Manifesto: Facing the new totalitarianism

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Blogger Agora directs attention to this manifesto against Islamism originally printed in the French weekly Charlie Hebdo and now translated into English by Jyllands-Posten. Signatories include Salman Rushdie and Bernard Henri-Levy and it's worth quoting in full:

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject "cultural relativism," which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

Whole thing, including full list of signatories, here.

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  1. RACISTS!

  2. In all seriousness, this is a very welcomed ‘manifesto.’ While many of the names on this list have been vocal, even from hiding, a combined (and hopefully well publicized) effort like this is need to make it more acceptable for both Muslims and non-Muslims to criticize Islam, particularly what they term Islamism.

    Of course, there will likely be riots, even due to the non illustrated version.

  3. The word of the day is: liberticidal.

  4. a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

    Recent elections in the Mid East (as well as the Bush W administration) demonstrate these are not mutually exclusive. I’ll go as far as agreeing that the Islamic nations are fucked up. Although some much less than others, and each in it’s own unique way. Here in the States, we have a growing Islamic population that, at the moment, I fear less than the established Christian population. Not that I don’t see the potential for domestic trouble. We have been moving away from our melting-pot tradition since the term ‘multicultural’ was coined.

    I am opposed to theocrats of all stripes. I don’t doubt that they are dangerous. However, this group of scholastic authors strikes me as too self-selected to pen an effective manifesto.

  5. I’ll give it two days until the first fatwah calling for these signatories to be put to death is issued…

  6. We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

    And satirical songs mocking Mohammed.

  7. Rushdie and Ali already have fatwas on their heads, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Manji has one as well.

    “However, this group of scholastic authors strikes me as too self-selected to pen an effective manifesto.”

    What in the crap does that even mean? Or what would you like it to mean? Is it akin to “Warren is too self-selected to pen an effective comment?

  8. Good for them for denouncing fundamental dictatorship, but there is no way that “Islamism” is a global threat comparable to fascism and Communism. At one time, each of those ideologies represented the greatest military power on the planet. Meanwhile, we’ve got losers with coffee cans full of chemical fertilizer and nails.

    Also, I wonder if this, “We reject “cultural relativism,” which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of…” was properly translated, because Salman Rushdie knows damn well that that is not what the term “cultural relativism” means. Anyone who’s read “The Satanic Verses,” with its treatment of Indian and English culture, can see that. Perhaps a punctuation problem?

    “We reject cultural relativism which consits of…”

    was rendered as, “We reject ‘cultural relativism,’ which consists of…”

    In other words, I suspect they meant that phrase to reject a distorted mutation of cultural relativism, rather than to characterize cultural relativism so inaccurately.

  9. …”Islamophobia”, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

    But if the believers are truly commited to the religion, then isn’t criticizing the religion the same as criticizing the believers? Personal responsibility and all?

  10. Ok, I’ll bite.

    All those who criticized the “identity soup” folks in France, do you also criticize these people? If not, why not? The fundamental message is the same: our culture and its values are superior to yours. The only difference is that the identity soup people lumped Judaism in with Islamism.

    I’m actually sympathetic with both groups, as long as they’re not calling for the use of any coercive force.

  11. But if the believers are truly commited to the religion, then isn’t criticizing the religion the same as criticizing the believers? Personal responsibility and all?

    Interesting point…and one that could also be used to justify an islamic radical’s attacks against civilians in western democracies.

    If you elected the government that perpetrates (perceived unjust) policies against islam, then wouldn’t you be presonally responsible? I think that may be part of the logic behind 9/11 and other attacks we call terror.

  12. “If you elected the government that perpetrates (perceived unjust) policies against islam, then wouldn’t you be presonally responsible? I think that may be part of the logic behind 9/11 and other attacks we call terror”

    It certainly was the logic of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden.

  13. Manji (according to her book) has had some death threats and now has some sort of security apparatus surrounding her.

    joe,

    The reason he put the term “cultural relavism” in qoutes was to qualify it, or draw attention to a particular form of it. Its a common tactic of authors.

