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Tony Blair’s “arc of extremism”


by Sunny on 4th August, 2006 at 3:23 am    

Tony BlairI used to think it was just the US President who was stupid and our Prime Minister was simply being sucked into his agenda. It seems that whatever Bush has, it is infectious. At least on foreign policy.

In a speech on Tuesday Tony Blair said we “must rethink” the war on terror. He also introduced a more silly phrases like “arc of extremism” and “how do we empower the moderates to defeat the extremists?”.

Yeaaaaah…. there’s only one problem you see. Tony Blair doesn’t know they are and how to differentiate between them. In fact his understanding of Middle Eastern religious politics is so bad that it took a former diplomat to point out the obvious:

To lump together the Taliban, al-Qaida, Hizbullah and Hamas under the heading “reactionary Islam” is oversimplification to the point where it interferes with the facts. The description of what is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan as “battles between the majority of Muslims in either country who wanted democracy and the minority who realise that this rings the death knell of their ideology” might just pass in an army recruitment pamphlet, but not as serious conversation between consenting adults.

And that doesn’t even include his stupidity over Lebanon - first saying Israel needed time to sort out Hizbullah and then panicking after the Qana bombings to say he wanted an immediate ceasefire.

Sid says his comments represent a sliver of light, at least in recognition that he has screwed up in the past.

Blair’s political capital has long dwindled into the red with the Muslim world community. It was Iraq that sealed that account for good. But he has more to worry about from his own back benchers than the opinions of Muslims (as if it were ever otherwise), especially if the deplorable and criminal ‘War on Lebanon’ continues to throw his qualities into sharp relief.

Agreed, but I think Sid is being optimistic. Blair said many things that illustrate that his brain hasn’t properly comprehended reality. For example:

Still now, I am amazed at how many people will say, in effect, there is increased terrorism today because we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. They seem to forget entirely that September 11 predated either. The West didn’t attack this movement. We were attacked. Until then we had largely ignored it.

And let’s not forget we helped build this nihilistic movement thanks to all the funding for the mujhadeen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But anyway, CuriousHamster sums it up perfectly:

The logic of Blair’s claim is that the attacks of September 11th predated our response and that our response cannot therefore have made the situation worse. Have a think about it. He’s effectively claiming that because September 11th happened, nothing we now do could possibly cause an increase in terrorism . It’s just ludicrous. Every time he says it, the correct response is to point, laugh, and then worry that the leader of our country actually appears to believe his own logic defying nonsense.

Our Prime Minister admits that the use of force alone has not solved anything in the Middle East and yet he continues to… support the use of force to resolve land issues. Great! We’re all in trouble.



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65 Comments   |  


  1. Amir — on 4th August, 2006 at 5:02 am  

    Oh dear…

    To lump together the Taliban, al-Qaida, Hizbullah and Hamas under the heading “reactionary Islam” is oversimplification.

    Oversimplification? I don’t think so. The idea that the following strains of nihilistic Islam are ‘reasonable’ or ‘civilised’ or ‘misunderstood’ is simply not true. Islam is an impressive religion, which engenders a powerful and often very moving faith in its adherents. Islam’s appeal, wherever it has triumphed, has been in its simplicity. It requires submission to some basic, straightforward rules which are easily kept, and in return it offers that most wonderful and rare commodity, peace of mind.

    The ideologies of Hamas, al-Qaida, Hezbollah and the Taliban, by stark comparison, are vile by the most rudimentary yardstick of human decency. Osama bin Laden is a kind of pseudo-intellectual, with a rough theory of history and a highly reactionary desire to restore a lost empire. But he negates even this doomed, pseudo-Utopian project by his hysterical Puritanism, which bans even music and which of course would deny society the talents of women as well as driving out anyone with any culture or education.

    Hezbollah’s ideology is based in the Shia tradition of Islam, specifically in the concept of Willayat Al-Faqih put forth by Ayatollah Khomeini. Hezbollah seeks to set up an Islamic government in Lebanon modelled after the one in Tehran. Their leader frequently describes Jews as apes and pigs, octopuses, rats, Nazis, cannibals and blood-suckers. He speaks approvingly of genocide against the Jewish race. And continues to do so. It’s his objective. It is his career. It is on his resume. Let us be very clear about that.

    Hamas says that it wants an Islamic state all the way from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. It publishes and promulgates the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Why not assume that it is at least partly serious about all this? A significant number of Palestinians are at least nominally Christian and have traditionally voted for leftist and secular parties: In recent years their centres of population in towns like Nazareth and Bethlehem have come under increasing pressure to conform to Islamic Republic rules. Just recently, the leader of Hamas on the Bethlehem City Council has announced his party’s intention to impose the al-Jeziya as soon as it was strong enough to do so. This is the tax, sometimes called the dhimmi or ‘unbeliever’ tax, that is levied on all those who will not profess that there is one god and that Muhammad is his messenger.

    A very large element of the Left and of the isolationist Right is openly sympathetic to the bad guys in this war, and wants it to win. This is made very plain by the leadership of the ‘anti-war’ movement, and also by George Galloway when he heaps praise upon the hate-filled fascist Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. To many of these people, any ‘anti-globalization’ movement is better than none.

