As a naïve and ignorant adolescent, growing up in the 1950’s and crouching under the newly developed nuclear threat, I read both Tolkien’s ‘Hobbit’ and his ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. In my anxiety and ignorance, I read into them the story of the gallant, truth-seeking, democracies of the West pitted against the evil hordes of Soviet Orcs and Easterlings. Watching Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” over the Christmas holiday, an altogether different analogy came to mind. For more than a century, while the sleeping dragon of vengeful Islam continued to slumber, the greedy dwarves of the West became ever more intemperate in their attempts to get their hands on its treasure.
The dragon hardly stirred until the Jewish colonisation of Palestine. Even then, it took decades of xenophobic military occupation and increasingly in-your-face, Jewish, sectarian fundamentalism, before the secular resistance of the PLO started to give way to the relatively moderate religious inspiration of Hamas and Hezbollah. Only in the last couple of decades has it become obvious that the dragon has opened one of its eyes. Amply aided by continued goading from the dwarves, it is already destroying Muslim societies. Now, a wise and generous lullaby is urgently called for lest the dragon fully awakens and in doing so, awakens other dragons to reveal humanity’s full potential for immoderate and even nuclear violence to the despite of all God’s creation. With Jews and Christians sharing the frenzy, the current situation could easily get completely out of hand.
After a terrorist attack such as that on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, millions of voices are raised in the West blaming the brutality and blood-lust of Islam. After such a murderous event, it is reasonable to question the extent to which the attack was politically, rather than religiously motivated. On the surface, it would appear that the trigger motivation of the Kouachi brothers was religious. Nevertheless, it is worth questioning the extent to which religious belief provides the justification and comfort for ‘holy warriors’ risking death, and the extent to which their motivation is political.
In the Charlie Hebdo incident, the brothers, who carried out the executions, offered both reasons; a religious command from Al-Qaeda’s South Yemen franchise (complete with assurances of a martyr’s reception in Paradise) and a political awakening as a result of the West’s war crimes in Iraq. There is nothing unusual in this. From hundreds of reports, it would appear that the religious motivation and justification for terrorism is almost invariably preceded by a sense of political injustice and grievance. If western leaders are to successfully protect their societies from this type of crime, they will have to take heed of this fact, and modify their conduct of international affairs accordingly. Currently Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine/Israel, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Mali, Sudan and Nigeria are all Islamic countries, which, if they have not already failed, are experiencing a sufficient level of violence to make their failure foreseeable. Had Israel and its Washington allies had their way, Iran would have been added to the list – and Netanyahoo is still trying hard.
The sum total of past and on-going human suffering involved in these states being brought to their current unhappy condition, is incalculable. Other than brief interludes in the Balkans and now Ukraine, the western world has had no recent experience of the like. The disasters that have befallen these millions of suffering humans can all be traced directly to past and present decisions made by the leaders of the Western alliance.
The religiously inspired Islamic terrorist is a relatively recent phenomenon. Militant Islamism is an ideology of which the immediate parent is not the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet, but the brutal mistreatment of the Islamic world by western nations. Arab acts of terrorism and guerrilla warfare against the Ottoman Turks, Palestinian terrorism against the British and then the Zionists, Algerian terrorism against the French, were all politically, rather than religiously inspired. While Islam provided a common identity across multiple anti-colonial conflicts, it was not in itself the cause, or the justification for the violence.
The root causes of Islamic political terrorism stretch back to the European colonization of Egypt and the Maghreb in the nineteenth century. However, it was the First World War and the great deceits of the then imperiled British and French Empires, which set the process on its current lamentable course. Britain, in its life and death struggle for survival, did what it believed it had to do to survive. One of those things was to screw Hussein bin Ali, the last Grand Sharif of Mecca and his sons.