  14. It certainly was the logic of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden.

    Oh sweet Jesus… nine in the morning & we’re already into the historical revisionism of WWII.

  15. “It certainly was the logic of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden.”

    I don’t recall Hirohito as being an elected leader. Taisho Democracy was over when he took power.

  16. “I don’t recall Hirohito as being an elected leader. Taisho Democracy was over when he took power.”

    True, but the point remains that infants were held accountable for the actions of their government.

    “Oh sweet Jesus… nine in the morning & we’re already into the historical revisionism of WWII.”

    Oh sweet Jesus, nine in the morning and a Freeper is here already calling our top military staff of the time “revisionist”.

  17. …”Islamophobia”, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

    Islamophobia is an unfortunate concept because it confuses criticism of Islam with a mental disorder.

  18. quasibill,

    The issue isn’t whether civilians died at the hands of American bombing missions. The issue is whether the use of force was proportional.

  19. What in the crap does that even mean? Or what would you like it to mean? Is it akin to “Warren is too self-selected to pen an effective comment?

    Fair cop. That was not a very good turn of phrase on my part. I guess what I was saying is, I don’t think these folks are going to inspire many followers. But who knows? Poets and playwrights have led successful movements.

  20. On its face, this document seems silly. But it does hand out some nice language which may hopefully be used by others in fighting what is, arguably, the growing threat of an intolerant form of Islam.

    What’s interesting is that things like this are starting to pull the covers off a reality that’s rarely discussed. That is that (despite the protestations by many more moderate Muslims) MOST forms of Islam are decidedly intolerant. It is only the relative numbers of practitioners and their economic and social stations that determines how they express that intolerance.

    In America, Muslim communities are not growing that fast and the economic opportunity is – relatively speaking – quite good. I doubt the 9/11 hijackers have a large number of Americanized Muslims willing to join them…which probably explains why the U.S. has (in part) largely avoided the misfortunes of our European bretheren.

    That’s not to say there aren’t Muslims who agree with the actions of the hijackers or their current equivalents in the rest of the world. But Muslims here have a lot more to lose than Muslims living in relative squalor in Paris. There are exceptions, of course. The 9/11 hijackers were, by and large, well educated and had access to opportunities.

    But back to the intolerance of Islam, I’m not saying intolerance is, by and by, bad. It’s a personal & cultural choice and there are plenty of examples of intolerance by well-meaning folks of many persuasions…even among folks who claim the mantle of ‘tolerance’. But when intolerence leads to death and other nasty expressions, that is bad. When fear and physical abuse are the result, the intolerant need to be taken out.

    The money quote for me is,“We reject “cultural relativism,” which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia”, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

    A little long winded but nicely co-opts the word “relativism” from the hystrionic right and put it in such a way as to realize that conservative or liberal, we are both on the same side of this fight against the intolerance of a violent and growing culture.

    Militant Islam is one of the biggest global threats we will face in the coming years. Just as Conservatives will have to realize that this not exactly a fight against “freedom hating evil-doers”, Liberals will have to accept that fighting this war is going to have to get aggressive, proactive and damn bloody.

    I think this manifesto is a good step in that direction.

  21. The issue isn’t whether civilians died at the hands of American bombing missions. The issue is whether the use of force was proportional.

    And, to put it another way in the case of Japan, whether the bombings were going to avoid a projected 1 million American casualties.

    Quasibill, re: “Freeper:” When the person you’re trying to insult has to go look up the term on Wikipedia to figure out what the hell you’re rambling about, the insult doesn’t work.

  22. “If you elected the government that perpetrates (perceived unjust) policies against islam, then wouldn’t you be presonally responsible? I think that may be part of the logic behind 9/11 and other attacks we call terror”

    Back in the 1970s and 80s, many terrorists used to spell this point out pretty clearly – they were attacking civilians to encourage them to vote out or otherwise remove their own governments. Interestingly, this actually shows murderous criminals have more faith in the power of democracy than the average citizen in the US does.

