Use It - Or Lose It !!
There is much to be studied in present-day
Islam, and the changing nature over the centuries of the relationship
with Christendom which began when Islam burst out of the Arabian
peninsula and embarked on a career of conquest and conversion
which has by no means come to an end. Why Mohammed's musings
should have formed the basis of a world religion now encompassing
a fifth of mankind is a matter of speculation in the present
state of our human self-knowledge; perhaps it always will
be. Religions and philosophies which have mediated human affairs
for millennia eventually lose their grip and successors emerge.
We must take into account the state of Christianity, which
is something of a residual force - and should perhaps be lumped
together with 'post-Christianity' - when deciding upon our
counter-position to Islam.
When comparing Christianity with Islam, vast differences emerge.
There is a world association of Muslim states with a secretariat
and regular meetings, active in the present crisis. There
is no corresponding body of Christian states, although it
is Christianity which is under attack, yet dare not speak
its name without caveats which allow Islam the benefit of
the doubt and ignore its complicities in the present crisis.
Christian polities remain anonymous, disguised as 'the international
community', but pick up the bills. Have the remnants of Christendom
not enough in common, if only in self-defence, to seek to
re-establish a voice, a refurbished identity, Christian democracy
and world law?
|Islam versus us - the historical background
The present Afghan conflict and the
battle with al Qaeda is just one symptom of a new phase in Islam's
relations with what we call for want of a better word 'the West',
which began half a century ago. We have been reluctant to come
to terms with it, but it will be with us for decades to come.
The essence of the change was fourfold. First, the liberation
of the Muslim world from Western rule and domination; secondly,
the Muslim world's response with a new, or rather renewed, Islamic
militancy; thirdly, concurrently an increase in what Orwell
called the West's "negative nationalism" - masochistic
self-hatred in Western self-image and policy-making - and lastly
a linked tendency to collective self-deception in relation to
Islam. This self-deception encouraged policy-makers and opinion-formers
to ignore the gravity of the problem for decades. It is now
at work identifying the malaise exclusively with Bin Laden and
al Qaeda, whereas they are merely symptoms of a much deeper
and more widespread malaise affecting Islam worldwide. Lastly,
there is also the pervading influence of Marxism in Western
thinking, which presents the crisis in economic terms and implies
that generous economic aid will smooth the rough edges of Muslim
antagonism or that Islam's economic malaise is somehow the West's
To set it in perspective, let us turn back to the end of the
Second World War. Almost the whole of the Muslim world, with
the exceptions of Turkey and parts of the Arabian peninsula,
was under Western rule. The whole of North Africa and adjacent
parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the Near and Middle East, Iran-albeit
briefly - British India, Malaysia and Indonesia, and Soviet
Central Asia, were under non-Muslim rule. Under colonial rule
they made some progress. Their identity was seen primarily as
colonial, and their destiny liberation. In the 60 years that
followed, they have enjoyed almost universal liberation from
non-Muslim rule. Exceptions are Palestine, a special case, where
they chose intifada rather than deal, Chinese Turkistan and
parts of Kashmir.
The fear of fundamentalism
But there is no happy ending. Muslim
countries have failed by their own criteria.
The shadow of Muslim fundamentalism looms.
Country after country
eschews elections because they would let in the fundamentalists
committed to full sharia and jihad, and outlawing democracy
for ever. Turkey, Algeria and Egypt are among those
countries which dare not let their electors speak.
In Egypt, elections for professional bodies indicate that
the results of free elections would be a triumph for reaction,
a return to the early Middle Ages. Muslim countries lack mechanisms
for evolution, peaceful constitutional and political change.
During the last 50 years, in spite of the vast increase in
oil wealth, which Muslims believe was placed there by Allah
for their particular benefit. There is no commensurate wellbeing,
but rather the opposite. Oil wealth has been squandered, and
the full price is yet to be paid. Saudi Arabia, the archetypal
Aladdin's Cave, is in permanent economic crisis. If Russia
ever chooses to flood the world with cheap oil, Saudi Arabia
could be in freefall, bankrupt, its regime and continued existence
as a single state in question, its debts unpaid, a vast politico-economic
and military black hole.
Rapid population growth, facilitated by improved medical services,
brought population expansion unmatched by resources or employment.
The demographic balance has changed, with many more young
people lacking regular employment and becoming prey to religious
demagogy. Islam's message is beguilingly simple - Muslim solidarity,
the Prophet's laws and nothing else, hatred and suspicion
of the infidel, paranoia. This is nothing new. For several
centuries, the Muslim world has chosen its religious vocation
over scientific and economic progress. In world historical
terms this is the norm, and 'the West' is an exception. We
optimistically took for granted that the Third World would
follow in the West's footsteps, but must revise our assumptions.
Liberalism has no place in Islam. The dominance of sadism
in penal policy should not go unremarked. Our liberals and
Leftists whose consciences are so tender at home should not
be permitted to turn a blind eye to Islam's war on womankind,
its sheer gynophobia.
