Global Jihad or Islamic Enlightenment?

Ed Hudgins's picture
Submitted by Ed Hudgins on Sat, 2015-01-10 04:01

Global Jihad or Islamic Enlightenment?
By Edward Hudgins

January 9, 2015 -- The murders of French journalists by Islamist jihadists make clear even to the dogmatically self-blinded that the values of the modern world are in mortal danger. But an underreported ray of hope came recently from Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has called for a revolution to banish violent jihad from Islam.

How many Islamist massacres?

How many Islamist massacres will it take to make the point that the values of the modern world are under threat? A dozen at Charlie Hebdo in Paris? Hundreds of school children with their teachers in Pakistan? Hundreds more in a subway in London, a restaurant in Bali, and trains in Madrid? Thousands in the World Trade Center? Tens of thousands in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan?

These slaughters are not simply blowback from American foreign policy. They are manifestations of a clash of values between the civilized world and the Islamic one. It is true that there are Muslims who support tolerance for different religions and lifestyles, and who give priority to peace and prosperity. Many say that “true” Islam does not involve jackbooted theocracy. But for millions of others, Islam demands violence, or at least finds it acceptable.

A religion is to a great extent a construct of its adherents. It consists of the beliefs, values, priorities, assumptions, and expectations shared by those adherents and reinforced by their culture and institutions. Academics arguing that particular acts of violence and repression are not condoned by the Koran do not negate the fact that millions of Muslims still believe they are.

Islam is in a civil war with itself.

Islam values violence

What values are reflected in the fact that when Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed were published ten years ago, tens of thousands of Muslims took to the streets of Europe calling for repression and violence against the infidel, while others murdered hundreds, especially Christians, worldwide in orgies of mindless revenge?

What does it say about peaceful Islam when, on the anniversaries of the September 11 attacks, there were no massive demonstrations in America or elsewhere to mourn the dead and to declare “Ours is a religion of peace,” but on the first anniversary there was a major conference in London by Muslim leaders to celebrate the attacks?

What can we deduce about Muslim culture when we consider that the Nazis had to hide their genocide for fear that Germans, even the most anti-Semitic ones, would be repulsed by death camps, but that ISIS sees it as an effective recruiting strategy to post videos of beheadings, butchery, and mass murder?

These facts reflect the pre-modern values that still permeate many Muslim communities—dogmatic orthodoxy and superstition; rejection of reason and free expression; contempt of individual autonomy and dignity; subservience to dictatorial authority; death doled out casually to all who disagree. Add to this the model of Mohammad spreading the religion with the sword and the ideal of a Caliphate that unites church and state and the distance between the sentiments of many Muslims and those of more secular Westerners is clear.

A new Dark Age?

The West went through centuries of religious wars and oppression before gradually integrating Enlightenment values into its culture and political institutions, and they’re still only imperfectly realized. The Islamic world never went through such a transformation. It now struggles to do so in only a few decades lest it continue to be the vanguard of war and oppression.

The problem is acute in European countries where Muslims have become a large portion of those countries’ populations through immigration and high birth rates. But a legacy of European nationalism means Muslims are not integrated well into those countries, nor are they instilled with the values of open societies. As Muslims become the majority in those countries in decades to come, the remnants of Enlightenment culture could succumb to demands for Dark Age sharia law.

A ray of Islamic hope

One ray of hope comes from Egypt. After its Arab Spring, with the thousands rising up to overthrow the repressive Mubarak regime, the potentially even more repressive Muslim Brotherhood took power. Another uprising, backed by the military, overthrew the Brotherhood.

Now Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a Muslim, is trying to bring his country into the ranks of modernity in terms of religious toleration.

On Christmas Day, for example, he became the first Egyptian president to attend mass at a Coptic Christian church. And in an marking the birth of Mohammad, he declared, “We are in need of a religious revolution.”

He asked, “Is it possible that 1.6 billion people (Muslims worldwide) should want to kill the rest of the world’s population—that is, 7 billion people—so that they themselves may live? Impossible.”

He argued that “We need a revolution of the self, a revolution of consciousness and ethics to rebuild the Egyptian person.”

He maintained that "It's inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire Islamic world to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.” And concerning the thinking behind extremist opinion, he stated, “You have to get out of it, inspect it, and read it with a real enlightened thought.”

Sisi addressed his remarks to Dar al-Iftaa, a prestigious Sunni religious institution founded over a millennium ago and sponsored by the Egyptian government. It is carrying out Sisi’s enterprise. For example, it has launched a campaign to rectify what it considers to be an incorrect image of Islam with views that “suit the modern age,” and it recently held an interfaith conference to combat extremism.

