Standing up for ourselves.

From The National Post, Full Comment.

Conrad Black: Court moderate Muslims, but treat the extremists for what they are.

October 16, 2010 – 7:55 am

It is certainly time that the West considered systematically if our civilization has irreconcilable differences with Islam. The belligerence of many Islamic spokesmen, the failure to assimilate of many Muslim immigrants, as well as the spectacular terrorist provocations of extreme Islamic groups make this a legitimate question.

But it is not so easy to answer. Some passages of the Koran, and some of the more purposeful remarks attributed to Muhammad, certainly incite the inference that mortal conflict is inevitable — an impression heightened by the neurotic obsession of a great many Muslims with the red herring of Israel. It is hard for Westerners to know what to make of Islam: As the Muslim world stretched from Morocco to Indonesia, it became ever more fissiparous and hydra-headed. It speaks through an infinite number of clerical and secular leaders, and in a range of vocabularies from fraternal to genocidally hostile.

Muhammad was allegedly instructed to found Islam in 610, by the versatile Archangel Gabriel. Twelve years later, Muhammad still had only 150 followers. He then decamped to the Jewish oasis of Yathrib, seized control of it, renamed it Medina, set up the first mosque, and went forth to conquer Arabia. Unlike Jesus, or the contemplative and sedentary Gautama, founder of Buddhism, Muhammad was a military leader who advanced by fire and sword and told his followers to emulate him. They established Sharia, a totalitarian legal system whose edicts go far beyond what even the most pious and fervent Westerner would consider the province of religion.

Aggressive Arab Islam surged westwards across Africa and into Spain, and then into France, before being repulsed by Charles Martel (Charlemagne’s grandfather) at Tours in 732. To the historically-minded, including many Arabs, the Arab world has been in retreat for the 13 centuries that followed (which may explain some of the militancy of Arab extremists).

On the other side of the Mediterranean, Turkish Muslims managed to take Constantinople from the Greek Orthodox Byzantines in 1453; and then surged into Europe, finally being repulsed from the gates of Vienna — twice, in 1529 and 1683. Thereupon, they too gradually subsided. A joint Spanish and Italian navy defeated the Turks at the battle of Lepanto in 1571, as great and important a battle as that of the Spanish Armada 17 years later; that stopped the Turkish amphibious efforts to seize Italy and the western Mediterranean.

In our own era, Muslims are made incomprehensible to all but the most assiduous Western student of that culture by a combination of ancient prejudices, the ever-changing fluidity of Muslim relationships and alliances, the severe decentralization of the world Muslim community, and the bizarre reaction of Muslim societies to seemingly trivial events. To many Westerners, there is an ingrained Muslim caricature of the swarthy peasant raising sinew-lean arms to the heavens, having been commanded to do so by a voice from a minaret loudspeaker; the serried ranks of men pressing their foreheads to the floor and elevating their posteriors (a gesture that is, in our culture, unserious); and the image of Muslims as shady, long-unsuccessful nationalities, or of recent, and not overly dynamic, colonies. Many Western Muslim populations are fractious, and their spokesmen are often unbecomingly hostile to their host nations. Their conditions are inferior, but so are their standards of civic participation.

Vast tracts of the Muslim world react like wounded animals at any perceived slight. When a completely unofficial Danish cartoonist produced some relatively innocuous renderings of Muhammad five years ago, Danish embassies were stoned and the whole nationality was anathematized in many Muslim countries. There also was a tremendous uproar when Pope Benedict XVI referred, disapprovingly (as too sharply formulated) in a speech at Regensburg in 2006 to a conversation between the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an eminent Persian, in 1391, and quoted the emperor as saying “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” It is important to remember that the pope further quoted the emperor as saying that violence was “unreasonable and incompatible with the nature of God and of the soul.” He also had referred to the emperor’s familiarity with the Koranic assertion that “There is no compulsion in religion.” The Pope raised a point that is in the minds of billions of non-Muslims; Islam must reciprocate Western conciliation to some degree or it runs the risk of being regarded as an intractable enemy.

