Long-time readers will remember Seneca III’s reviews of Guillaume Faye’s books (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). The essay below by Thomas Bertonneau is a review for Gates of Vienna of Mr. Faye’s latest book.
Guillaume Faye’s Understanding Islam, A Review
by Thomas F. Bertonneau
Guillaume Faye’s Understanding Islam (Arktos 2016) will exercise a compelling power over many readers who, committing themselves to encompassing it, will plough through its nearly three hundred pages in a single sitting. Immensely insightful and quotable, Faye’s book will inform public debate about the place of Islam, if any, in the West, and it will influence the character of Western policy towards the Muslim world; other writers will cite it, and it bids fair to become a standard guide and reference for its topic. Understanding Islam ought to be made mandatory reading for State Department functionaries under the incoming Donald Trump administration — so effective is Faye’s prose in bulldozing through the utopian fantasies and politically correct clichés that encrust Western perception and comprehension of the Mohammedan cult. Best of all would be that Mr. Trump familiarized himself with Faye’s exposition, so as to clarify his good instincts and resolve him to swift action in defense of the North American chapter of Western civilization, as he assumes the presidential office. But that would undoubtedly be asking for too much.
In addition to explaining the desert cult in plain language to his readers, Faye relentlessly exposes Western liberal and multicultural collaboration with Islam, in both the ideological and practical-political domains. Finally, Understanding Islam realistically assesses the strengths and weaknesses of both the West and Dar al Islam in the present state of their fateful clash.
Faye takes as an important recurrent theme in his suite of chapters (six of them — plus a “conclusion”) what one might call the phenomenology of Islam; or, as best it can be reconstructed, Islam as understood from the inside out. From among the ways in which Islam so strongly differs from most if not all other religions, Faye singles out its relentless suppression of subjectivity, hence also of individuality and therefore any possibility of comprehending anything outside itself. Faye brings to bear on Islam the description of a “locked religion” rooted in the believer’s ceaseless incantatory repetition of scriptural formulas whose guiding rule prohibits their interpretation. Repeat, repeat — only repeat. Because Islam emerged in the cultural matrix of a largely oral society, that of the desert-wandering Bedouin of the Arabian Peninsula, its scriptural status requires a descriptive qualification. The Muslim has historically and typically encountered the Koran — the supposed revelation of Allah to Mohammed via the medium of the Archangel Gabriel — in the form of recitation, which he then laboriously memorizes. In certain cases, outside the domain of the Arabic language, the Muslim never even understands the verses that he commits to heart, phoneme by phoneme, but learns of their content through instruction in a local vulgate. Although the literacy of the Muslim world has increased through the centuries, the habit and mentality of oral transmission by rote and repetition still inform the mental cast of that world. This fact has important phenomenological consequences.
Faye writes in Chapter I of Understanding Islam that, in the first place, Islam’s sacred book the Koran corresponds in its disorganization and randomness to no logical or even chronological order. The Koran thus stands in stark contrast to the exposition of Platonic theology in Plato’s Timaeus, the story of the Hebrews in the Old Testament, or the story of Christ in the New Testament. The Koran’s illogicality and arbitrariness reveal, however, the book’s essential character and purpose: To impose on the captive mind a set of dogmatic and totalizing demands that obliterate any nascent sense of individuality or selfhood. While Muslims declare the Koran a perfect text, they nevertheless require a large number of supplementary rules for explaining away its irresolvable contradictoriness. Faye offers as a primary example “the notion of ‘abrogating’ and ‘abrogated’ Suras.” Chronologically later verses of the Koran abrogate or nullify chronologically earlier verses, but difficulties beset the judgment of which verse abrogates another and which stands abrogated, because the Suras obey no consistent temporal precedence. Moreover, the applicability of any Sura is situational. “Depending on the circumstances,” Faye writes, “some Suras apply whereas others do not,” a fact that in his observation “is completely incompatible with the supposed divine and absolute nature” of Islam’s holy book.
In Faye’s view, no active or independent mind could come to terms rationally with the Koran. Rather, acceptance of the Koran by a rational person would require his relinquishment of rationality; the Koran indeed functions as a bludgeon for the suppression of rationality in its nascent state before it can consolidate itself as one of the foundations of genuine subjectivity.
The Koran in Faye’s characterization “targets uneducated and semi-educated populations,” over whom, because it “provides solutions to everything,” it exercises “great appeal.” In a remarkable phrase, Faye describes Koranic instruction as “the ingurgitation of dogmas, rules, rigid prohibitions and mental associations that extirpate every principle of free inquiry… and permeate the mind with the idea that Islam is a revealed and indisputable truth that must be embraced by all of mankind and whose destiny is to dominate the whole planet.” In suppressing rationality and subjectivity, Koranic instruction simultaneously assimilates the pupil to the view of himself as the bearer of a doctrine whose success Allah himself has foreordained. As he submits to Islam, the Muslim nourishes himself on a heady sense of rising in moral stature above the benighted portion of humanity, the Dar al Harb.
