Normally my book recommendations are short and sweet with just enough explanation of the book to get you going. This post differs from those in that it not only is a recommendation but is a commentary partly on the book itself and partly on the subject the book covers. I apologize to the authors of the book in advance for a review that is not entirely focused on their book. However, since I feel this article is not shallow in scope, and is largely inspired by the book, they will forgive me.
For those of you who just want to know, “Platypus, do you suggest I read the book or not?” the answer is a resounding “yes – read it – twice.”
Actually, study it. Regardless of how you leave the book (agreeing or not with its central premise) you will learn something from it and you will be made to think about this subject in a way you have not. At times you will find the thoughts it gives you uncomfortable. Understand that is okay. One of the reasons so few people ponder (which is to think with the purpose of understanding a thing better) is that doing so is hard, and painful. It requires honest reflection and a willingness to let part of us die and be reborn by other thoughts. To think a thing then change that thinking is the hallmark of humans over animals but the animal part of us still fights it. If you feel discomfort, work through it. Why might you feel this? Because you have been steeped in a certain world view through all your media and education for two or three generations to think a certain way about culture and this book will force you, if you are intellectually honest, to rethink that worldview. The cake, is a lie. Diversity is the cake.
I have made a lifetime study of culture, religion, anthropology, and human psychology on the evolutionary and cognitive levels; even I found myself squirming as I read. While I know, as you read that last sentence, you are getting anxious already, asking yourself if you really want to read this book, I assure you, you do. Such squirming will make you a better person, one who knows yourself better, and is better able to move about in a complex world.
Either that, or after the second chapter you will close the book and exclaim, “what a bunch of bulls*&t!”
I’m guessing, since you are a Platypus reader, you fall into the category that will stick it out because you’re here because you want the conversation and you crave knowledge.
So yes, read it – read it twice – buy it for a friend. If you are a member of a book club, put it on the club’s list for your next meeting. Or perhaps, read it and then have the cajones to write an essay on it for your humanities class and turn it in to your liberal professor. Gift it to your grandmother who just thinks the girl on the cover has pretty eyes. You’ll know soon enough who actually read it and who just put it on the shelf.
You’ll know who read it because this book walks a dangerous line between emotion and reason.
Such walks are necessary for change and growth. Still, such walks are always dangerous because reason can make the emotion sound acceptable and emotion can make the reason sound powerful – even if neither is the case. Which side of that line this book falls on will largely depend on your perspective. There are times A Paradoxical Alliance puts a toe over that line with statements like this one:
I wonder how Gordon Brown would react to being forced to convert at the threat of beheading, how he’d feel seeing his daughter Jennifer being gang raped and then killed under the cries of, “Alahu Akbar”, and if he’d then still continue his mantra “this is the work of terrorists, not Muslims.” Is Brown unaware that Mohammed himself was a violent man? Is he unaware that he had nine swords, his favorite of which he called the Dhu alFaqar “cleaver of vertebrae”? If Islamic terrorists are not Muslims, does Brown believe that their “prophet” Mohammed was also not a Muslim?
A clear emotional plea and the connection with Mohammed’s sword is really a logical misstep. Are the Hebrew followers of Moses, a former prince of Egypt, responsible for the slavery and murder associated with Egypt because their leader was a powerful member of the royal family? I think we have plenty of behavior in the here-and-now to discuss without too much effort.
Fortunately A Paradoxical Alliance does pull the toe back from the emotional line; though it’s clear that emotion still simmers, perhaps roils, under the surface of each page. Jack Buckby and Matt Palumbo, in turn, carefully justify this emotion, not with more emotion or slogans, but with facts. Especially compelling are the real events connected with Islamic terrorism which seem to get reported in the news then quickly forgotten.
My interest in this book, and my perspective, stems from a question that has been burning in me for a while now, years actually, over a decade. If I am to be more precise than that I would say shortly after the attacks of September 11th.
How can the left love something that hates them and stands in total opposition to everything they believe in and hold dear?
I was on my way to work that day and listening to the radio as I commuted in to downtown. The first plane had hit the tower already and at that point no one knew it was terrorism. Planes had hit the tower before, though not commercial planes it wasn’t unheard of. I listened marveling at what a terrible thing that was, what an accident. Then the second plane hit and I knew it was terrorism. Contained as I was in the solitude of my car I felt as if this revelation came only to me. I was isolated from the rest of civilization other than the hollow sounding lifeline that was AM talk radio. The quality of the signal and the tin can sound of the voice coming through the speakers of my car made the whole scene feel just like out of a movie where aliens have attacked. I was the lone man possessed of terrible knowledge.
