Sunday, March 25, 2007

D'Sousa's Strange Alliance of Theocons and Islamists

One sign of the present confusion in American conservatism is that the Conservative Book Club is promoting both Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel and Dinesh D'Sousa's The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11.

As I have indicated in a previous post, Hirsi Ali defends the Western tradition of liberty and limited government against the oppressive theocracy of fundamentalist Islam, and many American conservatives have rightly embraced her position. But D'Sousa is trying to persuade American conservatives that they should ally themselves with fundamentalist Muslims. I agree with Andrew Sullivan's review of this book as a disturbing attempt to unite American theoconservatism and Islamic fundamentalism.

D'Sousa argues that "conservatives must move closer to the traditional Muslims" (287). His fundamental claim is that moral debate today is divided sharply between two positions. On the one side, conservatives believe in a religious morality as rooted in "an external moral order" and "external commands." On the other side, liberals believe in a secular morality of the inner self, "the morality of self-fulfillment" (18-20). The liberals' secular morality of self-fulfillment promotes moral corruption through hedonistic self-indulgence and materialism. Traditional Muslims believe that this liberal morality will destroy their religion and their way of life. And American conservatives, D'Sousa insists, should admit that they are right. America really is morally corrupt insofar as liberal morality has prevailed in American life. American conservatives should join with fundamentalist Muslims in fighting against the corruption of such secular morality.

I would say, however, that D'Sousa has created a false dilemma in assuming that our choice is between a religious morality of theocracy and a secular morality of hedonism. Darwinian conservatism respects religious belief insofar as it supports our natural moral sense. But that natural morality stands on its own--as rooted in human nature--regardless of our religious beliefs. We do not have to choose between a morality of "external commands" or a morality of "the inner self." We can recognize traditional morality as founded in our evolved human nature.

If our morality is rooted in human nature, then we can trust family life and the mediating institutions of private life to cultivate moral virtue without statist coercion. We do not need a theocratic state to coercively enforce morality.

But, of course, the Darwinian conception of natural morality would be rejected by fundamentalist Muslims who scorn Darwinian science as contrary to their Creationist conception of human origins. Many American conservatives agree with them about this.

It is not surprising, therefore, that D'Sousa's book has been endorsed by George Gilder, a conservative critic of Darwinian science who works for the Discovery Institute. In the New York Times Book Review (February 4), Gilder wrote:

"D'Souza raises the alarm that the anti-religious, sexual liberationist, anti-natalist and feminist thrust of American foreign, cultural, and free-speech global Internet policies threaten and estrange all the traditional cultures of the third world, whether Muslim or Christian, Hindu or Buddhist. Poor people cannot afford the epidemics, abortions, and divorces of Hollywood liberalism, and uphold a monotheist God as the foundation of their moral codes and worthy of respect."

"The American global cultural campaign pushes a billion non-militant Muslims to condone the jihad and thus threatens the existence of Israel and the survival of vulnerable American cities like New York."

That the "American global cultural campaign" is responsible for Islamic terrorism is only one of many absurdities to arise from this proposed alliance of theoconservatism and Islamic fundamentalism.


Kent Guida said...

Suggestion for a new topic:

Over at Cato Unbound Tyler Cowen has posted The Paradox of Libertarianism, which among other things, cites Hayek's contention that modern collectivist tendencies are an evolutionary holdover from our hunter-gatherer days. Care to comment? I don't recall you addressing this question in your previous work.

Tyler's essay can be found here:

Kent Guida said...

Tyler elaborates on his "Paradox" and makes his Hayek reference in a March 20 podcast that can be found here:

Oberon said...

.........has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?......snoopy.