Sunday, September 10, 2006

Why Now? Why This Way? al Jihadiya and the West

"Secular Europe and radical Islam … represent two sides of the same coin: both have rejected the secular order, the latter through open battle, and the former through fatal resignation. … In the absence of religion human society sinks into depressive torpor. Secular society therefore is an oxymoron, for the death of religion leads quickly enough to the death of society itself." ("Death by secularism: Some statistical evidence," Asia Times, August 1, 2005)

The West itself is in a cultural war beyond anything coming in from the Islamists. The fight on many fronts is what shall be the face of Western society?

This is an important question. At a casual look, with plummetting birthrates, a sexual obsessiveness beyond our parents' imagining, where prenatal infanticide is considered a human right, where there seem few things worth dying for, and little worth living for, Western culture seems to some on a suicide watch. Self-destructive behaviors that undermine family stability, the sense that the West is worth saving, and a great deal of willingness to see the values and history of Western culture and American ways as something evil just because, this is a perfect time for the conflict with a culture that sees the West as the source of their woes to yell "It's your fault!" and to have it believed in angst and shame.

The West seems to be busy trying to escape itself. The great rallying cry has become diversity, followed by a particularly intolerant brand of acceptance called tolerance of what had largely been either foreign or considered negative or wicked in the past as good. "'Diversity' is, of course, the great mantra of contemporary American higher education. Indeed, it's probably the single most common term-of-art in American higher education today. When I googled the word ‘diversity' on Penn State's search engine, it came up with about 31,600 citations. This compares, by way of illustration, to only about 17,000 hits for the word ‘scholarship,' 4,800 hits for the word ‘truth,' 2,450 for ‘liberty,' and 1,550 for the word ‘civilization'." (Stephen H. Balch, president of the National Association of Scholars, "Political Commitments of American Higher Education: The Case of Pennsylvania," Academic Questions, Fall 2005, p. 27) This is seen everywhere, as groups that are considered in favor are excused bad behaviors while those who represent the old groups are demonized.

Alain Finkielkraut, a French intellectual, noted this double standard: "When an Arab torches a school, it's rebellion. When a white guy does it, it's fascism." (Lauren Elkin, "Comments by French Jewish thinker on recent Muslim riots stirring the pot," JTA, November 30, 2005). Then there were the forged pictures Reuters so happily accepted without checking on their truthfulness, because it fit their association that the old regime (especially the US and Israel) are evil, while the members of Hezbollah are not for putting their weapons systems and arms caches in centers of urban populations. And there's the BBC's usage of the words to describe terrorists and terrorist activities by putting them into quote marks, as if to imply that there is something not true with those terms.

There has been much talking about how Iran uses Lebanon and Hezbollah as a proxy to fight against Israel, but there is more proxy warring going on than that. The self-loathing of Western society makes it easy to accept the onus of being the bad guy by people who want you to be their proxy. "The Middle East is an area with great problems with good government, economic development and potential for growth. "The 22 member countries of the Arab league, from Mauritania to the Gulf States, have a total population of 300 millions, larger than the US and almost as large as the EU before its expansion. They have a land area larger than either the US or all of Europe. These 22 countries, with all their oil and natural resources, have a combined GDP smaller than that of Netherlands plus Belgium and equal to half of the GDP of California alone. Within this meager GDP, the gaps between rich and poor are beyond belief and too many of the rich made their money not by succeeding in business, but by being corrupt rulers" (Haim Harari, Undeclared WW III). There is great unrest there because of these factors, yet it is clear that the willingness to actually do something concrete about it is rare, and instead, scapegoats are found. The "Arab habit of blaming everything on the United States, or Israel, or the West in general... is also part of an unspoken ceasefire pact--a reminder among Arabs that they have agreed not to attack each other and will focus their energies on external enemies in order to keep the peace at home" (Lee Smith, "Sects and Death in the Middle East," The Weekly Standard, June 26, 2006).

So the West has become a battlefield for those who fight a proxy war against the corruption and longing for a righteous way of life, and in turn, the West behaves like it is deserving of just that blame.

And now, the battle is leaving the Middle East and coming into the western theatre directly, as those who grew up on the meme of the West being the oppressor begin to listen to the teachings of those who offer them what feels like a real reason to live and die. "Across Europe, and possibly in North America, the new Mohamed Attas are coming not from immigrant enclaves, not from people raised in Muslim countries where religious extremism is part of the political culture. They are native-born citizens of their host countries, fluent in its language and culture, usually from families that are neither impoverished nor religious. As the popularity of radical Islam has declined dramatically in Muslim countries—not a single international terrorist figure has emerged from Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine in the past four years—it is becoming a fully European force in France, Britain, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, forged in the bland concrete housing projects that ring the cities of Europe. ‘It's not the ones from religious families who are turning into jihadists,' said Rosa Tandjaoui, the daughter of Algerian and Tunisian parents who owns a bookstore here in the 19th district [of Paris] and whose children attend the same schools as the French suicide bombers. ‘It's people from families like mine—secular, patriotic French, educated. I worry about my son a lot—I hope he doesn't become religious, and I will never let him go to prayers by himself. I've seen what happens to them'." (Doug Saunders, "Radical Islam sows its seed in Europe's fertile soil," The Globe and Mail, September 10. 2005). Adam Gadahn aka Azzam the American whose recent video that both warned and invited America to accept Islam is another example. The people who bombed the UK on 7/7 were British raised, as were the people in the recent airliner bombing plot.

This is the natural reaction to the Western nihilistic secular cultural offering. People need things to live for, things worth dying for, and in the dying secular West, the offerings of sex and entertainment will never be enough. As an astute 19 year old British Muslim noted: "The evil programs on TV, the music, the literature, the magazines ... are all responsible for the terrorist attacks. … Until they get rid of Eminem and Marilyn Manson, they can't get rid of our preachers." (Scheherezade Faramarzi, "One Young Man's Concern on Extremism," The Associated Press, July 17, 2005).

The hedonistic "it's all about me" is of course, not all the West has to offer, although from the popular culture shone on film and passed off as music, it would be easy to come to that conclusion. There are facets of life in the West that represent our best and brightest: the willingness to stand up for good, and to know the end does not justify the means, the understanding of liberty and the awareness of its cost, the knowledge that freedom and justice, not just tolerance, matter.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, we can find the core of the American dream, that although we often fail to live up to it, that dream still resonates with our founding truths, truths worth living for to bring to life, words worth dying for: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Western culture is worth saving. America, with all of its flaws, is still the city on the hill, showing a way to a good life that allows freedom and hope to bloom. We still have time to perserve the dream. We must have the will to do it.


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