Faye’s Aristotelian concept of subjectivity (his English text renders it as subjectivism) takes its place in an opposition of two antithetical possibilities, that of “free subjects” and “docile subordinates.” Again in Chapter I, Faye notes that all forms of collectivism, the category to which he assigns Islam, despise the phenomenon of free subjectivity, the thoughtful person, the skeptic, the dissident, the objector. Collectivists — not only Muslims, but also Communists and National Socialists, as Faye asserts — “claim that individualism is an egotistical attitude that rules out every prospect of solidarity.” This claim amounts, however, to “an absolute fallacy,” the opposite of which is the actual case. As Faye rightly reminds his readers, “The subjectivism of individuals, city-states and free nations is the cultural and philosophical foundation of our civilization.” Subjectivity should not be regarded as a condition in which the individual behaves whimsically, as though he were not beholden to an external reality. Subjectivity, whatever its germ might be in a general human nature, results from the individual’s education in the structure of reality and from his acculturation in a tradition that places a high value on skepticism, self-examination, and unfettered inquiry. Eric Voegelin once wrote that the Greek polis was akin to a subject, in that it organized itself. He might have added that, when necessary, the polis¬-subject could also re-organize itself; it was adaptable and could respond to reality. Islam forbids in advance any re-organization of itself.
For Faye, not only the primary text, but also the invariant daily practice of Islam, prohibits skepticism, self-examination, and unfettered inquiry. Consider the matter of prayer. According to Faye, “Muslim prayer is a ritual act devoid of freedom.” In contrast to Jewish or Christian prayer, which is at once volitional and deeply personal, Muslim prayer, which is mandatory and entirely impersonal, “is restricted to a repetition of various Koranic verses while remaining in a proscribed posture and kneeling in submission, the head pressed to the ground and facing Mecca.” In the five-times-a-day obligatory prostration the Muslim exgurgitates what, from his childhood, he has ingurgitated, but there is no spiritual metabolism, no change or growth.
In Judaism and Christianity, as in other religions, formulaic prayers exist, and individuals may avail themselves of them, but Western religion fosters spontaneous, improvisational, and interlocutory prayer in dialogue with the deity, qualities that presuppose a free and articulate person who can exercise his religiosity non-demonstratively. Faye effectively sums up his phenomenology of the Mohammedan mind in Chapter VI of Understanding Islam when he writes that “Islam’s persuasiveness and ability to fascinate relate to ignorance, meaning to the fact of replacing… the individual mind and subjectivism with dogmatic collectivism.”
Just as Muslims regard the Koran as the perfect book, the eternal and uncreated book, which obviates all other pretenders to the status of scriptural authority, so they regard the founder of their religion and its prophet Mohammed as the perfect man, seeking to imitate him in every aspect and detail of their daily lives. Faye ignores recent arguments about the historicity of Mohammed and about the possible non-Muslim origins of Islam in a melding of Arab Monophysite Christianity with aspects of Arabian Paganism. The gesture finds its justification in the fact of Mohammed’s effective reality, whether he existed or not, and his central place as the conceptual icon of the hyper-iconoclastic creed. Concerning Mohammed’s role as prophet, Faye writes that, “in truth, it would be more becoming to speak of the oracle Mohammed, since he never actually ‘prophesied’ anything, restricting his role to the transmission of God’s words and laws (or so he claimed).” [Emphasis added] Faye’s summary of Mohammed’s curriculum vitae provides a good overview of the founder’s character: He is an “illiterate camel driver who married his mistress”; his scripture is an amalgam of Jewish and Christian themes, to which he adds various self-serving and opportunistic codicils; he is a slaver; he “murders his opponents” whenever convenient and indeed massacres whole tribes and towns that oppose or offend him.
Faye, like his countrymen of the French New Right Alain de Benoist and the late Dominique Venner, identifies as a Pagan and has in the past written in a dismissive, Nietzschean vein about Christianity. In Understanding Islam, however, Faye makes a number of concessions to Christianity and the New Testament. For one thing, he roundly dismisses the liberal equivalency argument that charges Christendom with having been as violent as Islam. It is first of all factually not the case, but more than that, as Faye notes in Chapter VI, while incitement to theological aggression abounds in the Koran and its associated texts, “it would be impossible for us to find any actual texts in the New Testament that incite people to commit acts of open intolerance.” Faye even goes so far as to speculate that the aim of Islam “may not even be to wage war in order to achieve victory and peace”; but that “there may be, instead, a gratuitous thirst for confrontation, destruction and violence, a kind of hubris, which motivates the Islamic mentality.” Nor has the cultural condition fostered by Christianity impeded the development of natural science and technology by independent researchers and innovators or that of art and literature by artists and writers. On the contrary, the scientific, technical, and artistic efflorescence of the West is rooted in Christianity. Faye goes so far, for a self-identifying Pagan, as to defend the tradition of placing a noticeable crèche in the public square at Christmas.
Faye understandably experiences acute concern about the advance of Islam into Europe. He sees this advance as an active, conscious collaboration between the ruling elite of socialist bureaucrats and educrats and Islam itself. The nomenklatura pushes the misnamed program of multiculturalism into every nook and corner of every society, imposing “immigrants” not only on the neighborhoods of the large metropolises but also on small cities and towns. The status quo is, as Faye writes in Chapter II, “a situation unheard of in the entire history of the European continent and its peoples,” especially in France. Muslim colonization of Europe (Faye insists on the word colonization) has extended so far and so swiftly that “in some areas, Islam already represents the foremost, if not the sole culture,” such that “no region can escape its clutches.” The Islamic influx, with its intrinsic jihad or war on the so-called infidels, is qualitatively unlike any previous foreign incursion, such as the descent of the Celts into Italy during the period of the Roman Republic or the growth of Gothic hegemony in what remained of the Western Roman Empire beginning in the early Fourth Century. The Celts and the Goths turned out to be receptive to civilization, and soon enough assimilated to it. The Gothic kings of the Fifth and Sixth Centuries were in many respects more Roman than the effete emperors and officials whom they displaced.
