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Edward Gibbon by Joshua Reynolds: Preferred Islam to Christianity

Once again, Islam takes centre-stage, while the West watches anxiously on. From Brussels to Beijing, terrorists are still slaughtering civilians. Across Africa, from Libya to Nigeria and Kenya, fragile states are falling apart under the Islamist assault. In the Middle East, the Syrian civil war has now spread to Iraq and threatens to destabilise other states. Further East, Pakistan is under Taliban attack even before Afghanistan is evacuated by Nato. We are now seeing the results of President Obama's premature withdrawal from Iraq, his encouragement of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, his irresolution in Syria, his appeasement of Iran and his failure more generally to grasp the scale of the Islamist challenge to the West. Elliott Abrams and Alexander Woolfson show how the world is paying a heavy price for a US administration that lacks a coherent strategy and a Nato that is not fit for purpose.

In Britain, the dispute between Michael Gove and Theresa May over the infiltration of schools by "extremists" has overshadowed the equally alarming consequences of such indoctrination. Hundreds of young Muslims emerge from the schools and mosques of cities such as Birmingham and Bradford, volunteer to fight for the Islamist cause in Syria, then return to bring jihad back to Britain. The attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels was the work of just such a jihadist from France, and it may only be a matter of time before horrors perpetrated in the name of Islam on the road to Damascus are repeated on the streets of London.

The world is still reeling from one of the periodic waves of fundamentalism that have expanded the Umma since the days of the prophet. Looking back to the first rise of Islam in the 7th century, Gibbon reflects on the secret of its success in Volume the Fifth of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: "Mahomet was alike instructed to preach and to fight, and the union of these opposite qualities, while it enhanced his merit, contributed to his success: the operation of force and persuasion, of enthusiasm and fear, continually acted on each other, till every barrier yielded to their irresistible power." The perennial refusal of Islamic doctrine to distinguish between, let alone to separate, mosque and state, has hitherto been an almost insuperable obstacle to Muslim acceptance of modernity and integration into secular society; but it is also the secret weapon of jihad. The chimera of a new Caliphate lies behind the sudden collapse of Iraqi democracy, now unprotected by US troops, under the onslaught of an Islamist blitzkrieg.

Although Gibbon preferred Islam to Christianity, he did not disguise the former's hostility to Judaism; in fact, he called Islam's founder "the enemy of the Jews". Compare this description with the latest Islamist video to go viral. Shot by ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), which has been responsible for the worst atrocities in Syria and now for the conquest of Mosul and Tikrit, the lyrics to this battle hymn include the following line: "Break the crosses and destroy the lineage of the grandsons of monkeys." The reference to monkeys recalls the anti-Semitic depictions of Jews in Islamic scripture and tradition. The fact that one of the first European jihadists to return from Syria chose Jews as his first victims is not accidental. But it is also important not to overlook — as so many do — the new militancy directed at Christians of terrorist insurgents such as Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and ISIS. Elsewhere in this issue, Inna Lazareva reports on the fortunes of Christians in Bethlehem and Nazareth. Unlike the anti-Zionist narrative promoted by most of the churches, she finds a new realism among Christians about the state of Israel, which they see as their protector against Islamist persecution. Some are even ready to fight in the IDF.

It may be objected that Islam is the faith of, in Frantz Fanon's phrase, the wretched of the earth. As such, they cannot threaten the mighty edifice of the West. We should look, rather, to Russia and China. Both are far more formidable potential foes, militarily and economically, than any Muslim state. But neither China nor Russia boasts an inspiration to compare with Islam and its prophet. Gibbon again: "It is not the propagation but the permanency of his religion that deserves our wonder." Other peoples who have settled in Europe have quickly adapted; not so the Muslim communities who make up an ever-growing proportion of the younger generation.

Islam, then, is here to stay in Europe. Non-Muslims too must adapt, and we do. Christian and Jewish leaders incessantly reach out, not only to each other, but to their Muslim counterparts. Yet their gestures are rarely reciprocated. A succession of Catholic pontiffs has paid tribute to the victims of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, the memorial site in Israel. In 2000, Pope John Paul came and pleaded for "silence in which to remember". In 2009, Benedict XVI came and declared: "May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten!" And this year Pope Francis quoted Genesis there: "Adam, where are you? Where are you, O man? What have you come to?" The leaders of the Catholic Church were eloquent in their penitence. But is it possible to imagine the leaders of Islam making any such gesture — or even setting foot in Israel?

