Archive for the ‘The World-Wide World’ Category
David Field provides some heartening evidence in this paper about how the world is improving for the Church:
Evangelical defeatism is a failure of historical perspective. After all, the statistics are out there. It took 1400 years for 1% of the world’s population to become Christians and then another 360 years for that to double to 2%. Another 170 years saw that grow from 2% to 4% and then, between 1960 and 1990 the proportion of the world’s population made up of Bible-believing Christians rose from 4% to 8%. Now, in 2007, one third of the world’s population confesses that Jesus is Lord and 11% of the world’s population are “evangelical” Christians. The evangelical church is growing twice as fast as Islam and three times as fast as the world’s population. South America is turning Protestant faster than Continental Europe did in the sixteenth century. South Koreans reckon that they can evangelize the whole of North Korea within five years once that country opens up. And then there’s the Chinese church consisting of tens of millions of Christians who have learned to pray, who have confidence in Scripture, who know about spiritual warfare, have been schooled in suffering and are qualified to rule. One day in the next century that Church – tens of millions of Christians trained to die – will be released into global mission and our prayers for the fall of Islam will be answered.
Amen! It is good to see evidence of postmillenial optimism. We walk by faith, not by sight.
Some time ago I linked to an article in the New York Times about this trend. Foreign Policy had a story today that gives some historical and contemporary context of Christians leaving or converting in the face of hostility. Eden Naby and Jamsheed Choksy write:
Why Christians? Of the many justifications offered by al Qaeda and other fanatical groups in Iraq, and by hard-line mullahs in Iran, one is repeated most often: These indigenous Christians are surrogates for Western “crusaders.” As early as 1970, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa accusing Christians in Iran of “working with American imperialists and oppressive rulers to distort the truths of Islam, lead Muslims astray, and convert our children.” Fearing a backlash against their institutions and lives, Christians have often made efforts to prove their loyalty, as when Iranian Assyrians wrote to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in September denouncing American Christians who wished to burn Qurans as “enemies of God.”
But the roots of Christian decline in the Middle East actually date back centuries. In Iran, intolerance toward all non-Muslim minorities took a sharply negative turn from the 16th century onward with the forced Shiification of Iran by the Safavid dynasty. The early 20th century saw pogroms against Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians in the Ottoman Empire and northwestern Iran. Under the Pahlavi shahs, Assyrians, Armenians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Baha’is regained some of their rights and came to represent the modernizing elements of 20th century society. But the Islamic Revolution of 1979 undercut all those advances. Prejudice and oppression now occurs with impunity.
The numbers speak for themselves: The population of non-Muslims in Iran has dropped by two-thirds or more since 1979. From Iran, these groups flee to Turkey and India — often at risk to life and limb through the violence-ridden border regions of Iraq and Pakistan. The number of Assyrian Christians in Iran has dwindled from about 100,000 in the mid-1970s to approximately 15,000 today, even as the overall population of the country has swelled from 38 million to 72 million people over the same period. In Iraq, Christians are fleeing in droves. U.N. statistics indicate that 15 percent of all Iraqi refugees in Syria are of Christian background, although they represented only 3 percent of the population when U.S. troops entered in 2003. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that between 300,000 to 400,000 Christians have been forced out of Iraq since 2003. And Christians have left because the message from Sunni militants and Shiite ayatollahs is crystal clear: You have no future here.
There is now an alarming possibility that there will be no significant Christian communities in Iraq or Iran by century’s end. Christian schools, communal halls, historical sites, and churches are being appropriated by national and provincial governments, government-sponsored Muslim organizations, and radical Islamist groups. Economic and personal incentives are offered to those who adopt Islam. Last month, the Vatican convened a major summit to find ways of mitigating this crisis, noting that “Christians deserve to be recognized for their invaluable contributions … their human rights should always be respected, including freedom of worship and freedom of religion.”
I haven’t read Sennott’s 2002 book The Body and the Blood: The Middle East’s Vanishing Christians and the Possibility for Peace, but I’ve heard from one friend that it’s a good account.
Lee Smith challenges the theory of “linkage,” which states that the key to resolving conflict in the Middle East is resolving the Palestinian-Israeli peace process (I’ve posted on this issue once before). I’ve noted Smith’s ideas about the Middle East a couple other times on this blog. He usually tries to challenge the dominant paradigm by which we look at the Middle East. He believes that the biggest factor in the conflicts is not the Arab-Israeli issue but rather competition between different tribes and countries in the Arab world, what he calls an “Arab civil war.” In addition, he believes that Middle Eastern states are generally weak and fight each other through terrorist groups rather than conventional war.
