Terrorism in the Middle East and Paris


  1. A terrorist is someone who seeks to gain political objectives by killing or wounding people to cause terror (extreme fear) in other people. The difference between terrorism and belligerence (war-making) is a matter of degree and possibly just an accident of the history of language.
  2. A principal source or cause of conflict and terrorism in the Middle East has been the conflict between Israel and its Arab or Muslim neighbours or inhabitants. That conflict started no later than 1948 and there is no prospect of its concluding.  It appears to be getting worse because of the refusal of Arab nations to acknowledge Israel, the refusal of Israel to acknowledge Palestine, and the attitude of Israel to further occupation of lands outside its proper borders.  That conflict is partly religious and partly racial.  There is no real hope that that conflict will be resolved in the foreseeable future.  It just looks set to get worse.
  3. The more recent source of conflict is in part religious, between parts of Islam, Sunni and Shia, and is in part racist, in the conflict between Arabs and Persians (Iranians). That conflict is now centred on the claims of IS or Daesh to a new Caliphate in at least parts of Syria and Iraq.  (Who on earth would want to revive the Ottomans?)  Its members seek to achieve their objective by terrorism.  This conflict makes worse other conflicts involving the Kurds, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and others.
  4. The West has been involved in most these sources of conflict. Its world-bending and nation-composing in North Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries and in the Middle East in the 20th were all indispensable to the current crises.  Western nations were seen to betray Arab interests after World War I, and they certainly did.
  5. And then the world changed with the discovery of oil in the region. But for that, which involves real money, this discussion would be very different – if we were having it at all.  Most of the Arab big hitters would now be about as consequential as Eritrea.  Not one could afford to buy a World Cup.
  6. The French legacy in Africa is lethal for all involved. They are now facing a nightmare after the fall of empire that is much worse than that faced by England in the second half of the last century.
  7. The West was the major sponsor of the state of Israel and the US is its major source of arms and political support. The British and Russian imperial wars in Afghanistan and the continuing US military action there have left what is close to a black hole, or at least a worse dark hole, and threaten the disintegration of Pakistan, with consequences for the world’s biggest democracy on its border.  The USSR is a major backer of Syria.
  8. The War on Iraq is widely regarded as a major cause of the present issue with IS. The West removed a regime that held Shia and Sunni together and put nothing effective in its place.  Saddam had held the country together, and he had done so as ruthlessly as Assad, with results that we now see for both Kurds and Shiites.  IS is now seeking to move into the void.  The Iraq War was started on false premises.  The West feared Al Quaida and as a result have got IS, which is seen to be more threatening.
  9. The result is that the West in general and the US in particular have at best no standing in the Middle East, and are seen as unholy infidels who are inept and who will present many just and achievable targets to offended Muslims represented by their champions Daesh, Al Quaida and the Taliban. The West sees these people as utterly uncivilised throwbacks to the apes.  They in turn take that as a compliment.
  10. France has made its contribution to the current problems by generations of misgovernment, military failure, and terrorism in North Africa which now have the consequences for it that we can see in France now (and which the whole world felt also after its failure in Vietnam.)
  11. Another failure of the West has been the inability of its members, especially France and Belgium, to come to terms with significant Muslim minorities, about five million of them in France – and the inability of the Muslims to come to terms with the West. There has been little or no assimilation, but a growing estrangement and discontent, and the mismanagement in Belgium now appears to mean that the disaffected launch their attacks on France from there.
  12. It is hard to see any progress inside one or two generations. But if someone like Le Pen were to come to power, it is hard to see how the de facto civil war in France would not get worse – calamitously worse – and with frightening results elsewhere – including here.
  13. Another source of racial conflict in the Middle East is the desire of the Kurds to gain independence and to secure their own territory in what was Iraq and Syria – and what is Turkey. The Kurds are actively involved militarily for that purpose.  They appear to be the only natives of the area outside Turkey capable of producing a disciplined and motivated military force.
  14. The Turks loath the Kurds. They regard them, not without reason, as brutal and nation-threatening terrorists.  That is at least one reason why the Turks have not wanted to fight IS.  For them to do so would be to support the Kurds, which is unthinkable.
  15. Turkey is as close as any Muslim nation gets to being well run in the eyes of the West. That view is at best borderline and coloured by the wish of the West to have Turkey as a buffer state against Islam.  Ataturk sought to found a secular republic.  That state was until recently secured or enforced by the army.  The present regime has apparently neutralised the army and has ambitions and tendencies that are threatening.  Turkey looks unstable.
  16. Syria and Iraq are failed states that are disintegrating. The lines drawn by Europeans will have to be redrawn – Israel has always said that about its borders.
  17. The two most powerful nations in the region are Iraq and Saudi Arabia. They are both rogue nations fighting wars by proxy.  They are very backward and repressive regimes that are also Islamic but from different and opposed kinds of Islam.  They are both regarded with suspicion or contempt by the West with which they have nothing in common.
  18. The U S and Iraq are sworn enemies. The US claims Saudi Arabia as an ally – as does Australia – and many in the West are revolted by the way that their government fawns on a nation as contemptible as Saudi Arabia, which houses the birthplace of Islam.