  23. Warren,

    Thanks. I didn’t mean to sound quite so rude, but it was a statement that didn’t seem to have any aprticuklar meaning. I appreciate what you mean about the celebrity of the people involved not exactly pulling a lot of followers, at least in the direct reaction. But I think this is a more important tool in the long term (especially if publicized widely). Many of the voices listed are beyond ad hominem reproach that usually counters similar words from very white western mouths. It may be a useful device in allowing certain people to even consider the things said.

  24. But if the believers are truly commited to the religion, then isn’t criticizing the religion the same as criticizing the believers? Personal responsibility and all?

    Well, they said stigmatization of the believers, which strikes me as an important difference.

  25. there is no way that “Islamism” is a global threat comparable to fascism and Communism. At one time, each of those ideologies represented the greatest military power on the planet.

    Its an apples and oranges comparison. “Islamism” only controls one or two states these days, but because it is rooted primarily in a dysfunctional culture that is much broader than those states it has a much broader reach.

    This ideology, even though it lacks a state, is nonetheless driving terrorism, insurrenction, instability, and even the odd spot of genocide across half the globe. From Holland to Africa to Indonesia, the problem is Islamism and the apparent tolerance of much of the wider Islamic community for it. Is there any doubt that Islamism is the biggest immediate threat to peace, prosperity, and liberty on the planet these days?

    The Islamist network is only a little distance away from having functional weapons of mass destruction. An Iranian bomb is a certainty if military action is not taken, and who knows where the B team WMDs – germs and gas – may come from. Once Iran has the bomb, it will be a military/strategic player of the first order.

  26. The issue isn’t whether civilians died at the hands of American bombing missions. The issue is whether the use of force was proportional.

    Indeed. Lots of firebombing took place before the A-bombs fell. IIRC, more people died in the Tokyo firebombing than at Hiroshima. The justification was that the Japanese had effectively dispersed their machine tools out of factories, making more targeted bombing useless and bringing on the change to area bombing.

    Had an invasion occured, I doubt strongly that the Hiroshima et. al. would have suffered much less from massed artillery and tanks than the A-Bomb. Granted, the civilians would have had more time to run away if they so chose.

    Of course, without a surrender in early August from whatever means, the Japanese were probably going to experience mass starvation. They apparently came very close anyway, until MacArthur demanded Washington rush him some rations. So lotsa points to ponder there.

  27. “Once Iran has the bomb, it will be a military/strategic player of the first order.”

    I, for one, welcome our new Iranian overlords! [Puts on turban and fake beard; conceals half-eaten piece of bacon.]

  28. Is there any doubt that Islamism is the biggest immediate threat to peace, prosperity, and liberty on the planet these days?

    Quite. Cheney can only get 2-3 people at a time before he has to reload.

    Thanks folks, I’ll be here all week. Tip your servers, please.

  29. Well, they said stigmatization of the believers, which strikes me as an important difference.

    I’d guess the believers won’t see the difference (actually, I don’t think I see the difference).

    “No, no, *you’re* okay, it’s just your entire belief system is wrong.”

  30. RC, yes, it is an apples to oranges comparison. That was my point.

    And while I take exception to a number of your assertions (“half the world?”…”the problem” everywhere there is violence that involves Muslims “is Islamism?”…”a certainty if military action is not taken?”…an Iran with a single nuke and limited missiles is “a military/strategic player of the first order?”), even if one were to accept them all whole hog, they still don’t add up to a global threat comparable to the German/Japanese alliance in 1941, or the Soviets in 1953.

  31. We reject “cultural relativism,” which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions.

    If that’s what the men and women of Muslim culture choose for themselves, that’s their business.

    Western culture has tried (whether in fact or cynical fiction) to impose equality, freedom and secularism in the Islamic world since WWI. It hasn’t worked so far. Those values must stem from and develop within native culture. When they’re injected from outside, you end up with …well, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and a lot of seriously miffed mullahs.

    This is the lesson the West just can’t learn: Don’t mess with the Middle East.