Celebrate Enlightenment

If Sisi and his allies make a priority of bringing Islam into modernity, they could be a major force offering the alternative to al Qaida, ISIS, Hamas, and the theocrats both in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Ironically, a major barrier to this alternative could be the politically correct or cowardly leaders in the West who coddle extremists rather than celebrate Enlightenment values and insist that Muslims and everybody else be held to their standards.

Those are the values of civilization that apply to all individuals at all times, and will make Europe, America, and the Middle East places fit for human life and achievement.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted on January 9, 2014.

For further information:

*Robert Bidinotto, “Cartoon Journalists.” Winter 2005.

*Edward Hudgins, “The Jihad Against Free Speech.” Winter 2005.

*Edward Hudgins, “ The Means and Ends of Islamists.” July/August 2005.

*David Kelley, “9/11 and the War Against Modernity.” May 2002.

You can't readily tell, which

Richard Wiig's picture

You can't readily tell, which is partly why I raised the mosquito analogy. The context demands - if preservation of liberty is the aim - that Muslims are treated as a group. Linz's immigration policy does just that. It is an essential step in reversing the catastrophe that we are headed towards. There are many things that can be done that don't require killing, although I do advocate wiping Raqqa off the map, along with this al-Baghdadi wherever he might be.

Publicly Hate the Muslims and Try to Kill Their Philosophy

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Aboriginal and Dark Age Christianity was only really "reformed" by making it significantly anti-Christian. Islam can be upgraded the same way. The concepts of jihad, sharia, shahada, takiya, etc. need to be altered so that they no longer have the current meaning. Call it hypocrisy and shameless lying, but the religiosos are experts at this.

The key to defeating Islam and its current Muslim supporters is exact truth-telling and absolute justice by Western liberals. Don't be cruel or malicious, but don't show the philosophy of Islam or the Muslim peoples the tiniest hint of mercy or kindness. Employ absolute truth and complete justice to infinity.

We need to say it loudly and proudly: As a people, Muslims are amazing destroyers of life, liberty, and happiness everywhere on earth. Compared to others, their personal and social evil is massive. So...Death to Islam!

current context war

VSD's picture

how do you then discriminate between a muslim in the current context war and a muslim not participating in that context?

The Jihadists don't say kill

Richard Wiig's picture

The Jihadists don't say kill all Americans, and I haven't advocated killing all Muslims. I don't know where that comes from. I said that all Muslims, in the current context (war), must be treated as if they are potential jihadists. How does that equate to "kill all the Muslims", or to becoming violent and indiscriminate?

Richard the Mosquito

VSD's picture

isn't that also what the muslims say? kill all americans as some/most of them carry a disease ... not to defend those little piggies but isn't there a better way to defy them than becoming just as violent and indiscriminate as they are?
as for the oppressed masses: guess how long it will take until a new 'defiant one' rises, and another and another ... good luck herding the submissives - 'kicking ass is hard work' or so a dominatrix once told me ; )
if we treat our enemy without respect for the individual we will not receive respect as individuals ourselves
who wouldn't kill a fly unless it explicitly and actively bothered me in person : P
and yes: I've been in the jungle - guess what: washing, bathing, drinking the waters in the rivers made me almost 'invisible' to the mosquitos ... but don't go thinking I'll wallow in a sty now to become invisible to the piggies : D
and just an aside: without large quantities of human carriers malaria would be nearly extinct - remove the food for the masses and you remove the masses

It is impossible to kill the

Richard Wiig's picture

It is impossible to kill the ideal, so it is irrelevant. You only need kill the defiant, and oppress the rest who go submissively, of which there are plenty of examples already. In defending your own values in the current context you have no option but to treat 'them', as Muslims. It is from Muslims that the threat comes. There is nothing collectivist, or contrary to individualism in that. Some mosquitos carry malaria, so in order to defend yourself in a malaria prone area you must treat all mosquitos as if they carry malaria.

