Hawks Are Right: Paris Terrorists Hated Our Way of Life

Paris France
Night falls on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France (Unsplash/Rafael Kellermann Streit)

When terrorists strike, hawks always say it is our freedom and our democracy they despise.

This weekend was no different. After more than 130 people were killed in terrorist attacks across Paris, the Front national in France itself, the right-wing press in the United Kingdom and Republicans in the United States all gave the same explanation: The terrorists struck because they hate us for who we are.

It is not always that simple. But they are not altogether wrong either.

The leaders and ideologues do resent Western civilization and what it stands for. Their foot soldiers in the West are driven to madness less out of conviction than spite. Read more “Hawks Are Right: Paris Terrorists Hated Our Way of Life”

Leaders Must Take Arguments Against Immigration Seriously

The American Interest‘s Adam Garfinkle makes much the same point as this website did last month: that it’s not prejudiced to question the entry of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers into Europe but only prudent to wonder if the effect on European society might not be altogether negative.

Garfinkle makes the argument more elegantly. Read more “Leaders Must Take Arguments Against Immigration Seriously”

Why the West Shies Away from Fighting Islamic State

After Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia, calls to step up the fight against the Islamic State militant group are likely to grow louder.

But except for the occasional lone-wolf attack, the group does not pose an organized threat to the West. Its territorial ambitions — which are unlike those of other Islamic terrorists — more directly menace Western allies in the Middle East.

Even if it was unclear if the group — which controls land in the east of Syria as well the west of Iraq — coordinated all three attacks, its call to jihad (holy war) and the one-year anniversary of its declaration of a caliphate could have inspired the various gunmen involved.

The Islamic State did claim responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kuwait that killed 27 and left more than two hundred Shia Muslims injured. But a shooting in a Tunisian resort town the same day and an attack on a gas factory in Lyon, France did not seem directly related.

The group’s military successes against the Iraqi government have inspired would-be jihadists in the West. In the last year alone, lone radicalized Muslims have staged attacks in Copenhagen, Ottawa and Sydney.

Some argue the West should do more to defeat the militants. Read more “Why the West Shies Away from Fighting Islamic State”

European Right is Allowing Putin’s Friends to Monopolize Anti-Islamism

By continuing to denounce “Islamophobia” even after the bloody attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Europe’s mainstream right is allowing nationalists who also sympathize with Russian president Vladimir Putin to monopolize popular resistance against radical Islam.

In France, Socialist Party president François Hollande failed to invite representatives of the far-right Front national to a national remembrance ceremony for those killed by Muslim extremists in attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket in Paris last week.

Yet it is the Front that sees its anti-Islamism vindicated by the attacks. Party leader Marine Le Pen, who is more popular than Hollande according to polls, urged the French not to mince words. “This is a terrorist act committed in the name of radical Islamism,” she said. “Denial and hypocrisy are no longer an option.” Read more “European Right is Allowing Putin’s Friends to Monopolize Anti-Islamism”

Some Good Might Come of the Islamic State

The Iraqi and Syrian fanatics who call themselves the Islamic State are quite possibly the most brutal and murderous lot political Islam has produced, at least in living memory. But the ordeal they have wrought on everyone who doesn’t their zealotry could have a silver lining, argues Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest.

Garfinkle, a Middle East expert, believes the Islamic State represents the last hurrah of militarized political Islam. Read more “Some Good Might Come of the Islamic State”

Erdoğan Victory Reinforces Turkey’s Islamization

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is almost certain to win his country’s first direct presidential election on Sunday.

