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There's something about modern Islam that is evil

Reader comment on item: Islam's Future [Can Be Modern]

Submitted by Douglas Skinner (United States), Aug 14, 2002 at 23:12

I agree with you that Islam will have to change in the future. It's current path, as expressed by a large number of Islamic states, is towards self-destruction. We can only hope that we will not be consumed with it. Perhaps, like the former Soviet Union, it will simply collapse under the weight of own evil. Maybe a more benign and tolerant Islam will then emerge. But there is clearly something about modern Islam that is evil. I mean, I don't think that the near universality of repressive, angry and violent Islamic societies that we see today is merely a product of economic relations or political alignments. I think most, maybe even you, sense that the current manifestation of Islam reflects something more profound and more subversive of the human condition than the fact that a few Saudi princes and a dictator here and there are trying to divert their people's attention from their incompetence and corrupt lifestyles.

To me evil is the best word for that something. It is even possible, and I think current evidence favors it, that Islam is irredemably evil. But the empirical evidence may never be decisive. History is ambiguous but offers a lot of evidence of Muslim tyranny, which used to be called Oriental Despotism (refering particularly to the Ottoman empire). Of course, Christianity too has had its dark moments. But the weakest argument against Islam's being evil is the one which says it cannot be because if it were then we would staring in the face of about 1.2 billion people--many of whom are indeed "moderate"--as eternal enemies, leaving us no policy options.

I used to be a minor-league Beltway wonk and I remember hearing State Department types using similar logic a decade ago the first time we were facing down Saddam Hussein. The prospect of Saddam Hussein being an evil man was completely ruled out because there would be no opportunity for dialogue--no options. The unpleasant consequence of a premise doesn't mean it is not true and if Islam really is irredeemably evil then, yes, we face a problem of much larger proportions that will be terribly difficult to deal with in the future. We shall have to find a way to shine the light of good in an otherwise dark world. This has always been the challenge to the Christian. He doesn't deny that something is evil, global or local, simply because it introduces some unpleasant realities.

Yes, I know that I'm naive to inject Christianity into this but I find it hard to bring up the idea of evil without some theological referent. From a purely secular point of view, a conclusion like yours is reasonable because it is self-evident: evil is unreal, but 1.2 billion people are very real. The world is all there is and so, in a kind of game-theoretic manner, we have to come up with optimal strategies, which almost certainly exist.

Bring the evil into the picture, however, and things get cloudy and it is even doubtful that man is in control at all. What's worse, those who represent good will have to do what is right at the moment and leave the ultimate outcome to Providence. If one man speaks the truth and the rest are liars we should follow that one man though the liars will almost certainly swallow us up. It's lousy game theory but correct in a cosmic sense. Likewise, if Islam is irredeemably evil, then we shall have to oppose it though some of its followers may be decent enough and though it may bring us a lot of pain and threaten our existence. I'm not saying Islam is evil but neither do I think the possibility should dismissed just because it makes the policy puzzle difficult to solve. And we might do better policywise if we seriously considered the possibility.

Sorry to be so long winded.
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