Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The Abstract and the Concrete
In a recent analysis of a critical review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book, Nomad, published in the New Yorker, Spencer notes:
...as the new saying goes, "Muslims are the new Jews." There is just one problem with this ghastly equation, which trivializes the mass-murders of Jews in Europe and defames Hirsi Ali: Jews never carried out terrorist attacks in Europe, and never boasted about how they were one day going to take over...
Implicit in this elementary fact which PC MC ignores is a principle which Spencer leaves unarticulated, but which I hope those in the Anti-Islam Movement support: namely, that if any group -- no matter how large or small, no matter how ostensibly religious or not, no matter how ethnic or not -- were to do and say what Muslims are doing and saying (and have been doing and saying for centuries), we in the Anti-Islam Movement would feel the same about them.
Let's use more direct language to bring that principle into acute clarity:
If, for example, Jews were doing and saying what Muslims are doing and saying, we would now have an Anti-Jewish Movement. Or, if Christians were doing and saying what Muslims are doing and saying, we would now have an Anti-Christian Movement. Or, if Hindus were doing and saying what Muslims are doing and saying, we would now have an Anti-Hindu Movement. There should be no group in the world immune from this principle.
I.e., the reason we are not Anti-Jewish (or Anti-Christian, etc.) is not because of some abstract axiom we hold that could never be contravened by evidence, but by our adherence to concrete facts. Simply put, Jews (or Christians, etc.) are not doing and saying what Muslims are doing and saying -- and, importantly, show no signs either in their behavior or in their subcultures of ever doing and saying what Muslims are doing and saying.
Some of us may wish to comfort ourselves with the conviction that this fact about Jews (or Christians, etc.) reflects an immutable abstract axiom, but that conviction should not be erected over against the principle I have articulated and advocate, for the flip side of my argument is that this principle demonstrates that we are not against Muslims simply because they are Muslims, or out of some abstract animus of bigotry or irrational hatred, or (alas) out of some eschatological blueprint -- but simply because of what they are concretely saying and doing (and have been doing and saying for centuries).
Now, it could be further argued that what Muslims are saying and doing (and have been doing and saying for centuries) reflects a strange and unique essence -- psychologically, sociologically and spiritually -- that could, and will, never change; but that would be an ontological question, which should be carefully distinguished from the pragmatic problem of simply attending, and responding, to the concrete behaviors and expressions of Muslims.
As the West reawakens to the problem of Islam in the decades of this new 21st century, we may well find that our pragmatic responses to what Muslims are saying and doing would, practically speaking, resemble a response to an ontological essence; but again, that should never distract us from our attention to the data, and we should never let our actions be primarily guided by some abstract axiom. Indeed, PC MC today represents precisely an abstract axiom -- but one which is preventing the West from attending to the data of Muslims in a rational way.