Dean’s World Draws Line In The Sand

Dean Esmay is conducting a purge that he likens to Bill Buckley’s shunning of the John Birchers: “You can be an Islamophobe, or you can contribute to Dean’s World. You cannot do both.” He lays down a set of principles that must be adhered to by “front-page contributors, submitters, or even commenters.”

The one that seems to be giving people the most problem is #3: “Islam as a religion is no more inherently incompatible with modernity, minority rights, women’s rights, or democratic pluralism than most religions.”

Ultimately, I think, the issue is with a single word: “inherently.”

All the major monotheistic religions of which I am aware can be and have been interpreted dogmatically. They can be and have been interpreted to command lesser roles for those who are not adult male adherents to the One True Faith, against modernity, and for a unity of religious and societal law. So far as I’m aware, however, only one has managed to keep itself in the Dark Ages in most of the places where it is the predominant faith.

Then again, there are plenty of people who call themselves “Muslims” living in the United States and other Western countries who have embraced modernity, minority rights, women’s rights, and democratic pluralism. Those people are considered heretics by many sects of Islam.

If one can be a “cafeteria Muslim” and still be a “Muslim,” then Dean’s statement is correct.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Alex Knapp says:

    All the major monotheistic religions of which I am aware can be and have been interpreted dogmatically. They can be and have been interpreted to command lesser roles for those who are not adult male adherents to the One True Faith, against modernity, and for a unity of religious and societal law. So far as I’m aware, however, only one has managed to keep itself in the Dark Ages in most of the places where it is the predominant faith.

    For what it’s worth, if this were the year 1300AD and there were blogs, your opinion about which faith was inherently modern and which in the Dark Ages would be reversed.

  2. James Joyner says:

    For what it’s worth, if this were the year 1300AD and there were blogs, your opinion about which faith was inherently modern and which in the Dark Ages would be reversed.

    Absolutely. Then again, it is the year 2007AD and we can compare how these religions have evolved over the last seven centuries. That which was inarguably the most modern is now just as inarguably the least modern. “Modern” being, of course, a moving target.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    One of the election judges (polling place workers) with whom I worked yesterday was an Iranian Muslim. Over the course of a 15 hour day you, naturally, get to talking and, considering the context, of course we talked about politics a bit.

    He spoke about how his family had come over here to flee the aftermath of the Iranian revolution and struggled to describe his family’s religious orientation. As he struggled to characterize it I piped up “are you cultural Muslims?” and he grasped onto the phrase as an apt one…he was Muslim in much the sense in which many of my friends, associates, and family are Catholics, for example. The condition in which one’s religion is an important source of what you do and believe but not the overarching organizing principle of one’s life.

  4. James Joyner says:

    The condition in which one’s religion is an important source of what you do and believe but not the overarching organizing principle of one’s life.

    Indeed, this is an essential element in most definitions of “modernity.” One can be simultaneously spiritual and modern but not fanatical and modern. Obviously, there is a long continuum in between with no bright line as to where “fanatic” begins.

  5. LaurenceB says:

    I sometimes don’t agree with Dave Schuler’s comments, but he always has something thoughtful to add, and he is unfailingly civil. I wish there were more of that going around. In fact, I wish I were more like that.

  6. whatever says:

    Dean is using his own idea of what he thinks Islam should be instead of using Islam itself. Even a casual observation of Islam today shows that it IS inherently violent, intolerant, and hateful. For example there are Muslims practicing all over the world in Christian denominated countries. Distributing Bibles in Saudi Arabia carries a death sentence. No one in Islam is working to overturn this, are they?

    Furthermore, all the violence, hate and intolerance spwewed by this “religion” is rarely, if ever, denounced by Muslim religous leaders. They either tacitly agree with these practices, or are afraid of people of their own religion who disagree with them.

    Dean is wrong, but it’s his blog and he can run it like he wants. But, hey, Dean also also believes that the HIV virus also doesn’t cause AIDS, so it’s not like his thinking is mainstream.

  7. Rodney Dill says:

    Anytime someone wants to shut down discussion or cast aspersions on one side of an argument they tend to label the other side as phobic or hysterical. You can certainly disagree with part of dean’s 5 rules without being islamophobic. I can certainly agree with his #4 and #5, but cannot “wholeheartedly” agree with 1,2 or 3, and not because I believe the exact opposite. Since I haven’t really commented much at Dean’s World, this won’t cause me much dismay. I agree that the “inherent” statement causes me the biggest problem. I believe that the way islam is “practically” practiced by many moslems and especially in this country, that it is peaceful and in line with many modern ways of thinking. I am skeptical that the “inherent” or core tennants of their faith is as open to modern ideas and beliefs.

    Of course applying these rules will reduce the amount of islamobashing that presumably has occured at that site.

    Maybe this site should apply the same yardstick to Republiphobes (or maybe more correctly conservaphobes.)

  8. LaurenceB says:

    I’m going to venture a wild guess that Dean has friend(s)/relative(s) who are Muslim. And I hasten to add that – if he does – I don’t believe that invalidates his decision. It just goes a long way towards explaining it.

    My wife is a Hispanic immigrant and that undeniably effects my position on immigration. By the same token, I know people with gay relatives who are social conservatives on every issue except the issue of gay marriages/unions. Similarly, families of soldiers in Iraq will undoubtedly have their politics colored by that.

    Once again, this is complete speculation about Dean Esmay on my part (about whom I know next to nothing.) Just a wild guess. And if it’s true, I think it’s just fine – in fact, I think its a net plus to the validity of his position.

