Dhimmi, dhimmi, smiling damn’d dhimmi
The Rt. Hon. Chris Patten, the European Union’s External Relations Commissioner, is ready to acknowledge that there may indeed be a clash of civilizations going on “” but of course, it’s the West’s fault. He engages in every kind of moral and theological equivalence, trashing the West’s history while exalting Islam’s. Of course, he never deals with the theology and legal structure of jihad and dhimmitude, which threatens the West today, and for which there is no parallel in Western religious traditions.
Part of Patten’s problem is that he seems to think that one cannot and must not fight a moral evil if one can be convicted of any evil in turn. But that would have made it impossible for Britain to resist Hitler; the Nazis could and did point to the sins of British colonialism, hoping to steal the moral high ground. They couldn’t, because the society they built was objectively evil, regardless of the sins of others. Of course the West should clean house, but becoming a conglomeration of Sharia states is not the way to do it. Both reform and resistance can and should be undertaken.
From a speech he gave last Monday at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, with thanks to John Eibner:
If Samuel Huntington were a share, he would today be what market tipsters call a strong buy. That is bad news, because the clash of civilisations, which he predicted in his essay for “Foreign Affairs” in 1993, at the moment casts a gibbet’s shadow over the prospects for liberal order around the world. Depressingly, witlessly, we have to a great extent shaped our own disaster-in-waiting. …
Oh, to have been the publisher of Professor Bernard Lewis, sage of Princeton. I admit to a personal debt to his scholarship. I have enjoyed, and I hope, learned from a number of his books.
But I have started to worry as I read on from “What Went Wrong?” to “The Crisis of Islam” that I am being carefully pointed in a particular direction, lined up before the fingerprints, the cosh, the swag bag and the rest of the evidence. “Most Muslims”, he tells us in “The Crisis of Islam”, “are not fundamentalists, and most fundamentalists are not terrorists, but most present-day terrorists are Muslims and proudly identify themselves as such”. Well, yes – and it’s a sentence that resonates in parts of the policy-making community in Washington. But what if I had tried a similar formulation on some of these same policy makers just after the IRA bombed Harrods in London: “Most Catholics are not extremist Irish republicans, and most extreme republicans are not terrorists, but most terrorists in Britain today are Catholic and proudly identify themselves as such”. I suspect that it is not a sentence that would have increased my circle of admirers in America, not because it is wrong but because it is so loaded with an agenda. Anyway, what we have been taught is that there is a rage in the Islamic world – in part the result of history and humiliation – which fuels hostility to America and to Europe too, home of past crusaders and present infidel feudatories of the Great Satan. Clash go the civilisations.
There are many ways of coming at this issue, but I wish myself to be rather prosaic. I will not therefore deal with the religious arguments, leaving them to retired archbishops and other distinguished theologians, only noting in doing so that according to a “Sunday Times” survey in January, more Muslims attend a place of worship in the UK each week than Anglicans. …
Oh! Well, in that case they have the moral high ground!
As for the present religious, ethnic or civilisational nature of our European club, there are probably about 12 million Muslims living in Western Europe, approaching four million in France, two and a half million in Germany, one and three quarter million here. Their religion is the fastest growing in the world. They practice it in Europe in a union of nation states formed out of the bloody wreckage of the 20th century. Our recent history of gas chambers and gulags, our Christian heritage of flagrant or more discreet anti-Semitism, do not entitle us to address the Islamic world as though we dwelt on a higher plane, custodians of a superior set of moral values. Our prejudices may be rock solid but our pulpits are made of straw.
What of this Islamic world which allegedly confronts our own civilisation? It is sometimes forgotten that three quarters of its 1.2 billion citizens live beyond the countries of the Arab League, in for example the democracies of Malaysia, Indonesia and India. Asian Muslim societies have their share of problems, not least dealing with pockets of extremism, but it is ludicrous to generalise about an Islamic anger engulfing countries from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific shores.
If we focus on a narrower range of Arab countries – the Magreb, the Mashreq, the Gulf, the countries in the cock-pit of current struggle and dissent – what do we find? In 2002, the Arab Thought Foundation commissioned a survey by Zogby International of attitudes in eight countries – Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. They questioned 3,800 people and their results confirmed other similar if not identical surveys, for example by the Pew Research Centre. What is pretty clear is that, like Americans or Europeans, Arabs are most concerned about matters of personal security, fulfilment and satisfaction. Perhaps it is a surprise that they do not appear to hate our Western values, and their cultural emanations – democracy, freedom, education, movies, television. Sad to say their favourite T.V. programme is “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Other survey evidence underlines this point about the most significant values. The Second Arab Human Development Report published in 2003 – I shall return to its predecessor later – quotes from the World Values Survey which shows that Arabs top the world in believing that democracy is the best form of government. They are way ahead of Europeans and Americans, and three times as likely to hold this view as East Asians.
There is not much sign of a clash of values here. The problem seems to be rather simpler. The Arab world does not mind American and European values, but it cannot stand American policies and by extension the same policies when embraced or tolerated by Europeans. So the Arab world holds very negative opinions of the United States and the United Kingdom (even while holding, according to the same survey, positive views about American freedom and democracy). Why is the U.K. in this pit of unpopularity? Partly I suppose because of what we are seen to do, and partly because of what we are silent about. I don’t know how widely St Thomas More is read in Arab lands but “qui tacet consentire videtur” is true everywhere. Perhaps it cheers us to discover that France comes best out of these surveys, scoring very positive ratings, as do Japan, Germany and Canada.
Of course, Patten plumps for Palestinian rights, with apparently no awareness of the fact that many decent people have been soured on this issue by the relentless suicide bombings and targeting of civilians.
The treatment of the Palestinians is one of four areas of policy where the approach we pursue in America and Europe could abate or exacerbate Arab hostility, and build rather than burn bridges between the West and the whole of the Islamic world. …
He also so thoroughly misunderstands the causes of terrorism that I wonder if he has ever read a single communique from Osama bin Laden, a single line of the Qur’an, or any other pertinent material:
Today”s terrorism by Islamic groups, able through the advance of technology to shatter civilised order through terrible acts of destruction, seems closer to the anarchists than to the gun-toting politicians, for instance the ones I myself know best who were notorious for their ability to carry both a ballot box and an Armalite. The ideas that sustain Usama Bin Laden and those who think like him, not all of them the members of a spectacularly sophisticated network of evil, but nonetheless fellow-believers in a loose confederation of dark prejudices, can hardly be dignified with the description of a sophisticated political manifesto. They do not travel far beyond the old graffiti “Yankee, Go Home”. But they do represent a form of political, social and cultural alienation, which we should seek to comprehend.
Etc. etc. etc. Ultimately, you see, it all comes down to Western policy. If we would just be nicer to them, if we would just give them what they want, all this terrorism will stop. Alas, Neville Chamberlain thought that too. Maybe sometime, somewhere, during the Ottoman conquests of Christian land after Christian land, some forefather of Chamberlain and Patten thought so too, and ventured out boldly to make a deal with the invaders. If so, his name is not recorded for history “” such a man would only have ended up dead or numbered among the humiliated, anonymous dhimmis.