    With the Right-wingers it’s easier to diagnose: they are still paleoconservatives at heart and they think war is a Jewish-sponsored racket. With the Left, which is supposed to care about secularism and humanism, it’s a bit harder to explain an alliance with woman-stoning, gay-burning, Jew-hating medieval theocrats. However, it can be done, once you assume that American imperialism is the main enemy.

    I have my differences with Blair… but not on this.

    Amir

  2. Amrevis — on 4th August, 2006 at 6:41 am  

    Blair is wrong as usual. There is no arc of extremism as such. In fact the extremist are everywhere, they are not confined to one area like the Middle EAst.

    There are extremists in UK, in India, in US and elsewhere, who in the name of religion are ready to blow up innocent lives.

    Isreli action in Lebenon will solve part of the problem, but what about the extremists within Western cities, what is beind done to neutralize them. Maybe the Israli forces should be invited into Europe as well to do the job.

  3. Katy Newton — on 4th August, 2006 at 8:33 am  

    Did you know that the Iranian president called for the elimination of Israel yesterday, Sunny?

  4. Chairwoman — on 4th August, 2006 at 9:33 am  

    Do you really believe that the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict is a land dispute?

  5. Chairwoman — on 4th August, 2006 at 9:37 am  

    My mistake, of course it’s a land dispute, I forgot, Hezbollah wants some Israeli land, it’s called Israel.

    Forgive my previous woolly thinking.

  6. Bert Preast — on 4th August, 2006 at 9:50 am  

    “And let’s not forget we helped build this nihilistic movement thanks to all the funding for the mujhadeen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan”

    In our eternal quest to find how every single problem in the world can be blamed on the western democracies, this one often crops up. It’s bollocks, of course. Pakistan and Iran were the major backers of the mujhadeen, we just chucked them a few Stinger SAMs.

  7. Jagdeep — on 4th August, 2006 at 10:02 am  

    Another great post by Amir.

    It always strikes me that those who complain about people like Blair ‘oversimplifying’ these conflicts need to turn their criticism not only to him, but to the many many Muslims who oversimplify everything in stark divisive manichean terms according to a division of the world between Muslim and non Muslim. In other words, in Leeds, Birmingham and London, Muslims plotting to kill English people because of what is happening in Palestine, or those who can see how they ‘have a point’, or those who promote this kind of thinking and division, are displaying a form of dementia and collective derangement.

    The Muslim organisations in Britain all engage in this oversimplification and victimhood. I’m not saying you are wrong about Blair, but you only give a partial picture if you dont take into account how Muslims oversimplify themselves.

  8. sonia — on 4th August, 2006 at 10:30 am  

    amir if you’re going to use terms like ‘ Willayat Al-Faqih’ you ought to explain it - why refer to it otherwise> Do you imagine all people if any will understand that or should understand it? Please Explain it in ENGLISH!. Shades of pseudo-intellectualism.

  9. CJC — on 4th August, 2006 at 10:33 am  

    Agree - another excellent post from Amir.

    God save us from these oh-so-clever “former ambassadors” and their languidly elegant public-school anti-semitism. Was it not equally obvious to exactly the same kind of establishment figures that the European situation in 1938-9 was far more complex than the “army recruiting” rhetoric of that simple-minded Mr Churchill.

    And as for Sid’s comment on the “Muslim world community” - what is that exactly? Sunny, I thought that one of your major beefs was that there was no such thing, and that the government, media etc. should stop behaving as if there was?

  10. sonia — on 4th August, 2006 at 10:40 am  

    for once i agree with Indian Capitalist/Amrevis on something - there isn’t an ‘arc’ of extremism - ha its everywhere.

    People who’re so convinced they are right about their beliefs (religious or not)they don’t mind in carrying them out if lots of people die in between -shame about that- but the ‘right thing’ must be done. like Tony, amongst others. Doesn’t matter if person who died didn’t like it - why its for a ‘good cause’.

  11. sonia — on 4th August, 2006 at 10:48 am  

    “It requires submission to some basic, straightforward rules which are easily kept, and in return it offers that most wonderful and rare commodity, peace of mind.”

    this makes it sound like a straightforward transaction - and this is where it all falls down - there’s no such thing. an extremely simplistic view that religion is beneficial if one follows the rules - which frankly is nonsense - and the sort of thing preachers everywhere have tried to get the masses to believe.

    it’s spot on to peace of mind is a ‘rare commodity’ - precisely, following some rules doesn’t ‘offer it’ just like that.

  12. Leon — on 4th August, 2006 at 10:52 am  

    Maybe the Daily Mail is right!?!

    Many people have expressed unease that when Tony Blair goes on his freebie summer holidays the country will be left in the fumbling hands of John Prescott. Bearing in mind the Deputy Prime Minister’s brutish character, this is an understandable point of view. Yet, to judge by Mr Blair’s behaviour over the past week, I would rather have Mr Prescott in charge. He is at least sane.

    The greedy, junketing Tony Blair with his eye on the main financial chance one can just about handle, though it is a particularly unpalatable pill to swallow when British soldiers are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the Mr Blair who has totally lost his bearings on the international situation that is truly frightening - the Mr Blair who believes that he, and only he, holds the key to the world’s problems.

