Terrorism, Totalitarianism and Travel Bans
Originally this article was going to be about the upcoming British general election, but thanks to recent events, we are going to have to talk about terrorism. Again.
Like most people, I'm struggling to come to terms with the latest Islamist terrorist attack to hit the UK, the second in the space of a week, and one of hundreds to have been levied against the western world, particularly Europe, in recent times. In the time it has taken me to complete this article, fresh reports have emerged of another terror incident, this time in Australia - it's getting closer and closer to home, and New Zealand isn't going to be safe forever.
My thoughts on these latest incidents are a mix of anger, sadness and - as weird as it sounds - boredom, because these attacks are becoming so frequent now as to feel routine. I agree completely with my colleagues who argue that the time for discussion is over and the time for action is here.
Unfortunately I don't have anything particularly new or insightful to contribute to the "what do we do" discussion. Brighter minds than mine (or should I say, given where this article is being published, Righter minds?) have contemplated the issue of Islamic terrorism and failed to find a solution to the issue.
The only thing I can do is tell a story, share my perspective, and hope that enough of a consensus can be created as to translate into real action from western governments.
As ever after an Islamic attack (or, in this day and age, anything at all - from the breaking of wind to the opening of a can of beans) the western world becomes sharply divided - the cultural liberals and the left go red in the face screaming "Not all Muslims" and the cultural conservatives and the right go blue in the face screaming "Ban all Muslims!"
My own view on the subject - as with a lot of my political views - borrows from both the left and from the right, seeks to form a compromise and inevitably results in me being offensive to both sides. What you're about to read is probably going to be just that.
What I'm about to say is probably going to see me branded as a heretic and exiled from ever being allowed to call myself right-wing, but, here goes:
I agree with the "Not All Muslims" people.
Maybe it's the fact that my own background has been fairly cosmopolitan, maybe it's the fact that I live two blocks away from the biggest Mosque in New Zealand, maybe it's the fact that I've always associated with Muslims, but I really don't have a problem with Islam or with Muslims.
And I don't mean that in a cop out, "I'm not a racist, but..." way. I genuinely do not consider Islam to be any worse or any more barbaric than any other religion.
I'll never buy into the notion that it is a "Religion of Peace" of course, because I don't believe that any religion can call itself peaceful. Even Christianity, which I once derisively referred to as "The Green Party of religions" for all its "turn the other cheek" nonsense, is not a religion of peace if taken literally - Matthew 10:34 says "Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" and could easily be reinterpreted as a call to arms by some unscrupulous extremist preacher.
Now, please don't misinterpret what I'm saying - I'm not arguing, as so many do, that terrorists "Are not Muslims", as that would be committing the No True Scotsman fallacy. Nor am I necessarily going to argue that these ideologies are a "perversion of Islam". They are what they are, and I'm not enough of a scholar in Islamic theology to ever argue anything else.
What are we fighting?
There's a long answer and a short answer to this question, and the short answer is that we're fighting the same foe that has threatened western civilisation, in various forms, since its inception:
First it was the Church (remember this because it's significant), then it was the Monarchies, then it was Fascism, then Communism and now it's Islamism, out to destroy our freedoms, our way of life, and plunge us into the dark ages. Western civilisation has been struggling against those who seek to control us since the renaissance.
The ideologies that have underpinned totalitarianism have changed throughout history - first it was Christianity, yes, Christianity, underpinning the absolute authority of the Pope and later the Kings, then it was faith in the supremacy of the white race that underpinned those murderous regimes of the 1930s, then it was almost religious devotion to Marxism that allowed for billions to be subjugated and enslaved behind the iron curtain - but what hasn't changed is that whenever and wherever there are people who become so convinced of the correctness of their ideology that they refuse to consider any other viewpoint (which, by the way, is the true meaning of the word 'bigotry' for the benefit of those who level that charge against me), there will be those who seek to create totalitarian 'utopias' based on these ideologies.
Which of course brings me back to Islam. The preferred term to describe the violent, radical form of Islam that is attacking the west is "Islamism" or sometimes "Jihadism" which are perfectly acceptable terms.
What I would seek to emphasise is that there are certain strains of Islam that promote this violent, totalitarian ideology - namely Wahhabism (also known as the Salafi movement, and the ideology underpinning both the Saudi regime and ISIS), Qutbism (the ideology that inspired Osama Bin Laden and most of the Taliban) and Khomeinism (an extremist form of Shia Islam that borrowed ideas from Marxism and the ideology underpinning the Iranian regime).
What I would like to remind readers of, and it's something I'm always conscious of when thinking about Islam, is that New Zealand does not live far from the world's largest Muslim nation - Indonesia. We're also in the general vicinity of another constitutionally Muslim country, one which even has Shariah law within its judicial system, and a country who we're so friendly with that we've defended them in wars - Malaysia.
I would ask you how many problems have we have had with South East Asian Muslims - how many acts of terrorism against the west have they been involved in?
