“Their cause is not founded on injustice. It is founded on belief, one whose fanaticism is such that it can’t be moderated. It can’t be remedied. It has to be stood up to.”
– Tony Blair, London, Saturday 16 July 2005.
In every point in that statement, other than the first one, Tony Blair is correct. In saying it is not founded on injustice, he makes a fundamental error. Injustice, in fact, feeds their cause.
Back in the Autumn of 2001, I was seriously impressed with the way Blair went around the capitols of the Middle East and Asia, persuading the kings and the sheiks and the generals and the dictators that, if they would not openly support the imminent American onslaught on Afghanistan, then at least not to publicly oppose it. He learned passages from the Qur’an to support his case with Muslim leaders. For a time I actually wondered if Blair could do 2nd Tier thinking. What he did was certainly way beyond the red/BLUE simplistic black & white thinking of George W Bush.
However, Blair’s support for Bush’s 2003 war on Iraq showed a distinct dearth of global or strategic thinking. Defeating the military of Saddam Hussein, seriously degraded by the Gulf War of 1991, proved deceptively easy. Managing the occupation of Iraq and the transition to a Western-style democracy has so far proved beyond the capability of an Anglo-American coalition seemingly bereft, when they entered the country in March 2003, of a plan for what they would do with post-Saddam Iraq.
Millions of British voters protested against the intention to go to war with Iraq. Even more millions of voters have been appalled since by the political and military quagmire that Iraq has become. Labour, with no concerted credible opposition, was punished for Iraq by the voters in the May 2005 General Election by having its huge parliamentary majority significantly reduced. Blair was widely regarded as finished, a ‘lame duck’ prime minister waiting to hand over power to Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.
However, through skillful handling of European issues – the constitutional crisis, Jacques Chirac’s gastronomic gaffes and the budget rebate row – and support for measures to combat African poverty and climate change, Blair’s ORANGE has enabled him to bounce back considerably. (Getting photographed with Sir Bob Geldoff just before Live8 was very clever!)
His star has risen again so much there is even rumoured to be talk in Downing Street of Blair staying on to fight for a fourth term. So far he’s handled the London bombings with an appropriate mix of grit and flair. The last thing he needs now is for them to be linked in the public eye to the mess in Iraq.
Identity – who do you belong to?
They say 7 July 2005 – designated ‘7/7’ to emphasise the 9/11 similarities – has changed everything for Britain.
British nationals became suicide bombers and slaughtered their fellow commuters in the morning rush hour.
It’s interesting that much of the media tends to refer to the 4 bombers as ‘British nationals’, rather than ‘Britons’ – as though they’re not really ‘true Brits’!
It’s almost as though we now have an ‘enemy within’. Of course, the media points out that the vast majority of the 1.6 million Muslims in Britain are peaceful and law-abiding. Yet there is a sinister undercurrent – a sense of potential ‘witchunt’ – lurking beneath the platitudes about the ‘majority of Muslims’.
On Friday (15 July), Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told Muslim leaders in Romford that the Islamic community in Britain had been in denial about the ‘lunatic fringe’ in their midst for far too long. Then he went on to say: “Now, it is your problem…. We have to seize a moment in which the Muslim community changes from your state of shock and disbelief into active engagement in counter-terrorism.”
In other words, Muslims must root out the terrorists living in their communities. (And the unspoken sanction if they don’t…?)
The following day (16 July) Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, while urging Muslims to be “absolutely vigilant”, expressed concern about the singling out of the Islamic communities in this way, saying, “This is a major burden that cannot be passed on to the community – the capacity to police themselves in terms of finding out the criminality is not on…. The Muslim community is no different to any other community in this country and they should not be treated as any different. Once you treat a Muslim community differently in the way it is being perceived, as though it is a criminal community, a troublesome community, then we will not get the support we would want from them.”
Wittingly or not, Sacranie is being a little disingenuous. The very fact that the Muslim community is a religious community makes it distinctive and requiring some different considerations from a non-religious community. Of particular importance is the emphasis Islam places on brotherhood.
The Qur’an says: “The believers are but one single brotherhood” (49:10) – with a purpose: “Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher: Therefore, serve Me and no other” (21:92).
On this basis, does nationality count? Can one be both a Muslim and a Briton? And, if you can, does being a Muslim take priority?
In Gravesian terms, Islamic brotherhood meets PURPLE’s need to belong and enshrines it in BLUE’s compliance with doing ‘the right thing’.
This powerful meme of belonging, of all being brothers in the faith, is common to most religions – for example, the Bible New Testment tells Christians to “Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God” (1 Peter 2:17). Fundamentalist Christians face the same dilemma of choosing God or their country when they are in contradiction – “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Since God clearly is greater than man, the true, or fundamentalist, believer will usually choose God over man.
The question comes then: can a Muslim betray his ‘brother’ to non-believers without betraying the brotherhood – without betraying God?
I’m not that familiar with the history of Islam; but certainly the history of Christianity is littered with examples of Christians who refused to betray their brothers when they had contravened the laws of the country they were in.
