Monday, 16 November 2015

Teetering between rage and reason

How to come to terms with Friday's obscenity in Paris? The base human instinct is anger - to lash out at the perpetrators and their sympathisers. Smash barbarism with barbarism. I found myself overwhelmed by feelings of rage. This filth should be crushed with extreme vehemence. Then I quickly pull myself up - no, this is not the way - these are the very same emotions that drive the jihadists against our civilisation.

One must not stoop to their level.

So what is the way? The most important question in our daily lives (I write from West London, not from Warsaw where Islam is a somewhat more distant and abstract concept) is how to relate to the Muslims that form part and parcel of the towns and cities in which Britons live.

On the one hand, there are observations. My father , 92, says that Muslims will be first to offer their seats to him whenever he travels on a crowded bus. And I recall at Christmas one year waiting at Tesco, watching a man shake a tin for a local hospice. The only people I saw putting money in were Muslims. The Muslim girl from Marks and Spencers that helped me sort out the catering for my mother's funeral was helpful and polite. So where's the problem?

The problem is that 100% of the terrorist outrages that we are currently witnessing are caused by Muslims. Not Christians, nor Hindus nor Buddhists nor Jews nor Scientologists. Murderous attacks claiming innocent lives in Paris, Sinai, Tunisia, Mumbai, London, Madrid, New York, not to mention the almost-daily carnage witnessed in Baghdad or Kabul - all carried out in the name of Islam. Sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite is claiming the lives of thousands of ordinary people each year, people going about their day-to-day business as the people of Paris were doing last Friday.

What is it about Islam that makes it so easy to weaponise the religion? After all, there are Jewish, Christian and Hindu fundamentalists that are also out-and-out nutters and yet they do not slaughter innocent people or blow themselves to pieces. There must be something intrinsic in the way the teachings of the Koran can be interpreted that enable disaffected worshipers to perform such inhuman acts upon people with a different world view to their own.

The worrying thing for Britons and French people living cheek-by-jowl with Muslims - seeing them in their streets each day, sharing public transport with them, shopping with them - is not being able to see into their souls, to tell whether they are kind, generous-spirited people or potential suicide bombers.

Before 9/11, the sight of Arab women dressed head to toe in black with just a slit for the eyes as they walked from Marble Arch to Oxford Street was slightly comical. After 9/11 it became sinister.  Just as young men with long beards and long shirts overhanging baggy trousers today look sinister. Especially if carrying rucksacks.

They represent a different outlook to life, they represent something that native-born Europeans do not naturally feel comfortable with. And just as women can say that the way certain men behave make them feel uncomfortable, so British people should be allowed to say that they feel uncomfortable about Muslim women in burqas or Muslim men with long beards - without being labelled racist.

The French Republic's insistence on secularity, imposed at a time of revolutionary fervour on Catholics, touches Muslims' religious affinity greatly - headscarf bans in schools, for instance. Here, in Britain, tolerance of religious displays is far greater. Here on the streets of West London, one sees many Muslims looking as though they take their religious precepts very seriously. (North London's ultra-orthodox Jews are a parallel, although once more I'd stress that they do not commit acts of terrorists violence in Europe.)

The social media makes much play of the moderate Muslim hashtag #NotInMyName. It would be comforting to Europeans living in areas with large Muslim populations for those moderate Muslims to make their moderation more visible to others. Why aren't they doing more to display their loathing for the extremist murderous ideology that taints their religion? To show that they identify more closely with the values of their host population than with barbarous fundamentalism? To show that they are intolerant of intolerance?

By not doing so, the host population's feelings of discomfort rise.

But by wearing, say, a white badge saying #NotInMyName, would moderate Muslims mark themselves out as potential targets for those members of their community with more radical views? Should moderate Muslims respond to these terrorist outrages by choosing to wear more western garb, abandoning headscarves and shaving beards, so as to visibly distance themselves from the extremists?

And what about the Bangladeshi bloggers hacked to death in the streets because they were promoting secularism... These attacks worry me because they defy the narrative that 'only ISIS-radicalised Muslims take lives'. No, these are simply haters who flew off the handle, unable to contain their rage because someone had cast doubt on the authenticity of the word of God as handed down through the Koran.

