Thursday, November 10, 2016
Sam and Ayaan, part 2
See part one for a detailed introduction.
This second installment continues with some of my thoughts on the recent podcast discussion Sam Harris had with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
About two-quarters of the way into it, Sam broaches to Ayaan the phenomenon of what I call the "Good Cop" Muslim -- in this particular case, Muslim activist Dalia Moghahed, who tries to sell the West the idea that the hijab empowers women and that if any Westerner balks at this, he is a racist with the instincts that drove Western Colonialism. Sam asked Ayaan if she had ever debated her or been on the same program to discuss the matter.
Ayaan's response was interesting:
...I was with her on a discussion on NPR... [in 2006 or 2007] She and other women were there defending the hijab and defending the position of women and the status of women in Islam, and saying that all of the excesses that we see are exaggerated and committed by a fringe that is not truly Islamic...
My question is: How is Dalia Moghahed's argument any different, when you get down to it, from Sam's argument and Ayaan's argument -- and Maajid's argument? The only difference I can see is that the "fringe that is not truly Islamic" seems to be smaller in Moghahed's argument. But at least Moghahed is more coherent in that she doesn't try to have her falafel and eat it too by saying that these "extremist Islamists" are somehow derived from Islam, and yet somehow not Islamic. Or does Ayaan's wish for Muslims to reform Islam mean that she wants them to transform Islam into something .... un-Islamic? Or does she really believe that one can just sand off the jagged edges of Islam (and clean off all the blood) and come up with something viable for hundreds of millions of Muslims to follow that is still "Islamic" yet also respectful of human rights? How does that work, exactly, given that Ayaan has [see part 1] already asseverated that:
...when verses from the Koran and the practices of the Prophet Mohammed are applied in practice, what that looks like -- you get the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [i.e., ISIS]
We're back to that paradox which all anti-Islam reformers of Islam run up against -- namely, that the Moderate Muslim they conceive of is actually, logically, a non-Islamic Muslim. Ayaan's desideratum of igniting the Muslim world with a critical mass of worldwide reform then becomes, logically, indistinguishable from mass apostasy. How likely is that to occur? And more importantly, even if by some implausible stretch of the imagination it does actually begin to occur, what mayhem and misery will attend that process as countless Muslims in various parts of the globe go apeshit resisting it?
Given what we know about Islamic culture and psychology, Ayaan's desideratum should give us pause, as portending a cure that would be no better (if not even worse) than the disease.
As Hugh Fitzgerald argued years ago, some problems are not solvable, in terms of eradication; they are only manageable, in terms of minimizing their deleterious effects. Not only is Islam not the former; the way things are devolving (thanks in great part to the West's persisting and surreal naiveté about Islam), it may not even be the latter.
In reaching for the unrealistic dream of reforming Islam, the Sam Harrises and Ayaan Hirsi Alis of the West may be helping to steer our benighted Titanic away from the only way to minimize the damage, before it's too late.
[See Part Three]