We hear a lot about the problems of Islam. But the picture is always incomplete. One side of the conversation insists that Islam is evil and backward, and there is nothing to be done. The other side says nice things, and quietly mutters something about development, while running off to cash Saudi checks and bomb another Muslim country. There is something wrong with Islam. But it’s not in the Koran or the Hadith. As with many things, it’s a simple question of politics and development. This video lays out the real story.
I’m very pleased with this one. It gets back to my old obsession with European history, and the lessons that Europe’s development has for everybody else’s. A real historian will tell you that this is dangerous and reductive. But hey! This is a YouTube channel! There is one claim made towards the end of the video that I feel like I should back up and maybe qualify a bit. France and England ended up as the dominant powers in Europe for a while, and in the world as well. They were also the only two European powers that had the wherewithal to make real world-wide empire viable. Spain and Portugal certainly did some Empire-ing, but they squandered their first mover advantage with some Medieval ideas about finance, and their empires were vestigial more than anything else. The Iberian countries only held onto the bits of their empire that nobody else wanted. The Dutch Republic got the finance right, but their small size and vulnerability kept them from competing as a first rate power after their individual golden age. In the video I kinda, sorta claim that the relative religious tolerance of France and The UK made them dominant. Obviously there’s a lot more to it. But I really do think that their relative openness made a real difference. Also, thanks to the Louis kings, France has a reputation for religious intolerance. But Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes, decreeing toleration, lasted for most of the crucial 18th century, and Louis XIV’s revocation stood for barely a century, ending with the Revolution. French history is awesome, which is why I have a playlist dedicated to it.
I expect I’ll be playing with the theme of toleration more as this series continues. Saudi influence is already fading. Even if the Saudi state somehow survives, the rising fortunes of other Islamic countries means that its influence is slipping away day by day. But the attractions of extremism and religious rigor will remain. It’s always a seductive idea, both in the religious context and outside of it. “If only we stuck to our principles in a more rigorous and violent way, everything would be fine!”. As every civilization fails, there’s somebody tied to the mast screaming that.
The more I read history, the less convinced I am that that’s the right way to approach things. I’m still a conservative, mostly because I believe that the principles and institutions of the United States are uniquely worth preserving. But it’s fascinating how fanaticism kills everything, from the Byzantines, to the Nazis. When a civilization goes in whole hog for imagined traditional principles, it’s almost always on the way out. So even leaving aside the violence and tragedy of extremism, it’s becoming clear to me that it doesn’t even work. I’m not sure if that makes any sense. I’ll try to make this clearer in future videos. Until then, enjoy this one!
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey there. I have never disputed that there are real problems in contemporary Islam. The way that the ideology is currently used both in Muslim countries and beyond is sometimes very problematic. I don’t dispute that Muslim populations both migrant and at home have some very real issues that need to be addressed. What I do dispute is the idea that there is some special eternal sickness associated with Islam. Nobody is engaging with these issues honestly. One side thinks Islam is Evil. The other side says nice things, but then acts to perpetuate the issues that create the problem with Islam. At the end of the day, the Koran is just an old book. The issues don’t go back 1400 years. They’re all about contemporary economics and politics.
Since I started this series a week ago, I’ve heard from a lot of people who want to tell me what’s wrong with Islam. They do it In large blocks of text, with a lot of hate and profanity. These comments all look kind of similar, and they talk about the same issues. Sometimes they’ve clearly been cut and pasted from the same source. We all get guys, you don’t like Muslims. A lot of this stuff can be discounted immediately. Comparing American and Arabian slavery is not a useful exercise. Conquests that happened 500 years ago are interesting, but not all that important for contemporary issues..
Now, as much as it pains me to admit it, these folks do bring up some issues that make sense. I think it’s true that crimes committed by Muslim migrants in Europe are underplayed in the mainstream media. I also think that’s a good thing. Think about the scale of what’s just happened. Over a million people have been torn from their homes and thrown into an alien environment. It’s amazing that there aren’t more problems than there are. If anything, Islam makes refugees more peaceful rather than less. Trust me, if Sweden had taken in 190,000 rural Americans, We’d all be talking about the Swedish civil war right now.
The commenters are also right to point out that some unpleasant things happen in Muslim countries as well. Honor Killings, Female Genital Mutilation, Horrifying disrespect for Women’s and LGBT rights. The standard response to this is that these things these are problems of development, and that’s absolutely true. These problems are about poverty. You can see similar issues in other poor non-Muslim countries. As most countries get richer, these problems will fade. It’s not about which old book they choose to organize their lives around. In 2017 we’ve actually got genocidal Buddhists, if you can believe that. But because the mainstream wants to protect Saudi Arabia, they don’t complete the argument. It’s not just that these countries are poor, it’s that one of them isn’t. The problem of Islam isn’t just development. The problem of Islam is Uneven development.
As European countries developed, from the 15th through the 17th centuries, religious fighting was a big part of the story. Every power had a version of religion that they were pushing. But that’s the thing. There were many, many powers. They were all competing, and they were pushing very different forms of religion. No single sect could dominate, and Europe eventually arrived at a kind of tolerance.
I Say Henry, Why don’t we throw over all this religious garbage and see how we do?
But of course!
Hah ha! Eat our dust!
The More tolerant countries ended up winning. There’s a reason everybody speaks French and English. Muslim countries haven’t had a similar opportunity to develop competitively yet.
For 50 years, one Muslim country has been richer than all the others. And that country, Saudi Arabia, has used its wealth to push one angry, violent version of the Islamic faith. Even worse, it’s had the help of the world’s richest and most powerful country working to amplify the spread of that faith as well. In Saudi Arabia, this crazy ideology is kept in check by a PR-sensitive royal family, and a kind of first world level of development. When it’s introduced in poorer countries, you get chaos. Once you are aware of this dynamic, the only surprising thing about the problems of Islam is how small they are.
This is the central truth of Sunni Islam today. And it’s a truth that nobody else wants to tell you. If you want to learn more about the true problem of Islam, and how to solve it, I suggest you check out my essay Everybody’s Lying About Islam. Also, you may want to consider chipping into my Patreon account. YouTube just dramatically cut the revenue of all political news channels. If my Patreon funding doesn’t go up dramatically very soon, I’m afraid this channel may have to end. Thanks.