Wall Street Journal: “The Unconquerable Islamic World”

Robert Nicholson, the president of the Philos Project, writes in a recent article published in the World Street Journal that the House of Islam stands on a number of pillars. These pillars, he writes, include the following beliefs:

The Quran is Allah’s final revelation, binding on all humanity; faith is a matter of private devotion as well as public law, best lived out in a state that blends religion and politics; and Muslims should, where possible, hold power over non-Muslims to ensure that Allah’s law is rightly enforced…

He also state that these “commitments are far from radical; most Muslims see them as normative even if they fail to act on them”

Regarding the forcible introduction of liberal democracy, he remarks that “Islamic societies belong to a distinctive civilization that resists the imposition of foreign values through power”.

Nicholson insists that “Muslims overwhelmingly reject Israel, the U.S., and the Hebraic ties that bind them” and that “the West cannot change the Islamic world”.

He concludes that the United States should not seek to impose its will on the Islamic world but to focus “on curing the spiritual sickness that blinded us in the first place, recovering our own sense of civilizational self and reorienting our priorities accordingly”.

The article is excerpted below:

The Unconquerable Islamic World

Afghanistan shows the folly of mistaking Christian ideals for ‘universal’ ones.

Historians, soldiers and politicians will debate for decades the particulars of what went wrong during America’s intervention in Afghanistan. But a simple truth has been apparent for years: We Westerners failed not for lack of effort, but because military and economic power alone cannot change the Islamic world in a lasting way.

The U.S.-led coalition arrived in South Asia 20 years ago seeking justice after 9/11. Soon we turned into apostles of universal civilization, the idea that human beings everywhere would make the same basic decisions we made in building political community. We set out to establish a liberal democratic state, not realizing that politics lies downstream of culture, and culture downstream of religion. It never occurred to us that America was what it was because of Christianity, and Afghanistan was what it was because of Islam.

The political scientist Samuel Huntington was right: Islamic societies belong to a distinctive civilization that resists the imposition of foreign values through power. We may believe that argument or not, but trillions of dollars, tens of thousands of lives, and two decades of warfare have not proved otherwise.

Still, many remain blind to the obvious. Facing seemingly unrelated chaos in places like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Yemen, Libya and Nigeria, our diplomats and strategists devise one-off responses that ignore the common ideologies and actors that link them. Finding piles of broken china around the room, they diligently glue the pieces back together, not seeing the elephant nearby whose feet are covered in ceramic dust…

Failure to comprehend this is a symptom of spiritual emptiness: Alienated from America’s Christian origins, millions cannot fathom how faith could play a vital role in binding humans together.

Euphemisms like “the Greater Middle East” reflect unease with a unified Islamic world. Never mind that Muslims themselves speak in such terms, or that local diversity between Indonesia and Morocco does not undermine the basic coherence of the umma. The House of Islam has many rooms, but it stands on a few pillars: The Quran is Allah’s final revelation, binding on all humanity; faith is a matter of private devotion as well as public law, best lived out in a state that blends religion and politics; and Muslims should, where possible, hold power over non-Muslims to ensure that Allah’s law is rightly enforced [emphasis added]. It is doctrines like these that cause the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Hamas to fight the “Jews and Crusaders” who tread on land that historically belonged to Islam. But their commitments are far from radical; most Muslims see them as normative even if they fail to act on them [emphasis added].

New trends may herald changing times. The recent decision of four Muslim-majority countries to normalize relations with Israel was a risky, concrete act of friendship that deserves recognition. But such acts are still anomalous in a region where religious and secular Muslims overwhelmingly reject Israel, the U.S., and the Hebraic ties that bind them…

The West cannot change the Islamic world, but neither can it ignore the world’s fastest-growing religious community. The best strategy will move from rollback to containment and prioritize the defense of American interests and allies over the promotion of values and institutions. Muslim Americans naturally merit the same rights as other citizens. Muslim-majority states that seek friendship with the U.S. deserve a warm welcome, especially when they make difficult decisions for peace…

But overall, the U.S. needs to step back. The best way to honor American values is to stop forcing them on those who reject them [emphasis added].

Only Muslim majorities can decide the Muslim future. Washington must affirm their right to build organic societies that align with their values because they will do so regardless. This does not mean we will stand by when their choices cross American red lines, but the U.S. must affirm their right to make them. The Islamic world may not change, or maybe it will—but it was never our job to decide. Our focus must be on curing the spiritual sickness that blinded us in the first place, recovering our own sense of civilizational self and reorienting our priorities accordingly [emphasis added].

Wall Street Journal, 19th August, 2021

The original article can be viewed here.

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