Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Clash of Civilizations? Culture Clash?

I think this past week is the first time in a while that I have heard Hugh and Dennis so clearly disagree with each other. Dennis understands that what is going on right now between the West and the radicalized, fascist, and terrorist-minded faction of Islam is a clash, a war, or cultures. Hugh disagrees.

At least, Hugh does not want to call it that. Whether or not he thinks there really is not a war between these two groups or we just should not deem it such (for political purposes) is left unsaid. He just disagrees with the conclusion that there is a clash of civilizations going on. Perhaps he does not regard the Islamists as a real voice of Islam. Are they?

How does one decide who are the authentic voices of Islam? How does one decide who are those worthy of the name "Muslim"? This is difficult without some type of professed creed like Christians have or some type of basic laws, rules, or even faith to live by. Does not Islam have this? I thought so. Then can not the Islamists be regarded as a voice of Islam? Some say yes while others say no because of the violence they spread. I have even heard these Islamists described as a "perversion of Islam." If they are a perversion, what is authentic Islam? It seems there is Islam and there is the Islam many westerners would like it to be: a more peaceful, even Christian-like approach to faith with Muhammad regarded as the final prophet. Follow the Qur'an, they imply, but do so disregarding certain statements and ignoring how Islam was started and more importantly how it spread: by violence.

If we regard Islam as one whole, this is not a clash with all of Islam. We are not at war with Islam as a whole. However, if we separate the Islamists from civil-minded Muslims--as we are told to do so often by just about everybody--then it becomes apparent that there is a considerable group with an interpretation of Islam that is threatening to all non-Muslims. These are adherents of Islam who advocate forms of terrorism, thus Islamists. Further, these Islamists have cultivated their own ways and developed a culture all its own. See certain areas of the Islamic world for examples. Therefore, there is an Islamist culture and, moreover, we are at war with it. Q. E. D. Thus it can be said and perhaps must be said: There is a clash of cultures, a clash of civilizations.

Hugh, you sound too much like advocates of the war who will not acknowledge that this is not particularly a "war on terror" but is more accurately a "war on Islamic Terror." "Naming the Enemy" does a good job of explaining this point.

Yesterday, Hugh interviewed Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Joe Carter. Here are some highlights:

HH: Now I want to ask whether or not, in our little time in this segment and the last one, is a wider conflict with Islam inevitable, ... ?


HH: But how do you win the war, Dennis Prager?

DP: If the West believed in something, it would prevail overnight. The problem is you can't beat bad faith with no faith. [Emphasis added.]

HH: press is not what you win with.

DP: You can't beat good faith.

HH: I mean, the idea that a free press, that's not the good that wins the war, is it, Dennis?

MM: I actually think that it is, and I think that one of the things that is positive about this horrible situation, and it is a horrible situation, is aligning some secularists who previously maybe had not fully acknowledged the tremendous danger of the Islamist message.

DP: Yup.

MM: I mean, there are secular leftists who I think are waking up, particularly in Europe.

HH: All right. When we come back, final comments from Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Joe Carter on the controversy as it escalates, and what, if anything, the United States government ought to say. Clearly, it's not going to say don't publish anything. It can't and it shouldn't. But what should it say about the controversy?


DP: The greatest disgrace to Islam is not the cartoons in a Danish paper. It's the great number of Muslims who murder in the name of Allah. [Emphasis added.]


HH: Quick question. Do you have sympathy for peaceable Muslims who have protested these cartoons?

MM: If it was a peaceful protest? Sure. Why not?

HH: Dennis?

DP: No, because they're...if they didn't protest the infinitely greater persecution of Christians in the Sudan, and by other Muslim societies, then their moral barometer is broken.

HH: Joe?

JC: I'd have to agree with Dennis on that one. I think the Muslim world should hope to get to the point where they can flagellate themselves for cartoons. I think they've got bigger issues to worry about.

There is so much to say in response. The most important line, it seems, is Dennis's: "If the West believed in something, it would prevail overnight. The problem is you can't beat bad faith with no faith."

Islamism can be beat, as it was near the Gates of Vienna back in 1683. It can be beat by those who believe in something and are willing to sacrifice and die for that something. Even greater when that something is real, true, and grace-providing: the freedom and virtue that we are called to live. Whether Christian or not, those who strongly believe in something will prove victorious in this war. I just pray it is the Western, democratic, and freedom-loving individual.


Baron Bodissey said...

Thanks for the link! Dymphna and I refer that post as our "mission statement".

Anonymous said...

Check this out:

Double Standard: Mohammed Cartoons and “Piss Christ”

One would hope and expect a liberal newspaper like the Times to have the meager virtue of consistency on matters of freedom of expression, particularly in defense of another newspaper. As the world now knows, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad last September, considered taboo (though not always recognized as such).

But Times reporter Craig Smith found the cartoons more inflammatory than he did the actual fact of Muslims burning embassies in Syria and Lebanon in protest. Even the headline to his Sunday Week in Review story suggests that the Danish newspapers’ exercise of free speech was somehow irresponsible, likening it to pouring fuel on a flame: “Adding Newsprint to the Fire.”

