Defying the Islamic Totalitarians—

The argument with Bosch Fawstin (and others) over the use of such terminology as “Islamic totalitarianism” is one I’m actually pleased to engage in. This is an unusual instance of a strong dispute that stems from a fundamental agreement on the underlying issue.

Let me try one more time to name what I think is the source of the conflict. We’re in accord on the basic idea that Islam entails jihadism. If a Muslim consistently practices his religious tenets, he will want to forcibly impose them on others. To someone who follows commands on blind faith, the concept “rights”—the concept that would make a more rational person refrain from using force against others—has no meaning. People don’t have rights, according to Islam—they have only duties, of which the primary one is to obey Allah and his self-declared spokesmen. And if some refuse to obey, why should they not be compelled to? After all, it is for their own “good,” and they will be grateful in the next world.

So it is the wielders of force—the members of al Qaeda and ISIS, along with their abettorswho are being true to Islam. We are in agreement on this (though I don’t know whether Mr. Fawstin agrees that this applies to all doctrines based on faith).

The disagreement arises, I believe, out of a difference in purpose. If one’s purpose is to demonstrate the true nature of Islam—if one’s purpose is to refute the widespread view that Islam is a “religion of peace” that has been hijacked and misinterpreted by some radical gangs—then one will stress the inherent connection between Islam and jihadism, and will reject the notion that the jihadists are practicing some special or illegitimate form of Islam. This, I believe, is Mr. Fawstin’s perspective—and it is perfectly valid. The source of Islamic totalitarianism or militant Islam or Islamic jihadism is indeed Islam.

If, however, one’s purpose is to formulate a policy that the government should adopt—if one’s purpose is to urge our government to take action to eliminate the danger we face—then one will stress, not the intellectual threat, but the physical threat. One will stress the need to destroy those who want to forcibly impose their religious views upon us. One will differentiate between the Muslims who endorse the use of violence, and the Muslims who don’t. One will urge the government to eliminate the former and ignore the latter. The fact that any peaceful Muslims are guilty of a philosophical contradiction is not a problem that should concern the state. This was my perspective, and is the reason I name the enemy as Islamic totalitarianism, rather than Islam per se.

To draw a parallel, one can trace the intellectual roots of Nazism to Kantianism (in its embrace of unreason and self-sacrifice). One can show that Nazism is the consistent implementation of Kant’s philosophy. But the enemies we were fighting militarily during World War II were the Nazis, not the Kantians. And if we found a Kantian who repudiated Nazism, he was an ally in that battle, not an enemy. The same applies here.

Scroll to Top