Of course, the Christians who hid their ‘brothers’ (and ‘sisters’) in the Roman catacombs 2,000 years ago justified their actions by saying that the government was acting immorally and in contravention of the laws of God. Therefore, it was ‘right’ to disobey the laws of the government. Yet the Roman government saw the early Christians as a threat to the Roman way of life in a manner not too dissimilar to the way many in the modern West view fundamentalist Islam.
The nature of fundamentalism
Not every Muslim who attends a mosque believes the Qur’an is the undiluted ‘Word of God’ any more than every person who calls themself a Christian believes every verse in the Bible is the absolute Truth.
When the BLUE vMEME is in the ascendant, however, the tendency is towards absolutism and rigidity in belief.
Over 50 years ago Theodore Adorno, one of a number of sociologists and psychologists researching why hundreds of thousands of people from a sophisticated and highly-developed nation like Germany allowed their country to be turned into a police state and at least supported – if not actually participated in – some of the worst attrocities of the 20th Century. From their research Adorno et al (1950) came to believe that some people have an Authoritarian Personality with rigid beliefs in conventional values, hostility towards other groups, intolerance of ambiguity and submissive attitudes towards authority figures – all traits associated with unpleasant manifestations of BLUE, all characteristics of fundamentalism, whether of the Christian or Muslim flavour..
Adorno devised a tool for assessing the Authoritarian Personality: the Fascism Scale (or F-Scale).
Those American commentators who have started to use the term, ‘Islamofascist’, are closer to what is driving the fundamentalists than perhaps they know.
“The mindset of many young Muslims across the world is being framed by images of the shock and awe bombing of Baghdad, of the massacres in Fallujah, of torture in Abu Ghraib, of the orange-clad, chained prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and, of course, the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people.”
– John McDonnell MP, London, Saturday 16 July 2005.
Their BLUE has them responding as Authoritarian Personalities to imams who seem more holy and pious than others and who are very certain of the Truth, enabling them to take the Qur’an at face value. Their PURPLE groans for the travails of their ‘brothers’ around the world and their BLUE tells them that the right thing to do is to wage jihad on those who are mistreating, abusing and killing their brothers.
In the Hadith, the Prophet Mohammed said: “The similitude of the believers in their kindness, mercy, affection and compassion toward one another, is like a body, when one organ ails, the whole body is drafted to take care of the problem.”
From the fundamentalist point of view, the true believer is effectively obligated to help his ‘brothers’ wherever they are in trouble.
In truth Islam offers many ways of helping out – with a big emphasis on charitable works – but parts of the Qur’an, like the Bible Old Testament, can be used to legitimise violence – viz: “Slay the unbeliever…wherever you find him” (9:5).
In its editorial last Thursday (14 July), the Daily Mirror said: “Already a mountain of words has been written and spoken in an attempt to explain how they could have done what they did. But the truth is that we will never understand. There is no explanation for an insane act.”
How wrong could they be?!? The BLUE certainty of knowing that you are doing the right thing – and feeding your PURPLE sense of belonging by helping out your brothers at the same time – these are the drivers. Maybe, for some, their RED system gets excitement from a bombing venture – but the dominant vMEMES in the vMEME stacks of the young jihadis are most likely to be PURPLE and BLUE.
And with the certainty that God rewards those who die in battle in His cause, the young jihadis set out to do battle with the unbelievers who are mistreating, abusing and killing their brothers.
Clearly, the understanding I’ve developed in this Blog is basic. There is much more to say about differences between Muslims – particularly between Sunni and Shia – and differences between the impoverished and desperate Palestinian bombers, the zealous foreign fighters in Iraq and the urban bombers who travelled from Leeds to London on 7 July.
All that needs exploring to develop a detailed Integrated SocioPsychology viewpoint of the issues.
However, we also need to ask: what can we do about it?
Tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism
When Tony Blair said: “It is founded on belief, one whose fanaticism is such that it can’t be moderated. It can’t be remedied. It has to be stood up to.” – he was right.
Until BLUE loses its grip, the jihadis can’t be reasoned with; they can only be fought. That means attacking their resources/funding, prohibiting radical speakers, penetrating their networks and arresting and interrogating suspects, etc, etc – all the kinds of things the Government is all too slowly starting to put in place.
However, that will only slow the recruitment of jihadis; it won’t prevent it. So we’ll only be a little safer – still not safe. To achieve that, we, the West, have to put right the many injustices that feed the cause.
Injustice will probably never be eradicated; it seems to be a part of the human condition. And there will always be those Jews and Muslims whose RED feeds on the excuses for violence offered in the Old Testament and the Qur’an. However, we do need to develop a world where suffering and injustice can not be so easily associated with the particular religion of a people.
Then we might well find that the moderate Muslims will co-operate willingly in exposing the ‘lunatic fringe’.
Tony Blair might possibly be up to developing such a world. George Bush almost certainly isn’t!