Of all the guff churned out about Isis, the refrain that we are engaged in a ‘clash of civilisations’ and ‘battle of ideas’ is uniquely moronic. Isis doesn’t want civilisation. As for a battle of ideas – what ideas? Isis doesn’t have any, unless you count an apocalyptic fight to the death in Dabiq or Rome. We are reliably informed that Isis includes some very intelligent people who spend years planning terror attacks. Yet it took the, ahem, ‘conflicted’ Mohamed Bouhlel – that brave warrior who defecated on his own daughter’s bed – months to plan his terror attack, which consisted solely of getting in a lorry and putting his foot down. Has any moment more succinctly captured the utter hatred of these brainwashed idiots than the moment Bouhlel’s truck accelerated into the crowd?
If you can bear it, log on and listen to the Islamist ravings of one of the dreary beardies. Isis may be scary for all sorts of reasons: intelligence ain’t one of them. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali describes in her superb book ‘Infidel’, an Islamist education is an oxymoron. Under Islamism – as the English translation of Boko Haram makes clear – the only education allowed is the reading of the Koran. Which might explain why Isis, who spend a lot of time decrying the West and all it stands for, spends so much time using technology invented by the West – such as the internet, mobile phones and GoPro helmets to capture their gruesome deeds. Can you imagine Isis inventing Satnav? Of course you can’t – because they are stupid and often mad.
Despite mounting evidence that most Isis recruits are a combination of the crapulous and the credulous, including failed bouncy castle salesmen who couldn’t get a girlfriend, serious commentators from both sides of the political spectrum are terrified of Isis (or Daesh, as they would prefer us to call them). They think it represents an existential threat to our way of life.
Melanie Phillips suggests that unless Britain and the West ‘refuse even to name the enemy they face [they] will surely be defeated by it’. Will Hutton says ‘liberal Europe is fighting for its life’. Owen Smith suggests we can get round a table with Isis, as if you can negotiate with a cult that wants everyone round that table to be dead. What biscuits would you serve, Owen?
All these assertions are utter cobblers, as is the thesis of the latest (and by far the weakest) book by Michel Houellebecq. ‘Submission’, which is cited by Hutton, says that ‘the West’ (whatever that is) is ‘losing’ because ‘we’ are weak, uncertain of our beliefs, and too ‘decadent.’ Islamists have the upper hand, apparently, because they are willing to fight and die for their beliefs whereas we are not – despite the fact that within living memory millions of ordinary Britons and other Europeans fought, and died, to defeat a far more fundamental threat to our way of life: Nazi Germany.
I’ve argued for decades that some beliefs are worth fighting and dying for. These include the freedom to believe and to disbelieve, to wear what one chooses (even the strangely alluring burkini), to read, travel, eat and draw what you like and accept people who think or act differently. This presents a moral quandary. Do we allow free speech for those who use that free speech to demand it is destroyed? Or, as I ask in ‘Out of Office’, a novel about Islamism and its bizarre effect on supposedly intelligent progressives, ‘How long can a tolerant society tolerate intolerance?’
These feelings aren’t new. In 1982, as an angry, anti-everything 15-year-old ‘socialist’, I wrote in the bedroom of my Yorkshire home: ‘Some of the unsavoury aspects of other races should be stamped out (chosen marriages, flogging, all that). I think when other people come here they should try and adjust to our way of life.’
I still feel the same; Honeyford, Rushdie, September 11, 7/7, Charlie Hebdo and endless other acts of mayhem have only reinforced my view that moral relativism is both deeply racist and utterly counter-productive. Racist because it implies that people from different cultures are somehow less deserving of human rights, less able to understand them; counter-productive because it rarely brings people together.
Last week, as we sat in a Toulouse coffee shop watching soldiers patrol the streets, a French friend sighed: ‘If only we hadn’t invaded their countries.’ By which she meant if only ‘the West’ hadn’t invaded Islamic countries. As if Isis were solely the fault of Bush and Blair, somehow missing the fact that these battles go far back beyond them.
As Hirsi Ali tells us, ‘Islam’ means submit – and that is something the West will never do. The sooner well-paid columnists and well-meaning politicians grasp that fact, the sooner we can see Isis for what it is: brutal, yes, fascistic, yes, but also oddly out of time. We aren’t engaged in a battle for the world: Isis knows this. And it enrages them, that they will lose because we have something they, by definition, can never have: freedom of thought. So let’s use it.