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When Secularism Is Not Enough
by William Kilpatrick
Can Islamic jihad be resisted simply on the basis of Western secular values? Some readers of my posts on the role of Christianity in resisting Islam have objected that bringing Christianity into the debate only muddies the water. As one reader wrote, "the anti-jihad movement can better be served if blatant theocons stay away."
A number of important individuals in what might loosely be called the resistance movement do seem to believe that secular values are sufficient to rally citizens to a defense of Western civilization. A good example of this belief is the 2006 manifesto, "Together, facing the new totalitarianism," which was signed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Salman Rushdie, and others. The manifesto calls for "resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity, and secular values for all." The document also speaks of "universal values," "universal rights," and "Enlightenment" with a capital "E."
But how sturdy are Enlightenment values once they are cut off from their Christian roots? Ayaan Hirsi Ali's own experience provides some perspective. In her autobiography, Infidel, she tells how, after escaping Somalia to the Netherlands, she fell in love with the thinkers of the Enlightenment. At the same time she became an atheist—rejecting not just Islam, but all religions (although she willingly admits that Jews and Christians have a more humane concept of God). Of Holland she wrote, "Society worked without reference to God, and it seemed to function perfectly."
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