  19. Others are equally revolted that the West is concluding an arms deal with Iran, which no one trusts or has a good word for. The current Israeli government flagrantly interfered in US politics seeking to stop that deal.
  20. That gives some indication of the political ambition of Israel. Its safety ultimately depends on the West remaining committed, and that commitment is ebbing, and will continue to ebb while Israel continues to expand.  The worrying thing for us is that this conflict is here now not just in the old Left/Right divide, but it is coming into political party talk.
  21. Russia and the US have been opposed as world powers since the end of World War II. That conflict went quiet after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The current Russian government is not democratic and has no idea of the rule of law.  Its President, Putin, is a former KGB thug who has no integrity.  He is ashamed of the collapse of the USSR and he is determined to reassert Russia in the world.  He will do so if necessary by the use of military force in Crimea and the Ukraine and the Middle East.  His whole regime and nation are corrupt.
  22. The Russians have never come to terms with either democracy or capitalism, and they do not look like doing so this century. They have reinvented feudalism under a corrupted capitalism run by a Mafia that makes sooks of IS.  They deal with their Muslim minorities with ruthless War Lords and Cossacks’ whipping rock singers.  We are yet to face the full fury of the Muslims in the former members of the USSR, or those that now threaten China.
  23. Russia has now intervened on the ground and in the air in support of its client state Syria. It says that it is there to attack IS, but the West does not believe it and says that its only interest is to support the Assad regime in its client state.  The West, including Australia, say that they are only interested in attacking IS, not other opponents of IS.
  24. No one pretends that any of the protagonists in Syria is better or worse than the others. It is idle to ask if IS is worse than Assad.  They are all terrorists.  The Western (and Sunni) pilots will deny that for themselves, but they are on any view using lethal instruments of terror to achieve political objectives.  And, insofar as they are fighting an enemy of Assad, it is difficult to see how they are not supporting him – while using instruments of terror to achieve political objectives.
  25. As best as I can see – and my vision is remote, second hand and imperfect – the current breakdown between Sunni and Shia is broadly as follows. The Sunnis look to Saudi Arabia and the Shia look to Iran.  The old Sunni/Shia split in Iraq has gone.  The current IS jihad is mainly driven by Sunnis.  While Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states supply Sunni pilots to bomb IS, they are also thought to be funding it.  Those opposed include Iran, Hezbollah, the Syrian army, and Shia militias in Iraq – plus the Kurds, Western air forces, and Russian air and ground forces.  If you go back to the Twin Towers, most of the hijackers were Saudis, Osama was a Saudi, and Saudi money funded it.  The US still claims the Saudis as allies.
  26. It is not hard to see how any alliance with any of those forces against IS will give mortal offence to others. According to Patrick Cockburn, who says his best intelligence comes from visits to military hospitals, the US did not want to pursue Al Quaida to the detriment of its relations with Sunni states, so it went soft on Saudi Arabia and invaded Iraq.  For similar reasons, it did not confront Pakistan over its support for the Taliban, so ensuring that the movement was able to regroup after losing power in 2001.  These are only some conflicts in an ocean of them.  It is silly to suggest that outsiders have any comprehension of them.  You have only to look at how the USSR and USA turned over the Afghans.
  27. Again according to Cockburn, the Shia/Sunni struggle is getting more intense. Shia states such as Iran, Iraq or Lebanon think that they are in a fight to the finish with Sunnis led by Saudi Arabia and their allies in Syria and Iraq.  They do not agree with Western analysts who say that the Sunnis might share power in Damascus and Baghdad – they say this is Saudi and Qatari propaganda.
  28. Western bombing has not yet held up IS. It appears to be common ground that IS can only be defeated on the ground.  But no one from the West or Turkey is prepared put those troops in.  However, Russian bombing does appear to be propping up Assad.  Perhaps the bombing of a civilian aircraft might focus Russian minds about bombing, although the Russians are made more able to stomach someone like Assad because of the way that they run their own country and treat their own people.
  29. It is hard to think of any Western intervention in the Middle East or North Africa that has not made things worse. (I supported the bombing in Libya.  I was wrong.)  The West, through, say, NATO, could quickly put enough ground forces in the theatre to defeat and eliminate IS there.  But there is no political will for that – it will not happen as matters stand.  And if they did pull off the quick win, they would be left where they were in Iraq – looking at a void and not knowing what to do.
  30. The UN is hopeless and the U S does not want to do more. Those who criticise President Obama for this are like those who criticise Chancellor Merkel over the funding of Europe.  These people are elected to represent their nation.  Obama was elected on a peace ticket after what a majority in the U S saw as the moral and intellectual disaster of his predecessor.  The American people have no interest in returning their soldiers to fight in Afghanistan or the Middle East.
  31. That is not surprising. It is only their respect for the office and the flag that stops Americans from pouring over George Bush the contempt that the English now show for Tony Blair.  Conservative critics of Obama want to forget the second President Bush, the effective cause of the Tea Party, and they do forget the platform on which Obama was elected – with the goodwill of most in the West.  No one, except Dick Cheney, supports a return to the policies of Bush.
  32. With the Muslims in the West on whom terrorists of IS and others draw, there is a vicious circle. If the receiving nation comes down hard on them, or is perceived to be making unreasonable demands, the Muslims will retire further into themselves, and this aggravates the present problem
