Gone To Paris

paris-eiffel-tower

Time for a croissant break

My wife and I are taking our traditional autumn trip to Paris this weekend, so updates on the blog and Twitter will be sparse (I’ve been instructed to brag that we refined Hoopers like to holiday in Santorini in the summer and visit Paris in the autumn, but “wintering in south Texas” doesn’t have quite the same cosmopolitan ring to it… Besides, I’m not quite sure that a two-year repetition of Santorini and Paris counts as a family tradition).

Many thanks to everyone for reading, commenting and sharing my articles. Your stories, anecdotes, theories, correctives, diatribes and occasional insults are all very much appreciated, and hopefully simultaneously make this a more interesting blog and me a better writer.

Good news this week for this blog’s more big-J journalism activities – a story I broke here on Semi-Partisan Politics about Labour peer Baroness Ruth Henig exploiting the memory of the Paris Bataclan attacks to drum up more business for her private security firm was picked up yesterday by the mighty Guido Fawkes blog.

Read Guido’s story here. My original reporting and editorial here.

While the behaviour I uncovered is sadly more common than it should be within Parliament, hopefully the media spotlight will shame Baroness Henig into resolving her unpardonable personal conflict of interest, one way or another. Another reason I’m happy to be visiting Paris will be to show friendship and solidarity with the people of France, for whom I have always had great affection.

As always, the subscriptions and personal donations you make to the blog are very much appreciated indeed, and really do help to keep me writing. If you get value from reading this blog, please do consider making a small contribution here:

 

 

Many thanks to all those of you who have kindly and generously donated in the past, or who currently make a regular contribution. I couldn’t do it without you.

Normal business will resume on Sunday evening.

Thanks as always for your readership and support.

À bientôt.

 

Postscript: As well as some much anticipated ballet (George Balanchine) and opera (Samson et Dalila, Saint-Saens) we have a dinner reservation at Yam’Tcha, a well regarded and trendy Franco-Chinois fusion restaurant. But the question is, who will be most harmed by my flagrant act of cultural appropriation – the French or the Chinese?

 

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Banning The Burqa And Burkini Is Not The Correct Liberal Response To Conservative Islam

Free Speech - Say No To Burqas - Burkini - Mural

In a liberal democracy, government has no business dictating what clothing is or is not acceptable to wear – and banning the burqa or burkini only further delays the long-overdue day of reckoning between conservative Islam and modern Muslim women

France is now taking its official ban of the burqa one step further, as the mayor of Cannes announces a ban on burkini beachwear on the grounds that the concealing garment poses a security risk.

The New York Times reports:

The mayor of the French resort city of Cannes has barred women from bathing on public beaches in swimsuits that reveal too little skin.

At issue are the full-body, head-covering garments worn in the water by some Muslim women, which have been nicknamed burkinis, an amalgam of burqa and bikini. The mayor’s ban has drawn protests from French Muslims who say it is discriminatory.

That the debate is occurring on the Riviera, the Mediterranean vacation area that has been on edge since the terrorist attack on a Bastille Day celebration in nearby Nice, has only added to the controversy.

Critics of the ban say it risks deepening rifts with France’s Muslims. It is the latest example of the long-running tensions between France’s forceful — some say inconsistent — commitment to secularism and the desire of many Muslims to express traditional values like modesty through their attire.

The mayor’s ordinance, which runs until Aug. 31, bars people from entering or swimming at the city’s public beaches in attire that is not “respectful of good morals and secularism” and that does not respect “rules of hygiene and security.” Offenders risk a fine of 38 euros, or about $42.

Why are burkinis against the rules? “Beach attire that ostentatiously displays a religious affiliation, while France and places of worship are the target of terrorist acts, is likely to create risks to public order,” the ordinance says.

If this were being done in a public place on the grounds of security, the mayor of Cannes would be in a much stronger position, and would gain this blog’s sympathy, particularly after the appalling terrorist truck attack in Nice on Bastille Day. There is a very logical and powerful argument to be made against the prohibition on wearing any overtly concealing clothing when entering public buildings such as town halls, courts, public schools, parks or beaches, just as motorcycle owners are asked to remove their helmets before entering a bank branch.

