Who among us doesn’t need a reading list on Islam? Most of us know so little about the religion that is once again resurgent.
Theodore Dalrymple, the pseudonym of one of my favorite Brit scribblers, pens interesting thoughts in a review of “Islamic Imperialism: A History,” by Efrain Karsh.
Though the review may be distressing to those who propose the rise of moderate Islam, it is offered with pleasing modesty:
“I hesitate to rush in where so many better-informed people have hesitated to tread, or have trodden before, but I would put it like this. The urge to domination is nearly a constant of human history. The specific (and baleful) contribution of Islam is that, by attributing sovereignty solely to God, and by pretending in a philosophically primitive way that God’s will is knowable independently of human interpretation, and therefore of human interest and desire-in short by allowing nothing to human as against divine nature-it tries to abolish politics. All compromises become mere truces; there is no virtue in compromise in itself. Thus Islam is inherently an unsettling and dangerous factor in world politics, independently of the actual conduct of many Muslims.
“Karsh comes close to this conclusion himself, when he writes at the end of the book:
“‘Only when the political elites of the Middle East and the Muslim world reconcile themselves to the reality of state nationalism, forswear pan-Arab and pan-Islamic dreams, and make Islam a matter of private faith rather than a tool of political ambition will the inhabitants of these regions at last be able to look forward to a better future free of would-be Saladins.
“‘The fundamental question is whether Islam as a private faith would still be Islam, or whether such privatization would spell its doom. I think it would spell its doom. In this sense, I am an Islamic fundamentalist. The choice is between all and nothing.'”