the inhabitants of our ghettoes who demand something that they call ‘respect’, which they extort by fear — for lack of any other means by which to earn it.
Muslims, he writes,
are not deceived by pusillanimous apologies or the odious, unctuous, and fatuous expressions of sympathy and understanding for their feelings that have emerged from official circles in Britain and America, in a vain and cowardly attempt to defuse the situation by a precipitate though insincere abandonment of the best values of the Enlightenment. Would Voltaire have caved in so cravenly?
The Islamic fundamentalists
know perfectly well that the West does not respect them, and that the only way they can cut a figure in the world is by terror. Technologically, scientifically, artistically, philosophically, economically they are nullities: but they know how to be vicious, and that makes up for every other defect. If the world will not listen to their tedious religiose lucubrations, it will at least pay heed to their bloodcurdling threats. Each expression of pseudo-understanding is music to their ears: they know that threats of mass decapitation and killing in the streets have worked. It is an open invitation for more of the same.
The Western democracies, says Dalrymple,
have demonstrated a lack of resolve comparable only to that of Chamberlain and Daladier in the face of Hitler, though without the extenuating circumstances (Chamberlain, at least, had a genuine and humane horror of war).
The problem for Muslim countries is even worse.
Whatever the doctrines of Islam, it is a fact that there are countless Muslims who are content to live and let live, and who are by no means religious fanatics. In the Islamic world, I have been met almost everywhere with kindness and hospitality. In some respects, Islamic societies are notably superior to our own. People behave in a more dignified manner than among us. There is very great poverty in Cairo, for example, but not the willful degradation, at least in public, that you see almost everywhere in the West.
seems to allow no way of institutionalizing moderation, beyond repression. Muslims, especially those in power, find it difficult to admit to enemies claiming religious purity, for fear of being branded anti-Islamic.
No Islamic country
will allow even closely argued intellectual public criticism of Islam of the kind that Christianity has now had to withstand for hundreds of years.
If you can’t criticise Islam publicly,
there can be no moderation founded upon anything except force, which is not only susceptible to counterforce, but intellectually and emotionally incoherent. It is surely emblematic of the extremely fragile existential position of Islam that a scholarly book such as Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not a Muslim is not widely available in Muslim countries, to put it mildly (unlike The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, for respect is a strictly one-way street in the opinion of many Muslims).
What we are seeing, Dalrymple explains,
is the confrontation of a society with a pre-Enlightenment way of thinking with a society with a post-Enlightenment way of thinking. And however much we may criticize the Enlightenment, as being in some respects shallow, or as leading to the destruction of any transcendent meaning to human life, the irreducible fact is that we are all children of the Enlightenment, and when — as now — we see the freedom that the Enlightenment wrought challenged in so intellectually primitive and thuggish a way, we realize for once how very much we owe to the Enlightenment. You don’t really appreciate something until you have lost it, or at least are in danger of losing it; and no philosophical critic of the Enlightenment has ever really wanted to live in a pre-Enlightenment society.
The fundamental problem of the Muslim world is that
it wants the material fruits or benefits of the Enlightenment without the Enlightenment itself. A considerable proportion of the large migrant population from Islamic countries to Europe has wanted this too, which is why many such migrants are notably less successful in their adopted countries than their Hindu, Sikh, and Chinese counterparts. Muslims have been trying to square this circle for well over a century, since they first became aware of just how retarded they were by comparison with a civilization that theirs once more than equaled. Like the inhabitants of the ghetto, they want the respect of the rest of the world without wishing to do the things necessary to obtain it.