But the mayor of Cannes has taken this action with specific reference not to security, but in the name of  laïcité (the separation of church and state). We know this because French government officials have explicitly said so:

This costume [the burkini], Mr Lisnard [the mayor] declared, “ostentatiously displays religious affiliation”, could “disrupt public order”, and might even, in the words of one official, demonstrate “an allegiance to terrorist movements”.

Now secular government is broadly a very good thing, and societies become more free as they cast off the remaining vestiges of theocracy – one of the reasons that this blog is so keen to get rid of the Lords Spiritual and remove Britain from Iran’s company as the only countries where unelected theocrats sit in the legislature by right.

However, while citizens – even those of faith – should absolutely demand secularism from their government, it does not follow that the government can unjustly impose secularism on the people as they go about their lives. That would be a grave wrong, and the growing movement to ban the burqa represents an abuse of power by governments against their own citizens.

The Telegraph’s Juliet Samuel agrees:

Now it’s hard to muster much enthusiasm for the burkini. It harks back to an age, still dominant in much of the world, when a woman’s worth was measured by her modesty. It belongs to a belief system in which women cannot experience one of the joys of the natural world – feeling the wind and sea on her body. It suggests that the female form is shameful and provocative. But those who want to ban the burkini for these reasons are forgetting one of the most important values of a free society: we don’t all have to believe the same thing in order to live together.

Every day, thousands of Britons wake up and do things I think are crazy and wrong. They drink instant coffee, listen to Magic FM and wear Spandex. Some wear high heels or bowties. Others have plastic surgery, get tattoos, cheat on their spouses, drink too much, shout too much and vote Labour. They get their news from Facebook and watch hours of trashy TV. Many of them pray to a god, convert to Buddhism, believe in crystal healing or sing in Church on Sundays with their eyes closed and their arms in the air. I don’t do or understand any of these things. But I let them get on with it.

[..] Like a theocratic regime, the Cannes burkini ban forces some Muslim women to choose between their religious and their national identity and perniciously suggests that their choice of dress is a political statement, whether they mean it to be or not. It is unsurprising that the French should lead the way in this kind of thinking, because in France nothing is allowed until the law permits it, whereas in Britain, everything is allowed until the law forbids it. So, in the name of enforced secularism, France forbids covering the face in any public setting, whether it’s for religion or Hallowe’en, and bans religious symbols like hijabs (hair coverings) in state institutions such as schools. The burkini ban takes this illiberal trend even further by making it illegal to wear “ostentatious” religious symbols even when going about one’s own private business.

[..] A normal Muslim, who has grown up seeing a hijab as an unremarkable but important symbol of womanhood, finds herself forced to choose between respect for the law and her family’s everyday customs. Is this senseless, banal and brutal ban more likely to awaken a hidden feminist creed and a love of La République in her heart or to make her feel attacked and excluded from mainstream society?

Strong societies cannot permit parallel legal or political systems, such as Sharia courts or caliphates. But they can cope with differences in dress and customs. They should not allow obstructive religious clothing like face‑coverings to disrupt teaching or court hearings. But if a Muslim woman wants to wear a baggy wetsuit and go for a swim on a public beach, that does not make her a threat to Western society. The real enemies of freedom are not the burkini-wearers, but the politicians who want to ban them.

Amen to this. Samuel is quite right to fear the politicians over the burkini-wearers, even if we may disagree with their sartorial and religious motivations. Indeed, we should fear any further legitimisation of the idea that our rights derive from the state, who can suspend our freedoms at will in the name of “security”.

One of the most alarming things about this century has been the rejuvenation of authoritarianism, spurred on by the growing threat of Islamist terror. Whether it is manifested in airport security theatre, the banning of religious jewellery or other symbols from the workplace or the dystopian suppression of free speech in universities, public squares and social media, we have become markedly less free in sixteen years with precious little to show for it.

But more than all of that, if we are serious about tackling the skewed ideology and belief system which preaches that women must be modest to the point of having to bathe fully clothed, then a government ban is the absolute worst way to go.

