I live in metro-Phoenix, Arizona. I like to read Robert Robb’s editorial column in the Arizona Republic newspaper. Here is his column yesterday, with the above title, with changes only in his paragraphing:
According to Donald Trump, all Muslims are suspect. According to Barack Obama, Islam has nothing to do with the terrorist threat confronting the [our] country. Both perspectives are miles from the truth, although at least Obama’s isn’t offensive to boot.
Identifying and articulating the truth is trick business in today’s politically correct milieu. Avoiding the task, however, leads to misunderstanding and miscalculation. Obama inadvertently points to the truth when he goes on one of his equivalency jags. Periodiçally, he takes pains to point out that the West and the United States are not without sin. And that includes atrocities and injustices committed in the name of Christianity. And, indeed, history is rich with such atrocities and injustices. But Western civilization, what used to be known as Christendom, underwent the Enlightenment.
People decided that they no longer wanted to be ruled by monarchs or clerics. Over time–through reformation, reform and revolution–pluralistic, secular, democratic governance became the norm. Market economies developed roughly in the same period, creating the democratic capitalism that ushered in unprecedented improvements in living conditions and standards.
The role of religion in society changed. Its influence on the polity became more indirect. The institutional voice of the church became one of many in the tumble of pluralistic politics. The primary influence was through establishing cultural mores and religious individuals acting on their faith in the public arena.
Religion remains a significant influence in the United Sates. It has become a historical relic in Western Europe. But even in the United States, religion has to find its role within the norm of pluralistic, secular governance
The Islamic world has not undergone an Enlightenment. Pluralistic, secular, democratic governance is not a norm. In fact, in much of the Islamic world, they are considered foreign and hostile concepts. Overwhelmingly, the Islamic world is still governed by monarchs and clerics.So, a civilizational clash does exist. And it is relevant [emphasis mine] to the issue of terrorism.
There is some hope for organic change within the Muslim world. A group of Arab scholars and civic leaders, working under the auspices of the United Nations, has documented how badly their countries lag behind and attributed it directly to the failure to transition to democratic capitalism.
The Arab Spring demonstrated a desire for more participatory governance. Indonesia has had a peaceful transfer of power through democratic elections. The flower of the Arab Spring remains alive in Tunisia if nowhere else. Turkey remains at least nominally democratic.
But the civilizational clash is the dominant force. The percentage of Muslims wanting to take violent action against the West is very small. But the percentage with hostile feelings toward the West and particularly the United States is disturbingly high. As is the percentage that, while not supporting terrorism, believe that Western countries have it coming to the them to at least a certain degree.
Jihadism threatens the status quo in Muslim countries. So, there are alliances of convenience possible. But there isn’t a true alignment of interests. There is not a linear route from this reality to policy regarding protecting the country against terrorist attack.
There is no need nor justification for Muslim exception to the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty or the Fifth and Fourteen Amendments’ guarantee of equal status under the law. In the United States, there are no second class citizens or legal residents. That was our singular contribution to the Enlightenment.
In reality, Muslims have assimilated well in the United States. Our record has been far different than that of Western Europe. San Bernardino shouldn’t obscure that. In fact, if there is to be an Islamic Enlightenment, the seeds may very well be being planted in the Muslim experience in the United States.
Nevertheless, even if the policy implications aren’t clear, there is a civilizational clash with the foreign Islamic world that is relevant to terrorism [emphasis mine]. That’s the world as it is. It should be neither exaggerated nor ignored.