Greg Burch, about the differences between Marxism and Islam, linked to by Instapundit, strikes me as shrewd. And the posting is also, unlike other blog postings I have found myself reading recently, mercifully brief, saying a great deal in a few pithy paragraphs.
Marxism, Burch reminds us, promises heaven on earth, and in time, this promise will prove wrong. So, to defeat Marxism all you have to do is quarantine it, and then wait for it to defeat itself. But Islam makes no verifiable and hence self-defeating real world promises.
This difference makes the nature of the protracted struggles faced by the West against these two fundamental challenges very different. In many ways, there was a basic premise inherent in the policy of containment taken against the communist world: Wait long enough and the truth of the superiority of liberal societies will become apparent to the world. But a policy of containment against Islamic imperialism cannot hope for such eventual success. Since Islam does not make any ambitious proposal to improve the lot of its followers in the real world, but only in an imaginary afterlife, no amount of waiting can undermine its claim to truth.
I do not claim that this is in any way a new insight, but it is an important meme, well stated. It also feeds in to what Johnathan said yesterday, about us "setting an example" to Islam rather than barging in and re-arranging it.
Another good Islam-related meme emerged from a not-that-recent (but it deserves to be placed on the Samizdata record, I think) conversation between me and Perry de Havilland. Perry perpetrated that widespread meme-that-ain't-so, to the effect that Islam needs a Reformation. The muddle here is that it confuses Reformation in the sense of reform in the direction of sanity and niceness with reformation in the direction of more devoted adherence to the original texts, which of course means the exact opposite of sanity and niceness.
My so far rather limited reading of the Koran causes me to agree with Islamic fundamentalists about what the Koran says and what it demands of Muslims. Reformation, in the sense of what happened historically in Europe with Christianity - believers reading the stuff for themselves and not allowing the message to be bent out of shape by priests before it gets to them - is what Islam has for many decades now been busily engaged in, and that, from the point of view of Western Civilisation, is the problem, not the solution.
Perry quickly rephrased what he was all along trying to say. Islam, he said, needs a New Testament. I.e. something fundamentally different for the fundamentalist true believers to read. Again, I am sure that this is not an original notion, but it is still a meme to conjure with, I think. It is a lot to ask, but that is the point. Islam has to change a lot before it can hope to rub along contentedly with the rest of us.
I suspect that lots of people benignly raised within the Muslim religious tradition, but appalled by what Islam actually says, have many times attempted such a project, but that Original Islam 1.0 contains not only the contradiction of all such niceness memes, but also other memes which have the effect of preventing the niceness memes from ever catching on and becoming more than historical footnotes.
However, the world is a very different place now to what it has been throughout most of Muslim history, and I remain optimistic that Islam may eventually reform itself, in the sense that Perry and I and everyone else who is civilised would all like. Such a benign transformation would be unprecedented and utterly out of character with almost everything that went before in Muslim history. But, so are mobile phones.
Or the internet.
The New Testament compares to the Koran very favorably on translation, but my Arabic was never nearly good enough to tackle the Islamic sourcebook. Suffice it to say that Muhammed respected Jesus of Nazareth enough to have him sit on the Seat of Judgement on the Yoom Ad-Din, or Day of Doom [Religion].
But the Three Religions of the People of the Book seem predestined to duke it out, given Western dynamism versus the attractions of 72 Virgins awaiting the Jihadist killed in a religious struggle.
Perhaps a question I asked on an earlier blog today concerning the position of the International Left is partially answered. As far as religion and civilization, the children of the Enlightenment appear to believe they don't have a dog in this titanic clash, given their idealistic propensity to fantasize themselves above mere temporal and civilizational matrices. Perhaps the old saw about getting mugged by reality could eventually remove the delusional cocoon convincing these idealistic ideologues that they live unthreatened in their Euro-bubble.
One can only hope, since their Kantian proclivities tend to ignore or overlook Hobbsian realities.