Dalrymple wonders whether Islam is
an intrinsically totalitarian religion.
It is worth remembering, he says,
how few of us gave any attention to it as a serious political force only twenty years ago.
He suspects that
the downfall of the Soviet Union and the consequent destruction of the possibility of socialistic nationalism as a means for poor or desperate countries (poverty and desperation not being the same thing) to escape their predicament, stimulated the rise of Islam to the position of latest utopian pretender.
There had been Islamists before the downfall of the Soviet Union,
but they offered only one bogus solution among other bogus solutions. After the downfall, Islam had the field to itself, apart from liberal democracy, which is inherently messy and unsatisfying for the lazy and impatient.
is a real threat, made far worse by the cowardly response to it by most western governments, including that of the United States.
Take the Danish cartoon crisis, which, Dalrymple notes, was highly
significant for our civilisation and way of life in the long run. There the British and American governments failed the test miserably; de facto, they gave aid and succour to the Islamists.
As for the neo-atheists, they are right to see the threat of theocracy in Islamism, but
in attacking all religion, they are like the French government which banned not only the wearing of the headscarf in schools, but the wearing of all religious insignia, despite the fact that wearing a Star of David or a crucifix has and had a completely different social signification from wearing a headscarf. In the name of non-discrimination, the French government failed to discriminate properly: and proper discrimination is practically the whole business of life. If there were large numbers of Christians or Jews who were in favour of establishing a theocracy in France, who had a recent record of terrorism, and who terrorised each other into the wearing of crucifixes and Stars of David, then the banning of those insignia would have been justified too.
when Islam has become merely one personal confession among others, without the political significance that it has now.
In attacking all religion so indiscriminately, the atheist authors are
strengthening the hand of the Islamists. In arguing that for parents to bring up a child in any religious tradition, even the mildest of Anglicanism, is to abuse a child, with the corollary that the law should forbid it, they are giving ammunition to the Islamists, who will be able with justice to say to their fellow-religionists, ‘See, it is all or nothing. If you give the secularists an inch, they will take a mile. No compromise with secularism is possible, therefore; cleave unto us.’
that all forms of religion are equal, that they are all murderous and dangerous, is not to serve the cause of freedom and tolerance. It is to play into the hands of the very people we should most detest; it is to hand them the rhetorical tools with which they can tell the gullible that our freedoms are not genuine and that our tolerance is a masquerade. It is to do what I should previously have thought was impossible, namely in this respect to put them in the right.