The genius of Islam

A sense of fun, writes Dalrymple,

is not one of the obvious features of Islamic fundamentalists, though no doubt there are certain satisfactions to be derived from contemplating the fathomless depravity of all who do not submit unquestionably to one’s strictures.

Yet this is one of the most enduring of clerical-political systems, he points out.

It is the genius of Islam that it early found a method of binding people to itself once and for all. Even where the penalty for apostasy is not death, the social penalties are sufficiently strong that only fanatics of abstract truth are willing to suffer them. The great majority of humanity is unwilling to risk much for philosophical principles. There will remain outward adherence even by fun-loving Muslims, who will never go to the trouble of exposing their scepticism or incipient unbelief. Why bother, when the alternative is an easy life, lived high in the regard of others? Hypocrisy and dissimulation are what keep social systems strong. Intellectual honesty destroys them.

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