All or nothing at all

There is a difference of opinion in the West regarding whether or not we are
in a war with Islamic extremists only or with Islam as a religion. Those who
believe that Islam is basically a religion of peace like other “good”
religions (usually meaning Christianity) tend to emphasize that terrorism is
carried out by a few disaffected individuals, who do not represent the
peaceful “moderate” majority, or who regard the world-wide phenomenon of
violent demonstrations, such as those over the Danish cartoons, as not really
representative of Islam. Those who think otherwise tend to blame the
characteristics of Islam as distinct from other religions, and see the
terrorism and violent demonstrations as representative of the whole of
Islamic culture.
Who is right? I wish it were easy to say, but at this point I don’t think
anyone can supply a definitive answer. I tend towards the latter argument,
namely that the phenomena of violent Islamic actions as manifested by
terrorism, beheadings, kidnappings, demonstrations, etc. are intrinsic to
Islam as a whole. Believing this tends to make one expect a “clash of
civilizations” between the West and the Islamic world. In this respect
Islam is seen not merely as a religion, but more as an ideology, a
blueprint for taking territory and expanding power. It is in this respect
that the extremists can be seen as the vanguard of the Islamist revolution,
much as the Communist Party was the so-called “vanguard” of the
proletarian revolution.
Let’s face it, Islam is not compatible with democracy, not so much as far
voting, but with the concept of the right of the individual, the right of
minorities, the right to dissent, and the human rights of dissidents. Their
reaction is to destroy anyone who disagrees with their God-given opinions.
“Allahu akhbar” – God is great, shout that and you can do anything.
In his watershed book, “The End of History,” Francis Fukuyama argues that
there has never been a war between two democracies, so that when all the
world is made up of democracies, there will be an “end” to history as we
currently know it. He gives Turkey as the example of the fact that Islam
is not inconsistent with democracy. But, Turkey is a special case, because
Kemal Attaturk, the “father” of modern Turkey, saw that the West was
advancing much faster than the Islamic world, and he made Turkey into a
secular state. And while the current Government of Turkey is led by a
quasi-Islamist party, in order to be elected and to rule in Turkey they have
had to toe the secular line. So Turkey is not a good example to choose to
show that democracy and Islam are compatible, and in fact Fukuyama
acknowledges that the Islamic world is one of the current exceptions to
his conclusions.
So if Islam cannot develop “true” democracy within a reasonable time frame,
and that seems very unlikely, then the possibility of a “clash of
civilizations” is highly likely. In that respect the experiment in Iraq,
looms large as a test case, but it is likely to flop in the long term.
If so then we are probably doomed to a further round of warfare.
Of course, there are several qualifications to this thesis, mainly what will
Iran do, and how will the West react. If Iran does indeed become externally
aggressive, and does threaten the West (as it has already threatened Israel)
then this may exacerbate the situation. But, also Russian actions, not
necessarily consistent with those of the West, might also complicate the
situation. So while I think there is likely to be a clash as a whole between
Islam and the West, how and when it will come about remains to be seen.
At least we should be prepared for it, rather than delude ourselves into
thinking that apart from a few misguided terrorists we are invulnerable.


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