Such a diktat of law effectively exonerates conservative Islam (or fundamentalists of other religions) from any responsibility to reform and recognise the equality of women, gay people and other minority groups. Ban the burqa (or burkini) and conservative Muslims may obey. But not only will they immediately be able to portray themselves as victims in the process, claiming persecution for their religious beliefs, they will be under no further internal pressure to reconsider and reform centuries-old religious diktats in the changed context of modern society.

If we want a world where the burqa is relegated to fringe extremists and museums, then the pressure must come primarily from Muslim women. Only when they demand their right to dress as they please and force the reluctant accommodation of religious authorities will they be able to win the parity of treatment which has been missing for so long.

The job of Western governments in all of this is not to interfere or seek to be a white knight, banning the burqa or burkini on the behalf of oppressed women. Government’s role is to make sure that Muslim women have full access to the legal system to sue for their equal treatment in court where it is being infringed, and to clamp down insidious efforts to set up parallel justice systems based on Sharia law or any other religious code instead of shamefully welcoming them in the name of “multiculturalism”.

We should be encouraging a more liberal form of Islam to prevail over the more oppressive and fundamentalist conservative wings. We need more Ahmadis and others like them, openly tolerant of other faiths and proudly patriotic. And when these groups of progressive Muslims are attacked we should stand shoulder to shoulder with them rather than shamefully currying favour with their persecutors in the name of “multiculturalism”.

But ultimately, this is an internal enlightenment which must take place within Islam. It is not the job of provincial mayors in France or government departments in Britain to “rescue” their female Muslim citizens from oppression; nor would any such rescue hold any legitimacy. Western society can take certain actions to encourage this revolution among its Muslim communities, but ultimately the heavy lifting must be done by Muslim women standing up to claim their own full rights as citizens.

Widespread bans on the burqa or burkini may make us feel good or even allow some of us to burnish our feminist credentials, but that is the only good that they will accomplish. And meanwhile, the long-overdue day of reckoning between modern Muslim women and the conservative wing of the Islamic faith will be deferred indefinitely, to everyone’s cost.

 

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The Pope Is Dangerously Naive To Absolve Islam Of Responsibility For The Islamist Murder Of A Catholic Priest

Pope Francis - Aeroplane Press Conference

Islamist terror alone cannot defeat Western civilisation. Only we have the power to do that – and some of us are doing our darnedest to try

It is difficult to see how Western civilisation and enlightenment values can fight back against the forces of fundamentalist, Islamist terrorism when the spiritual leader of 1.27 billion Catholics worldwide – my spiritual leader – desperately refuses to accept that Islam is connected in any with with Islamist terror attacks, and doggedly insists that there is no real difference between “Catholic violence” and Islamist violence.

From the Huffington Post:

Pope Francis said on Sunday that it was wrong to identify Islam with violence and that social injustice and idolatry of money were among the prime causes of terrorism.

“I think it is not right to identify Islam with violence,” he told reporters aboard the plane taking him back to Rome after a five-day trip to Poland. “This is not right and this is not true.”

Francis was responding to a question about the killing on July 26 of an 85-year-old Roman Catholic priest by knife-wielding attackers who burst into a church service in western France, forced the priest to his knees and slit his throat. The attack was claimed by Islamic State.

“I think that in nearly all religions there is a always a small fundamentalist group,” he said, adding “We have them,” referring to Catholicism.

“I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy – someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptized Catholics,” he said.

“If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent,” he said.

The Pope, like every apologist for Islamist terror, is arguing against a straw man here – nobody but people on the lunatic fringe believes that all Muslims are violent. This is simply not an argument being advanced by any serious person or organisation, yet time and again the forces of denial (particularly strong among the political Left and the church) seem to feel the need to waste precious time reminding us of the fact that most Muslims are immensely peaceful and decent.

Newsflash: we get it. Unfortunately, that does not erase the fact that the small proportion who harbour violent and murderous intentions are called to do so by a highly literal and entirely valid (if not mainstream in the West) interpretation of Islam. To take the actions of Al Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists and strip them of their religious justification is to remove the only context in which they make sense and can be properly understood.