    Once we lost Constantinople, that was it. I liked the Byzantine Empire as much as the next guy, but it’s time to move on. They keep their world, we keep ours.

  32. It seems like the greatest threat facing civilization is getting steadily weaker.

    First it was the combined industrial might of Japan and Germany.

    Then it was an economic system that could barely feed itself and primarily exported people who could swim, run, climb, crawl, or bribe. But, I will admit, they did manage to run up a huge WMD stockpile.

    Now it’s a handful of weak states with a much smaller WMD capability, and a network of guys living in caves and using improvised explosives.

    The threat is indeed serious, but all things considered I’d say that civilization is in a more secure position than it was once upon a time.

    Maybe some day the greatest threat facing civilization will be Emmanuel Goldstein.

  33. We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

    Except for Eurpoe where holocaust deniers are jailed at well. Hypocrites.

  34. thoreau,

    Technological ability is not the only type of threat nor should the technoligical or industrial capacity of an enemy be the only to measure the threat. Ideas are as much a weapon as nuclear bombs are after all.

  35. I think Islamic Fascism is a huge threat. But Islamism? Give me a break. These guys are jerks.

  36. I agree with quasibill’s post of 8:43.

    The inclusion of “secular values” as something to be universally promoted tilts the thrust of this from freedom for all to “our way” instead of yours. Better ban those head scarfs to protect those secular values!

    If they had said liberal values or values of freedom, I woulda been there.

    joe,

    I guess the question of whether the threat of Islmacism is overblown depends on whether what they are doing in Iraq could possibly be duplicated outside their home turf. Obviously they lack the military arsenal of Nazi Germany or the USSR. But just as obviously, they have other means at their disposal, and not having borders or a concrete command means they’re immune to the kind of defeats incurred by the other two. But is there a genuine threat they will overcome the West and liberalism? Personally, I doubt it, but I don’t know if it’s beyond the scope of reasonability. Check back in a thousand years!

    As for “moral relativism,” I personally think that term gets used in very different ways at different times, perhaps reflecting what the term is all about! Well, every linguistic tool is open to change and re-interpretation. Whatever the “true” meaning of the word, the authors seem to be rejecting the idea that authoritarian regimes are “okay” for the Muslim world because they’re different. Not sure if anyone really says that or not. What I’d say myself is that I believe democracy would most likely be better for them, but that’s not an absolute, and anyway it’s not something that can be forced on them, nor is the lack of democracy in any nation somehow necessarily the fault of Western democracies just because said democracies cooperate with and work with those authoritarian regimes. It’s an imperfect world, and if that means that Muslim nations have authoritarian regimes for another thousand years or however long it takes them (perhaps with our noncoercive assistance, perhaps not) to come up with something better, that’s just the way it’ll have to be.

  37. “Maybe some day the greatest threat facing civilization will be Emmanuel Goldstein.”

    I hear that he and Bin Laden are holed up in a suite on the French Riviera.

  38. I think Islamic Fascism is a huge threat. But Islamism? Give me a break. These guys are jerks.

    Could it be that what you’re calling Islamic Fascism is what they mean by Islamism? After all, they didn’t say Islam.

    But then, perhaps they should have taken Socrates’s advice and defined their terms!

  39. Red-faced post to correct my name.

  40. I’m confused – since when do people get to “choose” the culture they’re born into? Some of you are implying that it’s A-OK to live in a culture that denies freedoms which we consider to be inalienable, because that’s the culture they “choose”. The bit in the manifesto about “cultural relativism” sounds spot-on to me.

  41. If they meant Islamic Fascism they should have said so. Islamism is a close enough cousin to Judaism for me to think they are referring to all Islam. I’m also inclined to think that the baddies they have a problem with will see it my way, and so will the good Muslims.

    I still think they are jerks. Lumping all of Islam into this group of Fascists is incitement in my opinion. I hate to sound touchy-feely, but what we really need now is for people of different religions and ethnicity etc. to try to find common ground if possible, and to be careful not to radicalize those who are currently peaceful.