A victory for Erdoğan, who has ruled Turkey for more than a decade, would likely reinforce the NATO member state’s Islamization and exasperate opponents who have proven unable to thwart what they perceive as a drift toward authoritarianism. Read more “Erdoğan Victory Reinforces Turkey’s Islamization”

Crossed Swords? Rethinking the “Clash” of Christians and Muslims

Two Faiths, One Banner: When Muslims Marched with Christians Across Europe's Battlegrounds

Since Samuel Huntington unveiled his “Clash of Civilization” thesis in a 1993 Foreign Affairs article, a cottage industry of critiques have emerged to challenge it. Great thinkers, such as Amartya Sen, Amin Maalouf and Edward Said, have expended time and ink to refute Huntington’s controversial thesis. For the most part, these works have presented rationale critiques that focus on theoretical problems raised by Samuel Huntington’s board game like simplification of geopolitics and global history. Few of these critiques have, however, tried to counter Huntington’s argument with primary source research or been as readable as Ian Almond’s Two Faiths One Banner: When Muslims Marches with Christians Across Europe’s Battlegrounds (2011).

In this slim book, Almond shows that European history is far more muddled than Huntington’s depiction of one overarching “clash” between two visions of Abrahamic monotheism. Indeed the individual motivations and allegiances proves far to complex to paint with even the most vivid neoconservative or Marxist brush strokes. In making this argument, Almond cuts across wide historical periods, as well as the politics of several different centuries, demonstrating a mastery of facts, figures and a flair for colorful details.

The success of Almond’s argument lies in its exclusive focus on military campaigns and the colorful historical figures associated with these efforts. Beginning in eleventh century Andalusia and ending with the Crimean War in the mid-ninenteenth century, the book examines periods in which Muslim and Christian groups were fighting together rather than against one another in various battlefields. Rather than antagonistic civilizations, Almond’s reading of history suggests that individual units and individuals often had distinct allegiances that would surprise those eager to fit the world into neat left-wing or right-wing paradigms. Read more “Crossed Swords? Rethinking the “Clash” of Christians and Muslims”

Morsi’s Downfall Forces Islamists to Rethink Strategy

President Mohamed Morsi’s removal from office this week jeopardizes his Muslim Brotherhood’s goal of creating an Islamic state in Egypt. But the army’s political intervention might have an impact beyond the country.

The Brotherhood’s experience in Egypt forces likeminded political groups across the Middle East to assess the value of obtaining their goals through a democratic process over means of armed aggression. Abiding by the democratic process got the Brotherhood ejected from the system while the Afghan Taliban’s commitment to armed resistance got them a seat at the negotiating table. Read more “Morsi’s Downfall Forces Islamists to Rethink Strategy”

Despite Interventions, Libyan, Malian Islamist Threat Rising

Despite Western military interventions in both African countries’ civil wars, the Islamist threat in Libya and Mali is rising, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday.

According to Afua Hirsch, the paper’s West Africa correspondent, “The security problems in northern Mali, where militants have lost their grip on towns but large weapons caches are believed to be hidden in the desert, have dampened the jubilant spirit that arose when French forces swept into the region in January.”

Timbuktu and other towns in the north of the country, where Islamists, in alliance with local Tuareg secessionists, carved out an independent state last year, are regularly rocked by suicide bombings, “previously unheard of in the country.” Read more “Despite Interventions, Libyan, Malian Islamist Threat Rising”

Islamist Power Struggle Behind Egypt’s Embassy Riots

Quiet appeared to have returned to the streets of Cairo, Egypt on Monday after nearly a week of unrest that was allegedly sparked by an American anti-Islam film. However, the fierce embassy protests may also have been part of a political struggle in the country between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and more radical Islamist groups.

The American Interest‘s Walter Russell Mead pointed out on Friday that the riots forced Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, to side with the United States, “however slowly or reluctantly. That’s a win for the radicals who want to tar the Muslim Brotherhood as soft appeasers who side with the Americans against their own outraged people.”

Reporting from Cairo for Time magazine, Ashraf Khalil similarly points out that ultraconservative Salafist Muslims “started this fight when — bolstered by several inflammatory television sheikhs — they marshaled a large protest outside the embassy gates on Tuesday evening, coinciding with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States.” Although he believes the Islamists almost immediately lost control of the demonstration which was overtaken by widespread anti-Americanism. Read more “Islamist Power Struggle Behind Egypt’s Embassy Riots”