I found when I arrived at work that my job assignment for the rest of the day was to monitor the news. I sent news up the line that the Pentagon had been hit, that the towers had collapsed.
Following that day there was great unity. I thought perhaps this was an event to bring the world together, the sort of Fourth Turning discussed in Strauss and Howe’s book of that title. Flags went up everywhere, nations mourned with us, The Star-Spangled Banner played at the changing of Buckingham Palace’s famous guard and Russia observed an official moment of silence.
Then things went from a nationalist celebration to serious very quickly when we went to war. Just who we went to war with was quite unclear to most. The best anyone could tell us was we were at war with “the terrorists”, whomever they were. At first, we attacked terrorist camps. That seemed totally reasonable to me. We had been attacked by them so I felt this was proper defense. Then we took over a nation and attacked another and took it over too. To this day I am unsure why we included Iraq and not Iran that well-known state sponsor of terrorism. At home there were some who saw brown people with turbans as the enemy. Members of the Sikh community were killed, Muslims were attacked, and people were on edge.
People rightfully condemned such actions. It seemed from that day on though a change happened in the left and the right.
Islam is now off-limits.
The left and even to some degree the right, have set up a defensive shield around Islam. No matter how bad the terror attacks get it’s not the fault of Islam, we must not condemn Muslims in any degree even if it’s just to focus on the actual terrorists while stating resoundingly they only represent a tiny minority of Muslims .
Completely ignoring that Islamic terrorism (or at least Islamic violence) is as old as Islam itself, it’s a common talking point among liberals (and even many non-interventionists on the right) that we in America are responsible for terrorism. Why? “Blowback” as the Ron Paul’s of the world call it.
There is no war without casualties, so according to the blowback theory, we end up creating more terrorists than we can kill. Suppose we kill a terrorist-but during the attack a handful of innocent civilians are killed. The family of those civilians we kill are going to be radicalized against the West, wanting revenge…
…So what’s the logic here? We let terrorists continue to commit genocide because they won’t like us when we kill them? “What causes terrorism is our resistance to it” appears to be the argument here.
A little bit later Christopher Hitchens is paraphrased as saying, in order to swallow that line of reasoning, we would, “… have to believe the sociopaths who have no trouble stoning women to death for being raped, beheading nonbelievers, and carrying out acts of terror, wouldn’t be this way if only America wasn’t so mean to them.”
When he puts it that way, the left’s argument sounds a bit ridiculous doesn’t it?
The left still finds any mention of terror and Islam in the same sentence to be anathema. Obama famously refused to use the term “Islamic Terrorism” and government agencies were even ordered not to in their official reports. Celebrities of various sorts have converted to Islam and the hijab has become a symbol – of all things – freedom. The freedom of feminism, and in some ways freedom from religion.
Somehow the left seems to have divorced Islam from Islam.
Even moderate Islam stands against everything the Left stand in favor of.
Even moderate Islam condemns homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, men and women associating freely with one another, mixed marriages, tolerance of other religions, alcohol consumption, etc. This is one area where A Paradoxical Alliance does a fine job with its narrative. The book clearly outlines the tenants of Islam on these subjects. It does so with their own scripture and with their own voices.
Though the authors do sometimes quote individuals who may or may not represent Islam as a whole they also focus on the clear dogma of the religion itself. When it comes to religion we can know what the belief system believes and teaches. While we cannot say that this means everyone who belongs to that religion follows those teachings it is fair to say what those teachings are.
This is true of any religion. We can look at the Catholic faith and discuss what they believe. Take abortion for example. That is against the teachings of the Catholic church. If a Catholic has an abortion they do so contrary to those teachings. So yes, a Catholic may have an abortion but it is still fair to say Catholics don’t believe in abortion as a colloquial way to discuss belief.
When we discuss Islam we can objectively say they don’t believe in homosexuality, drinking alcohol, sex outside of marriage, and equal opportunity for women. I phrase the latter point that way rather than equality of women because Islam does believe that men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah and that men should not abuse their wives. They do not believe that women should have exactly the same opportunities as men to work, get an education, drive, and make decisions. The extent to which these things are enforced on women is regional but wherever Sharia exists it is strict. A Muslim woman in the United States is not treated the same as a Muslim woman in the UK and certainly not the same as one in Saudi Arabia or Syria.
This is true of homosexuals and adulterers as well. While a gay Muslim in America might be shunned by the community (a perfectly reasonable religion thing to do) we have seen in other countries they are tossed from buildings or worse, slowly tortured before being killed.