With Lawrence of Arabia as its chosen and deeply ashamed mouthpiece, Britain promised the Sharif and his sons an independent Arab nation with Damascus as its capital. The price was that they should shed Arab blood to help Britain liberate the Arab populated territories of the Ottoman Empire. The Arabs duly allied themselves with the British and shed their blood with a vision before their eyes of a unified Arab nation that stretched from Syria in the North, through Iraq and Palestine, to the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The poor, betrayed Sharif, kept repeating to his doubting followers “you can trust the British to keep their word.” (For those interested, the best biography in years, is Scott Anderson’s 2013 “Lawrence of Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the making of the Modern Middle East.”)
Unfortunately, as needs must in time of war, Britain also made other promises. Its leaders sold Tower Bridge several times over. Without telling their Arab allies, in order to keep their French allies staunch, they promised France (as part of what was gleefully termed ‘the grand loot,’ due to be realised on the impending breakup of the Ottoman Empire) the whole of Lebanon and Syria.
At the same time, Britain, with the Balfour declaration, promised the Jews, a national home in Palestine. The motivation, given the strength of Jewish influence in the USA, was to buttress the USA’s commitment to war against Germany. Furthermore, it was hoped that Balfour’s Declaration would win the support of the many Jewish intellectuals clustered around Lenin in Russia’s newly formed revolutionary government. Britain was terrified that Russia might make a separate peace treaty with Germany. Britain saw an existential threat: Germany, no longer obliged to fight a war on her eastern front, would be able to massively reinforce the armies facing Britain and France on the western front.
In addition, Britain, the world’s greatest naval power, was converting its warships from coal to oil. By the end of the Great War, control over Arab oil was seen as being every bit as important to Imperial Britain as control of the Suez Canal. Control entailed that Iraq should become a British protectorate, rather than part of a greater, independent Arab nation. The Maghreb was firmly under French occupation and Egypt, with its canal, remained under British control. South Yemen had to be retained as a bunkering station for British ships en route for India. As no oil had yet been found in Saudi Arabia, that impoverished expanse of desert was all that remained for the promised unified and independent Arab nation.
Since that time, with America joining and ultimately leading the western powers, interference in Middle Eastern politics by the so-called Christian (and one would-be Jewish) nations, has been continuous. In recent times the running sore has been Israel’s egregious breaches of international law and the pretence of its leaders to seek peace while in reality seeking, by duplicity and force of arms, ever further territorial expansion at Arab expense. A key aspect of Israeli strategy in this respect, has been the mobilisation of Zionist sympathisers and fifth columnists in Europe and the USA and the devotion of its other considerable resources towards the promotion of disharmony between its Muslim opponents and the western powers.
To demonstrate the point of the legitimacy of Islamic grievance, it is worth looking at a rough score-card of the interaction between Islam and the West since WWII. (Something along the lines of the celebrated ancient Roman scorecard from the amphitheatre – “Lions twenty: Christians nil.”) My crude listing below is by no means exhaustive and the statistics are very rough and ready. The tone of their inaccuracy was infamously set by General Tommy Franks, as Commander US Central Command (the whole of the Middle East) talking about dead Afghanis “We don’t do body counts.”
- Algerian war of independence: probably around 50,000 dead French, including civilians v. around 1,000,000 dead Muslims
• Russian invasion of Afghanistan: 15,000 Russian dead v. 1,000,000 Afghan dead
• Israeli war of independence & subsequent Israeli wars with its neighbours and its native population: approx. 25,000 Israelis v. 95,000 Arabs (this gives no indication of Arab suffering with more than 700,000 expelled from their homes during the cleansing operation that Israel carried out on declaring its independence.)
• Iraq / Iran war with Iraq, inspired, armed and aided by the US: no western casualties v. approx. 500,000 dead Muslims.
• First Gulf War (“Desert Storm:”) about 300 dead western troops v. 20,000 dead Iraqis.
- Sanctions against Iraq: no western deaths v. around 500,000 Iraqi children; of disease and malnutrition. US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright stated – it was “worth it.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM0uvgHKZe8As
• Second Iraq war: about 5,000 dead allied troops v. about 500,000 Iraqi deaths.
