I cede the floor to Hitch, peace be upon him:
It’s well worth twelve minutes of your time. And I think Hitch’s arguments about what must follow from a religious text still regarded as perfect and pristine and utterly unquestionable, and a caliph or Shi’a theocrat regarded as a “supreme leader”, and a politics saturated in apocalypticism, and a culture marinated in absurd levels of sexual repression, and an endemic suppression of blasphemy and apostasy as unthinkable offenses, stand the test of time.
The totalism of Islam is as dangerous as any other totalism – and liberals better understand that about it.
Yes, it is vital to make distinctions between the various ways in which Islam is practised across the world – which reveals some potential for reform, in the way that Christianity and Judaism have reformed and examined themselves over the past century. But the resilient absence of a collective understanding that religious violence simply is not worth it – the realization that most Christians came to after the Thirty Years War or, as Hitch has it, definitively after the First World War – is a real problem. It is the West’s problem in so far as we have badly mishandled our relation with that part of the world; but in the end, it is Middle Eastern Islam’s problem. Until the Shi’a and Sunni love the future more than they hate each other, until the Koran can be discussed and debated there and around the world the way any other religious text is discussed, until apostasy is respected and not criminalized, we will have more trouble in store.
Does this explain everything? Of course not. Culture, history, politics matter just as powerfully and can lead to different manifestations in time and place. Certainly there was a time in which Islam was far more tolerant than Christianity; and in the Middle East too. But that is no more, and central elements in the doctrine of Islam are all too easily compatible with its modern intolerance, and now post-modern virulence. The defanging of fundamentalism is the duty, in my view, of every person who claims to have faith. I see no reason why that shouldn’t apply to Islam as to an other religion. And it sure hasn’t been defanged enough.