The Second Version


Nuance Required

Nuance is a word that has been heavily vilified, especially in right-wing circles, as the epitome of muddled, inconclusive speech. Not casually, nuance is often cited together with Europe, where politicians are so nuanced that they become unable to reach any clear conclusion or decision. However, "nuance" remains an useful word; and more importantly, the capacity of grasping and understanding subtle differences in meaning isn't one to despise. Even if a good man must take a clear stance at some point - but I digress.

Via Cold Fury, I found a post where Dean Esmay presents his Anti-islamophobic manifesto, as we can call it:
1) Islam does not represent the forces of Satan or the Anti-Christ bent on destruction of the Christian world.

2) There is no 1,400 year old "war with the West/Christianity" being waged by Muslims or anyone else.

3) Islam as a religion is no more inherently incompatible with modernity, minority rights, women's rights, or democratic pluralism than most religions.

4) Medieval, anachronistic, obscure terms like "dhimmitude" or "taqiyya" are suitable for polite intellectual discussion. They are not and never will be appropriate to slap in the face of everyday Muslims or their friends.

5) Muslims have no more need to prove that they can be good Americans, loyal citizens, decent people, or enemies of terrorism than anyone else does.
Well, this manifesto is utterly un-nuanced. To the point it becomes truly simplistic.

I can fully agree only to #4 and #5, but in all honesty I can neither accept nor reject the first three points as they are written. Here's why.

#1: There seems to be a fairly large fraction of Muslims who would actually like to see the end of the Christian world. Those willing to actually fight aren't many, granted - but their supporters are more. Anyway, I happily leave rambling about Satan and the Anti-Christ to the end-of-days-is-coming types (and in my old blog I dedicated at least a couple of pieces to them).

#2: Similar objections. While it is also simplistic to talk about a "1400 years old war", it is also hard to deny that for a few centuries the Islamic Empire grew by the sword. And by their own words, a number of Muslims (incidentally, more or less the same mentioned above) seem to be doing the same thing, albeit with a wider array of weapons and tactics.

#3: Even the wording of this statement is messy. In particular, I think that putting modernity, minority rights, women's rights and democratic pluralism all in the same list is misleading - because they refer to different areas of culture and society. If the statement is rephrased as "Many Muslims can live in, and certain strains of Islam are not incompatible with western-style liberal democracy", I agree with it.

As you can notice, I often talk about fractions or parts of the whole of Muslims: this is a case of "good" nuance, because it should be clear to anyone that talking of some 1300 million people as a monholitic block is way too simplistic. On the other hand, there are valid heuristics.

A possible objection is that those committing violence in the name of Allah are not true Muslims. You know, that may actually be the case, but I cannot play in this game; only cheer from the sidelines. Defining what constitutes "true" Islam is a problem that only Muslims themselves can resolve; different memes are already competing for supremacy and outsiders can't do much to alter the outcome of that struggle. And surely denying that better strains of Islam (compared for example to Wahabism) can exist is the least helpful stance. Of course, if memes irredeemeably hostile to us were to triumph, we non-Muslims may have to take drastic measures for self-preservation.

Anyways... I'll add to my blogroll also, a blog with which I don't agree enormously, but I think can give a valuable contribution to a sane discussion of these issues.

Update: I do not like the term "Islamophobia" and its derivates; it is one of those words that make me roll my eyes - much like "diversity" and derivates. I think it is redundant - we already have bigotry for hatred based on religion/ideology - and misleading. This new term, manufactured to the customer's specifications, not only implies irrational fear while there are some very rational reasons to be wary of certain elements of Islam (in part detailed above); it also introduces a new class of specially aggrieved people, thus alimenting the nefarious identity politics trend.

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