Smith believes that linkage theory has taken on a life of its own:
As the origins of any myth fade into the past, the myth, paradoxically, becomes more and more powerful, sometimes even taking on the appearance of truth. Two generations removed from the American policymakers who turned linkage to the advantage of U.S. regional interests, a dangerous stage begins in the history of a myth invented by one Arab tribe to gain the support of the British in their battle with another Arab tribe and that Washington turned around to make itself the power center of the Middle East….
Indeed, the American position in the Middle East is founded on the idea that Arab regimes are incapable of defending themselves against anyone. Washington made sure these regimes can’t defeat Israel; the United States protected the Saudis from the Soviets and then from Saddam, when the American presence in the desert made the Saudis vulnerable to their own domestic opposition in the form of Osama Bin Laden. What the Saudis want now is to be protected against the Islamic Republic of Iran, but they can’t say that publicly any more than they can explain that the myth of linkage was always more about intra-Arab politics than it was about the fate of the Palestinians.Nor apparently can the Americans admit that linkage was just a strategic instrument that leveraged the Arab narrative to the advantage of the United States. The further U.S. policymaking gets from the origins of the myth, the more magical and enticing it has become. The myth of linkage has grown to such legendary proportions at this point that it is the extent of the current White House’s Middle East policy. We have no other strategy to stop the Iranian nuclear program but linkage. Movement on the peace process, the Obama Administration believes, will get the Arab regimes to help us with Iran. The problem is that the Arabs will not help us with Iran. They want us to deal with Iran ourselves, but if we keep forcing the issue of linkage they have no choice but to go along with the ruse that everything is linked to the Arab-Israeli crisis. After all, it’s their narrative, and they can’t disown it now. (more…)
Like many Christians, I’ve wished that Christians could be more united even while I am a Protestant, a member of the most divided of the branches of the Christian tradition. Recently I read two articles about two efforts to address our current divisions. One is far away from me in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the other nearby in the Northern suburbs of Chicago. The Christ Together movement in Lake County, IL, has apparently spread to Hampton Roads in coastal Virginia too.
I read the article about Argentina first. Here are some excerpts from the article that explain the rationale and story:
Argentina’s unity movement is based on a simple biblical concept.
“Each time the New Testament speaks of the church in a city such as Ephesus, it is always singular, never plural,” says Carlos Mraida, pastor of Del Centro First Baptist Church. “Yet when the New Testament speaks of leadership in a city, it is always plural. The church is singular, but leadership is plural.”…
A new spirit of unity arose in the early 1980s, when hundreds of Argentine cities formed pastors councils thanks to the crusades of Carlos Annacondia. The Pentecostal businessman-turned-preacher required the formation of a council before he would visit a city. The decade closed with two national retreats attended by 1,200 pastors.The Buenos Aires council was founded in 1982 by five pastors: Bongarrá, Saracco, Mraida, charismatic pastor Jorge Himitián, and Baptist pastor Pablo Deiros. Their starting point was creating friendships between pastors, said Saracco, as it’s easier to unite people than denominations.
Next came reconciliation over past wrongs. The political tumult during the nation’s Dirty War of the 1970s and ’80s created a deep divide between mainline churches, which defended human rights, and evangelical churches, which remained silent, says Saracco. At a downtown summit in 1999, the council asked the two sides to forgive one another in front of the 250,000 gathered.
