Liberalism

09.22.12

Why the Rush to Label Islam and Liberalism Incompatible?

Hussein Ibish offers a powerful and pointed reply to those who'd condone attacks on free speech in the name of Islam, such as literary critic and New York Times contributor Stanley Fish:

Like all religions, Islam can be mobilized to legitimate almost any social and political program. The present burst of intolerance, chauvinism and paranoia on the Islamic religious right is clearly and traceably the product of a specific set of cultural and historical circumstances, most notably the encounter with colonialism, and the program by Islamists to reinterpret Islam along reactionary political lines over the past century. …

It is solipsistic, if not narcissistic, to imagine that—because the culturally-specific features of contemporary American liberalism (that, after all, in our own history was long in the making and is still not fully accomplished) derive from certain Protestant Western European traditions—this is therefore the only context in which such values can be firmly rooted. By pretending to "understand" the illiberal attitude of what he imagines the protesters' mindset must be, Fish simultaneously privileges the American, Protestant and Western traditions (in that order) and implicitly dismisses all others as belonging to different experiences that cannot produce an adherence to values such as free speech.

Modernity may have originated in the West, but it no longer belongs exclusively to the West. Almost all existing societies participate in and help shape it.