Sunday, July 17, 2005


Death Throes

The conclusion I previously drew from the London bombings is that the terrorists are weakening.

I will go further than that: the whole of modern Islamist terror is a sign of the weakness, and indeed of the death throes, of what could be called "primitive" Islam.

I leave aside the nationalist struggles that have produced terror - the Algerian conflict, for example, had nothing to do with "primitive" Islam; it was essentially a western-style nationalist movement, and the Palestinian movement also had that character through the 1970s. Today, however there is a mixture of western-style nationalism and primitive Islam involved, and that may be the reason it is proving so intractable.

The truly Islamist terrorist movement, however, that of the Muslim Brotherhood and Osama bin Laden, is, as the leftists tell us, driven by anger.

And the root cause of that anger is that wherever their culture comes into contact with ours, it loses. From Turkey under Kemal Ataturk to modern Pakistan, traditional Islamic society is giving way to an imitation of the West.

This does not mean that Islam is dying out, just that, like Christianity, it is evolving into a form that makes less conflict with the practicalities of living in a developed society. I expect that in a hundred years Moslems will continue to recite the Koran and observe Ramadan, but what I am calling the "primitive" elements -- intolerance of Western practices of commerce, sexual behaviour, freedom of expression, whatever -- will have died out.

Among Moslems in the West, as well as the more Westernised Moslem countries like Turkey, this is already the case for the majority. And this is why the "primitives" are angry.

Given that this decline has been evident for a hundred years, why have they only been fighting for the last ten? I think that several trends conspired to give them a false idea of their own strength.

The first of these was the cold war. The bifurcation of western civilisation, and the surrogate battles between the two halves on lands around the globe, both presented western civilisation at its worst (in the form of the tyrants supported by one side or the other across Arabia), and gave opportunity to primitivists to be supported by either side, most obviously in Afghanistan.

The next is the same thing on a smaller scale, as the current political battles between left and right within the West have again involved Islamists as pawns and given them an exaggerated idea of their power. This is what I addressed in my first article on Islam in Europe
- "there are many political battles in various European countries which appear to be between 'native' Europeans and Muslim immigrants. In fact, these political issues are argued between left and right within the native political community, with the immigrants themselves as interested but largely powerless bystanders."

The third is that as Westerners have sought to come to terms with their unchallenged global dominance, they have become tolerant of Islam to an unprecedented and sometimes illogical degree. While this is essentially a symptom of Western strength, it can easily look like weakness.

This illusory strengthening of primitive Islam, and weakening of Western society, encouraged the primitivists to think that their decline was reversible, and that if they started to fight back, divine intervention would close the cultural "missile gap". The PR coup of September 2001 gave them added momentum, and they were able to take over what were originally western-style nationalist movements in Palestine and Chechnya (much to the disadvantage of the Palestinians and Chechens).

That momentum is now running out.

The key image of the conflict for me, I saw in the aftermath of September 2001. A TV news crew was in rural Pakistan, showing a stall selling T-shirts emblazoned with bin Laden's face. What struck me was that alongside the bin Laden T-shirts were the logos of U.S. sports teams. I have no doubt that from the North-West Frontier to the streets of Luton, the New York Yankees, the
LA Raiders and Barcelona FC are outselling bin Laden and al-Zarqawi, both on T-shirts and in every other way that matters.

The owners of a fish and chip shop in Beeston were "shattered" that their son decided to blow himself up on the Circle Line. How do you think the owners of my local fish and chip show will feel if their sons start to spend a lot more time at Mosque? Compared with a fortnight ago, will they be glad that their children are keeping in touch with their traditional culture, or
will they be worried and suspicious? I'm tempted to ask them, but I would feel a bit rude.

The challenge for the West, in order to end this conflict with the minimum of casualties, is to persuade the primitivists that God has not chosen this generation to restore the Caliphate. The way to do that is to show confidence, to show unity to the degree that democracy allows, and to make sure that where we come into direct conflict with Islam, (which should be as rarely as possible), we win. The war in Iraq has been expensive and dangerous, and it is arguable whether it was necessary in the first place, but the most important thing now is that it be won. If a stable, independent government can be set up there, that is Moslem but not primitive, the
demoralising effect could make Al-Quaeda and the primitivist terrorist movement history.

The recent omens are good:

USA Today:
Terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi criticized his spiritual mentor for urging militants in Iraq to rein in attacks on civilians and warned that the sheik's comments could split Islamic fighters, according to a purported statement posted on an Islamic Web site Tuesday.

Winds of Change:
Support for Osama bin Laden and suicide bombings are plummeting throughout the Muslim world.

Washington Post:
Several senior clerics of Iraq's disaffected Sunni Muslim minority will soon issue a decree calling on followers of the faith to vote in upcoming elections and help write a new constitution, a prominent Sunni leader said Monday. The step could draw Sunni Arabs away from the insurgency and into a political process they have steadfastly rejected.
Mostly agree.
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