Over time, pastors wanted a formalized structure and created rotating elected offices of president, vice president, and other traditional positions. But functioning as a typical institution did not work well, says Bongarrá, and the council lost momentum. So in 2006 the council invited the founders (minus Deiros, who had left for Fuller Theological Seminary) to come back and revitalize the council. The four agreed—on one condition. (more…)
Lee Smith writes about his conversation with Israeli Nobel laureate Robert Aumann. Aumann believes that game theory applies to international relations:
In Aumann’s view, the post-Oslo period shows that Israel’s behavior leaves it at a serious disadvantage in a repeated game. “In games that repeat over time,” Aumann wrote in an article called “The Blackmailers’ Paradox,” “a strategic balance that is neutral paradoxically causes a cooperation between the opposing sides.” Aumann offered the example of two men forced to split $100,000. Person A assumes that they will split it evenly and is astonished when Person B explains that he will not accept anything less than $90,000. Afraid that he will leave empty-handed, A relents and takes one-tenth of the money. In this situation, A acted as if this were a one-time game, but had he understood it as a repeated game and refused the split so that both he and B walked away empty-handed, he would have shown for future reference that he was every bit as determined as B. This in turn would make B more willing to compromise. “Likewise,” Aumann wrote, “Israel must act with patience and with long-term vision, even at the cost of not coming to any present agreement and continuing the state of belligerence, in order to improve its position in future negotiations.”…
“The way to make peace is to make your intentions clear,” Aumann told me. But Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza brought not only the second Lebanon war but also the bombardment of southern Israel and most recently the Mavi Marmara incident. To explain what was wrong with the Gaza withdrawal, Aumann drew on an unusual source for a scientist, the Bible, quoting Jeremiah 2:13: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
God’s people, according to Aumann’s interpretation of the passage, have done two stupid things—not only did they abandon God but they also worshipped broken idols. “It’s one thing to do something unconscionably bad,” Aumann said. For him, an expulsion that uprooted thousands of people who have yet to get their lives back in order was “unquestionably immoral.” “If it brings the peace,” Aumann said, “if the ends justify the means, that’s one thing, but this doesn’t even achieve the means. It was morally wrong and strategically stupid. The expulsion from Gaza is unprecedented. Jews have been expelled throughout history, but we own the dubious distinction of being the first people to have expelled ourselves. Never before had this happened, and it led to disaster. Our standing in the world was not improved. We didn’t get sympathy. We get sympathy when we act decisively—after Entebbe, Osirak, a lot of sympathy came after the Six Day war.”
When policymakers and analysts use the same sort of examples to draw the same historical conclusions, they’re dismissed as right-wing ideologues, and Aumann has endured the same treatment. The Nobel committee nonetheless realized he’d hit on a truth that explains a fundamental aspect of who we are as political beings—or who we are when we are most human, sitting across the table from our neighbors trying to figure out how to live together. The paradox is that there can be no co-existence if one person isn’t willing to negotiate as hard as the other. The appeaser will always be swallowed up and simply cease to exist. It is stubbornness rather than the willingness to make immediate concessions that brings about successful negotiations. In other words, if you want peace, prepare for war.
Hat tip: Michael Totten
Bradley Burston, a blogger with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (in my understanding, a paper on the center-left of the Israeli political spectrum), writes:
Every revolution tends to believe that it is forever. Nowhere is this more evident than in Israel, for six decades cradle and crucible to concurrent revolutions.
But the fate of every revolutionary movement is to age, to fall prey to fissures and compound fractures, and to be astounded to find that one day, it has become history.
Now it is the turn of the settlers. Though the trappings of their past success remain, their revolution is broken. The settlement movement – along with the dovish revolution whose banner was land for peace – was shattered in the chaos of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
In just six days in 2005, the single most indispensible figure in rooting settlements into the territories, Ariel Sharon, quashed a quarter century of Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip – at the approval of two-thirds of the Israeli electorate.
The settlement revolution has never truly recovered. Even as it insists that West Bank settlements can never be undone, the movement is both haunted and crippled by its own private Naqba, the loss of the dream of a Greater Israel in the Likud government’s disengagement.
Of late, figures of significance on the right of both the Israeli and American Jewish communities have begun to rethink the future of the settlers’ core redoubt: the West Bank.
As Israeli-Palestinian negotiations resumed this month, influential Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer astounded many colleagues on the right by observing that “No serious player believes it can hang on forever to the West Bank.
“This has created a unique phenomenon in Israel – a broad-based national consensus for giving nearly all the West Bank in return for peace,” Krauthammer continued. “The moment is doubly unique because the only man who can deliver such a deal is Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – and he is prepared to do it.”
The comments coincided with a number of indications of a beginning of change on the right and within the settlement movement itself.
Among the more intriguing is a group of young Israelis – some of whom grew up in West Bank settlements – who have moved back into Israel to resettle the abandoned kibbutz of Retamim in the central Negev.
The group includes the son of Pinchas Wallerstein, a former longtime leader of the Yesha Council, the effective government of the settlement movement.
The whole article is pretty interesting. It seems that some believe that Netanyahu’s former support for maintaining the West Bank settlements will be replaced with a unilateral Israeli withdrawal.
