Defeating Islamism: Education . . . or Not?
In "The Gadfly," written for the New York Times (May 20, 2010), Nicholas Kristof reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book, Nomad. From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations, and he finds her brilliant though too harsh on Islam but agrees with her on the way to fight Islamism:
Where Hirsi Ali is exactly right, I think, is in her focus on education as a remedy. It's the best way to open minds, promote economic development and suppress violence. In the long run education is a more effective weapon against terrorists than bombs are.Well, maybe so . . . but there's always the other possibility, that Islamism is more of an educated man's ideology, as Paul Berman suggests in an interview with Michael Totten in discussing how Sayyid Qutb contributed to the suicidal fanaticism of current-day Islamism:
The news media always seem shocked to discover that the latest suicide bomber is an educated guy from a privileged background, but why? I understand it perfectly. An ordinary uneducated person would never get lost reading the dozens of volumes by Sayyid Qutb, but an educated person might. And the next thing they know they've lost their moral bearings, and there they are, ready to pull the plug.So . . . which is it? What'll defeat Islamism? Education . . . or not?
A likely answer is modern education, the sort that teaches critical thinking, not the sort of rote learning, beaten into kids in madrasahs, that only serves to rot the mind.
Though I wonder if that sort of madrasah education would produce anyone even capable of reading Qutb anyway . . .