Another way to make the point touched on in my last entry is that Islam is found mostly in multiethnic and multicultural societies, which in their most characteristic form become ruled by transnational bureaucracies like the Mamluks with the aid of of radically denationalized professional armies like the Janissaries or for that matter (in a variation on the theme) the Knights Templar or Knights of Malta. Such societies are unable consistently to defend themselves against foreign invasion, and so eventually succumb to Islamic conquerors. Once they are conquered the Muslim Ummah and Shariah become a sort of palliative for their radical divisiveness and the absence of any basis for political cooperation, while that same divisiveness drives the conquerors to devise a ruling institution without ties of loyalty outside the institution itself and thus composed of slaves or kidnapped non-Muslims.
Advanced liberal society has at least formal similarities to Muslim society. In principle it dissolves all particular social bonds through formalization of social functions, reshuffling of populations and various anti-discrimination rules, so that particular human connections become a matter of arbitrary and passing choice and cannot play a role in overall public social order. It strives to make world markets and independent professionalized transnational bureaucracies the only social institutions with serious authority. The two forms of human organization thus reflect a similar understanding of proper social order as an aggregate of individuals or small groups with no capacity for political life governed in acordance with a single law imposed from above that controls all human relations. (If you don’t believe that as to advanced liberalism, read some human rights treaties and consider their implications.)
The two are directly opposed of course as to who and what will control things. Will it be “human rights” or the Koran and Shariah? The Caliphate and Ummah or the EU writ large? UN peacekeepers or the janissaries? Mamluks and the ‘Ulema or graduates of Yale Law School and the Ã‰cole Nationale d’Administration? As a Westerner I believe of course that we are ever so much smarter and more efficient than they are. Still there are basic problems in our position. We can’t propose a sufficient reason for sacrifice, they can. We don’t reproduce, they do. People don’t like it when you refer to such things, but they do matter.
The failure to reproduce is not only physical. Tocqueville observed that the current regime would likely lead to radical privatization of personal interests and so to disappearance of public life. Multiculturalism, the efflorescence of electronic pseudo-worlds and other developments put that tendency on steroids to the extent that ordinary socialization comes in question. Theodore Dalrymple has described some of the consequences among the lower classes in the socialist paradise the English started building after 1945. We have similar conditions in this country, although no one seems to be writing about them so stylishly. And in the professional classes, all the effort, expense, competitiveness and piling up of formal qualifications we see in education today seem to be degrading honesty, integrity and purpose without achieving past standards of competence.
So the question in advanced liberal society, if you put Christianity aside (which the Europeans and our own advanced liberals seem happy to do), is which system will prove the better competitor on the common ground of a brutish day-to-day existence, intellectual and political corruption, and the absence of any established higher purpose in life. We shall see. To my mind Islam, while much less rational and effective than its opponent when its opponent is functioning properly, is much more likely to maintain the ability to function properly in accordance with its own principles, and so has a very good shot at winning in the end.