Tales from the waiting room: Andrew Sullivan vs. Mark Steyn

Had to go for X-rays of the two broken fingers today, and got to read some back issues of Western Standard. (One of the three brought up Ralph Klein's "long goodbye", referring to his "upcoming" leadership review, to give you an idea of how old they were). I don't subscribe to WS, and always forgot my login I received for free reading online, so I hadn't got a chance to read them. The first (unimportant bit) of the article can be found on, of all things, the CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) website. The full text can only be found by logging into Western Standard's website, but if you do, you can read the column here: "If You Can't Join 'Em, Beat 'Em".

Steyn wrote about his past, to mention that he was at one point the boyfriend of a girl "so hot that, when she curled up on the Persian carpet, I worried it would combust", the sort of thing that only a man in love lust might exort (usually just before climbing onto her and making the rug at the very least a serious source of friction). But he went on to talk about how she was a "moderate Muslim":

She was a residually observant Muslim, in the way that there are many Anglicans who go to church at Christmas and Easter and would still wish their children to be Christened and eventually married in church. Which makes her much more of a "moderate Muslim" than, say, Dr. Wafa Sultan, the Syrian-American psychiatrist from Los Angeles who, at great personal risk, took on some A-list Sunni scholar live on Al Jazeera the other week. Dr. Sultan was on splendid form, booting every one of Professor Jihad's points into touch, scoffing at the rationale behind the many Muslim "grievances," pointing out the backwardness and misery and oppression that attend the advance of Islam. But political debate isn't Wimbledon: it's possible to win every point and still lose the match.
The match in question being lost when she described herself as a "secular human being", and then was told "If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran". Prof. Sultan could only reply that her personal life was her own business.

Steyn's point was that:
Dr. Sultan, Miss Manji, Salman Rushdie and many others are hobbled in the broader struggle because they confirm what many Muslims suspect--that a "moderate" Muslim is by definition an ex-Muslim. To choose western values is to lose your God.
He goes onto note that Americans wearing gloves to protect the "clean" Koran for the benefit of Guatanamo prisoners simply reinforces the belief. He doesn't make a direct point in the article, but I see a connection between his observation with former Muslim seclarists and another article of his on Stephen Harper using "God Bless Canada" in speeches.
I look on religion like gun ownership. Jurisdictions such as Vermont and New Hampshire with a high rate of firearms possession also have a low crime rate. You don't have to own a gun, and there are plenty of sissy arms-are-for-hugging granola-crunchers who don't. But they benefit from the fact that their crazy stump-toothed neighbors do. If you want to burgle a home in northern New England, you'd have to be awfully certain it was the one-in-a-hundred we-are-the-world pantywaist's pad and not some plaid-clad gun nut who'll blow your head off before you lay a hand on his 70-dollar TV. That's the way it is with religion. A hyper-rationalist can dismiss the whole God thing as a lot of applesauce, but his hyper-rationalism is a lot more vulnerable in a society without a strong Judeo-Christian culture.
As I've said before on Third Edge of the Sword, only directly criticizing Islam as the dirty pseudo-religion of Satan's prophet Mohammed going against the word of the one true Lord and his Son Jesus Christ is likely to gain any headway. These people don't want to hear about your faggot-loving nationalized daycares, and the sooner people in the west start framing everything as "the true religion of Jesus Christ" versus "the false religion of Satan's puppet Mohammed" the better the chances that at the very least Muslim might lose a few converts to the greater cause. Until then, we're offering something nobody over there is interested in.

Now contrast with Andrew Sullivan's recent article in Time magazine. His column When Seeing Is Not Believing is "Andrew Sullivan on the rise of fundamentalism and why embracing spiritual doubt is the key to defusing the tension between East and West". So basically this is the precise opposite argument. One realizes quickly that one or the other must be false. (Quick skip ahead to the end, "Catholic" Sullivan is shocked that the Pope is taking on some sort of papal authority).
How, after all, can you engage in a rational dialogue with a man like Ahmadinejad, who believes that Armageddon is near and that it is his duty to accelerate it? How can Israel negotiate with people who are certain their instructions come from heaven and so decree that Israel must not exist in Muslim lands? Equally, of course, how can one negotiate with fundamentalist Jews who claim that the West Bank is theirs forever by biblical mandate? Or with Fundamentalist Christians who believe that Israel's expansion is a biblical necessity rather than a strategic judgment?

There is, however, a way out. And it will come from the only place it can come from--the minds and souls of people of faith. It will come from the much derided moderate Muslims, tolerant Jews and humble Christians. The alternative to the secular-fundamentalist death spiral is something called spiritual humility and sincere religious doubt. Fundamentalism is not the only valid form of faith, and to say it is, is the great lie of our time.
The problem is that Sullivan's request, much like the demands of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, would only be conceivable adopted by one side. In both cases, doing so would mean the inevitable capitulation of that one side. Islam, as a tool of Satan, will not be letting up on the "fundamentalism", nor will its citizens have a chance to reject it. Not so in the West: if we give up the assertion that our side is right, that Jesus Christ is our personal saviour and the only path to the One True God, we will in its place be putting the secular vacuum which is so vilified in the Middle East. Muslims might say unkind things about the Pope, or Christians, or Christianity, but at the end of the day they are scared. The Muslim racial memory is that of The Hammer at the Battle of Tours, of The Hammer (again) at the Battle of the River Berre, and both the Siege and the Battle of Vienna.
The 16th century writer Michel de Montaigne lived in a world of religious war, just as we do. And he understood, as we must, that complete religious certainty is, in fact, the real blasphemy.
You go say that in Syria, Mr. Sullivan. And after they murder you for being an uranist, let us know how effective a combat tactic that really is.


Anonymous said...

Oh my god, it is you who has been tricked by "satan". Can you not see that you are your enemy's mirror image?

You think he is satan -- and he thinks you are satan. In reality, you are both two human beings full of hate, confusion and fear.

So much war and hatred has been perpetuated in the name of God. Now George Bush claims God is his best friend, while others pull his strings and wage war for personal gain.

An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.