Interview with a French savant: Islam's goals and the West's laziness

A great French intellectual, Rémi Brague, talks about the coming down of a world, Islamist goals, Asian technology, Western civilization and culture.

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Giulio Meotti,

giulio meott
giulio meott
צילום: עצמי

It was a week of interviews for Rémi Brague, a great French medievalist with a chair at the Sorbonne University, a translator of Maimonides and considered one of the greatest intellectuals in France (he was awarded the "Ratzinger Prize" named after Pope Benedict). 

In Le Figaro, Brague castigated “Western indifference” to the persecution of Eastern Christians: “If the 'cleansing' should be completed, the survivors would lose the last trace of respect for the West. Moreover, the forces who want to drive Christians out of their ancestral lands would be wondering why not continue the work so well begun in the East ...".  

I asked this great French scholar to speak about Islam, the subject of his next book.

Where does your pessimism come from?

“It's nothing but my temperament”, Brague told me. “I tend to see the world through gray glasses. I see the current situation of public opinion, in this period of French elections, unattractive. The different candidates offer unrealistic measures and, at times, are simply stupid. I often think of the legend of Hamelin's magic piercing. The worst may be the image of France and the West that their words portray.". 

Western inaction is far from being complete. Is it a paralysis?

“That is an involuntary illness. On the contrary, laziness is a vice that is cultivated intentionally. Instead, it looks like holding a middle ground. Like drunken intoxication”.
 
According to Rémi Brague, “the West has known from the XIX century multiple 'infections'. The European and American élites believed that the progress of science would solve all the problems, that technology would guarantee the continuous improvement of living conditions and, in turn, solve the social problem. They justified expanding overseas, especially in Africa, through the 'civilizing mission' of the 'white race' that had the duty to lead its sisters on the path of progress ... It is now a reminder of a past that featured injustices or crimes. The West is consumed by remorse. It feels guilty, but it has ceased to believe in the forgiveness of sins”.
 
Why do you consider the non-violent means of Islam even more dangerous than bombs?


The goal of Islam has remained the same since the beginning and is the conquest of the world. It is to establish the kingdom of Allah through His Law. Conversion of hearts is of course desirable, but is a consequence rather than a prerequisite.
"The question everyone is asking is whether Islam is violent”, the French medievalist told me. “Some say yes, others see it, and words here act like a mantra, as a 'religion of love, tolerance and peace'. Both extremes forget the fundamental question, which is the goal pursued. The resources' issue is secondary. The goal of Islam has remained the same since the beginning and is the conquest of the world. It is to establish the kingdom of Allah through His Law. Conversion of hearts is of course desirable, but is a consequence rather than a prerequisite.

"Violence has the disadvantage of being noisy and sometimes spectacular. Terrorism can produce an astonishing effect. But it is likely to provoke suspicion among opponents, and perhaps their reaction. It may also be that violence is, therefore, a mistake.

"Money and oil can be used to finance terrorism, which affects in the short term. But they can also be used to finance a chair of 'Islamic Studies' at a prestigious university, which will be a propaganda chair, destined to remember the greatness of Arab culture. They can also be used to build mosques in which contempt for the West is preached, refusing to be corrupted by its decadent customs. Everything can be done without further verbal violence. This tactic is more patient, it will not satisfy the hot heads. But it could be more effective in the long run”.

In his writings and books, Brague transmits something like a collapse, the coming down of a world:

What worries you the most?

“Much depends on what we mean by 'culture'”, Brague told me. “Germans have familiarized us with the distinction between civilization (Zivilisation) and culture (Kultur). It flourished in the early XX century, for example in Oswald Spengler. The first word was the material size, the technology. And we reserved the second for literature, art, etc."

"Science and technology continue to spread in the world. Sure, they are parts of the West, but they have nothing specifically 'Western'. Asia has reached the West, and probably started to overcome it. Culture, in turn, continues to proceed. Creativity is not dead: we write, paint, and so on. What worries me most is what is between these two levels. The mass social practices, the morality in society and couples, the education of children, the family and school, the language, the good manners, the courtesy, in short everything that makes a society 'civilized.'”

And the laziness of the West Brague is pointing at can be seen from the current French elections. Few of the 11 candidates even refer to the fact that France is a country at war. In June 2016, the French army set up the Land Command for National Territory dedicated to conducting operational engagement in the homeland. It means preparing for mass civil unrest.

The "war" referred to by François Hollande in his November 2015 speech will not be one carried out in Raqqa, Syria, but a civil war carried out at home, in the Parisian ghettos. 

That war will be about the future of the Western civilization.