Hat tip: Jeff Goldberg
Tags: Adam Hochschild, king leopold's ghost
I found this review that I wrote for my own memory after I read King Leopold’s Ghost in the winter of 2007-2008, and I figured that I would post it here. I edited it a bit today (although it still suffers from my overuse of parentheses). This is definitely one of my favorite books of all time.
For Hochschild, this is a story about both King Leopold II’s greed and deception and the movement that arose to stop him, centered in Britain. It also received help from Belgian Socialists, Americans, and others, with Protestant missionaries being a major source of information on the terror inflicted upon the inhabitants.
Leopold hoped to gain colonies and eventually decided that central Africa offered the best chance, sending the famous Henry Morton Stanley to explore the region (with chiefs signing treaties that they did not understand but promised everything for very little) and getting America and then Europe to recognize his claim. He built support for it by offering free access to trade with the colony (which it ran as a monopoly), speaking the benefits of civilization (there is little evidence in the book that this was ever taken seriously, except for making the “lazy” natives work in ivory- and rubber-gathering), portraying himself as a crusader against the Afro-Arab slave trade (they did fight Afro-Arabs like Tippu Tip, but also instituted forced labor practices), and opening the Congo to missionaries (Protestant missionaries were some of the main opponents of the brutality). He also led the Americans to think that it would be something like an association of free states like the US. It was eventually called the Congo Free State, the property of Leopold alone and run by a bureaucracy centered in Belgium. The portrait of Leopold that emerges is one of a greedy, power-hungry monarch in a Europe that is passing him by (with his wealth from the Congo he built up great monuments and his chateaus and palaces) and a very effective tyrant who could manipulate people for his own ends and understood public relations. (more…)
Tags: thomas oden
Through his work as editor of Intervarsity Press’ forays into making ancient Christian commentary more accessible to modern people, Thomas Oden became much more aware of early African Christians’ contributions to the faith. He became convinced that early African Christianity was the “seedbed” for European Christianity, reversing the popular idea of Christianity as a Western faith that has just come to Africa recently. This book, then, is a call for intensified research into ancient African Christianity especially by African scholars. He believes that it will provide a more solid base for African Christian identity than is often claimed by African Christians now.
He believes that Africa shaped the Christian mind in several ways:
- the library of Alexandria provided the genesis of the idea of the university
- influential ancient Biblical exegetes like Origen and Cyril of Alexandria
- some of the great contributors in the development of orthodox doctrine, like Tertullian, Athanasius, and Augustine
- the churchwide councils built on African church practices of assembling bishops
- monasticism spread from Africa
- the first Christian Neoplatonists and rhetoricians, like Lactantius, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine, came from Africa
Oden describes each of these briefly in Chapter 3, and believes that each (along with many other ways that Africa influenced Christianity) needs further research. My first thought was that much of what he discussed was accomplished in the Greco-Roman context, but Oden argues that many of the African Christians, even if Greco-Roman in name, were shaped by the indigenous cultures of the Nile and Medjerda river valleys. He rejects the differentiation between sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa that many Africans and non-Africans make, and writes that early African Christianity can provide a common identity for African Christians and can be a source of healthy self-respect in that it refutes the Eurocentric idea that anything worthwhile in African culture came from Europe. (more…)
An essay by Yoram Hazony asks why Israel is consistently vilified in ways that other nations are not. I think that his answer considers something that I did not when I discussed why Israel finds itself under the microscope. I said that the rise of human rights and anti-colonialism as ideas of global importance were critical.
Hazony adds a different dimension which is at least as important as these two, at least in Europe: Israel is a nation-state in an age where the original nation-states (in the modern sense of the word) are disappearing into the European Union. Here is the crux of Hazony’s reasoning:
The defeat of the universalist ideal in the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 led to the establishment of a new paradigm for European politics—one in which a revitalized concept of the national state held the key to the freedom of peoples throughout Europe. By the late-1800s, this idea of national liberty had been extended to the point that it was conceived not only as a governing principle for Europe, but for the entire world. Progressives such as John Stuart Mill and Woodrow Wilson championed the sovereign nation-state, which would have the right to defend its form of government, laws, religion and language against the tyranny of imperial actors, as the cornerstone of what was ultimately to be a new political order for humanity. Herzl’s Zionist Organization, which proposed a sovereign state for the Jewish people, fit right into this political understanding—and indeed, it was under British sponsorship that the idea of the Jewish state grew to fruition. In 1947, the United Nations voted by a 2/3 majority for the establishment of a “Jewish State” in Palestine. And the birth of Israel was followed by the establishment of dozens of additional independent states throughout the Third World. (more…)
Michael Totten interviewed Jonathan Spyer, a journalist who served in the Israeli army. Toward the end of the interview, Totten asked what Spyer would tell American policymakers about the Middle East. I’ll pass it on without necessarily endorsing it, since I’m still searching for the best perspectives on the region. Here is his response:
I’d tell the current bunch in power that they need to ditch this sophomoric idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to the region’s malaise.They need to get that out of their heads. That’s not what I’d want to talk about. That’s not even an adult conversation. Once we can clear that up, we can talk about something serious.
