sábado, 19 de fevereiro de 2005

Democracy for All

Thomas E. Woods, na American Conservative, sobre o mais recente livro de Michael Novak, The Universal Hunger for Liberty: Why the Clash of Civilizations Is Not Inevitable:

I was not surprised to see that Michael Novak, the well-known neoconservative author, had written a book called The Universal Hunger for Liberty. I was surprised to see the subtitle —Why the Clash of Civilizations Is Not Inevitable. Although strongly opposed to the foreign-policy positions Novak has advocated, I can appreciate much of what he is attempting to do here. Intentionally or not, Novak has written a book that tempers the extremism of the likes of Daniel Pipes on the most belligerent end of the neoconservative spectrum, whose vision of the future involves ceaseless war and the very clash of civilizations that Novak’s new book insists is avoidable.


Novak devotes the most potentially controversial part of his book to exploring whether the institutions of the free society might be expected to take root in Islamic soil. He wonders whether there exists within Islamic theology the potential for doctrinal development, whereby what is implicit in Islamic belief is drawn out and rendered explicit with the passage of time, such that fresh insights may be gleaned from older truths. John Henry Cardinal Newman, the celebrated 19th-century Anglican whose Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine led him into the Catholic Church, famously posited just such a phenomenon within the Christian tradition. Novak is confident that ideas of individual responsibility and human dignity, which he describes as fundamental to Islam, may under the proper theological guidance be developed in such a way as to provide support for political moderation, even liberalism. He points to Muslim scholars who are anxious to carry out this very project, though he concedes the uphill struggle this woefully outnumbered minority have before them.

Critics may still say that Novak is too optimistic about this project. Perhaps he is. But Islam is a fact of life, and it is the faith of a billion people around the globe. The Christian world has had next to no success in its attempts to convert Muslims in any serious numbers, and while missionary failure is no reason to give up trying, it certainly does add a cautionary note to our deliberations. It is not sentimental hooey to hope—no matter how forlorn such a hope may be—that these people, with whom we live in this world, can carve out for themselves some kind of livable political order that befits human beings.

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