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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Assault on Western Civilisation

Watching and reading of the activities of the ISIS in Syria, Iraq, Libya and now Tunisia, one can only wonder at the motivation of the fanatics who flock to support this vile and psychopathic movement. It is obvious that the appeal, for young Muslims living in western countries where they have not integrated, do not wish to integrate, and are fed the ‘dream’ of a perfect Islamic ‘paradise’ founded on the Quran and the forced conversion to Islam of everyone in it, is a very complex problem. What is less obvious, to those who do not understand the roots and origins of this ideology — and one does get the impression that includes all of our political leaders, all the ‘multi-culty’ promoters and our ‘foreign policy wonks — is why it is so well supported, and why it is so violent, so barbaric in its conquests.
If they perhaps knew the real history of the Arab conquest of the Middle East in the 8th to 13th Centuries a bit better instead of the romanticised version cobbled up by the Victorian adventurers, it might be a little more understandable to them. Those who hailed the ‘Arab Spring’ and who still see ‘anyone who isn’t Assad’ as a preferable ruler in Syria, must accept a large part of responsibility for what has happened there. Their failure to understand the complex ideological, tribal, religious and internecine ‘politics’ of the region and these countries, the arming of ‘resistance’ and ‘populist’ groups — and the failure to grasp the reason local rulers are very reluctant to commit any of their armies to a fight against these psychopathic thugs makes us every bit as culpable for this mess as the ISIS itself. I sometimes wonder if it is genuine ignorance of other cultures, or arrogance that makes our western liberal thinkers assume that everyone, regardless of race, religion, culture or heritage shares the same desire of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’. 
This assumption simply ignores several facts, such as that ‘democracy’ as we know is barely 200 years old in most of Europe, and only slightly older in the US. It has long roots in the UK, but didn’t take its present form until the 1830s even there. It has no long standing cultural roots outside of Europe, and most countries outside of the spheres of control of the British Empire or the US didn’t get democratic government until after 1945. In the Arab controlled world it has no cultural base at all, and is an imposition totally foreign to their heritage and religion. 
So why are we surprised when it is rejected by the majority in those countries? Why are we surprised that the artificial boundaries civil servants in Whitehall and Paris drew on maps without considering ethnicities, religious affiliations, cultures, tribal boundaries and even languages are now being torn asunder? Why, when we invite people from these countries to come and live in ours, are we then told we must accept their desire to ‘preserve’ their cultural heritage, their desire to still dress as if they were living in a desert, or in the ‘tribal’ attire of their homelands, and refuse to integrate with our own society? Why, when the children of the first wave of families from those countries are brought up to consider themselves anything BUT British or European, are we surprised when they, or their children, reject our society and effectively declare war on it?
Travelling around the world I have perhaps been fortunate to see both the ‘official’ face presented by many of these places and the unofficial and more realistic face. The ‘official’ face would have you believe any place is next best thing to paradise. The trains (if they have any) run on time, the government looks after your best interests and everyone lives in peace and harmony. The unofficial face lets you see the hardship, the excluded members of society, the people working two, three or four jobs to try and get something better for themselves, and it lets you hear the dissenting voices. It makes you realise that while another culture may look idyllic, it may also have some nasty aspects lurking in the long grass you’d rather not have to face.
This is one of the problems when confronting Islam. The Quran is, for a large part, about ‘peace and love’. It is, like some versions of the Bible, wonderfully poetic in its language, but it also contains some commandments that are decidedly NOT about peace and love. The same can be said of parts of the Bible, certainly parts of the Old Testament, but where, in the Bible, there is a ‘New’ Testament and a ‘New Commandment’ which transcends the Old (if only some of the more fundamental among us would recognise it), there is no such ‘modifier’ in Islam. Nor is there a central hierarchy of teaching and control. Rome has its Curia, Anglicanism their Synods, Orthodoxy its Councils and even the Protestant churches have synods, councils and conferences which thrash out (sometimes with verbal if not physical blows) agreement on the meaning of texts, passages, injunctions. Islam has its ‘scholars’ and its Muftis, but everyone is able to place his own interpretation on the Quran. Anyone able to memorise large chunks of it can call himself a ‘scholar’ and anyone can set up a Madrassa or ‘school’.
That leaves the door wide open for the growth and development of the sort of fundamentalist theology that feeds organisations such as ISIS and their ideology.
I suspect that, to a very large extent, we will never see the Saudi Arabian Army, the Kuwaiti Defence Force, or the Royal Jordanian Army confront the ISIS directly. In part because the ISIS is a Sunni sect, and to a larger extent because the men who make up those armies might all to easily change sides. That, I think, is the greatest fear among the current ruling classes of the Middle East, and this is why, in the greater scheme of things I do not think the ISIS will be defeated any time soon. Nor do I think it would be a good idea for any western forces to be committed to engage them. Yes, we could probably win (assuming we didn’t have to fight with all the touchy-feely ‘rules of engagement’ tying our troops and commanders hands behind their backs), but the ISIS is more than just the barbaric scum it deploys in the field — it is also a very alluring and pernicious ideology. 
Even if we sent in the military and killed every single ISIS fighter in a wat of total annihilation, the idea would persist. And sometime in ten, twenty or thirty years time, a new ‘Caliphate’ group would emerge to start all over again. The sad thing is that western civilisation has to face up to the fact we have a choice. Accept the current ISIS as a fact and let them continue unchecked, which also means allowing young Muslims from our own countries to travel back and forth freely to join them and come home full of ideas to bring the war to us — or we can man up, stop pussyfooting, come down hard on their supporters on the internet, at home and abroad. Cut off the support, attack the ideology with fact and undermine its appeal, and then deal effectively and permanently with those who have joined their forces, fought for the ISIS and committed the atrocities. 
All very well crying about their ‘rights’ and wringing our hands over the brutality of our troops shooting someone shooting at them, we have a stark choice. Let the ISIS continue bombing, shooting and murdering its way into power — or annihilate it by whatever means it takes. That will also mean making every man or woman who has supported it, fought for it or tried to do so, pay for their criminal activity on its behalf.

