The tumult indelibly dubbed “the Arab Spring” in the West, by the credulous and the calculating alike, is easier to understand once you grasp two basics. First, the most important fact in the Arab world — as well as in Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other neighboring non-Arab territories — is Islam. It is not poverty, illiteracy, or the lack of modern democratic institutions. These, like anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and an insular propensity to buy into conspiracy theories featuring infidel villains, are effects of Islam’s regional hegemony and supremacist tendency, not causes of it. One need not be led to that which pervades the air one breathes.
The second fact is that Islam constitutes a distinct civilization. It is not merely an exotic splash on the gorgeous global mosaic with a few embarrassing cultural eccentricities; it is an entirely different way of looking at the world. We struggle with this truth, which defies our end-of-history smugness. Enthralled by diversity for its own sake, we have lost the capacity to comprehend a civilization whose idea of diversity is coercing diverse peoples into obedience to its evolution-resistant norms.