The people who flew airplanes into the twin towers, blew up the London Underground, killed the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, massacred Parisian concertgoers at the Bataclan, used a truck to mow down families celebrating Bastille Day in Nice and who last week slit the throat of an elderly Catholic priest while he celebrated Mass did not commit these barbaric acts because of social isolation or economic deprivation. Other people bear far worse isolation and deprivation stoically, and do so without resorting to mass murder. Religion is the catalyst – in this case, a fundamentalist and literalist interpretation of one religion in particular. To deny this much is insane.

And yet Pope Francis proceeds to do just that. “I think it is not right to identify Islam with violence,” he tells us. Well nobody is seriously suggesting that all Muslims are violent, or indeed that Islam has a monopoly on violence. But to deny the causal factor which links hundreds of deadly terror attacks across the world over several decades is sheer lunacy.

Of course all religions have a fundamentalist sect within them, Christianity included. But in the year 2016 there are no armed groups of fundamentalist Christians seizing sovereign territory and declaring their own theocratic state in which horrendous Biblical punishments are meted out to gay people, adulterers, shellfish eaters, blasphemers, those who work on the Sabbath or those who are rash enough to wear clothing made from more than one type of cloth. And while you might get the odd lone wolf deciding to blow up an abortion clinic, there is no worldwide Christian jihad underway – despite Christianity being less favoured and more under threat in Western societies than has been the case for centuries.

Most concerning, though, is when Pope Francis says “if I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent”. Firstly, it is not necessary to balance any criticism of Islam with an equal measure of Christian self-flagellation. This isn’t a children’s party game, ensuring that everyone gets equal time is not an important prerequisite. So no, on does not have to speak of Catholic violence when one speaks of Islamic violence.

Francis then goes on to literally equate “someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law” with Islamist terror attacks. Now, of course murder is murder in God’s eyes, just as all life is sacred. But murder and domestic violence have sadly been with us for as long as humans have existed – since Cain killed Abel, in the Bible. Islamist terror, on the other hand, is not an inherent part of the human condition. It is a political and religious phenomenon which must be closely examined and confronted in isolation, not merely swept up together with all the other violence in the world.

By and large, Catholics who kill do not attempt to use their faith as a pretext or justification for their actions – their faith is incidental to their crime. But with terror attacks and honour killings it is quite the opposite. Islam is placed front and centre as the justification for the crime, not by the evil Islamophobic media but by the expressed words and sentiments of those people who carry out the attacks. It is they who insist that they murder in the name of their Islamic faith. It is they who bring death to those they regard as infidels based on the literal teachings of their holy books. It is they, not the racist and Islamophobic media, who call their organisation the Islamic State.

Why are we so unwilling to take the actions of these mass murderers at face value? If a man turns himself in to a police station and admits killing his neighbour for having an affair with his wife, after corroborating the basic facts we would take the man at his word as to the motive. We would not waste endless days and column inches wringing our hands trying to come up with other, far-fetched reasons why the defendant might have killed the man he caught sleeping with his wife. And so it is with radical Islam.

When Islamist terrorists force an elderly priest to kneel at the altar of his own church before slitting his throat in front of his congregation and do so in the name of the Islamic State, we should accept their sincerity (and their declared religious motive) just as we accepted that those terrorists who brought death to civilians, politicians and soldiers during the Troubles did so because of their desire to bring about a united Ireland. To stubbornly refuse to accept the reality of Islamist terror direct from the mouths of the terrorists is to patronise and condescend to the Islamists, stripping them of agency (and responsibility) for their own actions and turning them into helpless pawns, “forced” to commit their terrible atrocities by dark and mysterious outside forces.

This is dangerous nonsense, which would be bad enough coming from the mouths of cookie-cutter leftist politicians. But coming from the heir to St. Peter and the ultimate boss of the slain Abbé Jacques Hamel – the man who more than anyone should be pained by his murder and determined to confront and root out the violence which caused it – it is doubly depressing. When Islamist terrorists strike, we must take their declared motives at face value just as we would do for any other terrorist or criminal. And then we must harden our resolve to destroy the scourge of fundamentalist Islamism once and for all.

