Monday, 3 November 2014

Tony Blair is Wrong About the Muslim World... or is He?

I've chosen to focus on Tony Blair's attitude towards the Muslim world and Islam because he expresses views which many other Western leaders have also expressed over recent years (i.e., not only the infamous “neocons”). The other thing is that he has spoken openly and frequently on these subjects since his fall from power.

Take President Obama, for example. Much of what Tony Blair says may well be endorsed by Barack Obama. Though if Blair's views – on Islam and the Muslim world - aren't endorsed by Obama himself, then they certainly are by other Democrats; as well as by various – perhaps many - Republicans.

As just hinted at, because Blair is no longer in power, he can afford to speak a bit more openly and honestly about Islam and the Muslim world. However, along with that freedom has come Blair's tendency to out-rightly contradict himself on these issues.

The Chasm Between Islam and the Actions of Muslim Extremists

At the heart of Tony Blair's position on Islam (as with so many others) is his belief in the chasm which exists between Islam itself (or the Koran itself) and the beliefs and actions of Islamic extremists and terrorists.
People like Blair believe in this chasm as a matter of faith. In other words, such people have a profound belief is the disjunction between Islam (as the “religion of peace”) and the endless violence and killings carried out by Islamic groups and Muslim individuals.
Yet Tony Blair has also explicitly stated that the US and UK want to bring about “a new Islam”. In Blair's biography, A Journey, he says:

"The idea would have been to have worked for gradual reform and the appearance of a new Islam over time.” (349)


Blair also states that this project for a “new Islam” failed. Instead, just a paragraph later, he says that the alternative requires “a myriad of interventions deep into the affairs of other nations”. What's more, it “requires above all a willingness to see the battle as existential”. Indeed it requires us “to shed the blood” (349).
Tony Blair's Many Self-Contradictions

So is it or isn't it about Islam itself?
Well, it depends which page you're reading. It also depends on when and where Tony Blair was speaking.
On page 348 of A Journey, for example, he says that the US and UK are engaged in “a fundamental struggle for the mind, heart and soul of Islam”. Yet not many pages later Blairtells us that “[this] isn't really to do with Islam or indeed religion”.
Again, on page 365 Tony Blair says that “we were confronted with a new battle – one about culture and religion more than politics per se”. Yet on page 368 (only three pages later) he says that“[this] isn't really to do with Islam or indeed religion”.

There is more of this Blairite doubletalk and obfuscation.

For example, in the following Blair says that it is about Islam (he's said this even more explicitly recently):

"we had not counted on the deep grip this [Islamic] extremism could exercise on the imagination, will and way of life of its adherents.


"The fact was that even many who were not extremists nevertheless shared a sense that they were justified in fighting us...” (364)

What Blair also fails to realise is that Muslim regimes can be in favour of Islamic extremism and even terrorism and at the very same time as not being in favour of any extremism and terrorism which threatens their own regimes or power. (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, Syria and Iran are all good examples of this phenomenon.)
It continues.
For example, after telling us that Islamic extremists have “sympathisers [who] reach further along the spectrum than we think” (348), and that these sympathisers also “understand why [terrorism] is happening” (as well as that they “buy into bits of their [the extremists/terrorists] world view”), Tony Blair then informs us that “a large number, probably the majority” of Muslims “condemn the terrorists”.
Muslim individuals and groups like CAIR and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) do indeed condemn Islamic terrorism and Islamic extremism simply because they know that this is what's expected of them. And they do so in order to protect and advance Islam in the West. After all, if these officially-moderate Muslim groups and individuals praised both Islamic terrorism and extremism, that would result in their immediate political suicide (in Western states). And what would be the point of that for these groups and individuals?

Tony Blair also tells us that “[w]ithin Islam, other, deeper forces were at work” (346). Moreover, those “deeper forces” against Western democracy, etc. “turned it into a powerful radicalising potency”which “was peculiar to Islam”(346).

At other times Blair and many others have tried to convince themselves –as well as other people - that Islamic terrorists are just violent criminals who want to kill people for the hell of it. (This is what's being said about ISIS, Boko Haram,al-Shabab, etc.; though not about Hamas and Hezbollah.) Either they are telling us that, or they are saying that Islamic terrorists are responding to all the“perceived wrongs” which have been committed by the West over the years.
Nonetheless, in this instance at least Tony Blair has the decency to admit that Islamic “terror” is indeed “inspired by a belief in Allah”(342). Thus Blair isn't relying here on the common Marxist meme that all the religious actions and beliefs of Islamic terrorists and extremists are mere epiphenomena of deeper political, economic or social (i.e. “material”) wrongs. Blair, on this page, isn't relying on the alternative psychological account (or cop-out) which says that Muslim terrorists and extremists are just criminals or psychotics either....
But not too fast!
Islam still isn't (really?) to blame.
Rather, what these Muslim extremists and terrorists have is a “perverted”and “delusional and demonic” belief in Islam and the Koran. Though those beliefs are still “nonetheless so inspired” (342) by both Islam and the Koran.
Foreign Leaders or Foreign Peoples?
One common view of neocon foreign policy is that neocon politicians and theorists believed that the problem with the Middle East, the former Soviet Union and elsewhere was that whereas the peoples of these places and states were responsive to ideas of freedom and democracy, the leaders and the regimes weren't. (Remember Tony Blair's self-contradictory position earlier.) In fact that was something thatJeanKirkpatrick,for example, explicitly stated in her writings.

