I just read some awful diatribe about how the West and Islam can never co-exist peacefully. Horsefeathers, I say. They can coexist just fine. We just have to do our due diligence in telling the difference between immigrant assimilation issues, geopolitically-fueled crimes, intolerant views held by a minority, and actual clashes of civilization.
I want to look first at the notion of Muslims somehow being less tolerant of other faiths than those other faiths are of Islam. In Spain in 1492, the rulers there began a set of policies that would eject Muslims and Jews from Spain. Hardly a symbol of Western tolerance – and it was Muslim nations, such as the Ottoman Empire, that welcomed in the Jewish population. The Jewish track record in the West pretty much stinks, really, what with ghettos and the whole Holocaust thing. Christian denominations within Western nations didn’t fare so well, either. Protestants, Reformed, and Catholics alike committed massacres of the pacifist Anabaptists during the religious upheavals of the 16th and 17th Centuries. My own ancestors fled the United States in the 1840s and again in the 1890s because of religious persecution. They were Christian, but the USA seemed determined to deny them a right to practice their faith as they saw fit to do so.
And lest this become some argument for atheism, let me level the intellectual cannons at that lot. Atheism in the West is simply intolerant of all faiths and, like the religions they criticize, will cannibalize its own dissenters if they don’t hold fast to a consensus view. Atheism in the West is not a movement that liberates people from group-think: it rather introduces a new paradigm for rejecting others based upon a set of beliefs. They’re no better than any other group that uses a supposed proof to justify persecution of anyone that does not agree with said proof.
No, the true salvation from religious intolerance is to practice a mature faith that realizes each person is free to make choices, even choices that disappoint us. We must practice a mature faith that allows for others to find their own ways. We must practice a mature faith that seeks to find out what common ground we have with others, and not to discover fighting grounds.
I, a Christian, walked through a mosque and a Hindu mandir with a Muslim and a Hindu at my side through both experiences. I felt the faith being expressed in both locations. I have visited the places of worship of other Christian denominations and have been moved by their expressions of faith. Though I may not worship in the same way, do I not seek the same peace that they all seek? In our devotions, we are taught the need to love others and to strive to bless their lives through our deeds. The same is taught in the Quran, though it may deny Jesus’ divinity. The same is taught in the Bhagavad-Gita, thought it may not have arisen out of the Southwest Asian monotheistic traditions. There is much more in our faiths that is alike than that which is different.
History shows that man can be cruel, but history also shows that man can be compassionate. It all depends upon our choices.
So, wherefore the existence of these conflicts? How to explain the terrorism and the lack of integration of Muslims into European societies?
Let me start with the matter of integration: integration does not happen in segregated environments. When people are free to move in and out and among society freely, families integrate over the course of roughly three generations. Put another way, allow for 75 years to integrate a wave of immigration. Looking at blacks in the USA, they were not really allowed to begin to integrate until around 1950, which puts us now in the third generation of their internal immigration experience. While not many people are shocked by interracial marriages in 2015, such things were forbidden in 1961, when JFK refused to allow Sammy Davis, Jr. to appear at his inauguration on account of his being married to a white woman.
Muslims in Europe have a difficult time integrating because of how they’ve largely been confined to ethnic neighborhoods and in the ways that they’ve faced legislation designed to keep them from participating fully in their host society. When Algeria became independent from France, for example, France then terminated the veterans’ benefits and pensions for all Algerians that had served in the French army during WW2, even if those Algerians lived in France and were French citizens. If Muslims have a hard time of integrating in Europe, look to the racism of the powerful before condemning the clannishness of the weak.
But even eliminating those racist laws will not be an immediate panacea. The three-generation process begins at that point. If the USA is any guide, there will be upheavals, riots, assassinations, murders, rapes, and anguished national questions all along the way. Our answer to those questions need not be a “final” answer, as the Germans reached for in the 1940s. It can be the more difficult answer of tolerance and decency.
