Thursday, August 14, 2008

Evaluating the Islamist Threat

Polemics are unbearably boring to me. My prime interest has been in knowing and not in winning arguments; however, in this blog and even prior to it, I have been very interested in developing coherent arguments that I can defend. If I have read a book and create a note disagreeing or agreeing with the author because of facts or arguments I present, what I am intending is to draw the correct conclusion from the facts I have encountered. Usually I can’t come to a conclusion I would describe as ultimate or absolute. I usually have to say that if A, B, C, are correct, and the author says they are, then X. Or, perhaps I will say that Author D has said A, B, and C, but Author E has said F, G, and H and his arguments seem more persuasive to me.

A case in point for me is Islamism. I have spent a good deal of time analyzing a variety of authors on this subject. I have no doubt but that Sayyid Qutb and Ayatollah Khomeini advanced certain views that today comprise the predominate beliefs of Sunni and Shiite Islamism. If their beliefs are widely held and actively participated in, then the West could be in for a long bloody war. However, I have no statistics on how widely Islamist beliefs are held. And of those who hold these beliefs, I don’t know how many are willing to engage in the Islamist Jihad? So I have to say, if A (they are widespread), and if B (they are actively believed by a large number) and if C (there are many willing to engage in the Islamist Jihad), then D (we are in big trouble).

A polemical argument would serve no useful purpose for me. I am not absolutely convinced of my tentative conclusions. I am continuing to accumulate new information. If I find new information then my tentative conclusions may have to change. An article that bears on this is “Islam confronts its Demons” by Max Rodenbeck in the April 29, 2004 issue of The New York Review of Books. Rodenbeck reviews 9 books that show Liberal Islamic thinkers thinking about Islam. Now if these thinkers were doing their thinking in Middle-Eastern nations, and if Rodenbeck is right about what they are saying, I would take that as a very encouraging sign. But at the end of his review, Rodenbeck says that all these authors are writing in Western nations. Some of them are using pseudonyms.

In a sense, it could be a waste of time to read these authors because their writings are not being read to any appreciable extent in the Middle East (according to Rodenbeck). But after thinking it over, I decided it could be valuable to read Intellectual Muslims (or in some cases former Muslims) writing about Islam and Islamism. I therefore read The Malady of Islam, by Abdelwahab Meddeb, 2002. Abdelwahab has thus far provided a few details about the development of Islamism that I didn’t previously have. He blames Saudi Arabia more than others I’ve read.

Lawrence Helm

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