Faye emphasizes that nothing in the history of Islam suggests its receptivity to Western civilization — or even, as he speculates, to civilization of any kind: “It is not merely a new and unknown religion that is establishing itself in Europe, but a culture and a lifestyle that are incompatible with European traditions.”
Faye distinguishes three phases of “The Strategic Technique of Islamising and Conquering Europe.” In the first phase, Muslims as a small minority exercise the tactic of taqiyya or justified misrepresentation of their creed and way of life to create an impression of themselves as “sympathetic, amiable, harmless and neutral.” In the second phase, currently relevant, Muslims, having nucleated in sufficient numbers, complain “of being victims of ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘stigmatisation,’” at which point they begin to demand privileges which amount to a cultural tax on the colonized people. In the third phase, in attaining a numerical relation to the autochthons that induces belligerent self-confidence, the Muslim community drops the mask of taqiyya and the aggressive imposition of sharia commences. By a “leopard skin” strategy, Islam spreads from its colonial nuclei into the host society, destroying that society and forcing its people to submit, either to dhimmitude or preemptive conversion.
Faye represents the core of “deep-seated Islamic culture,” in distinction from its ideology, as having three essential attributes: An absolute misogyny; a linked insistence on polygamy and chattel-status for women; and a type of ultra-puritanical separation of men and women that betokens “a pathological attitude towards sexuality.” The increasing influence of Islam in any modern society is therefore tantamount to a real, rather than a fake, war on women, as the epidemic of rape in the European countries afflicted by Muslim immigration abundantly testifies.
Given the extent of ideological feminism in Western societies, one would think that the Islamic relegation of women to the role of sexual chattels would horrify the advocates of “women’s rights,” but it manifestly does not. In fact, it is the people who identify with socialist leftwing politics, including feminists, who most vehemently defend Islamic colonization. Is this not a flabbergasting contradiction? Not for Faye, who knows the Left as well as he knows Islam. The Left, like Islam, thinks collectively and acts according to a totalitarian agenda. The Left, like Islam, has contempt and hatred for dissenters from its creed. The Left requires a proletariat whom it can accuse the middle class of hating, victimizing, and exploiting. Islam fills the Left’s requirement for that proletariat and provides proxy soldiers for the Left’s own program of de-civilization. But the Left will not control events.
Europe is today, as Faye sees it, a battlefield, but it is a battlefield on which the defending forces petulantly refuse to admit that a state of war exists and remain in a passive and vulnerable state. In Chapter V, Faye argues that Muslims in Europe have begun to shift from the second to the third phase of their “leopard skin” strategy, a claim bolstered in its plausibility by events since Understanding Islam’s completion. “Dazed and distorted, the politicians who run the European Union and its member countries refuse to acknowledge this threat… They would rather focus on inconsistent phantasms, namely the demonization of Putin and Russophobia.” Faye holds the opinion that Europe will come to its senses only with the intensification of Muslim violence, which he expects. Faye offers a typology of likely developments in the very near future: An increase in more or less spontaneous or improvised single-perpetrator acts; an increase in “professional… highly premeditated attacks” against synagogues, churches, and police barracks; a new “colossal terrorist attack” designed to rival the North American 9/11 Al Qaeda operation; and “an eruption of simultaneous and violent riots and insurgencies.” The most likely place where these developments might occur is France.
Were the French therefore suddenly to grasp their situation and begin to react in their own defense, it would be a “paradigm shift.” The decision to effectuate the reconquest of its own territory would entail for the French nation the proper designation of the enemy and the swift arrangement of his containment. “This would obviously imply bringing immigration flows to an immediate halt,” Faye writes, as well as “triggering a movement of ‘demigration’” with the intent of “resolving the problem of Islamic presence in France once and for all.” The same shift would mean the abolition of the regime of political correctness and the restoration of the right of free speech. In another recent book, The Colonisation of Europe (2016), Faye has noted somberly that “tragedies are rarely peaceful, and colonisation never occurs without clashes”; he adds there that “we are living in a France that stands at the doorstep of an ethnic civil war.” Understanding Islam includes a set of appendices in which Faye reverts to the technique that he employed in Archeofuturism (2010), where he speculated in plausible fictions about the probable near future. Faye divulges what he considers to be the likelihood of each scenario, from the “paradigm shift” to the gradual descent of a dwindling European people into dhimmitude. Any of these possibilities, including the best one, is sobering and will be an ordeal for those whom it befalls to live through it.