Some eastern Muslims, especially in Indonesia, are advancing determinedly as a sophisticated political society enjoying prolonged high economic growth. Indonesia should be treated as a major power in the world (despite having a very talented president who happens to rejoice in the name of Bambang). Turkey, too, if it doesn’t become too enamored of its courtship with disreputable regimes such as Iran, is an important and potentially successful country. Some of the oil-rich Muslim countries are more or less promising, including Iraq, and the more secular countries are generally more compelling examples of the way forward than the knuckle-dragging theocracies. Some effort should be under way to co-ordinate the policies of the United States, EU, Russia, China, India, and Japan toward at least the most radical Muslim regimes. Given the fiasco with the sanctions plan against Iran, it is not going to be easy. But militant Islam is not, in fact, a very powerful opponent compared to the Axis of World War II or international communism.

Non-Muslim leaders should make it clear that we are not prepared to be condescended to as infidels, and that the Judeo-Christian traditions of the West antedate those of Islam (we are all Abrahamists, but Gabriel called on our preceptors first). The widespread mistreatment of Christian minorities in some Muslim countries should produce proportionate retaliation, though not at the expense of the civil rights of our own Muslim minorities. (The Muslim massacre of up to a million Christian blacks in the Sudan, for instance, should have received a much more energetic and righteous response than it has.) The mad idea of a large mosque almost adjacent to the World Trade Center site should never have gained any traction at all. That whole issue makes our entire society look like idiots, with Michael Bloomberg, Maureen Dowd, Katie Couric et al all thoughtfully holding hands as the Islamists’ proverbial “useful idiots.” The exaggerated indulgence of domestic Western Muslim minorities is degrading and foolish, from the trial of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, as he participates in a coalition government to rule that country, to the toleration in Ontario of a Muslim woman giving evidence in a trial with her features completely disguised by her costume. In such matters, the French, who are less squeamish about retaining the right to enjoy their magnificent country and lifestyle, will lead the West.

Militant Islam should be recognized as an antagonist. Moderate Muslims should be courted, much more systematically than they have been; The debate should not be between ourselves about how to deal with Muslims, it should be between Muslims about the unwisdom of provoking all the rest of the world.

Canada must respond to the shambles of its UN Security council bid last week. It should withdraw from what has become the fraud of UN peacekeeping, expand our military, reduce our UN contribution, and focus, as I wrote here last week, on joining with other serious countries in trying to clean out the anthill of UN corruption. The unhouse-trained developing countries that have reduced many of its agencies to a mockery must be sent packing. We have been boy scouts in the world, heady on the delusions of soft power. We now have real economic power and should use it in pursuit of our constructive interests. And those who argue that we should desert Israel to placate the Arabs should be made to wear pointed hats and self-deprecating sandwich boards in public, until they are redeemed by the grace of thought reform.

National Post

3 Replies to “Standing up for ourselves.”

  1. I don’t know why the man is having a hard time figuring out what is the problem with Islam? All you have to do is find out the historical order of the books and read them in that order, when you do that anyone should be able to understand that the ones we are calling radicals are the true Moslems and the ones we are calling moderate are the real radicals. And I don’t think the radicals will succeed in changing Islam.

  2. Attempt by a radical Islam to once again conquer the world is nothing new. Once upon a time it reached the gates of Vienna, in the very heart of Europe. Needless to say, what followed afterwards, was a long and arduous process to regain back what was lost. Perhaps, in our so called modern times and with help of politically correct “useful idiots” in our midst, aided by legacy of Mr. Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and activist judges, we find ourselves in similar situation centuries later.
    As for Canada, our lamentable Immigration and Refugee system has done it’s
    share in compounding this situation. We are a laughing stock on international scene and potential abusers are well informed how to play our system to the hilt. Of course our multicultural sacred cow can be blamed for the rest of it. We seem to be accommodating newcomers to such a degree, that now they are demanding we change our ways to the detriment of our our culture. We are mortally afraid to be called racists, the term used by apologists when faced with facts and everything else fails.
    History books are full of examples, that demonstrate an appeasement never works and that the price of it is mch higher than initial resistance.

  3. I have days when I think all is lost but I am still seeing signs that the West is waking up, slowly but waking up. If is going to be a long and nasty war with a lot of blood split before it is settled, perhaps this time we can recover some of the land lost in the last push by militant (this is to say what Mohammad wanted from his followers) Islam.

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