Lawrence Auster on Melanie Phillips

VFR oct 2007

Her censure of the document is expressed in highly emotional, morally judgmental language: "diabolical," "vile," "shocking," "treacherous, bigoted and lethal." The problem with such language is that it condemns the Muslims for immoral attitudes, when, from the point of view of the Muslims, their attitudes are not immoral but simply Islamic. For example, that Muslims oppose the existence of Israel is not "diabolical," as Phillips calls it, but Islamic, since serious Muslims cannot accept non-Islamic sovereignty in formerly Muslim lands. Similarly, that Muslims threaten the Christian church is not "treacherous, bigoted and lethal," as she calls it (in reference to another recent pronouncement by 138 Muslim religious leaders), but simply what is commanded by the Koran and Islamic law.

Thus the mental framework Phillips applies to Islam remains resolutely Western and non-Islamic. As she sees it, the Muslims in Britain are violating common moral standards, and this is "vile," "shocking," and "bigoted." The implication is that Muslims must change their behavior and start to conform to our moral code. And she holds out the hope that the Muslims will do that, if only Britain's government and opinion-forming elite insist that they do so. This hope has always been at the heart of Phillips's writings on Islam (and it's the reason why she doesn't feel that Islamic immigration must be terminated or reduced). British leaders and institutions must simply stop approving of the Muslims' immoral attitudes and demand that Muslims conform themselves to Western morality. The problem is that Muslims cannot conform to Western morality without ceasing to be Muslims, and therefore the change of heart Phillips expects and hopes for can never come. She doesn't get this.

And the reason she doesn't get it is that she doesn't get religion. She reveals her incomprehension of religion when she says that we must "distinguish those who derive merely spiritual solace from the faith from those who use the religion of Islam to wage war upon the non-Islamic world." Her idea of a good Muslim is a person who "derives merely spiritual solace" from the faith. This unwittingly condescending language is precisely the language that non-believing and weakly believing people always use about religion and religious people. Secularists and the superficially religious think that religion is about "comfort," "consolation," and "solace" in a harsh world. They reduce religion to therapy and nice feelings and a sense of community. But that's not what religion is, and it's not what Islam is. Religion is about following God, and Islam is a religion the core of which is God-commanded eternal war upon non-Muslims, a fact made numbingly clear on almost every page of the Koran, and confirmed by innumerable jihad warriors and Islamic thinkers over the centuries.

So now we understand better where Phillips is coming from, and why all her columns and blog entries and articles about Islam are filled with the same endlessly repeated, overcharged judgmental expressions: "diabolical," "vile," "shocking," "treacherous," "bigoted," "lethal." She doesn't see the Muslims' attitudes as Islamic. She sees the Muslims' attitudes as an immoral rejection of morality. And this is the source of her idea that the Muslim threat to Britain can be removed without removing the Muslims from Britain. If people have immoral attitudes, those attitudes can be changed, and that is Phillips's constant hope. But the hope for moral reform assumes that the people to be reformed share the moral framework according to which their current attitudes are seen as immoral. But Muslims do not share that moral framework. They have an Islamic framework. And the Islamic framework demands the non-existence of Israel, the Islamization of Britain, the defeat of Christianity, and the removal of any moral condemnation of Islam, including Islamic terrorism.

In short, Phillips sees Islamic extremism as immoral, rather than Islamic, for the same reason that the neocons refer to Islamic extremism as "Islamo-fascist," rather than as Islamic. In both cases the motivating impulse is to preserve the belief that Islam itself is not the problem, and therefore that Muslims can be assimilated into our societies and into a democratic global culture.