Islam and the West: Can We Coexist?

Islam and the West: Can We Coexist?

By: “Damocles Aurelious” aka Ornery Young Gunz. You can find him on Twitter here.

The greatest question of the day when it comes to dealing with radical Islamism is can Muslims peacefully coexist in Western liberal society, and if so, how? There is a paradox at play that I will endeavor to resolve in this piece: Can our society adhere to its liberal (I use liberal here in the classical sense) values of tolerance and peaceful coexistence when it comes to Muslims, or is stubbornly clinging to such values nothing more than a self-righteous suicide pact? Are Islam and Western Civilization compatible?

At some level, we should all recognize that tolerance does not mean acceptance or appeasement. Tolerance means putting up with that which we find disagreeable or untoward. Differing opinions, beliefs, even religious practices, are all examples of things we have been taught to “tolerate” and for good reason: majorities shift and change over time, political power waxes and wanes. The majority should always strive to treat the minority as it would like to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot. But what of minority groups that would potentially give us no such benefit if they were the majority? Can we recognize such groups before they become the ones holding all the cards?

To answer this question, I refer to a concept from Orson Scott Card’s “Speaker for the Dead” (my favorite novel and author): the hierarchy of foreignness. While established in a fictional sci-fi setting with aliens and the unknown, the principles can -with some adjustment- be readily applied here in the real world…especially when it comes to Islam and the West. In this hierarchy, there are 5 tiers of foreignness, from least alien to most: Utlänning, Främling, Raman, Varelse, and Djur.

Islam and the West: Can We Coexist?


The Utlänning is the “foreigner”; the one who is alien to us in the way that we are all alien to one other because we are unique individuals, but otherwise alike enough that they can be grouped with us. These are our families, our friends and neighbors, our countrymen -those who share a common bond despite their myriad differences. In America, that common bond is our liberty and our principles as outlined in the Declaration of Independence – the shared national belief that all Mankind is created equal under God and the Law, that no man has a right to rule another except by express consent of the governed. When such principles unite us, no petty difference such as race, gender, religion, orientation, or religious or political creeds can divide us.


The “stranger”, or people who share similar customs and core values but not our specific culture. These are our fellow western nations and allies: Canada, Britain, Japan, Germany, Latin America, all to varying degrees are Främling to America. While different enough from us for there to be the occasional disagreements and rivalries, such differences rarely, if ever, are viewed as threatening or lead to significant conflict.


Raman could best apply to Middle Eastern, African, or old Soviet bloc nations with whom we are presently at peace with. These countries are vastly different from us culturally -enough to be considered truly alien. Our history with such is usually tumultuous and oftentimes violent or antagonistic because of significantly different cultures, but peaceful coexistence is still possible if both sides endeavor to communicate and understand one another. Raman is the tipping point in the hierarchy. War and peace are never very certain outcomes when dealing with Raman, because of barriers caused by the significant differences in core values, language, culture and history. When core values conflict, war can erupt unless both sides are willing to understand each other and abide by certain mutually agreed-upon rules.


The “creature” … “the true alien…with [whom] no conversation is possible.” Certain ideas and beliefs are wholly incompatible with America’s belief in equal rights and life, liberty, and property. Peaceful advocates of Sharia, Marxists who want Communism but not thru violent revolution, are Varelse. There can be no give and take between them; the best we can hope to obtain is “live and let live” or to one day hopefully convert them to our side.


“Animals”-those individuals who’ve substituted their humanity with savagery and barbarism – the Nazi, the Fascist, violent Marxists, Islamic terrorists et al. Or as Orson Scott Card wrote: “the dire beast, that comes in the night with slavering jaws.” You cannot reason with Djur. You can only hope to stop them from enacting their violence and barbarism on yourself and others.

“If you had the only gun in your village and the beasts that had torn apart one of your people were coming again, would you stop to ask if they also had a right to live, or would you act and save…the people who depended on you?”

So where does Islam fall under this hierarchy? The answer: it depends on the individual. There are many American Muslims who would easily fall under Främling. Islamic terrorists are clearly Djur. And the line between Raman and Varelse is often blurred by our own mistakes, errors, and self-interest. Muslims and Westerners can coexist, in our little pockets of the world, if we agree to abide by each other’s rules and build on common beliefs when inhabiting each other’s homes. Common respect and decency would mean that Muslims who live in our society would submit to the Constitution and the Rule of Law, not sharia or some Islamic theocracy. Those Muslims who can accept this should be welcomed with open arms into Western society.

We must know our principles and traditions, and be unafraid to speak them out loud when explaining to outsiders who come here what we expect from them.

As George Washington wrote:

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.”

And elsewhere:

“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is of, as it were the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions they effectual support.”

As another President named George said, “America rejects bigotry. We reject every act of hatred…America values and welcomes peaceful people of all faiths – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and many others. Every faith is practiced and protected here” …provided it is done so in a peaceful manner that respects the inalienable rights of others.

Do not kill. Do not rape. Do not steal. These are principles which every man of every faith can embrace.” Those who cannot abide them, should be dealt with the same way we deal with any monster who engages in the slaughter of and tyranny over the innocent. In no uncertain terms we must declare to all: “These are not polite suggestions. These are codes of behavior, and those of you that ignore them will pay the dearest cost.”

We cannot coexist with monsters, of any faith.

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