Why Islam Haters are a Problem

So this time, London is the European city in the news with a terrorist attack. Once again, a lone nutter, acting on his own by using very simple means, has caused a nasty blood bath. From what we know so far, the attacker claims to have acted in the name of Islam. ISIS, in their usual desperate attempt to be seen as the most cruel game in town, has already claimed responsibility for the massacre. It is however highly questionable that links between the attacker and the psychopathic proto-state in the middle east really do exist.

So far, none of the self proclaimed Islamic terrorists in Europe in the last few years could be shown to have lived a virtuous Muslim life. The vast majority lived as ordinary criminals until they discovered Islamic terrorism. This makes their Islamic motivation look questionable. And yet they are claiming to have acted in the holy name of Islam. Needless to say that the vast majority of Muslims strongly disagrees with their assessment. But surprisingly, these holy nutters get support from an unexpected group of people.

Hardcore Islam haters are a diverse coalition, ranging from fundamentalist atheists to white supremacist nationalists. These people take every opportunity to point out that it is ISIS who gets Islam right, and that all moderate Muslims are mistaken. I have never been fully able to figure out what drives these Islamophobes. I suspect, their motivations are diverse. Some are certainly driven by a strange desire to hate. Others seem to be truth fundamentalists, who believe the truth has to have priority over everything else. They therefore find it difficult to tolerate moderate, but inconsistent ideologies.

Nevertheless, whatever motivates them, they are a problem. They are a problem, not because they are necessarily completely wrong, but because they only get it half right. I am the first to agree that fundamentalist Islam is a nasty ideology. I would even go further than that. Every fundamentalist ideology, which claims to a have knowledge of the one and only objective truth is potentially very dangerous. That is because most people have the assumption that truth matters. From there it is only a small step to assume that not only does truth matter, it also should have priority over everything else. Once that conclusion is reached, and someone thinks he knows exactly what the truth is, it is only a small step to approve of violence in the name of that truth.

Islamists certainly follow this logic to the end, which is why they are dangerous. Where most Islam haters, particularly the ones that are most vocal about it, get it completely wrong however is that they assume you can kill a religion like Islam all together. Some even seem to think that you can defeat it with weapons. This is a terrible, and very dangerous mistake.

Religions like Islam cannot be abolished with the sword. In fact it is likely that they cannot be abolished full stop. Especially European history shows that trying to fight religions with physical force is a disastrous strategy. The best warning example of pursuing such a strategy is the thirty year war from 1618 to 1648, in which Protestants and Catholics fought over who had the correct faith. This war never saw a winner. It only ended because so many people had been killed that there were not many left to fight. An absolutely disastrous outcome.

Radical ideologies only get stronger in physical fights. That is because once human lives have been sacrificed for the truth, it becomes even harder to abandon it, as that means to acknowledge that all the sacrifices were for nothing. Another terrible effect of this strategy is that critiques are silenced. Most people will demand that you pick sides. Either you are with us or you are with them. Therefore, criticism becomes treason.

A much more fruitful approach to tame the dangers of religion was adopted after the 30 year war. It was simply agreed that there should be some tolerance towards other faiths. This allowed room for moderate positions to be hearer. It is precisely this support for moderate positions that in the end tamed Christianity. And no matter what people say, any Religion is up for interpretation, including Islam. It does not matter what the Quran or Bible says. Everything can be interpreted to mean something else. And we can indeed find a lot of interpretation of holy texts in every religion. Islam is no exception. A lot of moderate interpretations of the Quran already exist.

As a result of this strategy, Christianity in Europe has shrunk down to a fairly harmless and small fellowship. If it was not for recent immigrants from places like Africa, the numbers of true believers in a country like the UK would hardly be more than the numbers of a small cult. That is how it is done.

The Islam haters however are boycotting this strategy. They insist that Islam as a whole cannot be moderate and must therefore be fought all together. By doing that, they effectively become useful idiots for groups like ISIS and al Qaida who preach the exact same interpretation of Islam. And they sure appreciate the immense support they are getting from the Islamophobes. That is why Islam haters are part of the problem.

Orlando – Let us Talk About Islam

The massacre of gay people in Orlando this weekend is another one in a serious of similar events in different western countries in the past couple of years. They seem to increase in frequency, which is obviously not a good sign.

Once again all political fractions are using this tragedy to confirm their beliefs. The political correct crowd is trying to focus on the anti-gay nature of the crime and tries hard to avoid any hint that there might be something wrong with Islam. The right does the opposite. For them it is another proof that Islam as a whole is evil and needs to be defeated. 

What happened in Orlando seems to be very similar to the attacks in Paris and Brussels. All the attackers were born and raised in western countries. All seem to have been estranged from the society they grow up in and all seem to have shown a distinct lust for violence in their private lives. It is not a new phenomenon that people who feel estranged from society burst out in extreme acts of violence. This can be observed over and over again.

What is relatively new is that today, these people turn to Islam in order to justify their crimes. I do not believe for a minute that this is the only way to interpret Islam. If it was, we would probably already annihilated by the islamic world, which is a lot bigger than the west. Like any religion, Islam can mean whatever you want it to mean. These are not scientific theories that people believe because they have read an empirical study. They are ideologies of how people want to see the world. And there are very moderate teachers of Islam that are just as shocked as everyone else about massacres like these.

But it is undeniable that if you are a violent psychopath, Islam seems to have a special attractiveness these days. So for some reason, very radical and totalitarian interpretations of Islam are winning. To me it looks like the main reason for that is our foreign policy. The radicals can, to some degree correctly paint the image of a western war against Islam. And if you are in a war, dissenting from a radical script is very difficult. Either you are with us or you are with them. There is no place for gray in war propaganda.

Still, there have always been radical teachings of Islam. Western policies might play into the hands of these forces, but they were not created by them. That means, we also need to talk seriously about Islam. But this is very difficult in a western society that has political correctness as a more and more dominating civil religion. To a lot of people, and I must say particularly young people, offending other people’s beliefs seems unacceptable. And by offence they often already mean, making any argument against a belief.

However, ridicule is the best tool available against dogmatic cults. You first need to get them to listen to an argument. And for that you need to make fun of their dogmatic nature so that they are under pressure to talk to you. Telling them that they have a right to a safe  space, where they are not offended, is not helping. We have a problem. And we need free speech and open debate to identify exactly what the problem is. Otherwise we will never find the right solutions.

Video: Martin Keegan on the Evolution of Private Cooperation

How and why do we cooperate? Often we cooperate because the government forces us to. We also cooperate to make a profit. But what about cooperating to do things that are we think are just, you know, good? Who decides what are or are not worthy cooperative purposes? Does the government monopolise, or insist on overseeing, all such decisions and commitments? Or are citizens able to make such decisions for themselves, by forming cooperative groups of their own devising, for their own purposes. Martin Keegan concentrated in his talk on that latter sort of cooperation, cooperation that is not-for-profit. And he particularly focussed in on the institution of the Trust.

Crucial to the development of the Trust, in the Anglo-American legal systems, is that you didn’t and don’t need the particular permission of the government to form a particular Trust.

Nevertheless, once a Trust is formed, the courts provide legal remedies if any of the agreements made between the contracting parties get broken.

By means of a Trust, a group of people place resources in the hands of Trustees, who guard and spend those resources, even after the deaths of all the original benefactors, or Trustees.

The Trust, then, is the means by which Civil Society, the society of what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons”, becomes a reality. All manner of cooperative enterprises, which those directly involved consider to be a good thing and of potential or actual benefit to the wider public, but which many or even most others might consider of doubtful value or even harmful, are thus able to get started and to thrive, for decades and even for centuries. Minority religious institutions, controversial educational enterprises, obscure intellectual or scientific bodies, artistic ventures, charitable foundations, schemes to build what we now call infrastructure, can all get started and stay active indefinitely. Opposition political parties can form. Libertarian Home can exist not just as a bunch of people, but as a bunch of people with heritable assets, devoted to a particular purpose. Keegan himself offered this example.

How could a government explicitly agree to that happening? Answer: in a free society, it shouldn’t and doesn’t have to.

Keegan found time also to talk also about the Islamic equivalent of the Trust, namely the “Waqf”, an institution by means of which private citizens in the Islamic world could do publicly valuable things, like build fountains. But the Waqf was rather inflexible. The purpose of each Waqf was highly specific, and it was bad at adapting to changed circumstances.

Trusts have their origins in tax avoidance, and are now under attack because they are still regarded as being predominantly for that purpose. And the accusation is sort of true. A world in which Trusts flourish is a world in which individuals decide what is to happen to their wealth, and not just governments.

Also, many hitherto independent institutions are now being sucked towards the public sector. They are ceasing to be vehicles for shared but not universally accepted purposes. Whereas Continental law was very slow in allowing Civil Society to emerge, the Anglo-Saxon world is in danger of stifling it, by moving, legally, in the opposite direction, towards a more Continental system.

This talk was a deceptively down-beat affair, strong on seriousness but lacking laughs and certainly lacking histrionics. No attempt was made by Keegan to get his audience, either on the night or on the internet, worked up. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of a subject like this one, merely because the guy doing the talking is keeping the emotional temperature strictly at lukewarm.

Unlike many Libertarian Home speakers, Keegan confined himself almost exactly to his pre-suggested time. This video is well worth the relatively short time, just over twenty minutes, needed to watch it.

Video: Free Will Determinism and Politics

Mark Gullick joined us at the Rose and Crown to introduce the audience to the concepts of free will and determinism, to highlight schools of thought in which they have become dominant and implore us to fight for the “standard bearer” of free will: free speech

As you will see in the video below, Mark talked about three of areas in particular: he saw a direct connection between determinism and the left citing Lennin and Islam in particular; the importance of free will, free speech and practical liberty; and he talked about “compatibilism” the notion that believing we have free will is that same as actually having it. I would like to touch on these points becuase they interest me and because, looking at the first two points, I think Mark did not explain them as thoroughly as we would have liked. That’s my fault for being a stern timekeeper, but I hope Mark will make a further contribution on them.

On the link to politics, Mark cited Lenin thusly:

The idea of determinism, which postulates that human acts are necessitated and rejects the absurd tale about free will, in no way destroys mans reason or conscience, or appraisal of his actions. Quite the contrary, only the determinist view makes a strict and correct appraisal possible instead of attributing everything you please to free will. Similarly, the idea of historical necessity does not in the least undermine the role of the individual in history: all history is made up of the actions of individuals, who are undoubtedly active figures. The real question that arises in appraising the social activity of an individual is: what conditions ensure the success of his actions, what guarantee is there that these actions will not remain an isolated act lost in a welter of contrary acts?

As you will see, Mark believes that Lennin is groping at the idea that the State is what will channel and direct the power of individual actions in the pre-determined direction of socialism, and fears that Islam, which means literally “to submit”  is determinism’s newest ally.

On the link between free speech and free will, intuitively, if people have free will then the free exchange of information (“the rate of population growth affects prosperity”) , the sharing of judgements (“therefore your homosexuality is obscene” etc) and alternative views (“but population growth is not fully deterministic of prosperity”) are crucially important for individuals (as my examples illustrate). If we think individuals can, do and should make choices, then freely exchanged information is going to be essential; but if you believe that the course of history is determined then people asserting free will and talking pointlessly about alternative choices represents a risk to the speedy arrival of your predicted outcome. I wonder if I am thinking along the right lines here.

The last point I wanted to mention is compatibilism, the idea that Truman Burbank was just fine living in Seahaven until he started to notice something funny and that we might all be ignorant cast members of the Truman Show, stuck in the Matrix, or whatever. I don’t buy this. I don’t see how any decision favouring determinism on account of compatibilism might be falsified if I cannot know if the world is determined. It is akin to believing in God and well beyond what I’d consider rational. I can see how you might call it an unanswerable question, or how you might call it bunk.

I suspect though, that there is a lot more to this argument than Mark shared and that nothing I said above is likely to be new to those of you more familiar with the field. I find myself somewhat uninterested in the argument over this particular philosophical split hair as my mind  – if you’ll pardon the pun – is made up. The theory of free will is how I experience the world, I have the daily evidence of experience for it’s existence. I remember sense data arriving, I remember what I think – at least for a little while – and therefore can experience an active rational process and the chaos of a trillion tiny decisions – mine and those of others – playing out on my life minute by minute.

The idea that this chaos and the mess of lucky and unlucky interactions it causes is all “run” as Mark put it seems unlikely and simply doesn’t appeal. Before I let you see the video though, I wanted to share a section of Thomas Paine’s recent article in which he neatly explains the appeal of the indeterminate world, the world with free will.

Emphasis is mine:

For all that I recognise the role of luck, good and bad, in life it’s so central to my world-view that I don’t think I could live if convinced it is wrong, that it’s what you do with your luck that determines who you are. That every boy and girl, however crap their circumstances, however bad the hand life has dealt them, can move off towards the light or the dark by choice and have a good chance of achieving some or all of their goals. If there is no free will, life is just a worthless joke that is simply not worth having.

Great words. Enjoy the show: