Re-Primitivized World

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Here are four news stories from the last week:

Baghdad: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi found himself on the receiving end of 500lbs of US ordnance.

London: Scotland Yard arrested a cell of East End Muslims allegedly plotting a sarin attack in Britain.

Toronto: The Mounties busted a cell of Ontario Muslims planning a bombing three times more powerful than Oklahoma City.

Mogadishu: An al-Qaeda affiliate, the “Joint Islamic Courts,” took control of the Somali capital, displacing “US-backed warlords.”

The world divides into those who think the above are all part of the same story and those who figure they’re strictly local items of no wider significance deriving from various regional factors:

In Baghdad and London, fury at Bush-Blair neocon-Zionist-Halliburton warmongering;

In Toronto, fury at Canadian multiculti-liberal-pantywaist warmongering … no, wait, that can’t be right. It must be frustration among certain, ah, ethno-cultural communities at insufficiently lavish levels of massive government social programs, to judge from the surreal conversation on NPR’s “Morning Edition” between Renee Montagne and the city’s mayor;

And in Mogadishu, well, that’s just one bunch of crazy Africans killing another bunch of crazy Africans — who the hell can figure that out? If Bono holds a celebrity fundraising gala, we’ll all be glad to chip in 20 bucks …

If you choose to believe that, as Tip bin Neill might have put it, “all jihad is local,” so be it. You can listen to NPR discussions on whether Canada’s jihadist health care programs are inadequately funded, and I’m sure you’ll be very happy. But out in the real world it seems the true globalization success story of the 1990s was the export of ideology from a relatively obscure part of the planet to the heart of every western city.

Take the subject of, say, decapitation. There’s a lot of it about in the Muslim world. These Somali Islamists, in the course of their seizure of Mogadishu, captured troops from the warlords’ side and beheaded them. Zarqawi made beheading his signature act, cutting the throats of the American hostage Nick Berg and the British hostage Ken Bigley and then releasing the footage as boffo snuff videos over the Internet.

But it’s not just guerillas and insurgents who are hot for decapitation. The Saudis, who are famously “our friends,” behead folks on a daily basis. Last year, the kingdom beheaded six Somalis for auto theft. They’d been convicted and served five-year sentences but at the end thereof the Saudi courts decided to upgrade their crime to a capital offence. Some two-thirds of those beheaded in Saudi Arabia are foreign nationals, which would be an unlikely criminal profile in any civilized state and suggests that the justice “system” is driven by the Saudis’ contempt for non-Saudis as much as anything else.

Which brings us to Toronto. In court last week, it was alleged that the conspirators planned to storm the Canadian Parliament and behead the Prime Minister. On the face of it, that sounds ridiculous. As ridiculous as it must have seemed to Ken Bigley, a British contractor in Iraq with no illusions about the world: He’d spent most of his adult life grubbing around the seedier outposts of empire and thought he knew the way the native chappies did things. He never imagined the last sounds he’d ever hear were delirious cries of “Allahu Akhbar” and the man behind him reaching for his blade. And he never imagined that back in his native land his fellow British subjects — young Muslim men — would boast to the London Times about downloading the video of his execution and watching it on their cellphones.

Writing about the collapse of nations such as Somalia, the Atlantic Monthly’s Robert D. Kaplan referred to the “citizens” of such “states” as “re-primitivized man.” When lifelong Torontonians are hot for decapitation, when Yorkshiremen born and bred and into fish’n’chips and cricket and lousy English pop music self-detonate on the London Tube, it would seem that the phenomenon of “re-primitivized man” has been successfully exported around the planet. It’s reverse globalization: the pathologies of the remotest backwaters now have franchise outlets in every western city. You don’t have to be a loser Ontario welfare recipient like Steven Chand, the 25-year old Muslim convert named in the thwarted Prime Ministerial beheading. Omar Sheikh, the man behind the beheading of The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl, was an English “public” (i.e. private) schoolboy and graduate of the London School of Economics.

Five years after 9/11, some strategists say we can’t win this thing “militarily”, which is true in the sense that you can’t send the Third Infantry Division to Brampton, Ontario. But nor is it something we can win through “law enforcement” — by letting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI and MI5 and every gendarmerie on the planet deal with every little plot on the map as a self-contained criminal investigation. We need to throttle the ideology and roll up the networks. These fellows barely qualify as “fifth columnists”: Their shingles hang on Main Street. And, even though the number of Ontarians prepared actively to participate in the beheading of the Prime Minister is undoubtedly minimal, the informal support of the jihad’s aims by many western Muslims and the quiescence of too many of the remainder and the ethnic squeamishness of the modern multicultural state provide a big comfort zone.

This week the jihad lost its top field general, but in Somalia it may have gained a nation — a new state base after the loss of Afghanistan. And in Toronto and London the picture isn’t so clear: the forensic and surveillance successes were almost instantly undercut by the usual multicultural dissembling of the authorities. If you think the idea of some kook beheading Prime Ministers on video is nutty, maybe you’re looking at things back to front. What’s nutty is that, half a decade on from September 11th, the Saudis are still allowed to bankroll schools and mosques and think-tanks and fast-track imam chaplaincy programs in prisons and armed forces around the world. Oil isn’t the principal Saudi export, ideology is; petroleum merely bankrolls it. In Britain, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and elsewhere, second- and third-generation Muslims recognize the vapidity of the modern multicultural state for what it is — a nullity, a national non-identity — and so, for their own identity, they look elsewhere. To carry on letting Islamism fill it is to invite the re-primitivization of the world.

© 2006 Mark Steyn

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