    Indeed, in his address to Mr Murdoch’s executives last Sunday, Mr Blair referred to his ‘complete inner self-confidence in the analysis of the struggle we face’. If it were needed, this preposterous statement was apparent proof of an almost psychotic state of mind. An absolute insistence that one is correct in every respect, when many others take a different view, is commonly taken as a sign of madness.

  13. sonia — on 4th August, 2006 at 10:55 am  

    For once, the Daily Mail’s said something sane. that last bit - “An absolute insistence that one is correct in every respect, when many others take a different view, is commonly taken as a sign of madness” is one heck of a good point.

  14. sonia — on 4th August, 2006 at 11:00 am  

    never mind the ‘MUSLIM community’ i think blair’s done a good job of alienating almost everyone. Labour’s suffering as a result and we’re probably going to end up with a Tory govt. next thanks to him.

    In any case - ignoring the parabola of extremism -oops the arc whatever - ( axis of evil in different terminology) the other interesting part of what Blair was upto in the US - visiting Arnie and making some ‘climate change’ deals - with Arnie declaring he doesn’t need to wait for federal government. Very interesting. ( and deals struck with stem cell research companies..)

  15. sonia — on 4th August, 2006 at 11:03 am  

    right well hopefully Tony will call for an immediate ceasefire :

    http://politics.guardian.co.uk/foreignaffairs/story/0,,1837297,00.html

  16. Bert Preast — on 4th August, 2006 at 11:14 am  

    Whatever we think of Bush at least he’s a straight talker. “axis of evil” - there it is, a direct referral to the facist threat in WW2.

    “arc of extremism” is just spin. More of Blair searching for soundbytes that won’t offend anyone. It’s meaningless crap.

  17. Bert Preast — on 4th August, 2006 at 11:15 am  

    Leon - don’t panic. Blair’s just cancelled his holidays so Prescott is still pointless.

  18. Leon — on 4th August, 2006 at 11:34 am  

    Damn, if it’s a choice between two shags and a war mongering fuckwit I know which one I’d want in charge.

  19. Ravi Naik — on 4th August, 2006 at 11:51 am  

    To lump together the Taliban, al-Qaida, Hizbullah and Hamas under the heading “reactionary Islam” is oversimplification.
    Oversimplification? I don’t think so.

    It is a gross oversimplification, and I am afraid that mixing and bluring them creates more problems than solve them. Or did you forget how the war on Al Qaeda got to Iraq?

    I have a problem with your characterisation of the Left and the anti-war movement. First of all, I think most of us will agree that Galloway is a clown and an opportunist, and he is the only politician that I know of that was openly sympathetic to Saddam. That you mention him as some sort of poster child of the left is not honest in my view.

    And it goes both ways, Amir. If your argument is that being anti-war equates to supporting woman-stoning, gay-burning, Jew-hating medieval theocrats, then one can say that those that support the war are for murdering civilians and children and destroying Arab cities. And I am sure if you read carefully what is written here, you will understand why people are against Israel’s methods against Hezbollah.

  20. Sid — on 4th August, 2006 at 12:31 pm  

    CJC

    And as for Sid’s comment on the “Muslim world community” - what is that exactly? Sunny, I thought that one of your major beefs was that there was no such thing, and that the government, media etc. should stop behaving as if there was?

    The “Muslim world community” I referred to is spoken of exactly in those terms by the Foreign Office in the TimesOnline article I mentioned in my post.

    There might be no such thing as a “Muslim world community” or there might be. We know Tony Blair believes there is such a thing o/w he wouldn’t be waxing about “moderate and Reactionary Muslims” and the awfully phrased “arc of terrorism”.

    It is the same band of humanity referred to by Axis of Evil. You can’t use these terms hubristic terms to refer to swathes of humanity in one instance and recoil from them in other. Consistency man!

  21. Sid — on 4th August, 2006 at 12:55 pm  

    Peter Wilby in da house:

    Well, it’s good to have that straight. Many thought it unkind to compare the Blair-Bush policies in the Middle East to the medieval crusades. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Blair believes he is engaged in a holy war, even though he reckons this is true only of the other side. No wonder, with the stakes so high, he won’t listen to Labour members, backbenchers, ministers or foreign-affairs advisers. Or even his own past words. “We could have chosen security as the battleground,” he said in Los Angeles. “But we didn’t. We chose values.” Forget what he said about WMDs; strike it from the record.

    In full:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1837059,00.html

  22. Kismet Hardy — on 4th August, 2006 at 1:19 pm  

    David Bowie, Madonna, Kylie et al must be crying knowing they’ll never win the greatest re-inventionist award.

    First he becomes Tory, now he becomes American. Forget the Thin White Duke, the Fuhrer Blair is on his way

  23. Sunny — on 4th August, 2006 at 1:52 pm  

    I can’t be asked to respond to Amir line by line, it’s the same old hyperbole.

    Chairwoman - Where exactly did I say that Hizbullah is a nice and cuddly organisation that is just worried about land. I said the situation in the Middle East was essentially about land, unless you think Israel and the rest are locked in a clash of civilisations - which I don’t. Neither did I say that just giving Hizbullah a bit of land will solve the problem. However I do say that the current strategy will exacerbate it and and I stand by that.

