Saturday, March 16, 2019

They're Not Just Attacking Mosques, Synagogues and Black Churches - Their Real Target is Us, You and Me.

Author Ed Husain explains why the mosque massacres in Christchurch, New Zealand are part of a tag-team campaign targeting free, secular and tolerant societies. They're after you and we all need to understand what they're really up to.
We now face a new threat to our open societies. Yesterday's purely evil terrorist attack in which at least 49 innocent worshippers were killed at their mosques was the latest horror perpetrated by far-Right racists.

...The threat our societies face is so great because it is a twin danger: a deadly combination of far-Right fascism and Islamist extremism. They feed and need each other. This is not about any particular organisation, an al-Qaeda or an IS, or a Combat 18 or a Ku Klux Klan.

These groups are only tactics for a much larger strategy. Behind these organisations is a narrative, a world view, a vision of the future and a deadly commitment to pursuing their ideologies. With their global movements, they radicalise each other. And we won't defeat either of them without understanding this. 
First, they both seek revenge for crimes against "our people". The lead bomber for the July 7 2005 terrorist attacks, Mohamed Siddique Khan, proclaimed in a Yorkshire accent, addressing Brits at the height of the Iraq war, that "until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people, we will not stop this fight". Osama bin Laden claimed to avenge Palestine. The killer in New Zealand gave explicit reasons for his attack: "To take revenge for the thousands of European lives lost to terror attacks throughout European lands." And this revenge is not devoid of a wider strategy. 
Second, through their revenge based on racial and religious identities, they reinforce supremacism and separatism for a much greater purpose. IS released a 10-page document in 2015, which praised the September 11 terrorist attacks and the surge in terrorism in France that year, and said that "the time had come for another event to bring division to the world and destroy the grey zone".
The "grey zone" is pluralism of peoples and peace. Similarly, the terrorist in New Zealand was direct in his reason for violence: "To agitate the political enemies of my people into action, to cause them to overextend their own hand and experience the eventual and inevitable backlash as a result." They both seek to end the harmony of humanity. 
Third, they both abuse history by connecting their present crimes to an imagined past. Islamist extremists seek a religiously pure caliphate: white supremacists call for a racially pure continent. They both recall the crusades. "What would Pope Urban II do?" asked the mosque murderer. The killer had got blessings from the "Knights Templars", he claimed. But they ignore today's realities: Pope Francis visited the UAE last month, held an open-air mass for the first time in history in Arabia, and signed a treaty of peace and co-existence with Islam's Sunni leaders.
Fourth, they both hate the modern West. Al-Qaeda railed against capitalism and targeted the World Trade Centre in 1993 before succeeding in its evil in 2001. Islamist extremists from Syed Qutb onwards have attacked our individual freedoms. The Ariana Grande concert attack in Manchester in 2017 was an attack on the liberty of the individual to choose his or her own form of entertainment.

The killer in New Zealand explained his aim to "eventually destroy the current nihilistic, hedonistic, individualistic insanity that has taken control of Western thought".

Our twin enemies are not madmen. They are driven by a purpose bigger than themselves and ideas that we must not underestimate. They have support bases online and in an underworld that may not be readily apparent to our eyes. But for the security of our families, our countries and our civilisations, we must renew our pledge to the prosperity and freedoms that underpin modern civilisation.


Rural said...

As the author says I am not sure that we can blame this 'threat to our open societies' on any particular group but I see the general attitude of intolerance spreading far beyond any religious undertones Mound. One only has to follow our own political rhetoric, both provincial and federal, to see an ever increasing amount of unsubstantiated rhetoric from not only the politicians and their 'operatives' but much of the media and 'other' commentators. Intolerance begets intolerance!

The Mound of Sound said...

It has become dangerously toxic, Rural. Your comment brings to mind a post from last Sunday on an article in The Economist discussing how to fix democracy. The author, a Harvard law prof, outlined the four elements of a stable democracy:

"DEMOCRACIES DEPEND for their stability on four things. First, well-functioning institutions. Second, the delivery of good or at least decent outcomes for most citizens. Third, norms of reciprocity and forbearance. And fourth, certain character traits among both officials and citizens. While the four are closely connected, the last is the most fundamental."

The fourth element he defined as "grace and virtue" in public discourse. He quotes Lincoln. "We are not enemies, but friends ...again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

This has given way, he argues, to a divided society in which "citizens see the forces of good as pitched against the forces of evil. In such societies, the only real question, asked about essentially everything is this: Which side are you on?"

At the time you pointed out how that breakdown operated in the Trump and Ford administrations and, of course, it does. Social cohesion bends and then breaks under the weight and we are all left weaker, more vulnerable for it.

Over the years I've written how fearmongering has become the preferred weapon of the right used, ironically, to stoke anger, distrust and bigotry among their own followers. Contrast that with FDR's speech in the wake of Pearl Harbor where he told the American people, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

In today's Canada where a party can form a majority government with 39% support of the electorate, fear becomes a very powerful tool for the political caste. They don't give a dam for how deeply they fracture society so long as they get just enough support, one way or the other.

Rural said...

Yes, I read that article and await with interest the remaining articles in his series. I myself am having increasing difficultly in writing without becoming highly intolerant of those who themselves show little empathy of opposing views and so am reducing my online presence for my own peace of mind!

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, I do understand your frustration. I keep writing only until I can find a better vehicle for expressing my discontent.

Anonymous said...

Of the 4 things listed, Mound, I'd say the second, delivery of good or at least decent outcomes for most citizens, is the most important. There is considerable social science research correlating income inequality with the other factors listed. The preponderance of wealth in the hands of a few people causes the breakdown of institutions as they refocus from the general welfare to the interests of the few. Same goes for rising lack of empathy and lack of virtue.

We see this quite clearly in the college admission scandal in the US. Rich people are no longer satisfied with the way college admissions are generally rigged in favour of their children. Elite prep schools, marks inflation, access to prestigious "volunteer" opportunities, endowments, legacy admissions and so on don't always guarantee entrance to the best schools.

No, the rich may talk about getting what they have through hard work and merit, but that's nonsense. They have so little faith in those concepts that they're willing to pay handsomely to fraud artists who guarantee that their little cretins will get in. They give no thought at all to the disadvantaged kid who busted butt for top marks and who will lose their seat to darling Biff or Buffy. And worse, neither do the elite universities, who see only the lure of financial gain and don't give a damn that their names are associated with ignorant and malignant asses like Trump, Kushner and Kavanaugh.


The Mound of Sound said...

When it comes to inequality you're preaching to the choir, Cap. I've been moved by two books I keep close to hand: Joe Stiglitz, "The Price of Inequality," and Wilkenson and Picket's, "The Spirit Level." Piketty's "Capital" is another but it's a bit of a slog and I'm not sure when I'll finish that.

Inequality is a major stressor, given. Yet we are embarked on a century of destabilizing stressors that we've not known in the postwar era.

Anonymous said...

Should the far-Right win, they would then come after those who don't think the way they do. On and on it will go.