To do anything else is not only to bury our heads in the sand as to the nature and severity of the threat that we face, but it is also to dishonour the memory of the many victims of Islamist terror attacks. For they are casualties in a clash of ideologies and cultures – progessivism versus fundamentalism, moderate Islam versus militant Islam, the enlightenment versus the dark ages – which too many people, nominally on “our” side, seem more than willing to deliberately lose, so long as they can avoid giving offence to certain mystifyingly protected classes and ideas.

 

Postscript: It appears that the Spectator’s Damian Thompson has been thinking along the same lines:

In the 21st-century Middle East, Christianity has been suppressed on an astonishing scale. Countless atrocities have reduced ancient Christian communities to shrivelled and terrified ghettoes or underground churches. Although this persecution has been reported in the West, it is of no great interest to secular politicians or the media. It is, as Neville Chamberlain said in a different context, part of ‘a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing’.

On Tuesday, the blood of a martyr was spilled at the other end of the Channel Tunnel. Now Christians in the West have had a glimpse of what it’s like to be a follower of Jesus in the lands of the Bible and many other countries — not all of them Muslim, but a troubling number of them ‘close allies’ who benefit from British trade deals, foreign aid and general diplomatic brown-nosing.

Will the murder of Father Hamel awake Christendom from its torpor? Let me refer you to the Twitter account of one Dr Austen Ivereigh, hagiographer of Pope Francis and former spokesman for the English Catholic Church. He referred to the ‘pointless banality of the Rouen murder’ and urged us not to glorify it by ‘ascribing religious motives’. There’s your answer.

God help us.

 

Fr Jacques Hamel - Catholic Priest

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Fr. Jacques Hamel, Martyred By Islamist Thugs Acting In The Name Of ISIS

ISIS hostage - catholic church

The cold blooded murder of a Catholic priest, executed at the altar of his own church by young Islamist thugs, demands a greater response from us than the usual standard, sorrowful Twitter hashtag

Another day, another abhorrent, despicable and unacceptable Islamo-fascist terror attack in France, this time targeting a Catholic church in which an 86 year old priest had his throat slit – while celebrating Mass – by Islamist thugs acting in the name of ISIS.

What happens when the sheer number of small and medium size Islamo-fascist terror attacks (or the aura of politically correct unease at confronting them) becomes so great that the media simply stop reporting them fully?

Melanie McDonagh wonders in The Spectator:

In Michel Houellebecq’s novel, Submission, about a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the French government (liberals and conservatives agreed this would be preferable to a National Front government), the interestingly prescient element was the non-reporting by television and papers of outbreaks of violence prior to the change of government (Twitter didn’t really feature in this novel). And that rings true. We’ve already got self-censorship when it comes to reporting attacks by Muslim refugees (the gun attack by a German-Iranian patently fell into a different category) in Germany and Scandinavia, and an almost comical reluctance anywhere in Europe to identify Islamist attacks as such – until IS takes credit for them, even the work of freelances. Plainly we have to guard against language that would demonise an entire community, but within that reasonable limit, we must require both politicians and public service broadcasters to talk plainly. And when Muslim extremists slit the throat of a priest in his own church, we’re looking at religiously motivated murder, entirely of a piece with the same religiously motivated murder of Christians and others being carried out in the Middle East. Shall we say so?

This is my concern too. While reading Houllebecq’s Soumission last year I was struck by the plausibility of the author’s scenario – a craven political/media class desperate to avoid facing up to the nature of the threat ultimately ceasing to report on the fundamentalist religious violence even as it grew. One scene features a wealthy society event attended by the academic elite of Paris, interrupted by the sounds of distant gunfire in Paris – an Islamist attack or far-right counter-attack which was barely acknowledged by the partygoers let alone mentioned on the later television news bulletins.

