Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fukuyama's view of the Islamist Threat

In rereading The End of History and the Last Man, I came upon the following paragraph and wondered if this early view of Fukuyama’s might have predisposed him to accept the views of Olivier Roy and Gilles Kepel as to the Jihadist threat being overrated:

[page 45] “It is true that Islam constitutes a systematic and coherent ideology, just like liberalism and communism, with its own code of morality and doctrine of political and social justice. The appeal of Islam is potentially universal, reaching out to all men as men, and not just to members of a particular ethnic or national group. And Islam has indeed defeated liberal democracy in many parts of the Islamic world, posing a grave threat to liberal practices even in countries where it has not achieved political power directly. The end of the Cold war in Europe was followed immediately by a challenge to the West from Iraq, in which Islam was arguably a factor.

“Despite the power demonstrated by Islam in its current revival, however, it remains the case that this religion has virtually no appeal outside those areas that were culturally Islamic to begin with. The days of Islam’s cultural conquests, it would seem are over: it can win back lapsed adherents, but has no resonance for young people in Berlin, Tokyo, or Moscow. And while nearly a billion people are culturally Islamic – one-fifth of the world’s population – they cannot challenge liberal democracy on its own territory on the level of ideas. Indeed, the Islamic world would seem more vulnerable to liberal ideas in the long run than the reverse, since such liberalism has attracted numerous and powerful Muslim adherents over the past century and a half. Part of the reason for the current, fundamentalist revival is the strength of the perceived threat from liberal, Western values to traditional Islamic societies.”

Fukuyama is extremely smart; so why does he ignore the experts who argue that Militant Islam is a serious threat and that it is making inroads in places that Fukuyama didn’t expect? It is natural (as Collingwood and Gadamer argue) to accept arguments that coincide with ones predispositions. In the case of the quoted argument, Kepel and Roy do present arguments consistent with Fukuyama’s earlier belief, so [perhaps Fukuyama thought as he wrote America at the Crossroads] why look further?

Lawrence Helm

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