Is Islam the New Communism?
None of the words "Islam," "Muslim," or "Muhammed," nor any of the variant spellings of the latter two, occur in the index to George H. Nash's 1976 classic The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America. It is certainly possible that some of the conservative luminaries whose contributions Nash so meticulously describes had something to say about Islam in the occasional one or other of their innumerable essays (dismally few of which I have read), but plainly Islam was not, up to 1976, anywhere near the front of anyone's mind in conservative intellectual circles.
The same was still true in 1986. By 1996, I think, there had been some modest awakening. Now, of course, we are all up to speed. Book-reading aside, the ordinary attentive reader of newspapers, magazines, and websites has taken in a million or so words on the topic of Islam this past few years. We all have our ideas now, though no doubt some are better-founded than others.
One of the dominant ideas, to judge from my own reader mail and email, is that Islam is an evil travesty of a religion, founded by a very depraved man, propagated with intolerant cruelty and intransigent hostility towards unbelievers.
Given the sheer number of Muslims in the world, and the quantity of land and resources they are sitting on, this seems to me to be a counsel of great despair. The policy it indicates is "separationism": an end to the settlement of Muslims in Western countries, a bar to further entry of Muslims, expulsion of Muslim non-citizens, and perhaps some scheme to buy out the citizenship of the West's own Muslims. Bearing in mind that our Muslim population here in the U.S.A. includes a huge contingent of native-born African Americans, the prospects of implementing such a policy in our litigious, guilt-addled, PC-whipped, ACLU-patrolled, "diversity"-worshipping society seem to me to be infinitesimal.
It is not clear how separationism could be implemented even absent the above-listed obstructions. The very first step, ceasing to issue entry visas to applicants from majority-Muslim nations, is problematic. What about Christians or Jews from those nations? Or secularists? Geert Wilders, the West's most prominent separationist, and so far the only one of any real political moment, was actually asked this question in an interview for Australian TV. He replied (at 8m28s into that clip) that yes, non-Muslims from Muslim countries should also be excluded.
What about the converse — Muslims from non-Muslim nations? There are 160 million Muslims just in India. Wilders was not asked this question — just as well for him, as it seems to me it has no answer. How do you know if your visa applicant is a Muslim? "Arabic-sounding name" doesn't cut it. You could, I suppose, ask him to eat some pork sausage, or spit on a Koran; but dedicated jihadists would likely be able to justify such acts to themselves in the furtherance of the greater cause.
With separationism not an option this side of some great politico-cultural upheaval, presumably we are stuck with having Muslims among us in quantity. Is this so bad? In the approved political liturgy of today's West, the chanted response here is: "Most Muslims are moderate and law-abiding." I suppose that is true, but when was history ever driven by the passive "most"? Most Russians in 1917 were not Bolsheviks. Come to think of it, most Arabs in A.D. 622 were not Muslims.
Perhaps Islam will soften up in the warm bath of Western multicultural hedonism. Ayaan Hirsi Ali: "We [Muslims] could hold our dogmas up to the light … infuse traditions that are rigid and inhumane with the values of progress and modernity." Is there really hope for some such softening reform? Depends: "For me to think this way … I had to make the leap to thinking that the Quran was relative … just another book." To judge from the recent fuss over proposed Koran burnings, not too many Muslims are ready to make that leap with Ms. Hirsi Ali.
Assuming still that we are stuck with large numbers of Muslims in our midst, there is even a conservative case against such reform. "Islam" may not appear in George Nash's index, but "Relativism" gets four page references, every one of them to a Father of Conservatism railing against this horrid intellectual vice: G. K. Chalmers, Leo Strauss, James Burnham, P. J. Stanlis.
Well, the fierce mullahs of Iran and the stern dogmatists of Salafism may not be your cup of tea, or mine, but relativists they ain't. Do American conservatives, then, have any common ground with Muslims? Dinesh D'Souza thinks so. He wrote a book, The Enemy at Home, arguing that the traditionalist strand of classical American conservatism, at least, might make common cause with Muslims in opposing the international Left's campaign against family life, sexual restraint, and "homophobia."
D'Souza's argument found few takers. Where, in any case, does it leave the other strand in the great conservative fusion? One can quite see that Weaver, Viereck, or Kirk might give D'Souza a hearing, but what about Nock, Hayek, or Chodorov? To judge from my email, and the reception of D'Souza's book, a hearing is the most that Islam can hope for among American conservatives of any kind today.
If attitudes among conservatives get any worse, in fact, hostility to Islam might become the new uniting force of American conservatism. Those fathers of the movement were, after all, united by anti-Communism. Could Islam become the new Communism? Do we need a new McCarran-Walter Act? A new Joe McCarthy? George Nash:
The American people, Buckley and Bozell argued, had carefully examined and "emphatically rejected" the claims of Communism. Now, embroiled in a world-wide war against Communism, they were moving — deliberately, properly, and by means of McCarthyism — to penalize and curtail an unassimilable philosophy and "those in our land who help the enemy."
What simple times they were! "Unassimilable" is indeed a word that comes up a lot in connection with Islam, but "penalize and curtail"? Unthinkable! And who are today's "American people"? Not, for sure, the ones whose elected representatives passed McCarran-Walter, over a presidential veto.