, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Each week, the world is treated to another episode of ‘Lend me your ears’, the oddly compelling news series fronted by an abducted war-photographer turned puppet of ISIS called John Cantlie.

In each instalment, no doubt to stall for time before his decapitation, Mr Cantlie, in a Guantanamo-Orange t-shirt and seated behind a black desk, puts admirable effort into the role he is cruelly being forced to play; a Westerner who has come to know and accept the arguments of the Islamic State (ISIS).

The beginning of each episode is the same. Mr Cantlie (with a strange, dull-eyed sincerity) states “I’m John Cantlie, the Westerner abandoned by my government”.  This line, almost certainly written by his jailers, is an effort to extract money for Mr Cantlie’s freedom, just as worked with the French government for the release of one Mr Cantlie’s former cellmates. It almost certainly won’t work with Britain.

The story of how Mr Cantlie fell into this morbid predicament is tragi-comic. The journalist was originally kidnapped two years ago by Islamist fighters in Northern Syria and was held hostage until moderates from the Free Syrian Army managed to secure his release. After heading back to Britain where he stayed for a couple of months, Mr Cantlie decided to revisit the increasingly lawless patch of Syria that provided him with his previous misfortune. He was soon re-captured, this time by ISIS, and now he seems to possess no hope of seeing the civilised world again.

I do sympathise with Mr Cantlie’s situation. I really do. But the question must be asked all the same: why the hell would any rational person – no matter what their objective and however noble it is – travel from the world of parliamentary democracy to a domain run along 6th century Islamic lines? What was the prize of such adventurism? A glossy shot of a corpse or a used tank shell? Surely the statistics reported by the Assad government and FSA sources illustrate the tragedy unfolding there in perfectly stark terms. What is the obsession with seeing everything?

The issue is broader than this one case of course. It isn’t just terrorism that potentially waits for you in the world of Islam, but uncountable instances of rape, abduction, sexual harassment (especially in Egypt) and ludicrous judicial punishments (in Abu Dhabi and Dubai).

The solution? Don’t go to the Islamic world. Stop travelling there. Whatever ancient (pre-Islamic) marvels, or professional thrills attract you, they are not worth your death or the tears of your family and friends.

If you want the ancient world, travel to Israel instead. Walk the hallowed streets of Jerusalem and Safed. Enjoy the thrill of seeing everyday people with assault rifles slung around their backs, charged with the maintenance of the civilised world’s frontline. See what happens to your political views when you try to imagine what it’s like living so close to the previous millennium that you feel its vile breathing.

Muslims are a generally dangerous people. It isn’t just a few bad apples. The whole barrel is rotten. And for the same reasons you wouldn’t travel to a Papuan jungle filled with cannibals, stop travelling to the Islamic world.