December 02, 2006


Long ago I wondered if we're born with our politics or if we learn them. I still think about this a lot. But now I've thought of a new twist: If I had been born a Muslim, would I embrace Islam or democracy? Some Muslims break away from their religion -- like Ibn Warraq or Nonie Darwish -- but many accept the worldview they were born into as the only way to live their lives. It's very 1984 to me; I can never put my finger on why someone would want to live under sharia when they know democracy exists.

Andrew McCarthy:

Islamic countries, moreover, are not rejecting Western democracy because they haven’t experienced it. They reject it on principle. For them, the president’s euphonious rhetoric about democratic empowerment is offensive. They believe, sincerely, that authority to rule comes not from the people but from Allah; that there is no separation of religion and politics; that free people do not have authority to legislate contrary to Islamic law; that Muslims are superior to non-Muslims, and men to women; and that violent jihad is a duty whenever Muslims deem themselves under attack … no matter how speciously.

These people are not morons. They adhere to a highly developed belief system that is centuries old, wildly successful, and for which many are willing to die. They haven’t refused to democratize because the Federalist Papers are not yet out in Arabic. They decline because their leaders have freely chosen to decline. They see us as the mortal enemy of the life they believe Allah commands. Their demurral is wrong, but it is principled, not ignorant. And we insult them by suggesting otherwise.

Democratizing such cultures — in anything we would recognize as “democracy” — is the work of generations. It is a cultural phenomenon. It is not accomplished by elections and facile constitution writing … especially, constitutions that shun Madisonian democracy for the State Department’s preferred establishment of Islam and its adhesive sharia law as the state religion.

Having just read about the Constitutional Convention in my A Pocket History of the United States, I simply can't wrap my brain around this.

Posted by Sarah at December 2, 2006 07:58 AM | TrackBack

Closed systems of belief have great psychological power--Arthur Koestler, himself once a Communist, describes the phenomenon here.

Koestler also describes his own wilful blindness when he toured the Soviet Union during a time of widespread famine--he was so ideologically-entranced that the starving people made little impression on him--his mind was instead focused on the new model villages and hydroelectric dams.

And Koestler wasn't *brought up* as a Communist--the hermetic seal on a closed system must be even stronger for those who were raised inside them.

Posted by: david foster at December 2, 2006 06:14 PM

Yeah, closed systems are so pervasive that people like David can talk at length eloquently about them without realizing that we're ALL in it.

Posted by: Will at December 7, 2006 02:52 PM