    There seems to be this assumption that just because we’re criticising Blair’s policy in the Middle East that it means we don’t care about the actions of Hizbullah, Hamas or the Iranian President. It should be a given by this point that I have nothing but absolute disgust for all of them and consider them nothing less than murderers that should be obliterated. That is a given. There is no point playing up the mad and ineffectual rantings of the Iranian President because he knows that any form of attack will lead to a few hundred bunker-busters in Tehran and that’ll be the end of him.

    See also this:
    The war in Lebanon is stoking anger against the United States across the Middle East and the Muslim world, even among those the United States views as allies or potential allies, from Iranians who are critical of their government to Iraqi leaders who rely on US support.

    Here in the Iranian capital, opponents of the ruling Islamist clerics have been careful to distinguish their position on the war from that of Iran’s government. They have refrained from calls for Israel’s destruction, and some have suggested that the Lebanese militia Hezbollah harmed Iran’s interests by attacking Israel in the cross-border raid that sparked the current fighting.

    But these critics also have condemned Israel’s bombing campaign in Lebanon that has killed hundreds of civilians, and denounced the US government for supplying weapons to Israel and backing the Jewish state’s refusal to seek an immediate cease-fire. They place the problems within the context of what they see as decades of unfair US backing of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territory after the 1967 Middle East war.

    Some say the new war has strengthened hard-liners in Iran and across the region at the expense of democracy advocates and discredited the US call for a “new Middle East” in which American influence would bring peace and democracy.

    From here.

    Maybe its clearer now why I oppose the war in Lebanon.

    Jagdeep says:
    The Muslim organisations in Britain all engage in this oversimplification and victimhood. I’m not saying you are wrong about Blair, but you only give a partial picture if you dont take into account how Muslims oversimplify themselves.

    I agree. And I’ve never supported this west v Islam dichtomy that neo-cons and Islamists are keen to play up.

    Which is why I ask for more nuance and understanding. We have an American president who insinuated that Saddam Hussain and Al-Qaeda were in league with each other. And now we have a British Prime Minister stupid enough to believe that Hizbullah and Al-Qaeda are natural allies and can’t tell the difference between the two.

    Just because these groups are nihilistic doesn’t mean there is no reason to differentiate between them and deal with them seperately without pushing them all together. This strategy is the same as those idiotic Muslims who use phrases such as ‘the west’ to lump everyone together. It’s lazy. And stupid.

  24. Amrevis — on 4th August, 2006 at 1:56 pm  

    As usual most people in this blog are barking up the wrong tree.

    What we need to understand is that all religions in this world are equally EVIL. And the reason why there is so much bloodshed in Middle East is that people of that region refuse to become capitalist and secular. They are too mired in thier religion, unlike people in Europe or India, where dominant communities are secular. In such a situation war is the only option.

    Sonia is absolutely wrong in calling for a ceasefire. What is the use of a ceasefire which both sides will break it a moment after it is announced. We dont need a ceasefire in Middle EAst. The war must go on till forces opposed to democracy, capitalims and secularism are destroyed completely.

    All right thinking persons, whatever be their religion, must support isreal in its effort to bring democracy in Lebenon and rest of Middle EAst.

  25. Sunny — on 4th August, 2006 at 2:14 pm  

    Brendan O Neill in Spiked has an excellent article on this:

    Why are Israel and Hezbollah fighting a bloody war? It depends on which politician you listen to and which newspaper you read. According to some this is a ‘war on Israel’ by Islamofascist forces supported by Iran and Syria. Others claim it is a ‘war of resistance’ by Hezbollah, which is now apparently part of an ‘arc of resistance’ in the Middle East standing up to Western-backed Israeli aggression. Others still say that Israel’s incursions in Lebanon are the latest stage in an American grand plan to topple hostile regimes across the Middle East and replace them with US-friendly puppets. Or, if you listen to Israel itself, then this is a ‘war against terrorism’ to force Hezbollah 13 miles north of the Israeli border; if you prefer to believe Hezbollah then it is a ‘brave war’ by the guerrilla group to secure the release of their comrades from Israeli jails. Take your pick.

    All sides of the debate are trying to force the conflict into old political categories where it simply does not fit. Politicians and pundits are using the language of state, nation and citizenship to describe the 21-day-old war, when in fact there seems to be something new and dangerous going on here.

    From here.

    It isn’t surprising that Amir and others agree with Tony Blair. There is a tendency to try and fit conflicts into traditional narratives of good v evil or us v them or the ‘nihilists v the people who love freedom’ without examining what they’re saying, what they’re doing and how these things play out.

    It’s diplomacy of the stupid - “let’s chuck a few bombs and see how that works out. After all they don’t love our freedom or want freedom themselves.”

    Stupid rhetoric is part and parcel of the Middle East. It’s important to see past that. The problem is stupid rhetoric is becoming part and parcel of Tony Blair’s arsenal too.

  26. Sunny — on 4th August, 2006 at 2:23 pm  

    All right thinking persons, whatever be their religion, must support isreal in its effort to bring democracy in Lebenon and rest of Middle EAst.

    Hehe, funny man. Much as I love democracy, any mentality that smacks of “we must bring civilisation to these savages”, as the British tried in India, will only bring retaliation. The Iraq war has shown that quite clearly.