Already we have seen the first signs of “terror fatigue” in the mainstream media. When a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the gates of a music festival in Ansbach, Germany late on Sunday night, Britain’s rolling TV news channels briefly mentioned that an incident was underway, but otherwise continued with their normal programming. By the early hours of Monday morning they had bothered to get a couple of eyewitnesses on air via telephone, but it was not until the breakfast news that they gave it the full terror attack treatment which we have come to expect from the news. Evidently these incidents are now coming so thick and fast that the BBC did not consider it worthwhile waking up their A-team presenters or reporters in the middle of the night for “just another” suicide attack on the streets of Europe.

This is the new normal. And as this blog argued yesterday, Europe’s political class and virtue-signalling members of the public must shoulder their share of the responsibility for our increased vulnerability to attack. Whether it is by cheering on the opening of Europe’s gates to millions of improperly-vetted migrants, a small number of whom have deadly intent, or furiously refusing to confront the fundamentalist religious nature behind that evil intent, we have denied ourselves the ideological, spiritual, procedural and technological means to properly defend ourselves and our civilisation.

Father Jacques Hamel died doing what he had done for 58 years of faithful service – proclaiming the Word of the Lord and celebrating the Eucharist. Though his death was unimaginably barbaric and violent, at least the name of Fr. Jacques will live on as somebody who proclaimed his truth and defended his values to his last day. Can the same be said for many of us, especially those of us who seek to reach some kind of appalling and unachievable truce with the Islamo-fascists? How will those of us be remembered in history who seek to excuse Islamist terror, laughably excusing it or explaining it away on the grounds of foreign policy or housing policy or welfare cuts?

On this one grim occasion we can at least be grateful for France’s historically strong secular traditions. The cold-blooded murder of a priest celebrating Mass in a more devout country could well have lit the touchpaper for religious war and serious civil strife. France, being more secular, will likely not see as great an anti-Islamic backlash as if this had happened in more Catholic country like Poland.

But there the good news ends. If they were not already high on the list of potential targets, churches, synagogues and the priests and rabbis who lead worship in them will now be in the crosshairs of every budding wannabe jihadist already in Europe, as well as those who have yet to arrive. Every parishioner going to Mass will now have pause to stop and consider their safety as they fill the pews this Sunday, and every subsequent Sunday. It is physically impossible to protect every church in the country, particularly against assailants armed only with knives and fake explosives.

On the plus side, President Francois Hollande has finally been shamed by events (the weekly accumulation of terrorist atrocities and the growing death toll) into declaring that France is at war with the Islamic State and therefore, by extension, with the extremist fundamentalist ideology behind it. But it is too little, too late.

As Harry de Quetteville puts it in the Telegraph:

So we should remember this: the truly great leaders now, those who can genuinely bring security and are worth voting for, will not be those such as Marine Le Pen who seek to exploit division for power. But neither, crucially, will they come from the ranks of those who fail to address what voters see as blindingly obvious: that terror and immigration are connected. If Angela Merkel persists in doing so, even she will be brought low by it. If the Democrats continue not to talk about terror, it could cost Hillary Clinton the White House.

In Britain we have grown used to talking throughout the Brexit campaign about a disconnect between politicians and the public. “They just don’t get it,” said the ranks of the disaffected, as they deserted Labour for Ukip and voted Leave. Even now, our main parties are struggling to offer even an initial response to the economic impacts of globalisation.

But the consequences of a similar disconnection between public and politicians over terror would be unthinkable – menacing to the liberty and liberal values that define our societies.

The politicians to prize, then, are those who can pull their heads out of the sand without stirring up the mob.

Such prize politicians seem few and far between in France, Germany and Britain. In fact it is hard to remember a time when the quality of leadership was held in such low esteem by a political class who now prize the ability to pander to chosen voting constituencies above all else. With the partial exception of Jeremy Corbyn on the Left, Britain’s major political parties have zero interest in telling hard truths to the British people or proposing anything other than glib, painless (and ultimately unworkable) fixes.

One faction of the country in particular – the Guardianista metro left – is not even yet willing to describe these attacks as religiously motivated, ascribing them simply to “troubled individuals”. When half the country is unable (or stubbornly, desperately refuses) to identify the ideology which murdered an octogenarian priest at the altar of his own church, how do we ever confront it?

