When Muslims Speak of Freedom


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In Solon the Thinker, John David Lewis makes a brilliant integration about the concept of political freedom in the ancient world that is particularly relevant today:

It is a serious matter for political thought that Solon’s first use of these terms as political freedom should get so little emphasis.  This point cannot be overstressed: Solon’s is the first statement of political freedom in all of western thought.  His special sense of freedom is its political nature.  The word eleutheria exists in texts prior to Solon, but is not understood in distinction from political despotism.  The four ‘day of freedom’ and ‘cup of freedom’ phrases in the Iliad exhaust Homer’s uses of eleuther- forms.  The Trojans who cry for eleutheria want to drive off foreign armies, in order to return to despotic rule under their king.  Freedom means living under Priam’s rule, and slavery means being taken in personal bondage to work in a far-off land.  This is not political freedom:  it is independence from foreign takeover…For Solon a free man is an Attic-speaking male whose personal autonomy inside the polis is protected from attacks by his fellows.  Solon’s poem 36 is the first statement in western thought to base a political order on a distinct idea of justice under enforced written laws, promoted by persuasion rather than divine commandment, and legitimated by a claim to have set its inhabitants free.  [pp. 121-2]

It is important to recall that foreign cultures are often literally barbaric, in that their concepts are pre-Greek.  My recent reading of Thomas Bowden’s The Enemies of Christopher Columbus provided additional cases of evidence of non-Greek thinking in both the past and present; I will post a review of that book in the future.

Long ago, in explaining to friends ideas from my dissertation on incentive systems in terrorist organizations, I observed in explaining contradictions related to affiliation with such organization:  “We must remember that these individuals are coming from cultures or subcultures that are essentially pre-Aristotle…they have no conception of logic.”  In reading Lewis’ point, I recognize that these cultures are so pre-classic that they lack Solon’s innovation in the concept of political freedom.

Muslims will often incorrectly charge racism when another individual disagrees with the ideas in Islam (such as slavery and child rape); thus, demonstrating that these individual Muslims do not really understand the concept of racism.  In the same way, especially in the context of the so called “Arab Spring”, they make calls for freedom, but they really do not understand what that means as demonstrated by their attacks on individual minorities in those countries.  Based upon action, they are referencing the pre-Solon idea as freedom as the independence of a local collective from a distant or different collective.

While real Americans embrace a hyper-individualistic concept of freedom as an inheritance from Solon of Athens, there are collectivists amongst us who adhere to a collectivist pre-Solon understanding of freedom; consequently, these collectivists see no infringement of freedom when “we” decide to act against the individuals deemed constituent of the collective.  In this, as evidence from reality, I point at the likes of President Obama and The Washington Post’s columnist E.J. Dionne.

Extra point:  Related to my observations of pre-Aristotle cultures and subcultures related to terrorist organizations, I think the philosopher Leonard Peikoff’s recent book The DIM Hypothesis provides a superior understanding of why based upon his explanation of the alternatives between Disintegrated, Integrated, and Misintegrated philosophy.

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