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Ever since hijacked airliners made toxic dust of the World Trade Centre in New York, there has persisted an intellectual struggle in Europe and America the furiousness and range of which has very few historical parallels. As soon the smoke cleared from that gigantic crime scene (and after the criminal force behind the attack was exposed) a thousand journalists, philosophers, historians and artists set out feverishly to make sense of the event. In the blink of an eye, the global intelligentsia split down the middle into two haughtily confident factions; factions we will brand simply as the ‘Left’ and the ‘Right’.
According to the Left, 9/11 was a revenge attack for the depravities of American, British and Israeli foreign policy. In this sense, the attackers were little more than Quran-carrying Che Guevaras or Guy Fawkes’s; freedom fighters, essentially, who had been forced by cruel circumstance to choose a nasty response to past-nastiness. The Right saw things as differently as can be imagined. For them, the attacks were not revenge for anything, but simply the perpetuation of an ancient theological grudge-match between East and West. No moral case, they considered, could be made to justify the barbarism so photo-realistically witnessed.
We are now 14 years on from the attack on New York. In the intervening period, wars have been launched; numerous smaller-scale atrocities have been committed all over the globe; protest and counter-protest have gripped every Western capital; every thinking person has found themselves in some way drawn in. After all that – which set of arguments has won? Which narrative has triumphed? Or, if we allow that the debate still persists, who is winning?
If you caught me in a bad mood, I might tell you that the Left had won. For this contention I’d probably offer such evidence as the continuing Muslim immigration into the West, as well as the enduring taboo on blaspheming the holy figures of Islam.
But if you caught me in a calm, rational mood such as I find myself in today, I would likely decide the other way, and I’d be correct. The Left has lost the Islam debate and lost badly. Outside of the media crèche itself, the number of people still arguing for appeasement of Islam is infinitesimally small. Don’t believe me? Just look at the Guardian newspaper coverage of the Paris attacks of this month. Though the columns themselves were designed to promote ‘understanding’ and inter-communal ‘tolerance’, the comments made in reply to them exhibited frank disagreement, even mockery. The following comment is representative of the general trend:
“I detest Islamism. No-one is ever going to change my mind on that…The more Muslims we import into Europe the more our security services will be burdened. If the truth offends you, tough.”
Remind yourself that this is from the Guardian’s ‘comment is free’ website; a bastion of orthodox anti-imperialism and left-wing inflexibility. Most people registered to comment are Left-leaning in almost every other respect (take a look at the comments on welfare sanctions and climate change). The reorientation of such attitudes on an issue of this divisive nature is telling, shocking, encouraging.
Further evidence for this new and pleasing reality is found in online polls. Whenever a newspaper (whatever the stance of that newspaper) sets up a two-answer poll involving Islam, the anti-Islam option wins by a landslide. And not only is this trend ongoing in the general public. A similar process is underway in the intelligentsia itself. It is surely amazing from this historical distance to imagine an argument like the following being taken seriously:
“On the morning of September 11, 2001, a few more chickens – along with some half-million dead Iraqi children – came home to roost in a very big way at the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Well, actually, a few of them seem to have nestled in at the Pentagon as well…The most that can honestly be said of those involved on September 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course… That they (the terrorists) waited so long to do so is, notwithstanding the 1993 action at the WTC, more than anything a testament to their patience and restraint…They did not license themselves to “target innocent civilians.” There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel killed on September 11 fill that bill. The building and those inside comprised military targets, pure and simple. As to those in the World Trade Center . . . Well, really. Let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire – the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved.”
This quote is taken from a lengthy essay entitled “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens” written by Native American professor Ward Churchill. At the time of its publication, this amoral screed encapsulated the mood and feelings of uncountable academics, both in the West and outside of it. Now, post-Iraq, post-7/7, post-Madrid and post-Hitchens, such views are weighed as wicked, childish, unbefitting of intelligent consideration.
Though the nightmare of Jihad is far from resolution, we must yield to optimism when reason allows for it. More and more people are waking up to our position. We are no longer ‘extremists’ lurking about on the half-lit fringe. We are pioneers. We are being followed.