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The Intellectual Activist - An Objectivist Review
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In response to the bombing of two us embassies by Islamic terrorists, our political and intellectual leaders have pursued an ideological campaign to exonerate the religion of Islamthe primary motivation of the
terroristsfrom any responsibility for terrorism. Just as the U.S. policy in the realm of action has been one of conciliation toward our enemies (such as Iran), so the us policy in the realm of ideas has been to assert, in President Clintons words, that there is no "inevitable clash between Western civilization and Western values and Islamic civilization and values."

The facts belie this view. The primary terrorist threat to the United States comes from Islamic fundamentalistsand the more fervent a countrys or organizations Islamic beliefs, the more venomous are its denunciations of the West. This is not a coincidence. It stems directly from a fundamental ideological conflict between Islam and the Westan ideological conflict that can be seen, not only in the attacks by Islamic terrorists, but also in the near-civil-wars in countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Algeria between Islamic factions and their more-Westernized governments.

This central issue is the conflict between secularism and religious fundamentalism.

The Websters New World Dictionary defines "secular" as: "of or relating to worldly things as distinguished from things relating to church and religion." "Secularism" is a cultural and intellectual doctrine, defined as "a worldly spirit, views, or the like; esp., a system of doctrines and practices that disregards or rejects any form of religious faith and worship, as well as a political doctrine: the belief that religion and ecclesiastical affairs should not enter into the functions of the state." Defined in philosophic terms, secularism is the rejection of faith in favor of reason, the rejection of the supernatural in favor of pursuit of values in this world, and the rejection of theocracy in favor of separation of church and state.

This approach is embraced throughout the West and is even tolerated by the predominant Western religion, Christianity. Consider, for example, the recently published papal encyclical, Fides et Ratio, which appeals to the Thomist doctrine of a harmony between faith and reason. This view is an unstable compromise. Faith and reason are opposite methodsone consists of the rejection of evidence, while the other demands unwavering adherence to the evidence; ultimately, they cannot coexist in the same mind or in the same culture. But the papal encyclical is a timely reminder of the fundamental root of the Wests secularism: Thomas Aquinas established the idea that reason is valid on its own terms, that it does not have to be subordinated to faith. His view laid the groundwork for the explosion of scientific and philosophic inquiry in the Renaissance and Enlightenment and made possible the increasing atrophy of religion in the West.

The Islamic world, by contrast, never had an Aquinas. Throughout the Middle Ages, the study of Greek and Roman science and philosophy had been more widespread in the Islamic world than in Europe. By the time of Aquinas, however, these philosophers were largely ignored and their works banned. While Europe experienced a Renaissance, the Islamic world rejected reason and science and lapsed back into primitive religious fanaticism. Hence, the present-day Islamic prohibitions on the education of women and on the free expression of ideas, as well as the strict Islamic code requiring women to keep their bodies covered (lest they should excite mens sexual desire), the prohibitions on alcohol, on music and art, and even (in some areas) on shaving or trimming ones beardwhich is considered a worldly luxury. These religious prohibitions outlaw every manifestation of mans survival and happiness in this world.

America stands as a blatant affront to this fundamentalist outlook. Except for a few radical fundamentalists, Americans are secular; religion is not central to their lives. Predominantly, Americans embrace this-worldly valueswealth, physical beauty, sexual pleasureand they base their intellectual and political institutions on rational debate and discussion. In the intellectual realm, even those who attack reason (such as Kant and his present-day followers in academia) usually do so, not by citing religious texts or the pronouncements of prophets, but by constructing pseudo-rational arguments for their positions. In the political realm, America has enshrined free speech as a centerpiece of its political system, allowing decisions to be determined, not by the decrees of religious leaders, but by the persuasion of voters and politicians through public debate.

This is why America is the target of Islamic fundamentalists venomous hatred. America represents a dangerous example of secular valuesall the more dangerous because it is successful and powerful, and because it exerts that power over the Islamic world. America broadcasts television programs like "Baywatch" to the illegal satellite dishes of Iran; it harbors "blasphemous" writers like Salman Rushdie; and it uses its advanced technology to crush Iraqi soldiers in battle. Menachem Klein, an expert on Islam at Bar-Ilan University in Jerusalem, explains the conflict this way: "Islam puts God at its center. The Western world, on the other hand, is concerned with liberalism, freedom, and democracy. Its absolute heresy. And worst of all, from the Islamists point of view, this culture is increasingly successful."

It is natural that the Islamic fundamentalists would choose terrorism as their means of striking back. Consistent with their rejection of reason and secular philosophy, they have no arguments to offer. They do not regard religious ideas as a matter for rational discussion, but as a matter of pure faith. Thus, they have no other alternative but to choose force and terror as a means to punish the "infidels"literally, those "without faith".

There can be no compromise or friendly relations with those who hold this ideology in any form. But just as they refused to recognize the vicious nature of Communism and sought a policy of detente, so our leaders now refuse to recognize the vicious nature of Islam and its irreconcilable conflict with the West. To see what our leaders do not, Americans must reject both the "politically correct" dogma of "respecting all cultures" and the timid fear of offending anyone of any religion. Otherwise we will be doomed to continue our self-destructive policy of appeasement and conciliation toward those who wish to destroy us.

Robert Tracinski comments daily on the war on terror in TIA Daily. For a FREE 30-day no strings attached trial of TIA Daily, please enter your email address in the box below:


 

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