Monday, August 11, 2008

Readings: The Calming Voice of Reason

Included in the summer reading assigned to my daughter for a freshman seminar in which she will participate beginning with the Fall Quarter was Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World. Once she had finished it, I picked it up and started reading. Near the beginning of the second chapter I came across the following, and it occurred to me how accurately Zakaria nails some of the types whose xenophobic hysteria I have tried to highlight in previous posts:

A cottage industry of scaremongering has flourished in the West—especially in the United States—since 9/11. Experts extrapolate every trend they don’t like, forgoing any serious study of the data. Many conservative commentators have written about the impending Islamization of Europe (Eurabia, they call it, to make you even more uncomfortable). Except that the best estimates, from U.S. intelligence agencies, indicate that Muslims constitute around 3 percent of Europe’s population now and will rise to between 5 and 8 percent by 2025, after which they will probably plateau. The watchdogs note the musings of every crackpot Imam, search the archives for each reference to the end of days, and record and distribute the late-night TV musings of every nutcase who glorifies martyrdom. They erupt in fury when a Somali taxi driver somewhere refuses to load a case of liquor into his car, seeing it as the beginning of sharia in the West. But these episodes do not reflect the basic direction of the Muslim world. That world is also modernizing… . The reactionaries in the world of Islam are more numerous than those in other cultures… . But they remain a tiny minority of the world’s billion-plus Muslims. And neglecting the complicated context in which some of these pseudoreligious statements are made—such as an internal Iranian power struggle among clerics and nonclerics—leads to hair-raising but absurd predications [pp.14-15]

So much for that voice crying (wolf) in the wilderness.