May God grant eternal rest to His faithful servant Fr. Jacques Hamel.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

And may we finally come up with a response to this sustained Islamist assault on democracy and freedom of speech and religion which amounts to more than a Twitter hashtag and a few bunches of flowers.

 

Fr Jacques Hamel - Catholic Priest

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Bastille Day Terrorist Attack In Nice – The Enemy Which We Refuse To Name Strikes Again

Nice Attack - Truck - Terrorism - France

As #PrayForNice trends on Twitter and another European city is plunged into terror and tragedy, what action have we taken to name, confront and defeat the evil which threatens us?

The news and images coming from the French city of Nice on what should be the most celebratory of days for the French people – Bastille Day – are awful, and heartbreaking, and wearily familiar.

As of this time, 77 people are confirmed dead, mown down on the Promenade des Anglais by a truck driven at high speed and containing an arsenal of weapons and explosives. This is clearly an act of terror – the numerous bullet holes in the windshield of the blood stained truck a testament to the amount of force it took the security services to stop the vehicle. And of course this is the third time in nineteen months that the French have suffered a grievous, high profile terrorist attack on their soil – first Charlie Hebdo, then the Bataclan, both in Paris, and now the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice.

To this we can add the Brussels terrorist attacks in March this year and, looking beyond Europe, numerous deadly attacks in Turkey as well as the terrorist shootings in San Bernadino and Orlando.

This is the future. This is the kind of terrorism which we are now going to face – not truly grand attacks on the level of 9/11, where casualties run into the thousands, but a long, slow grind of relentless medium-sized attacks, often on lower-value targets or in second tier, provincial cities. Often their planning and execution may turn out to be quite crude – this is not the age of the cunning master plan coordinated from a supervillain’s lair, but of “quick and dirty” plots hatched by autonomous cells and all the more unsettling precisely because they do not strike where we expect.

Now, murder comes to the airport entrance before the security checkpoints, or to an unremarkable concert venue, or a nondescript office or the main strip of a seaside town. Places which with the best will in the world are impossible to defend 24/7.

Radical Islamist terror has moved firmly into the age of the lone wolf, or the quasi-autonomous sleeper cell.

Why? Think of it like WiFi. Terrorist networks can no longer safely rely on coordinating large scale attacks in the West from a remote location with a reasonable degree of confidence that they will go undetected. Therefore, if ISIS and other fundamentalist Islamist organisations cannot physically cooordinate logistics and dispatch operatives to conduct attacks in Western cities, they must resort to other, remote means.

When the traditional methods of internet, telephone and even face-to-face communication are at risk of being intercepted by the security services, proponents of fundamentalist Islamist ideology must instead rely on transmitting their ideology and broad objectives through more general means, including YouTube and social media, targeted at the right susceptible population – usually disaffected and alienated young Muslim men who do not feel connected to or fully invested in society. The leaders of this death cult then rely on some of their indoctrinated targets possessing sufficient initiative to become their own mini terrorist masterminds.

We saw this approach in San Bernadino last winter, and again in Orlando last month. As more facts emerge, it may become clear that the Nice attack followed this pattern. Alternatively, it may be that Europe’s porous border and chaotic influx of migrants allowed foreign terrorists to slip through the net and aid in the planning or execution of the attack (press reports currently indicate that ID found on the truck driver suggest that he is a 31-year-old with dual French-Tunisian nationality, but this ID could well be fake or stolen).

But what is already crystal clear is the stark, uncomfortable fact that since Paris and Brussels (or Madrid and London, if you want to cast back a decade) our leaders have done nothing – nothing at all – to meaningfully grapple with this scourge of Islamist terrorism. So terrified are they of being accused of intolerance or racism that all we hear is the furious insistence that these atrocities have “nothing to do with Islam“.

And it’s just false. Of course the barbarity in Nice has absolutely nothing to do with the peaceful, moderate Islam practise by millions of adherents in the West and elsewhere. But it cannot be denied that those who do commit mass murdering acts of terrorism often explicitly reference Islam as their inspiration and justification – and do so from a very literal reading of certain Islamic texts. Moderate Islam does not inspire terrorist attacks, clearly. But fundamentalist, radical Islam often does, and we need to admit as much, for if we cannot even name the threat which we face what chance do we have of overcoming it?