Yet Tony Blair seems to turn all this on its head.
Blair now tells us that“the leaders [of the “Middle East”] would be open to the West, but their societies would not be”. (387)
Moreover, according to Blair, the

"discourse between leaders in that world and in ours could agree on the need to root out extremism, but the discourse on their streets would frequently represent that extremism”.

The problem, then, is not one of regimes and leaders; but one of, as Blair puts it, Islamic “societies” and the “discourse on their streets”. Yet, as I said earlier, didn't most (all?) neocons in the past say the exact opposite of that? Didn't many of the famous names of neoconnism argue thatMuslim and other societies are open to the West and democracy but that their leaders/regimes aren't?

The neocons certainly said that about the Soviet Union – and they were right! However, they also said it about the Muslim world and I think that they were - and still are - wrong.
The peoples of the Soviet Union – at least in part– proved to be responsive to democratisation and freedom (or at least to the overthrow of communism); whereas the peoples of the Muslim world – on the whole - weren't and still aren't amenable to democratisation and freedom. And the reason for that, in short, is that communism had only existed in the Soviet Union for around seventy years when that system finally perished in 1991;whereas Islam has been around in the Muslim world for up to 1,400 years. Not only that: very very many people in the Soviet Union – the majority - were deeply unhappy with communism from the very start; whereas the vast majority of Muslims in the Muslim world are, if not devout Muslims, then at least strong tribal Muslims.
That is the overall reality of the Muslim world today. And it's a reality which Tony Blair and so many others seem either unable or unwilling to face.
*) Strange as it may seem, I've previously written a piece – 'Is Tony Blair or Islam to Blame For Iraq?' - for American Thinkerwhich argues that Tony Blair isn't (completely or even largely) to blame for what's happening in Iraq at the present time.


Comments on the American Thinker Article:

1) “I simply did some fact checking provided you with neutral and respected Pew's polls (used by even Fox News ) which show consistent and an upward trajectory of preference for democracy in Moslim majority countries of nearing 90% democracy over dictatorships and strong men. But you unfortunately just throw around mix of claims and don't stand behind your own points about democracy any longer in your responses.”
The fact that Fox News used Pew polls means that Pew hasn't got a Leftist slant? So does that mean if the The Guardian or Huffington Post uses a poll or stat taken from Migration Watch UK that they are no longer Leftist/”progressive” news outlets? I've quoted Marx; though I'm not a Marxist.
All you've done in the above is repeat your prior claims [see below]. Do you want me to repeat my prior responses?
2) “The fact that it was President Reagan who caused the fall of the USSR and not their love of democracy is totally overlooked by your article and in your responses so far. USSR was out-maneuvered; Gorbachev was left with no other choice. Perhaps you are not old enough.”
Just to remind you that the piece is on Tony Blair and his attitude to Islam; which you've completely ignored. Yes, I mentioned the Soviet Union; though that only took up a couple of around 20 paragraphs.

Please stop using the phrase “totally overlooked”. Every article that has ever been written on any subject will have overlooked some facts or details that could be deemed relevant by someone in some way. What you really mean is that I've overlooked facts or opinions which work towards your general ideological interpretation of these events. That's not the same thing at all.
As for President Reagan: no one thing or person has ever really caused the “fall” of any country. (Though there may be exceptions, such as Hitler.) This sounds like first-year student stuff. Some of what you say may have an element of truth in it. Nonetheless, to say that one man (or even the United States goverment) destroyed a totalitarian system - with invasion - which had existed for seventy years is ridiculous.
I really haven't got time to cover this Soviet Union/Russian stuff in detail as it is only tangential to the original article.
3) “We see this in the election of 7 female heads of states in Moslim countries over none in the US so far...”

That's fair enough; though there are, I think, 51 Muslim countries and the US is one country. Besides which, the case in Pakistan and other Muslims states is that a few females have assumed power simply because they were born into political families. (Thus they are like queens and princes in former societies or cases of nepotism.). And to the extent that Muslims aren't completely Islamic, the more chance that will happen. The more Islamic they are, as with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Gaza, etc., the less chance women will become political leaders (though Hamas uses female suicide bombers, as well as children).
4) “....we see this in their desire for democracy and successful election after election in countries like Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Tunisia.”