Faye’s phenomenology of the Islamic psyche has at least one notable precursor in the non-fiction work of the Nobel Prize winning novelist and travel writer V. S. Naipaul. Two of Naipaul’s travel books — Among Believers (1981) and Beyond Belief (1998) — concern themselves with the Islamic world. Naipaul’s extensive discussions in the two books show many parallels with and anticipations of statements by Faye. In the chapter of Among Believers entitled “The Disorder of the Law,” for example, Naipaul describes the Muslim attitude towards the holy book. “The Koran,” Naipaul writes, “is not the statute book of a settled golden age; it is the mystical or oracular record of an extended upheaval widening out from the prophet to his tribe to Arabia.” [Emphasis added] As does Faye, Naipaul sees Islam as spiritually stultifying and as a retreat from the best of human possibilities into the impoverished tribalism of the desert. “In Islam, and especially in the Islam of the fundamentalists, precedent is all,” Naipaul concludes; “the principles of the Prophet — as divined from the Koran and the approved traditions — are for all time.” It follows that Islam is also suspended in time, the time of the prophet, and cannot budge from that suspension without annulling itself. Indeed, Naipaul believes Islam to be haunted by a sense of Mohammed’s ever-diminishing aura: “The Prophet was reported to have said that the best Muslims were going to be his contemporaries, the second best the generation after, and so on, the decline continuing to the end of time.”
In 1981, Naipaul still distinguished a generic Islam from its fundamentalist variety, a distinction that Faye would deny. Nevertheless, the reader may easily shift Naipaul’s conclusion about fundamentalism to Islam generically. Recoiling from the passage of time and the historical development of other cultures whose achievements make those of the Islamic world, apart from savage conquest, look paltry, the Muslim’s dearest wish is to recreate the hermetic asylum of the original desert tribe, the true and original collective, than whose wholeness there is none other. Naipaul writes, “The Islamic fundamentalist wish is to work back to such a whole, for them a God-given whole, but with the tool of faith alone — belief, religious practices and rituals.” The Muslim’s utopian past resembles the Leftist’s utopian future: “It is to seek to re-create something like a [tribe] or city-state that — except in theological fantasy — never was.” The perpetual crisis of Islam and the origin perhaps of the creed’s violence is that, as Naipaul so perceptively puts it, “in the fundamentalist scheme the world constantly decays and has constantly to be re-created. Moreover” — and here again Naipaul anticipates Faye — “the only function of intellect is to assist that re-creation,” such that “fundamentalism provides an internal intellectual thermostat, set low.” Islam appears in this light as the religious codification of a neurotic repetition-compulsion. Muslim behavior is as predictable as it is intolerant and violent.
In rejecting any outside principle and in immersing itself in the original limitations of the archaic desert worldview, Islam, according to Naipaul, condemns itself to eternal “parasitism,” as he calls it. “The West, or the universal civilization it leads, is emotionally rejected,” but at the same time, “it is needed, for its machines, goods, medicines, warplanes, the remittances from the emigrants, the hospitals that might have a cure for calcium deficiency, the universities that will provide master’s degrees in mass media.” In Naipaul’s words, “parasitism is one of the unacknowledged fruits of fundamentalism.” Put another way, in order to survive, and because it remains uncreative and unproductive, Islam must taint itself through contact with that which it despises. In tainting itself, it also humiliates itself, a process that, aligning itself with the repetition-compulsion, produces schizophrenic results.
In the chapter of Beyond Belief entitled “A Sacred Place,” Naipaul, reporting on his visit to Indonesia, makes a theme of the way in which Islam, in obliterating minds, obliterates the past of the places where it takes hold. Naipaul points out that Islam came to Indonesia shortly before Europe came there; being at the geographical limit of the Islamic world, Indonesia also represents one of the most recent places to be Islamized. Before Islam, the civilization of the archipelago was Buddhist, with an important Hindu overlay, both of which melded with native traditions. Naipaul is surprised to learn how little even educated Indonesians know about the pre-Islamic past of their own nation. A lady academic knows that the rice-fields are two thousand years old, but can pass along no details of what filled those two millennia. One factor in the absence of such knowledge is that the pre-Hindu culture was an oral culture, without writing, but the history after the introduction of writing is also lost — swept away by Islam, which takes no interest in it. “The cruelty of Islamic fundamentalism,” Naipaul asserts, “is that it only allows one people — the Arabs, the original people of the Prophet — a past, and sacred places, [and] pilgrimages, and earth reverences.” Under Islam, “converted peoples have to strip themselves of their past; of converted peoples nothing is required but the purest faith (if such a thing can be arrived at), Islam, submission.” And with what does the new creed replace that which it destroys? It replaces it with nothing — only with paralysis of the mind and creative sterility. It blows up the stone Buddhas and feels a blood-rush in contemplation of the rubble.
In the chapter of Beyond Belief entitled “Cancer,” Naipaul, reporting on Iran under its Islamic Republic, remarks the strangulation of freedom once sharia permeates the totality of the lifeworld: “There were rules; everything was controlled. It wasn’t only the chador and headdress for women; or boys and girls not walking together; or women not singing on the radio and television; or certain kinds of music not being played. There was a complete censorship, of magazines, newspapers, books, television.” If it reminds one of travel-descriptions of non-Islamic places like North Korea and Cuba, this would only affirm what Naipaul senses and what Faye makes explicit: Islam is a totalitarian system. An informant tells Naipaul, “They want to control your way of sitting here, and your way of talking.” Such total control is already explicit in the notion of the perfect man whose model compels imitation down to the details of bodily functions. Faye writes in Understanding Islam that “what Islam seeks is a return to the Mohammedan effort of the 7th and 8th centuries, whose goal involves the establishment of a universal community of believers revolving around ageless morals.” Islam is, in Faye’s single word, “immutable,” such that “any conception of evolution remains foreign to it.” Once again, Naipaul’s commentary noteworthily parallels Faye’s.
