I’ve been flicking through this month’s Prospect Magazine. The national discussion about our relationship to Islam continues, and Francis Fukuyama pin-points one of the underlying issues:
It is now the turn of young Muslims to experience this [modernisation]. Whether there is anything specific to the Muslim religion that encourages this radicalisation is an open question. Since 11th September, a small industry has sprung up trying to show how violence and even suicide bombing have deep Koranic or historical roots. It is important to remember, however, that at many periods in history Muslim societies have been more tolerant than their Christian counterparts. The Jewish philosopher Maimonides was born in Muslim Córdoba, which was a diverse centre of culture and learning; Baghdad for many generations hosted one of the world’s largest Jewish communities. It makes no more sense to see today’s radical Islamism as an inevitable outgrowth of Islam than to see fascism as the culmination of centuries of European Christianity.
This cannot be said often enough. Acceptance of this idea is the first step to co-operation with the Islamic world. And yet much of the discussions on this issue begin by implicitly assuming the former. Especially online, I find many pundits are all too keen to (smugly) point out yet another failing of some muslim or other, somewhere. inevitable retort, pointing out some transgression of some Christian group, or some Western government, is quick in arriving. No allies are won in this manner.