Far from some of those countries you mention heading towards democracy, the truth seems to be the other way around. Islamism and calls for sharia law, for example, are on the rise in Indonesia and Malaysia. Your other examples have ignored my previous points (see below); which you, for some reason, say “don't stand”. Since you don't say why they don't stand, it's hard to respond to that.
As for Turkey, even that country is becoming less democratic, not more so. Turkey is a good example, however. To the extent it moved away from allowing Islam/sharia law in the public and political spheres, the more democratic it became. (That is, after 1921.) There are signs that all this may be being reversed. And that makes your claims about the Muslim world moving towards democracy seem like a generalisation –a false generalisation. Perhaps we are reading different newspapers and websites. In fact we probably are.
What I don't understand is that you keep on talking about "strong men" and yet you cite Pakistan and other countries as good examples of movements towards democracy. Pakistan has been ruled by dictators for half of its existence. I thought you Leftists also accepted that.
What usually happens is this: there are indeed democratic elections in these countries, some non-military man or woman is put in office and then the Islamic backlash begins. And then the military takes over again. Of course the Left blames all this on Western intrigue, as you do. I blame it on Islam, as well as on Arabic, Pakistani, etc. culture.
And that's the lesson you must learn: most Muslims want either a military autocrat to rule them or a Islamic totalitarian regime. They can't stomach democracy for too long because not even their "democratic leaders" believe in it. The same is true of Iraq, Syria and some of the other countries you mention.
5) “You can add Tunisia with election just int he past week, to list of countries where democracy has continued its upward trajectory. Besides Tunisia, Arab population has gotten rid of its strong men in Iraq, Libya and Egypt. Syria may be next.”

You think that there's a call for democracy in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria because totalitarian Islamists want to get rid of Arab autocrats? Are you crazy? Haven't you seen the news in the last three years?

These "uprisings" (it's not 1917 or 1968, Mary) are largely – though not exclusively– led by Islamists. They don't believe in democracy. They believe in using democracy in order to install regimes which are more Islamic in nature and which are also less strongly connected to the West. It is laughable that you cite Libya.
Muslims got rid of the strong man in Iraq? I thought Bush and Blair did that.
And Libya? They got rid of a Arab Marxist nationalist autocrat and now they have a civil war in which Islamist totalitarians are fighting each other in order to create an Islamic state ruled by them. The same is also true with Syria to some degree.

You are seeing the Muslim world through a thick fog of Marxist theology (Lenin, circa 1917) in which Muslims are never to blame for their situation. It's always someone else's fault: the White Capitalist Man.

Muslims aren't children. Are you are racist (if a positive racist)? Why are you denying Muslims free will and autonomy? And don't blame the nasty white men in the West. You don't want to place that negative racism (towards all non-Leftist whites) on top of your positive racism (towards brown people).

When people want democracy, they usually tend to get it – if not straight away. That's what happened in Europe and America; though it never seems to happen in the Muslim world, save to the extent, as with Turkey, that Islam is erased from the public and political sphere.
6) “According to Pew Research, preference for democracy in Muslim countries has reached almost 90% and averages over 60%. Giving your reader this little tidbit would have contradicted your blatant lies, right?”

Pew has provided mutually-contradictory statistics on many issues. For example, they have given both high and low figures as to how many Muslims support terrorism, both in the West and in the Muslim world. Almost every stat I see on these issues is different to the previous one. However, you clearly have a penchant for Pew.

You must be utterly naïve to place so much faith in stats. Just this weekend a British national newspaper claimed that three million Brits supported ISIS. Now that stat could be convenient. It's just that it can't be true – just like yours.

Any statistician will tell you that it depends on how the question is put and on how you define the terms. And, since Pew has a reputation for having a left-wing slant, you can bet that the questions were framed to elicit the answers Pew researchers wanted.

Were Muslims asked by Pew, for instance, whether they would like their voices heard for more sharia law and less friendship with Western states? Probably not. Though Islamists want their voices heard and democracy can provide that for them.

Thus when Islamists talk about democracy, they are talking about their right to be heard. They are not committed to democracy itself. Think of Hamas in Gaza in 2006 and their coup in 2007. Think of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 2011. Indeed think of the Nazis in 1933.

What you have in the Muslim world is a hell of a lot of Islamists who want to replace Arabic autocracy with Islamist totalitarianism That's why they speak of democracy and their voices.

Communists and Trotskyists throughout the 20th century also spoke about freedom and democracy: all it ever meant - like the Islamists - is the freedom they needed to be heard and to do what they wanted to do: the freedom to rule. Beyond that, there was no commitment to freedom or democracy in the abstract. The common theme, with Islamists, Leftists and Nazis, is that they all USE democracy when they feel the need.

Your idea that 90% of all Muslims want democracy is grotesque, as you must know.
You really must stop be a (positive) racist and an Orientalist, as Edward Said might have put it. That is, you're simply assuming that most Muslims in the Muslim world want EXACTLY what you want (politically speaking)). But since you're a Leftist middle-class American, and Muslims have been brought up in cultures that have been Islamic for up to 1,400 years, your positive Orientalism really is naive.


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