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My Suck-Up of The Day

I disagree with Marty fairly often, but I think Matthew Yglesias gets it wrong here:

New Republic editor in chief Martin Peretz says that what the country needs is more anti-Muslim sentiment:

And the truth is that it is not yet clear in the president’s head–or he is not yet being candid (which is my substitute for “frank” and “honest”)–that you can’t have a true view of routine mass murder in the contemporary world without having quite a harsh view of Islam today. It is unfair to the American people and to the peoples of the liberal world for the administration to pretend that the perpetrators of terror are not animated by some all-consuming ideology. It is not an abstraction that animates them. It is not a game of hide-and-seek with the CIA.

Setting aside the fact that I don’t understand why Peretz thinks ideologies are concrete rather than abstract, this is all depressingly nuts from the proprietor of an erstwhile liberal publication.

You can grow horse talking about this, but there are over 300 million Americans and a few thousand al-Qaeda members on the planet. Those are not winning odds for Osama bin Laden. But there are over a billion Muslims who bin Laden claims to represent. When influential Americans echo bin Laden’s claim about this, they shift the odds closer to his favor.

A couple points. First, I don't think it's fair to summarize Marty's post as calling for "more anti-Muslim sentiment." The next paragraph in Marty's post makes it clear that he does want to distinguish between moderate and radical Islam:

And, yes, of course, there are millions upon millions of Muslims--pious or more than a bit diffident--for whom Islam is a religious faith, a culture, and an anchor of personality. They are not part of the Islam which has been overwhelmed by the poisonous politics of the jihadists and those who routinely yield to them. It is time that the administration make this distinction.

Now, what about that "harsh view of Islam today"? I should let Marty speak for himself. But my basic view is that the Islamic world today is not unlike the Christian world before the enlightenment (a time, of course, when Islam was more tolerant and advanced than Christendom.) It is a culture where notions of liberalism and religious tolerance are largely foreign -- where even the most liberal mass movement that can be found, the Green movement in Iran, has to make its case in religious terms in order to have any chance at legitimacy. I would not blame the mass of Muslims for al Qaeda's terrorism any more than I'd blame the average medieval Christian for the Crusades. Still, an illiberal, non-secular culture like this is far more capable of producing, or even merely accepting, violence against non-believers qua non-believers.

A lot of liberals have an unfortunate tendency to brand as racist any analysis that holds one culture above another. But there's nothing inherently racial in believing that the illiberal culture that dominates the Muslim world is a key source of the problem, just as it wouldn't be racial make a sweeping indictment of pre-Enlightenment European culture. My belief is that, in the long run, relations between the Muslim world and the West will remain very difficult until the Muslim world has its enlightenment. In the meantime, American policymakers should do their best to reach out to Muslims and try to drive a wedge between the majority and the extremists.