Americans need to take the blinders off and look squarely at the political world we are creating before we lock ourselves into a future that we may find extremely distasteful. Fortunately, we have a surprisingly wide array of choices.
The neo-con mythology about political Islam depicts a homogeneous mass of crazy, violence-prone, evil aggressors motivated by religion and willing to use any method to achieve their goals. In truth, political Islam is a highly differentiated, disunified social universe motivated by as wide a range of goals as Americans and overwhelmingly non-violent.
There are several curious aspects of this neo-con mythology. Not the least interesting is the degree to which the neo-con portrayal of Islam reflects the reality about the neo-cons themselves. The utility of the neo-con myth for various neo-con projects—above all, the transformation of the
Regardless of the true condition of the Islamic political world, to the degree that the world’s only remaining superpower portrays it as a monolithic, frightening, evil, and implacably hostile entity and treats it accordingly, then political Islam will evolve into that which it is accused of being. The greater the tendency of
The Muslim-Western contest has existed for far too long for a “chicken vs. egg” debate to have any value. Whether one dates it from the Arab attack on
The constant flow of the new generation into society offers endless opportunities for changing the course of events. A new Western generation may grow up imagining that war of civilizations is normal. A new Muslim generation may grow up without the frustrations that persuaded their mothers and fathers to view terrorist gangs as their only hope for justice. Support for and rates of recruitment into this or that political movement consequently change, leaving political leaders wondering why they can no longer accomplish what they were accustomed to accomplishing in the past. Physics may concern immutable laws of nature; politics concerns the possible.
In a political world of ever-evolving possibilities, yesterday’s assumptions will be today’s blinders. The neo-con myth about political Islam, born from a combination of rage over 9/11 and short-sighted desire to exploit 9/11 to fulfill private agendas, has, a decade later, become a set of blinders Americans can no longer afford to wear. We need to take the blinders off and look squarely at the political world we are creating before we lock ourselves into a future that we may find extremely distasteful.
Whatever your political views, you owe it to yourself to consider two questions:
- What sort of world are we creating?
- What can we do about it?
The Islamic world was on a role from the 7th to the 15th centuries, whether viewed militarily, culturally, politically, scientifically, or morally. Illustrating only the last point, a comparison of religious freedom in 13th century Muslim Spain with 13th century
Today, the Muslim world is in ferment. Popular interest in politics is intense, even as Westerners are becoming dangerously jaded about their governments.
The West, with its military superiority, has the option of resisting tooth and nail, risking everything to retain its top-dog status. The West also has the option of looking for a mutually beneficial and historically innovating restructuring of our political world that would leave the West secure while accommodating Muslim aspirations. We in the West today face few challenges more urgent than the challenge of figuring out which goal is best and how to bring it to fruition.
A look at the details of the political landscape in various Muslim societies and the nature of