A Paradoxical Alliance makes the point, and I think makes it well, that Sharia and violence go hand in hand.
The only question left to ponder is the degree of violence. If someone were to make a painting of Mohamed having sex with one of his wives that person would face violence. In a moderate country they might get punched or have their work of art torn up. In a less moderate country they might be caned in public. In another their hands may be severed so they could never paint again. In another they might be executed by sword in public. In the most severe case they might be tortured in a most horrific way (yes, some things are worse than death). For some “crimes” against Islam the level of violence is fixed, as the authors point out, by scripture; death is often mentioned as a just punishment for “non-capital” sin. By that I mean a sin that hurt no one and has no victim other than Islam itself. In some American states murderers are put to death but in Islam blasphemers are. There is no moral equivalence there.
As an aside (because it’s my article and I can) this stands in stark contrast to Christianity which believes that Jesus took all the punishment on himself so it doesn’t have to be meted out to the sinner. When Christianity says “the wages of sin is death” it is speaking of a spiritual death and not a physical one except in the sense that it might possibly be a nod to Adam being told if he partook of the fruit he would die. In Islam, there is no Savior and that is a point that cannot be under sold in terms of the zeitgeist of Islam vs Christianity.
When Christians come out against the above mentioned sins the left excoriates them and anyone else who doesn’t follow their thinking. However, when it comes to Muslims they get a pass. They can toss a homosexual from a building to his death and the left doesn’t seem to bat an eyelash except to effetely say, “oh, isn’t that terrible” said more to say they said it than to actually mean it.
“They [the left] cannot and will not admit that cultural diversity includes values that are incompatible with any other value system.”
This is one of the best and clearest points made in A Paradoxical Alliance.
In the second half of A Paradoxical Alliance, Matt Palumbo, who writes from the American perspective, explains how Sharia is deeply part of Islam and how it is not compatible with American ideals on justice nor the American justice system. Islam teaches Sharia must supplant all other judicial systems. Be sure you understand that – for it isn’t rhetoric but fact. That being the case you must also understand that Sharia is not compatible with Western values. This is remarkably true in America. Our culture stems partly from British culture in terms of some of our sensibilities but we also rose up from a frontier and a fight and beat back both. Americans, because we once were the underdog, love the underdog. We believe in fairness and standing on principle. Our principle.
Palumbo cites clear statistics that show, “The overwhelming majority of Muslims globally both believe Sharia to be the revealed word of God and that it should take precedent over Western law.” he then sites figures from Pew that support his point.
“But wait, you might say, Sharia law doesn’t mean what you think. Sure there are the harsh parts that we all know (chopping the hands off thieves, stoning adulterers, executing apostates), but that’s a small fraction of what Sharia Law commands…Among the Sharia we can find plenty of rules that aren’t completely barbaric – but so what?”
That’s a great point he’s making and it’s one that is made over and over again in other areas of life.
Let’s say you come over to a friend’s house for supper. She serves you a wonderful dish of homemade stroganoff which is your favorite. While she was cooking it she sneezed and a bit of snot went into the mix. Not much, she assures you, just a little, you will hardly taste it.
That little quip aside, to say that Sharia is okay because it has good stuff is pathetic. We’re supposed to ignore hands being chopped off because Sharia also promotes prayer? Even then, it promotes a rigid form of prayer in a prescribed manner at prescribed times of day in a visible fashion. Take the cab driver in New York who stopped mid traffic to pray on the back of his cab.
He has a right to do that in America but Sharia pushes that on ALL. Notice, not just all Muslims, ALL people are said to be subject to Sharia. You see, Americans are a lot of things but they are NOT subjects. That fact is at the heart of libertarianism and classical liberalism and indeed the heart of America itself!
Cultural diversity is a double-edged sword.
A Paradoxical Alliance makes one thing clear this is not about racism. This should go without saying of course but there will be those on the left (and the right) who read the book who will attempt to dismiss it outright as racist. They will quote single passages like this,
“…there is a question to be asked about the trustworthiness of [members of parliament] who are instructed by their holy book to deceive…but the primary issues are the agenda of the white British appeasers of Islam…”
and they will try to convince you that the book can safely be ignored because it seeks to protect “whites” and denigrates…fill in whatever race the member of parliament happens to be. There are two very simple reasons that I say it should go without saying this isn’t about race, first is, Islam is a religion, not a race. Those who belong to it are from all around the globe from all races. The second reason is that those who are on the opposing view are also of all different races. It is not a white issue.
