Friday, 2 September 2016

A still fairly low-level Islamist insurgency


The terror attacks in Nice and Wurzburg are the latest manifestations of what should now be seen as a still fairly low-level Islamist insurgency taking place in a number of west European countries.
Johnathan Spyer, an Israeli political analyst who has written for The Guardian and The Jerusalem Post, was recently banned by Facebook for life for using these words.  Some time later, after a lot of publicity, his account was restored.

Even if you do never click on the links I thoughtfully provide, please click on this to read his short and very incisive article. 

He points out that the Islamist disease is attacking an already enfeebled European body and goes on:
A hollowing-out of European culture has taken place over recent years. The elites of the continent are united by a set of joint perceptions deriving from a shared experience of life. They are transnational, cosmopolitan, sceptical of passionately held belief, reflexively secular. Their shared experience of the world is of a safe place, in which a certain set of attitudes and connections enables life to be lived in a pleasant and free way.

Civilisational conflict, passionate religious ideological commitment, even fervently experienced patriotism do not feature very highly on the elite’s radar. Such sentiments are to be dismissed with a smile, or treated with bewildered fear and apprehension if they appear to be persistent and potent.
The word insurgency put me in mind of what Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, said in an article in April. He sees Islamist terrorism as the direct result of Western imperialism.
In today’s postcolonial world, a new historical narrative is emerging. A profound resentment against the West and its colonial legacy in Muslim countries and beyond is being used to justify their sense of deprivation and denial of self-dignity.
....the currently violent political awakening among post-colonial Muslims is, in part, a belated reaction to their occasionally brutal suppression mostly by European powers.
He is right that this is the historical context in which to see Islamism and the terrorist campaign against Christendom. 

It is the way Romanians see things. They are usually sad that large numbers of non-white immigrants have settled in Western Europe, but they always see it as a just punishment for colonialism. Even a left-wing, anti-racist Romanian friend, who won a scholarship to Yale, tells me that she hope that, in her lifetime, Italy will have a majority African population, as punishment for Italy's small, short-lived African colonial empire.

We are seeing the start of a new kind of guerrilla war. It is fruitful to see Islamist terrorism in the context of a Third World revolt against the First, a punishment for Britain, France and the USA intervening in the Middle East. It is like the Third World revolution that was the hope of Marxists in the 1960s and 1970s, after it became clear that Western European workers were never going to be a revolutionary class.  This is why many on the European Left find themselves on the side of Muslim insurgents.

But Islamism as anti-colonialist struggle cannot be pressed too far. Religion is a much more important factor. It is not only Muslims who were ruled by colonial powers, but we do not see Hindus blowing up civilians in London in revenge for Amritsar. The Chinese are as proud, aggressive and angry about historical slights as Muslims. Middle Eastern Christians, also ruled by Britain and France, are being killed rather than killing.

The history of Muslim invasions of Europe (from which Eastern Europe defended the West) long predates the era of colonialism. In fact, they start with the very semi-mythic beginnings of the Islamic religion and the 'righteous caliphs' who succeeded Mahomet. 

As far as imperialism and colonialism go, the Arabs were adepts at it in the seventh century. Muslims were conquering and colonising Christian lands a thousand years before the tables were turned.

But Islam is a religion which badly lacks self-confidence. It is clear to Muslims, though not to Westerners, that Western society is built on essentially Christian principles (despite recent developments like single-sex marriage). And yet the West are rich, powerful and leaders in every field of endeavour except sports, while Muslim countries, if rich, are so only because of mineral resources, not human resources. This is a standing rebuke to Islam.

Yes, ISIS is a criminal conspiracy but what else was the international Communist Party? Both were violent, criminal organisations as well as political movements. The difference was that the Viet Cong did not explode bombs in Washington DC. The other difference is that Western Europe, during the Cold War, even though it was humiliatingly dependent on the USA for its defence, had a greater sense of self belief.

There are some signs though that this self belief might be returning.


  1. Yes, that seems to be about the size of it. It's always worth mentioning the Ottoman Empire, I think, and indeed the Reconquista - the loss of empire has been an enormous humiliation to Islam. It could almost be said that humiliation is in their bones - Genghis Khan and his horde must have left much of the Muslim world with an enduring sense of emasculation - hence, I believe, the bitter misogyny of Middle Eastern cultures. And at the very basis of Islam is the humiliating choice, "convert or die" - like the Necromongers in the film *The Chronicles of Riddick*, the peoples of the Islamic empires were all something else once. And they gave up those superior cultures by forcible conversion.

    1. Edward Norman in his book Roman Catholic Church mentions modern Christians' apologies for the Crusades and comments
      "Perhaps, however, a balance of remorse might be achieved if the Islamic bodies were, in turn, asked to apologise for their own invasions of the Byzantine provinces and Holy Land some three and a half centuries earlier."