Monday, April 10, 2006

Forgiving a bad premise helps no one

The juggernaut against Ed Hudgins and the "Objectivish Center" goes on unabated. This time, Diana Hsieh dynamites Ed Hudgins' recent defense of David Kelley's remarks explicitly endorsing a Muslim organization.

First, some context. Hsieh writes:

[L]et's remember what David Kelley actually said in support of this Muslim organization: "I salute Kamal Nawash for the absolute, unqualified stand he has taken, and for his courage and commitment in speaking out. I salute the Free Muslims Against Terrorism for sponsoring this rally. I urge everyone to support them and make common cause with them."

So David Kelley did not just offer some qualified praise for a Muslim organization opposed to terrorism. He endorsed that Muslim organization wholeheartedly. Moreover, David never criticized Islam in that speech -- not once. Instead, he argued for an "open system" interpretation of Islam on which the classical liberal values supposedly "transcend[ing] differences in religion and worldview" should be grafted onto Islam -- even though Islam is wholly opposed in principle to all such this-worldly values.
It is one thing to attempt to make "common cause" with others toward the attainment of a specific, concrete goal that you may hold with them in common. It is something altogether different to make "common cause" with their bankrupt ideologues. I am reminded of my collation work on the Elian Gonzales campaign, where I worked with lots of different groups toward the goal of protecting Gonzales from being returned to Cuba.

When I organized the DC protest in front of the Department of Justice here in Washington, participants had to agree to CAC's talking points and promise not to introduce extraneous material. Interestingly enough, they were happy to do this, as CAC had the best arguments in defense of Gonzales' rights. This cemented my view that at least with non-intellectuals, it often can be very easy for Objectivist to lead the way if one is willing to simply take charge and seize the initiative.

Additionally, I made absolutely sure that I didn't praise my temporary allies for their philosophies or their views on other topics. To do so would have been to sanction the very kinds of mixed-premised and wrong-headed thinking that keeps me from achieving my larger political goals. Why? Becasue there's a big difference between a contextual ally and an intellectual ally. Hsieh gets it exactly right when she notes the positives in the Free Muslims Against Terrorism group, yet nevertheless recognizes them to be poor intellectual allies.

I have no doubt that the Free Muslim Coalition is substantially better than most Muslim organizations. They are surely not "hate-filled Islamists." That doesn't make them proper intellectual allies.

Similarly, Mr. Nawash may well be an honest, even admirable man. The fact remains that the approach of his organization is still fundamentally flawed. The Free Muslim Coalition is not a secular organization promoting rational, secular values to Muslims. It is a Muslim organization attempting to convince Muslims that values wholly contrary to their faith are actually compatible therewith. It's an approach doomed to failure.
Indeed, and one would think that the founder of an Objectivist organization would understand such a crucial point, yet David Kelly is no Objectivist, and neither is Ed Hudgins. What then is Hudgins defense of Kelly's speech?

[T]his discussion raises the issue of how Objectivists view social change. Do we expect that in the future millions of Muslims will read Rand, become Objectivists, reject their religion as well as the irrational aspects of their culture and the will lead to a better world? I do want more Muslims -- and everybody else -- to read Rand and change their ideas.

But changes in ideas and culture are a complex process. The process involves introducing ideas into public debates, popular culture, university classrooms, the media, etc. Over time, if promoted well, these ideas can catch on and provide the basis for promoting more good ideas. So if more people understand Rand's notion of the sanction of the victim and thus, for example, more business folks stop accepting unearned guilt for creating the richest country on earth, that's a good basis for promotion other Objective ideas on which this understanding is based.

And this approach means that if you find Muslims who are generally promoting the right ideas but not all of the right ideas, you help them if possible and reinforce the positive.
What is positive about a group that holds the following:
The Free Muslims Coalition does not seek to change the tenets of the religion. However, the Coalition believes that the Koran only provides general principals of governance which leaves the faithful with substantial flexibility to modernize popular Muslim practices and beliefs.
In my view, there is very little that is positive about this group--mere agreement on a few isolated concretes at best.

So how then did David Kelley's speech and the Objectivist Center's watered-down reasoning help this faith-based organization? Where did Kelly note Ayn Rand's thesis that faith and force are corollaries? Where did Kelly introduce Ayn Rand's epistemology and establish the contrast between how faith and reason function? Where did Kelly say anything that even remotely approached a principled stand in favor of Objectivism?

Kelley didn't do any of these things, because that is not how he thinks. Once again, the evidence is plain that the Objectivist Center and its lieutenants are not interested in advancing Objectivism.

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