Formerly a writer for the U.K.'s Guardian, Melanie Phillips is a journalist for the Daily Mail, author of the best-selling Londonistan, and a recipient of the Orwell Prize (1996). On May 10, she addressed the Middle East Forum in New York on the subject of her latest book, The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth and Power.
Ms. Phillips began her talk by emphasising the threat of Islamism, which inverts all logic by, for instance, portraying Israel's attempts to defend itself as unprovoked acts of aggression. Yet Western intelligentsia has adopted the Islamist narrative on the Middle East. Ms. Phillips attributes this to the current tendency among the intelligentsia to be swayed by ideology, rather than rationality and empiricism, on issues such as global warming, the Iraq war, Israel, and scientism. Although these ideological stances are secular in nature, they resemble religious beliefs in many ways, for instance, their intolerance to dissent which is viewed as an obstacle to the "path to perfection."
Ms. Phillips proceeded to compare this phenomenon with mainstream Muslim discourse, where concepts such as freedom and equality are defined as submission to the will of God. Similar to these various utopian ideologies, Islam makes claims to absolute truth and the "path to perfection." This has implications for the jihad against Israel: according to Ms. Phillips, Israel is not the root cause of Islamist violence, but rather abstract hatred of Jews rooted in the idea that Islam must supersede and eliminate Judaism. Likewise, the secular ideologies that Ms. Phillips outlined all have a common hostility to Jews and Jewish culture. Even "Green" ideology condemns the book of Genesis because it calls for man's dominion over the world.
Ms. Phillips concluded her talk by affirming that objective truth has been replaced by subjective opinion, and that we live in an age of "cultural totalitarianism," where the decline of reason in the West is allowing Islam to fill the vacuum left behind.
Asked about whether there were any moderate Muslim leaders, Ms. Phillips answered in the negative. Nonetheless, there are many moderate Muslims who want to live lives "like the rest of us," but who have been betrayed by their community leaders who often have an Islamist agenda as well as Western politicians who appease these radicals. She added that if moderate Muslims can assert themselves with support from the West, they stand a chance of becoming the dominant force in the Muslim world.
Summary written by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.