A perfect storm is brewing in the Middle East. We’re experiencing the convergence of two historical phenomena. The first is the rise of Iran, which we’ve already talked about. We have an ambitious ideological elite committed to radical Islam and the expansion of power. Second, in country after country in the Middle East, various forms of radical Islam are becoming the most popular and vivid forms of political expression. We have Hamas among the Palestinians, Hezbollah among the Shia of Lebanon, the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, and the Muslim Brothers in Egypt.
We have an ideological wave from below with a powerful and potentially nuclear-armed sponsor on top. That’s the picture I’d want to place in the minds of the people in Washington. It’s the key regional dynamic through which most smaller processes have to be understood.
So if you like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and want to talk about that, now we can tackle it in a rational grown-up way. The Palestinian national movement has split—most likely permanently—into two camps. And the most powerful of the two is that which results from this convergence of a popular Islamist wave on the one hand and a hegemonic state sponsor on the other. These two phenomena have completely transformed Palestinian politics. They have completely transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And they have completely transformed our options.
We could also talk about Lebanon. Or just about anything else. And again, we have to look at it through the prism I just described. That’s what I’d say to them if I had five minutes.
Having lived in Idaho for a little over 2 years now, we have yet to see much outside Nampa & Boise. It’s on the list of things to do. So, spur of the moment Monday, we decided to take a trek up to Idaho City. Once passing the city limits of Boise, the drive up was very enjoyable, pretty with lush greenery and the river and streams added to its beauty. As much as I could enjoy the ride, I still was recovering from a sinus infection/cold so the plugging and pressure on my ears & sinus headache. That, I could not escape.
After checking out 2 other restaurants in the maybe 1 mile town strip, we ended up eating at a little quaint store/eatery, strangely the cleanest feeling, brightest (lighting wise), and cheapest (but good food) place we looked at. And maybe it was just me but I felt like everyone looked at us a little weird, as if Asians don’t frequent there (not a surprise). It was a hot day (but could have been worse) and we took the walk around the streets to find much of everything was closed and/or for sale. My business minded side tends to look at situations like this and begins to imagine ways in which to revive such a cool place. I have learned that many times, in places like these, though the town is dying and businesses are rare, the people don’t want it to grow much more than it originally was. I’m not sure nor saying that this is the same case. But how I’d love to revive a place like that into an even greater place to visit. Idaho City is practically a ghost town but a quaint and cool historic experience.
Well, as we wandered, of course I took some pictures. In an effort to ‘revive’ our own visit, here are clips from our day.
busted! we paid his bail.
isn’t she the cutest little criminal?
Our girls love to put on a show. I’m working on posting it. No success yet. Stay tuned…
Hussein Ibish writes that the Palestinian Authority is making making substantial efforts “to create Palestine as a practical reality.” A recent economic development conference, the second of its kind, discussed “high-growth sectors, including information and communications technology, housing, and tourism.”
I’ve heard quite a bit about Salaam Fayyad’s program of institution-building, and I was glad to read at least a bit more detailed description of this approach:
The most important of these initiatives is the state- and institution-building program adopted by Fayyad’s cabinet last August. This program marks an attempt to build the administrative, infrastructural, and economic framework for a Palestinian state — not only in spite of the occupation, but as a means of confronting it. The plan calls for every PA ministry to meet a series of administrative and institutional goals, from economic and infrastructural developments to good governance and transparency measures. A budget document released in January added even more details to the program. The idea is that, if you build the state, it will come….