  27. Chairwoman — on 4th August, 2006 at 2:39 pm  

    Israel is not trying to bring democracy to the Middle East. Israel is trying to stop Hezbollah attacking it.

    BTW from my advanced years, let me assure you that democracy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In theory we elect representatives to Parliament, who elect a leader, who selects a cabinet to advise him, and they make wise decisions based on the wishes of the people.

    In reality, we elect people who represent the party that they belong to, who elect a leader, who selects a cabinet made up of his allies, who mostly tell him what he wants to hear, and then he does whatever he damn well pleases.

    Every 3 to 5 years we repeat this process, and regardless of which party we {s}elect, the same pantomime is re-enacted.

    And whoever we choose screws us over in their own way.

    What a pity it is that I am unlikely to be around in 35 years to see what you think of democracy then.

    Before anybody asks, no I don’t have any better ideas.

  28. Refresh — on 4th August, 2006 at 2:54 pm  

    The softening up has been going on since 2001. This is no departure from the plan then laid out as a part of the ‘Axis of Evil’ ‘War on Terror’ ‘The Long War’ ‘World War III’ and now the ‘Arc of Extremism’.

    Listening to the speeches at that massive anti-war demonstration, one thing that kept coming through was the strong links between Bush, Blair and Sharon.

    It is of no surprise that the Bush-Olmert-Blair axis is now capitalising on the softening up.

    Yesterday an ‘alert’ was issued by Giyus.org (Israel govt. supported online propaganda outfit) - to watch, share, blog a video: ‘The war against Fundamentalist Islamic Terror is a global battle that goes beyond the MidEast. Share this video clip.’

    The purpose of Giyus.org is to recruit 100,000 online warriors to push Israel’s message. Currently they seem to have 15,000.

    Two point, what hope for muslims who generally will no direct way of challenging this sort of offensive material, designed specifically to foster hatred - when they are in general constrained by access to technology.

    And similarly what hope when you have Tony Blair firmly pushing that line himself - with the backing of the most powerful armies ever to exist.

  29. leon — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:07 pm  

    It’s like a hollywood film:

    Indiana Jones & The Lost Arc of Extremism

  30. Sid — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:19 pm  

    haha
    or
    Noah’s Lost Arc of Super Furry Animals

  31. Rakhee — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:21 pm  

    Forgive me, I’m not ignorant but I don’t know as much about the issue as perhaps some people here clearly do.

    However, I would like to throw one thought in to the discussion and it stems from a conversation I was having with a very good friend of mine at dinner 2 days ago.

    One of our family friends has begun following a faith and as a result, they have become more and more distant. They hardly come out, they don’t seem to want to be involved etc etc. I don’t think it’s wrong, live and let live, but it has brought home to me the sheer power of belief.

    This then got me thinking…

    1. Religion is the cause of most conflict in the world today. Isn’t that bizarre? In theory, if you believe in God, it should bring people together, not tear people apart.
    2. People in power have such little understanding of the complexities which religion, traditions and faiths bring. More dangerously so, they pretend that they do (as I believe Tony Blair is doing in this case). This then breeds false understanding, negative knowledge and ultimately, further conflict.

    Presidents and politicians have got by for centuries bluffing their way through their careers, at the expense of other people’s lives. What on earth makes anyone think it’s all going to change now?

  32. Refresh — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:29 pm  

    Sunny, should have said earlier. Excellent piece.

  33. Amrevis — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:30 pm  

    “Hehe, funny man. Much as I love democracy, any mentality that smacks of “we must bring civilisation to these savages”, as the British tried in India, will only bring retaliation. The Iraq war has shown that quite clearly.”

    You may have a good laugh now, but you won’t be laughing when they bring their theocracy to you.
    What peaceniks in this world dont understand is that you cannot ever acheive peace by appeasing those who are anti-progress and anti-civilization itself.

    And it is also not a question of “bringing civilization to savages”. It is about saving our own civilization. The world is a very small place, especially after the technological breakthroughs of last century. So if you dont bring democracy to Middle East, then they will bring their religious bigotry to you. It is as simple as that.

    In fact, I would like to point you that the recent rise of Christian fundamentalism in US and Western Europe is a direct result of rise in Islamic fundamentalism in all parts of the world. In India too we are seeing rise in Hindu fundamentalism after every bomb blast by the Islamic fundamentalist.

    Only way to solve this circle of violence is to make democracy, capitalism and secularism the order of the entire planet. Communism and religious fundamentalism must be outlawed. Any nation that practises these evil ideologies should be destroyed.

    Israel is doing the right thing by fighting for the cause of democracy. The Israeli army is defending not only its own border but also the broders of every civilized nation in the world.

  34. Amir — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:32 pm  

    Ravi Naik [and other apologists]

    It is a gross oversimplification, and I am afraid that mixing and bluring them creates more problems than solve them.

