Category Archives: Religion

Both Sides Now

The Palestinian national movement denies Israel’s legitimacy, and Israel in turn denies the Palestinians’ national sovereignty. A new book insists on accommodating both.

Last year during a long excursion in Israel and the Palestinian territories, this innocent abroad paid a visit to a new hotel in Bethlehem that boasts “the worst view in the world.” Continue reading

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The Worlds of Islam

Not so long ago, the great debate in geopolitical circles was whether the West was locked in a lethal and lengthy clash with “Islamic civilization.” The American political scientist Samuel Huntington endured widespread scorn for making this case in his landmark 1993 essay “The Clash of Civilizations.” Among the torrent of condemnation, few of his critics bothered to point out that the greater clash was to be found within Islamic civilization.

A variant of this omission is making the rounds today. Continue reading

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Prepare for a long war against ISIS

Many argue that ISIS is close to death. But whatever happens in Raqqa, ISIS’s cause will live on

Three years after it emerged, the Islamic State is said to be on the road to defeat. In recent months, ISIS has suffered stinging reverses. Last week, with its grip over Mosul being pried loose by the Iraqi army, ISIS destroyed the al-Nuri mosque where Omar al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in June 2014. Across the border, its capital is under siege by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) assisted by U.S. airpower. This progress in the war against ISIS should be a cause for celebration, but a modicum of caution is in order. For whatever the near-term outcome of the military campaign against ISIS, its cause will only be impaired, not extinguished, by defeat on the battlefield. Continue reading

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A War in Fact Only

By the beginning of 2017, the Islamic State was in full retreat across Iraq and Syria. In the waning days of the Obama administration, the military campaign against ISIS had turned white hot. With coalition forces striking ISIS command-and-control from the air, Iraqi ground forces simultaneously squeezed militants out of numerous Syrian and Iraqi strongholds. If current trends continue and the caliphate collapses, it will serve a lethal blow to the longstanding jihadist claim – and prominent recruitment tool – to be the strong horse.

And yet, a decade and a half after September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has consistently failed to reckon with the theological and ideological roots of militant Islam. This is troubling because those roots, if not severed, will remain potent even after the black flags of the caliphate are furled. Continue reading

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A Fighting Faith: Islam more than liberalism

Review of Islam and the Future of Tolerance by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz

When future generations look back at our time, they will marvel at how the most reactionary and clerical forces on the world stage so often found allies among self-styled “progressives.” Continue reading

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Heretic, East and West

Review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Heretic

One day while perusing the New Testament, Thomas Jefferson decided to take a razor to its pages and strip away the “artificial vestments” that promoted wickedness, bigotry or superstition. This effort to cull the distilled essence of “the life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth” left the Good Book considerably diminished in length but immeasurably enhanced in quality. Ever since, it has been known as the Jefferson Bible.

A few brave souls have suggested that the Quran might profit from similar treatment.  Continue reading

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Burning Faith

“It is putting a very high price on one’s conjectures,” as Montaigne said, “to have a man roasted alive because of them.” After burning to death a Jordanian pilot in a steel cage, it’s safe to assume that the Islamic State puts a high premium on its “conjectures.” Continue reading

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