Reflections on a House Divided

Facing the Pit

This week's "Open Trackback Post" edition - Thursday, 27th  July - contains a link to a posting entitled - Dear Terrorist Letters from around the globe. These letters contain raw expressions of emotion by those responding to the aftermath of Islamist attacks around the world. And, as such, they contain harsh and profane language about Muslims-in-general. Such expressions are what one would reasonably expect, under those circumstances, concerning whatever ethnic/religious group the perpetrators of a given act-of-violence claimed to be representing - and even from people who would never think of saying such things otherwise, and normally would think it wrong to do so.

After some reflection on the ethics involved, I concluded that wide-spread exposure of these sentiments may have a salutary effect in several areas. First. in that it is increasingly vital for ordinary Muslims to face the fact of how the actions of the extremists in their midst affect the every-day people who comprise the vast majority of the victims of terrorist attacks. And, as to how the poison created by such actions is progressively working to overwhelm the constraints that normally prevent outbreaks of the kinds of horrific communal violence that has occurred in places like Rwanda, Darfur, etc. Hopefully, if that point is pressed home often and clearly enough, it may move more ordinary Muslims to take an active stand against the Islamists and cooperate more fully in their suppression.

Second, I think that it is well past time for members of the conservative blog community to actively consider the rationality and ethics of the growing tendency amongst us to characterize all of Islam as "the enemy," and to write of them accordingly. And, the presentation of this material provides a good occasion for doing that.
In short, I think that following along with that tendency is both stupid and immoral.
It is stupid because anyone who willingly takes on 1.2 billion people at the same time when it is unnecessary to do so, is in urgent need of protective and/or institutional care. And that would be true even if all segments of that population were indeed part of the problem. Fore failure - at least - to try and make use of all possible divisions and fracture-points in an enemies political, ideological and social structure is tantamount to criminal negligence on the part of those who do so. Particularly those who do so because such occasions of name-calling gives them the freedom to vent the kinds of joyous doltishness they may have indulged in while on grammar and junior high school play-grounds. The lives and safety of their fellow-citizens is a high price to pay for such fun.

And, it is immoral. Immoral because it is unjust. And doing justice is not a "suggestion" or "tip-of-the-day." Read your Bible. The idea that any but a minority of the worlds Muslims actively engage in or support the Islamists simply has no basis in fact. And, those who seek to "prove" the innate thuggish of Islam through selective quotations from their sacred texts do little better. The Old Testament is replete with such hair-raising admonitions concerning how one should make war (Deuteronomy Chapter 7, Deuteronomy Chapter 20), treat a rebellious son (Deuteronomy Chapter 21, V 18-21), deal with an apostate (Deuteronomy Chapter 17, V 2-7), or many other matters. And, often enough these things were taken fairly seriously by many including Christians such as Arnaud-Amaury,  and Oliver Cromwell who felt, for example, that the OT stipulations concerning how war should be waged nicely dove-tailed with their intentions towards the Cathars and the Catholic Irish, Respectively. But,  in the world today, one would have to look hard to find devote Christians or Jews who seek by human agency to reinstate the very letter of those statutes. That is because both faiths have also developed extensive, systematic, and coherent methods of analyzing, interpreting, and applying the word of Scripture to the world, and have done so assiduously for millennia. And these processes have yielded understandings which are generally in accord with the spirit of civic tolerance which distinguishes Western-style Democratic Societies. And, there is absolutely no good reason to believe that Islam cannot undergo a similar process successfully. And, in fact, if anything might fatally obstruct that occurrence - every bit as much as the violent opposition of the Islamists themselves - it is the desire on rhe part of non-Muslims to treat all Muslims as actual terrorists.

In the Western Classical tradition Justice means giving each person their due. And, in war that is simply impossible. There is no way to ensure that entirely innocent non-combatants will not be  killed or injured as a result of legitimate military action. And that is far more the case when it comes to wars fought against those who move un-uniformed amongst the civil population, and use them and their homes as shields when they deem it necessary. Those facts give ample warrant for hard measures such as mass detentions, and the whole intrusive paraphernalia of modern security techniques and counter-insurgency tactics, as well as the use of powerful military weapons when required. But even war does not eliminate the requirement of our shared Judaeo-Christian tradition to - act as justly as the circumstances will permit  - even if that means simple decency in how we think and speak of those Muslims who we have no good reason to believe to be guilty -and even if we were forced to kill them in the course of military operations - as in the case of bombings and artillery-fire.

Those who truly believe that we will all face G-d's judgment should consider this carefully.

Islamic Extremism: Common Concern for Muslim and Western Publics

(C) David Aronin 2006