As Douglas Murray rightly pointed out in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre:

Contra the political leaders, the Charlie Hebdo murderers were not lunatics without motive, but highly motivated extremists intent on enforcing Islamic blasphemy laws in 21st-century Europe. If you do not know the ideology — perverted or plausible though it may be — you can neither understand nor prevent such attacks. Nor, without knowing some Islamic history, could you understand why — whether in Mumbai or Paris — the Islamists always target the Jews.

[..] We have spent 15 years pretending things about Islam, a complex religion with competing interpretations. It is true that most Muslims live their lives peacefully. But a sizeable portion (around 15 per cent and more in most surveys) follow a far more radical version. The remainder are sitting on a religion which is, in many of its current forms, a deeply unstable component. That has always been a problem for reformist Muslims. But the results of ongoing mass immigration to the West at the same time as a worldwide return to Islamic literalism means that this is now a problem for all of us. To stand even a chance of dealing with it, we are going to have to wake up to it and acknowledge it for what it is.

The cost of this furious pretence that Islam is totally unconnected to the “so called” Islamic State and the terror attacks committed in its name can now be measured in a growing toll of human lives. And the slickness with which we now mourn these events, with standardised tributes and modes of behaviour, only serves to emphasise our utter lack of coordination in preventing their recurrence.

As this blog commented after the recent Brussels attacks in March, charting the inevitability of the public grieving followed by zero meaningful action:

Impromptu shrines appear in a major square of the afflicted city, with candles, chalk drawings and sometimes a bit of impromptu John Lennon.

And the day closes with Europe and America’s major landmarks illuminated to resemble the national flag of the afflicted nation. They’re getting really good at that part now.

Fast forward a day, and plans are well afoot to grant even more powers to the well-meaning but overstretched security services – who were unable to make use of their current extensive powers to thwart the attack – and generally at the expense of our civil liberties. Particularly our rights to privacy and free speech.

Fast forward a month, and we have all moved on. Domestic political concerns, celebrity scandals and daily life have reasserted themselves.

I think we can all agree that we’ve got the public grief, cathartic expressions of solidarity and stern faced authoritarianism down to a fine art at this point.

When are we going to start acknowledging – and maybe even tackling – the root causes?

Unless our leaders can openly and unequivocally acknowledge that the terrorist scourge which sees murder brought to the streets of Europe on a near-monthly basis has its roots in a fundamentalist, literalist and militant strain of Islam, how are we ever to really get to grips with the issues of radicalisation and non-assimilation?

If the deaths of eighty slain people in Nice have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam then how do we hope to save young and impressionable Muslim schoolgirls in London from stealing away to Syria to join ISIS, or young and impressionable Muslim boys from falling under the seductive spell of jihadist recruiters?

If we cannot openly and comfortably name the enemy which we face – not an entire religion, but certainly a very real and present strain of Islam – then how do we even begin to formulate policies which will meaningfully reduce this threat over time?

The answer is that we cannot. We can clamp down further on our precious civil liberties, bartering away even more of our freedoms in the hope of purchasing additional security (and letting the terrorists win, since they count as a victory anything which diminishes our liberal democratic way of life). We can ramp up the surveillance state and clamp down on freedom of speech to make it look like we are doing something purposeful, even though the costs of such draconian measures far exceed the benefits. But none of these measures will stop two radicalised guys and a truck from repeating the horrors of Nice in Camden Town or Edinburgh.

It is impossible to create the perfectly secure country, and the closer one tries to get to this ideal, greater and greater are the liberties which must be traded away in exchange. Therefore, the only way to stop more Nice attacks from happening is to approach the problem from the other end and seek to tackle the radical, fundamentalist Islamist extremism.

And this is the one thing which our leaders, in their tragic fear of giving offence, shamefully refuse to do.

 

Paris Terror Attacks - Eiffel Tower Dark - 2

Top Image: Guardian

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