I would recommend to the serious student of Islam Naipaul’s two stylistically rich books. They make good companions to more theoretical studies by Faye, Emmett Scott, Robert Spencer, and others. While nowadays slightly dated, they represent the conclusions of a keen-eyed spectator of the human condition, who has qualified himself as a novelist to be ranked with the likes of Joseph Conrad. Naipaul, while highly critical of Islam, as the foregoing quotations will have indicated, remains intensely sympathetic to Muslims, who are the first victims of Islam. Islam is a topic in Naipaul’s India: A Wounded Civilization (1977), where the agent of the wound is Islam. Naipaul argues that Hindu civilization never recovered from the imposition of Islam. That thesis should lend even greater urgency to Faye’s discussion. On the one hand, all the nations afflicted by Gothic tribal movements and the later Viking raids soon recovered from these experiences; with the possible exception of Spain, on the other hand, history provides no record of a nation recovering from the imposition on it of Islam. A swath of non-Islamic kingdoms and societies once existed in Central Asia, which 1,500 years ago actually enjoyed what Leftists, using the term to mean the opposite of what they say, call cultural diversity. Today no one remembers the names of those kingdoms and societies, for they have been swept into oblivion.
When the few remaining remnants of the civilized world come out of hiding ; they will see Islam consuming itself. This ideology feeds on others….then feeds on itself. Geo Engineering activities, GMO foods, Abortion…Vaccinations..Homosexuality ..and the mongrelization of what is left of civilized peoples by Middle Eastern sub humans will do to the existing world…..What the Flood did to the Ancient world. Stand by for a rough ride. Heil Merkel.
Truly impressive, francis; you’ve provided the perfect example of a “non sequitur”, indeed a chain of them. And yes, I’m being ironic.
Just like Marxism and its companion Nazism it simply allow the primitive to indulge its pre-historic bestialism. It enables the lazy thinker to escape structural kantian analysis of Greater Reality. Nihilism in other words and avoid personal responsibility for actions.
All is acceptable because the pagan godlet commands it.
Since the article ends with recommendations, may I be permitted to recommend a work of fiction? The book is Eight Months on Ghazzar Street by Hilary Mantel. Based on the author’s experience, it is about the life of the wife of an English expat worker in Saudi Arabia in the mid-80s–and was written around that time. People have been saying a lot of the right things about Islam for a long time but the world wasn’t listening.
It was dramatised on BBC Radio 4 a year or two back, interestingly.
Sounds like a great book.
The use of the term ‘subjectivity’ is possibly quite unfortunate and could be on its way to being one of those poor translations which plague philosophy. The word ‘independence’ or at least the phrase ‘independence of thought’ or ‘independence of view’ seem like much better fits.
What a great review – thanks so much for your considered writing on this book, and your further discussion of the topics therein. I for one appreciate your effort and will be sourcing a copy of the latest Faye book, of which I was up to this point unaware. I’ll also be looking at the Naipaul titles again for a refresh. Again – thank you Mr Bertonneau.
I send my thanks to those who have taken the time to read my review of Faye’s book. I hope that they will take the next step and read the book, itself. I agree with “Cautious Billy-Bob” that subjectivity is a slippery idea (made worse, in my judgment, by calling it “subjectivism,” which Faye’s translator does), but Faye’s grounding of the idea in Aristotle perhaps rescues the term. “Reason,” “commonsense,” an “independence of thought” are good glosses on the term.
My outlook is more hopeful than “francis m’s.” The “Brexit” majority was a healthy sign, as is Mr. Trump’s electoral victory. We can look forward to Geert Wilders becoming the next prime minister of the Netherlands after the parliamentary election there in March. Add to that that I have just read a news article linked through the Drudge Report that Marine Le Pen is pulling ahead of the pack in the French election cycle.
Mr. Bertonneau, I think that “subjectivity” is actually even worse than “subjectivism” here. Both of these words have English meanings already. “Subjectivity” means the opposite to objectivity, and it is quite well-known in that way to ordinary English speakers and would be understood that way very easily which would be very confusing, because it is TOTALLY different to the meaning intended here.
“Subjectivism” is fairly well-known among philosophers and again has an entirely different meaning to the one used here.
This suggests to me a problem in translation. Just because it was given one word by the original author in French does not mean that it should be given one word in English. Sometimes, one word does not do the job in the target language. There is often no perfect choice, just the best you can get. Whatever the best choice is, I really don’t think it is “subjectivism”, by a long shot.
In the Aristotelian view, subjectivity is a subordinate part of objectivity. I believe that is what Faye means. A legitimate subject, in Aristotelian terms, acknowledges objectivity, that is, the real, unchangeable reality of the external world. An Aristotelian subject does not elevate himself above objectivity.
Fine. My objection to the term still stands though. I don’t see what you said as mitigating the problem; the problem here is not philosophical but one of suitable language in English: language which does its job and minimises confusion.
