States Driven by Tradition, Actions Driven by Ideology

This article is a follow-up on the Liberty Faceoff from October 2016 for the European Students for Liberty blog. This piece will specifically answer the claims made by Daniil Gorbatenko in his position “There Is no Such Thing as Pure Islam That Should Be Feared”. The full version can be read here.

There are three types of political leaders. One is the leader through tradition, which includes monarchs and dictators chosen through hereditary procedures: the legitimacy of the leader is justified divinely or through customs. One is the leader through reason, which is the procedure of choice for democracies: the leader’s authority is recognised because he was elected. The last kind of leader is that of charisma, often the case for dictators with great popularity such as Napoleon. Their reign is not that of terror, because the terror can only be enacted if their supporters, be that the military or any other militarised unit, recognises its authority.

Even though most Muslim countries are reigned either through tradition or through charisma, Islam as a religion and an ideology is independent of that fact. For instance, Indonesia, with a Muslim population of almost 90 percent, is a secular constitutional republic, and yet 72 percent of Indonesians believe that Sharia Law should be the law of the land. In liberal democracies such as France, 28 percent of polled Muslims have a belief system classified as “rejecting values of the republic”. They surely aren’t all anarcho-capitalists.


My opponent has failed to provide any figures to support his position. Indeed, the belief that “it is just politics”, is a common form of apologism. Apart from the fact that Islam specifically intends to be political, I find this argument most critical when used by those who should defend the virtues of individualism in the first place: if we were to believe that the political environment is the sole influence of human action, then we deny those who are moderates the possibility to find any sort of moral values. Or: if the pretence is that all influencing factors are political, then how could there be moderates in the Middle East, given the authoritarian irrational political nature of the region? And while it is correct that radical beliefs tend to weaken when exposed to values of liberal democracy, it is my sincere conviction that principles such as secularism, tolerance and respect for those who choose to live differently as well as the acceptance for the rule of law based on factors such as retributive justice through proportionate punishment, presumption of innocence or equality before the law, cannot trickle down from the West, but need to transcend tyranny on a local level. The values of liberty cannot be imposed, they have to be discovered.

I have also been accused of ‘cherry-picking quite a few good ones’, relating to verses of the Quran. If my opponent were to believe that the quotes are completely unrelated to the underlying philosophy of Islam (which is that of conquest), then am I wrong to suppose that he indeed rejects the notion that even ‘pure Islam’ is inherently contrary to liberty? I find it blantantly striking how any other philosophy which specifically endorses and causes violence condemned beyond belief by every lover of liberty, but Islam, through the mere assumption of the existence of a deity, gets a free pass.

When the Cuban Revolution took place and Fidel Castro installed a tyrannical dictatorship, were there libertarians who believed that we should separate politics from communism? After all, when collectivists intend to install the common ownership of the means of production by force, they didn’t really mean by force, did they?

If my opponent is indeed calling for a reformation of Islam, then he is nothing but supporting the point I made in the original article. The Quran today contains historical value, but no moral virtues. Its teachings are inherently contrary to liberty, and cannot be reconciled by just giving it a ‘new interpretation’.

Libertarians need to recognise that standing up to tyranny needs to be consequential, and that political correctness is nothing but drowning a much needed debate.

Pictures are Creative Commons.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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