What is going on in the Middle East? How did the United States go from victory in Iraq to the emergence of ISIS in such a short time? What mistakes did we make and how can we learn from them? Approximately 50 friends and supporters came to hear the answers to these questions and many more at a talk by Robert Reilly, held at the TFP Washington Bureau in McLean, Va. on Friday, April 15.
Mr. Reilly, a former Reagan and George W. Bush Administration official, witnessed firsthand the events in the Middle East over the last decade. In his 25 years of government service, Mr. Reilly served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he was Senior Advisor for Information Strategy (2002-2006). In 2003, he participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom as Senior Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Information.
His talk was based largely on the themes of his 2011 book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis. Mr. Reilly very competently described the theological reasons for the decline of Islamic culture and civilization over the last several centuries, and why they help to understand Islam today.
The United States encountered many problems after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Much ink has been spilled debating the causes of this difficultly, but Mr. Reilly places the blame squarely on political correctness. In his classic work The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote that “if you do not know your enemies or yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” Westerners, for fear of being labeled an “islamophobe,” have generally chosen not to know Islam as it is. The consequences of this self-inflicted blindness continue to bear bitter fruits for our country.
A key to understanding Islam is to understand its philosophical worldview. Mr. Reilly explained how the Christian worldview, based on Aristotle, sees God as the Creator of a rational and intelligible universe that man can understand and interpret. The phenomenas we see in nature, from gravity to the weather, are the results of secondary causes based on the fundamental laws of nature.
The Islamic mind has increasingly rejected this Aristotelian understanding of the world, and this shift has coincided exactly with the degeneration of Islamic civilization. Muslims by and large think everything is caused directly by Allah. When an apple falls from a tree, a thunderstorm passes over a city, or the moon revolves around the Earth, it is not laws of gravity, thermodynamics, or physics that cause such phenomena, but Allah himself, every time. And no one can say for sure if Allah will do so again. Even worse, to say that gravity and not Allah caused the apple to fall from the tree is not merely wrong, but a “blasphemy” against Allah.
This worldview has utterly devastated economic and social development across the Islamic world. Spain, for example, translates more books in one year than the whole Islamic world has done in the past one thousand years, and South Korea registers more patents than the whole Arab world combined. This decline has occurred for centuries and shows no signs of abating.
Mr. Reilly demonstrated how this closing of the Muslim mind caused the Muslims to rely exclusively on religious jurisprudence for guidance on every facet of human existence. Islamic law has guidance for everything, and the legalistic framework has stifled cultural and intellectual agreement. Reason and logic have no place in this framework. Christians who wish to truly understand Muslims—and why they hate us—would do well to ignore the politically correct nonsense one hears in the mainstream media. Mr. Reilly’s talk shed much-needed light on this timely subject.
To purchase Mr. Reilly’s book, please click here.