Failure to do so will ensure, that like the Roman civilisation in the sixth and seventh centuries, ours is swept aside and replaced by an alien and frankly barbaric one in the not too distant future.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

A Long Break ...

This Blog has been suffering from some serious neglect for a while now. This is due, in large part, to my being heavily involved in writing a new historical novel which is now in the final stages of pre-publication editing, and partly due to a few changes of publishers for some of my other titles. Both Out of Time and The Enemy is Within are now out of print. The first is demanding a lot of time at the moment as it needed a massive overhaul to meet my new publisher's expectations, the second will need some work as well.

The good news is that Harry Heron; Midshipman's Journey and The Outer Edge are both selling well and A Baltic Affair is maintaining a steady trickle of sales as well.

From my perspective, the exciting news is that my latest book, Limehouse Boys, will be appearing in the latter half of July. The story is set in the early 1830s and revolves around the 'adventures' of a trio of orphans. It was inspired by some research into life for those in London's teeming East End at that period. Healthcare was almost non-existent, poverty was rife, corruption governed access to just about everything and crime gangs held sway. Exploitation of those desperate enough to seek a place in the Workhouses, or unfortunate enough to be orphaned and committed to one, faced a very harsh future.

The research left me shocked in some instances, angry in others, and it turned up tragedies, miscarriages and abuses in Justice, and some remarkable heroes whose efforts seem to have gone largely unrewarded. It is fascinating to read that Parliament fought tooth and nail to protect certain 'privileges' and even to perpetuate, in the interests of profits and commercial competitiveness, the abuses of child labour. Speeches were even made defending the abuses, and in some cases denying them, or claiming that the complainants were idle or lazy and exaggerating matters.

I hope readers will enjoy it, I have dedicated it to all those who have risen above bad beginnings and made their own way in the world.