Sadly, the answer isn't "none" but it's "far fewer than the Middle East, enough to be negligible by comparison", and in all of these cases, the governments of the respective nations have acted swiftly to apprehend and condemn those responsible, the general populace condemn these actions and there is absolutely no question whatsoever over whether or not the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia sponsor terrorists. Terror attacks in South East Asia could really be considered analogous to race riots in the west, or the good old fashioned All-American high school massacre. They are invariably rare and isolated incidents.
In the Middle East, it's another story.
I don't need no civil war
Islam in the Middle East is effectively in the grip of a civil war, a massive cultural struggle analogous to Christianity in the renaissance.
On one side are the totalitarians and the theocrats - that is ISIS, Iran and Saudi Arabia or to put it a better way, the Wahhabists, the Khomeinists and the Qutbists. This group control most if not all of the governments in the middle east. On the other side are the hapless minorities, and the moderate Muslims who are quite happy to live in a secularised state because they've realised it's the 21st century. Such a struggle will not end in our lifetime - these things take centuries.
If you'll permit me to make a crude comparison, Wahhabism - the primary doctrine of ISIS - is much like Puritanism. It began as a small, fringe cult that would have died out in the desert in the 18th century had it not been for the ruler of a local town, Muhammad ibn Saud, who saw the doctrine's potential to be used to solidify his power. If we fast forward two centuries, this is the same "Saud" whose family now rule the eponymous Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is an especially brutal form of Islam because not only does it target non-Muslims, but its primary target is in fact Muslims - anyone who disagrees with the doctrine of Wahhabism is considered an apostate who should be executed.
While Americans probably think of the Puritans as poor, meek, oppressed people cruelly chased out of Europe, those who studied the history of England will know that the Puritans were in fact a bunch of violent, totalitarian, genocidal maniacs and their exile was absolutely justified. The Puritans, like Wahhabists, believed that Christianity should be taken literally and those who fail to do so were heretics who deserved to die. Like the Wahhabists who have a particular grudge against Shia Muslims, the Puritans main target was also other Christians - particularly Catholics. The conquest of Ireland, for example, was seen a crusade against Catholicism and led to some of the worst atrocities ever committed in the world at the time.
Just as the Puritans did not represent all Christians, and indeed committed most of their crimes against other Christians, so too must we realise that Wahhabists do not represent all Muslims and commit most of their crimes against Muslims.
If we are to talk about how we are going to prevent Islamist terror attacks in the west, we need to begin with our disastrous interventions in the Middle East.
By the way - this was happening years before Blair and Bush came bumbling along. As far back as World War I, Britain and the US have intervened in the middle east to protect their oil supply, and in many ways this continues to be the fundamental reason behind our continued involvement in the region (and it's why, for example, when the deadliest war since World War II occurs in Africa the west are nowhere to be seen, while in Syria and Libya and Iraq the west are jumping over themselves to intervene).
The Iranian Revolution might not have happened had the west not been propping up the monarchy, allowing Islamic fundamentalists to borrow from Marxist ideas on class struggle to convince the working and low middle classes to revolt against the establishment and set up a theocracy in its place.
ISIS wouldn't have happened if we'd stayed out of Iraq - surely we can all see that by now.
Saudi Arabia, surprisingly, has gone in the opposite direction - for decades it was a Wahhabist dystopia, which used oil revenue to spread what was once a fringe doctrine to other parts of the middle east (in fact since 1978 they've funded the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs in the US, which is designed "to grow an unassimilated, aggressive population of Islamic supremacists who will gradually but dramatically alter the character of the West"). This changed in 1990 when suddenly the Saudis felt threatened by Iraq, and asked for the US to intervene - angering the fundamentalists (including one Osama Bin Laden) and turning them against both the US and the Saudi regime. It's important the remember this when trying to dissect why a nation that funds terrorism and brutalises its own citizens would maintain an uneasy friendship with the west.
Western intervention is undeniably a factor in Islamist terrorism - without it, terrorism would mostly be Muslims killing Muslims - and it's also one of the reasons why we're so easily able to be guilted into accepting refugees.
The Fifth Column
You see there's an elephant in the room when it comes to Islamist terrorism and the relationship it has with immigration - and it's one of the reasons why a travel ban isn't going to be the magic bullet that we on the right want to think it will be.
That elephant is the fact that the vast bulk of Islamist terrorists aren't immigrants - they're citizens of the countries they attack. This has certainly been true of almost every recent terrorist attack in Europe.
As one scholar noted, one of the most common themes among Jihadis is that of displacement - they are almost always the children or grandchildren of immigrants and refugees, and usually they are relatively recent converts to Islam, sometimes triggered by a traumatic event in their life such as the loss of a loved one, or a poor socio-economic status.
To paraphrase Boris Johnson, most Jihadists are literally sexually frustrated wankers (there's actually a surprising link between Islamic terrorism and the distribution of child pornography), and most of them also tend to be unemployed, drugged up losers.
