The West is almost as in love with improving the world, as the Muslim world is with conquering it. These two contradictory impulses, the missionary and the warrior, come together in the Clash of Civilizations.
The Muslim world has two approaches to the West; underhanded deceit and outright terror. The practitioners of the former are considered moderates and the latter extremists. The West has two approaches to the Muslim world, regime change and love bombing. With regime change we bomb their cities to save them from their rulers and with love bombing we shamelessly flatter and appease them in our own cities to save them from themselves.
Westerners worry a great deal over who runs the Muslim world. Muslims do not care very much who runs Western countries. They prefer weak liberal Western leaders to strong ones, but they do not believe that there is truly a moral difference between them. Even a Hussein in the White House has not improved America’s ratings in the Muslim world.
Muslims are religiously and culturally antagonistic to the West. Whether a John McCain or a Barack Hussein Obama is in the White House; America is still a great non-Muslim power. That very fact, in contradiction to the promises of the Koran and its deity, will continue to bring forth a xenophobic response no matter how much America flatters the Muslim world.
Westerners focus their animus on Muslim leaders, on a Saddam, a Gaddafi or an Arafat– not recognizing that the hostility comes not from the leaders, but from the people. We can remove all the leaders of the Muslim world and replace them with muppets, and it won’t noticeably change the underlying bigotry of the Muslim world. And very soon the muppets will also start chanting, “Death to America” because it’s the popular thing to do.
Regime change, whether through armed force or democratic revolutions, won’t save the Muslim world.
The Muslim world is not backward by their standards, it is backward by our standards. It refuses to make the social and political changes that the West did, but that is because it does not like the trade-offs that come with those changes. And that is a choice that each Muslim country and society has to make. Individualism, freedom and tolerance are not acceptable values in the Muslim world. And totalitarianism, theocracy and repression are not acceptable values in ours. The Muslim world has no obligation to accede to our cultural standards, but we accordingly have no obligation to accede to theirs.
There is always a gap between civilizations, but rarely has the gap yawned as starkly as it does now. We are as eager to bring the Muslim world into the light, as they are to drag us into the darkness. And the momentum is on their side. We don’t have the answers that we think we do. Democracy is not the solution. Neither is embracing Muslim culture with open arms. They don’t have the answers either, but they have something better; unrestrained violence that is fueled by the moral desperation of a failed culture struggling against the tidal pull of that failure. Like a drowning man, if we try to save them, then they will pull us down with them.
How does one protect them from the damage that they do to their own character? And how does one save people from their own hate?
We are not so wise and so perfect that we can claim to know how to save 1 billion people from themselves. Right now we are having a good deal of trouble saving us from ourselves and we cannot be expected to shoulder the burden of reforming the Muslim world as well. Whatever spiritual or cultural redemption waits for them, can only come from themselves and through themselves. It will not come through a change of government or lavish praise. Only through a growing moral awareness. There is no telling when or if such an awareness will come. There are animal rights campaigns in China and anti-rape campaigns in Africa– but no progress on human rights in the Muslim world. It is likely that China will be vegetarian before non-Muslims are treated as equals in the Muslim world.
It has been made manifestly clear that Muslim violence against us, both individual and collective, will not cease any time soon, and that such violence is informed by the scriptures of their faith. While some Muslim countries claim to harbor no violent intentions toward us– such claims often prove false under the pressure of domestic unrest and growing religiosity.
If the Muslim world has raised up a wall of sand against freedom, tolerance and the recognition of our common humanity– then it is best for their sake and ours that they remain on their side of that wall of sand.
If they refuse to coexist with us, either locally or globally, then that is their choice. They may have their paradise of hefty-bagged women, towering mosques and cowering infidels– so long as their bigotry and oppression remains on their side of the wall of sand. When they breach that wall, then they have to live by our laws, not theirs. If there is no room for our laws in their lands, then there is no room for their laws in ours.
Thinkers and politicians talk on of how to save 1 billion Muslims from themselves. Remove their tyrannies, some cry. But what will they replace them with? More tyrannies. Governments reflect their peoples. If 1 billion Muslims really wanted to be free, they would be. The tyrants are expressions of their condition, not repressions of their moral will. The Muslim world does not differ on whether there should be tyranny, but on what manner of tyranny it should be. The Arab Spring has proven that.
The most fundamental error of the West toward the Muslim world is that of condescension. Western governments may see Muslims as minorities, but they see themselves as majorities. And throughout the world they are majorities. Muslims in the West do not see themselves as minorities, but as natural majorities who have the right to impose their will and their way of life on a minority that functions as a majority only because it has not yet been overrun and conquered. Unlike refugees who come from cultures where they are minorities, Muslims come expecting to have things done their way. And when the West accedes, that only affirms the Muslim sense of privilege.
The West condescends to Muslims, and Muslims condescend to the West. Both reassure the other that everything is fine. But while the West’s condescension is based on wishful thinking, that of the Muslim world is based on progressive conquest. If diplomacy is the art of saying, ‘Nice Doggie’ while looking for a stick, then the West isn’t looking for the stick, and the Muslim is.
The West’s missionary impulse toward the Muslim world is not only misplaced, it is positively dangerous. How can the West convince the Muslim world to believe as it does, when it no longer knows what it believes?
The Muslim world lacks such weaknesses. It cannot be crippled by moral quandaries, ideological contradictions, philosophical crises or doubts about the future. Its members do not recognize contradiction, rather they embrace them, until those contradictions explode in violence.
Western codes are black and white, Muslim codes combine all shades into one. When the Muslim world is confused or in doubt, it resolves these feelings with violence. The West does not resolve them at all. While the West broods, the Muslim world slits throats. The problems of the Clash of Civilization cannot be postponed much longer. They are our problem. We cannot save 1 billion people from themselves, but we can save ourselves from them.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.