  42. Well, fyodor, it was a red-faced name.

    Rhyuwn, “Some of you are implying that it’s A-OK to live in a culture that denies freedoms which we consider to be inalienable, because that’s the culture they “choose”.”

    Where?

  43. happyjuggler,

    “Islamism” is commonly used to refer to a theocratic political philosophy that identifies with Islam. It doesn’t encompass the religion, any more than theocratic political philosophies like “Christian Identity” or the political ideas of Pople Urban (who launched the Crusades) encompass Christianity.

    It’s not equivalent to Judaism, which is a religion, not a political philosophy.

  44. “The issue isn’t whether civilians died at the hands of American bombing missions. The issue is whether the use of force was proportional.”

    No. That’s not the issue. The issue raised was whether Islamists see attacking civilians as a legitimate act of war, as the civilians are responsible for the acts of their government.

    I don’t accept the argument in any state based government, but it’s clear most Americans, and many terrorists, do.

    “And, to put it another way in the case of Japan, whether the bombings were going to avoid a projected 1 million American casualties.”

    That argument has been so thoroughly discredited (by the military officials in charge at the time!) that now I understand that you are nothing more than a talking point regurgitator. And, as I pointed out above, it is irrelevant to the point:

    Is it morally acceptable to target civilians in order to effect a change in policy by their government. If anything, the case is stronger for the tactic when fighting a democracy than it is for fighting a dictatorship. I say it’s wrong no matter what. And our top brass in 1945 agreed that it was wrong with respect to Japan.

    Surely, the Islamists see terrorism as the most efficient way to kill us while saving their lives – they know they will die in mass numbers in a conventional conflict. So they choose to avoid that cost by targeting civilians, exactly like we did.

  45. happyjuggler,

    You may be right that they’re jerks, but I think you’re putting too much concrete substance on the terms in question. As I just mentioned in a different context, all words and terms are open to interpretation, and some more than others. I hardly think that “Islamic Fascism” and “Islamism”, neither of which have been around very long, have universal enough meanings that one is justified in saying that if they meant the former they should have used it. Personally, I think that term has a cartoonish connotation that might make its use in a serious manifesto look like a reflection of wingnuttism. Anyway, you seem to be conflating their use of Islamism with all of Islam, yet I think your own dismissal is more clearly useful for that. I.e., if they had meant Islam, they could have said it.

    Anyway, I have already said they may have been well served to define the term, and now I’m saying it again. I just don’t think you should jump to the conclusion you have. Maybe it’s just that you think they’re jerks anyway and thus inclined to interpret what they say in the worse way possible?

  46. joe,

    But back to the intolerance of Islam, I’m not saying intolerance is, by and by, bad. It’s a personal & cultural choice and there are plenty of examples of intolerance by well-meaning folks of many persuasions…
    – madpad, 9:31 AM

    If that’s what the men and women of Muslim culture choose for themselves, that’s their business.
    – Grover Cleveland, 10:33 AM

    happyjuggler0,

    I don’t think they mean to confuse Islamism with Islam. But you’re right. The bad guys won’t see it that way at all.

  47. With this manifesto and 75 cents, we could get a cup of coffee!

  48. The bad guys won’t see it that way at all.

    Their inclusion of “secular values” in what they’re promoting makes that much easier.

    quasibill,

    You make a good point about how terrorist tactics can be seen by those who use them as the most efficient means to their ends. I think the morality issue of this boils down to the more “gratuitous” (ie, avoidable or not necessary to the goals of the conflict) a killing is, the more morally abhorrent it is. But, as my scare quotes are meant to indicate, this is inevitably a matter of perspective. I’m proud that our own military makes some effort to minimize casualties on the way to its goal, just as I think the invasion of Iraq was wrongheaded to begin with. And I think the goals of Islamists (or whatever you want to call them) don’t justify any killing at all. But I don’t believe in the arbitrary line between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” forms of warfare.

  49. mobile,

    I guess you don’t believe the word is mightier than sword, eh? 🙂

  50. happyjuggler,
    Are you aware that at least one of the signatories, Irshad Manji, is a practicing Muslim?