In fact I can tell you anecdotally that a man my age who used to work in my local dairy was arrested for distributing ISIS propaganda recently - and what surprised me about this incident is that he did not, in the time I knew him, come across as an Islamic fundamentalist or even as being particularly religious. What I did know about him was that he was almost constantly high on drugs. Despite Islam banning its followers from using drugs or alcohol, drug use is something very common among Jihadis.
Nevertheless, I think we should be very worried about the fact that its the children of refugees who are the biggest perpetrators of terrorism - and it's something we should be thinking about very carefully when talking about "raising the quota" - or indeed about accepting refugees at all.
Multiculturalism has been a multi-failure
We're now reaching the part of the article in which I return to more familiar ground - that is, angering the left.
When we consider the factors that I've alluded to throughout this piece - that is, that the Middle East is in the midst of a struggle between theocracy and secularism (and in which we don't know who is who), and that we're being killed by our own kindness where refugees are concerned, we have to start asking ourselves how 'multiculturalism' is working out.
I posit that it's not working at all - and believe it or not, this is actually a fairly recent thing for me. As I said at the beginning of this article, I'm usually a pretty cosmopolitan guy, and in fact I find it quite boring when people are all the same.
I'm a civic nationalist - in that I believe in preserving and protecting our national identity not on the basis of race, religion or even language but on the basis of values. (I should note that in this context I'm talking about the new world - Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada - where Britain is concerned I'm more of a nationalist in the the traditional sense of the word.) But there is something I need to emphasise in that sentence: Preserve and protect.
When we let in migrants from nations and cultures that will not integrate, that do not share our modern, pluralistic, liberal, secular values, when we let migrants in from Wahhabist, Qutbist, Theocratic regimes, we are not preserving or protecting our values. It is a fact that people from these unenlightened countries breed at a higher rate than we do, and will pervert our democratic system to implement tyranny in accordance with their values.
This is why there are areas in the UK that have been declared to be under "Sharia" law. This is why there are demands in large migrant communities not only for halal meat to be available but for non-halal meat to be banned. It is why we are seeing large migrant groups who refuse to acknowledge the legal authority of the country they're in and who hurtle abuse at non-Muslims.
This is not going to be popular but it's the truth: It is absolutely impossible for two cultures to co-exist. You must either accept our culture - that is a culture of secularism, pluralism and liberalism, or we must be forced to accept their culture - theocracy, tyranny and shariah. But the two cannot exist side by side - eventually one will triumph over the other and when we consider that we are outbred, outgunned and refusing to acknowledge there is a problem - my money is them being the winners. These are two cultures that are mutually exclusive - because exclusivity cannot exist within inclusivity.
Enoch was right. Trump was too.
I was never a big fan of Trump's proposed 'Muslim ban' (as the mainstream media so crudely described it) during his Presidential campaign, but as with most of Trump's views, the devil is in the details.
Not all Muslims are incapable of integration into western society - I've already used the examples of Indonesia and Malaysia. The latter in particular is one of the most multi-cultural countries I've ever known, yet it's also Muslim majority and enforces (only on its Muslim population) Sharia in its family court system (though in spite of being officially Islamic, in practice it's a very secular system).
In fact I'd hate a blanket Muslim ban because it would deprive me of being able to know some of the best people I'd ever met - and further help me to understand aspects of an often maligned and misunderstood faith.
But that doesn't mean I'm not willing and fully supportive of a travel ban against those specific nations who fund terrorism, support terrorism, or have large sections of the population supporting those forms of Islam that are completely incompatible with our values.
A travel ban is the only thing we haven't done yet, and unfortunately I see no other choice.
We are at war
Whether or not we like it, we are at war. We are being invaded. We are being conquered.
The extremists have declared war on us, and ignoring them does not mean we are not at war. It merely means we are surrendering. If China declared war on us tomorrow, and we refused to take up arms, refused to acknowledge it and pretended it wasn't happening - would it go away? It most certainly would not!
If this was Britain in 1941 and it was the Nazis we were facing, do you think it would a good idea to be letting Germans into our country? Remember not all Germans are Nazis - most are good and decent people and it's only a minority committing the terrible acts of violence and atrocity.
Of course it's not a good idea - because in a situation like that, you don't know who you're letting in, other than that you're letting in possibly decent people ruled by a regime that wants to destroy you.
The same is true of most of the middle east - these are mostly good and decent people, but they are ruled by regimes and ideologies who fundamentally want to destroy us. Security is only common sense. We have to pull up the drawbridge, we have to get tough, and we have to abandon our suicidal immigration policy.
And I'm sorry - but yes, that means the refugees too. The fact that the Muslim world is unwilling to accept to accept Syria's refugees does not make it our burden - our people must come first and our security must come first. We've all been shocked by images of dead children, but if we don't start taking our national security seriously, it'll be our dead children next.
There is a civil war going on between secularism and theocracy in that part of the world - and we don't need it spilling out into our part of the world.