Tuesday, December 02, 2003

from today's Asia Times:

Oil on the flames of civilizational war

"The coming millennium will go down in world history as a struggle between Orient and Occident, between the church and Islam, between the Germanic peoples and the Arabs," proclaimed Franz Rosenzweig in 1920. These ominous words appear in a collection of the German-Jewish theologian's writings about Islam, published in Berlin earlier this year. It is the most dangerous book I have read in a generation, for Rosenzweig (1886-1929) considered Islam a pagan "parody", "caricature" and "plagiarism" of Christianity and Judaism.

"Why publish a book of Rosenzweig's writings on Islam now? Doesn't that pour oil onto the fire in which the Western world sees the lands of Islam as a feared and despised enemy?" asks the book's co-editor Gesine Palmer, a theologian associated with the German Evangelical Church. A fair question: for good or ill, the Rosenzweig revival is a hallmark of civilizational war.

By coincidence, the neo-conservative icon Leo Strauss was a Rosenzweig protege, having spent 1922-1925 at the latter's Frankfurt Lehrhaus for Jewish education. Later Strauss rejected Rosenzweig in favor of what he called classical political rationalism...