Saturday, September 02, 2006

Youssef M. Ibrahim's "Big Ideas" For Fighting Islamism

Youssef M. Ibrahim
(Image from Huffington Post)

Youssef M. Ibrahim has a "blueprint" for confronting "Islamofascists." In "The West Needs To Fight Islamofascists With Big Ideas" (The New York Sun, September 1, 2006), he suggests three things that I find either unworkable or undesirable.

The first involves isolating the Muslim world "by withholding Western commerce, the Internet, arms, machinery, and know-how -- all of which still represent the bulk of progress as we define it in today's world" -- until Muslims stop their "acquiescence to jihadists and their ideologies." Ibrahim asks us to "[i]magine a ban on weapons and technology, on Microsoft and IBM, on Boeing, Ilyushin transport planes, and Airbus spares." Well, I can imagine all sorts of things, but my sense of realism tells me that this "ban" would never be agreed upon by the West, which doesn't have the sort of unity that would be necessary to imposing and enforcing it.

His second suggestion illustrates this very problem, for he tells us that "[d]raconian sanctions such as these [under the ban] should be applied in unison with Russia and China and clearly framed within the U.N. code." Russia? China? Ibrahim must know the difficulty of getting Russia and China to agree upon a common position against Iran, a difficulty that would remain even if Western Europe and the United States could themselves agree ... which they can't. Getting everybody on board for worldwide sanctions against the entire Islamic world would be impossible. Besides, don't some of those Islamic countries possess oil that the rest of the world has an insatiable thirst for?

As for his third point, he recommends that "the last vestiges of tolerance toward Islamic fundamentalism ... be removed." What this means is that "Laws targeting extremist speech, Islamic dress, storefront unregulated mosques, and the traffic of immigrant Muslims who do not speak the language nor share the values of freedom must surface in the legal codes of America, Europe, and Australia." I'm not clear on what Ibrahim means here. If by "targeting extremist speech," he means restricting speech so that it's less free, then I'm going to be very reluctant to support such laws. And other than for purposes of identification and security, I'd also be reluctant to restrict what people can wear ... though I suppose I'd support laws stipulating that in public, people have to wear something. As for "storefront unregulated mosques," they should have the same rights as storefront 'unregulated' churches, though I do support infiltration to provide reports on extremist views and to help uncover terrorist conspiracies. I'd also be in favor of restricting immigration to keep radical Islamist out.

Ibrahim is correct in stating that the West faces "an existential threat to its core values," but I disagree that "it cannot be shy about installing tools of war in its democratic practices" without first knowing what these 'tools' are. We are likely facing a long-term conflict with Islamism, which means that we have to think about the long-term effects of our adopted policies and ensure that we aren't going to be undermining the very values that we want to protect. Restricting free expression is a risky undertaking. I'd prefer that we protect it and then listen very carefully to what the Islamists are saying ... and take them seriously.

Criticize them, ridicule them, embarrass them with our own free speech, but give them the freedom to express their hatred of us so that we can consistently retain our freedom to caricature whatever they hold dear ... including their violent image of Muhammad.


At 8:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I generally avoid the term "Islamofascism" because it implies a significant connection to European fascism that I just don't see. Fascists emphasize politics of the corporate state grounded in ethnic identity. Islamists emphsize the Ummah, the worldwide Islamic community, and appeal to a religious tradition that supposedly goes all the way back to Muhammad.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't quite understand the term "Islamofascist" on the basis that Fascism was driven by materialistic rather then religious desires. You are right, it tries to suggest totalitariaism--of a Nazi variety, I'd say-- and draw upon nationalistic fervour. But the term really is a military concept that camouflages prejudice. I can't say I understand these "Big Ideas" either. I saw a post somewhere recently that a group in India had opened a Hitler themed restaraunt: talk about the wrong thing to do in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Eshuneutics, thanks for the comments.

Actually, I think that Islamism does envision something like a totalitarian society, but not a fascist one, so far as I can see, and since the Islamic world is riven by tribalism, then making totalitarianism work might be very difficult.

Not that totalitarianism works anyway...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:05 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Steph, I had no idea that the term "Islamofascism" was 20 years old. That's surprising, for I've only heard it for the few years since 9/11.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:42 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Steph, that's useful to know.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:56 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

For my part, there's no repulsion. I just don't find the term especially useful.

It reminds me of the tendency on the left back in the 80s (and still today?) to label enemies as fascists regardless of the actual content of their views.

I admit that I even did that once myself in what I now consider a rather ludicrous articulation of annoyance mixed with self-righteousness.

But I was young ... uh, younger.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:26 AM, Blogger Lady-Light said...

I agree with you as well as with Youssef M. Ibrahim. Freedom of speech is paramount to our Western way of life, but not if that speech is incitement to riot. That is illegal. The problem is, this is not being enforced.
Btw, I tried to click on your Youssef M. Ibrahim link to research him and the page is no longer there.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Lady-Light, thanks for visiting. Probably you could find Youssef Ibrahim's article by Googling for it.

As for "incitement," I suppose that there are varying interpretations of that, but a lot of the language in mosques sounds like incitement to me.

Ridicule of Muhammad, of course, should be allowed.

Jeffery Hodges

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