October 04, 2005
IT'S not just the environmentalists who think globally and act locally. The jihadi who murdered Newcastle woman Jennifer Williamson, Perth teenager Brendan Fitzgerald and a couple of dozen more Australians, Indonesians, Japanese and others had certain things in common with the July 7 London Tube killers. For example, Azahari bin Husin, who police believe may be the bomb-maker behind this weekend's atrocity, completed a doctorate at England's Reading University.
The contribution of the British education system to the jihad is really quite remarkable.
But, on the other hand, despite Clive Williams's game attempt to connect the two on this page yesterday, nobody seriously thinks what happened in Bali has anything to do with Iraq. There are, in the end, no root causes, or anyway not ones that can be negotiated by troop withdrawals or a Palestinian state. There is only a metastasising cancer that preys on whatever local conditions are to hand. Five days before the slaughter in Bali, nine Islamists were arrested in Paris for reportedly plotting to attack the Metro. Must be all those French troops in Iraq, right? So much for the sterling efforts of President Jacques Chirac and his Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, as the two chief obstructionists of Bush-Blair-Howard neo-con-Zionist warmongering these past three years.
When the suicide bombers self-detonated on Saturday, the travel section of Britain's The Sunday Telegraph had already gone to press, its lead story a feature on how Bali's economy had bounced back from the carnage of 2002. We all want to believe that: one terrorist attack is like a tsunami or hurricane, just one of those things, blows in out of the blue, then the familiar contours of the landscape return. But two attacks are a permanent feature, the way things are and will be for some years, as one by one the bars and hotels and clubs and restaurants shut up shop. Many of the Australians injured this weekend had waited to return to Bali, just to make sure it was "safe". But it isn't, and it won't be for a long time, and by the time it is it won't be the Bali that Westerners flocked to before 2002.
I found myself behind a car in Vermont, in the US, the other day; it had a one-word bumper sticker with the injunction "COEXIST". It's one of those sentiments beloved of Western progressives, one designed principally to flatter their sense of moral superiority. The C was the Islamic crescent, the O was the hippie peace sign, the X was the Star of David and the T was the Christian cross. Very nice, hard to argue with. But the reality is, it's the first of those symbols that has a problem with coexistence. Take the crescent out of the equation and you wouldn't need a bumper sticker at all. Indeed, coexistence is what the Islamists are at war with; or, if you prefer, pluralism, the idea that different groups can rub along together within the same general neighbourhood. There are many trouble spots across the world but, as a general rule, even if one gives no more than a cursory glance at the foreign pages, it's easy to guess at least one of the sides: Muslims v Jews in Palestine, Muslims v Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims v Christians in Nigeria, Muslims v Buddhists in southern Thailand, Muslims v (your team here). Whatever one's views of the merits on a case by case basis, the ubiquitousness of one team is a fact.
"Men of intemperate mind never can be free; their passions forge their fetters," wrote Edmund Burke. And, in that sense, Bali is more symbolic of the Islamofascist strategy than London or Madrid, Beslan or Istanbul. The jihad has held out against some tough enemies: the Israelis in the West Bank, the Russians in Chechnya; these are primal conflicts. But what's the beef in Bali? Oh, to be sure, to the more fastidious Islamist some of those decadent hedonist fornicating Westerners whooping it up are a little offensive. But they'd be offensive whoever they were and whatever they did. It's the reality of a pluralist enclave within the world's largest Muslim nation that offends. It's the coexistence, stupid.
So even Muslims v (your team here) doesn't quite cover it. You don't have to have a team or even be aware that you belong to any side. You can be a hippie-dippy hey-man-I-love-everybody-whatever-your-bag-is-cool backpacking Dutch stoner, and they'll blow you up with as much enthusiasm as if you were Dick Cheney. As a spokesman for the Islamic Army of Aden put it in 2002, explaining why they bombed a French oil tanker: "We would have preferred to hit a US frigate, but no problem because they are all infidels."
No problem. In our time, even the most fascistic ideologies have been savvy enough to cover their darker impulses in sappy labels. The Soviet bloc was comprised of wall-to-wall "people's republics", which is the precise opposite of what they were: a stylistic audacity Orwell caught perfectly in 1984, with its Ministry of Truth (that is, official lies). But the Islamists don't even bother going through the traditional rhetorical feints. They say what they mean and they mean what they say. "We are here as on a darkling plain ..." wrote Matthew Arnold in the famous concluding lines to Dover Beach, "where ignorant armies clash by night".
But we choose in large part to stay in ignorance. Blow up the London Underground during a G8 summit and the world's leaders twitter about how tragic and ironic it is that this should have happened just as they're taking steps to deal with the issues, as though the terrorists are upset about poverty in Africa and global warming.
So, even in a great blinding flash of clarity, we can't wait to switch the lights off and go back to fumbling around on the darkling plain. Bali three years ago and Bali three days ago light up the sky: they make unavoidable the truth that Islamism is a classic "armed doctrine"; it exists to destroy. The reality of Bali's contribution to Indonesia's economic health is irrelevant. The jihadists would rather that the country be poorer and purer than prosperous and pluralist. For one thing, it's richer soil for them. If the Islamofascists gain formal control of Indonesia, it won't be a parochial, self-absorbed dictatorship such as Suharto's but a launching pad for an Islamic superstate across Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Can they pull it off? The reality is that there are more Muslim states than a half-century ago, many more Muslims within non-Muslim states, and many more of those Muslims are radicalised and fundamentalist. It's not hard to understand. All you have to do is take them at their word.
As Bassam Tibi, a Muslim professor at Gottingen University in Germany, said in an interesting speech a few months after September 11, "Both sides should acknowledge candidly that although they might use identical terms, these mean different things to each of them. The word peace, for example, implies to a Muslim the extension of the Dar al-Islam -- or House of Islam -- to the entire world. This is completely different from the Enlightenment concept of eternal peace that dominates Western thought. Only when the entire world is a Dar al-Islam will it be a Dar a-Salam, or House of Peace."
That's why they blew up Bali in 2002, and last weekend, and why they'll keep blowing it up. It's not about Bush or Blair or Iraq or Palestine. It's about a world where everything other than Islamism lies inruins.
Mark Steyn, a columnist with the Telegraph Group, is a regular contributor to The Australian's Opinion page.