2002 November 24 Sunday
What Osama Bin Laden Doesn't Like About America

Osama bin Laden is really upset with the United States of America for a long list of reasons. Here's an excerpt where he condemns us for using credit, alcohol, recreational drugs, revealing pictures of women in advertising, and assorted other practices he finds objectionable

(b) It is saddening to tell you that you are the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind:

(i) You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator. You flee from the embarrassing question posed to you: How is it possible for Allah the Almighty to create His creation, grant them power over all the creatures and land, grant them all the amenities of life, and then deny them that which they are most in need of: knowledge of the laws which govern their lives?

(ii) You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions. Yet you build your economy and investments on Usury. As a result of this, in all its different forms and guises, the Jews have taken control of your economy, through which they have then taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense; precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned you against.

(iii) You are a nation that permits the production, trading and usage of intoxicants. You also permit drugs, and only forbid the trade of them, even though your nation is the largest consumer of them.

(iv) You are a nation that permits acts of immorality, and you consider them to be pillars of personal freedom. You have continued to sink down this abyss from level to level until incest has spread amongst you, in the face of which neither your sense of honour nor your laws object.

Who can forget your President Clinton's immoral acts committed in the official Oval office? After that you did not even bring him to account, other than that he 'made a mistake', after which everything passed with no punishment. Is there a worse kind of event for which your name will go down in history and remembered by nations?

(v) You are a nation that permits gambling in its all forms. The companies practice this as well, resulting in the investments becoming active and the criminals becoming rich.

(vi) You are a nation that exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools calling upon customers to purchase them. You use women to serve passengers, visitors, and strangers to increase your profit margins. You then rant that you support the liberation of women.

(vii) You are a nation that practices the trade of sex in all its forms, directly and indirectly. Giant corporations and establishments are established on this, under the name of art, entertainment, tourism and freedom, and other deceptive names you attribute to it.

I think its good that he's put together such a long list of his objections to the US. This helps to clarify (at least to those who have yet to understand this) the full depth and breadth of the radical Islamist objection to Western Civilization.

This is an audacious document. Bin Laden complains about the US on human rights issues and yet he helped prop up the utterly backward and vicious Taliban regime. This inconsistency is a key to understanding Bin Laden. He doesn't care whether people are arrested and held without trial if the government that does so is Islamic. It doesn't matter to him whether people are killed by their government as long as the government doing the killing is, again, Islamic. Some of his objections stem from who is doing the behavior that he finds objectionable rather than on what is being done. He's a partisan and any action taken by his opponents against his movement is objectionable because the action is against his movement.

Objectivist philosopher David Kelley argues that the Islamists are objecting more to modernity and civilization in general than to Western Civilization specifically:

In all its forms, even on the avant-garde Left, anti-modernism aims to restore pre-Enlightenment values and ways of life. And in all its forms, even on the conservative Right, it is a reaction against the Enlightenment and is thus essentially new. Fundamentalism, for example, is not simply a revival of traditional Christianity, which was much more intellectually sophisticated. Fundamentalism was created in the early twentieth century by Protestants who opposed Darwin.

Islamist movements are of similarly recent origin. They were created not by illiterate Egyptian peasants or nomads in the Arabian desert but by educated people, most of whom were middle- or upper-class. Many of the intellectuals, like Qutb, had lived and studied in the West. Especially after World War II, they were deeply influenced by Western anti-modernists like Martin Heidegger. They read the works of historians like Oswald Spengler who predicted the decline of the West. They read The Wretched of the Earth, by the French Marxist and existentialist Franz Fanon, who urged Third World activists to use revolutionary violence.

Conversely, the postmodern Left has frequently embraced the Islamists. Michel Foucault, the French thinker who attacked Western rationalism as a mask for power, welcomed Khomeini's Islamic revolution in Iran as a triumph of spirituality over capitalist materialism.

I think there is an element of truth in this argument. But even before The Enlightenment Western Civilization already possessed many elements that the Islamists of today would find objectionable. Those elements helped to make The Enlightenment possible in the first place. Also, the Islamists oppose the modernity of the West in part because that modernity makes the West so strong militarily that the West is an obstacle to Islamist ambitions. Simultaneously the West's greater success is a shame and a humiliation to people who believe that following their religion should naturally cause them to be the most successful and most powerful.

David Warren points out that "pre-Enlightenment" Islamic culture does place any value on being fair to those outside of it.

These are, still today, cultures of the "pre-Enlightenment"; people not incapable of sympathy, for their own, but not yet versed in the imaginative projection of that sympathy into people who are not their own. And it is not Islam, but the Enlightenment, that stands between East and West in these matters. For we have largely lost the category of an "infidel", and they still have it.

On this side, the endless effort to understand "where those people are coming from", mostly missing the main point that they "do not think as we do". On that side, no effort at all, and it is taken for granted that we are "infidels" simply, living "beyond the pale", even when there is no desire to harm us. For us, there can be both Israeli and Palestinian victims; for them, only Palestinians feel pain.

This is an important observation. Islam draws a circle around its believers and puts everyone else outside of that circle. There is no attempt to do justice to the people outside of the circle. The only wrongs that are tallied up are the wrongs against Muslims that are done (or imagined to have been done in too many cases) by non-Muslims against Muslims. Even inside of the circle women are placed at a much lower level. We can't reason with people who are governed by this sort of moral calculus. It is foolish to try.

Islamist contempt is a necessary reaction to the West because to find value in the West would require the Islamists to find flaws in their own belief system. There is no room in that belief system for reexamination and amendment. If they hold the West as worthless then it is easier to find justification for the contempt they feel for the non-believers who they already view as outside the circle.

James Q. Wilson, in his essay The Reform Islam Needs, argues the West and Islamic Civilizations made different decisions about the relationship of the individual to religion and society and that each choice brings with it a different set of problems.

Both the West and Islam face major challenges that emerge from their ruling principles. When the West reconciled religion and freedom, it did so by making the individual the focus of society, and the price it has paid has been individualism run rampant, in the form of weak marriages, high rates of crime, and alienated personalities. When Islam kept religion at the expense of freedom, it did so by making the individual subordinate to society, and the price it has paid has been autocratic governments, religious intolerance, and little personal freedom.

I believe that in time Islam will become modern, because without religious freedom, modern government is impossible. I hope that in time the West will reaffirm social contracts, because without them a decent life is impossible. But in the near term, Islam will be on the defensive culturally—which means it will be on the offensive politically. And the West will be on the offensive culturally, which I suspect means it will be on the defensive morally.

Fair enough, each choice creates problems. Western societies certainly have their share of problems and flaws. But its the choice of the believers in Islam that has made Islam incompatible with all the other religions and cultures in the world.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 24 05:24 PM  Civilizations Clash Of


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