Very good job in your review, by the way, Mr. Bertonneau. I may well be getting the book, presuming it’s on amazon kindle.
By the way, I should add perhaps that I don’t mean to put the translator down. This was a very difficult translation issue.
One option would be to leave the words in French, in Italics, and always asterisk it with an approximate best translation, with a reference to translator notes.
Another would be to translate it as “independence of mind” for example, in italics first time in the book, and first time, with a footnote to a translator’s note explaining the translation difficulty.
Hello everyone, I stumbled upon this discussion and decided to defend the translator, since you guys are blaming him for Faye’s choice of words. I have read both the French original and the English translation, and if anyone made a mistake, it would have to be Faye himself. Both versions use the word ‘subjectivity’ in the section title. In the opening sentence, Faye uses ‘metaphysics of subjectivity’ then says that the correct word should ‘subjectivism’ instead. The translator does the same. And then they both use the word ‘subjectivism’ at a later point. Furthermore, the latter word has four meanings that I’m personally aware of, at least two of which refer to philosophy. The fourth meaning (in English), although rare, refers to the simple fact of being subjective. The same meanings apply to the French language. So, neither Faye nor the translator made a mistake. Faye’s guilty of using ‘subjectivism’ in a way that confuses anyone who is focused on the philosophical dimension of the word, but this was his choice and his right. As for the translator, he respected Faye’s style and rendered the words as the author intended. And I can tell you that he did an amazing job, translating the book faithfully.
Erudite, excellent analysis of Islam. Unfortunately, those with the mental capacity to understand it will include a very minuscule number of muslims. Think Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. It is ‘preaching to the choir’, to a great degree.
The big problem with “Understanding Islam” is that, however insightful and creative, it presents nothing on Islam that is not already freely available, from a hundred sources, for anyone who invests the smallest amount of effort in reading and research, and who cares about facts.
I’m not trying to denigrate the book. I’m trying to make the point the main front of the war against Islam is not in finding some convincing, readable presentation of the truth of Islam. The truth about Islam is not going to protect us.
The problem with this is that in the arena where it counts, the conquest and takeover of its enemies, Islam has shown itself to be more flexible, innovative, and successful than the countries it has taken over, or is in the process of taking over.
The devastation of Islam on creativity, individuality, progress, sprirituality, and art is totally irelevant. As long as Islam spreads, it is successful. Once you are under the control of Islam, does anyone care if you are unable to express individuality? And once Islam eliminates all its competition, which it is in striking reach of doing, Muslims, and the opinion of anyone who matters, will be entirely happy to live at the level of 8th century desert-dwellers.
Another fact known by anyone with a brain and a spec of critical reasoning, is that government, particularly big government with a large territory, is the enemy, not the protector, of the native populations. There is something in the cognitive functioning of leftists that makes them successful in bureaucracies. In turn, bureaucracies in large government amass a gigantic amount of power to control the native citizens and to stiffle any initiative or independence they might have.
To summarize so far: Islam, in contrast to the claim it is unsuccessful and fatally inflexible, is actually the most successful creed in the world insofar as it matters: in spreading and killing its competition.
So, what is a viable way to stop Islam?
Funny enough, on analyzing the situation, I believe the greatest immediate danger is the federal court system. The American people has elected a President who at least pays lip service to putting the native people and culture first. He appears ready to make executive orders and propose legislation oriented to this goal.
There is absolutely no doubt that federal courts will issue injunctions. If their decrees are treated in the historical way, they will slow any progress to a crawl, even if ultimately reversed by the Supreme Court. Actions which could be completed in weeks or months, such as cutting off the sponsorship of mass immigration, would instead take 2 or 3 years.
I think there’s a great chance Trump will simply ignore such injunctions. This will bring up a true Constitutional crisis. Actually, there’s nothing in the Constitution allowing the courts precedence over the Legislature, but the US has been coasting on the assumption of the Supreme Court as the ultimate authority. If Trump sees his executive actions as proper and necessary, he could, rightly in my opinion, simply ignore the court and perhaps propose the impeachment of the justices.
Of course, ignoring the federal courts is a two-edged sword. If you establish the precedence of overriding the courts, you can kiss individual liberties and states rights goodbye for good, once a Democrat attains the Presidency. We’re headed in that direction anyway. An American tyranny will still be better than a multicultural tyranny.
>> I’m trying to make the point the main front of the war against Islam is not in finding some convincing, readable presentation of the truth of Islam. The truth about Islam is not going to protect us.
It is VERY important to know your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses in any war. It won’t protect us in and of itself but it is very important.
The destruction of inquiry is an important weakness of Islam. There are others. Google “why arabs lose wars” — what you get will apply to Muslims generally.
I don’t know why you are so negative about the book while you claim you are not.
>> it presents nothing on Islam that is not already freely available, from a hundred sources,
So what? Are you saying that all “hundred” sources have everything this book has, or all sources put together have everything this book has?
Your questions are answered in my posting.
No, the ambiguity is not cleared up in your posting.
Do you really think there are 100 freely available sources that individually present everything this book does on Islam?
Could you name some of them for a good start?
I admit I haven’t read the book under review. I doubt if you have either.