    Let’s just say (hypothetically) that the mayor of London made a public speech about the extreme-right-wing in Western Europe, alluding to the recent successes of Nick Griffin’s BNP, Jean Marie Le Pen’s FN, the Lega Nord, Avanguardia Nazionale, Espana 2000 and the Patriotiki Symmachia. (Now, lest we forget: these right-wing fanatics hate niggers/Pakis/Jigaboos in much the same way that al-Qaeda and Company hates Jews, Christians, gays, feminists, secularists, humanists, free-thinkers, and so on.) If Ken Livingstone referred in his speech to these tinpot fascists as ‘bigoted racists’, would he – according to your delineation – be oversimplifying matters? I think not. But of course… when it comes to the Middle East, or, more specifically, Islamism, these so-called progressives deem themselves so ‘progressive’ that they align themselves with the most regressive and reactionary forces on Planet Earth. As Nick Cohen so eloquently put it:

    I can’t help but feel sorry for Mel Gibson. If only he had joined the Muslim Brotherhood or Hezbollah rather than an ultra-reactionary Catholic sect, his views on a world Jewish conspiracy would have done him no harm. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah declared that it if Jews ‘all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide,’ yet Channel 4 News bends over backwards to make excuses for him. Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, has a constitution which might have been written by Adolph Hitler, yet the Foreign Office gives the Brotherhood public money and the allegedly “left-wing” Ken Livingstone hugs its spiritual leader.

    You picked the wrong type of fascism, Mel. If only you’d been cannier, there would be pieces in the Independent denouncing your critics as Islamophobes.

    Amir

  35. Kismet Hardy — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:42 pm  

    ‘I can’t be asked to respond to Amir line by line, it’s the same old hyperbole’

    Sorry to be a pedant, but the term is actually ‘arsed’

    And I’m also thinking hyperbollocks, which I’m hoping will please Amir

  36. leon — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:43 pm  

    hyperbollocks

    Is that somekind of Star Trek reference!?:P

  37. Chairwoman — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:44 pm  

    Rakhee - well put. Religion really is the source of all conflict.

  38. leon — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:49 pm  

    I wouldn’t say its the source of all conflict but it is a major contributing factor.

  39. Refresh — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:53 pm  

    Not source of all conflict - but a cover for it.

    Power and greed is the true source.

  40. Sunny — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:53 pm  

    As Oliver Miles said above: “The description of what is happening in … might just pass in an army recruitment pamphlet, but not as serious conversation between consenting adults.”

    Ken Livingstone giving a speech calling them racists for an audience that wants to hear slogans is rather different to a strategic government policy designed to protect us. In the latter I expect the usage of brains not simplified platitudes.

    And I don’t agree that religion is the source of all problems. Rather religion is being used as an excuse for what are other problems - land issues, propaganda, insecurity, egotistical power bids, politial gain etc. Two decades ago people were saying capitalism and communism were the source of all problems.

    I think people’s insecurities are the source of all problems.

  41. Kismet Hardy — on 4th August, 2006 at 3:55 pm  

    capitalism is STILL the source of all problems. And democracy, depending on which side of the fence you’re on. As a great man once said: ‘You are free to do as we tell you’

  42. Refresh — on 4th August, 2006 at 4:03 pm  

    “Only way to solve this circle of violence is to make democracy, capitalism and secularism the order of the entire planet. Communism and religious fundamentalism must be outlawed. Any nation that practises these evil ideologies should be destroyed.”

    Amrevis: In snap of your fingers you’ve removed all justification for the existence of Israel. Israel is a Jewish country.

  43. Chairwoman — on 4th August, 2006 at 4:07 pm  

    Refresh - Israel is a country for Jews. When it is acceptable to be Jewish outside Israel, then the need for a Jewish state will no longer exist.

  44. Refresh — on 4th August, 2006 at 4:10 pm  

    Chairwoman - can’t see what it is you are questioning.

    But that comment is the finest I’ve heard in support of the existence of Israel. Truly.

  45. leon — on 4th August, 2006 at 4:16 pm  

    @ Kismet, keep quoting Bill and I’m gonna wanna marry you.;)

    I’m not sure there is one all binding source for human conflict, seems to me there are differing reasons why conflict happens (land, resources like oil, racism, power, economics etc).

    There was conflict long before capitalism, before religion and before we understood power its (ab)uses.

  46. Arif — on 4th August, 2006 at 4:39 pm  

    I can’t believe it, but I’m agreeing with Sunny (#25), Chairwoman (#27) and Leon (#38).

    Does this make us an arc of extremists? I can make common cause with you all because you look behind the appearances of some slogans and see the same things I see:

    Religion doesn’t cause war. Religion provides many things to different people, including an identity of use to greedy or power-hungry people, just like nationality, language, ethnicity, etc.

    Democracy doesn’t necessarily make us free and equal. Sometimes it is a way of making us accomplices to an elite whose members succeed by being craven and whose leaders prosper by deception and betray their supporters in the process, let alone those of us who never supported them anyway who are completely left out of the grubby game.

    And making an assumption that those people who oppose your policies violently must do so because they are against all that is good and precious in the world is the kind of wilfully simplistic thinking that is leading up to an appeal to go kill potential political opponents without any conscience otherwise they will do it to you.

    Maybe Sunny, Chairwoman, Leon and I are an axis of cynics. Or maybe insights can cross political divides and we actually can make common ground with people when we look for positive points of contact.

  47. Sid — on 4th August, 2006 at 4:43 pm  

    Holocaust denial is a revisionist transgression. And yet Israel is busy revising and obscuring its own crimes against humanity.