To the present, the future is always opaque, but the past is ever more transparent. The West needs to learn again the history lesson that finding a modus vivendi with Islam has only ever been achieved from a position of strength.
November 23rd, 2014
1:11 PM
On the 22nd August 2014 I wrote that the issue would be 'Education'. Finally, the mainstream has caught up. Can I have a column please. Thank you.

October 13th, 2014
1:10 AM
For an insight into the use of contemporary philosophy in the Operational Theory Research Institute of the Israeli Defence Forces there is the article `The Art of War` by Eyal Werzman in Frieze magazine,Issue 99,May 2006. I don`t think Julie Burchill mentions this in her new pro-Israel book `Unchosen-Memoirs of a Philo-Semite` .

October 1st, 2014
5:10 PM
Why is Theresa May pretending that Islam is a `religion of peace` ? asks Douglas Murray at the Spectator (30 sept). Is there no one at Standpoint to invite her to answer or discuss it with Douglas Murray ? Or is she happiest being career-ideological rather than empirical ? All the various party leaders repeat the same robotic mantra `islam means peace`. No it doesn`t. Briish politicians have never been so dodgy,dumb and dim. Or so anti-British. One of our British values is speaking the truth. With President Obama admitting his team overestimated allies and underestimated Islamic State capabilities it looks like the best intelligence on the subject is Israeli Intelligence.

August 22nd, 2014
12:08 PM
Much comment as ever, but aside from my earlier contribution, little of substance. Blair stated, 'Education, education, education', something that could easily be lifted from the secular sphere and applied to the field of 'Islam'. 'Islam' is a created fiction, made up of numerous narratives that continue to intersect and expand across a continually expanding matrix of self-justification. To speak of a 'grand narrative' is simplistic, yet one which has worked particularly well for politicians and beyond, allowing for a series of failed approaches (at great expense)and a never ending series of officials spouting cliche after cliche.

August 11th, 2014
8:08 PM
Another excellent article by Douglas Murray `Owen Jones is lying about Israel.Plain and simple` the Spectator 11 august. As well as Douglas Murray`s true facts and intelligence it is also true that Israeli Intelligence also studies the strategies advanced by Guy Debord in his book `Society of the Spectacle`. It`s on the curriculum at Israeli military intelligence colleges along with other modern studies in urbanism and architecture. These are brave and bright Israeli men and women engaged in a battle of civilisation against barbarism. The full page pro-Israel ads stating this in the Washington Post,New York Times and the Wall St Journal was personally shown to President Obama by his friend Nobel Prize Winner Elei Wiesel. Will Self was advocating Debord`s book last year- he might be surprised to know Israeli Military Intelligence have already been studying it. They know why Owen Jones` lies are published in the Guardian. Learning to lie is what the Pussy Riot artists say happens in Russia too. Bravo to Douglas Murray and Julie Burchill in England for their Talent For The Job and speaking the truth.

August 8th, 2014
9:08 PM
"What measures has he in mind?" I don't know about him, but as for me. I'd say stop allowing our position of tolerance to be used as a knife against our throats. There is no reason to tolerate the intolerable, and intolerant who will cheerfully kill you. Stop allowing ourselves, in all Western countries to be colonized by Islamists who will, and have, brought their convert or die mantra into our countries. *That* is something we need not tolerate, or open our doors for. Or be afraid to strip citizenship from and deport those who embrace this mantra. They chant convert or die, we must reply Integrate or Leave. Or be removed.

July 31st, 2014
4:07 PM
And an excellent robust and honest defence of Israel from Ron Proser,the Israeli Ambassador at the UN today (on BBC News) Some commentators have said it may be necessary for Israel to `Dresden` bomb Hamas and it`s allies into defeat. When Nazi V1 and V2 rockets rained on London Winston Churchill eventually ordered the `Dresden` solution. Together with our allies (including Stalin`s Russia) the Nazis were defeated. Joan Rivers and Melanie Philips have also made excellent pro-Israel statements.

hegels advocate
July 17th, 2014
2:07 PM
Douglas Murray is bang on target with his `The West has drifted away from Israel- and itself` in the Spectator,16 July. So too the Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub in the Independent,16 July.

