Last year one of my blog colleagues from Right Reason posted a piece on his own site in which he argued that Islam is the greater threat to us in the West and that we should unite to oppose it. The comparative language was meant to contrast the culture war with Islam with the culture war between social conservatives and liberals on domestic issues like abortion.
In response to that post, I put up one on the old Enchiridion Militis called "Incommensurable Conflicts" in which I argued that the two conflicts cannot be compared and that the statement that the culture war with Islam is more important than that with the Left is just false. I instanced there some of the horrors of the abortion culture.
Now I want to make the same statement about incommensurable conflicts, though in response to the opposite claim.
For it is also false to say that modern liberalism is worse than Islam. Here is an interesting correspondence in which Jim Kalb is challenged for having once made the comparative claim I am denying. "Badgered" might be a better word than "challenged." Kalb's interlocutor is rather rude for continuing to push him long after he says that the statement in question was a throwaway line on which too much weight should not be placed, though Kalb can't quite resist stating in the correspondence as it goes on that Islam has more "internal checks" on its evil consequences than does liberalism, so liberalism will give you "weirder and more inhuman results." Which is weirder and more inhuman, Mr. Kalb, tearing unborn children to pieces or holding down little girls while horrifically mutilating their genitals? The claim that people who do either are doing something incomprehensibly evil and must be stopped, period, seems to me exceedingly well justified. So perhaps a little badgering is in order. But the worries that Kalb is a "fifth columnist waiting to happen" (search "fifth columnist" on the page) seem to me not only uncharitable to Kalb, who makes it quite clear that he isn't anything of the sort, but also silly inasmuch as it is the leftists who are going to let the Muslims in at the city gates, if anyone is. It is usually the conservatives who are issuing warnings on this subject and the liberals who are pandering to CAIR.
Nonetheless, I think it's important to assert decisively, from the right, that both Islam and pro-death modern liberal culture are exceedingly bad, that neither can be said to be "worse" than the other, that they are incommensurable evils both of which right-thinking men should resist to the best of their ability in the various spheres where they operate.
There are many, many things I could list as evidences that an Islamic society would not somehow be better for Christians than a modern liberal one. Evidently one of the questions that arose in the whole Kalb discussion is whether Islam has "a place for Christianity" while decadent Western liberalism does not. Let's talk about that: The very fact that apostasy is to be punished by death under Islamic law means that evangelism--enjoined upon Christians by Our Lord himself--is illegal in sharia societies and that the acceptance of the truth of Christianity by those formerly Muslim is punished severely. This is not only a grave injustice but something that should give any Christian pause about making claims that imply that an Islamic society is in some sense better for Christians than a modern liberal one. And that is just speaking of the requirements of sharia itself, not of the severe de facto persecution carried on against Christians (not only apostates) in Muslim societies all over the world. Christians in the United States do not get dragged from their homes by a mob incited by a local imam at Friday prayers, beaten, taken away by police who come in response to the small riot, and then beaten by the police! And there are even worse examples I could cite if I got going. So as an empirical question, "Does decadent Western liberalism or Islam have more room for Christianity?" has been decisively answered by history itself in favor of decadent Western liberalism. (Note that I'm not using the term "decadent" ironically. The liberal West is decadent.)
Could that change? It could, though I think it's hardly likely that Western liberals are going to start trying and executing people for converting to Christianity or inciting mobs to beat Christians to a pulp any time in the foreseeable future. Kalb cites the infamous case of the Swedish pastor punished for criticizing homosexuality and raises the specter of the illegality of refusing to ordain women. Such a scenario is possible and even plausible in contemporary Western society, but it is not on a par with the persecution Christians suffer and the dangers they face in Islamic society. We should keep a sense of proportion. But suppose Western liberal society did get that bad. In that case we would have two violently-Christian-persecuting peas in a pod with no comparative statements to be made between them in Islam's favor. And it would have taken the Western liberals longer to get there, too.
How about the legal murder of innocents? I myself have cited this aspect of modern liberalism (in the form of abortion) as evidence that the culture war with modern liberalism is not "the minor one" when compared with the culture war against Islam. I stand by that reference and that claim. But I meant that modern liberalism is very bad, not that Islamic society is okay or not as bad.
While it's true that Muslims tend to be anti-abortion, this hardly means that we pro-lifers should make positive statements about the advantages of a Muslim society over a liberal one. I could point to the innocent civilians slain in acts of Muslim terrorism, but it might be argued that these people are not killed in Muslim societies but rather as part of the jihad against non-Muslim societies. This is hardly a comforting thought, but let's consider Muslim societies themselves. And there we find...honor killings, in which women are murdered by their male relatives for supposed violations of family honor. These violations may involve sexual sin on a Christian view, but in plenty of cases they do not. And in any event, no Christian should be arguing that a woman's having sex outside of marriage is properly a capital offense. Here the legal facts favor the West over the Islamic societies. In England, the murderers of Banaz Mahmod have been vigorously prosecuted and have been sentenced to life terms, of which they will serve minimum sentences on the order of 20 years apiece. (It's highly unfortunate that the UK has abolished the death penalty.) In Jordan, a man who murdered his pregnant sister, thus also killing her unborn child, has been sentenced to only six months. So much for Islamic tender concern for the innocent unborn. The Jordanian parliament has refused to raise sentences for "honor killings," and the court in its sentencing decision explicitly cited the fact that the woman had engaged in "shameful behavior" by becoming pregnant by a husband from whom evidently she was formally divorced--an oddity that deserves some thought, as she might even be regarded as having been still married to him on a Christian view of marriage.
So there is legal or near-legal murder of innocents in Islamic societies. There are also numerous other evils in the legal system involving refusal to protect the innocent, such as the extreme difficulty a woman has getting a rape conviction against her attacker(s). Just today comes a story from the Maldives in which a 12-year-old girl was gang-raped by four men who broke into her bedroom with an axe, but the judge ruled that she was a willing participant and hence sentenced the men merely for consensual sex outside of marriage.
I do not believe that these things can be compared. We should not say, "Because so many million unborn babies have been killed in Western society, and because abortion is illegal according to Islam, and because numerically fewer innocents are murdered legally in Islamic societies, Islam is better than Western liberalism."
As all good non-consequentialists know, innocent lives cannot be added and subtracted for a final "balance."