  48. leon — on 4th August, 2006 at 4:46 pm  

    I think I’m part of the Axis of the Beer Deprived…

  49. don — on 4th August, 2006 at 5:02 pm  

    ‘ Any nation that practises these evil ideologies should be destroyed.’

    Well, CofE is still the established religion here, with bishops in parliament. An outmoded state of affairs I’ll admit, but scarcely one calling for the destruction of the nation. You do seem very keen on big, simple answers involving lots of destruction. Perhaps you are more in touch with the zeitgeist than the rest of us, after all.

    I consider myself a hard core atheist, but I can’t accept that religion is the cause of all wars - it clearly isn’t. However, I agree with Sunny and Refresh that it is eagerly co-opted as a very effective intensifier. and I suspect that the religiously inclined get a rush out of the call to rally to the divine banner which allows them to accept and inflict far more suffering than would otherwise be the case.

    Anyone claiming to know god’s opinion on an issue is either a fool or a knave. Either way, their arguments are worthless.

    I have agreed with several points Amir has made, but I believe he is quite wrong to maintain that Blair has not made a dangerous over-simplification by putting Hamas and Hizzbollah under the same banner as AQ. The former, despite the religious aspects and rhetoric, have essentially political, secular aims. The example of Northern Ireland has some relevance here, generations of violence, bitterness and hate can eventually be overcome as long as both sides retain some kind of grip on the same reality. AQ is a different kettle of fish; to lump them in together is exactly what OBL wants.

  50. leon — on 4th August, 2006 at 5:08 pm  

    Exellent piece by Terry Jones: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/terry_jones/2006/08/armageddonists_of_the_world_un.html

    AQ is a different kettle of fish; to lump them in together is exactly what OBL wants.

    Yep and the Neo Cons…

  51. Rakhee — on 4th August, 2006 at 5:10 pm  

    Just to clarify, there’s a difference between religion being the source of most conflict in the world today (as I said above) to being the source of all problems.

    Sounds obvious but conflicts are essentially when two differing opinions collide. The source of that when you think of international issues today does stem a great deal from religion or having differing beliefs based on a faith. As soon as people enter this territory we’re all in the sh*t.

    Problems are caused by many factors I agree but Arif, your comment ‘Religion doesn’t cause war’, I simply don’t agree with.

  52. sonia — on 4th August, 2006 at 5:22 pm  

    don:

    “Anyone claiming to know god’s opinion on an issue is either a fool or a knave. Either way, their arguments are worthless.”

    :-) Well said! and by their own standards..probably blasphemous..

  53. Arif — on 4th August, 2006 at 5:52 pm  

    I’m now going to defend Tony Blair, to show just how big my arc of extrimism goes:

    To be fair to Tony Blair, his speech really seems like a mixture of two speeches. One written by someone who worries about fanatical Muslim supremacists and quite reasonably wants to build an alliance against them including non-supremacist Muslims. This speech goes totally counter to the neocon “Clash of Civilisations” and “Terrorism is caused by Islamic theology” opinions.

    The other speech is written by someone who wants to justify a lot of wars as being defensive (they attacked us first) and being aggressive only in support of certain values (tolerant democracy) which are apparently only shared by Modern Muslims (aka Moderate and westernised Muslims in different parts of the speech).

    But by linking the two speeches, he makes an argument that Muslim supremacists are provoking over-reactions by Israel and others in order to define the struggle as west v Islam, not tolerant democrats v intolerant supremacists. He argues that reactions to terrorism destroys any willingness to negotiate or compromise over real grievances and this is where he is losing his battle for hearts and minds.

    But the different reaction he proposes is not to discuss grievances regardless of terrorist actions, or proportionate responses. He doesn’t quite argue for moderate, modern, western, etc Muslims be used to fight a proxy war. He sees them as too weak (although, confusingly he names a couple of Muslim examples he likes: Turkey and Indonesia, ignoring their governments’ massive human rights abuses). What he calls for is for the US to avoid isolationism, and actively support “moderate” Muslim governments.

    It sounds like the same old policy - support your vicious dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and call them moderate because they buy your guns. But I think his underlying call is not to make the same mistake of undermining the Palestinian Authority as when it was led by the PLO and to commit to a Palestinian State, because that would undermine the extremists and isolate them. So I think he is looking to persuade the US audience that there are tactical reasons to promote human rights in moderation, even for Palestinians.

    P.S. Rakhee (#51), fair enough, we see things differently. Maybe me and Tony Blair are in an axis of denial!

  54. Ravi Naik — on 4th August, 2006 at 6:07 pm  

    “If Ken Livingstone referred in his speech to these tinpot fascists as ‘bigoted racists’, would he – according to your delineation – be oversimplifying”

    Amir, (

    If Ken Livingstone wanted to curb racism in London (and we are talking about solving things, not discussing semantics), it wouldn’t make much sense putting together the BNP and C18 (our any other racist terrorist group) in the same bundle. That would be oversimplying things, because although they look the same racist trash, they operate in different ways to achieve their means.

    Again, you seem to be oversimplifying things by assuming that I am an apologist for the islamists because I don’t support the way Israel and the US are operating in both Iraq and Lebanon. You - like every right-winger - look at the world in black and white, right and wrong, good vs evil - when in reality there is a continuous gradient of gray shades.

