This September, Russian citizens remember the 6-year anniversary of the terrorist attack in Beslan, North Ossetia. In the aftermath, then-president Vladimir Putin echoed Thucydides’ Melian Dialogue: “We showed weakness, and the weak are beaten”. This harsh realism guides Russia both in the unforgiving Caucasus and the wider world. Yet at the scene of the slaughter, where Chechen and Ingush militants gunned down schoolchildren, the Ossetian authorities have raised a cross in memory of the victims and vow to build an Orthodox church there.
In the United States, a wholly different scene unfolds as we approach the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. National debate continues over the propriety of establishing Cordoba House, an Islamic center two blocks from the site of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. The original Cordoba Mosque was built after the eighth-century Muslim conquest of southern Spain. The Moorish invaders razed the Church of San Vicente to erect their triumphal monument, just as the Hagia Sophia was topped with Turkish minarets to commemorate the 1453 sack of Constantinople. It is a strange age we live in when a second Cordoba Mosque near the site of a major assault by jihadists is meant to signify “bridge-building” and “interfaith dialogue”. Toleranz über alles!
Despite historical context, opponents of the mosque have been reduced to arguing that building it so close to Ground Zero would be insensitive to the victims of 9/11. That is their central premise, one heavily conditioned by the shallow sentimentalism that grips public discussion. Mere feelings cannot form a sound basis for counteraction.
Supporters of the Park Place mosque, on the other hand, have the doctrines of American civic religion on their side. New York’s mayor Mike Bloomberg presents the entire episode as an opportunity to showcase the spirit of pluralism, as enshrined at the nation’s founding, in action. John Adams stated quite explicitly in the 1797 U.S. Treaty with Tripoli that the United States was “not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” And the mosque's defenders are correct -- Muslims can build a place of congregation or worship anywhere legally feasible. The same goes for Moonies and Scientologists; it’s a fact of the Open Society.
Given this, Americans who sense that something is inherently wrong with the situation have nowhere to turn within the framework of today’s cultural and political discourse. The clash over the mosque is being fought entirely under the strictures of liberal ideology -- everything is subjected to the leveling, atomizing power of the egalitarian ideal. Despite the undeniable symbolism involved, as long as the liberal dynamic prevails, the Cordoba House affair will just be one of many distractions brought to you by Rupert Murdoch and his competitors. Here the long-employed strategy of divide-and-rule, also known as pluralism, guarantees that the managerial regime can implement its agenda with minimum fuss:
In the final analysis, the freedom granted to men and communities under the Americanist Pluralist "mystique" is merely the freedom to be materialists in a myriad of fashions. To take but one example, freedom for a Chinese must never be understood as allowing him to harmonize the American system with Confucianist principles. It does mean, however, that he can open as many restaurants as he might see fit, thereby contributing to the rich diversity of American life.
To revolt against a refined and effective system of social control like pluralism would entail a hierarchy of principles radically at odds with the values held by contemporary man. This would mean a return to traditional conceptions of authority and freedom, deriving from the Transcendent, and rejecting the materialization of life. Only at such a moment could an intellectually and spiritually prepared opposition rise against the inverted vision of society that has prevailed since the Enlightenment.
This hallucination, the product of a totalitarian dream that seeks to bend reality to its will, leads us to demoralizing sideshows like the mosque controversy near Ground Zero. Only a civilization at the height of decadence and sliding toward collapse would allow a project like Park 51. The secular societies of the West are spiritually imploding before they fall to men who retain force of will, to be applied for good or evil. Thus we witness the confused spectacle of Glenn Beck and his followers waiting for Godot on the National Mall, while the ludicrous triumphalism of the Freedom Tower gives way to the Freedom Mosque.
It is the unfortunate truth that the mosque itself is a symbol of our Postmodern Empire. The project’s representative Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf recently went on a speaking tour of the Muslim world at the expense of the U.S. State Department. Ever wonder just what “freedoms” our troops are fighting for in Mesopotamia and the Hindu Kush? Look no further than Cordoba House.
None of this should generate ill will toward Muslims, who in this case are merely playing one role in a strategy of disintegration. They cannot be blamed for following the dictates of their own culture by building mosques and attempting to spread Islam. Whatever may be the ultimate intentions of Imam Abdul Rauf, his criticism of U.S. foreign policy is accurate. Washington has no business attempting to transform the Middle East to its liking. At the same time, the expanding presence of the Ummah has no place in a West worthy of its noble heritage.
General harmony between civilizations works best at comfortable distances, and this is especially true of Islam and the West. It would also be sheer negligence to ignore the doctrinally rooted aggression that has emanated from the Arabian Peninsula since the seventh century. There is a basic and long-recognized incompatibility between the two cultures, regardless of the latter’s current degraded state. What chroniclers such as William of Tyre and Usamah bin-Munqidh observed long ago, moderns are determined to ignore. Today’s state of conflict is worsened considerably due to both policies of U.S. intervention and large Muslim populations in Europe and North America.
Here’s the obvious common denominator in the stories of Beslan and Ground Zero: both Russia and the United States were attacked by men waging holy war in the name of Islam. The strategic objectives of the Chechen fighters and Arab hijackers varied significantly, but they both carried out their deeds under the Mohammedan banner. Recent actions by the North Ossetian government and the New York mayor’s office in relation to their respective memorial sites show a striking contrast between the traditional worldview and that of the Open Society. Much of that difference stems from questions of faith and identity.
Let us start with the Ossetian tribe that endured the school massacre at Beslan. Speaking an archaic Iranian tongue alongside Russian, the Ossetians refer to themselves as Iraettae, linked to the old Indo-European root ārya, ‘noble’. They are descended from the Sarmatians of late antiquity, nomadic horsemen renowned as fine heavy cavalry.Under the influence of Byzantium, most of the Alans (as they were then known) adopted Orthodoxy. The Ossetians are poor by western standards, though their republic is the most productive in Russia’s north Caucasus. Across Eurasia, there are only 720,000 of them. Yet Ossetians know themselves and their place in the world, and without shame or embarrassment they have consecrated their fallen under the sign of the cross.
What then is the core of American identity? It is a point of hope that throughout the land there are still many Americans of strong faith and generous heart. They love their country without conditions, as they love their family. And they would see America as a Christian nation, though its ideology belies the notion. These positive qualities and instincts are exploited in the service of democratic pluralism, a pseudo-religious creed. Bestowing upon the world the light of its freedom, America is supposedly ordained by Providence to lead humanity into a new age of peace, plenty and justice. But behind the flourish of this messianic narrative is only empty materialism. U.S. citizens today are united by their consumer preferences, sports teams and political parties, and forms of entertainment; these are the factors that keep an ideological construct on life support.
As America’s financial capital, Manhattan boasts the greatest concentration of wealth and influence in history. And all is vanity. The Open Society is unraveling, with the Freedom Mosque but one symptom of the chaos and incoherence at its center. The grand pluralist experiment has failed, and it’s time to move on. Over seas and mountains, meanwhile, a small but proud tribe honors its dead and joins its own unrepeatable fate to eternity.