6/25/2014—Readers of this blog will know of my contention that the current convulsions in the Arab world are similar to the Wars of Religion that beset Christian Europe from the Reformation until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Further, I believe the result will be similar—the weakening of religion and the growth of secularization.
Thomas Friedman has a piece in the New York Times today singing the same song as mine. The contrast is between ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that executes its prisoners and SISI, the President of Egypt. Friedman quotes Orit Perlov, from Tel Aviv University, to the effect that these are two sides of the same coin—“one elevates God as the arbiter of all political life and the other the national state.”
Both fail to deliver peace and prosperity and must be replaced, says Perlov, by a new generation that puts society in the center, that asks not how we can serve God or the State but how they can serve us. Friedman even uses the word I have used—that the Islamic and national models have to be “exhausted.”
Friedman says the only idea that works is “pluralism in politics, education and religion.”
OK. So the Muslims have to become more like us. They have to be relativists, democrats and capitalists. But, what makes Friedman think that our model works in the long run? Sure, it’s better than a civil war or a military dictatorship. But don’t be so certain that our model has the sustaining power to avoid those outcomes. The American people are descending into a mutual pointless hatred that is the fruit of “pluralism in politics, education and religion.” A society that believes nothing except that people disagree may not be sustainable.