Walzer on Islamism and the Left

Justin E. H. Smith in his blog:

6a00d83453bcda69e201b8d0c6a1a7970c-350wi (1)I finally read Michael Walzer's influential article on “Islamism and the Left,” after being told a number of times that I had inadvertently been echoing his opinion when I sided unconditionally with the caricaturists against the assassins who came to kill them. I find that I do agree with an early, fairly obvious point Walzer makes, but then disagree with most of the rest.

The obvious point is that the American left has for the most part failed to provide any serious analysis of the phenomenon of political Islamism, and moreover that it has failed to do so for very bad reasons, including notably the groundless presumption of common cause with the Islamists. Where my disagreement begins is with Walzer's central assertion that Islam presents a particular problem in the current global order. It seems to me that this claim is at odds with his own further assertion that religion in general is functioning as a stimulant to violence throughout the world in the post-secular age.

To ward off in advance any suspicion of Islamophobia on his own part, Walzer invokes the Christian crusades in the Levant of the Middle Ages to show that there is nothing eternal or essential about Islamic violence, but that in different times and places the same violence can be done in the name of other religions, sometimes targeting Muslims. A Muslim in the 12th-century Levant would have been justified to suppose that the Christians have a problem with violence, Walzer observes. But why time-travel, when we can just travel? We don't have to go to the 12th-century Levant, when we can go directly to 21st-century India, where the Muslim minority, right now, is very justified to suppose that Hindus have a 'violence problem'. The same thing for Muslims in Burma being massacred by rampaging Buddhist monks.

More here.