  33. Against that obvious truth, the following propositions are received as equally obvious truths by very substantial numbers in the West: not one Muslim country is decently run – the choice is between corrupt and repressive sectarian regimes and black holes; Islam has made little contribution to the progress of mankind sine 1453; few if any receiving countries are happy with their Muslim minorities; one reason for this is the claim that Muslims are not thought to be trying to assimilate, but are intent on maintaining confronting appearances; another is that it is hard to find a Muslim spokesman with sense or authority; another is that they have ideas about the place of religion in the nation that are at best five hundred years out of date and worst terrifying.
  34. Speaking of terrifying political ideas, just look at what is on offer on either side in the U S, and just try to picture for yourself what might have happened after the most recent Paris massacre if one or other of those had been the President of the U S. That is truly terrifying.  (Did Donald Trump really say that the French should have American gun laws?)
  35. Any person in the West who claims to understand all this is a liar or mad. Anyone who claims to have an answer is in a worse position.  We are way beyond the platitudes of simpletons like shock jocks or the Sky commentariat or Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.
  36. Nor does it help to flourish the word ‘terrorist’ like some new or threatening mantra. A revolution is a successful revolt; a liberator is usually a successful terrorist; a failed terrorist remains just a terrorist.  Compare Nelson Mandela and Joan of Arc.  (They made Joan a saint because although she had the misfortune of being burnt, she had the good fortune of being burnt by the bad guys.)  One of the most saintly people of the 20th century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was martyred for his part in a plot to assassinate a head of state.
  37. The Roman Empire was in large part held together by terror. One of its more grizzly manifestations was instrumental in the birth of Christianity.  That religion, to its eternal shame, employed the worst forms of terror over many centuries to protect itself by shutting down dissent.  The founder of parliamentary democracy, England, used terror for over 700 years to enforce its racial or racist dominance over Ireland.  The nations of the US and Israel were conceived in and born in terror.
  38. So was the site of the most recent atrocity, France. People gathered to mourn at the Place de la Republique, which is not far from the Place Bastille.  The Revolution began in violence and terror there and on one view only finished with the violence and terror of Waterloo, leaving five million dead in Europe.  If you want the archetypal architect of Terror, look at Citizen Danton.  If you want the archetype of a regime that protects itself by Terror in the form of public beheading, look at Citizen Robespierre.
  39. The mourners at the Place de la Republique sang the national anthem. That anthem was born at about the second anniversary of Bastille Day as men marched from Marseilles to Paris to support a nation in a state of emergency in response to the proclamation that la patrie est en dangere.  An English text of part of it is set out below.  Another part refers to ‘impure blood.’  Some of all our old forms look odd to us today.  We used to ask God to send our Queen victorious, happy and glorious.
  40. Well, all that may be or not be so, depending on where you stand, but it does not allow enough for two factors that I have only touched on. France has its problems, but the nation is a foundation stone of Western civilisation and the city of Paris is one of the glories of mankind.  The Arab and Islamic worlds know nothing like either, and evil like IS could die just from being exposed to this kind of light.
  41. If you put to one side Israel, every problem that I have referred to in the Middle East or North Africa involves an Arab or Islamic government. There is not one good one in the whole world.  All of the problems that have led to the current refugee crisis that looks like it will dismantle Europe come from governments led by corrupt and vicious war criminals like Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad, or the current lot in Egypt.  Every problem comes from failure of Muslim governance.  Even the poor Palestinians cannot find a government that can negotiate on their behalf.  North Africa has little chance of recovering from its revolutions inside the 100 years it took the French.
  42. Politically, Muslims are about 500 years out. IS is just the latest and worst of a bad bunch.  No one in the Middle East has clean hands – no one – but some are a lot dirtier and bloodier than others.  If you want to know how rotten the area is, just look at the response of Islamic nations to the millions of refugees created by the failure of Islam.  You might be forgiven for asking whether leaders of the Gulf States could spell the word ‘humanity.’
  43. It may be worse with religion than politics, although the two are related. It is hard to find any Islamic state that gives effect to the separation of Church and State in any degree at all, let alone what we require.  Nowhere in the world can they produce a leader who is able and allowed to speak sensibly on their behalf.  What we get is some furtive type that the cat may have brought in.  This is just gold for the leerers and sneerers on Sky, and so the gap widens.
  44. Then you get the zealots, the latest terrorists. Using terror for political gain is one thing; to do so for God is altogether another.  Then you get real
  45. The three principal religions all purport to adhere to that part of the bible that we call the Old Testament. To those who do not subscribe to any of those faiths, the God described in that book must be the first of our terrorists.  That God enters into a covenant with one chosen people and then helps them to take their Promised Land from the original inhabitants by force of arms and slaughter and other acts of terror that we now call ethnic cleansing or genocide.
  46. A lot of those people could be forgiven for thinking that that is also where all our troubles started. It lies behind the first source or cause of conflict identified above, but few people of the Book will agree with any of that.  A central part of our fatal human weakness is our inability to see the world through the eyes of others.


