11 August 2009

Don't ditch that baby! In praise of western civilisation

The West in a Nutshell is a collection of essays that ranges widely from sport to geopolitics. Essayist Paul Monk applauds western literary and philosophical traditions and the encouragement of creativity and conceptual thinking they enabled.

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Jessica Stern is an expert on terrorism. In this conversation, first broadcast in 2003/4, Jessica talks about her book which is the result of 4 years research, interviewing a range of Jewish, Christian and Muslim terrorists.


I've got to agree with Sheehan in the SMH on the weekend, here, while I think that US policy in the Middle East is flakey and counterproductive and the hardball of the last century left the Arab world with nothing but profound and chauvanistic extremisms to defend their sense of self, I really wonder how the enlightenment project can work in a nation indifferent to the classic social virtue of religious tolerance. In the middle ages Jews and Christian dissidents fled to the safety and tolerance of classic Islamic civilisation, without which the heritage of the Greeks would never have made it to Europe. The Mongols, colonialism, the triumph of the science and the technological revolution the mastery of nature spawned smashed that classic Muslim liberalism. The Americans enabled the rabid antiwestern fundamentalism of the Saudi's and funded a coalition of ratbags to defeat the USSR in Afghanistan.

The last gasp of an unreconstructed tribalism? A reaction to the suppression of political moderation in the arab world? Time will tell.

All five of those arrested on terrorism charges were treated with great generosity by Australia as they set up new lives here. But their behaviour in court has been an exemplar of the problem of reconciling sharia with civil law. One of the accused, Wissam Fattal, refused to stand as the magistrate read out the charges and followed this with a torrent of abuse as he was led out of the court. Another of those charged, Nayef El Sayed, informed the court he would stand for no man, only for his God.

In other words, they accept only sharia, the rest is a charade.

Even the family and supporters of the accused went out of their way to express contempt for the legal system and, by extension, the society it represents. Reporters were called ''faggots'' and ''dickheads'' amid a general attitude of animus recorded by the journalists covering the proceedings.

I have observed the same thing first-hand numerous times during criminal trials involving Muslim defendants, families and supporters.

In every case, the idea that Muslims are in trouble because they have been ''marginalised'' by society is reality turned on its head. They are the ones who have marginalised a society they are happy to exploit but not respect.


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