July 2nd, 2014
9:07 PM
I am sure that Daniel Johnson is a very busy man and so I wish to propose and outline in brief a number of measures that would significantly alter the current landscape in respect of 'Islamism' and 'Islam'. This will be necessarily brief, subject to the limitations of the 'comment' section'. 1. Looking to Gibbon is typical of a reflective position, yet it ignores the historical specificity of his writings. 'Islam' as a subject of post-Enlightenment study has progressed significantly, even beyond the assertion of Ernest Renan that Islam had been born in 'the light of history'. Such a confident assertion is meaningless at the present time, except (of course) to believers for whom any position against the traditional Islamic narratives of understanding is often buttressed with reference to 'Orientalism' (via Edward Said), Western Imperialism or racism. Despite the fact that much research has been undertaken that seriously questions the traditional Islamic narratives it remains commonplace in much of the present day popularly available material (Karen Armstrong et al) to regurgitate the 'facts' of Islam according to the traditional narratives. In any other subject such an approach would be considered unacceptable and, at the very least, not worthy of academic acceptance. That scholarship exists which is willing to undertake an examination of 'Islam' within an academic discourse is testament to the bravery of the scholars involved - any doubt that that such activity is harmless should consider the necessity of some work having to be published under a pseudonym. Mr Gove must publicly support the individuals and institutions dedicated to the exploration of Islam within an academic context, and also ensure that 'Islam' as a subject is taught in schools within an academic framing, and not on the terms dictated by the traditional Islamic narrative (although the existence of such narratives would be recognized). Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, a review MUST be undertaken of the standard of post-graduate teaching in this area, and where appropriate, funding MUST be increased to support post-graduate study in this highly important area subject to the conditions of teaching being delivered according to an academic framework. 2. Consideration ought to be given to exploring the extent, funding and influence of of key institutions within the United Kingdom (including Oxford), many of which receive conditional funding (overt and otherwise)according to the position adopted by recipients of funding and positions in respect of Islam. 2. A review must be undertaken of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), examining its role, its relationship to the Government of the day and, perhaps most importantly, the relationship that exists with the British Security Services (MI5 and MI6), and the extent to which it is used to disseminate and engage according to the needs of these institutions (which notably does NOT include the Metropolitan Police Service and the Counter Terrorism Command (CTC)(SO15)). Of particular importance would be a review of the role of Charles Farr, and his actions under the previous Labour Government and subsequent 'adjustments' to accommodate the current requirements of a coalition. 3. A review of the institution of the PREVENT project, including delivery, effectiveness and (most importantly) COST. This should also extend to a review of the implementation of PREVENT by the MPS, including the qualifications of staff engaged with the delivery of the project. As an example of the failure of the MPS to properly develop and deliver the project consider the fact of its willingness to advertise (via the internal MPS web page(intranet)the success of its officers achieving an MA qualification (developed exclusively with Kings College, University of London) - this amounted to 20 credits. Under any other circumstance this would be considered false and dishonest advertising. Yet these are the officers expected to engage with the complicated issues regarding Islam in London. It is a fact that the MPS sought to recruit predominantly Muslim officers to the PREVENT project, in an attempt to secure the protection of 'authenticity'. A review should be undertaken to establish the effectiveness of this position (for the MPS and the Muslim officers invloved). Why, for example, is the MPS engaging in locally orientated Mosque centered engagements which amount to little more than asserting (and promoting) a traditionalist Islamic narrative that does little to actually explore the issues at hand and place Islam within a wider academic context. This current practice amounts to little more than the MPS supporting dua activity by Muslims! And this is just the start.

Luke Daxon
June 26th, 2014
5:06 PM
"His failure more generally to grasp the scale of the Islamist challenge to the West." Well, what is it that the editor of Standpoint proposes that he do? What specific measures has he in mind?

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