- US and NATO invasion of Afghanistan: about 5,000 invading troops v. up to 100,000 Afghans
• NATO assault on Libya: no NATO casualties v. at least 15,000 Libyans and a failed state with on-going casualties in the resultant civil war.
• Somalia: UN intervention for 2 years -50 dead UN troops v. a total of over 500,000 Somalis for the extended period of the civil war that followed the collapse of European colonial rule and the US intervention that started in 2007.
• The current Syrian war: no western deaths v. 200,000 Muslim deaths – and rising.
For every death there are many more injured and crippled and, in many cases, multiples of refugees and displaced families. The above tally is approx. 10,000 Western deaths to approx. 4.43 million dead Muslims – and multiply that number by anything up to ten times for the injured and the displaced. As the West chooses its battlegrounds, these wars are all fought on Islamic streets. All the material damage rests there and many of the deaths recorded are as a result of starvation and disease, rather than kinetic injury. Other, than the odd act of terrorism, western property and civilian populations have been largely immune from this Western (Christian and Jewish) initiated carnage.
The odds don’t seem to have shortened that much since Kitchener destroyed the Mahdi’s army at the battle of Omdurman in 1898. The score that glorious day, with Maxim guns against spears and swords was 47 British dead v. 10,000 dead dervishes.
I have omitted from the above tally the millions, (approx. half of whom were Moslems, who died on the British arranged partition of India (1 million dead and 15 million refugees) the massacres of Bosnian Muslims by Christian Serbs and many other minor conflicts such as Aden’s independence, the Dhofar insurgency and the current drone wars being waged by the USA. The only counter-event that springs immediately to mind, in which Moslems killed Christians on a large scale, was the US encouraged Indonesian assault on the East Timorese with the possible loss of between 90,000 and 200,000 Christian lives.
Needless to say, with all that Muslim death and suffering resulting from Christian and Jewish actions and duplicity, there is a vast reservoir of Muslim resentment against the West. This inspires acts of terrorism against Western nations, which are entirely politically motivated.
However, when people find their backs against the wall, they tend to look for a common identity and ideal to inspire their resistance. In these circumstances it is not hard to find an irrational inspiration in religious belief. This Islamisation of resentment and resistance has been greatly helped by the West’s attempts to promote and use Islamic fanaticism as a weapon against its secular foes. Hence the Mujahideen, who fought the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan, were trained, armed and encouraged by the USA, with the Saudi Arabian government providing funding and the ideological backbone. Israel’s nemesis, Islamist Hamas, started life as a Mossad undercover operation designed to offset the potency of Arafat’s secular Palestine Liberation Organisation. Hezbollah, the only Moslem force that has been able to successfully resist the Israeli Defence Force, started as a peasant militia fighting to expel Israeli invaders from their Lebanese lands and being forced to emphasise their Shia identity in order to gain the support of the Islamic regime in Iran.
This tendency, when under pressure, to fall back on a religious identity is not limited to societies of Islamic persuasion. It is also apparent in latter-day colonial Israel. The initial Zionist settlements and Israeli governments were secular and Jewish nationalist in character. The Jewish terrorists, who first cleared out the British and then the native Arabs, were politically motivated, rather than inspired by religious fanaticism. As Israel has become increasingly isolated from the West and in ever greater need of social cohesion in its attempt to preserve its ill-gotten gains, it has placed increasing emphasis on religious adherence. Nowadays, it is not only mullahs that use scripture to inspire violence. There are also rabbis who claim that the killing of gentiles and their children conforms with the Jewish religious code. https://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/2.209/west-bank-rabbi-jews-can-kill-gentiles-who-threaten-israel-1.4496 Religious penetration of what was once a secular Israeli Defence Force, proceeds apace.
The waging of asymmetrical warfare, terrorism and guerrilla tactics are perfectly rational responses to oppression and injustice inflicted by hugely superior forces. From such rationality, it might seem a vast leap to the irrational madness of sectarian murder and ethnic cleansing. The sad fact is that for the human genome, when faced with extreme pressure, the step from rationality to being tipped into violent religious frenzy is rather short.