America should not apologize for values that clash with hostile Islam
In an interview, 'Infidel' author Ayaan Hirsi Ali says violent protests against an anti-Islam video stem from a religion and culture with no room for criticism. 'Westerners should quit the moral relativist posturing and get down to the hard work of defending their values,' she says.
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Hirsi Ali: As the world’s only remaining superpower, America is faced with the daunting task of preventing conflict as much as it can. Given its relative decline and the relative rise of powers that are hostile to the West, this task is even more daunting.
When it comes to relations with the Muslim world, there is clearly a pious mainstream and a homicidal militant minority who share the view that some form of punishment is justified against those who insult their prophet or desecrate their holy book.
And here is the dilemma that America was grappling with since the storming of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979: How can we marginalize the homicidal while not alienating the pious majority on the one hand, and on the other hand not betray our foundational traditions of free inquiry and human rights?
In relation to the Muslim world, the past three decades show three things:
First, creating the impression that mutually exclusive moral systems can find compromise around non-negotiable values does not resolve the conflict but only makes it worse and postpones the real battle of ideas.
The First Amendment in America will not be compromised, and the Muslim world will not accept that people who supposedly insult their icons will go unpunished. On this level, the only way out as I see it is a true battle of ideas whereby each side demonstrates to the other why its value system is superior. In other words, Westerners should quit the moral relativist posturing and get down to the hard work of defending their values.
Two, and this is a good sign, the Muslim world is rapidly changing. The Iranian masses that brought the ayatollahs to power in 1979 were calling for change in 2009. As we all know, totalitarian systems have a short lifespan. The people in the Middle East are not quite clear on the ins and outs of freedom, but they are moving in the right direction.
America and other Western countries could help hasten the process towards true freedom instead of creating the impression that some freedoms can be compromised. They can do so by empowering the individuals and groups who truly share America’s founding principles as enshrined in the Bill of Rights. In other words, when it comes to the stark choice between the Quran and the Bill of Rights: America should empower those who choose the latter.
Finally, and perhaps most important, alliances with dictators, mujahedeen, and other tyrants are more costly in human life and resources than facing up to the confrontation of irreconcilable values and setting out to win. The last victory of the US against a bad system of ideas was against the Soviet Union. That was a long and uncertain cold war, but America won, and the same strategy must be applied in the battle against radical Islam.