We need uncompromising belief to win the war of ideas

My, what a big pile of ammonium nitrate they have. The better to blow us up with, I imagine. If so, they must be stopped, by persuasion where possible and by force where necessary. Do not dismiss the latter option too lightly. Persuasion fails if a machete through the neck impedes the smooth flow of your argument. The last words of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh were apparently: “We can talk about it. Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” But they couldn’t talk because his Islamist assailant shot and stabbed him before pinning an abusive note to his mutilated corpse to which no reply was feasible.

Do not dismiss the long-term importance of ideas too lightly either. In 1911, G. K. Chesterton wrote: “About half the history now taught in schools and colleges is made windy and barren by the narrow notion of leaving out the theological theories ... Historians seem to have completely forgotten two facts – first, that men act from ideas; and second, that it might, therefore, be as well to discover which ideas.”

It has not become less true since, in either sense. Islamists are our enemies because they believe in a perverse interpretation of the Muslim faith. And they will be until they are stopped, either from thinking that way or from acting on their ideas.

The police and intelligence services have done a good job thus far of preventing them from acting. But in the long run we must also win the war of ideas.

One important task, convincing potential radicals that the extremists have the wrong interpretation of Islam, falls primarily to reasonable Muslims who, I’m pleased to see, are speaking out a bit more clearly in this country. Of course, an infidel can point to passages in the Koran that advocate peace or say: “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” (And extremists can point to others that unmistakably do not.) But if you have not converted to Islam, you will have trouble convincing a Muslim audience you have grasped its essential truth.

Here we get into grave difficulties in a post-modern society. For typical well-meaning liberals have not embraced Islam not because they don’t think it is true, but because they don’t really think anything is true. In these “non-judgmental” times Roman Catholic politicians support abortion, the Constitution is a “living tree” whose Charter says one thing one day and the exact opposite the next, deconstructionism pervades academia and Pontius Pilate’s “What is truth?” is the slogan under which we don’t go forth to battle because like, whatever man. It will not do.

Those of us who are not Muslims cannot possibly prevail in a battle of ideas unless we have something positive for which we stand. We must be willing to say that our way of life is better than others and give logical reasons why. Even if it causes hurt feelings. For if certain beliefs about how one should behave are correct, then others that contradict them are not. Idiots may denounce this proposition as insensitive. But it’s elementary logic and you can’t wish or mush it away.

Nor will it help to try, because what most offends Islamists about our society is not what we believe, but that we do not believe. That’s why radical multiculturalism and the moral relativism behind it are not the answer to their hatred but a primary cause of it.

I don’t just mean that a lame-brained “different strokes for different folks” attitude toward clitorectomies, anti-Semitism and political violence blinds us to the fifth column in our midst. I mean that no amount of assuring Islamists it’s fine if they want to believe their silly old religion while we make out on the waterbed will mollify them. It is at the core of what infuriates them.

Forget the Afghan mission we joined or the Iraq war we didn’t. They despise us as decadent less because we fornicate while intoxicated than because we do it sadly and without conviction. Only those who stand up for something can talk back to them at all. Or have any real reason to fight back if they won’t listen.

As for the fourth option of grovelling appeasement, there is a peculiar marriage of convenience between western multiculturalists who don’t want to face the problem and anti-western radicals who don’t want us to face it. Let us divorce them forthwith. I’m all for exotic cuisine. But not sex-selective abortion (see the June 5 Western Standard) or a belief that you should blow up infidels or, when convenient, behead them slowly on camera. Multiculturalism must no longer be a cloak of invisibility for hatred, violence and evil.

We either convert our enemies or kill them, or they do it to us. I vastly prefer persuasion to force. But persuasion requires belief.

And that’s no pile of fertilizer.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson