How Nationalism Can Solve the Crisis of Islam

Transnational liberalism breeds resentments and anxieties that are only beginning to surface across the developed world.

Last Sunday President Trump stood before Muslim leaders in Riyadh and declared: “America is a sovereign nation, and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.”

Amid the journalistic uproar that greets nearly everything Mr. Trump says, few noted the connection he made between these two concepts: We are sovereign, and we don’t want to lecture. By putting them together, the president scrambled the pattern that has long shaped the West’s relations with Islam.

For decades, the West has seen itself as an empire of rights and liberal norms. There were borders and nations, but these were fast dissolving. Since rights were universal, the empire would soon encompass the planet. Everyone would belong, including Muslims, who were expected to lose their distinctness.

It didn’t work, as the latest jihadist attack, at a concert for teens in Manchester, England, attests. So it makes sense to consider alternatives. Judging by his Saudi speech, Mr. Trump wants to revive the nation-state as the primary political vehicle for encountering Islam. The nation has clear—and limited—territorial and cultural boundaries. It says we are this, and you are that.

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