsqueak of a pseudo-mosque located three blocks away from the soon-to-be most glorious and awesome architectural mega-confections we can come up with, on an island full of 'em.

People might get the idea that you're upset about something else other than this project.

@ adam:
And most of them stood on the steps of the Capitol singing God Bless America, and voted overwhelmingly for the Patriot Act, and for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, when the wounds were still fresh - and were killed in the immediately following elections if they wavered. Speaking domestically of course. The international left can mostly go fish if we decide we're at war - and many of the people nodding furiously when Glenn Beck indicts the Wilson-fascist American Protective League will be first in line to join its contemporary successor in such a circumstance.

But, like I said, I think it will all depend on particulars as they develop and as we interpret them. 100 John Allen Muhammads, and, sure, rigorous internal security measures until the threat is squashed. "Just" another 9/11, and a Muslim in Detroit won't have much difficulty, but the Muslims living wherever the attack was thought to be based - they'd be outta luck.

@ adam:
Much more depends on other factors, on the particulars, not just the anger of anti-Muslims or the fears or self-interested calculations of American Muslims. A main reason that there was never any great upsurge in anti-Muslim activity in the U.S. is that there was never any reason to believe that the 9/11 attacks were significantly facilitated by American Muslims. Both 9/11 and the Xmas attack that Z mentions were foreign-originated. As for the reactions of American Muslims to whatever was asked or required of them, that would obviously depend to a large extent on what was asked or required, and what fears, if any, they had regarding the effects of a perceived failure to cooperate. If and when the homegrowns ever pose a threat - beyond a handful of voluntarists causing a handful of casualties - the natural reaction for people who have a stake in the system and in civil peace will be to get rid of them ASAP. Before the situation escalates, there are significant social incentives to rat them out. A practical reason (just man to Machiavellian, as it were) to be against anti-Muslim bigotry is that an upsurge in it is likely to divide and fragment the Muslim community itself, complicating law enforcement in numerous ways while creating refuges and heightened incentives for malcontents.

@ Zoltan Newberry:
That would be tragic, but I think your estimation of the American public is wrong. I think we would resist for a long time before opening "internment camps." We did that once before you know. We would likely, however, move to much more intrusive profiling, and I expect the American Muslim community would, in the main, be highly cooperative.

Can you tell me how a 15-story building in Lower Manhattan is going to destroy our Americanness? I rather think nixing the project would go a lot further in that direction - which was the theme of my long post on this subject.

Ken wrote:

As for threats, your whole post was a very thinly disguised threat to use your inside connections to fix the debate so that the mosque would be built.

FYI - about the only inside connections to anything that I happen to possess would be the doors to my bedroom, office, and bathroom - except I don't really "possess them" either, since I'm a renter. So same goes for the plumbing. Not sure what else you think I am connected to or how one would go about fixing a debate, or which debate needs to be fixed.

Just some friendly advice: You give me the impression that something isn't working right. I'm not sure that this is a good place for you to be arguing with people.

@ Ken:
Oh - and watch your language - and your threats.

Ken wrote:

Just out of curiosity, does someone have the goods on you?

LOL - what's that supposed to mean?

narciso wrote:

Give me a more positive spin

Not my job.

@ narciso:
How very Orwellian of you: More freedom is unfreedom.

Do you ever even experiment with seeing things from the other side? Or is that too weak? So now it's the communists at Goldman-Sachs who indebted us? Or are they Islamists? Have you considered the possibility that no one's in control, but everyone's working an angle?

@ narciso:
Welcome to the land of the free, dude.