|Not ‘white power’, apparently, but the military salute of the Templars|
So what should our attitude be toward “bad” Islam, which one might conveniently call the “I” word, a term embracing terrorism; intolerance and active persecution of other religions; inequality and mistreatment of women; imposition of extreme sharia law without recourse to a democratic judicial process and opposition to freedom of expression?
1. There is no point in ordinary people holding or propagating any opinion about it, because there is nothing we can do about except direct our votes in our own countries’ elections to the parties with the best policy on the matter, assuming we hold an opinion on what constitutes ‘best policy’.
2. The West, past and present, including its Christianity, is so irredeemably wicked that we have forfeited any right to make a judgment about any other system or culture. This is a little like chopping off the branch on which we sit.
3. Radical cultural relativism. No system is any better or worse than any other, and if “I” word proponents do things differently from the way we do, then that is their business and none of ours, and it is arrogant for us to think otherwise. Fine as long as both sides get a voice.
4. Patience. Eventually everyone, including “I” word supporters, will come around to seeing that liberal, pluralist democracy and some sort of market economy is best, but they have to come to that decision for themselves, and though it might take decades or centuries, there is nothing we can do to hurry up the process, and it is always counterproductive if we try.
5. Respect for democracy. Muslims, given the opportunity, sometimes give the majority vote to (what seem to us) repressive, militaristic and illiberal parties, as happened in Gaza and seems to be happening as an outcome of the so-called Arab Spring. We may need to allow democracy to self-destruct in other countries; but we have a responsibility to preserve it in our own and a right to make decisions accordingly. This may require refusing admission to a group that either has a history of not assimilating or holds an undemocratic or aggressive article of faith with evident sincerity. In the US they expect assimilation, and by and large they get it. In the spirit of Ellis Island, they still welcome and open their hearts to Muslim or any other immigrants who wish to embrace secular and free political principles, while alert to the possibility of failures outweighing success stories.
6. Military intervention. It is possible that the mostly detestable governments in Iraq and Afghanistan will survive, and evolve into something viable and acceptable (just as the Seoul regime in South Korea, originally scarcely better than communism in the North, emerged eventually as a liberal and prosperous democracy), but that looks very unlikely at the moment. When a society consistently violates the underpinning principles of international law and justice, do we have a right or a responsibility to intervene and to what extent? Libya represents a partial success story, perhaps, and Syria is, of course, ongoing.
7. Perhaps we just have to face the fact that appalling things go on under strict I-regimes, but take the attitude that they are none of the West’s business, and all that Western countries can do is protect themselves through measures such as screening of immigrants and airline security, and let them all go to hell in a handbasket. An attractive proposition perhaps but completely unworkable because we’re all addicted to oil.
8. As far as possible, maintain friendly relations, both for our own economic benefit and in order to exert discreet pressure for incremental human rights improvements. Precisely our position with China. Time will tell.
9.Write to or email offending governments, or support human rights advocacy groups which are doing so. George Smiley called this ‘jumping up and down and calling it ‘progress’. However, better this than Breivik’s ultimate solution.
It is perhaps not without significance however that the media feeding frenzy surrounding the court in Oslo has had a curious and disturbing spin off. The Norwegian anti-immigrant organization ‘Stop the Islamisation of Norway’ (SIAN) received several donations – up to $9000, it would seem – and more members signed up after the terror trial began this week.
As Hannibal Lecter once remarked “We live in a primitive time, don’t we?”