Islam v. Radical Secularism:
Which Is the Greater Enemy?
By Justin Soutar
December 2, 2005 (Revised November 9, 2006; January 2, 2007; and July 23, 2007)
since the dreadful terrorist attacks of 9/11, neoconservatives have made dire
predictions about the looming threat of Islam. At all levels of American public
life from government officials to university professors to respected magazine
editors to radio talk show hosts, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, we
hear the same ominous warnings. The underlying fear is that, if the Muslim
world continues growing in numbers and religious fervor, it will eventually be
poised to annihilate our Judeo-Christian Western civilization. Those who
subscribe to this analysis point triumphantly to repeated violent reactions by
fanatics to real and perceived insults against the Islamic faith, as well as to
the long-running terrorist conflagrations in Israel and Iraq, as proof of what
they have warned us about for five yearsthat Islam is
the greatest enemy of the
But this view contains two serious flaws. First, it muddies the water with fallacious generalizations that cover up and distort reality. Second, it leaves too many important facts crying out for explanation, the most remarkable of which is the near-universal, deeply rooted Muslim hatred for the evil of Western radical secularism.
Muslims: Image v. Reality
do Muslims hate the West? According to conservatives and neoconservatives, they
hate the fundamental ideas of Christianity, democracy, and freedom that
of all, contrary to what the
perhaps a growing, resurgent, radical branch of Islam teaches hatred of
Christianity and the West? In the context of the current wave of Muslim
terrorism, neoconservatives remind us of the Muslim threat to
second difference between that time and today is that the Turks were military
warriors in the vast armies of the Seljuk Empire, whereas a tiny fraction of modern
Muslims are bands of civilian terrorists. Neoconservatives totally ignore the
difference in terms of both numerical representation and status. First, the
Muslim armies officially represented the colonialist ambitions of an
empirewhich is by definition a colonizerin contrast to terrorists, whose acts
of murder are condemned by 90 percent of Muslims. Secondly, these were real
wars between nations. The European Catholic nations declared wars of liberation
to protect the
Terrorism and Extremism
needs to be emphasized that terrorists are civilians and criminals under
international law. Since they do not belong to the armed forces of any nation, terrorists
lack the power to declare war. In that respect, terrorism is simply a crime
like any other--and the
It is a common historical and factual error to compare the formidable Islamic aggression of one thousand years ago with the modern rise in terrorist incidents. Such comparisons only confuse the issue in the minds of many Americans. However, one tenuous argument remains for neoconservatives worried that Islam is the enemy: that unbeknownst to most Muslims, traditional Islamic doctrine actually teaches violence against Jews and Christians, and that we are witnessing a frightening resurgence of this doctrine. But no religion teaches violence. In all the three great monotheistic religions, a comprehensive body of teaching is set forth like a stained-glass window, and each individual doctrine or passage of scripture must be interpreted within the context of the whole picture. Extremists take a single passage or teaching out of context and give it undue importance to suit their own purposes; they do not submit to the whole body of teaching and thus cannot properly be called members of that religion.
There does exist a great deal of disunity, disagreement, and conflict within Islam. Islamic extremists themselves are torn by dissention, of which a major example would be how Osama bin Ladens deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri thinks bin Laden has too much concern for the lives of noncombatants. But as Pope Benedict XVI reasoned in his famous address at the University of Regensburg in Germany last September, irrational acts such as the murder of innocent civilians are incompatible with the nature of God and thus with religion.
Once upon a time,
Saint Francis of
A Clash of Values and Rights
Additional facts contradicting the evil Muslim notion and begging for explanation come (quite ironically) from the very people responsible for crimes of terrorism. Far from dedicating their whole lives to evil, Islamic terrorists demonstrate certain upright qualities. They adhere passionately to a set of moral guidelines based on the Ten Commandments. While we all know that Muslim terrorists appear deeply committed to worship of God, this is not a pretense; their misguided religious sincerity is evident. This truthfulness carries over into their explanations for their attacksas is well known, they often state that such and such an attack is in retaliation for a crime committed against their people. Moreover, the rest of the world quickly realizes who the culprit might be because terrorist organizations boldly claim responsibility for their attacks.
Most of the dozens
of terrorist groups currently operating in Iraq maintain that their frequent
strikes against police, Shiite Muslims, Kurds, and Western soldiers are in
retaliation for American mistreatment of Iraq as well as for Shiite and Kurdish
cooperation with the US vis-à-vis Sunni Muslimsaccusations which unfortunately
contain more than a grain of truth. Contrary to the myth of a gradual transition
of power, US forces are running
a wealth of psychological profiles compiled on numerous Islamic terrorists
reveals that they share a deep and abiding love for their families. The
principle of honor and respect for their parents is never questioned. Finally,
the most apparent virtue manifested by Muslim terrorists is their moral
cleanlinessthey are scrupulous in avoiding occasions of sin, and they rightly
reproach America as immoral and hypocritical because of our bad magazines,
books and music which have saturated the Middle Eastern culture. Not only is
the radical secularism of our Western culture alien to the
Instead of merely using religion as a cover for malicious evil, Islamic terrorism springs from deep convictions and is not ill-intentioned. So notwithstanding their undeniable crimes against civilian lives, terrorists do have consciences and moral values--they are not animals or demons as neoconservatives often seem to imagine.
now we discover yet another problem crying out for explanation. If the vast
majority of Muslims are peaceful and disapprove of terrorist attacks, then why
did millions of people across
the reason large numbers of Muslims peacefully demonstrated for Osama bin Laden
was to express their anti-Americanism and support for his message to attack US
troops on duty in the
American Foreign Policy
so popular, especially among Muslims in the Middle East, because the
But the economic dimension of American and Israeli foreign policy alone does not explain Muslim resentment, nor does it explain the Muslim worlds hearty detestation for the entire West. Most neoconservatives (a notable exception being Dinesh DSouza) have equally ignored the cultural dimension. They forget that, in the minds of pious foreign Muslims, radical secularism has replaced Christianity as the defining Western cultural trait. Thruout the United States, Europe, and Western-oriented countries of the Middle East, the evils of abortion, contraception, euthanasia, greed, unlimited gambling, drunkenness, nightclubs, dirty magazines, offensive clothing fashions, bad movies, and satanic music proliferate.
Even worse is the fact that the cultural and economic dimensions are intertwined, with one reinforcing the other: Western big businesses accumulate billions of dollars by deliberately exploiting human weaknesses through the spread of cultural filth.
The flood of
wickedness that the US,
Examination of Conscience
West needs to wake up and learn a lesson before it is too late. In contemporary
American foreign policy, military adventurism, cultural imperialism, unfettered
capitalism and immorality go together. In the Western world as a whole, society
is coming apart at the seams as radical individualism becomes the chief god. The
evil of radical secularism, foisted on the Middle East through
and neoconservatives should refrain from denouncing Islam and especially
Muslims collectively as evil and the most serious enemy of
Arthur Goldschmidt, a prominent Jewish Middle East historian, wisely reflected: Someday, perhaps, practicing Muslims, Christians, and Jews will settle their differenceseven the Arab-Israeli conflictin order to wage war on their common enemies: secularism, hedonism, positivism and the various ideologies that have arisen in modern times. The motto United we stand, divided we fall is more true now than ever before. United and standing together, the Western and Muslim worlds must wage war on radical secularismor both will fall.
Copyright © 2006, 2007 by Justin Soutar. This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the explicit written permission of the copyright holder.
Title mod. 9/17/07.