Monday, February 28, 2005

The Coming Holy War

In a few years, the war between the West and Islam -- and make no mistake, that's what it has become -- will be waged in Europe, not the Middle East. A healthy, but nonetheless huge influx of Muslims has landed on Europe's shores in recent decades. They come seeking better opportunities, wealth, and personal liberty, but what they find is what immigrants have always found in Europe -- hostility, discrimination, racism, a society that pushes them to the margins. It is only in the fundamentalist mosques sprouting up all over that continent that these Muslins will find any sense of security and comfort. They will soon become radicalized, ready to take up arms and die for whatever cause or causes the imams recommend.

It's often forgotten about the perpetrators of 9-1-1 that they were thoroughly Westernized Muslims. They came from upwardly mobile, well-to-do families in the Middle East, received their educations in the West, and spent many years participating in European society. This exposure to the best the west has to offer hardly made them happy. Instead, it lead to alienation and a flight from modernity towards fundamentalism, violence, and death. The plight of these young Muslims has less to do with what is going on in the Middle East than what has been happening to young men in European society for the last century. Liberalism, capitalism, and democracy all hold no appeal. They want something, shall we say, more satisfying. In the past, they may have chosen Communism, anarchism, or radical trade unionism. Now they choose religious fundamentalism.

Hence the delusion at the heart of the Bush's administration's efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East. Let us suppose Bush is sincere in this desire and he even succeeds. Will it really quell the radicalism in the Middle east? Highly doubtful. Modernity, even when packaged as democracy, is a profoundly alienating social force whose outcome has been periods of relative peace punctuated by unbelievable spells of violence and barbarism. Does no one remember World War I or World War II? These arose not in spite of, but directly due to Europe's embrace of modernity. The Holocaust would not have been possible with the impressive refinement of bureaucracy European governments understood to modernize; the Nazis used those tools to develop the most effective killing machine ever developed. So to think, as the neocons do, as Thomas Friedman does as well, that modernizing the Arab world -- showing the people their the glorious benefits of liberalism and capitalism and democracy -- will bring any level of stability to that region is sheer delusion and a denial of our history.

But I don't think Bush's messianic pursuit of democracy will succeed, and so Muslims will continue to pour into Europe, growing ever more radicalized and violent. Europe will respond by enacting ever tighter social controls to control this threat, drifting further and further towards authoritarianism. The United States will follow, not because we face the same threat as Europe -- as usual, the war will be waged on their soil -- but because politicians will convince us we are threatened and see real advantages in keeping the populace permanently fearful.

The radicalism which will take root in the West will share another attribute of European culture -- it will be rabidly anti-Semitic. Again, we will probably see this anti-Semitism as Middle Eastern in origin when, in fact, it will be an extension of the anti-Semitism that has dominated European culture for centuries. Again, we will delude ourselves into believing this virulent new strain of anti-Semitism is the outgrowth of the clash of two cultures when, in fact, it's the result of a harmonious blending of the two cultures. Out of such a misperception though. Holy Wars are always born.

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