Smith irresponsibly compares the Danish cartoons to racist anti-black and anti-Semitic cartoons: “But this did not take place in a political vacuum. Hostile feelings have been growing between Denmark's immigrants and a government supported by the right-wing Danish People's Party, which has pushed anti-immigrant policies. And stereotyping in cartoons has a notorious history in Europe, where anti-Semitic caricatures fed the Holocaust, just as they feed anti-Israeli propaganda in the Middle East today.

“In the current climate, some experts on mass communications suggest, the exercise was no more benign than commissioning caricatures of African-Americans would have been during the 1960's civil rights struggle. ‘You have to ask what was the intent of these cartoons, bearing in mind the recent history of tension in Denmark with the Muslim community,’ said David Welch, head of the Center for the Study of Propaganda and War at the University of Kent in Britain. Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia Journalism School, put it this way: ‘He knew what he was doing.’”

Back in the 1990s, the Times took a far different tone regarding two excretory-based exhibits offensive to Christians -- though those controversies passed without the violent protests, death threats, or fire-bombings of embassies we are seeing today.

Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” consisted of a crucifix submerged in a tank of Serrano’s urine. Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary” showed the icon clotted with elephant dung and surrounded by pornographic cut-outs.

Back in the previous millennium, the Times was intrigued by an art controversy at the Brooklyn Museum, showcasing what the September 24, 1999 editorial page called “a dung-stained, faux-naïve portrait of the Virgin Mary.” That would be Ofili’s artwork.

On October 2, 1999, the editors dealt with Christian offense in one clause before calling for art that “challenge[d] the public”: “To be sure, many citizens of conscience find parts of the Brooklyn exhibition repugnant, and it is understandable that many Roman Catholics would find Chris Ofili's image of the Virgin Mary offensive. Others would agree with our colleague William Safire that while the Brooklyn Museum has a right to show what it likes, the administrators have been clumsy or needlessly provocative. Yet a Daily News poll shows that the majority of New Yorkers support the museum over Mayor Giuliani by a ratio of two to one. Those numbers show a broad-based support for New York's role as the nation's cultural capital. The people understand intuitively what Mr. Giuliani ignores for political gain. A museum is obliged to challenge the public as well as to placate it, or else the museum becomes a chamber of attractive ghosts, an institution completely disconnected from art in our time.”

On October 9, 1999, Frank Rich, then columnist and now an Arts editor-columnist, compared Giuliani’s threatened denial of taxpayer funding (which was blocked) for the offensive art to the Nazi’s notorious 1937 condemnation of “degenerate art.”

Most galling in retrospect was a May 3, 1998 review by contributing arts writer Amei Wallach, “Policing the Avant-Garde: Parallels Out of the Past,” on a show that compared those who protested tax funding of “Piss Christ” to Nazis.

“Goebbels is long and thin; Hitler closely resembles a Charlie Chaplin impersonator. Dressed in clown ruffs, they nudge each other onto the stage in the Irondale Ensemble Project's musical theater-cabaret caper ‘Degenerate Art,’….the troupe is seeking to link 1990's debates about the N.E.A. with the 1937 ‘Entartete Kust’ (‘Degenerate Art’) exhibition in Munich, which the Nazi Government organized to show the German people the kind of art they were meant to hate.”

Wallach doesn't blink when an arts curator compares objections to tax-funding for "Piss Christ" to Goebbels and Hitler: “Such rhetoric sounded chillingly contemporary to Stephanie Barron, curator of 20th-century art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, when she was preparing ‘Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany,’ the 1991 exhibition from which the Irondale Ensemble drew its inspiration. At the time when Ms. Barron was completing her reconstruction of the ‘Entartete Kunst’ show, some American senators and congressmen were using comparable language to denounce the works of Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano in their opening salvos against the N.E.A. In her catalogue essay, Ms. Barron noted ‘an uncomfortable parallel between the enemies of artistic freedom today and those responsible for organizing the “Entartete Kunst” exhibition’ more than a half century before.”

TimesWatch also sees an exceedingly “uncomfortable parallel” -- one between the paper’s sympathetic stance toward tax-funded art offensive to Christians, and its hypocritical failure to defend newspaper cartoons offensive to Muslims.

For more Smith on Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons, click here.

Pim's Ghost said...

Ha!! Nicely done. In another hypocrisy that I called to attention yesterday (I really just need to write a post on this incident) to a muslim man arguing loudly on the phone in the best tradition of al Taqiyya and the double sided arrogance of his type that "There is no god but allah and muhammad (peace be not upon him) is his prophet" is just as much of an incitement and offense to EVERY other religion as any cartoon of muhammad could ever be.

He argued briefly before leaving the Hindu-run Indian restaurant. The staff actually thanked me, as he apparently argues loudly on his cell phone at every meal there. I know the owner and told him that that is what happens when you start serving halal meat. He thought that brutally funny, but is unlikely to change his policy I fear.