Sunday, July 29, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 report, 49: Further thoughts on cultural suicide

There is an old saying, that "whom the gods would destroy, first they rob of rationality."

As we follow up from the last post, that thought comes to mind, especially on reflecting on for instance this July 27th Barnabas Fund discussion on the recent decisions and actions of the UK Government, which begins:
A shift has been taking place in government ministries as to the terminology used to describe the terrorist threat faced by Britain. The Foreign Office has advised ministers to abandon the use of terms such as “War against terror”, “Islamic terrorism” and “Islamist terrorism”. The idea is that these terms antagonise the British Muslim community and increase tensions with the wider Muslim world. Using military terminology is seen as counter productive, contributing to the isolating of communities from each other. According to proponents of this shift, such terms imply a conflict of religions and link Islam, the religion of peace, with terrorism and radicalism. The widespread use of such terms serves only to alienate and radicalise more Muslims who would otherwise be happy to integrate into a cohesive British society. Terrorists use the sense of crisis engendered by the discourse on a clash of civilisation and a war against Islamic terrorism to recruit supporters who feel that Islam is being attacked and that Muslims must defend themselves. Abandoning such terms, according to the Foreign Office, will avoid empowering the terrorist’s narrative and weaken the trend to radicalisation . . .
This resort to perspective two as noted last time, gets even more interesting when we observe the also cited opinion of the UK's Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald:
London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7, 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs' . . . The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement.
First, let us state the obvious, as a reality-check: Terrorism is a tactic and sometimes even a strategy used in a war, in which the side resorting to such atrocities feels itself unable to otherwise force the other side of the war into compliance with its demands. As Clausewitz said, war is a continuation of politics by other [i.e. physically violent] means.

It gets even worse:
In a [BBC-UK] Radio 4 “Start the Week” programme on 2 July 2007, the philosopher John Gray and the historian Eric Hobsbawm agreed that it was wrong, dangerous and unfair to use the term “Islamist” because it implied a strong link to Islam . . .
Now, let us recall: what did former Jihadist Hassan Butt have to say on the matter recently?

When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network - a series of British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology - I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy.

By blaming the Government for our actions, those who pushed this "Blair's bombs" line did our propaganda work for us.

More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology . . . . though many British extremists are angered by the deaths of fellow Muslim[s] across the world, what drove me and many others to plot acts of extreme terror within Britain and abroad was a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary worldwide Islamic state that would dispense Islamic justice . . . . the foundation of extremist reasoning rests upon a model of the world in which you are either a believer or an infidel . . . . Islamic theology, unlike Christian theology, does not allow for the separation of state and religion: they are considered to be one and the same.

For centuries, the reasoning of Islamic jurists has set down rules of interaction between Dar ul-Islam (the Land of Islam) and Dar ul-Kufr (the Land of Unbelief) to cover almost every matter of trade, peace and war.

But what radicals and extremists do is to take this two steps further. Their first step has been to argue that, since there is no pure Islamic state, the whole world must be Dar ul-Kufr (The Land of Unbelief).

Step two: since Islam must declare war on unbelief, they have declared war upon the whole world . . . . this reclassification of the globe as a Land of War (Dar ul-Harb) allows any Muslim to destroy the sanctity of the five rights that every human is granted under Islam: life, wealth, land, mind and belief.

In Dar ul-Harb, anything goes, including the treachery and cowardice of attacking civilians . . . . [sorry for the resort to many levels of emphasis, to help us see what is plainly so hard to see]

Plainly, the two views are utterly incompatible on the basic facts. The key question is: which is more credible, why?

The answer -- though painfully bitter and disquieting -- is actually not too hard to find. For instance, let us consider Bin Laden's declaration of war of 1998, which begins:
Praise be to Allah, who revealed the Book [i.e Quran], controls the clouds, defeats factionalism, and says in His Book: "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)" [i.e Q 9:5, the notorious sword verse]; and peace be upon our Prophet, Muhammad Bin-'Abdallah, who said: I have been sent with the sword between my hands to ensure that no one but Allah is worshipped, Allah who put my livelihood under the shadow of my spear and who inflicts humiliation and scorn on those who disobey my orders . . . [From the Hadiths]
Plainly, the Jihadists are -- and have long been -- acting in the declarative name of Islam, and they do so by appealing to foundational Islamic texts and patterns of history from the example and explicit teachings of Mohammed on, and towards an unmistakable agenda of global subjugation under an Islamist, theocratic state.

Just as Mr Butt summarised.

Thus, it is both appropriate to use the suffix, ISM, that implies that here Islam the religion is viewed by the Jihadists as grounding an ideology with a global agenda; and, to note that the Jihadists have a direct -- though perhaps debatable -- claim to being authentically rooted in the "plain" foundational teachings, examples and texts of the Islamic faith. [This is in sharp contrast to the teachings of Jesus and his disciples, who definitely saw a legitimate place for even a pagan state and kings, e.g. Tiberius and Nero, as God's servants to do us good by upholding justice, cf. Rom 13:1 - 10 and Jesus' remarks about rendering to God and to Caesar.]

