Friday, January 09, 2015

Summing it up

I think the reaction to the Paris terrorism has been pretty encouraging, actually.   The Parisians themselves have been dignified and very impressive.  To a large extent, it has unified the Right and Left in revulsion.

Sure, more broadly, on both sides of politics, there will always be someone who makes silly and inappropriate statements, but I think the fact that this was an attack on a Lefty publication in a Left leaning country has meant that there has been actually next to nothing of the excuse making sometimes seen from the soft Left.   Waleed Aly wisely avoids any contextualizing about it, except to the extent of pointing out that, in Australia at least, anyone's risk of being a victim of terrorism is still vanishingly small.  This is a valid enough point, and perhaps even a needed response to the more extreme "We are at War!" commentary that comes from some.   Still, imagining that there are even a few hundred men in your country who are willing to commit extreme acts of terrorism for purely ideological reasons is not encouraging.

Which brings me to the point:  yes, we've all know for quite a while now extreme or radical Islamism is not compatible with Western values; there is actually no new news in that - the question is how to deal with it, especially in your own country.

And here it seems to me no one has complete answers.   Certainly, some are more useless than others, and  here's roughly how I see it:

*  strong conservatives mutter about ending all Muslim immigration and refuse to believe that moderate Islam exists at all.  Always prepared to see the end of the West as being just around the corner due to what is still a small minority of their population, most of which is not radical; they always want to leap to exaggerate a (claimed) weakness of  most citizen's attachment to Western values.   From such unrealistic premises, you can't expect useful contribution at all. 

*  the libertarian Right are the most obsessed with privacy and most opposed to increased surveillance by security services.  They are also most obsessed with free speech, to such a degree that it seems some think that not causing offence to moderate Muslims is harmful to the cause of de-radicalising the radicalised - a position I find hard to fathom.  They exaggerate the effect of something like s18C RDA, acting as if its existence is the greatest crisis to free discussion ever, despite the fact that it doesn't even address religious discrimination (although some State legislation does) and no one can go to jail for breaching it.    Some also have a silly "open borders" idea, in which they (oddly) come close to the Greens soft and impractical position on this.   And let's not mention their nutty obsession with guns, and how they think arming everyone helps a society be safer.   All in all, they (both libertarians and the Greens) are therefore all over the shop, and have no great practical contribution to make.

*  the soft Left:  can spend too much time on contextualising and fretting how it really is our own fault for not being nice enough to men before they become radicals, and while they do have some suggestions for better social integration (more sports clubs for young Muslim men, I heard this morning) but they all sound rather whimpy and well intentioned but hardly convincing.

*  the "hard" Left:   well, not sure that it really exists anywhere apart from a few corners of Europe, although many on the Right put virtually the whole of France in that category.   But really, if you consider the ban on face coverings as one of the most interventionist ways of seeking to get better cultural integration of  Muslims that has been attempted anywhere, those on the Right should at least be congratulating the country on the attempt.   (I guess that whether it's an idea that appeals more to the Left due to it being a legislative attempt at social manipulation that they tend to like, or to the conservative Right, which just wants to make life as difficult for Muslims as they can, is hard to say.)   Of course, it's not clear that its working, but hey, what is?

In any event, as I say, no one has all the answers.   Reasonable surveillance powers for our intelligence services make sense;  effective gun control and potential weapon checks and balances (such as the controls on potential bomb making ingredients) make sense;  as does active action against radical leaders encouraging killing, of course;  continued engagement with moderate Islamic leaders makes sense.

But ultimately, radicalism within Islam probably has to burn itself out within Islam, and its unclear how much the rest of us can do to assist that ideological (and actual) war.

Update:  it has occurred to me, I should probably say that the conservative Right takes a too strongly one-eyed view always in favour of whatever Israel does, and the hard Left - and sometimes the soft Left too - can be too one-eyed in favour of Palestine.

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