  51. “I’m confused – since when do people get to ‘choose’ the culture they’re born into?”

    People don’t choose where they are born, but they do typically choose where they live. The Islamic world is not the Soviet Bloc — people are by and large free to emigrate from Islamic countries if they don’t like how Islamic law is being applied (and many have). Ergo, it is logical to infer (and polling data supports this, IIRC), that pluralities, if not outright majorities, of the populations in those countries support some degree of Islamic law being applied. That isn’t to say everyone wants the Taliban running their country, but many “anti-Western” attitudes, particularly with regard to women’s rights, free speech, alcohol, and homosexuality, probably pull considerable majorities.

  52. “With this manifesto and 75 cents, we could get a cup of coffee!”

    With that comment and 75 cents, we can get our lunch money stole. I’ll take the coffee!

  53. it is logical to infer (and polling data supports this, IIRC), that pluralities, if not outright majorities, of the populations in those countries support some degree of Islamic law being applied.

    True enough, but so what? That a majority supports the denial of fundamental human rights to women, for example, does not make it ok because that is what they “chose.” So Rhywun’s basic point stands, the individual being mistreated didn’t choose to live in that culture and shouldn’t have to leave home and family anymore than the African-American who had to ride at the back of the bus in a state where a majority supported Jim Crow laws “chose” to live in that culture because he didn’t move to Oregon.

    We may not be able to fix these problems from the outside, but the “cultural relativism” point is valid to the extent that one shouldn’t accept under the guise of “culture” a treatment of another human that you would find morally offensive if applied to your mother, sister, or daughter.

  54. people are by and large free to emigrate from Islamic countries if they don’t like how Islamic law is being applied

    You mean *men* are allowed to emigrate, and women are allowed to come with them if given permission.

  55. Good point, Rhywun. I used to think that a culture or country that was largely free for white-landowning-religious-males (or whatnot), but that denied that freedom to women or minorities, was basically a free society, that had some business to clean up.

    But I’ve come to realize that that isn’t true. In the “freer” Gulf states, or in the liberty-loving, individualistic antebellum South, the freedom of the dominant male caste is predicated on there being an oppressed caste. Rather than being free societies with some problems, they are unfree socieities with a priviliged elite.

  56. Rather than being free societies with some problems, they are unfree socieities with a priviliged elite.

    Well said.

  57. I’m certainly not denying that the condition of freedom in most Islamic states is abysmal — particularly for women.

    Nonetheless, that does not imply a responsibility on the part of westerners to change the reality. While such a change is certainly desirable, history suggests that it can only occur at the hands of brave, freedom-loving inside the existing culture (perhaps even a tiny minority). If the West imposes it, we’re asking for more backlash and inadvertently strengthening the political hand of the very fundamentalists we oppose.

    What the Middle East needs is a homegrown Locke, Jefferson, etc. — not the heavy hand Woodrow Wilson, George Bush, or your pick of other bargain-bin hacks.

  58. If the West imposes it, we’re asking for more backlash and inadvertently strengthening the political hand of the very fundamentalists we oppose.

    Agreed – if by “impose” you mean, say, bombing their cities. But I see nothing wrong with Westerners criticizing their culture. They’re perfectly free to criticize ours, too.

  59. “We may not be able to fix these problems from the outside, but the “cultural relativism” point is valid to the extent that one shouldn’t accept under the guise of “culture” a treatment of another human that you would find morally offensive if applied to your mother, sister, or daughter.”

    “What the Middle East needs is a homegrown Locke, Jefferson, etc. — not the heavy hand Woodrow Wilson, George Bush, or your pick of other bargain-bin hacks.”

