Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Amy Chua wrote a good review of this book by Pagden: "In the end, however, “Worlds at War” is another book about the clash between the Enlightenment and religion, and its central target is Islam, which, Pagden argues, is incompatible with the Western principle of separation between church and state. The “fundamental theological difference between Islam and Christianity,” he tells us, lies in “the association between religion and the law.” Unlike Christianity, Islam supports “the complete identification of the secular realm with the sacred and the corresponding elevation of the ruler.” Christianity recognizes both the Kingdom of Heaven and the governments of earth. In Islam, by contrast, “there can be only one law”: the Shariah, which is God’s law and thus “eternal” and “unchanging.” According to Pagden, the history of Islam is unified “by a continuous and still unfulfilled narrative, the story of the struggle against the ‘Infidel’ for the ultimate Muslim conquest of the entire world.” In Pagden’s Islam there is an odd echo of the Islam offered by the bearded mullahs who espouse violence from their mosques or caves. Indeed, Pagden quotes Osama bin Laden at length for the view that the greatest crime of the United States — for which 9/11 was punishment — was that “you separate religion from your politics, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord your Creator.” Pagden adds that “most Muslim theologians and jurists would have to agree” with bin Laden. Such passages are bound to infuriate many, including those Muslims who see themselves as reaffirming a well-rooted Islamic tradition of diversity in opinion against a rising trend of rigid fanaticism." So the New York Times was not satisfied. They asked for yet another review two days later: "The civilizing missions of the West come in for acerbic commentary...." But when you read this you really get mad at Muslims and Arabs: how dare they foil the civizilizing missions of Napoleon and Bush, among many others. How dare they?