So, on to terrorism. Here, I would also point a finger at the men in charge of the powerful nations. In the 1950s through the 1980s, NATO nations and nearby neutral European nations had “stay-behind” programs. These were under the umbrella of Operation GLADIO, and these groups were built up to offer partisan resistance to Soviet forces, in the event of a Warsaw Pact overrunning of Western Europe. These groups were made up largely of men that feared Communists most – many former Nazis and fascists either joined or were recruited for GLADIO teams. Once formed, groups like the CIA saw them as assets that could be used to help steer public opinion away from leftist political movements. The GLADIO groups would commit acts of terrorism and the state would then quickly blame Communists for them, causing public outcry – and a shift in electoral preferences. Anti-terror laws in those nations never focused on the actual perpetrators of the terror, but on supposed enemies of the state. While the USSR had its KGB and rather frank matter of dealing with its dissidents, the NATO nations preferred to frame their dissidents or have them die while in police custody.
As the USSR dissolved, the narrative in the West shifted from a question of whether or not it could avoid a clash of civilization with Russia and instead replaced Russia with a notional form of Islam that suited the narrative. The tolerant Islam as practiced by most Muslims around the world had to be discarded in favor of characterizing it as some sort of evil empire that hated the West. “For its freedoms,” ironically. Radicals that happened to be Muslim fit the bill nicely. Why no radical Buddhists or Hindus? Such radicals exist, but because they’re not in areas of geopolitical importance, the West had no need to rile them up.
Note that, when radical Muslims were busy destroying Russian or Russian-backed forces, they were 100% Official Friends of the West. When Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was blowing up T-72s in and around Kabul, the West praised him as a freedom-loving Mujaheddin. When the deal to build a US-backed pipeline across Afghanistan fell through, he became a dirty rotten terrorist. The plans to kick him and his Taliban out of power in Afghanistan were already underway in 2001 when the events of 11 September happened.
The same can be said for Chechens that want to rip into Russia. Those guys constitute a “moderate opposition group” to Assad in Syria, even though they’re foreign fighters that are there to acquire experience, equipment, and allies. They’re going to go home to roost in Russia, so the CIA has had no problem providing them with arms, along with the Turks and Saudis. That the Boston Marathon bombers were Chechen has been largely glossed over in the US media, the more to focus on their being aspects of evil Islam. Were we to make the Chechen connection, it would be much harder to use those forces to overthrow Assad in Syria.
Which brings me back to the GLADIO story: the USA and its allies are arming and training the radicals in Syria. Saudi Arabia is full of organizations that exist to radicalize people. We’ve known about the Saudi radicalization since the 1990s, and the Syrian operation is the latest in a string of operations that saw the USA and its allies arm extremely violent groups in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. When violence from those groups arrives in Western nations, how much of that is orchestrated by the state, in order to keep driving the public demand for more limitations on its freedom in the name of national security – which measures serve only to perpetuate the power of those at the top, not to protect the people from the thugs that kill indiscriminately.
“Clash of civilization” is merely a line of propaganda that suits the needs of the powerful. Should China arise to threaten the West, then I would expect a resurrection of “Yellow Peril” propaganda and a sudden realization that Muslims really are our friends, as evidenced by all those freedom-loving Muslims out in Western China, struggling mightily against the dictatorship there…
By the way, between the invasion of Tibet and Nixon’s visit to China, the USA did sponsor radical Buddhists as they committed acts of terror against the Chinese authorities. The USA did so through the CIA and the brother of the Dalai Lama. When Nixon wanted better relations with China, the aid drops to the Tibetan terrorists suddenly stopped. We now see Buddhists popularly as a bunch of vegetarian pacifists, even though there are some Buddhists that would kill their own mothers if it would get them gain in the world. If it ever suits our needs to target Buddhists as a threat to justify authoritarian legislation in the West, the Buddhists will be targeted, make no mistake.
So, in conclusion, people in general want to live in harmony, even if we have different ways of believing. It is our curse to have leaders that use the radicals that will murder to get gain in order to further their own illicit gain. Those radicals have had different ethnic backgrounds and political views, but they are united by their love of murder, making them – and their political masters – the true common enemy of the West.