  9. Rodney Dill says:

    Dean lives close to the largest arab population outside of the middle-east. Presumably he knows or has many friends that are from this area and are practicing moslems.

  10. John Burgess says:

    Not that Dean needs my defense, but he certainly does have Muslim friends, including at least one he’s invited to be part of his blogging team (Ali Eteraz of States of Islam.

    It is possible to find a Muslim who ascribes to any belief or behavior you care to name. That’s a problem in trying to pigeonhole 1.3 billion people into a tidy description or definition. Which one is ‘representative’? Is it the one with the loudest voice? Is it the one who presents the most acute danger to your continued existence?

    Not at all surprisingly, the vast majority of those 1.3 Muslims are not looking for anyone’s head to be cut off. They’re more interested in thing like putting food on their kids’ plates, getting those kids educated, in jobs, and producing grandchildren.

    They are no more introspective than a typical /name of human grouping/ and respond to direct attacks pretty much the same way as /name of human grouping/.

    I’m sure some Muslims believe that ‘Islam is inherently undemocratic’. But clearly, most of those Muslims living in democratic societies (I’ll use a loose definition of that term) don’t agree.

  11. BrianOfAtlanta says:

    For me, the #3 hinges on the definitions of “modernity” and “democratic pluralism”. If either of those include “separation of church and state” or “freedom of religion” then #3 is refuted by Muslim scripture. Of course, I’m assuming that “scripturally” is a part of “inherently”.

    Islam is not irreconcilable with separation of church and state or freedom of religion, but it is “inherently” (scripturally) more antagonistic to these principles than the other great world religions. Islam is a religion of conquerors, and lacks both the inherent distrust of secular authority that you find in Judaism and Christianity, and the live-and-let-live philosophies of Hinduism and Buddhism.

  12. JohnG says:

    The problem is that everyone is arguing that ‘the vast majority of Islam’ doesn’t want to kill us, and then pointing to the Americanized Muslims they know as proof. Looking at what Muslims are doing in the Middle East and what Muslims immigrants are doing in places like Britain and France, I think many people feel that the vast majority of Islam wants to overthrow Western Civilization and install Islamic rule across the world, and that the Muslims they know are just exceptions.

  13. kevin polk says:

    I lived in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years, and none of the muslims I met there wanted to kill me.

    Some wanted to do business with me, or sell me something.

    Some wanted me to hook them up with booze and women.

    Some just wanted me to visit their desert tents, sip cardomom tea, and join them for dinner.

    Like the vast majority of their compatriots, none of them lived life on the violent edge of fanatical extremism. Really very, very few people do, anywhere in the world.

    That doesn’t mean their countries, or tribes or mosques have our best interests at heart at all, only that the dreaded menace of Islamic extremism is heartily overstated.

  14. Bithead says:

    Like the vast majority of their compatriots, none of them lived life on the violent edge of fanatical extremism. Really very, very few people do, anywhere in the world.

    Well, it’s true that such was the case prior to 9/11.After that point, you may have a problem.

    That doesn’t mean their countries, or tribes or mosques have our best interests at heart at all, only that the dreaded menace of Islamic extremism is heartily overstated.

    Depends.

    While I understand what is being driven at here, I think I should point out that the majority of Germans, were not Nazis, before Hitler came to power. One does not need to have a majority of fanatics, to place a fanatic into power. Given that we are now, visavie Iran, (And prior to the demise of Saddam, Iraq as well) talking about such fanatics having nuclear power, chem weapons and so on, even up to using planes as weapons, the discussion is nearly indistinguishable from that in which all followers of the Muslim faith are equally fanatical as the leadership apparently is.

    You see, the problem is, that there has been a lack of substantial resistance within the Muslim world, to the kind of fanaticism were talking about here. Such resistance tends to lose its head rather quickly, if you take my meaning. If the resistance to such fanaticism it is silent, or unwilling to take up arms to quell those who would disturb the peace in the name of that religion, the discussion from our side becomes nearly indistinguishable from that which would occur if all Muslims were equally fanatical. And, underestimating the danger from said fanatics, deadly.

    Also;

    The condition in which one’s religion is an important source of what you do and believe but not the overarching organizing principle of one’s life.

    Eh…. I’m not quite sure that I would be quite so secularized in my interpretation of religion. One’s beliefs in the area of religion, are among the most personal one can have. It is from the interpretation of that religion that springs ones ideas regarding right and wrong, etc.. Morality. Who can deny that of cultures concepts of right and wrong are driven, at the center, by the predominant religion within that culture? Frankly, I have always considered that those differences are what drives some cultures to success, and some cultures to relatives failure. I would certainly regard remaining in the fourteenth century, to be a failure.

    In the end, this entire discussion is as much one about culture, as it is about religion. The issue to my mind as regards Muslim violence is ones cultural interpretation of their religion, rather than the reverse.

  15. Terry Gain says:

    Islamophobe- someone whose ability to do simple math isn’t overwhelmed by Politically Correct Insanity, i.e. 1.3- 1.6 Billion Muslims, say conservatively it’s 1 billion. One tenth of one percent of 1 billion = 1,000,000 hijackers of ROP = a serious problem that we overlook at our peril.

    I have no desire to think ill of any person or group but doing my best to face situations as they are and not as I wish they would be I do not think it is wise not to be vigilant.

    It is a mistake not to recognize that the fascists who wish to take over the world use their religion as motivation and justification and the majority of adherents to that religion, while peacefully going about their own lives, have little to say to the extreme practitioners of their religion and certainly have not denounced or even renounced the dogma which justifies the extremism.