Modern Islam

That's it, I've had enough. You want to be moderate. You want to excuse the imbecility as the words and actions of an extremist minority. You fear that you may come to regret any sweeping statements of condemnation in response to the latest example of intolerance, and that by overreacting to their overreactions, you are sinking to their level.

But I can't stand the self-imposed equivocation any more. I don't believe it, and neither, I suspect, do many of their apologists. It is time to stop fooling ourselves.

Modern Islam is not a religion like any other. It is the embodiment of ignorance and bigotry.

The intolerance and sensitivity to any sleight is not reserved to an ill-educated minority. It is mainstream. The difference is only in the degree of vitriol used to respond to any perceived offence. The offence itself is resented almost universally.

How can we have dealings with a nation, one of whose political leaders says, in response to the knighting of Salman Rushdie, "If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet then it is justified"? In what parallel universe is it an acceptable retraction and moderation of that view to say, "If someone blows himself up, he will consider himself justified. How can we fight terrorism when those who commit blasphemy are rewarded by the West? We demand an apology by the British government. Their action has hurt the sentiments of 1.5 billion Moslems"?

How can we pretend that this is a minority, extremist view, when these are the words, not of a rabid cleric or terrorist leader, but of a representative of the government of one of the leading Moslems nations, or when that country's national assembly "unanimously passed a resolution condemning Rushdie's knighthood, which it said would encourage 'contempt' for the Prophet Mohammed"? Well, guess what boys? It is not the knighthood that makes me contemptuous, but your reaction to it. Remember, this is a supposedly moderate government imposed by the military for fear of the "extremist" government that might result fom democratic elections.

A "minority of extremists", my arse! Extremism is the mainstream of modern Islam. It is the secular moderates who are the minority.

We should have nothing to do with Pakistan and any other country whose government shares its extremist views, unless they issue not a mealy-mouthed restatement of aggression, but a full retraction and apology, with an affirmation of their respect for freedom of speech and other countries' rights to honour whom they choose. Failing that (and who believes that they will go even a small step down that road?), we should insist that the Commonwealth reasserts these freedoms and requires its members to declare their support for them. If the Commonwealth agrees and Pakistan refuses, they should be asked to withdraw from the organization. If the Commonwealth does not agree (the more likely outcome given its recent history of compromise with morally-contemptible governments), Britain should withdraw (as should any other nation that claims to respect the traditions for which the Commonwealth stands). The organization would no longer stand for anything worth supporting.

Bringing an end to the appeasement of these reactionaries is not impractical politics. It is not withdrawing from the world. It is saying to the world, "we have our values and we will stand up for them as strongly as you stand up for yours". If that means we have nothing to do with Islam, other than as trading partners, until the distant day when they have realised the emptiness of their creed of spite, then my feeling is not just "so be it", but "bloody good too".

Let them run their countries the way they see fit. Let them oppress their moderates and minorities. Let them drag themselves back to the Stone Age. Let them starve when their economies collapse. Once they have spent another century or two in that condition, they may start to understand the sterility of their belief system. We cannot give them that understanding. They have to realize it for themselves.