Extracts for the Marseillaise

Arise, children of the Fatherland

The day of glory has arrived!

Against us tyranny

Raises its bloody banner (repeat)

Do you hear, in the countryside,

The roar of those ferocious soldiers?

They’re coming right into your arms

To cut the throats of your sons and women!

Tremble, tyrants and you traitors

The shame of all parties,

Tremble! Your parricidal schemes

Will finally receive their reward! (repeat)

Everyone is a soldier to combat you

If they fall, our young heroes

The earth will produce new one

Ready to fight against you!

Terror in Paris VI – The Trouble with Islamophobia


Toward the end of the last volume of Remembrance of Things Past – and when you get that far, it is a moment to savour – a phrase caught my eye. (It is at page 353 in Volume 6 of the Modern Library boxed set.) During one of those endless meditations on character in time, we get from the narrator:

I had seen the vices and courage of the Guermantes recur in Saint-Loup, as also at different times in his life his own strange and ephemeral defects of character, and as in Swann his Semitism.

I cannot recall seeing Semitism without the anti- before. The narrator is saying that he could see the Semitism in the man called Swann. Swann is a Jewish character, and the narrator appears to be saying that he could see those characteristics in Swann that made him or identified him as a Jew.

Before you can be against (anti) something you have to be able to identify what that something is. This, then, is the start of the slippery slope. You have to put people in a box, to brand them. Having identified the person as having the characteristics of a group, you then treat that person by their membership of the group, rather than on their own merit. How long will it be before the narrator or a Vichy gendarme pins a yellow cross on M. Swann?

