Thursday, February 7, 2008

Britain Embraces the Future

Well, of the institutions that might have been hoped to resist England's slide toward Londonistan, the Church of England can now definitively be counted out. Today the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has revealed in an interview his feeling that the adoption of sharia law in the UK is "unavoidable". His justification is that there are now large segments of British society (i.e. unassimilating Pakistanis, primarily) who "do not relate" to the British legal system. Of course, there's another segment of society that doesn't "relate" to the legal system. They're called criminals. And one could make a pretty solid argument, particularly in British society (see Theodore Dalrymple) that much criminality is the result of the culture in which criminals are raised. Should society work to "accommodate" this different culture with their own courts as well?

His point that sharia is misunderstood and shouldn't be solely identified with systems like Saudi Arabia's is valid, but misleading. The term sharia is about as specific as "Western jurisprudence", and in practice just as variable. There is no one system of sharia, or even, for that matter, one interpretation of what sharia ought to embody. Pretty much every majority-Muslim country in the world at least pays lip service to the principles of sharia in their legal system, but these systems vary widely between essentially Western systems veneered with Islamic language to the sort of Hammurabic tribal justice code most people call to mind when they think of sharia. Exactly which interpretation of sharia does Dr. Williams imagine coexisting with British law, then? And how long will the more radical elements of British Muslim society be content with coexistence?

This sort of thing would be less disturbing if it weren't exactly in line with the strategies proposed by some of the subtler of the Muslim world's radical leaders. I refer here to the "conquest of the womb", first elaborated by the Algerian president Houari Moumedienne in 1974, through which the Muslim world will complete its long-stalled conquest of Europe, not through military but demographic strength. This strategy, clearly outlined by Oriana Fallaci, hinges not on confronting liberal democracy, but on exploiting Europe's liberal principles to fatally undermine liberal democracy itself. The special protections afforded Islam under European anti-defamation laws (under which Fallaci was facing criminal prosecution at the time of her death) are already celebrated by radical clerics as an example of their resounding success in this arena. The establishment of government-approved sharia courts, regardless of of how watered-down and Westernized at the outset, is a huge step forward for those who seek to finish a crusade they don't see as having ever stopped.

There are widely varying opinions as to the threat radical Islamism poses to Western civilization. I'm of the opinion, which I hope to elaborate better in future posts, that the characterization of 'Islamofascist' terrorism as an existential threat to our way of life is vastly overblown. The very idea that a few thousand cave-dwellers could directly threaten the strongest civilization the world has ever seen is laughable. The real threat, as Mark Steyn has put so very well, is far more insidious: a lack of "cultural confidence" in that very civilization, which allows radicals to exploit our own values to promote theirs.


Shane said...

Thanks for this post, Evan. First of all, you are one of the few people that I know who I actually trust to understand Arabic culture, Islam, and how it fits in the grand scheme of things.

Anyway, I've long been convinced that radical Islam poses no existential threat to western civilization. Whether it stands a chance of displacing our cultural values is doubtful. Europe is not very accommodating of the Muslim religion, and it simply doesn't fit well with Europe's cultural (but nonreligious) values. I'd like to think that Islam has no chance of substantially changing western values, and that as the Middle East modernizes they will moderate their own views.

But if I'm wrong, I invite you to explain why. You certainly know far more about Islam and Arabs and the Middle East in general than I do, and you probably know more about Europe than I do.

Dawn said...

I appreciate hearing that "the characterization of 'Islamofascist' terrorism as an existential threat to our way of life is vastly overblown." The rhetoric used to stoke us toward fear of those cave dwellers has long been something that burns me.

I fall too far off the other end; my fear is not of the cave dwellers but of my own government, for it seems intent on using those cave dwellers as an excuse to trap me in fear and entomb me in its version of "safe."

Please tell me you know better, and that my great-grandchildren won't be growing up in universal daycare whilst their mothers scan their UPC tattoos at the bomb factory where the bosses speak in monosyllabic grunts. I've been having nightmares.

Dawn said...

I was thinking about my comment just now and realized that it is most likely offensive.

I'm sorry . . .

I have nothing but respect toward and gratitude for those things that establish and protect our American freedoms: the Constitution and the Military. I admire what those in authority accomplish around home and abroad because it's more than I can do in my simple home.

It's just the cynic in me wanting answers to the other cynics' questions. And I've been reading a lot of Science Fiction lately. Let's just pretend I wasn't here.