Palestinians have also adopted nonviolent tactics designed to confront the occupation — particularly the PA’s boycott of settlement goods and mass protests against abusive occupation practices, such as the West Bank separation barrier. These tactics are designed to ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians understand that the state-building approach is not, as is sometimes claimed, a form of collaboration or “beautifying” of the occupation, but rather a sophisticated form of resistance to it. This approach also seeks to achieve clarity on the status of the occupied territories and confront Israelis with a simple question: Is this land going to be part of our state, or is it a part of yours?
This strategy is making quiet but significant progress. Last year, the PA completed more than 1,000 community development programs. It has created the nucleus of a Palestinian central bank and developed a transparent and accountable system of public financing. Hundreds of major development and public-private initiatives are under way, including at least two major telecommunications companies and the first planned Palestinian city. With significant international support, the framework of the Palestinian state is starting to take shape before our eyes.
The bedrock of the state-building program is the new security services trained by multinational forces Palestinians have deployed 2,600 officers in five major West Bank cities, ensuring unprecedented levels of law and order and facilitating the removal of a number of Israeli checkpoints. Israelis themselves have commended the effectiveness of the forces and praised their security coordination with Israeli forces. The combination of security improvements, increased access and mobility for Palestinians, and the PA’s economic development projects led to a growth rate of 8.5 percent in the West Bank last year, one of the highest in the recession-plagued world economy. Perhaps even more significantly, about half of the PA’s budget is now provided by Palestinian taxes and not international support.
Ibish also recognizes some of the difficulties. Hamas is entrenched in Gaza and is a bitter rival of the people who control the PA. And he is not sure if the current Israeli government is open to talks. But his optimism about the state-building approach is worth noting, and this will be an interesting development to track.
Sabah A. Salih, professor of English at Bloomsburg University, writes in his review of Paul Berman’s The Flight of the Intellectuals that Islamism is actually a movement for Arab domination, rather than the pan-Islamist movement of Islamist rhetoric:
Islamism, which is markedly different from the way most practicing Muslims in Kurdistan understand the faith, as something spiritual rather than political, has never been a friend of the Kurds. Despite its noisy claims of universality and rejection of national boundaries, Islamism is sectarian through and through. In fact, its actions and programs are intended to put non-Arabs under the political and cultural hegemony of Arabs. Historically, Islamism has been just another name for Arab imperialism. To conceal that, Islamism has been relentless in insisting in its usual totalitarian fashion that its program comes straight from Allah.
This is how most people in Kurdistan view Islamism. There, clerics like Al-Jazeera Television’s wordmonger-in-chief Yusuf Qaradawi or Muslim Brotherhood’s point man in Europe Tariq Ramadan carry no weight. In Kurdistan, a person trading in dogma and medieval irrationality, as these men do, is not considered a person worth listening to. But outside Kurdistan, especially in the heart of Western democracies, as Paul Berman points out in this valuable new book, these are the very people a great many intellectuals embrace as moderate, mainstream, even authentic.
Thus Islamism, which Salih believes is a false interpretation of Islam, poses a threat to Kurds and, presumably, others.
He also agrees with Berman’s argument that many Western writers who have given up on Enlightenment values protect Islamists like Tariq Ramadan and bash ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This makes a difference in the realm of public debate:
Projects like regime change in Iraq and the struggle of the Kurds for cultural and political rights get largely defined these days by Islamists and their Western intellectual backers; these have much easier access to the media and public spaces than anyone from Kurdistan or liberated Iraq. You may recall how tirelessly the two groups worked in tandem to protect and legitimize Saddam’s brutal occupation of Iraq and prevent its liberation. Even today when an Islamist like Tariq Ramadan, a man with no ties whatsoever to Iraq, declares in London and New York that the removal of tyranny in Baghdad was illegal, he gets rousing applause, as if the geopolitical makeup of the world has been simply a legalistic affair rather than the product of conquest, political machinations, luck, among various other things. By contrast, those who have legitimate ties to Iraq and Kurdistan but do not subscribe to this lazy piece of nonsense and have a counter story to tell, find themselves ignored. The implication of Berman’s book for Kurdistan is that its story in the West cannot be told because the intellectual market these days favors Islamism over secularism, the dogma of multiculturalism over honest discussion.
Salih’s comments don’t account for non-Arab Islamists like the Islamic Courts in Somalia or the Taliban (although the original leaders of the Taliban were educated in Saudi Arabia). Pakistani Islamists don’t fit in here either. At the same time, Islamism does seem to be strongest among Arabic speakers. I wonder if there are studies that show where Islamism is strongest.
Hat tip: Michael Totten