In this column in Al-Jazeera (thanks to Fjordman), Soumaya Ghannoushi points out the manifestly true and obvious fact that to take defensive measures against Islamic terrorism contradicts the multiculturalist ethos. Then she adds this:
In this context, the intensely rich and complex Islamic culture, which had fostered some of the most cosmopolitan and open societies in history, in Baghdad, Damascus, Cordoba, or Istanbul, has found itself reduced to a narrow set of vulgar stereotypes.
These range from the subordination of women and arranged marriage to fanaticism and religious despotism. Such arguments bespeak much ignorance and prejudice.
Above all, they overlook the fact that all cultures are subject to different modes of interpretation, and that no culture is homogenous or absolute. To reduce the Islamic culture to these phenomena is akin to identifying “˜Britishness” with Victorian military expansion and the British massacres of natives in Kenya, Sudan, and Malawi, or seeing Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the burning of the corpses of so- called enemy combatants as representative of American culture.
There is a great deal wrong with this. First, the idea that those were “the most cosmopolitan and open societies in history” is extremely dubious. See here, for example, for some information about Muslim Spain.
But more importantly, to reduce British culture to Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo would be to ignore the self-criticism of Western society, and the fact that the perpetrators were prosecuted. Where in the Islamic world are those who are fighting the subordination of women and arranged marriage? They are few and far between. When a woman gets death threats for leading Islamic prayers, when one rape victim is hanged and another is barred from speaking about her plight, when even the “moderate” Jordanian Parliament votes down stiffer penalties for honor killing, and there are so many other examples of this kind, it is clear that there is in the Islamic world not anything like the Western capacity for self-criticism and reform. And there needs to be.