What struck me as odd about this reference to Semitism only became apparent on reflection. What was it about M. Swann that identified him to the narrator as being Jewish? It is hard to think of a decent answer – of an answer that does not reveal that the narrator uses the types for Semitism that we associate with anti-Semitism. M Swann was not an orthodox Jew – they make themselves as plain by their dress and appearance as a muslem woman wearing the facial veil (niqab).

People who show off their differences can hardly complain if those differences are noticed. And if they want to live separately from the rest of the community, they may not be surprised if the rest of the community treats them differently. If they want to live with their own laws, with their own language, and in a distinct area or ghetto, and with their own garb and customs, then they may not be surprised if others in the wider community get unsettled by their apartness. People who remain determinedly separate do not generally do so because they feel that their way is inferior – they do it because they feel that their way is superior. This is likely to lead to feelings of rejection in others, and to an adverse reaction. People who want to confront others with their differentness may be trespassing dangerously on the tolerance levels of the rest.

It is very bad for supporters of Israel in their conflict with Muslems to accuse their critics of being anti-Semitic. Criticising Israel, for example for its policy on settlements or for its handling of Gaza, has nothing of itself to do with anti-Semitism, any more than my criticising Australia for its treatment of refugees would make me a socialist, racist, or not a patriot, whatever that awful word means. Yet this attack or riposte is too often made or threatened, and every time that happens, those responsible risk making their false assertion come true.

I cannot help feeling that something like that is going on with the curious word Islamophobia. A phobia is a kind of fear. It is perfectly possible for a person to have rational fear of Islam without being subject to an irrational fear of or prejudice against any one Muslem or most of them. A rational fear of what a religion might do to its adherents, or those who do not adhere to their faith, is very different from an irrational rejection of or prejudice against individuals of that faith, or even the religion as a whole.

The word Islamophobia does not appear to have a settled meaning, but it gets loaded and fired often in response to the remarks of people who do not subscribe to Islam about murders committed in the name of Islam that we call terrorism. It sounds a little like what happens when critics of Israel are branded as being anti-Semitic. It is called playing the race card.

Is the fear felt by some about the role of Islam in the world a rational fear?

The main causes of terrorist attacks in the West over the last thirty or so years appear to me to include the following.

  • The conflict between Israel and the Arab world, or between Jews and Muslems in and around Israel. It is hardly possible to see any resolution of that conflict in the foreseeable future. There is no appetite for peace on either side, and some think that the end will only come with the bomb. My sense is that most Australians are fed up with both sides.
  • The schisms in Islam, particularly between Sunni and Shia.
  • The misplaced intervention by the West in the Middle East, in particular the drawing of an imperial map over the Middle East after the Great War, the betrayal of the promises made to Arabs during that war, the failed interventions in Iraq, and Afghanistan – the failure is probably irrelevant: what matters is the invasions – and the current action in Syria and Iraq. The Arab world, and a substantial part of Islam, says that the creation of the state of Israel by western powers is by far the most destabilising and war-provoking act of the West. It is not easy to think of any intervention by the West in the Middle East that has not made things a lot worse there.
  • The complete failures of governance in Muslem countries or areas. Examples are the rise of Boko Haram in and around Nigeria and of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. It looks like all of North Africa will descend at one time or other into this kind of chaos and misery – together with Muslem areas in other parts of Africa – as one state after another fails. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States all look ripe for revolution, and will fall apart as oil loses its power. They are sitting ducks for impoverished puritans. Generations of misery await all those nations, with the possibility of generations of spreading conflict from the outraged oppressed.
  • The failure of Muslem communities in the West to integrate and get on in their host country, and the consequent feelings of failure, rejection or frustration that alienate young Muslems from their host country and lead some of them to go off to a murderous fairy tale of jihad in their spiritual homeland.
  • The failure of Muslem communities properly to educate their young or to shepherd their disaffected members. Host nations like England, America, and Australia do not have these problems with other migrant groups from Asia or from other faiths. France is the most exposed because of its appalling imperial record.

They seem to me to be the main factors behind the worse forms of terrorism facing the West. The problem has got worse for host countries after the London bombings since when it has been apparent that the West faces threats from home-grown terrorists – who profess Islam. The attack on the Twin Towers was mainly made by Saudis organised by an evil man from abroad, but we now have to face and to monitor and be asked to change our laws in a way that we would rather not do in response to native born terrorists who were brought up in the faith of Islam and who claim to kill in the name of that faith.