I had an interesting conversation with a fellow from Saudi Arabia. He was visiting the US in an area with a large population of Mexicans and was often confused for one. Someone would start speaking Spanish to them and he would reply in broken English and frustrated Arabic the he wasn’t a Mexican. He explained that, while he wasn’t against other races he was quite proud of his own. Curious, I asked, “what race are you?” His face took on a most incredulous look and framing his face with his hands in an effort to highlight what he thought should be obvious to me he replied with a tad of disgust at my asking, “I am white” at which his hands dropped from his face in a sweeping motion as if to further point out the obvious. While Fahd may not represented the entire city of Medina where he was from, there was a clear message about how he considered different races.
Culture, for me, is wonderful and my love for it is one of the reason you find me commenting on stories where the left screams against “cultural appropriation”. Sure, cultural appropriation exists but it’s not a bad thing. Cultures generally adopt from others what they find beneficial and worthy of adopting. It is not an insult to blacks for a white person to listen to “black music” or a slight against Mexicans for a white person to sell tacos.
I enjoy learning all about the !Kung, the Yanomami, the Arabs, and Maya, etc. They all hold interest to me historically, religiously and culturally. Yet, I have no desire to drink blood directly from the pierced neck of a cow, inhale hallucinogens, or to marry several wives. These are all culturally significant things to these individual groups. I can appreciate what these things mean to the people, how they shape their lives and thinking and still, from my own cultural perspective say they are “bat excrement crazy!”
There are many academics that refrain from making statements about culture that imply one is “better” than another. Instead they use words like “complex” or “less complex” maybe “advanced” speaking of technology and institutions etc. but they don’t like to say “better”. To them, it’s not their job to rank cultures. If a culture works for a society, that is all that matters. They are right. At least in so far as a culture is taken as a single, isolated, entity. This concept can be reduced to an individual level which should be quite familiar to any libertarians reading this. You, do you. Individually we understand that people are different with different tastes. Cultures are the same. John might not like the same things as Sue, but she’s not hurting him by listening to Cold Play so he’s not going to worry about it. Tribal cultures in Africa are interesting to study because they have no impact on the culture of the observer.
However, when culture stops being singular and isolated and intermixes there immediately arises a culture war. Though Islam is a religion, it is one that is so codified that it becomes the culture of those that adhere to it. This is not true of all religions. For many they are at best a sub-culture. A Christian can be fully part of the culture of his or her country and be fully Christian. They represent a sub-culture that is marked by certain traits generally common to all of them. These traits blend with the culture. Another good example, especially in America, is the Sikh. There are certain markers, such as the turban, but other than that they tend to fit right in with groups of happy-go-lucky Americans. Perhaps this is because Sikh share common cultural markers with Americans, but that’s the point too, they do not clash, they compliment.
To the left diversity seems to be everything. Superficially only, of course. Obama was the first black president only because he looked black. He is exactly as white as he is black in terms of DNA and was not raised in the typical black American culture. He was not, as they say, “down for the struggle” but because he looked black, that was enough. Optics are important to the left. Life is like a GAP ad to them. A clean picture showing every race smiling and perfectly represented.
A Paradoxical Alliance clearly explains why this is a problem throughout its pages as it highlights just how different, and incompatible, Islamic culture is with Western culture.
“…multiculturalism ask us to celebrate some pretty nasty cultural practices and attitudes.”
To get around this the left, according to A Paradoxical Alliance, must pretend these differences don’t represent the true nature of the offending culture. The book spends a great many pages explaining just why the author’s feel the offending behavior does in fact represent actual and true Islamic culture and not some extreme element of it. While it is certainly true to say that not all Muslims are out there blowing themselves up, that is only one extreme example of the offending behavior, there are other, offensive but not murderous, examples. The authors use history, scripture, and current events to make their point that Islam and the West cannot, in their current forms, align.
If you accept this as true then you must also accept that one or the other culture will have to change. Right now, as we speak, leftists are working hard to make sure that it is Western culture that does the changing. This is what the authors say they are warning against and what the stated purpose of the book is, to stop this destruction of Western culture and preserve it. If Islamic culture were isolated it might be interesting to study and one might find the interesting bits fascinating, but mixed it becomes a volatile compound that literally explodes.
Why the left embraces a group that is against all they stand for is the paradox of the book’s title.
The relationship between the left and a group of people who despise everything they stand for is the relationship of the book’s title, A Paradoxical Alliance. It was in the hopes that this book might shed some light on my conundrum that I turned its pages. The title alone demonstrated to me that the authors were having the same wrestle. For people of reason, logic, and objectivity, the subjective and emotional ramblings of the leftists can sometimes be maddening. How can anyone have so little self-awareness as to believe two totally contradictory things?