Islam and 'the West' have been increasingly
moving in opposite directions and there is every reason for
this to continue. There are no major forces for change visible
in the Muslim world. 'The West' is materialistic in a manner
which would have shocked earlier generations, eg Gladstone's.
It is also doggedly liberal. But Islam has regressed in terms
of its own values. If we take British India as an example, in
spite of all the horror stories there was a civil service of
high standard and an independent judiciary. Pakistan, by contrast,
has become a by-word for corruption, and the country's economic
potential has been seriously compromised as a result. The concept
of 'excessive transaction costs' meaning that the costs of bribery
are greater than the economy can bear, dominates economists'
But the divide runs deeper, how much deeper is only becoming
apparent. During the Middle Ages, Islam and Christianity seemed
to have common values. This may turn out to have been illusory;
at least it bears reconsideration. By now, Christianity and
post-Christianity are totally fractured; the term 'Christendom'
is in desuetude. There is no longer even lip service to Christianity
in Western policy-making. Multiculturalism, inasmuch as it means
anything at all, means an absence of agreed values; it means
rights to Muslims in the West that are denied in darulislam,
the home of Islam, as opposed to daruharb, the locus of war,
but which Muslims define the West. By contrast, Islam is ubiquitous
in its own home. There, it is a fact, not a concept, an identity
as well as a faith. There is no agreement on a blueprint for
an Islamic state, other than the sharia, which leaves major
questions unanswered. The differences between Morocco, Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan inter alia are not even conceptualised.
It is all very well to hark back to a caliphate, but that did
not last very long, and there is no sign that existing Arab
states would compromise their own sovereignty by moving towards
one. Experience worldwide does not inspire hope for compromise,
a viable alternative to Western models. Is there a possible
compromise between the prohibition of interest and a modern
banking system essential to a modern economy? Can the treatment
of women by the Taleban and Saudis and other Muslim states go
hand in hand with a working modern society? Muslim solidarity
is primarily against the West, without positive content. Hence
a determined Western response, as after September 11th, is making
headway, which gives the lie to the fainthearts and defeatists.
For centuries, Islam advanced by conquest as well as conversion.
When it fell under foreign rule there was no backsliding. Its
economic failures have paradoxically expanded it by mass migration,
an issue with which Western societies have so far lacked the
nerve to grapple - hence the growing, indigestible colonies
in Christian heartlands, fifth columns feted and privileged.
I shall deal with the causes and effects of Muslim colonisation
of Britain in a subsequent article. Here, we must tie up the
loose ends left by September 11th and the Afghan war.
What now ?
Overt opposition to the war coalition
has been less than was feared. Tergiversation in Saudi Arabia,
foot-dragging in Egypt, anti-war demonstrations occasionally
put down by force in Pakistan and Palestine, riots which make
good television, flag burnings - the flags sometimes provided
by visiting TV crews - alter nothing. After all, only in the
West can parliaments pronounce. The US and its allies have
enjoyed a free hand in Afghanistan. Bin Laden may be a popular
hero, but no Arab government wants him poaching on their preserves;
they would prefer him as a dead martyr.
Hence the main vocal and effective opposition to the Afghan
war is voiced in the US and UK. I leave others to deal with
it. As far as the Muslim world is concerned, the US has had
to come for help, accord political safe conduct to terrorist
regimes like Iran and Syria, and turn a blind eye to much
else there in return for lip service to international unity.
The Taleban and al-Qaeda suddenly lack allies.
Doubtless new scourges will emerge in due course. The backlog
of sentiment created by the Afghan war will last for some
months yet and exercise the ingenuity of demagogues in two
continents. But the West has won.
The main losers will be the bien pensants and reformers in
the Muslim world who had hoped sincerely for a coming together
of East and West and a closing of the gap. There are some
fine people among them. With Egypt and Algeria moving towards
extremism at home and war abroad, with Palestine further from
peace than ever, with Pakistan's policies oriented exclusively
towards struggle with India - and vice versa - the West has
gained the initiative in the relationship more by luck than
judgement. Bin Laden overreached himself and forced America
to fight back. But
no-one in America, or here for that matter, is mapping the
continuation, the implications, the ramifications of that
struggle. At present, no-one is seeking the wider initiative,
a path for the Christian and post-Christian world to rally
in the face of an attack of which Bin Laden and his allies
are protagonists. 'The West' cannot afford to be passive,
but should take the initiative in all things for which history
has fitted us. In other words, the answer to Bin Laden should
be a question: 'what are we for right now and in the future?'
- not just 'What are we against?' Civilisations survive or
fail thanks to their inner strength of purpose. The question
of the day is what Christian civilisation stands for. If we
fail to answer this question satisfactorily, our counter-attacks,
however massive, will prove ultimately ineffectual.
Sir Alfred Sherman was a co-founder of
the centre for Policy Studies and an adviser to Margaret Thatcher
|Macpherson and his
flunkeys in the Macphersonised Met,
Trevor Phillips, Bhikhu Parekh and the lesser known race
bureaucrats and well-meaning mediocrities owe the sage
of Lancashire an unreserved and grovelling apology.
Like we say, Enoch was right, so was Ray.