semantic liberties

VSD's picture

Thanx for clarifying Richard - I understood your intention however took some semantic liberties to point out the consequences - blame it on my studies of English Lit ; )
As for those consequences: you cannot kill an ideal without killing the believers in that ideal. Mass-reindoctrination does not work as many failed attempts in many centuries and many cultures have proven ad-nauseam. Even free and voluntary education can only go as far as each and every individual accepts it - and sadly many more don't.
If the jihad were really able to kill the 'American Way of Life' as an ideal without killing every single American holding that ideal, then Americans don't really deserve that ideal. However you don't defend an ideal by killing anothers but by holding firm to your own. As I hold firm to my individualism even though in this context it might be interpreted as defending Islam (which I don't).
So I get the point of defending your ideals however I disagree with the method of violence to do it - by both sides of this particular conflict. As for the infamous 'initiation-of-force': of course if some bearded man knocks on my door pointing a gun at my head I kill him no matter what his reasons are. Him as an individual, not a muslim, not a fanatic, not a representative of ... him as an individual person threatening my little life.
How about: Long live INDIVIDUAL Liberty and Happiness? Their barbaric violence would find no counterpart in that ideal and would turn on itself : )
PS: found it ... she shot and not because he couldn't decide between obeying Ferris or Thompson or Dagny but because he was trying to hide behind anyone that would exempt him from making that choice himself ...
"Either you let me in or I shoot you. You may try to shoot me first, if you can. You have that choice—and no other. Now decide." Atlas Shrugged part III chap X (highlights mine)

There was a to, between Death

Richard Wiig's picture

There was a to, between Death and Vera, Vera. I don't think it's ok to "death Vera". I was just pointing out that "Death to the Great Satan" isn't about killing any number of people. It's about destroying a way of life. They're having a damn good crack at it too, and they're only just beginning. But it might turn out that every dark cloud really does have a silver lining.

Good thing Ed and Linz were meeting way back when ...

VSD's picture

and not religion and state, or philosophy and nature, or pick your false choice.
Why do I have to reform any religion in the first place? Why do I, Vera, as individual, have to waste large parts of my life to explain again and again that 'they' have no say in my life - except with the gun held by an individual policeman, soldier, mutaween, holy zealot of your time, as the ultimate argument? Fear of death, eternal suffering, violence and pain, is never a good argument - kind of makes Vera stubborn ; )
What I like about the efforts of al-Sisi or Ingersoll (one of my favorites - thanx for bringing him up Linz : ) is that they take out the equation 'them or us'. If there is to be an 'us' it only serves to show up the 'them' for the falsity it is. Any valid 'us' has to be based on acceptance by each and every individual, not on the larger majority or more brutal minority making up the rules for everyone else.
Same goes for Richard's 'ideal of America'. Secular law and freedom are worth nothing if they are not lived by each and every individual embracing them. If Richard believes it's OK to death Vera (sic) then no secular law or freedom will stop him, except again the ultimate argument of the gun. Which Vera preferes to hold herself instead of waiting for some beaurocrat or wise man to decide whether Vera is in the right to be defended.
As for America being secular: it certainly says so on paper but it's stamped in gold that 'in god we trust' - maybe that was a spelling error ; ) No country is without it's religious handicaps, no religion is without it's violent flaws, no human individual is without violence. Some individuals however manage to make better choices how to deal with them - which is more than you can say for any country, religion, philosophy.
So I'd rather deal with an al-Sisi or Ingersoll or Rand, with Linz and Ed and even Richard, instead of Egyptians, Muslims, philosophers, believers, patriots, world-savers, of any color of your preference. Sadly there are more of 'them' (the non-individuals) than of 'us' (individuals - is that even possible to have an 'us' as individuals?) as so few have the courage and strength to live their lives on their own two feet and not hiding behind 'mama's skirts' whatever color they are.
Which is why Vera get's so depressed and would send 'them all' to hell in a hand-basked : P But did you ever do the maths how long I'd have to stay on this planet to accomplish that task?? That's more time than I'm willing to invest! Whenever I reach this final conclusion I start wondering if none of those zealots ever got that far with their algebra (click)? How many years will Linz need to kill every muslim, will a muslim need to kill every christian and jew in the world, how many lifetimes will mankind need to kill every religion, and how many evolutions will nature need to stop killing at all? It's as close to a perpetuum mobile of violence as you can get based on every single individual who's afraid of his own life. No wonder mankind 'needs' belief (organised by religion / fatwah, executed by government / crusades, justified by philosophy / moralistic poodoo) to not give up as I did.

I disagree that there is

Richard Wiig's picture

I disagree that there is nothing inherent in Christianity that ensures that Christians are open to Enlightenment ideas. For example, Christ's "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" is a good foundation for Christian acceptance of separation of Church and State. There are plenty of things within Christianity that, at the least, lead to Christians being receptive to and tolerant of Enlightenment ideas. The same simply cannot be said for Islam, which is altogether hostile to them.

You mention the height of Islamic civilisation, but when Muslims where translating Greek philosopher's, etc. it wasn't because of Islam, but in spite of it. When Muslims came out of Arabia brutally conquering everyone in their path they came up against ideas outside of Islam. The naturally curious delved into them, but that cannot be attributed to Islam. It was due to individual curiosity. The history of Islam, still unchanged, is to put those free-thinkers to death.