“Frank went out at noon under the blazing hot sun and said, ‘oh, I can see the big dipper’. NO FRANK, YOU CAN’T! Then to have Frank insist that he can and that you are mean and nasty and wrong for saying he can’t and if only you were the right sort of person then you would see it to. Then five or six of Frank’s friends huddle around him to shield him from your harsh reality, putting their arms around him they exclaim, ‘look! I can see it too!'”
That is the left to me. They look at the sun and call it the moon, they see the day and call it night, they put good for evil and evil for good.
Which means quite possibly the real reason for the paradox is that the left is quite mad. Not figuratively, but literally, insane. The cognitive dissonance they must live under every day has broken their minds and split them from reality. This, perhaps more than ISIS, is the real danger to Western Society.
A Paradoxical Alliance reads, “…multiculturalists do not want to face the existence or nature of cultural diversity…so rather than discuss the issues involved, the complications diversity brings, value assertions and such topics, they attempt to silence the very discussion underway; doing this by calling anyone who points out the negative aspect of cultural diversity ‘racist’.”
They just don’t want to talk about but that still doesn’t explain why they do it in the first place.
Are these guys Nazis?
Something stark the reader will find about A Paradoxical Alliance, is how it strongly focuses on the values of Western Culture. This is where it walks that dangerous line. Many of you who decide to read it (and you should) will feel at times uncomfortable with how it is worded. To me, the authors make no bones about it, Western culture is better than Islamic culture and they have no desire to see Islam supplant western culture in their respective countries.
To some, this is a shocking thing! We live in a time when nationalism and populism are seen as bad things. These are two things undeniably tied to a strong support for one’s own culture. A strong case can be made (as A Paradoxical Alliance does make) that the current distaste for nationalism sprang out of the horrors of Nazi Germany. That murderous movement was carried along in the back of nationalism and a populist spirit. Hitler not only played to Germany as a nation, and to the German people, but to a certain culture he considered ideal and his goal was to make it so. The German people at the time thought all this sounded really great. The result of course was horrendous.
Ever since then humanity has been rightfully cautious of such things. The part of humanity known as the left, however, has been overly cautious. They have made every effort since then to preach globalism and diversity and do so at any cost. It’s ironic that in their turn they are causing their own horrendous disaster worse than what Hitler did. Worse? Yes. Objectively speaking the policies of the left geared toward their brand of equality (e.g. communism and socialism) have resulted in tens of millions of deaths. If Hitler says the Germans are the master race the left will say no race is master and all are equal and they set out to make that so with globalism.
You will be pleased to learn that the authors of A Paradoxical Alliance, Jack Buckby and Matt Palumbo, are most decidedly not Nazis nor are they racists. They are, by their own admission, “culturists”. As it sounds that is someone who thinks their own culture is superior. For those of you who may be inclined to think that no culture is better than another I invite you to wash your hands in cow urine and eat grub worms as a delicacy. Likely you will say, “uh, no” and reveal in your own mind that you too are a bit of a culturist. To love your culture and to think it is better than another is only a bad thing when you try to use force to make others live by your cultural mores. That’s exactly what Islam is trying to do.
In conclusion – buy the book
Though A Paradoxical Alliance doesn’t really answer my question for me – why the alliance exists at all – it does explore the subject in great detail and helped me to really think about this issue. In the end I really do think that the alliance exists out of fear. The left fears becoming Hitler, the thing they hate; they fear conflict which would be required to address this issue; they fear being blown up and think if they appease Islam they will be spared; they fear introspection where they might have to admit their own weakness and the actual harm their own ideology has caused the world.
In their desire not to become Hitler the left became worse than Hitler and will make as many paradoxical alliances as required to hide that fact from themselves.
I don’t know if you will “like” this book or not, or if you will enjoy the authors’ turn of phrase. This isn’t that kind of book. It’s not meant for pleasure, it’s meant for edification.
The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame. –Oscar Wilde
The left will call this book immoral. Most certainly it walks that dangerous line I mentioned above. Only unreasonable men will take culturism too far. Reasonable men will see the truth in what A Paradoxical Alliance spells out and they will worry it could happen to them.
It is very difficult for someone, especially an American, where freedom of religion is one of our first tenants, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” to even consider that a religion might be incompatible liberty itself. I have not come to that conclusion after reading this book. Despite the evidence laid out in it I still hold out that there is some other way.
I am hoping for an Islamic Reformation that will do away with severed hands and stoning and forced conversion or death to infidels.
Until then I have my eyes wide open. How about you?