In his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel P. Huntington confronts the primary problem facing the West today in its war against the Great Islamic Jihad: Is Islamic culture fundamentally incompatible with, and opposed to, the secular modernism of the West?
If Islam requires that there be no compromise, that the war with the infidels must go on until all are exterminated, converted, or reduced to dhimmitude, then the West will be forced eventually to take the battle to all corners of the Muslim world and fight until the believers are destroyed or completely subdued.
Today’s Belmont Club post touches on this topic. Commenter “wildiris” says:
Modern western constitutional democracies are now in a struggle to the death with the religion/culture of Islam. There can be only one winner in this struggle, since Islam, as a combined political-secular-religious worldview, can tolerate no competitors. The Protestant Reformation ushered in a century of bitter warfare. The wars of the second half of the twentieth century can be viewed as the struggle of western constitutional democracy to overcome the fascist forces of Marxism, Nazism, Communism and etc.
But is this true? Can Islam brook no competitors?
If the holy writ of the Quran is followed, no competition is allowed; it is the duty of every believer to wage jihad and expand the Dar al-Islam. However, in reaching modernity both Christianity and Judaism abandoned as literal truth portions of their sacred texts. St. Paul’s dictates on the status of women were jettisoned in order to create the modern secular state, for example. In order for modern science to develop, the descriptive cosmologies of the Book of Genesis had to be understood as allegory rather than absolute truth. The democratic state of Israel does not enforce scriptural rules concerning, among others, the cutting of side-locks or the treatment of non-Jews within Israel.
If Islam could develop in a similar way; if it could regard its texts as allegorical, as a guide to living righteously in the eyes of God, but without the requirement that every word be taken literally, then modernity for Muslims becomes conceivable.
But if the Islamic view of scripture remains that of antiquity, the West will have to win its victory on the terms of antiquity. And antiquity sets a harsh standard for victory: if we are to fight in seventh-century terms, able-bodied males must be slaughtered to a man, women and children must be enslaved, the holy cities razed, and the rubble sown with salt to make a wasteland for the rest of time.
Is the West capable of that? Not now, and not for the foreseeable future. But pray that Jihad never acquires nuclear weapons; once the radioactive crater appears in New York or Chicago, all bets are off.