We have had occasions in this column to discuss global anarchy. The subject is still fresh ads terrorism festers. Today, the world has been galvanized; galvanized by the events in France last week by the murders by Islamists in Paris of the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, who made fun of Islam and of Jews shopping for their Sabbath meals. A galvanized people can do foolish things at times. Indeed, the anti-Islam march in Paris and other places, though peaceful and calm, should not have been labeled as such. There is so much anti-Islamic sentiments (Islamophobia) in the whole of Europe and North America that, if care is not taken, vengeance attacks will ensue and the situation would be exacerbated. Many may want to howl in rage. Rage, yes, has its place, but actions must be taken with discipline and thought. The causes for the intensification and terrorist acts and their devastating nature, especially in the 21st century, must not be lost on the world.
In the first place, the Clash of Civilizations, as predicted by Samuel Huntington, is unfolding in full gear. Huntington had predicted that the end of the Cold War would recast the East-West confrontation into a North-South dichotomy and a clash between the Islamic world and the world of liberalism. These predictions have bases in logic and dialectics. Francis Fukuyama had announced the ‘End of History’ by claiming that the end of the Cold War had signaled the triumph of Western liberalism and that all ideologies had had to die. Henceforth, the only ideology for global stability would be liberal democracy. Smarting under this belief, the West, led specifically by the US mounted a crusade of evangelism to make the whole world disciples of ‘democracy’. The Bush Doctrine was emphatic in demanding regime change in Iraq, whereupon the ensuing result (Iraqi democracy) would be a beacon for the Arab world.
Efforts were made to undermine the systems of governance in many Arab states, including Libya, Syria, etc. in the hope of effecting democracy. Syria rebels were promised and actually given $100 million; Libya rebels received support in cash and ammunition. But these Islamic states and others have a history, a culture, and a worldview or perspectives that are in marked offensive contrast to the liberal dogma. History has it that Islam invaded Europe twice from the Mediterranean – first in Iberia, the second time in south-eastern Europe. Christianity had also invaded Islam multiple times, the first time in the Crusades and in the battle to expel the Muslims from Iberia. Then it forced the Turks back from central Europe. The Christians finally crossed the Mediterranean in the 19th century, taking control of large parts of North Africa. Christians and Muslims have been bitter enemies in the past. Each of these two religions wanted to dominate the other. With this at the background, the attempt to universalize Judeo-Christian values, represented today in liberal democracy, would always be resisted by the Muslim world. This was the basis of Huntington’s prediction.
Specific to Europe, the current crisis has its origins in the collapse of European hegemony over North Africa after World War II and the massive movements of populations due to Europeans’ need for cheap labour. As a result of the way in which they ended their imperial relations, they were bound to allow the migration of Muslims into Europe, and the permeable borders of the European Union enabled them to settle where they chose. The Muslims, for their part, did not come to join in a cultural transformation. The ghettoization did not allow the fermentation of multiculturalism. So while the immigrants enjoyed ‘citizenship’ and the ‘freedoms’ under liberal democracy, they were never acculturated (their feeling of belongingness to the host countries was never assured). This is clear in almost all the cases, where terrorist activities have occurred in host nations. The recent Charlie Hebdo massacre is a case in point, where the perpetrators ironically, are French citizens, but considered themselves Muslims first. So multiculturalism has failed in Europe.
The matter has been complicated by the fact that Europe was no longer just Christian, it is secular. Christian domination had long given way to secularism. So Islam is not fighting Christianity per se, the fundamentalists are questioning the basis of secularity. What Christianity had come to accept and cannot be so much bothered about in secularity, Muslims (and some Christians) may see as simply decadence, a weakening of faith and the loss of conviction. Multiculturalism and the entire immigrant enterprise faced yet another challenge. Europe is crowded. The European Union is yet to recover from the recession and the Euro crisis. Islamophobia is on the rise, especially since the Madrid and London bombings.
Muslim fundamentalists share a fervency to endanger the lives of those they despise, and this tendency toward violence cannot be tolerated by either their Western targets or by Muslims who refuse to subscribe to a jihadist ideology. So to tolerate either side, we must understand the marked offensive contrast in ideology. That is why no matter how wrong one would be, the one would not allow an imposition. Religion is faith-based, illogical, at times insane. That is why a foreign policy that smacks of a desire to undo the other would always be resisted. The satirists of Charlie Hebdo themselves breached a fundamental principle in freedom- respecting the feelings of the other. Extremism in freedom is also terrorist in nature.
While condemning the massacre and all forms of jihadism, especially those perpetrated against innocent persons (and which the Koran abhors), we would also want to caution that terrorism would not die by a desire to universalize democracy. It must take a collective effort to make the world peaceful. Any attempt to impose values on a people whose socio-historical and cultural upbringing and worldview stand in offensive contrast to those values will necessarily engender conflict. The world must sit up. The UN must be up and coming and must not be seen to be propagating some values over others. It must be a live-and-lets-live world. We now live in a seriously anarchic world.
Meanwhile, the Boko Haram affair must be a collective responsibility of ECOWAS and the African Union. They may be looking for an AfriCaliphate. Let’s stop them. People were agitated when the twelve dead in Paris overshadowed the over two thousand massacred in Nigeria. Why could West Africa and/or Africa not come together in solidarity like Europe did? Our leaders must sit up.