Sunday, December 09, 2007

Islam’s Silent Moderates - New York Times: "It is often said that Islam has been “hijacked” by a small extremist group of radical fundamentalists. The vast majority of Muslims are said to be moderates. But where are the moderates? Where are the Muslim voices raised over the terrible injustice of incidents like these? How many Muslims are willing to stand up and say, in the case of the girl from Qatif, that this manner of justice is appalling, brutal and bigoted — and that no matter who said it was the right thing to do, and how long ago it was said, this should no longer be done?...while the incidents in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and India have done more to damage the image of Islamic justice than a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the organizations that lined up to protest the hideous Danish offense to Islam are quiet now."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali suggests that the problem is Islam. But here, I believe, she is dead wrong. The problem is the "Solidarity of the Oppressed" and the valorization of lower class males, the peasants and proles. This is an old story in the West and, in particular, amongst elite leftists.

During the Vietnam Era, we counterculture chickies were supposed to support our men by waitressing so that they could do the important theoretical work of the Revolution--reading Marcuse, drinking beer and singing old union songs. We did our part for the cause by doing the secretarial work while they organized, speechified, and played political games: the position of women in the movement was, as Bobby Seele put it, "prone." Black women were even worse off. There was a remarkable comedy sketch on "In Living Color" years ago, in the form of a monologue by a black woman: "I'm a proud Black woman. I support the Cause. And when my man come home, he beat the crap out of me." This was the Freudian Moynihan Doctrine: to promote the interests of blacks, it was vital to boost the self-esteem of young underclass males by providing them with education, training, jobs and promoting female subordination. The problem, as Moynahan and his successors saw it, was "black matriarchy": women could support themselves--by welfare or menial work--and so undermined fragile male egos. The fix was to see to it that men got education, training, jobs and opportunities and that women didn't get those opportunities or welfare "as we knew it" so that they would be forced to depend on men for financial support.

The progressive/liberal view was that women could wait. And, of course, the conservative view was that they could, and probably should wait, forever. Progressives in any case held that women's concerns weren't a priority. First we needed to combat the oppression of minority males and when that was taken care of there would be time for luxuries like feminism. In the meantime women were supposed to sacrifice their interests to support the cause of minority empowerment, which meant the empowerment of lower class minority males, sacrificing to support the Solidarity of the Oppressed. In the developing world, women's rights could wait. First we had to take down imperialism and neo-colonialism. The priority was the fight against Western hegemony which included Western feminism. Once that was fixed there would be time to attend to women's interests. Women, in any case, could wait: feminism was a luxury, a frill. First fix it for the men and then maybe we could afford the luxury of women's rights.

Hirsi Ali is wrong: Islam is not the problem. The Old Testament is bloody awful: there are plenty of texts that are comparable to the one from the Koran that she cites. But contemporary Jews don't behave like their ancestors did 3 milennia ago. Christians destroyed pagan shrines, killed heretics and unbelievers, conducted crusades and ran inquisitions. Bu they don't do that anymore. The texts are there, and there's ample historical precedent for behaving badly, but no one pays any attention. Religion isn't the issue.

So why don't "moderate Muslims" denounce the brutality of their co-religionists? Because Muslims have been defined as a victim group and the Solidarity of the Oppressed Doctrine dictates that even if privileged members of victim groups find the behavior of their fellow victims stupid, brutal or even just plain silly they mustn't let one and, most particularly, mustn't go public since that would be aiding and supporting the Oppressor. That would be Uncle Tomism of the worst sort. So black women were supposed to stand by their men. And feminists like me are supposed to support other feminists however stupid or pointless their projects. And "moderate Muslims" are not supposed to criticize their fellow Muslims: to do so would be to sell out, to provide aid and comfort to the Oppressor.

It isn't religion. Christians feel free to criticize fellow Christians and to repudiate their views because we aren't defined as a victim group. Mainline Christians, including me, publicly repudiate the doctrines and practices of Fundamentalists, and Fundamentalists publicly denounce us. We squabble in the public square about evolution, sexual ethics, and everything else because as members of a privileged group we don't have any obligation to show solidarity. Muslims, defined as a victim group, don't have that luxury. They're obliged to circle the wagons.

The question is whether this is a good strategy and experience suggests that it is not.


Anonymous said...

Your thesis falls down when it comes to the Jews. Many if not most Jews see themselves as victims of persecution and hatred, and there is certainly a feeling that Jews should protect each other, but this does not stop them arguing about everything - including religion - among themselves and with others.

Peter Brawley said...

Moderate Muslims don't denounce Muslim brutality because westerners called Muslims victims? That's just silly.

And, what sort of "doctrine" is the "Solidarity of the Oppressed Doctrine"? Scientific? Not.

And just because some Christians are now civilised enough to do without delights of theocratic murder, it does not follow that the dangers posed by millions of less enlightened islamists are not religious.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid you do not know what you are talking about. Solidarity of the Oppressed? Please. The "oppressed" sheikhs of Iraq are now rolling in the dough provided them by frightened US troops. These "oppressed" people look on America as a father would look upon spoiled children. You trumpet the myth of the oppressed. And if anyone is oppressing blacks, it is blacks. If anyone is oppressing women, it's other women. If anyone is oppressing muslims, it's the selfishness of other muslims.

The point that you miss completely about Islam, as you trot out the worn bromides of the 60s "revolutionaries," is that both Judasim and Christianity have SECULAR traditions. They long ago crossed the "sea of faith" during various periods of enlightenment.

The muslims, on the contrary, and aside from only a very few sects and cults of Islam, the Sufis and some Shia included, have never had ONE MOMENT of enlightenment and, if they wish to remain true muslims, true to Sharia--they never will.