The Suicide of Reason: Radical Islam's Threat to the West
Whether by choice or not, the West finds itself in a low-grade yet bitter war with Islamic fanaticism--a war the West is ill equipped to fight. The foe is resistant to any of the normal methods of conflict resolution such as negotiation, economic sanctions, or conventional armed confrontation. This book shows how modern liberal societies, whose political theories are born of the Enlightenment, are unfamiliar with the nature of mass fanaticism. The West can only think of it as a social pathology, a failure to modernize, rather than as what it is: a variety of social order that is not only fully viable in the modern world but also willing to use weapons to which the West is uniquely vulnerable. A governing philosophy based on reason, tolerance, and consensus cannot defend itself against a strategy of ruthless violence without being radically transformed--or destroyed.--From publisher description.
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Lee Harris sounded the alarm about the threat of radical Islam (or as I like to call it, Islamania) in 2007 with his book, The Suicide of Reason. In it, he identifies the two great threats to modern liberal West as (1) its exaggerated confidence in the power of reason and (2) its “profound underestimation of the forces of fanaticism”. Harris asserts that since the Enlightenment in the 18th century, we in the West have come to think of all men as born rational actors. Not so, he argues. History shows that modern liberal Western society is an exception, an anomaly. The vast majority of pre-Enlightenment societies were intolerant and tribal, viewing non-members of the tribe as enemies. And the Islamic world has yet to experience an Enlightenment. Contact with the West has “not only failed to modernize the bulk of the Muslim population, it [has] actually made them more fanatically intolerant of Western ways than they had been before.” The danger to the West comes primarily through the Islamaniacal concept of jihad. Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor of law at UCLA has argued that the concept of jihad means only to strive hard for a just cause and does not include a notion of holy war against all infidels. Ah, if only he could sell that concept to the Muslims! Harris, on the other hand, sides with Andrew Bostom, the author of The Legacy of Jihad. After exhaustive scholarly research, Bostom demonstrated that jihad was a “collective and violent struggle by the entire Muslim community against ... outsiders who were not Muslims.” As an institution, jihad has been the agent by which Islamic culture has come to dominate a large expanse of the planet. Bostom concludes that he wishes his children may “thrive in a world where the devastating institution of jihad has been acknowledged, renounced, dismantled, and relegated forever to the dustbin of history by Muslims themselves.” Harris offers scant hope that Bostom’s wish will be granted. Can the Muslim’s be converted to a more enlightened view of humanity? Harris thinks not. He asserts, “Muslims are, from and early age, indoctrinated into a shaming code that demands a fanatical rejection of anything that threatens to subvert the supremacy of Islam.” As he says, “We are proud if our sons get into a good college; they are proud if their sons die as martyrs.” In fact, he predicts that “the spread of democracy in Muslim countries will end by empowering those who are most opposed to the very modernization that the West wishes to bring about in Islamic culture.” Harris contends that the West must develop a “militant liberalism that refuses to extend toleration to those who are unwilling to tolerate others.” Enlightened Westerners must understand the nature of their adversary. He concludes, “to tolerate those who refuse to play by the rules of reason is nothing else but the suicide of reason--and with the suicide of reason, mankind will face the dismal prospect of a return to the brutal law of the jungle that has governed human communities for the vast bulk of both our history and our prehistory, and from which certain lucky cultures have miraculously managed to escape--and, even then, only by the skin of their teeth.” Is Harris an alarmist? Maybe, even probably. His way of thinking justifies water-boarding and Guantanamo. Nevertheless, some of his predictions seem to have come true in Egypt. In any event, it important not to be naive about Islamania. I recommend this book to all Americans, especially the most tolerant among us. (JAB)
Review: The Suicide of Reason: Radical Islam's Threat to the WestUser Review - Cindy - Goodreads
Extremely thought provoking and potentially paradigm shifting book. Read full review