I certainly support el-Sisi in his endeavours, but like Linz, I think it is a doomed exercise. He is just another would-be reformer in a 1400 year long list of murdered would-be reformers. Muhammad was crystal clear when he said "Those who leave their [Islamic] religion, kill them."


Lindsay Perigo's picture

Ed—I enjoyed your elegant, erudite riposte, but this situation calls for something more KASS.

Say after me, and emblazon on TAS' web site: "Islam is a stupid, stinking, savage superstition."

Ditto: "There is no 'Islamism'; there is only Islam."

Ditto: "Death to Islam!"

Some of your points are answered in Lance Davey's excellent piece from 2007 just resurrected by Mitch and posted above this thread. The fat, balding, right-wing Islamophobe referred to, is of course, me. Islamapologists were at that time sharpening their scimitars after my Death to Islam article appeared in the student magazine, Salient.

Re the old chestnut, if Christianity could be reformed from within why can't Islam, I'd point out that there are no secularists having the influence on Islamogoblinism that they did on Goblianity. It's not well enough recognised that had the Bill of Rights been written by Locke the Goblian, atheism, and in particular, any secular derivation of the concept of rights, would have been outlawed. Locke would have outlawed Objectivism! Fortunately, the more secular Jefferson was having none of that. Goblianity wasn't humanised from within but by decent human beings, like the unsung Ingersoll, from without, who shamed it into playing down its barbarities and pulling its bigoted head in politically. There are no Ingersolls within or without Islam.

But all this repairing to the humanising of Goblianity is an evasion whereby OrgOism ducks its responsibility to call Islam what it is. Imagine what Ayn Rand would be saying now, and compare it to what OrgOists are saying (though I see from Luke's post that ARI might have gotten off its fat, complacent PC ass). It's not my position, Ed, that "the best we can do is rage, rage against the dying of the light, even as we are dying"; it's that part of what we must do to keep the light shining is rage against those who would extinguish it, as opposed to talking like Mitt Romney.

Islam is one of the great elephants in the global room. OrgOism is not confronting it. Another is the Airheadation of America (and all the West), significantly due to headbanging. OrgOism is not confronting that either. OrgOism has become PC. KASSless.

Rand. Grave. Her. In. Rolling.

What they make of a religion

Ed Hudgins's picture

When Islamic civilization was at its height, Muslims were translating Greek philosophers and doing science while Western European Christians were living in a pretty barbaric state. There was nothing inherent in Christianity to ensure that Christians would move in the direction they did in the millennium that followed.

As I’ve said, religions are, in large part, what their adherents make of them. Christians moved in an enlightened direction, though over centuries and imperfectly. It will certainly be more difficult for Muslims to reform their culture. But if Sisi and others like him work for a different vision of Islam, it doesn’t matter what the “real” meaning of the religion is. It’s what people do with it.

Yes, I favor a secular society, culture, and philosophy. But we should welcome the efforts of Sisi, even though they won’t to change the world overnight.

Death to Vera

Richard Wiig's picture

Of course, it is death to the idea of America that they mean, not death to the people. Death to secular law and freedom, to be replaced with the tyranny of the Law of Allah.

Christianity contained the

Richard Wiig's picture

Christianity contained the seeds of its own reform within itself, but there is nothing similar within Islam. Muhammad is the moral exemplar for all Muslims to emulate. Given that Muhammad was a butcherous murdering thug, how can you reform that? You'd have to completely ditch the core tenets of Islam so that it is in fact no longer Islam. Ultimately though it doesn't matter whether Islam reforms itself or not. The "enlightened" West must defend itself regardless, which is going to take some severe measures, such as the anti-Islam immigration policy. Leave the Muslims to their own mess and only allow those in who genuinely want to escape. Our greatest obstacle to that is multi-culturalism. That, though, is being eroded with each new atrocity.

It is 1650 and is there a path ahead?

Ed Hudgins's picture

It’s 1650 and we’re meeting surreptitiously at a coffee house in London. Linz muses that the world is hopeless, dominated by the mindless mystics. Catholics and Protestants have just fought the Thirty Years War, butchering a million people in the Germanic states. After overthrowing a corrupt Catholic monarch, Cromwell has set up a Protestant theocracy in England and is now butchering a million Irish Catholics. There is no chance of these religions ever adopting—what can we call it?—an enlightened approach to life and the world, based on many of the insights of Greek and Roman thinkers. The best we can do is rage, rage against the dying of the light, even as we are dying.

Ed disagrees. Yes, things are bleak but there are ideas and trends that could change the culture for the better. There may be a path ahead. Is future progress guaranteed? No. But there is reason for hope.

It’s now 1700 and we’re meeting openly in that same coffee house. We’re older but wiser. Ed reflects on the incredible transformation in thought and society that has occurred in a mere half-century. The Glorious Revolution has permanently limited the arbitrary power of the monarchy. John Locke’s brilliant Second Treatise has made a powerful case for individual liberty with the role of government to protect individual rights. No, we don’t have a complete regime like that yet, but we’re quickly getting there. Wonder what those colonists will do in America?

And Isaac Newton! He has shown that the human mind can understand the fundamental workings of the universe!
Neither Locke, Newton, nor others who made these revolutions were atheists. Newton was a particular religious nut. But look at what they did within their religious paradigm. Truth be known they’re letting that paradigm fall away. No, none of this progress was guaranteed. But working for it helped bring it about.

It’s 2015 and we’re meeting in cyber-site, drinking our beverages of choice. Linz is arguing that Sunni or Shiite makes no difference. There is no hope. Islam cannot be reformed and nothing can be expected from those who adhere to that religion.

Ed disagrees. He argues that yes, the savage aspects of Islam are clear. But so were the savage aspects of Christians 350 years ago. Islamic culture today is worse that Christian culture in that earlier age. But we saw millions of Iranians in the streets in 2009 protecting the theocracy—with the moral midget in the White House turning his back on them. We saw a rising in Egypt to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood. Now we see that country’s leader Sisi promoting some important reforms in thinking.

There may be a path ahead. Is future progress guaranteed? No. But there is reason for hope.

At least both sides are trying ...

VSD's picture

... but every time I read 'Death to ...' (fill in the blank) I never once read 'Death to Vera'. It's always a choice between killing 1.6 billion or killing 5.6 billion (pick your ratio based on the blank). One individual is never enough.
If I take you literally Linz and lets say the crazies in Dresden (Pegida) start spreading and lazy ignorant Vera is doing nothing to stop them, then you, Linz, as an individual, will come over here and kick my, Vera, as individual, ass for letting the brown filth spread it's message of hate and violence just because I happen to have a German passport and keep living in Germany (and having blond hair and blue eyes) and did not stop them? Of course Pegida is not brown but (pick your color) according to whatever media you consume. Good luck with that.
Though I agree, that there's not much hope for al-Sisi's attempt at enlightenment, I still admire his approach more, and even support it (and similar attempts) in my own individual sphere of influence dealing with individuals. As long as so many individuals keep hiding behind 'blanks' the only thing that changes is their color, ignorance, violence - which of course I grant you is quite attrocious but where do you start? And where does it end with all the 'blanks' covering the continents?
So I agree with you on 'Death to Harith al-Nadhari, Said and Chérif Kouachi, Amedi Coulibaly, ...' (keep adding names). I may even pick a few names myself to bring death to and I wouldn't even have to go as far as Paris to do that. I do not however agree on 'Death to Islam (pick your religion), to the Krauts (pick your nationality), to the defectors (pick your regime), to any other 'blank' any individual was ever hiding behind so they could blame their ignorance, fear, violence on that blank. Or it may some day have to be 'Death to Linz' - and not for your passionate defence of values (which I do admire), but for your indiscriminate violence in defending them against an individual Vera - who is also passionately defending her own values ; )
Until then Good Luck to al-Sisi : )

Nice try, Ed ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... but I'm afraid "Islamic Enlightenment" is a contradiction in terms. Your header, "How many Islamist massacres?" should be, "How many Muslim massacres?" You got it right in the next one, "Islam values violence" as opposed to "Islamism values violence." There is no "Islamism"; there is only Islam.

Good luck to the Egyptian president if he's genuine in his desire to make this stupid, stinking savage superstition human, but it's a doomed enterprise, and he'll undoubtedly be assassinated by Islamofilth if he persists. Remember Sadat? Rather than clutching at straws, OrgOism should be damning Islam to hell, thunderously, and advocating the immigration policy I put forward in my last post on the Mohammed's Murderous Minions thread, along with a foreign policy of Zero Tolerance for Islamatrocities. (Amazingly, the French, renowned for their cowardice and treachery, have proved a lot more staunch in this latest situation than Americans. Americans had 9/11, much worse than Paris, yet are now more stupidly appeasing than prior to 9/11. Unbelievable!)

Aren't you glad you can come here and learn what you should be doing, Ed? Eye

Death to Islam!

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