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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Why we should fear the fundamentalists and those that support them

Following on from the attempted assassination of Israel’s UK ambassador, Shlomo Argov (he never fully recovered from his wounds) Israel launched the First Lebanon War in 1982.  While no more than a pretext for war, its aims were legitimate. The first goal was to secure Israel’s northern border by expelling the PLO not just from the South but from Lebanon itself. The second aim successfully achieved, was to remove from Southern Lebanon the Syrian missile batteries which threatened all of Northern Israel.  Syrian control of the Bekaa meant the wildly profitable drugs trade provided much needed funds for Syria.  The loss of these funds would inhibit Syria from engaging in a proxy war with Israel via its numerous surrogates.  Other aims failed.

The presence of the PLO in the South had meant the PLO acted with impunity and made the life of those amongst whom they hid, precarious.  The first Israeli troop convoys were therefore greeted as liberators, by Muslims and Christians alike.

But the situation soon changed as both sides settled into a war of attrition.

Group Dynamic theory states that the only people who count in a group are fellow members. This is why people become gang or cult members.  Similarly, fundamentalist faith promotes a Manichean mentality of superiority, and paranoia fed by the fear of rejection. Group Dynamic theory also explains the ease with which acts of terror find their terrorists, their eager perpetrators and accomplices. A capacity to endure complexity and contradiction are the antithesis of fundamentalism. It is why intolerance is an inevitable by-product of the lifestyle.

I recently read an article which asked why so many Muslims love Osama bin Ladin and hate Barack Hussein Obama?

In his article Professor Barry Rubin continued:

“When solidarity along group lines takes priority and the line is that all of “us” must unite against the “other” no matter what truth, logic, or justice dictates then that means serious trouble.”

Of course that meant trouble for Israel in Lebanon and it means trouble for Israel in Europe.  And one day, when Islam has more adherents in the USA than Judaism does, it will mean trouble for Israel in North America.

We are already witness to the rewriting of history and the writing out of history of the Jewish connection to Israel.   The Consul Generals located in Jerusalem are an extraterritorial abomination that since Israel’s independence in 1948 has remained a thorn in Israel’s side. Its diplomats answer only to the UN and as a consequence are Pro-Arab and educated to contemptuously ignore all Israeli or Jewish liaisons.  On the 11th of October the French Consulate General in Jerusalem was reprimanded for remarks made by its Consul General Frédéric Desagneaux.  In a reception for Palestinian officials he emphasised the importance of sites both in Jerusalem and elsewhere as connecting to Palestinian history only. Those sites included Qumran and Masada, the former, caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls (historically important Jewish national treasures) were discovered and the latter, the site of a fortified palace that was witness to siege in the first Jewish-Roman War.  Today in Israel, Masada is pregnant with national symbolism.

All this encourages a renewed siege mentality within Israel’s Jewish population and therefore, an ‘us and them’ dynamic that cannot help to establish trust or to ease reluctant combatants into negotiations. To write both locations out of Jewish history was an act of cultural theft and ethnic cleansing.  Desagneaux should have been expelled from Israel.

His purpose was to undermine Israel by encouraging a Palestinian disinclination towards negotiation or flexibility. When bigotry knows that it has allies it can strive to create even greater chaos and that in turn enables the more powerful intermediary (in this case France) to have leverage over both sides in the conflict.

Not all Muslims are Islamists (fundamentalists) but the vote for what we in the West would label an extremist candidate does not make that person a moderate, even when they are representative of the mainstream.

When, soon after the murder in London of 52 innocents by Muslim terrorists on the 7th of July 2005 (and over 700 others were wounded) a poll of British Muslims was taken.  40% of Muslims in the UK voted, without reservation, to support terrorist actions including the 7/7 atrocity. This vote, while frightening and immoral, did not mean that all UK Muslims hold extreme views, nevertheless it did highlight a fundamental difference in the way we think.  Similarly, I worked with a ‘high-flying’ manager at BT’s corporate headquarters (opposite St Paul’s Cathedral).  One pre-Xmas eve we were the only two people working on the entire floor of the building.  This religious Muslim man, educated throughout his life in Britain, had no issue with human slavery or any of the other highly discriminatory ‘values’ that make Dhimma an important plank of Islamic thought. It declares its supporters to be opposed to Democracy.

Educated and secular British Muslims are as likely to be surprised by the above paragraph as I have been.  Nevertheless they are equally as likely to believe some of the more repugnant conspiracy theories that abound on the Internet or in print.  Prejudices are tribal, even in the world of the secular hedonist.

The issue is not that many Muslims oppose revolutionary Islamism but that many are advocates of totalitarianism.

We tend to forget that Hitler rose to power with 37.3% of the popular vote and that Lenin and Trotsky were simply the leaders of one minor but radical party amongst many in the Menshevik and Social Revolutionary dominated Provisional Government. 

Malcolm Gladwell discusses the power of context in ‘The Tipping Point’. He says that we look at situations and over-estimate human traits while under-estimating the importance of situation and context. In the fabulously wealthy Muslim world extraordinary wealth co-exists alongside of egregious poverty.  Hopelessness and despair did not make the Arab Spring. Rather, it was a failure to share the spoils of corruption that doomed the Arab world’s oligarchies.  Context in an Islamic sense decrees that everyone who is not ‘one of us’ must be inferior because they have chosen not to be Muslims.  The disconnect between religious-political self-perception and an existence that is at variance with the ideal can only create stresses whose alleviation will be expressed through violence, or, a conspiracy laden attribution that explains away all failures.

If common sense is, as Albert Einstein claimed, no more than the prejudices we have acquired by our 18th birthday then what may seem to us illogical and frighteningly counter-intuitive becomes no more than the pedestrian considerations of the prejudiced environment in which we are raised. Hubris blinds the zealot to the humanity of their opponent.  Common sense becomes no more than a poisoned vessel which inevitably leads to catastrophe.

The point I have attempted to make here is that we should not be blinded to the danger of fundamentalism. Numerically, any number of fundamentalists or their supporters remains a threat to society.


  1. 'Numerically, any number of fundamentalists or their supporters remains a threat to society.'

    given that these terrorist use western pr agencies to promote their cause it could be argued that we are our own enemy. they have enough cash to spin truth it seems.

  2. You are right but fashionable politics (PC) is only possible when we live in an atmosphere of McCarthyism. It cannot be disentangled from a Liberal / Left alliance unless we also are unafraid to speak the truth. The Islamic fundamentalist tactic that has been most successful so far is inciting its followers to ever greater levels of violence both in the home country and in the West.