Straight Talk

We note that President Obama is planning an address to the Muslim world, to be given from Cairo on the fourth of June. I wonder what he will say. Probably it will be the usual bromides about respect, with reassurances that we still regard the the virulent form the religion has taken in a great many minds, and the global epidemic of jihadism it has led to, as some sort of glitch: a minor, if vexatious bug in the otherwise universally benevolent Muslim software.

Here’s what he won’t be saying, most likely:

Dear Muslims of the world,

We in the West have built our civilization on a philosophy of tolerance and inclusiveness. Freedom of religious belief is one of the core principles upon which the United States was founded. But it is difficult for a community based on tolerance to thrive, or even to survive, if it is expected to welcome into its bosom those who are themselves radically intolerant. It has become increasingly evident that there is in Islam a persistent tendency toward radical fundamentalism, and toward grotesquely violent expressions of intolerance. As reluctant as I am to have to say this — because we in America are a friendly people, and always like to give the benefit of the doubt — it is increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that this may be due in large part to the nature of Islam itself.

There appears to be a self-renewing core of fundamentalism at the heart of your religion; it is, after all, an explicit, and central, axiom of Islam that the Koran is a literal transcription of God’s word, as given directly to Mohammed, in Arabic, by the divine messenger Jibreel. Although there is a long history of interpretation of the Book — one early mystic is said to have had understood 7,000 meanings for each verse of the Koran — exoteric literalism clearly exerts a steady pull, and appears to be an inexhaustible wellspring of zealotry. Furthermore, your Prophet, during his lifetime, was not only the spiritual but also the political leader of his community, and thereby provided a holotype for what God intended the ideal Islamic society, and indeed the ideal Muslim man, to be. The very idea of a separation of church and state — another of our core principles here in the West, and one we certainly intend to preserve — is therefore inherently un-Islamic. “Moderate” Islam, then, is arguably heresy, and it seems that a great many Islamic leaders feel this way.

There is nothing we would like better than to enjoy peaceful and harmonious relations with the billion or so Muslims in the world; we Westerners are very good at getting along with anyone who isn’t trying to kill us, and we like to travel and do business. But it is beginning to seem, after almost fourteen centuries of continual conflict, that there might indeed be a fundamental and irreconcilable incompatibility between Islam and the West. Please understand that, despite what many will say, this is not bigotry, it is not racism, and it is not xenophobia; it is nothing more than a frank assessment of the differences between our views of the world and of man’s (and woman’s) place in it. It pains us terribly to have to say these things, but we must be honest, and we must face facts.

How are we, then, to move forward? First and foremost, we must defend ourselves and our freedoms. We shall, as is our nature, try to do so as humanely as possible — but we must remind you that although slow to anger, the American eagle is, as Winston Churchill once said, a fearsome bird indeed, with formidable beak and claws. We will meet terror and brutality, and mortal threats to our people and allies, with whatever force is warranted. Our resources are abundant, and our will cannot be broken, save perhaps from within.

If you in the Muslim world, then, hope for good relations with the West — and please believe me when I tell you that there is nothing that America, and indeed the entire civilized world, would welcome with greater happiness — then, rather than snarling defensively at the West, you must turn your attention inward, to the very heart of your religious and cultural community, and root out those malevolent and retrograde influences that threaten us all. It will not be easy, and given Islam’s essential nature it may not even be possible. We are eager to help, and to extend a hand to you in peace. But until then, there will be little prospect of comity between us, and we will do whatever we must to defend ourselves, and to preserve our own culture and way of life.

Thank you.

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  1. If Lord of All Creation Obama actually were to make this speech — fat chance — the course of history would change for the better. Not because of Muslims taking it to heart, but because it might well penetrate the cognitive armor of many Americans, even those on the Left.

    Posted May 10, 2009 at 9:01 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Rick, and thanks for visiting.

    Yes, that’s why I wrote it.

    Posted May 10, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink