Monday, May 30, 2005

Not a Foe of Our Choosing

Orson Scott Card has written an excellent and timely essay, The Riots of the Faithful. In it he presents the current political crisis — exemplified by the Koran-flushing debacle at Newsweek — as a struggle between the “Smartland” and the “Heartland”, that is, between the academic/media elite and average commonsensical Americans.

One is hesitant to take issue with anyone as illustrious and cogent as Mr. Card, but the following passage is disturbing:
    Our country is at war. And it's a war in which victory absolutely depends on the Muslim world perceiving it as a war between the U.S and its allies on one side, and fanatical murderous terrorists on the other.
If it is ever perceived as a war against Islam, then we have lost. The world has lost.
It is the contention of Gates of Vienna that the nature of our enemy is not ours to choose. Whether we fight a subset of Islam, or Islam itself, is entirely up to Islam. After all, if it had been our choice, we would have fought no Muslims at all. But, on day the Twin Towers fell, the choice was removed from us.

If, in fact, there are “moderate Muslims” (as opposed to secular, lapsed, or non-observant Muslims), then it may be that we will indeed not be warring against them. But during the past four years the moderate Muslim has kept a notably low profile.

It may be that the peace-loving Muslims are intimidated by the brutal zealots who act in their name, and so are reluctant to step forward and declare their loyalty to America and liberal democracy. It may be that the deadly fanatics are a tiny minority, and that the reasonable and moderate Muslims far outnumber them.

But the Taliban were a hated minority in Afghanistan, and yet managed to rule their countrymen. The Bolsheviks were but a tiny sliver of Russian society, and yet put the entire empire under their boot while exterminating millions of their countrymen.

It is not necessary for vicious autocrats to be representative of their culture in order to control it.

And the idea that Muslims in general can be co-opted, or at least neutralized, is questionable. Consider the followers of Islam that Lawrence Auster, in How to Defeat Jihad in America, refers to as “serious Moslems”, that is, those who practice their faith diligently. According to Auster, because the scripturally-based tenets of their religion require them to have no loyalty except to Islam, and to wage jihad against the infidel whenever circumstances permit, serious Moslems are not capable of being loyal Americans, or, indeed, loyal citizens of any nation except the Caliphate of the True Faith.

If Islam chooses us as its enemy we have no choice except to fight it or submit. And when I say “we”, I do not mean Christendom; I mean Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Sikhs, Jains, Bahá'ís, Shintos, Taoists, Zoroastrians, Hare Krishnas, Scientologists, Moonies, Theosophists, Druids, Wiccans, and atheists. This is who we are; we are infidels. And they are certain that we are their enemy.

Consider a thought experiment: Suppose that aliens from the Andromeda Nebula, for their own inscrutable reasons, used their matter transporters to remove all Muslims from the Earth and relocate them to another planet.

How much religious discord would be left on Earth? From that time forward, how many people would be killed because of their religious beliefs?

Consider another thought experiment. Imagine that every “moderate Muslim” were confronted with the stark choice: join the jihadists, or defend Western Civilization. How would he choose? And if he chose the latter, would it be for principled or pragmatic reasons?

Our enemy has defined his enemy. Until that fact becomes clear to us we fight this war blindfolded.


truepeers said...

I don't think we have to accept our enemies' terms of engagement. Why should we define our fight in terms of their lunacy? Our enemy should be defined as anyone who would use or support violence against us (or the global system defined by a now single economy and the 200 odd legitimate states). Now this definition might entail that many or most of our present enemies would be Islamicists, but what good is done by declaring a war against all Muslims? Muslims have enough problems coming to terms with a religion that has yet to prove itself suited to life in a mature capitalist economy and we can at least accord them the dignity of having a great historical challenge on their hands to redefine their faith, or to let it perish under the terms of the global marketplace that cannot permit acts of violence against itself.

None of this is to say that cops, airport security, etc., shouldn't be doing profiling to identify those with traits that would put them in groups more likely to be a security risk than others. And those who are so profiled should willingly accept this as understandable and their fate at this time in history; they should forget the facile logic and resentments of the multiculti left and accomodate themselves to the security demands of the societies in which they would live and prosper, as an act of good faith on their part. This of course is not an invitation for anyone to abuse authority, but if we want to have pluralistic societies, such as a global economy demands, we have to be realistic about the source of the threats to them.

Beyond this, I don't think we have to declare a war against Islam; a war against resentful violence be it against lefty westerners, or righty Islamicists is the war we face. Maybe the first terrorist nuke will come from some fascist Russians, who knows?

When you write, "According to Auster, because the scripturally-based tenets of their religion require them to have no loyalty except to Islam, and to wage jihad against the infidel whenever circumstances permit, serious Moslems are not capable of being loyal Americans, or, indeed, loyal citizens of any nation except the Caliphate of the True Faith", I just shudder because this is what many have wrongly said and still say about Jews, Japanese-Americans, etc.

Islam does pose a problem of loyalties, no doubt about it. So does Judaism in the Christian context. But we cannot know the solution for one and all. When discussing a religion, there is no objective truth. We must locate the religious in the (etic/emic) terms of an interaction between our own religious perspective - our own understanding of what religion is - interacting with those of others. We must attend to what Muslims in America think their religion is about, not only what we or Islamicists think. If it turns out that seething hatred and potential violence against America is to be found in the breast of many American Muslims (and it may be so), then there is a real problem with only hard solutions. But this has yet to be proven, IMHO, notwithstanding Auster's many fears. The definition of our enemy is not our choice to make, as you say, though in quoting AUster you come close to saying it.

A big part of the problem, let us remember, is our own liberal elites who need a reality check and we can't expect Muslims living in the west to share in that reality check until it comes perfectly ok, for example, for security personnel to engage in religious or "racial" profiling. When we make clear the terms of the fight - and they must be our terms - we can then truly ask are you with us or against us, and then respond accordingly. We cannot start the fight by making blanket statements about a war against Islam. Not simply because we might not win or because it would be unfair to many Moslems. It is not for us to decide what is inherent in or essential to that faith. Despite its anti-historicism (the eternal and uncreated Koran), it and its members have a right to live in history with the rest of humanity. We can only respond to unacceptable violence, wherever it comes from, and we might start with our own loony western foes of the marketplace.

krishna_kirti said...


You said: "And when I say “we”, I do not mean Christendom; I mean Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Sikhs, Jains, Bahá'ís, Shintos, Taoists, Zoroastrians, Hare Krishnas, Scientologists, Moonies, Theosophists, Druids, Wiccans, and atheists. This is who we are; we are infidels. And they are certain that we are their enemy."

As a Hare Krishna, I'm happy we made the short list of non-Muslims with a recognizable existence. However, I think many if not most of the above mentioned groups internally have alternative sub-categorizations which belie the idea of an effective coalition of the non-Muslims: that of secularist and non-seculist. As you are an Episcopalian (or at least have your roots in that religious community), I'm sure you know what I mean. Although Western Christendom is currently the most powerful in the world in terms of economic, military and cultural influence, culturally it is also very much a house divided against itself. The same can be said of Hindus (of which the Hare Krishnas are a subset). Hindu civilization is also deeply and adversely affected by secularism. Over in Hare Krishna land, our house, like the Episcopal Church and other mainline Protestant denominations, is on fire for imbibing its own version of the social gospel. At this time, there is growing support and advocacy by some of our top spiritual leaders to support gay marriage (euphamistically dubbed as gay monogamy). You can visit my blog, Hare Krishna Cultural Journal, over at to read all about it.

Our house is on fire, and although I agree that the Muslim problem is serious and threatens us all, I don't see how we can effectively devote adequate attention until we restore order in our house, or go build a new one somewhere else.

Best regards, Krishna-kirti das (HDG)

p.s. I read GatesOfVienna not infrequently, and I like what I read.

Baron Bodissey said...

Krishna-kirti -- thanks for the kind words. I had no idea the the Hare Krishnas were facing the same gay-marriage train wreck as the Episcopalians -- that's amazing. And, yes, I'm well aware that they are a subgroup of the Hindus, just as the Moonies are Christians. And I think I even know the real names for them --"the International Society for Krishna Consciousness" and "the Unification Church" respectively, right?

Anyway, I think you're right -- all of our houses are on fire (with the possible exception of the Mormons). The contamination of Orthodox Secularism is hard to avoid; it's an issue addressed in
The Enemy Within.

krishna_kirti said...


Yes, you got our official name right. The acronym is ISKCON. I believe you are right about the Moonies' official name, but I don't know much about them.

Some time back I read "The Enemy Within" essay, something I also very much appreciated.

As far as the Hare Krishnas being a subset of Hinduism is concerned, let me clarify the relationship between Hinduism and Hare Krishnas. Hinduism is an ambiguous amalgamation of religion and culture. Within Hinduism there are hundreds and thousands of different religions, yet at the same time there is much overlap in the matter of doctrine as well as a common cultural thread that runs through them all. Hinuds generally accept the authority of the Vedas and other allied literature such as the Puranas and Itihasas such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (in which is found the well-known Bhagavad-gita), but not all Hindu sects accept all "Hindu" scriptures as authoritative.

You have major religious and doctrinal divisions within Hinduism, such as the Vaishnavas (theists, in the sense familiar to a Christian) and the Mayavadins (or Monists, who believe existence in its true form is unvariagated and that each individual is God but has yet to realize it). Vaishnavas and Mayavadins on account of differences in doctrine have been actively, diametrically, and enthusiastically opposed to each other for centuries. Then there are the Shaivites, or worshipers of Shiva, who are significantly distinct and who have a subset of scriptures only they follow (Shiva agamas) and worshipers of demigods like Durga, Ganesh, and Surya, the sun god. And then there are many regional and doctrinal variations on these and other distinct religions and sects that could be loosely designated as Hindu. Most all Hindus, however, seem to agree on some social and cultural norms, which are based on what is called "varnashram-dharma", or more precisely a corrupted form of varnashram-dharma that is popularly and derissively known as the caste system.

So, although at first all this information does not appear to be very relevant to the theme of your blog, if you or anyone else is going to observe the melee in the Hare Krishna's corner of the culture war, then you need to know that just knowing we are Hindu does not tell you much about us that is useful. What is useful to know is that we are Vaishnavas, or theists. We believe in God, an omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God who is also a person (and not simply an impersonal Star Wars type "force"), we teach love of God and devotion to Him. (Yes, and our definition of God unabmigously ascribes gender to Him, too. Our principle name for God is Krishna.) We have scriptures and right and wrong ways of understanding scripture (and hotly constested debates over what constitutes right and wrong ways of understanding scripture). Also, our religion is not a new thing. Theism has been extant in India for thousands of years, 5000+ years in fact.

That much right there gives you points of similarity by which you can construct analogies that can be useful in better understanding your (our) own predicament. Because culturally there is much that is different between Western Theism (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and Vaishnavaism (Hindu theism), the similarities that can be observed between the two can help refine our understanding of what is the essense of any particular issue they seem to have in common. My own observation is that we (the Hare Krishnas) have done more or less the same kinds of things most mainline Protestant Churches have done to bring them to the point of confusion on the issue of homosexuality, but within the span of about 30 years.

In any case, since I've already given the URL for my blog, I might as well give the URLs of sites which appear to be in favor the destigmatization of homosexual behavior:,, and

One point of historical interest that directly relates to GatesOfVienna is that the Hare Krishna's distinct Vaishnava lineage (Gaudiya Vaishnava) emerged and flourished in Bengal 500 years ago, when that area was under Mohammedan rule.

Dymphna said...

Ah, but Hindus are everywhere, even in our little Baptist county in the Blue Ridge. We have our own ashram. Guru Dev died a few years ago, but his followers soldier on and Yogaville is going strong.

The temple is something to see. Dedicated to all religions, there is an icon for each one they could find. The statues of the Virgin Mary are particularly ubiquitous as she has quite a following there.

A nice place.

Baron Bodissey said...

Krishna-kirti -- I became familiar with Hare Krishna when I had some paintings in a gallery run by an ISKCON devotee. Before that I thought they were another wacko cult, but this guy was a reasonable businessman.

I've studied a fair amount on the Vedas and the Bhagavad-gita, and my hobby of etymology gives me an interest in Sanskrit, which is an Indo-European tongue closely related to Latin and other ancient European languages.

krishna_kirti said...

I guess every religion is a "wacko cult" at some point in their history. But look how fast we grew up--not only do we have "normal" folks among us, but we have all the theological and institutional problems every other religion has. :-)