You can be as critical as you like of the US and the rest of the West, and as critical as you like of the policy and territorial ambitions of their number one client state, Israel, but it is impossible to ignore the role of Islam in each of those elements.

What we do know is that the most dangerous sentiment that you can harbour is that you should expect aggression from those who have been oppressed; it is second only in dangerousness to the sentiment that conflict and bitterness can decently pass from one nation and generation to another.

You might then consider the following about Islam in the world at large.

  • It is difficult to find one Islamic nation to admire. There are so many black holes in Africa and the Middle East. The richest, like Saudi Arabia, are the most backward, brutal and corrupt. The Saudis are more preoccupied with feudalism and royalty than Australia even, and Saudi Arabia ought to be treated as a pariah state. The geographic and spiritual heart of Islam is a viciously intolerant clerical state. Governors and clerics compete in violent repression, and it is the main source of financial support for jihadis around the world. It is of course a trusted ally. Egypt was a post-card Arab Spring nation that has lapsed back into evil military rule that is now bent on standing over Islamic ‘fundamentalists’, and which was holding an Australian journalist after a legal process that would not be admitted here in a cattle auction and on charges that would have made Hitler and Stalin blush. What is happening elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East is unthinkably barbaric to a degree not seen since the Attila the Hun and the Dark Ages. Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia have claims to civilisation, but they differ from most of the West in their corruption, their susceptibility to religious intervention in the affairs of state, and a control of communications that we would find both unacceptable and uncivilised. Malaysia has just jailed an opposition leader for being homosexual and Indonesia is set to execute foreign nationals after a cruel and unconscionable delay.
  • It is difficult to see many nations where the host country is happy with its Muslem minority or where the Muslem migrants are successfully integrating. In many there is actual conflict or political movements against Muslems. That is likely to get worse as terror attacks continue, and the foreign wars involving Muslems continue.
  • Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the positive influence of Islam in the world has waned. It is difficult to point to the Islamic centres of learning, law, science or art that have made any lasting contributions to the civilisation of the world.
  • The Ottoman Empire was a disaster for humanity. Not one former member is in good shape, specifically including Turkey and Greece, each of whom would rather forget or deny it. The notion that there might be another Caliphate is about as attractive as that of another Holy Roman Empire or a Fourth Reich.
  • Islam itself is ill defined and is claimed by warring sects. There is no hierarchy that allows spokespeople to speak on the behalf and bind them. People may not like the Pope or the Vatican, but at least they know who they are dealing with. At least the Vatican can officially disown ratbag sects. People distrust shadowy outfits like the Masons or the CIA who do not want to own up to their past or to show their present.
  • Worst of all is the lack of certification for the Imams. It is unthinkable that the mainstream churches in the West would unleash clerical representatives like these ragamuffin upstarts many of whom are evangelists of violence. This is a huge problem because too often the poison is seen to have been planted by nasty, ignorant, unbalanced men who are crooks or quacks who should never have been allowed any status to purport to teach or preach on behalf of any faith. Even the best of them look unpersuasive. Even after the recent Paris murders, too many Islamic commentators said that it was bad – but….people who play with matches might get their fingers burnt. When the Twin Towers went down, Muslems danced in the street in many parts of the world. The problem of getting good spokespeople for the Arab or Muslem cause has troubled the BBC’s Dateline London – experienced Arab journalists come on and you count down until the rant starts. This is shockingly unhelpful, because it reinforces all of those stereotypes about irrationality in that region.
  • Young men who fight for IS get a spiritual charge from, and they claim a theological basis for, their killings. Other Muslems may say that the faith of the killers is perverted, but the argument about whether the killers are Muslems at all is at best sterile. One issue is that there is no Muslem body that can effectively rule these people out of Islam, and dealing with these terrorists without dealing with spiritual and religious issues is like fighting the Viet Cong without worrying about the hearts and minds of the people. There has to be a theological and spiritual response. This craving for death and the everlasting does not come from social failings.
  • The attitude of Islam to half of the world – women – is not acceptable in the West. The full facial veil is an affront to the beliefs of most people in equality. Muslem educational insitutions do not look encouraging, and they attract, fairly or otherwise, frequent allegations of massive corruption and fraud on the state, and a failure to reach local standards. Sharia law is a ghastly throwback to the Dark Ages that is more alarming than the Old Testament. It is appalling that some seriously suggest it might be allowed here in Australia.
  • The lack of integration and social success brings its own images of failure and foreignness. The Muslem communities look separate and unassimilated and unattractively Asian in ways that the Chinese and Vietnamese communities, for example, do not. Those communities are assimilating while retaining their own traditions, and they are rising to the top in all fields of life. The failure and frustration within Islam in Australia in turn becomes a function of the community’s separatism. And so the cycle goes, and the youth leave for purer devotion, and so, terrorism. If people want to live apart and be seen to live apart, not to say down at heel, they need not be alarmed if they are treated as different; if they want to be exclusive, they need not complain if they get to be excluded.
  • Above all, there is the difference in the space that religion occupies in their lives and in the lives of their nations. For the most part, people in the West are relaxed about religion – even those who adhere to one, who are becoming a minority. Churches and synagogues are used to coming under fire from all directions, and their adherents accept that it is just a matter of luck which faith you are born into, rather like race, and that each of the three faiths to come from the Middle East claims to have the answer, and so is committed to denying a central tenet of the others: this is just one of the hurdles at which many of the unbelievers fall. The state is secular, and the people are relaxed and tolerant. Islam, to put it softly, does not fit well in this scheme. In no part of the world where it has prevailed does it accept the separation of church and state which is fundamental in the West, and has been since the Reformation.
  • You then have to add the fact that the exercise by infidels of their right to express their opinions freely, which is equally fundamental, too often leads to conflict that leads to violence and then to murder. Adherents to Islam hunger for a penal law of blasphemy which they will never get in the West, but which those in the West are revolted to see enforced in the Islamic East by the lash and beheading. The short answer to those Muslems in the West who have these feelings is that they know where they can go – but, as ever, people want to have their cake and eat it. They could go to Bahrain and be in state where a new TV station lasted for only thirty minutes.
  • Finally, while the other faiths are waning perceptibly, Islam is growing overseas and here, and it just as a matter of time before they have the numbers here. You would seriously understate the matter if you said that other people might find this consequence to be a little disturbing. There is the ironic twist that the excesses in the name of Islam is rubbing off on religion generally, and this will help Islam claim the field.

You might then see how the foreign and domestic woes of Islam come together in Australia, and most other host countries in the West.

  • If you add the difficulties that we see in Islam overseas to those we see in Islam as we import it into Australia, you will understand why the host country here, like host countries elsewhere, is looking at the a nightmare for a migrant country – its migrants are not just bringing in conflicts and hatreds from their mother countries or regions, but they are spawning offspring here who return to the old country and refine their hatred and study how to return and murder their hosts.
  • The West sees its civilisation as resting on Judaeo-Christian traditions. You will never see the West claiming Christian-Muslem values. The Jewish communities are assimilated and successful. The natural temper of those communities at large and their host nations is to back Israel against the Arabs. That has been almost obligatory in the U S, and therefore Australia, which follows the US on foreign policy almost blindly. This adherence to Israel is fading in both Australia and the US, because of the territorial ambitions of Israel and its leaning toward becoming a dominant theocratic state, but such movements do not appear to be helping sentiment toward Islam. However that may be, most Australians do not want to see the hatred of the worst flashpoint on the planet reflected in conflict between their own peoples who claim to be Australians. As what passes for the Left gets animated against Israel, what passes for the Right gets animated against Islam, and that split helps nothing. As time goes by, we may see in Australia a tendency to treat conflict between Israel and the Arabs in a similar way to that in which they saw conflicts imported here from the Balkans in the 1950’s, and just regard them all as mad, bad, and dangerous to know. The short answer is that we do not need any of it.
  • The blend of failure at home and abroad, whether that failure is real or perceived, leads to true believers reaching out for prophets who have the answer. The answer takes away all doubt and fear, and the price is unquestioning and mindless obedience – life then becomes so simple. The prophets themselves are the product of rejection and frustration – the model of the frustrated reject and angry young man turned fanatic is Adolf Hitler – and the true believers have a cause which brings its own crazy togetherness. The cause offers redemption, here and above. These believers, unlike the secular fascists or communists, are also assured of eternal life, the ultimate gift or prize. That prize easily outweighs any life that stands in the way of these credo killers. How do you deal with an enemy for whom death is the reward and who just gets more dangerous in jail?
  • The enemy is not terrorism, but the beliefs and promises that underwrite it. The contribution of Islam to that result is unique. The faith may be said to be false, but how do you destroy an idea that gives meaning to peoples’ lives? And what do you do to criminals who get worse in jail and who long for martyrdom?

Now, most of the matters raised above are very general, and they all involve questions of degree, but there is in each of them enough to understand why many people in Australia, and other host countries, fear what Islam may do to people, whether they adhere to that faith or not. It is quite impossible to seek to stigmatise and dismiss fears that naturally arise, which are entirely rational, under some pejorative epithet like Islamophobia. Indeed, it is the apparent inability of so many Muslems and their leaders to square up to these sorts of problems that just makes other people more afraid.

In speaking of the murders at Charlie Hebdo, Tariq Ali, the voice of the Godless Left, in the London Review of Books, in a piece headlined The Muslim Response, quoted someone as saying that ‘It didn’t need to be done.’ But what was unnecessary was not the murders, but the action of the journalists in provoking religious people. The personal judgment of Mr Ali was that ‘the radicalisation of a tiny sliver of young Muslims….is a result of US foreign policy over the last decade and a half. Some of these Muslims have been happy to acquire new skills and priorities while fighting in Bosnia and more recently, Syria.’

Well, there you have it – the Americans started it, and the French journalists asked for it. It is not the wanton lack of logic that causes concern – it is the absence or revulsion or pity. And if you are having your head sawed off by an ourangatang gone berserk, it may not be much comfort to your or your children that this mad killer is part of a ‘tiny sliver’ of young Muslems. who refined his sawing in Bosnia or Syria.

The great scourges of mankind have been tribalism, nationalism, and religion – the order you choose will reflect on where you stand. The terror we now face draws on all three, but religion does look to be the worst.

The believers might ponder the following. Five men on death row or in a hospice are doomed to die shortly. There is one each of the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslem, Jewish, and Christian faiths. Each has acquired his faith from his parents and each does his best to live by it. Are we to take it that what happens to each after his death will depend solely upon the lottery of the faith that he was born into, and that each of them follows a faith that decrees that one of them might enter Paradise while the other four are just left for dead – or worse?

It matters not that Christianity in previous times perpetrated much worse crimes against humanity, or if you take the view that the greatest single threat to world peace and terrorism now comes from the territorial ambitions of Israel, or that the United States and its allies have just made everything else so much worse by their imperialism and belligerence – if you allow all those assertions and more, you are still left with the same problems of Islam.

Nor does it reduce the fear of the West that it can show the most remarkable hypocrisy about its role in poisoning Muslems against it. American Sniper is a film about a young American man who specialises in killing Muslems who do not know that he is there. He kills dozens and dozens of them, far, far more than were killed in Paris, on the footing that ‘you kill every male you see.’ He was a disaffected young American who saw people on television being senselessly killed on the other side of the world, and who decided to go and kill those on the wrong side – who just happened to be Muslems. He refers to his victims as ‘savages’.

The picture was nominated for six Oscars and had the best debut in January ever in the U S. This roaring commercial success is not there to build bridges to Islam. It is set to overtake The Passion of Christ, another film that reached out to conservatives. This serial killer is the hero of the crowds in the cinemas. A talking head on Fox news, the voice of the Far Christian Right, thought that Jesus would thank the sniper for dispatching unbelieving Muslems to the lake of fire. And it might be as well just to pass over the obsequies for the recently deceased King of Saudi Arabia.

And to come back to Proust, you might get an idea of what something like Islamism might look like to those who are outside of it, and why that picture is so unattractive beside that which is apparently seen by people inside it. There are in truth many things about Islam that make others very afraid of what it might do to people and it just does not help to say that other religions have the same effect on people, or worse – the problem is the failure of the followers of Islam around the world to come to terms with the rest of the world. Their problem is that they do not see the problem. The main reason for the fear of Islam is that so many Muslems do not see what there is to fear.



I should make a disclosure. I hold some shares in Westfield and Scentre. The credo killers claiming to represent Islam have said that they will kill people attending properties of those companies because of the Jewish connection of the principals of those companies.