Thursday, July 20, 2006

Islamist Advance

William F. Buckley Jr.’s July 14th column ends with some pessimistic observations on the US position in the world vis a vis the Muslim advance:

The faith of Islam is in fighting trim. In millions, the Islamists are traveling and settling abroad. From these reserves we get occasional irruptions of high-tech loathing, in lower Manhattan and Washington, D.C., in Spanish trains, in British subways. The elderly voices of Islam that stressed toleration and cohabitation are so quiet they might as well be silent.

It is true that “millions” of Muslims are “traveling and settling abroad”. But, is this an indication of Islam being in “fighting trim”?

The vast majority are not Islamic militants. They did not leave their homeland to evangelize or overthrow their host societies. They are people who looked for a better life, economically and socially, for their families. Like millions of immigrants before them, they left because their home societies were poor, weak, intolerant, and they viewed the U.S., Europe, Canada as stronger and better places to live.

One might as well say that millions of Islamic immigrants show the power of Islam as much as millions of Mexican would-be immigrants show the power of Mexico. The power is where people are running to not where they are fleeing from. Islam has engendered societal and economic breakdown in the Middle East and North Africa. That’s why there are millions of immigrants.

With all the Islamic rage in France one does not see Muslims pounding on their home consulates wanting to return to their homelands. One does not see a mass exodus from any of the lands where the terrorists have struck or planned to strike–Spain, Britain, Canada, the US. Whatever the strength of Islam the religion, Islamic society has been a bust despite vast oil riches.

But aren’t Muslim militants growing in power?

Columnist Pat Buchanan gives us a prickly rundown. "Islamists are taking over in Somalia. They are in power in Sudan. The Muslim Brotherhood won 60 percent of the races it contested in Egypt. Hezbollah swept the board in southern Lebanon. Hamas seized power from Fatah in the West Bank and Gaza. The Shia parties who hearken to Ayatollah Sistani brushed aside our favorites, Chalabi and Iyad Allawi, in the Iraqi elections. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the most admired Iranian leader since Khomeini. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is staging a comeback."

Inside already Muslim or previously strong Muslim areas, yes Islamic militant power is on the upswing. But, what new major strongholds have they taken?

Where they have immigrated are they growing more by evangelization or by birth rate? In some cases, that question is academic. In Europe, for instance. Secular Europe is dying. It does not have the vitality either physically in terms of birth rate or intellectually in terms of inspiring new adherents of even renewing itself, let alone expanding. So, the expansion of any group within Europe is a threat to Europe.

That’s not yet the case in the Americas. In the US our real concern is not the explosion of Muslim immigrants and their population growth, but the explosion of Catholic would-be immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries and their population growth. One might say that Catholicism is in fighting trim.

This is not to say that militant Islam is not a problem. It has been a problem since the 7th century. It was a threat to the West and Christianity up until the early 18th century. The threat then was military in the form of conquering armies who gave an ultimatum: convert or die. Since most people preferred to live, Islam gained lots of adherents in the conquered territories.

For the last few centuries, Islamic societies have been militarily weak and not much of a threat. Its societies could not keep up with the economic advance of societies in the West and in Asia. The Islamic bloc is still not much of a threat militarily–except via terrorism and the possibility of sporadic use of weapons of mass destruction.

Two fundamental questions remain as to whether Islam does advance:

1. We have never seen a Muslim society succeed as a civil rights-oriented democracy. Can a free society remain stridently Muslim?

2. Will Muslim immigrants melt into U.S. culture like previous immigrants have and maintain a continuing religious commitment, but one that becomes more formal and secular as generations increase?

Militant Islamists will continue to be a problem as the Mafia or drug traffickers are problems. They are small groups that cause big problems. But, Islam being in “fighting trim” depends on the millions of immigrants and whether they will stick with the values that made them immigrate to a better life or try to recreate the life they fled from.

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