Sunday, November 04, 2012
One piece of the PC MC jigsaw puzzle: Superimposing the Western religious model onto Islam in order to try to explain the problem of Muslims
One phrase I have been fond of using over the years is of the “interlocking axioms of the jigsaw puzzle of the PC MC paradigm”. I’d like to examine one of those axioms, or pieces, of the puzzle in more detail today.
First, I will take a slightly roundabout path to it, by considering a particular, and very interesting, (though as we have seen from similar stories over the years, not uncommon) detail arising out of the car-bombing plots in the UK back in 2007.
In an article on Jihad Watch on those plots over five years ago, it was reported that the father of one of the recent suspected UK car bombers, the young doctor Mohammed Asha (held along with his wife as suspects in the aborted terrorist plot), protested that his son was not the terrorist type.
“He is a devout Muslim like the rest of us,” said Jamil Asha of his son, “but he is not extremely religious. He didn't have time for religion because he was always studying.”
Now, what pivots our attention to the specific piece of the puzzle we are analyzing today is the apt—but, as usual, incomplete—observation of Robert Spencer in his remark about this:
How interesting that Asha père equates the intensity of one’s Islamic religious commitment with the possibility that he might become a jihad terrorist. This is an equation that no Western public figure would dare to make. Has Old Man Asha been hauled before the “Islamophobia” tribunal yet?
Of course, Spencer is quite correct about the ostensible, superficial aspect of the father’s comment; and all we Jihad Watchers know the feeling all too well of frustration and anger that so many around us in the West cannot see this phenomenon becoming more and more obvious in the years after 911—to wit, that the more Islamic a Muslim is, the deadlier he may become (with the inverse tending to be true also: the less Islamic, the less deadly—though many of us Jihad Watchers are becoming more and more skeptical of any gradation there at all, and many if not most of us are tending toward the merciless binary option of all or nothing, non-Muslim or Muslim, forced upon us by the venerable mirror image of that binary option which Muslims have been forcing upon the world around them for 1,400 years).
But it would be a mistake for Spencer and the rest of us Jihad Watchers to conclude from this that our fellow Westerners, blind to such an obvious phenomenon, are merely being stupid, or lazy, or willfully ignorant in order to satisfy their greed, or part of a dastardly cabal that wishes to suppress such obvious facts.
No, I would maintain that such a blindness is not indicative of any ophthalmological problem in the eyes of these PC MC people themselves. Their eyes are working fine: it is the tunnel by which their vision is being re-routed that is the problem. And that tunnel vision is governed not by character flaws—how silly!—nor is it governed by evil—how outrageously cynical! No: it is governed mostly by the PC MC paradigm that has become sociopolitically dominant and mainstream throughout the modern West over the past 50-odd years.
In the particular example noted above of the Muslim father apparently noticing the phenomenon that increased Islam might well correspond to an increased likelihood of terrorist action, what Spencer misses is the reason why this is not noticed by the PC MC mainstream, and how this is misunderstood.
What is going on here, I think—and here we come to the piece of the puzzle in question—is that Westerners, at least those millions who have been formed by the PC MC paradigm, superimpose upon Islam and upon Muslims a peculiarly Western feature of religiousity that involves the ongoing evolution of Judaeo-Christianity in the modern West—an evolution that Islam has not gone through except insofar as the West has insinuated and/or imposed its invasive influence upon the Muslim world increasingly over the past 300 years or so. Over the past 300 years or so, Judaeo-Christian religiousity has undergone profound changes, dislocations, shocks and refinements.
Some key particular features of the current state of Judaeo-Christianity—and, closely intertwined with this, the current state of Western understanding of its own Judaeo-Christianity—are that:
1) “extremism” is a relatively minority phenomenon;
2) “extremism” is more or less equated with “fundamentalism”, and the latter is more or less equated with trying to revive the roots of the religion, or (in common parlance) trying to bring back the good old days;
3) attempts at revival of the roots of the religion are seen as types of a regression away from a progressive evolution toward increasing secularization which is at least tacitly acknowledged to have become the norm for modern Western Judaeo-Christianity;
4) current PC MC people even find it unremarkably reasonable to assume that attempts at revival—even if they are really rooted in an accurate version of the fundaments of the religion being revived—are for the most part forms of “hijacking” the religion.
These four points hold sway in the modern PC MC mind incoherently juxtaposed with sometimes contradictory attitudes about so-called Christian “Fundamentalists” (along with an amorphous anti-Catholicism)—contradictory insofar as these latter attitudes presuppose a normatively extremist Christianity still threatening, in one way or another, the secular order (though the anti-Christian can rarely adduce sufficient data to warrant his concern, and simultaneously often ignores the sufficient data that can be presented regarding the legitimate concern about present-day Islam). It is an unremarkable—but, alas, all too common—feature of PC MC that incoherent paradoxes are often part of the routine mental process of the person deformed by it.
Now, here is the point: these four points do in fact pertain to the ongoing evolution of modern Western Judaeo-Christianity—for, at best, it has been undergoing a profound, amazing, yet disturbing and often vicissitudinous transition, spanning centuries, of actually opening itself up to change, enacting on a micro-civilizational scale the wondrous paradox of Eternity and Eternal Truths becoming living organic (and of course ever-imperfect) processes in time, in the living men and women who carry those Truths from generation to generation, on an adventure toward a mysterious future.
Of course, there are complicating wrinkles to this, the most important being that the same secularized modernity that has become increasingly dominant over the past 300-odd years has also been hostile to its own Judaeo-Christianity; and in a sense, this hostility has been increasing, insofar as secularism formerly was dominated by Judaeo-Christianity, then struggled against “the Church” (whether that is Catholicism or its furcation into myriad Protestant expressions), and then finally rose to dominance itself, relegating its own Judaeo-Christianity to a largely sociopolitico-culturally marginal role.
A sub-wrinkle to this has been the relatively recent paranoia on the part of PC MC people about a supposedly increasing threat of “Christian theocracy” in America and sometimes also in Western Europe (often, in the minds of these paranoiacs, conjoined with some nebulously nefarious Judaism). This sub-wrinkle would tend to contradict the logic of the preceding adumbration that arises out of the same overarching understanding produced by modern Western secularism about religion. That contradiction is probably not resolvable, and can be chalked up to an incoherence in logic that is unfortunately rather common in the PC MC mindset, by which, in this case, they like to have their cake of the progressive benefits of modern Enlightenment in society in general including religion, while eating their ever-present fear of the evil Reactionaries always lurking around the corner to undermine the ongoing Revolution of Leftist Progress. And lest the reader think I am only talking about modern Leftists and/or Atheists, I would hasten to note that in my estimation there are millions of Western Christians (and untold numbers of Western Jews) who also believe in not only Enlightenment progress, but also, to one degree or another, in the logical consequences that arise therefrom: of the neo-Gnostic and anti-Western Revolution that has tended to attend it—with its latest permutation being the mainstream dominance of Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism.
At any rate, what people formed by PC MC tend to do is superimpose this Western template about religiousity upon Islam and Muslims: whenever the PC MC person sees a Muslim extremist, that PC MC person reflexively, and axiomatically, assumes what he otherwise, and incoherently, will not be equally generous to assume about the Christians and Jews he is so anxious about: to wit, that the Muslim is not part of the mainstream but is part of a small minority who are regressive (even if the fundaments they wish to revive are admitted to pertain to the real core of Islam), in much the same way that one would say that a snake-handling Southern Baptist from a church in the swampland of the Deep South is more extremist and fundamentalist than the polished and generally liberal-minded Christians of the mainstream Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Lutheran, Episcopalian churches, whose members are practically as PC and secularized as the PC MC secularist. Similarly, most people in the West regard the heightened religiousity of the sectarians (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Amish, etc.) or cultists (the “Moonies”, the followers of David Koresh, etc.) as indicative of extremism and fundamentalism.
In effect—and this is the strangest thing about this wrinkle and its sub-wrinkle—the PC MC secularist has transposed this rather generous definition of extremism, as a pathology not pertaining to the main body of the religion, away from his own Western religions (mainly Judaeo-Christian) and onto Islam. I.e., the PC MC secularist now tends to be more inclined to view Christianity generally as being extremist (unless the Christians are aggressively Leftist and/or African-American, like a Jesse Jackson), while at the same time being less inclined to apply the same standard to Islam and Muslims. When I say “now tends to”, I do not mean to imply that this is a very recent phenomenon. No, it seems to have been a part of PC MC for as long as PC MC has been dominant; and even before PC MC was dominant, I noticed in the “proto-PC MC” scholar T.W. Arnold of 1917, whom I analyzed in a previous essay, a similar tendency to regard the Western “clerics” of his day with distaste and suspicion while seeming to bend over backwards to look favorably upon the Islamic clerics of 19th and early 20th century India (his field of expertise)—who he even admitted were more “Puritanical” than their Western counterparts!
In sum, we may observe wryly that, with all these wrinkles and sub-wrinkles, Western modernity is no longer the juvenile upstart it was in history, but is now showing its age. With the problem of an Islam Redivivus on the horizon and at our doorsteps, this secularist age—the Age of Political Correctness coming of age as a Man-Child who's had work done—is not a pretty sight, nor is it a sign of maturity, but of a doddering—and increasingly reckless—saeculum senescens.