Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Why West-Islam Relations Seem a 'Clash of Civilizations'
Firstly Islam is an evangelising faith which seeks to convert 'infidels'. In its-arguably distorted- fundamentalist form it is also a vengeful ideology which seeks to destroy those- like us in the west- who have been recruited into the armies of 'The Great Satan'. Ahmadinejad (pictured) of Iran, claims he wants to 'wipe Israel off the map' and is not loath to repeat such threats. So even if we leave them alone, they will not return the compliment. And while the communists during the Cold War accepted 'peaceful coextistence', the latter strain of Islam uses the openness of the west to send or order its cohorts of suicidal fanatics to wreak havoc and murder.
Secondly, Islam entails practices which will never be acceptable to the West. Nowhere is this more the case than in its treatment of women. BBC Newsnight recently showed an inmate of an Afghan jail, Fatima, explaining how she went seeking a new family home. She went to see a housing agent who locked the door, said she been 'sent from God' and then raped her. When she reported it she was found guilty of adultery and imprisoned; the only way she could have been found innocent was for her attacker to confess or for four witnesses to the rape to come forward. When such desparate violations of human rights so regularly occur with impunity under Islam, the west will never view it as anything other than a cruel and alien creed which can never be tolerated let alone adopted. So, reluctantly, and not of our making, a 'clash of civilisations' it appears to be.
Danger is that one is dismissed as islamophobic which i'm not but the left as defined by Norm and his Euston Manifesto, i suppose, have realised these things a long time ago.
I think Cassilis is quite correct in his comment. I do not understand how the left can cosy up with Islamists and as I have stated before on your blog and elsewhere: it would not have happened in the 1930s.
yes, we've approached the topic possibly from different starting points and I started trying hard to argue we should extend every effort to understand and to be aware of how we have appeared to be exploitative and menacing. I still feel this this but have come to realise, especially after studying Iran carefully that ultimately probably the west is incimpatible with Islam, or at least the fundamentalist version of it. My briefing on Iran by the way is on my companion site, Polititics Considered the link for which is on the left.
Thanks for your comments. The thought had occurred to me that the Iranian president was merely playing to the low paid constituency which put him in power in 2005. And it's true that even the most unreconstructed ideologues compromise when faced with intractable realities
That’s a bit ambivalent. First, I think you must mean “liberal values” rather than “the west” (I assume you don’t uncritically admire “western values” since the “west”, after all, spawned inter alia a murderous colonialism and Hitler’s fascism). Second, I have no doubt that liberal values are incompatible with “the fundamentalist version” of Islam (I should think the same is true of “fundamentalist Christianity” and “fundamentalist Judaism”). Third, vis-à-vis your truly grim tale of rape, the denigration of women, so far as I can tell, is common to all three of these religions; and e.g. the Catholic Church’s attempt to conceal the sexual abuse of children by priests shows Islam hardly unique in this respect either. But I agree that we should have absolutely zero-tolerance of e.g. female circumcision and forced marriage and I would like to see the law-enforcement agencies become more pro-active in this respect (but these practices are not universal throughout the Muslim world). Fourth, Muslim countries will “resist the ‘imposition’ of democracy…” Of course they will. Exporting democracy at the point of a gun is not going to work. But it does not follow that Muslim countries cannot become democratic (Iran might have stood a chance if the UK had not engineered a bloody coup in 1953). Fifth, I know very little about Islam, but my guess is that it is capable of a variety of interpretations some more congenial to liberal values, or to the growth of liberal values over time, than others, and that – like other religions – it is capable of change and reform (How many Roman Catholics would subscribe to the “Syllabus of Errors” nowadays? Would we have said that Roman Catholicism cannot exist alongside liberal-democracy at that time?). There are millions of Muslims living in dozens of countries, but I would be surprised if they all “think the same thing” any more than the millions of Christians around the world. Standing up to fundamentalist Islam is one (quite proper) thing – a task which might have been easier without the blundering neo-colonialism of Bush/Blair - but polarising the world into “Islam versus the west” is another (foolish and simplistic) thing altogether.
If I'd had the wit to think and write a bit more carefully I'd have embodied your points as I agree with them all.
I do think this is important because your post almost seems to imagine a perpetual war between fundamentalist Islam and teh West- polar opposites- whereas I'm not sure that is the best way to imagine things- there is tension but not neccessary terminal tension between them and not tension between Islam and the West. Iran I agree with you is an awful state- but I think you need to be careful in giving them legitimacy as the representative state within the Islamic world- afterall why not make that Bangladesh, India or Indonesia the three largest Muslim countries in the world. Sorry that this is such a random rambling post, but I think you need to clarify some further issues about how permanent you feel this split is and how sensible taking Iran as a paradigm for Islam is.
Besides of course there are the splits between Shia, Sunnia, Allawite and Sufi schools which impact hugely on all these questions so even the idea of a monolithic Islam- like a monolithic Christianity which neglected to think about the distinctions between Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic- is a bit of a problem.
I am glad Bush and the others brought the war to their back doors in Kabul and Baghdad. To quote Putin: "we will corner the bandits in the shithouse, and wipe them out".
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