Bin Laden et al then draw in the affront to the presumed honour of Allah, his warriors, his people and his law, which now motivates the renewal of the Jihad at this time:
The Arabian Peninsula has never -- since Allah made it flat, created its desert, and encircled it with seas -- been stormed by any forces like the crusader armies spreading in it like locusts, eating its riches and wiping out its plantations. All this is happening at a time in which nations are attacking Muslims like people fighting over a plate of food . . .
First, the Crusades (indefensible as they were, though it should be noted the earlier Jihads that provoked them were just as bad) ceased sometime between 1300 and 1600, depending on what one counts as a "Crusade." The United States came into existence in 1776, and ever since its first confrontations with Islamic states at the turn of the C19, has made it plain that it is not acting in the name of a Crusade. But of course, rhetorically, the allusion is powerful in the Islamic world, and it is also powerful in appealing to western guilt-feelings and third world resentment over the West's history of imperialism, oppression and slavery. [No similar repentance or regret over the Islamist history of imperialism, oppression and slavery is to be found in the document! In short, the root objection is not to conquest, imperialism etc, but to who is "winning" just now.]

Likewise, whatever one may wish to debate over the merits on the facts and issues of the situation in Iraq etc, it has never been a simplistic issue of "attacking Muslims." (Think about the intent and sad outcome of the Oil for Food programme (and its precursors dating to 1991), to make provision for the need of ordinary Iraqis, and the credible evidence of subversion of that programme by the Baathist regime and the further credible evidence of associated corruption of regulators and diplomats. Then, compare Mr Bin Laden's further claims.)

Let us therefore now compare the just above with Mr Butt's further report:

For decades, radicals have been exploiting the tensions between Islamic theology and the modern secular state - typically by starting debate with the question: "Are you British or Muslim?"

But the main reason why radicals have managed to increase their following is because most Muslim institutions in Britain just don't want to talk about theology.

They refuse to broach the difficult and often complex truth that Islam can be interpreted as condoning violence against the unbeliever - and instead repeat the mantra that Islam is peace and hope that all of this debate will go away.

This has left the territory open for radicals to claim as their own. I should know because, as a former extremist recruiter, I repeatedly came across those who had tried to raise these issues with mosque authorities only to be banned from their grounds.

Every time this happened it felt like a moral and religious victory for us because it served as a recruiting sergeant for extremism . . .

Where does he therefore place his hope for a shift?

. . . A handful of scholars from the Middle East have tried to put radicalism back in the box by saying that the rules of war devised so long ago by Islamic jurists were always conceived with the existence of an Islamic state in mind, a state which would supposedly regulate jihad in a responsible Islamic fashion.

In other words, individual Muslims don't have the authority to go around declaring global war in the name of Islam. [NB: We should ask -- But, is a declaration of jihad by plainly irresponsible, oppressive and reckless states as many we could name, any better . . . ?]

But there is a more fundamental reasoning that has struck me as a far more potent argument because it involves recognising the reality of the world: Muslims don't actually live in the bipolar world of the Middle Ages any more.

The fact is that Muslims in Britain are citizens of this country. We are no longer migrants in a Land of Unbelief . . . .

But more than that, on a historically unprecedented scale, Muslims in Britain have been allowed to assert their religious identity through clothing, the construction of mosques, the building of cemeteries and equal rights in law.

However, it isn't enough for responsible Muslims to say that, because they feel at home in Britain, they can simply ignore those passages of the Koran which instruct on killing unbelievers.

Because so many in the Muslim community refuse to challenge centuries-old theological arguments, the tensions between Islamic theology and the modern world grow larger every day.

I believe that the issue of terrorism can be easily demystified if Muslims and non-Muslims start openly to discuss the ideas that fuel terrorism.

Crucially, the Muslim community in Britain must slap itself awake from its state of denial and realise there is no shame in admitting the extremism within our families, communities and worldwide co-religionists.

If our country is going to take on radicals and violent extremists, Muslim scholars must go back to the books and come forward with a refashioned set of rules and a revised understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Muslims whose homes and souls are firmly planted in what I'd like to term the Land of Co-existence.

First, let us note that Mr Butt here acknowledges that it is "a handful of scholars" -- out of doubtless hundreds of thousands -- who are trying to resolve the theological issue of the link between classical Islam and violent Islamism we have seen above. That is itself sobering on what the real face-value message of the foundational texts and examples is, and it is very consistent with the noted fact of silence on the part of those who wish to indeed live at peace with their neighbours in the UK. So, we must wake up and face some plainly unwelcome, bitter facts.

But also, there is some hope: the obvious triumph of reformation and progress (e.g. through the rise of modern science), liberation and democracy over the sad history of the West going back to classical times, holds out hope that any civilisation that responds to the stirrings of conscience within in light of the force of the facts without, can find a road of reformation if it is willing. And so it comes back to the ever-present challenge of facing the bitter facts and determining to find a better way.

In short, we too must first face these bitter facts and demand that our Muslim neigbbours do the same with us, and police the extremists who use their faith as a rationale for violence, murder, terrorism and other forms of extremism.

Otherwise, they will be guilty of enabling behaviour for that extremism and will ultimately suffer the consequences if there comes a day on which we face an attempted doomsday, knockout strike [as we discussed last time] -- or even simply a sustained enough steady drip of atrocities that provokes a predictable determination to root out the problem once and for all.

Such an observation may not be fashionable or politically correct, but it is sadly, regrettably, credibly all too well anchored by the facts across 1400 years.

So, will we now wake up and face then do something constructive about the admittedly bitter facts, before it is too late?

UPDATE, July 30:
Fixing some typos and some remarks and links on the transformation of the West, plus comments and a link to Wiki on the Iraq situation and the implications of the Oil for Food Programme.

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