March 06, 2006

Captive Nations of Today

Amusing as Verity's post is below, I think's important to distinguish between Islam in general, radical Islamism, and even within Islam, the more extreme fundamentalist varieties such as Saudi Salafism from the interpretations to which the great majority of Muslims pertain. "Islam", as a civilization and a phenomenon, is hardly about to collapse, as did the Soviet Union. Soviet "civilization", as they used to pretentiously call it, was always a fraud, a thin veneer of idological nonsense laid over Russian civilization, which for all its problems is also one of the distinct civilizations of this planet. Once the fraud collapsed, Russian civilization re-emerged and is now trying to undo the damages done to it. Radical Islamism is another fraud, a mishmash of continental European fascism, scraps of anti-American ideologies picked up from the garbage heap of marxist and fascist propagandists, and an Islamism that is more flavoring and protective coloring than anything like a valid religion. It inspires young people to die for it; well, so did the mishmash of Odin-worship, absurd racial theorizing, and anti-Semitic resentment inspire some unfortunate German teenagers to go out and immolate themselves in the process of assaulting American tanks in 1945.

Radical Islamism probably won't collapse in the Soviet fashion either, because it does not hold state power any longer (since they lost Afghanistan) and is unlikely to sieze it for long anywhere else. It will be around for some substantial amount of time, until the great bulk of its potential converts decide that it is loser stuff -- and that will take a while.

In the meantime, Islam as a civilization will be sharing the planet with the rest of us. It is not going to turn into a clone of our civilization. It does need to make some sort of transition, as it has substantial internal problems, most especially in the Arabic-speaking lands. We can't make these transitions happen by ourselves, as external actors. All we can do is help and encourage the genuine Arab patriots, Muslims and Christians alike, who are undertaking the dangerous task of reforming their societies from within. We need to continue to strike hard at the radical Islamists, and to particularly reject their apologists and enablers in our own countries who spread their toxic myths. Meanwhile, Islam will be around, and we cannot write of a whole civilization as our enemies, particularly because of the actions and words of a highly unrepresentative fraction of it.

During the Cold War, we observed Captive Nations Day, expressing solidarity with Hungarians, Poles, and other victims of the Soviet pseudo-"civilization". Perhaps we should revive it as an opportunity to show solidarity with the ordinary people held captive by corrupt kleptocrats and failed ideologues. The Islamic world has many such.

Posted by James C. Bennett at March 6, 2006 11:38 AM

The idea of a Captive People's Day (particularly women) is a very good one. For the moment, it seems to me, the one thing we can all do is to promote the writers, journalists and, above all, bloggers, who are trying to fight against Islamism, often in the name of Islam itself. After all, many of us helped the dissidents of the old Soviet empire and still help or try to help those in the remaining Communist countries.

Posted by: Helen at March 6, 2006 12:14 PM

Interesting idea but what about the Christians/non-Moslems as captive nations within Moslem dominated socities? I'm deeply skpetical of Islam's ability to reform itself because dimmitude is simply too entrenched. Thus to get rid of it would destroy Moslem civilization and there's nothing to replace it. Moslem civil society doesn't exist and can't


Posted by: xavier at March 6, 2006 08:15 PM

I think I must be confusing things here. Dhimmitude, as I have always understood it, was the legal status of the non-Muslim protected religions in the Khalifate. There were various taxes they had to pay and they were not equal in what they were allowed to do. But they were protected. Mostly. I don't think that exists any more in the Islamic countries but I am not sure. What I can't understand why that is seen as the basic principle of Islamic society and why that means it cannot reform. Am I missing something?

Posted by: Helen at March 7, 2006 03:16 AM

I think the term "protected" was a euphemism and until recently was generally understood as such. Perhaps "dhimmi" is a better term, and I am not unhappy to see it creep into colloquial English.

Posted by: Jonathan at March 7, 2006 10:59 AM

You know, Jonathan, if I were a Jew any time up to the end of the eighteenth century, at least, I would have preferred to be a dhimmi in the Ottoman empire than live in almost any of the European countries. And even in Britain and the Netherlands where there was no persecution, there were no equal rights either. I still don't see why dhimmitude or dhimmi should actively prevent Islam from changing or reforming. There have been changes in Islam before.

Posted by: Helen at March 7, 2006 12:58 PM

Helen, I broadly agree with you. My point was a narrow linquistic one: that words like "protected" and "dhimmi" were once used mainly by people who had some special interest in the Arab world. Post 9/11 these words have come to be used by people who don't always understand their original meaning. In this regard "dhimmi" is more clear than "protected," which meant not "protected from persecution" but rather something like "tolerated so long as they confined themselves to a limited range of activities and were not politically assertive."

Posted by: Jonathan at March 7, 2006 03:47 PM


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