Saturday, July 8, 2017

Small on the "fruits of modernity"

     "So yes, liberalism didn't happen, peace and prosperity didn't materialize.  But because Bellaigue's value system is backwards binary—modernity equals good, bad equals not modernity—he's ultimately unable to make coherent sense of the history he's telling.  Secret police, genocides, one-party states, revolutionary utopianism, consumerism, radical terrorism, rentier economies, huge sovereign debts:  all these dispiriting twentieth-century phenomena are fruits of modernity.  Indeed, they happened because of, not despite, the Enlightenment, reaching their modern forms, so repugnant to any truly enlightened sensibility, thanks not to religious 'bigots' and 'stick-in-the-muds', but to the modern cast of mind Bellaigue champions so uncritically:  literate and ideological, obsessed with science and technology, and fixated on the future, never on the past, on new and final solutions, never on traditional wisdom."

    Thomas Small, "Truly modern Muslims:  the thorny question of what it means to be Islamic," a review of, among others, Christopher de Bellaigue, The Islamic enlightenment:  the modern struggle between faith and reason:  1798 to modern times, Times literary supplement no. 5958 (June 9, 2017):  8-9 (7-9).  I have not read the book.
     Commenting on Tariq Ramadan's Islam:  the essentials, Small says
Ramadan does not ignore jihadbut I almost wish he had.  Again, it's all smoke and mirrors, beginning with his claim that it is only in an echo of 'the Christian crusades' that Westerners present jihad as 'holy war', which is getting it precisely backwards.  By the time of the Crusades, Christendom in both East and West had endured centuries of aggression at the hands of the Caliphate, and Christian knighthood took on a sacralized dimension only in emulation of the ghazis of Islam.

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