Christopher Caldwell on the European system for 'managing' Islam
Here's Christopher Caldwell, author of Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West, stepping on some more toes.
He's discussing -- although perhaps not specifically in the photo above -- "The European model of managing religion," which he maintains is inadequate for addressing Islam because this model was conceived of with respect to Christianity and "deals with the place of religion in society rather than scrutinizing religious doctrines from the inside" (193). This ignorance of Muslim doctrine has consequences demonstrating the model's inadequacy:
One sign of its inadequacy is that politicians are increasingly given to pronouncing on what is and is not Islam. Those who make such pronouncements are usually trying to exonerate Islam from the charge that it is a violent or intolerant religion, as George Bush famously did in the days after September 11, 2001, by pronouncing that "Islam is peace." One hears non-Arabic-speaking statesmen holding forth on what the Koran does and doesn't say about the duties of veiling. One reads about "poorly trained, mostly foreign imams" who incite young men to terrorism or "poorly educated judges" on sharia courts. The blame never falls on Islam itself but always on something aberrant, adventitious, exogenous, atypical, something imposed on it by an unrepresentative handful of nutcases, misinterpreters, Svengalis, and secret agents. The public is generally unconvinced. It asks what kind of religion requires expertise -- even "training" -- to keep it from being dangerous in the hands of its practitioners. Surely most Christian ministers in the United States are "poorly trained," and most new priests in Ireland (where only a handful a year are now ordained) are "foreign." But they don't scare people. And if they did, few would argue that their scariness had nothing to do with "real" Christianity. (193)Again, rather blunt. But also a bit unclear. The inadequacy that he refers to would seem to be the assumption on the part of many politicians and statesmen that Islam is a peaceful religion because religions are intrinsically peaceful . . . like Christianity. But Caldwell doesn't clearly state this point, and when he does draw a parallel to Christianity, he does so to a hypothetical case. But I'm not entirely convinced by his analogy to a hypothetical 'scary' Christianity. If ministers and priests did go about scaring people with threats of violence, I think that a sizeable number of observers (though not all, of course) would "argue that their scariness had nothing to do with 'real' Christianity." And they would be right! That sort of scariness would be a distortion of New Testament teachings (unless we're also intended to hypothesize a different New Testament text).
The problem with Islam's 'scariness' -- as Caldwell emphasizes -- is that very many observers have the impression that this is the "real" Islam. Most of those observing Islam and drawing this conclusion, however, are also judging Islam from the outside because they don't know its "religious doctrines from the inside." They, too, are "non-Arabic-speaking," much like the "statesmen holding forth on what the Koran does and doesn't say."
People are thus not entirely sure, and most of us would prefer to believe the best about such a powerful, numerous religion . . . but perhaps we should be investigating instead.