Moderates and Fundamentalists
Interesting things of our time … many of my compadres in the weblog trade have been bemoaning the fact that “moderate Muslims” haven’t been vocal enough to condemn all those other Muslims, the ones who are regularly quoted in news sources not run by Muslims or in dodgy translations of quotations out of context as saying something really horrible. Why, oh why, oh why, is it that the comments pages of Little Green Footballs1 aren’t absolutely full to bursting point with well-educated, secular Western Muslims apologising in wailing tones and loudly condemning those other silly uneducated fundamentalist barbarians?
To ask this question is of course to answer it; the vast majority of people don’t behave in this way because it would be monumentally weird to do so, and the vast majority of Muslims presumably and correctly suspect that when you’re dealing with the kind of person who starts pointing at things you didn’t do and demands that you sign their statement condemning whoever did them, then nothing you say is ever going to be good enough for them. I’ve half a mind to create an educated-Muslim sock puppet character and put this thesis to the test …
But anyway, people like Stephen den Beste, author of the turgidly unreadable and unsettlingly technocratic attempts to recreate neoclassical economics without the benefit of reading a word of the literature which populate USS Clueless (he has a fine line of shite in talking about mobile phone standards too), regard the absence of moderate Muslims lining up to claim that numerically the majority of their religion is made up of horrendous halfwits and ogres, as a sign that Islam is an intrinsically warlike, barbaric and horrible religion. I’m using his piece on this subject as the example because I happen to have just read it, and as an associate of the dreadful Eric Raymond, he’s a target of opportunity. But such burnt-out old hacks, U2 groupies and writers of novels which have to be put in the “God this is shit compared to his earlier stuff” category as Salman Rushdie, have also written in similar terms. And even my old mucker Brad Delong, who seems to have developed an unaccountable blindspot when it comes to these matters, is quoting him approvingly.
Well, we shan’t get into the question of whether the “Islamism is the worst thing on earth” thesis is or not right here; personally, I have a few pals of the Ba’hai faith and somewhat suspect that out-and-out arseholes might be statistically more preponderant in the Islamic religion than some of its competition. But as an example of why this particular demand for a loyalty oath from “moderate” Muslims everywhere is full of shit, let’s take an analogy:
I do not think anyone likely to contest the fact that many of the same people who are doing a number on “Islam: the Gutter Religion”, are also supporters of free markets.
I also do not propose to entertain arguments about the fact that the main thrust of policy in Argentina and Russia during the 1990s was to institute “free market” reforms, and that the main effects of those policies have been utterly, utterly, fucking disastrous. In the case of Russia, quite literally homicidally so.
Perhaps we could expect to see Mijnheer den Beste and a few other “moderate” capitalists of his kind giving us some stirring and loud denunciations of the IMF progams for Argentina or Russia? Please note that I am looking for outright and stirring condemnations of ignorance and barbaric effect, not for mealy-mouthed apologies (“root-cause” rhetoric has no place here), or even worse, for claims that the problem was lack of vigour in implementing free markets (outright fundamentalism). Since the Russian program in particular was responsible for many thousands of unnecessary deaths, I would hope that the moderates will be particularly stirring in their condemnation of that one. Brad Delong is exempted from my denunciation requirement in this case, since a couple of the most obvious criminals were college buddies of his, and it’s a bit much to ask a guy to beat up on his old mates; he can condemn the Argentine program. But anyone else claiming to be a “capitalist” or “neoliberal” is hereby assumed by me to be a murderer of Russian pensioners unless they regularly and explicitly write comments about how much they hate the IMF.
1Link to the vile “Little Green Footballs” provided because on the specific point of JS Mill scholarship which has been tearing up the weblogs over the last few days, den Beste is right and the Rittenhouse Review is dead wrong. Trying to use social pressure to declare a point of view to be “simply beyond the pale” is censorship, pure and simple, and in a much more pernicious form than the government variety. Note however, that my personal hypocrisy threshold on this issue does not extend to the D2D comments pages; I bear some sort of publishers’ responsibility for these and will continue to exercise it with extreme prejudice. Or to put it another way, I am of the opinion that burning a book can be just as powerful and valid a statement as writing one, and the same goes for comments.