Thursday, April 22, 2010

Crusade 2.0

Let's imagine that the Cold War was a detour. The entire 20th century, in fact, was a detour. Since conflicts among the 20th-century ideologies (liberalism, communism, fascism) cost humanity so dearly, it's hard to conceive of World War II and the clashes that followed as sideshows. And yet many people have begun to do just that. They view the period we find ourselves in right now -- the so-called post-Cold War era -- as a return to a much earlier time and a much earlier confrontation. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq aren't discrete battles against a tyrant (Saddam Hussein) or a tyrannical group (the Taliban). They fit together with Turkey's resurgence, the swell of Muslim immigration to Europe, and Israel's settlement policy to form part of a much larger struggle.

Welcome to Crusade 2.0.

For those who see Islam as a civilizational threat, the key dates aren't 1945 or 1989 but rather 1683, 1492, 1099, and 732. The very mention of these watershed years stirs the blood of the modern-day crusader. In 1683, thanks to the intercession of the Polish cavalry, Christian forces beat back Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna, preventing Islam from spreading to Western Europe. In 1492, Christian armies recovered all of Spain from Muslim rulers. In 1099, during the first Crusade, the European army seized Jerusalem. And in 732, Charles Martel led the Franks in a victory over the forces of the Ummayad Caliphate, ensuring that Islam would not spread beyond its conquests in Spain.

Today, many Europeans are enlisting in a modern crusade. They see the threat of 732, with Islamic immigrants coming in from North Africa and bringing their culture and customs -- like the mosque and the veil -- to secular France and multicultural Switzerland. They see the threat of 1683, with Turkey planning to join and then take over the European Union. And they stand with Israel to protect Jerusalem from the demands of Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab world.

In defense of their crusade, they point to acts of terrorism committed by Islamic fundamentalists (the 2004 Madrid bombings, the 2005 London bombings), occasional acts of violence (the killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, a rash of honor killings), the fatwa against novelist Salman Rushdie, and so on. These incidents, they argue, add up to a pattern: an attempt to destroy the Judeo-Christian world, reestablish the caliphate dismantled by Ataturk in 1924, impose sharia law, and turn the world into a version of Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Although Muslims represent only 3-4 percent of Europe's population, today's crusaders see the outlines of Eurabia emerging, a Muslim takeover of the continent through shrewd politics and inexorable birthrates. A "civilization of dhimmitude," Bat Ye'or calls the endpoint of this strategy, in which "subjugated, non-Muslim individuals or peoples...accept the restrictive and humiliating subordination to an ascendant Islamic power to avoid enslavement or death." Muslims will conquer "Europe's cities, street by street," the Weekly Standard's Christopher Caldwell argues in Reflections on the Revolution in Europe.

This isn't just the opinion of a few intemperate pundits. A surprisingly large number of Europeans simply don't like Muslims. More than 50 percent of Germans and Spaniards "rate Muslims unfavorably," the Pew Global Attitudes Project diplomatically reported. The recent Swiss referendum banning future construction of minarets has proved quite popular among those polled in other European countries, writes Foreign Policy In Focus contributor Jeanne Kay.

"The populist right doesn't hold a monopoly on the clash-of-civilization narrative in Europe," she continues in Europe's Islamophobia. "Parties of the moderate right have jumped on the Islamophobia bandwagon to gain political capital from the sordid national identity debate. They are sometimes even joined by social democrats under the banner of liberal values. Mainstream politicians most often invoke 'Enlightenment' values to stigmatize features of Islam. In the Netherlands, the alleged incompatibility of Islam with the country's historic gay-positive culture is a critical argument in anti-Islamic rhetoric. But co-opting liberalism is particularly prominent in the debate over the veil in public spaces, a hot issue across Western Europe."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Can Man Save The World

Save this, save that, save so many other things. Thus go the fervent appeals of those worried about the endangered planet. But can we really save the planet by saving this or that? Is the problem really that simple and straightforward? It seems we are not squarely facing the problem; we are paying attention to mere symptoms without looking into the root cause producing those symptoms. There is a deep disease that we have ignored to our peril. We are only playing a hide-and-seek game with ourselves.

Now, what is the disease and where is it? The disease is in man, not in the planet. It is in man's view of himself. For many centuries, especially since the Western Renaissance, man has seen himself as the master of the planet who can treat it any way he chooses. Man has gloried in his cleverness and technological inventiveness, but his success is now bearing bitter fruit. The bitterness is getting worse and worse. His own existence is now seriously at stake. He has no one else to blame. In this, western man has led the way. The rest of the world gradually followed.

Man preferred to forget that he did not come to the world of his own will. He also preferred to forget that the planet and everything in it are not his own. He did not want to admit the possibility that there could be a vast scheme of things in which he has an appointed place and an appointed function, that there are laws that he cannot violate and boundaries he cannot transgress without facing great peril. His superior intelligence and abilities have been given him because he has a responsibility he must fulfill. If he refuses to do that and lives another way, he at once loses his justification for existence. He no longer has a place in the scheme of things.

Man preferred to see himself as the cleverest and the most technologically efficient animal. But he is animal nonetheless. So he prowled, plundered and robbed, killed and maimed anything and everything, including his own kind - the disadvantaged, the weaker and the less clever among his fellow men. He is still perfecting his technique in this demonic work.

This all-devouring, never satisfied animal that man has become is now trapped in a never-ending cycle of wasteful production and wasteful consumption. His economy stagnates and comes to a grinding halt unless he can spend on things that he could easily do without and are of no real value. His eating only whets his appetite for more. He has denied himself even the contentment of an animal of prey, that eats his fill and then relaxes in satisfaction. Pitiable creature that man has become!

Of all man's faculties the one he has abused most is his ability to use language. He invents alluring slogans to hide the truth, to flatter his own ego, and to mislead, deceive and exploit his own kind. But all the while he has remained self-deceived.

It looks doubtful whether the planet can be saved. The deep and repeated wounds man has inflicted on the planet are fatal. It is too late. In his pursuit of the world he has at last succeeded in getting himself banished from that very world he loves. Worse than that, he has banished himself from his true and noble self; he banished his soul in order to gain the world. His confident efforts only mock him now. He must accept the grim truth and get ready for his exit.

However, all may not yet be lost for man. He might still retrieve his soul by making one final choice. Will he continue to see himself as a mere clever animal, or will he try instead to see himself as a unique being in a supernaturally ordained scheme of things in which he has a unique role and responsibility? He can redeem himself through wholehearted recognition of his guilt and sincere repentance for his willful blindness and arrogance. He must submit to his Creator and Master and unconditionally accept his appointed role. The Master of the planet will take care of it in any manner He pleases. Man need not worry.