  55. Arif — on 4th August, 2006 at 6:11 pm  

    “You - like every right winger - look at the world in black and white”, perhaps you have just shown that it is not just rightwingers prone to this. We all are to some degrees of gray!

  56. Amrevis — on 4th August, 2006 at 6:29 pm  

    All religions flow out of the barrel of the gun. Period.

    The problem is if you don’t tackle the gunslingers of one religion, you will inspire other religious groups to pick up gun themselves. Violent Islam has become a great motivator for violent Christianity, Violent Hinduism.

    The Christian controversy over Da Vinci code was to a large extent inspired by Islamic controversy over the Dutch cartoons. (The thinking was if Muslims can get away with it then so too can Christians). And many instance of Islamic terror that went unpunished inspired the violent riots in Indian state of Gujarat in which thousands died.

    That is why I am totally against any ceasefire till Israel is able to firmly destroy the fundamentalists. Because if the fundamentalists are allowed to get away they will keep committing violent acts and be an inspiration for similar violent acts by other religions.

    The world is in danger of fragmenting on race and religious lines. A healthy war against terror is only way to prevent that eventuality.

  57. Refresh — on 4th August, 2006 at 7:18 pm  

    Arif much as I like your philosophical outlook I fear you are letting Blair off the hook.

    Had he any interest in what you say - he would have accepted there was an accelerating campaign to malign all muslims - the softening.

    The man needs a long holiday and the news that he’s cancelled it is truly a shame. Even John Prescott do better this pathetic excuse for a man.

  58. Refresh — on 4th August, 2006 at 7:21 pm  

    It seems there is conspiracy on PP to eat some of my words.

    The last sentence should read:

    Even John Prescott would do better than this pathetic excuse for a man.

  59. soru — on 4th August, 2006 at 7:40 pm  

    arif: good analysis. It would be interesting to see someone who had actually read and understood the speech criticise it. Picking out one soundbite from it and saying ‘that is simplistic’ is not debate, it is denial.

    The essence of democracy is this - everyone debates things, tries to establish a common framework for understanding; in particular understanding what people disagree about, what the options are. The side that puts together the most persuasive argument about the most important issues gets to try it out, they see how well it works, and then everyone modifies thier argument appropriately.

    You can’t shut down that process by saying you already know the pefect right answer, but you are not going to bother explaining it to anyone stupid enough to not already know.

  60. Rakhee — on 4th August, 2006 at 7:46 pm  

    Arif :) For the record, I do see the positives in religion as well…

  61. Old Pickler — on 4th August, 2006 at 8:35 pm  

    Amir - wonderful to read your posts. At last some sense. And JagDeep too.

    Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda - all cut from the same cloth. All following Mohammed’s example. It is the moderates that deviate from this. There are moderate Muslims, but there is no moderate Islam.

  62. Ravi Naik — on 4th August, 2006 at 10:13 pm  

    ““You - like every right winger - look at the world in black and white”, perhaps you have just shown that it is not just rightwingers prone to this. We all are to some degrees of gray!”

    But that is the point. If we only see the world in black-and-white terms and not the shades of gray, then we risk over-simplifying the problem and not finding the right solution. I am against both Iraq and Lebanese wars, but according to those that see the world in two colours, that means I am an apologist to the islamists and Saddam and I don’t support Israel or a superpower like the US - which is precisely the opposite.

  63. Francis Sedgemore — on 4th August, 2006 at 10:30 pm  

    As a political soundbite, “Arc of extremism” may not be a particularly good one, but it does have a ring of truth about it. Tony Blair has his faults, but I do find it irritating to hear of has-been politicians, soon-to-be-has-been UN officials and fossilised FCO Arabists lining up to bury Blair, when he has more life in him than they do!

    But what of this so-called arc of extremism? There may be conflicts between the agendas of Iran and the Sunni Arab states, but there is increasing common cause between Sunni and Shia extremists in the Middle East, with the Iranian government sponsoring Sunni terrorism. Die Welt’s Jacques Schuster reported yesterday that the Iranians have recently released from house arrest Sa’ad bin Laden, son of Osama, and sent him to the Lebanese-Syrian border to stir things up there. There are, we’re told, a number of al-Qaeda operatives resident in Iran, enjoying the protection of the regime while being kept under close observation. Tehran seems quite happy to use al-Qaeda when it suits their purpose, and right now it most certainly does.

  64. Refresh — on 5th August, 2006 at 11:08 am  

    Unbeleivable -

    “And many instance of Islamic terror that went unpunished inspired the violent riots in Indian state of Gujarat in which thousands died.”

  65. Refresh — on 5th August, 2006 at 11:18 am  

    Tony Blair’s troubles will never disappear. They are set to haunt him for long time yet:

    “Families of soldiers killed in Iraq launch party to challenge ministers

    · More than 70 candidates to contest Labour seats
    · Bereaved to meet within two weeks to plan strategy

    Steve Boggan
    Saturday August 5, 2006
    The Guardian”

    “We can do a lot of damage to the ministers who supported the war. I don’t particularly have an argument with the Labour party, or even most of the government. I blame the personal ambitions of one man: Tony Blair.”

    http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,,1837762,00.html

    The man does not know when to stop.

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