November 30, 2006


Winning Muslim hearts and minds: These wars will be won or lost not just by soldiers, spies, and policemen, but ultimately by the wider public (Michael Burleigh, 11/30/06, Daily Telegraph)

The widespread discredit into which the Left-liberal ideology of multi-culturalism has fallen should make us more, not less, cosmopolitan. This is not just a matter of recruiting people with Arabic, Dari or Urdu into the security services: we also need to expand the circle of what we take a sympathetic interest in. What happened, for example, to the 5,000 Africans maimed by al-Qa'eda bombs in 1998? Did the children blinded by flying glass get an education?

As in the Cold War we need to foster and respect cultural dissidence. This was brought home to me when I read Last Summer of Reason, whose author, Tahir Djaout, was murdered in 1993 by Algerian Islamists. Those who like pop music could try the Indonesian rock star Ahmad Dhani, whose hit Warriors of Love is a brave, moderate, Sufi challenge to the terrorists of that country. Everywhere in the Islamic world — 80 per cent of which is non-Arab — there are reasonable, cosmopolitan people who do not want, if they are Lebanese Shia, to be represented by Hizbollah or ruled by Syria, nor to have their tastes dictated by clerical zealots. Let's reach out to them, or at least create some forum where we can be reminded of their existence. So far the West's public diplomacy has been pathetic.

Rather, we lazily allow Islamist fundamentalists to equate our culture with trashy television programmes about penile implants, rather than Bach, Rubens or Mozart, Newton, Pascal or Einstein. As the philosopher Roger Scruton has written, we should be more careful about what image (and reality) of ourselves we project into more traditional societies.

Far too often we concede too much to the terrorists' vision, not only of us, but of themselves. How exactly would the caliphate of bin Laden's imaginings be governed? Hardly at all, judging by the carnage that enveloped Afghanistan under the Taliban. What precisely do the self-appointed emirs and imams know about Islam? How do you subvert the cultural supremacy of Arabic within it? Surely we should be encouraging authoritative voices that regard radical jihadists as heretics rather than kow-towing to useless so-called "community" leaders?

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 30, 2006 8:25 AM

Great title OJ; I loved that movie! We used that line to summon our pledges to "activities".

Posted by: Dave W at November 30, 2006 12:49 PM