The Islamist Spring and the West’s Decline | Alvino-Mario Fantini | CWR
An interview with Robert R. Reilly, author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind
Robert R. Reilly is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. He has taught at the National Defense University and has written for the Wall Street Journal, National Review, Claremont Review of Books, and the Washington Post. He has served in the White House as Special Assistant to the President (1983-85) and was Senior Advisor for Information Strategy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (2002-06). He is a former director of the Voice of America and is a member of the board of the Middle East Media Research Institute. Mr. Reilly is the author of Surprised by Beauty: A Listener’s Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music (2002). His most recent book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis, was published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in 2010.
Alvino-Mario Fantini: You recently wrote a best-selling book entitled The Closing of the Muslim Mind, which raises the question: How do we re-open the Muslim mind?
Robert R. Reilly: I had the opportunity of asking one of the premier intellectual Muslim reformers the question: “If I could give you all the resources you would need, personnel and money, and a 20-year period, tell me what you would do to turn around the Muslim world.” And he paused and thought for a minute, and then he said, “I would re-Hellenize it.” And that, of course, is the message in Pope Benedict XVI’s  Regensburg Lecture.
This man, who was from a very prominent Syrian family—deeply learned both in Islam and Western philosophy—knew exactly the nature of the problem and there are any number of other Muslim intellectuals like him who do as well. The problem is they’re mostly living in exile because it’s too dangerous for them to propose doing that in their own societies.
What is your assessment of the so-called Arab Spring? Does it offer any hope—or reasons to worry?
I was just discussing this with an Egyptian the other evening…and he’s very optimistic about the Arab Spring. I was very pessimistic precisely because it doesn’t seem that the culture in the Middle East is going to allow for the development of genuine democratic constitutional rule, precisely because it hasn’t been re-Hellenized, precisely because it has not restored the integrity of reason, precisely because majority Sunni Islam still denies the existence of natural law—without which it is impossible to develop sound constitutional theory. As I expressed to him, the problem is a deformed theology that has produced a dysfunctional culture.
None of the intellectual currents in the Middle East are headed in the right direction. They are headed in the Islamist direction. This is an “Islamist Spring.” The Muslim Brotherhood’s offshoots have so far either won these elections or gained a large plurality in them. The signs are not good. But they are perfectly logical in terms of the principles on which these Muslim Brotherhood organizations operate. So they’re headed backwards. Backwards is where they want to go.
As the Arab Spring has toppled regimes in the region, it has created a situation of instability and great uncertainty in many countries. There is a power vacuum slowly being filled by new groups. What’s coming next?Continue reading on the CWR site.