If you have, I challenge you to give me a fact about Islam that is not available in this book:
Ok. I’ll clarify. There are many sources of facts about Islam which provide more than enough facts and examples to thoroughly scare anyone contemplating that Islam may gain preeminent influence in the government of the country. Whether they come to 100 or not: I’m not counting. My point is that information on Islam per se is not going to influence policy. It is already freely available.
Does another very good book add to our security? My point is that the decisive factor is not in whether facts on Islam are known. They are known.
“Why Arabs lose wars”
There are articles detailing the Arab culture of tribalism and how it gets in the way of organizing a functioning army. Is it specifically Muslim? Not completely. Are Muslims poor fighters? They are good enough fighters to take over virtually all the Middle East, Western Asia, and much of Africa.
Why am I negative on the book?
I’m not. It sounds like a good book. My argument is that the information contained in the book is not sufficient to turn the tide of Islamic advancement. The whole government and a large part of the population is simply illogical and doesn’t know or care about factual Islam. Is this book going to change that?
I addressed the factors I believe might obstruct Trump’s attempts to preserve America. Trump already seems to understand the threat of Islam. Whether it’s through reading or simply common sense, I don’t know.
RonaldB: I haven’t read the book either. Yet.
But there is another thing to be considered. There are people coming along who’ve not paid attention to Islam. Because Islam has been paying attention to *them* in various ways, the inattentive could decide to learn about the Religion of Peace. Each new book is like the turn of a kaleidoscope – those same small pieces are re-arranged and suddenly, the picture is riveting to the person viewing it.
Emmet Scott’s book was a paradigmatic change for me. The author came in and rearranged my foundational understanding of Islam. And that is for someone who has been reading about the RoP since the 1980s; someone who thought she had nothing left to learn about the odious subject. Warner’s lecture on “Why We’re Afraid” was another node point.
Writers willing to continue tackling this subject are of paramount importance. History is slippery [witness the eruption of animus toward Diana West because she unveiled some of the research done on Communism in the U.S. from the 1930s ff, often using the released Soviet archival material and the private journals of people from the times. Her book has been out for a few years now and still the occasional inaccurate vituperation sallies forth from some academic journals.]
I think Islam will fail eventually. It’s the period between now and that eventuality that concerns me.
@Ronald B. — I understand the basis of your pessimism, but what seems to me to be the center of your exposition, the assertion that “as long as Islam spreads, it is successful,” is tautological. It automatically solicits its opposite: When Islam stops spreading, it will no longer be successful. (Islam in fact stopped growing and was even been pushed out of its acquired territories in a dramatic way, beginning in the Seventeenth Century. It was evicted from Europe and large regions of the broken-up Ottoman Empire came under foreign domination for fifty years.) The question then is, what will cause Islam to stop spreading? Resistance will cause it to stop spreading, but resistance must be deliberate and clear-sighted and those things require knowledge. “Know thine enemy” is an old axiom of war. Faye’s prose offers a concentrate of knowledge, which, while not by itself sufficient to stop jihad-by-hijrah, is necessary to it.
You yourself pose the question, “What is a viable way to stop Islam?” You next mention the federal courts as a problem for people who want to stop the spread of Islam, but you never quite return to the announced topic. I wonder whether you might specify what you particularly see as “a” or “the” viable way to stop the spread of Islam?
I’m not trying to pick an argument with you, please understand. I’m looking for the plan, into which, according to your words, you have recently put no little thinking, that will tell us what we so desperately need to know.
Once technology has moved beyond fossil fuels – and that might not be until we’re near the last drop – the Arabian Peninsula has nothing left to offer. It has always seemed to be the major fuel of Islam’s modern ascendancy. However, what would MENA look like now had it not been for the Picot-Sykes carve-up of the old Ottoman Empire, or the Balfour deal regarding a homeland for the Jews?
Has the world changed much in the last century or will we continue to carve up nations by other means? What the US and its ‘friends’ did to Libya and Syria during Obama’s second term is horrific…and the long-term consequences have yet to emerge. Were the destructions of those two a foundational cause of the Vast Migration out of MENA and the African Continent?
To the contrary, I welcome your critique of my post and thank you for the review.
And yes. I look on Islam as being successful when it spreads and predominates, and as being unsuccessful when stopped or rolled back. I look forward to the failure of Islam. By its own lights, Islam is a wasteland: art forbidden, objective science forbidden, critical drama forbidden, critical thought forbidden, equal treatment before the law forbidden. And yet, if Islam conquers territory and kills or subjugates its enemies, it is successful.
What do I think needs to be done to stop and roll back Islam?
First, is to maintain the quality and culture of a country and its population. The 1965 immigration act opened the US to massive immigration by low-intelligence people who have no appreciation of the values or culture of the US. You cannot expect this sort of people to support the identity of the country, or to give a high priority to resist the encroachment of Islam. I’m afraid that at least half of the country is simply indifferent to Islam, one way or another.
There’s much more to be said on the subject of maintaining the intelligence and public virtue of the population.
Second, the size and pervasiveness of government, particularly the federal government, has to be reduced. The pervasiveness of government and the pressure against the expression of individual preferences of association, employment and business, serves to dissolve any sense of nation or self. It is the sense of identity and exclusiveness that gives the fight against Islam its strength. The book on Islamic warfare by Malik, The Quranic Concept of Warfare
says the dissolution of the self-confidence of the targeted victim is the most important action to achieve conquest.