Seeing Salafist preachers in Birmingham last year, who had set up a large platform in a busy shopping street from which to proselytise passers-by made me ponder what would be the fate of Christians trying to do likewise in Islamabad.

We read in the media about the 'preachers of hate'. These are certainly the extremists, and no doubt they are being very closely monitored by Britain's security services. Hearing Scotland Yard say that six terror attacks have been foiled in the past 12 months raises people's confidence. Increased security budgets will do doubt be spent on recruiting and training Muslims to keep watch on their communities.

As yet, the UK has not witnessed any backlash against Muslims here following the Paris terror attacks. Reason seems to be rising above rage, at least for the present.

For Poland, ISIS is a distant threat, whereas the Kremlin is the greater worry. Not having a Muslim community of any significance, and not ever having colonised any Muslim country, Poland's only ISIS-related worry is to do with having to accept tens of thousands of refugees from the Middle East, courtesy of the EU. The Paris attack will change the discourse on this issue in Poland dramatically.

These refugees are, of course, mostly fleeing ISIS. The scale of bloodshed being visited upon Iraq and Syria by ISIS is vastly greater than what we've seen in Paris. Ordinary people living in Raqqa and other towns overrun by ISIS, fearing for their lives, are seeking refuge - and a better life - in Europe.

Poland has had to accept its quota of these refugees. As we saw in Paris, among these refugees may be ISIS murderers. The least Poland can do is to very carefully profile those it takes in, on a points-based system, giving preference to non-Sunnis, families with children, women and the elderly - those less likely to participate in terrorism in other words. Psychological screening - understanding the refugees' motivations and worldview from in-depth interviews - should also be used.

Finally, to put Paris into perspective. A quarter of a million civilians were killed during the 63 days of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, with 40,000-50,000 civilians being slaughtered between 5-12 August in the district of Wola alone (see Wola massacre). Less than a year later, the evil ideology that had motivated this barbarism had been totally crushed, while today the German nation is alive and well. The Nanking Massacre, in which Japanese troops slaughtered up to 300,000 Chinese civilians in December 1937-January 1938 was a foretaste of the barbarism and inhumanity visited upon the Far East by Imperial Japan. It took two atomic bombs to restore Japan to the path of civilisation.

ISIS are not people with whom the civilised world can hold a meaningful dialogue. Peace talks - like the ones that resolved the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland - make no sense when the enemy holds such irrational views. Militarily, ISIS needs to be crushed in Syria and Iraq. But across Europe, moderate Muslims need to take a long, hard look at where their loyalty lies. As I wrote the other day, my mother took a solemn oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen when she became a naturalised British Citizen nearly 60 years ago - and she kept that oath for the rest of her life. And the British State was good to her. Muslims should demonstrably swear their allegiance to the British State. Should they not wish to, they may migrate elsewhere.

This time last year:
Poland - it works!

This time two years ago:
Bricktorian Birmingham

This time four years ago:
Fog hits Modlin Airport

This time five years ago:
The local elections and what they mean

This time six years ago:
Synchronicity of shape - Powiśle, Hanger Lane, Mel's Drive-In

This time seven years ago:
The last of Jeziorki's noted landmark - the Rampa na kruszywa

This time eight years ago:
Jeziorki spared high-density development thanks to airport zoning


AndrzejK said...

Part of the problem is that the Sunni and Shia options do not have an overall spiritual leader who would condemn the idiots and fools and point out that their reward will not be 70 houris or however many they are promised.

And the West must start insisting that to live in Europe or the USA is to accept the overriding tenets of the Judeo (in reality Greek) - Christian philosophy.

Anonymous said...

I think that the problem is more geological than theological, the West's dependance on oil being key motive for all players, also, the mix of ethnicity, nationalism, ideology and death cults is a rather heady one (as Poland knows to well). But to exclude the first two would be to oversimplify the matter.

As for - Christian philosophy. - are talking about the abolition of wage slaves?