reason, islam and the west

From Ayaan Hrsi Ali’s review of Harris’ new book:

I was not born in the West. I was raised with the code of Islam, and from birth I was indoctrinated into a tribal mind-set. Yet I have changed, I have adopted the values of the Enlightenment, and as a result I have to live with the rejection of my native clan as well as the Islamic tribe. Why have I done so? Because in a tribal society, life is cruel and terrible. And I am not alone. Muslims have been migrating to the West in droves for decades now. They are in search of a better life. Yet their tribal and cultural constraints have traveled with them. And the multiculturalism and moral relativism that reign in the West have accommodated this.

Harris is correct, I believe, that many Western leaders are terribly confused about the Islamic world. They are woefully uninformed and often unwilling to confront the tribal nature of Islam. The problem, however, is not too much reason but too little. Harris also fails to address the enemies of reason within the West: religion and the Romantic movement. It is out of rejection of religion that the Enlightenment emerged; Romanticism was a revolt against reason.

I can agree with her on this point. However, i too would wonder with Harris if Reason is
the solution to the problem. Or at least we need to distinguish between two types of reason: The wise and pragmatic reason of those trying to find a solution and willing to consider religious and other non-enlightenment solutions; over against the attempt to enforce “our” reason upon the “unreasonable”. Using reason in the former sense is certainly necessary and perhaps sufficient. The second type of imperialistic reason can only fail.

I know a fair number of muslims, though mostly well-educated ones who’ve moved to Europe. Some remain religious, most have jettisoned religion. All remain more or less attached to Arab culture (food, family structure, language). And all eschew violence. They have, all accepted the necessity of reason and (something akin to) non-violence. Their ultimate strength however, lies in their ability to distinguish between culture, religion and violence. Not to crassly oppose islam and reason.

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