Monday, July 02, 2007

Terrorist Threats in the UK and possible causes

The Bishop of Carlisle, The Right Rev. Graham Dow, has argued that the recent floods in the UK are God's judgment upon immoral society, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

"The bishop, who is a leading evangelical, said that people should heed the stories of the Bible, which described the downfall of the Roman empire as a result of its immorality.

"We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate," he said.

"In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want," he said, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws highlighted its determination to undermine marriage.

"The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance."

He expressed his sympathy for those who have been hit by the weather, but said that the problem with "environmental judgment is that it is indiscriminate".

The West is also being punished for the way that it has exploited poorer nations in its pursuit of economic gain. "It has set up dominant economic structures that are built on greed and that keep other nations in a situation of dependence. The principle of God's judgment on nations that have exploited other nations is all there in the Bible," he said.

He urged people to respond to the latest floods by turning away from a lifestyle of greed to instead live thinking of the consequences of their actions."

Gay members of the Church of England on Sunday expressed their outrage.

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association called Dow a "bronze age primitive".

The fallacy of this kind of thinking is that there is always a reason for disaster. As far as the recent terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow are concerned, perhaps there is. Johann Hari in the Independent, points out that

"a few hours before the first car bomb was discovered, a contributor to the chatroom on the Islamist al-Hesbah website wrote: "Today I say: Rejoice, by Allah, London shall be bombed." He gave his reasons for the murder plot he was clearly involved in: the Iraq war, and - just as important - the honouring of perhaps our greatest novelist, Salman Rushdie.

The choice of target - a nightclub on Ladies' Night - is also revealing. When a similar gang plotted to blow up the Ministry of Sound in 2004, they talked about their desire to burn alive the "slags dancing around".

This is a reminder that the bombers are not only blowing back against the worst in our system of government: the torture and chemical weapons in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and our support for Arab dictators. They oppose the best in our system of government too: the intellectual freedom to write novels that question religion, the sexual freedom of women to pick their own partners.

When I receive my own tedious drizzle of jihadi death-threats, they always mention my homosexuality long before they get round to my views on foreign policy. Their jihad is a war against free women, gays and novelists, as well as a war against occupation.

On all fronts, the solution lies not in abandoning the values of liberal democracy, but in adhering to them much more scrupulously. If we restrain our leaders whenever they try to violate our values by using torture, or chemical weapons, or by arming tyrants - indeed, if we put them on trial for it - we will choke off the more obvious blowback.

But that's not enough. We also need to unpick the totalitarian ideology of jihadism by democratically opening up Islamic theology, so that over a generation, fewer and fewer young men can convince themselves they are "good Muslims" when they murder innocents.

At the moment, there is an epic battle going on within Islam between jihadi literalists and those Muslims (disproportionately women) who want to reinterpret the Koran to make it compatible with modernity. This is a horrifyingly lop-sided fight. The literalists are lavished with cash from the Saudi Arabian monarchy: their mosques are flooded with petrodollars, their imams are trained in Mecca, they receive piles of poisonous textbooks free of charge, and they are even given British government cash to run their own schools. The liberals, by contrast, scrape by with almost no funds at all.

We need to reverse this situation by banning the Saudi money designed to fundamentalise British Islam, and instead lavishing government cash on the brave Muslim women's groups sprouting across the country. Free, independent Muslim women will raise their children with liberal readings of the Koran incompatible with blowing up "slags" or novelists.

The French government has just begun to do this, with the President, Nicolas Sarkozy, appointing the heroic Muslim feminist Fadela Amara to devise his strategy for the banlieues. But our government is failing to stop the Saudi poison because we are addicted to the oil they pump our way. As in Iraq, it seems that securing petroleum trumps undermining fundamentalism every time.

Until we complete this slow work of whittling down blowback and opening up Islam, we could face a car park full of car-bombs - and we may not be so lucky next time."

Yasmin Alidhai-Brown calls upon all sane ordinary Muslims to stand up and be counted. She concludes:-

I am not naive. Islamicists are cunning and well-connected. Their backers pretend to believe in liberal democracy while plotting its demise. But there are now passionate Muslim democrats standing up to be counted.

Imran Ahmad, young trustee of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, writes in Unimagined, his evocative memoir: "I have had great opportunities and choices. There still is racism in the indigenous society, it's undeniable ... but [compare] Britain to all those so-called Islamic countries, where tribalism is endemic and anything is used as an excuse for discrimination, hatred and mistreatment: village, clan, family, sect, province, class, money, gender, occupation, even shade of skin. At least Britain is committed to implement the highest ideals - personal freedom, social equality, human rights and justice."

With friends like these, Britain can beat its enemies within. Have faith; a time will come when jihadis will terrorise our lives no more.

1 comment:

Simon Barrow said...

Have a look at my post "Change within Islam and well beyond" (FaithInSociety) on Sunday, July 08, 2007. The problem is that both Hari and Alibhai-Brown have a certain kind of secular perspective (not the only one available) which assumes the superiority of their own outlook in a far too easy a way. The problem of religious violence and terror is definitely a religious problem, and needs to be faced within religious traditions as such. But it is also a real problem within secular liberal democracy (as John Gray's 'Al-Qaeda And What It Means To Be Modern' shows). Until both problems are owned in dialogue, it will remain a case of moats, beams and prescriptions for 'the other' to get their house in order (while ours is, of course, basically fine), I fear.