    Two statements well worth repeating. And I’ll add, what the U.S. needs now are more homegrown Jeffersons and Lockes…

  60. Rhywun,
    But I see nothing wrong with Westerners criticizing their culture. They’re perfectly free to criticize ours, too.
    Agreed but there is a world of difference between saying “Islam is backwards” and forcing them to conform to the ‘Western Point of View’ by force or by law. The best one can hope for is for them to see freedom as a desireable end. Leadership by Example and all that jazz. Of course, that would mean that we, as western nations, should embrace that freedom instead of reject it as we are now doing.

    quasibill,
    And I’ll add, what the U.S. needs now are more homegrown Jeffersons and Lockes…
    I hear that!!!

  61. With this manifesto and 75 cents, we could get a cup of coffee!

    Not at Starbucks.

    Almost the entire Islamic world is undergoing some kind of tumult at present, and from my perspective very little of it seems related to Israel or the Iraq invasion. What’s going on, well I don’t pretend to know. Theories abound. Everything from impending demographic collapse (their birthrate, though still higher than ours, is dropping much faster and without our economic means to overcome it), to finally getting over the shock of the dramatic collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the Great War. I don’t think we’ll really be able to understand this historical moment in the Muslim world for quite awhile.

    I think we are going to be fighting Islamic fascism for sometime to come, unfortunately.

  62. After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

    It like the old Buffalo Springfield song goes (commentary mine):

    Paranoia strikes deep,
    [“The terrorists are a ‘comin’!”]

    Into your life it will creep.
    [Thanks to Rush, Sean, O’Reilly, and Fox News.]

    Starts when you’re always afraid,
    […Of foreigners, Muslims, liberals, the gay agenda and everyone who the politicians, the clergy, and the talking heads tell us to be afraid of.]

    Step out of line, [e.g. Question our glorious holy war of vengeance against Islamo-fascism!] the Man come [from the Department of Homeland Security] and take you away. [Without a warrant, probable cause, or even charges.]

    …everybody look what’s goin’ down.

  63. “We reject “cultural relativism,” which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia”, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.”

    In regards to not apologizing for oppression out of respect for other cultures, I appreciate the sentiment. We’re not talking about Inuit geriatricide, however. We’re talking within the context of an American President who’s made reforming other peoples’ cultures a matter of foreign policy. It’s hard to read this outside of that context.

    By the way, I’ve heard things similar to the tail end of this bit coming from fundamentalist Christians. …it usually goes something like, “God doesn’t hate homosexuals–he hates homosexuality.” Gay people everywhere, of course, have a hard time telling the difference. So it’s criticize the Islam but not the Muslims? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

    Could it be that what you’re calling Islamic Fascism is what they mean by Islamism? After all, they didn’t say Islam.

    I thought it interesting that they didn’t say “Communism”.

  64. Islamism? Is that anything like Christianism?

  65. As usual, I’m late to the party (this isn’t an insult, but I don’t know where most of you get the time to post like you do), so if this thread is still alive in any fashion:

    To quasibill,

    That argument has been so thoroughly discredited (by the military officials in charge at the time!) that now I understand that you are nothing more than a talking point regurgitator.

    First of all, grow up. Second of all, “that’s been so thoroughly discredited,” while a heavily used tactic around here (even by Reason editors), isn’t a legitimate argument. Third of all, I’d like to see your sources on that so I can follow up. I get a lot of my history from that crazy right-winger Stephen Ambrose, after all.

  66. “First of all, grow up”

    Perhaps if you want to have an adult discussion, you should start it in more civilized manner. When one opens with an ad hominem and then later cries “immaturity,” well, you might need to look in a mirror.

    “Third of all, I’d like to see your sources on that so I can follow up”

    Well, here’s where you can find some online, and there are plenty more offline:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/rogers/rogers178.html

    Even if you don’t like the people who write it, the quotes from top brass are all out there, verifiable independently, as is the prospective casualty estimate (as opposed to the one conjured up several years later to assuage collective guilt). Furthermore, a little research of the late 40s will show you that conservatives of the time (even a young Bill Buckley, if you search hard enough) denounced the bombings as unnecessary and immoral. It is only with the passage of time and rationalization that the mischaracterizations can be so widely accepted.

    I’ll take Ike over Truman or Ambrose, anyday.

  67. Okay.

    When I said that the view that the atomic bombings of Japan were vindictive rather than strategic was historical revisionism, I meant it. “Revisionist” in that it runs counter to the “tradionalist” view of the events. This is not a personal attack — unless you somehow feel your view is the definitive view on the bombings. Believe it or not, there are people in this world who are not “Freepers” (I thought at first it was some kind of sci-fi term) or Limbaugh fans who disagree with the revisionist interpretation.

    I don’t have time now but I’ll post again this afternoon or evening.

  68. To make “Muslim” the sole, invariable, and permanent, identifier for people who are of the Islamic faith, serves only the ill purposes of several groups of people:

    The Imams, who would dictate to ALL Muslims the behviors and reactions they would prefer.

    Racists (or the religious equivalent) who would use the broad brush of ‘terrorist’ or ‘oppressor of women’ to tar all Muslims.

    Our very own sleazy, weak-minded Western governments and politicians, whose pandering for votes is much facilitated by lumping people into single-interest groups.

    This is, I would argue, a Very Bad Thing. The results of this approach are invariably negative, as we have seen with similar attempts at simplistic identification of the interests of blacks, gays, women, etc.

    Amartya Sen recently argued the same, with reference to Muslims in Britain:

    “Multiculturalism with an emphasis on freedom and reasoning has to be distinguished from plural monoculturalism with single-focus priorities and a rigid cementing of divisions.”

    Defining human individuals by a single characteristic is a conceptual error that extends far beyond the cases that are easily seen (race forinstance). My brother is a gay conservative who says the pressure from the ‘gay community’ to hold identical simple-minded ideas is no different from what one would find in a conservative Baptist church. (“If you are Baptist, you must believe x, y, and z.”=”If you are gay, you must believe c, d, and e.”) Sadly, and surprisingly, I have even seen demands that people adhere to some Libertarian orthodoxy, which demands seems almost oxymoronic. Moronic, anyway.

    To argue, as the authors of the ‘manifesto’ do, that intellectual freedom and diversity within externally-defined groups, is always a good thing, is NOT an attempt to impose ‘Western Values’ on others, but to present a philosophical (not a political or cultural) ideal, the implementation of which would be inarguably beneficial to the human race.

    Of course, the evolutionary psychologists might wonder if we are highly evolved enough to move beyond the ‘us vs. them’ imperatives of our caveman heritage.

  69. I’ve stolen a couple of minutes to read the Rogers piece. I was prepared to write a long, point-by-point refutation, but while doing so I thought, Jeez, is this the best he can offer?

    Most of it is about the ordinary citizens not believing in the emperor’s godhood, a point I don’t dispute because, as he says, the Meiji Restoration had been relatively recent. But the rest of it is a series of logical leaps and non sequitors. I particularly liked his spin on the Flying Tigers: that sending personnel to help the Chinese resist invasion was out-of-the-blue aggression on the part of the US (I don’t know what he’s talking about saying the Treaty of Portsmouth gave Manchuria to Japan).

    But anyway, Rogers derives his argument from one of two main sources: the modern Japanese themselves and quotes made by US military leaders at the time.

    First, I would caution that the average Japanese citizen makes for a lousy source of data on WWII (the war is barely mentioned in Japanese schools). Secondly, Axis war vets are hardly impartial regarding their service; I have an ex-pat friend in Germany who tells some real gems about talking to old men who fought while teenagers. But all of this is beside the point. The point is: In 1945, what was the imperial elite prepared to do to achieve a conditional surrender?

    This leads us to the more serious proof Rogers offers: the quotes by US military personnel made at the time (the fact that *some* Japanese military brass wanted to surrender is also a point I don’t dispute). Pretty damning, eh? Except all of the Americans he quotes were out of the loop. Historian Richard Frank summarizes his book Downfall, based on newly declassified intelligence, here (just as I held my nose and went to lewrockwell, so too must you plunge into the den of the neo-cons). It’s a little more, ahem, scholarly than the Mr. Rogers piece, and I’d be interested to know your thoughts on it.

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