Islamism is the great evil of our age, and the great question of our age is whether this foulness is the natural child of Islam itself or a cancer on its body. This is not a question that can be decided by comparing the number of “good” Muslims to the number of “bad” ones. A religion is a form of philosophy, and a philosophy shapes not just individuals but whole cultures and nations into its own image over time. Any individual may do right or wrong in the name of any given idea. You have to see a much bigger picture before you can judge the moral quality of the idea itself.
The West, over the centuries, has become increasingly tolerant and diversified. This did not happen in spite of our dominant religion but because of it. If you look at a map of the nations that accept the concept of gay rights, for example, you will find that they are almost without exception nations formed by Christianity. Indeed, when one Westerner argues for gay rights and another argues against them, they are both arguing on Christian principles—the Judge-Not versus the Shall-Not. Though it infuriates both sides to hear it, it is nonetheless true: this is an internecine quarrel, a family feud. Our very ability to disagree on such basic issues without murdering one another is what makes all of us, believers or not, helplessly Christian in the end.
When I look at the nations of Islam, I do not see the same sort of development toward tolerance and multiplicity. Almost everywhere Islam is dominant, there is oppression, ignorance, and violence at levels the West does not experience. Almost every act of terrorism worldwide is associated with Islam—so much so that those wishing to defend the creed have to seize on the occasional outlying act of non-Islamic terrorism, or descend into childish moral equivalencies or try to spin the issue as one of “guns” or “hate” or “religion” in order to distract us from the painfully obvious.
The fact is, when an Islamic man invades an Orlando gay bar and starts slaughtering the innocent on Koranic principles, it is not just right but necessary for us to ask: is he distorting the teaching of the Koran or living out its logic? Much depends on getting the answer right, possibly even our survival.
The best way to find the answer is, of course, to have well-informed people debate the question publicly without censorship and with at least a modicum of civility and goodwill. We seem to have decided against this. Instead, with the aid of our media and Internet, we greet each new act of Islamic murder with a show of lies and anger. The Left is in charge of the lies. They tell us, in Hillary Clinton’s absurd words, that “Muslims . . . have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” The Right takes care of the anger, spewing useless rhetoric about carpet-bombing Arabia until the sand glows in the dark.
A battle between lies and anger can never be resolved. Each feeds the other. The lies produce more frustrated anger; the anger seems to justify the pacifying lies. The best one can hope for is the brute victory of one form of stupidity over the other. That seems to be the idea behind the current ridiculous presidential election, in which the dishonest Left is about to nominate the avatar of its dishonesty, and the angry Right is about to nominate the avatar of its rage.
The Devil, says C.S. Lewis, “always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites . . . He relies on your extra dislike of one to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors.”
The path between lies and anger is the fearless search for truth, that truth which not only sets us free but which, in this case, may be the only thing that can save us. If we are in a fight with the angry fragment of a moderate creed, let our warriors and lawmen hunt them down and kill them and be done with it. If we are in a clash of civilizations, we may all of us need to oppose the enemy without fear at every level of our national life.
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