The Magazine

The Terror of Islam

John Esposito struggles to sanitize Islamic thought.

May 27, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 36 • By STANLEY KURTZ
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Yet Western conservatives also typically embrace the fundamentals of modernity: democracy, capitalism, religious freedom. Muslim fundamentalists don't just question the excesses of modernity, they try to blow modernity up. Equally outrageous is the moral equivalence Esposito likes to draw between Osama bin Laden and Samuel P. Huntington. Esposito never lets on that Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations," so far from being an incitement to war, is actually a plea for cultural self-restraint.

ISLAMIC SOCIETY may still adapt itself to democracy and capitalism. Yet at this point, to ignore the incompatibility between Islam and modernity is willful blindness. It is no accident that Turkey's modernizing Kemalist movement, with its rejection of traditional religion, has no significant parallel outside the Islamic world. Something about Islam seems to force a choice between modernity and tradition. For all his talk of diversity, everything about Esposito's work is dedicated to obscuring that central fact.

Stanley Kurtz is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.