Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Muslim Christian Dialogue

In a recent issue, the Economist reported that 138 Muslim scholars, including Grand Muftis from several nations, wrote a letter to Christian leaders, Pope Benedict among them, asking for a dialogue. The Muslim leaders pointed out that Christianity and Islam contain a third and a fifth, respectively, of the people on earth. “If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake,” stated the Muslim leaders, according to the Economist.

In the spirit of the Muslim leaders, I would like to ask Julie Ponzi three questions about her post October 25, “Suppression of Breast Cancer Information--Islamic Style.” Is Wahabbism the same thing as Islamo-fascism? What do you mean by Islamo-fascism? Why is it wrong for someone to refuse medical services for religious reasons, even if doing so threatens their life?

Discussions - 12 Comments

The problem is islamic supremacism. Whether it's "wahabism" or not is something of an irrelevancy. The problem is what the problem has always been. Id est islam's insistence on the use of violence to establish their dominance, islam's insistence that the koran is an exact relation of the will of the almighty. "Wahabism" IS the islamic equivalent to the Reformation. It is their version of an attempt to get back to all the creepy purity of Mohammedanism.

But with or without "wahabism," islam is what islam has always been, a nightmare, a menace, a threat, a challenge, and a challenge that must be answered, ........................... once and for all, ........................ semper, ... et pro semper.

It's time.

I'm not sure these questions are in the spirit of dialogue or inquisition. I wonder if the dialogue to which David Tucker alludes is like unto the "Marxist-Christian Dialogue" much trumpeted by Catholic leftists back in the days of the Cold War--all one way we used to say. I also think of the "Smiling Faces" (of the song) mentioned by Clarence Thomas in his new book, in reference particularly to the cheshire grin of Joseph Biden during those fascist hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee (rascists are always fascists, I recall). I don't use the word fascist often, but I NEVER use the word "dialogue" in the way it is used in this post (I am forced to use it when referring to a Platonic one, of course). It gives me the willies. I feel I am going to be stabbed in the back, or even worse be compelled to go to an academic meeting. I do not fault Julie for using it in this context. I know my enemies in large part by how they treat women. I prefer to use the word barbarian when speaking of those who treat women as slaves--but these barbarians use the mailed fist of modernity's fruits--so islamofascist will do. I know what it means.

For what it's worth, Robert, I agree with you that "barbarian" is a better term in the sense of being more accurate and descriptive. But it is a term that is probably even less well understood than "fascist" is these days. It is so vague and distant in our minds . . . and conjures up images of marauding hoards and Conan. It does not seem to be a word that fits in modern society.

Red Phillips and John Moser have both objected to the term "Islamo-fascist" for their own, separate, reasons in my post above. Red suggests the term "Islamo-totalitarians" and I can't object to it--though I still fail to see what the problem with "fascist" is. He suggests that "totalitarian" is not used because it is less "urgent" and does not inspire the kind of reaction that those who use "fascist" want out of decent people. He may be surprised, but I agree with him! That's why I don't prefer it. I suspect he objects to the term precisely because he does not favor the kind of reaction the term inspires. He does not believe the threat is very real or very grave and wants America to pull into itself. John's objection is more interesting to me (that it was a slur used by Communists to insult anyone to the right of them) and, while I'm still not persuaded to abandon "fascist" by this argument, I would not want to invite that kind of confusion when using the word. So I will have to think about it more.

Honestly, I did not put this much thought into the word before I used it. I used it in the common sense you suspected--to mean barbarism inspired by and practiced in the name of Islam.

I think, Julie, that Christopher Hitchens has favored "islamofascist" and Daniel Pipes has demurred--someone correct me if memory fails--so there have been spats among authoritative types over nomenclature, especially since the right name hasn't been found and you can't say it's a religious war. John Moser is right. The reason I don't use fascist often is my memory of it being used as a clumsy but sometimes effective weapon against anyone on the right. Another argument for fascist is the element of Arab nationalism and the admiration for what the Third Reich tried to do among the true believers. I agree that barbarians doesn't quite do the trick except for us old Herodotus readers, but I still like the sound of the word. And it's very scandalizing to use in class! I liked your two posts on breast cancer. Send me an email to let me know how to reach you privately if you read this.

Julie – I still don’t know what you mean by “fascist.” You write: “I think it is fascist to actively suppress the truth in order to manipulate or limit people’s choices. I think it is fascist to take away a person’s liberty in this way. So that explains the fascist part.” According to this description, every President since at least Eisenhower is “fascist,” since they have all suppressed the truth in order to manipulate or limit people’s choices. I refer to these presidents not admitting what the purpose of their foreign policy was, so that the American people could decide whether or not they agreed. This is a betrayal of democracy. This by the way is or was the argument of that renowned fire-breather Angelo Codevilla much beloved of your much beloved CRB.

I asked you about fascism because I believe that your use of it was merely polemical when, in fact, we should be encouraging dialogue. Contrary to Mr. Jeffrey, I believe that it is never a good idea to fight to the death unless you have to, even when that is what your opponent wants to do. There are sound theoretical and therefore practical reasons for adhering to my position.

By the way, we all appear to agree that, as Jefferson wrote, the American Indians were barbarians because they subjected their women to unjust drudgery.

I don't believe I said, or intimated, that it is a good idea to fight to the death if you don't have to. One endures much in the name of tactics--and I'm sure Ratzinger/Benedict will endure much willingly. Still, at Regensburg, Benedict was attempting more to raise the spirit of the West and to spur "dialogue" among the Saracen themselves, than to indicate his trust in smiling faces. He remembers Poitiers and Lepanto. Reason is the coin of the realm only when truth is said. Solzhenitsyn's truth was more efficacious in winning the Cold War than would have been endless Helsinkis. And don't forget Lincoln--all depends on the progress of our arms, against which the talk of the barbarian is measured, always. I agree as to Jefferson. Too bad, alas, he did not extend the principle to his female slaves.

I think Orwell's words apply very well to the misuse of the word fascism in "Islamo-fascism":

"The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different." (from "Politics and the English Language")

And as of late the right seems quite partial to using the term "fascism" willy-nilly.


Oh my God! Here come the "food fascists"!! ...is there a word for annoying people who repetitively use words inaccurately to the point that they lose any useful meaning?

I actually think David makes a fair point about my use of "fascism" which--as I have conceded--I did not use with as much thought as has been projected upon it since. I am still hesitant to withdraw it, however--even if it is merely polemical. I don't think it is sufficiently thoughtful to always consider the adjective "polemical" as a negative. Sometimes using "polemical" language is the best way to be understood--by the people you wish to understand you. (And yes, by my hasty definition of "fascist" I realize that I open myself up to a mirror image of my own criticism--persuasion could be seen to be fascist at first blush . . . but that's a longer story.) I think--for example--that Craig's disdain for the term "food fascist" is misplaced. I think that is a very clear term and one that most people readily appreciate when they hear it. You could subject it to a long-winded "dialogue" by academics if you are inclined and, in the process, it may be found wanting. But it doesn't make it any less clear to the 90% of people who don't attend that "dialogue."

That said, I appreciate David's criticism and I will take it to heart as I continue to reflect upon these matters. He reminds me of this book which I have recently added to my long list of "must read" books. I heard the author interviewed yesterday and there is much in what he says that is both interesting and compelling and points to that real dialogue that David so longs for us to have with Islam. I have doubts about whether such a dialogue is possible. But I have not yet shut my mind off to the possibility.

Finally, very good point about Jefferson's views on the barbarism of the Indians. That's exactly what I was getting at--and it is what reminded me of that book I linked to. The author has a long discussion of the Indian problem in the book and compares it to our current situation. If not exactly right in all the particulars, it does sound instructive.

It seems to me that one of the problems here is that in speaking about these things we are always trying to do two things. One is to persuade those who are inclined to kill us to be more reasonable and, therefore, not feel the need to kill us. The other is to persuade the American people to wake up to the danger that there are people who seriously wish to kill us. It is hard to do both at the same time, it seems to me. And yet, that is what (I agree) we must (at least try to) do.

There are a good number of people who have become persuaded that we cannot do the former so we should concentrate on the latter. They make a persuasive case. But there is a chance that they are wrong. If they are wrong, we it is possible that we could escalate things to a very bad place. David makes a good case for believing that they are wrong and dialogue is still possible and to be preferred. The problem, if he is wrong, is that we may lose a lot of time we might have used to get ready to do something about it. And then we'll be in a really bad place too--perhaps a worse place. I want to believe David but I would have to be persuaded that we could effectively prepare the American people for the alternative if "dialogue" doesn't work.

The issue is not dialogue so much as what is the best strategy in the given circumstances. If you believe that we can succeed only by using force, then not talking makes sense. I don't think we can succeed only by using force. What the Muslim leaders offered should be accepted. To spurn their offer can't do any good. Accepting it will not, I think, make the American people more complacent. There are many things that the Bush administration should have discussed with the American people but chose not to.

Your discussion here reminds me of TR's maxim, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." We have got a big stick and many Americans are sick of the use of it. The opportunity to speak softly for awhile certainly would be nice.


Wasn't the letter the Economist mentions sent out some weeks ago? Has there been a response?

I don't know if I think that force is the only thing that can work. I think there is a place and a possibility for talking. I guess I just wonder whether we will be able to do both at the same time as effectively as we should and, if not, what should be the right order of events: talking then force or force then talking? But that is too easy to be good. The answer is that it won't be so simple to delineate and so, instead, it will be some great mush of everything at once. That will be part of the problem with it, of course. But the mush will come just the same. And you point to yet another problem, David . . . how effective is this administration at talking? It is poor when talking to its own people to say nothing of people who prefer to see us dead.

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