The third principle is the withdrawal from every international enforcement or legislative body, like NATO, the UN and the TPP, which includes mandatory arbitration for countries. The larger the government unit, the more unaccountable, and the more susceptible to infiltration by leftists, Communists, and Islamists. The US has been able to resist the UN for itself, but the UN and NATO have already devastated large areas of the world.
Finally, I wish to dispute the idea that Saudi Arabia derives its power from its strategic ownership of oil wells. In point of fact, the west is already oil-independent. We would have even more oil and gas and coal except for the ruinous regulations of the environmental bureaucracies and the Obama administration. But, the influence of Saudi Arabia comes from it’s oceans of money, not oil. The US needs to have enough confidence in its own identity to absolutely do away with foreign investment in US education, religion, communications, or politics.
there is more than one problem at hand for sure, for which more than one solution will be needed.
Islam DID make very powerful fighters, very powerful armies once. Those days are over. What propelled them forward before the days of advanced technologies and advanced civilization — the unquestioning zeal and fervor, for example — is what is holding them back now.
My take on the problem is that Western Weakness is the big problem. Western blindness, political correctness.
I don’t fear that Islam will “win” this war against the west. I only worry about how much damage will be done. How many thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions will suffer death, mutilation, or bereavement?
I am VERY pessimistic about the medium-term. I see bloody civil war in Europe, and NO WAY out of that, barring some unanticipated catastrophic change I can’t anticipate.
But I am optimistic about the long-term. At the price of tremendous damage, I do not have doubts that the winner will be the West. It’s simply too much better than Islamic civilization. Basically, we are good at making things, they are good at breaking them. That works for them at low levels of civilization, but not in an advanced technological civilization.
The West is psychologically weak, in a politically-correct delusion. It cannot be reasoned out of this delusion, and unfortunately it will be murdered out of it — that is already happening. And it will fight back. And, yes, it will win, don’t worry about that.
Our psychological weakness will be gone. And when it is gone, and we have brought our leftist useful idiots for jihad to heel, there will be no competition between us and Islam.
Yes. The Not-Obama and Not-Hillary era is, in itself, a promising development. Energy independence is a good plan for stopping Islam from growing. And no one should underestimate the capacity of Europe to right itself.
The Book, the review of the book, and the comments are all superb. This is a little collection of jewels. Thank you, Baron, Mssrs Bertonneau and Faye, and all the commenters. You folks created an educational gem.
A nice contender for a sticky position.
“Faye holds the opinion that Europe will come to its senses only with the intensification of Muslim violence, which he expects…a new ‘colossal terrorist attack’ designed to rival the North American Al Qaeda operation; and ‘an eruption of simultaneous and violent riots and insurgencies.’ The most likely place where these developments might occur is France.”
Okay, what does “come to its senses” mean? Not to be lurid, but let’s say the Muslims are “successful” in releasing poison gas into the Paris Metro, killing tens of thousands, while simultaneously, having surreptitiously placed explosives in it, blowing up Notre Dame. And at the same time there are “risings” in Lyon and Marseilles. Let’s say that is France’s 9/11. Does “come to its senses” mean that a huge number of Frenchmen will gather in the heart of Paris and demand that their government expel the Muslims? Will the French have it in them to overthrow the socialist rulers when they of course call for calm and “dialogue?” Will the French People then form a new government and expel the Muslims? Do they have it in them? Or not? Will a 9/11 be enough to so galvanize the French? Or has something snapped in the French, snapped so thoroughly that nothing will get them off the dime? I haven’t the foggiest. What say you?
Imagine the Muslims continued their rate of infiltration and colonization without the violent episodes. There would be no mass movement to stop the immigration until the Muslims had the population and political organization to go directly to stage 3.
France has a history of overthrowing pestiferous governments and of suppressing and expelling unwanted minorities – like the Protestants. I believe that the current Republic is the Fifth Republic. Protestantism never regained any currency in France after the expulsion of the Huguenots. So, yes, France has it within herself to react violently to provocation and to clean her house.
I find it amazing how anyone who hasn’t read both the French and English book can allow themselves to criticise the translator. With all due respect, people, you’re wrong. Let me explain why. Both Faye and the translator use the word ‘subjectivity’ in the section heading. Then Faye goes on to mention the ‘metaphysics of subjectivity’, before saying that, in his view, ‘subjectivism’ is a better word. When using this word for the first time, he even uses quotations. The translation renders all of this faithfully. Now, if Faye were wrong in his choice of words, the translator needn’t necessarily correct this – that’s for the editor to worry about. However, Faye made no mistake there when you consider the fact that the word ‘subjectivism’ has at least 4 meanings in both English and French, the rarest of which is simply the fact of being subjective. The most usual meaning refers to the famous philosophical doctrine, of course, but the author did not really make a mistake. It seems to me that the translator was aware of this, considering his very solid and faithful translation. I must also stress that none of the 3 (if I remember the number rightly) sentences where the word ‘subjectivism’ is used mentions Aristotle. The choice of words was entirely the author’s and expresses his viewpoint. The fact that Aristotle is mentioned shortly afterwards plays no role at all here. That’s all I wanted to say.