Islam, the Left’s Religion of Peace
Fox News commentators do not often make an intelligent criticism of President Obama's foreign policy. They are usually content to point out the obvious—that Obama is misguided—while offering alternatives that would hardly work any better. Nonetheless, the neoconservative establishment was right to express outrage in February, when then-State Department spokesperson Marie Harf declared on Chris Matthews' MSNBC program that defeating ISIS in the long-term will require addressing the "root causes" of terrorism, such as lack of jobs and poverty. This statement was palpably absurd, but it also reflected the consensus of the American and European ruling classes, a consensus that helped facilitate the recent Paris attacks and will almost surely result in increasingly more hopeless tensions with Islamic communities in the West.
Fox News pundits objected in particular to Harf's remark that "we can't kill our way out of this war.” Questioning the effectiveness of military operations was deeply offensive to the neoconservatives, who see military interventions in the name of democracy as the highest expression of their principles. Nonetheless, as shallow as neoconservative speculation can be, it is profundity itself compared with Harf’s welfare-state platitudes. The neoconservatives surely pull some weight in American foreign policy decisions, but they have an equally influential opposition force in the Democratic Party, one which also happens to have far more pull with the up-and-coming generation.
If the future belongs to people of Harf’s generation and indoctrination, perhaps we ought to have some idea of what,, precisely, is the mindset at work in a 34-year-old graduate of two prominent state universities? What are the deep-rooted convictions we are dealing with here?
Let’s start with the obvious. Ms. Harf, Mr. Obama, and others on their team actually believe that their understanding of ISIS is a sophisticated reflection of the complex reality of the Middle East. In their minds, their rightwing opponents are simple-minded bigots for describing the enemy as "Islamic" and thinking that a strong military force could simply wipe out the Islamic State.
It is hard to blame leftists for being smug. Neoconservatives do, unfortunately, control the American conservative movement, giving Obama, Harf, and co a convenient punching bag on foreign policy. Besides, most leftists are so ignorant of the history of American conservatism that they truly believe George Bush's war in Iraq was a "conservative" war. So, this much we can grant them: They give the warmongers all the respect they deserve. But defeatism is an old story on the American left. What is more interesting in these people is their stupefying refusal to understand the threat of Islam.
For the likes of Ms. Harf and Mr. Obama, religion, in the sense of a formal set of doctrines, is outdated, narrow-minded, and irrelevant to real-world concerns. There is no sense in studying it or learning it, because it would just be a waste of time. In particular, Christianity, which has been a scourge throughout its history, is on its way out the door and—and thank goodness!
“Religion"--by which most atheists mean Christianity, since that is the only religion they are personally familiar with—maybe okay in the tepid "be nice" sense used by Pope Francis, but beyond that, it is passé and dangerous. If people want to invoke Christianity in support of Gay rights and compassion for minorities, that is fine, but anything more than that is a threat to progress.
Furthermore, traditional Western Christianity is inextricably linked in the leftist historical imagination with the worst misdeeds of humanity, namely, racism, homophobia, and discrimination. Being opposed to these pathologies is the new moral measuring stick and the means by which one gains moral fulfillment. Unwittingly, and rather amusingly, leftists have borrowed the universalism and piety of the Christianity that they reject in developing their new system of moral absolutes. Within this system, Muslims have a special status as historic victims of the ultimate villain, which is traditional Christianity. As Bill Clinton remarked at Georgetown after 9/11, the West had it coming because of the Crusades. Thus, while Islam is not in itself particularly attractive to the average post-Christian Westerner, it is, nonetheless, absolutely necessary to defend Islam. It is a question of basic human decency.
In the minds of most leftists, whatever is wrong with Islam is nowhere as bad as what European Christians have pulled off over the centuries as slaveowners, anti-Semites, homophobes, and sexists. Of course, most leftists are blissfully unaware of how Christianity had a great deal to do with slavery's eventual abolition, or how the Catholic Center Party was the main opposition force in Germany to the Nazis, or how Pope Pius XII was very active in saving the Jews from Hitler, or how a number of respected historians such as Leon Poliakov (himself a Jew) did not regard Nazism as having anything to do with Christianity. But none of this matters. What matters it that any semblance of the traditional European Christian mindset must be stigmatized and rejected.
Some people might object that the entirety of the left is not in a state of Islamophilia. That is true, but there is no way that the likes of Dawkins, Harris, and Maher are going to transform the rest of the left into passionate atheists who take on a viscerally anti-egalitarian approach to handling Islam. The prospect of Western governing parties acting on an atheist rejection of Islam in formulating immigration policy or policing measures is slim to say the least. It would require the left to dispense with a well-established government and media orthodoxy on multiculturalism and to launch a direct assault on the leftist attachment to "equality".
However, that is not all. I t is important to note that all the prating we hear from the "New Atheists" about religion causing war and human division misses one essential point: It is very clear from history as well as the basic cognitive workings of the human race that in eliminating convictions pertaining to the supernatural, human societies absolutely do not lose a sense of moral righteousness or fail to replace the older theological beliefs with other moral convictions. And, it is these kinds of convictions, whether supernatural, ideological, or a blend of the two, that divide people or inspire violence. In other words, when you eliminate traditional religion, it clearly leaves a vacuum that is filled by other dogmatic beliefs, which usually take the form of fanatical political ideologies and sharply defined political myths that have historical heroes and villains.
For the Obama administration leftists, Islam is a variant on Pope Francis's generic creed of "be nice and accepting.”At the same time it is a non-Christian religion that must be defended from the bigoted impulses of the ultimate villain. This is all Islam is and all it can be for Ms. Harf and her bosses; there is no other possibility. Defending Islam per se, while describing the terrorists as "violent extremists,” is not a matter of empirical judgment on her part but of reflexive morality instilled in her by the misfits and rejects who filled her mind with nonsense during her high school and college years. The only way such people can understand ISIS militants is as warped psychopaths who distort a religion of peace and niceness to justify their barbaric behavior.
What is probably most ironic about this is that leftists often impugn Christians for suspending their rational thought processes in favor of faith, and also of closing their minds to outside views. These charges, while they certainly apply to some Christians, are a perfect description of the way leftists approach so many issues, including Islam. They snidely dismiss rational analysis and and factual evidence and opt for overt hostility, whenever they hear any critique of Islam as doctrine. To entertain such a conversation would be to open a dialogue about their basic assumptions, and, indeed, to challenge their faith in what is most central to human morality and what Islam stands for.
With her terrifying gifts of oversimplification, contempt for fact, and meaningless rhetoric, Marie Harf is now—get this—“Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications to United States Secretary of State John Kerry.”