lady painting

 

Dec 2003 Journal

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The false prophet (editorial)

Size has often been quoted as an indicator of rightness and it is a fact of life that victory tends to be on the side of the big battalions. A pre-war panegyric of Stalin's Russia was entitled The Socialist Sixth of the World and, judging by the fact that the Islamic Conference at the UN embraces 57 states within the world body, one might currently talk about the Islamic Third of the World (the United Nations has around 180 members).

In fact, Muslims number 'only' 1,300 million out of a global population of around six billion. World Jewry, on the other hand, languishes at around the 13 million mark. Put bluntly, the worldwide ratio of Muslims to Jews is 100 to one.

In October Malaysian ex-premier Mahathir Mohamed addressed the UN's Islamic Conference on the topic of that imbalance. He asserted that the few Jews ruled the world by proxy and gophers to fight their wars for them - but ultimately the 1,300 million-strong body of Muslims would not be defeated. He also claimed that the Jews had invented 'Socialism, Communism, Democracy and Human Rights' as their instruments for exercising global domination.

Now to be credited with the invention of democracy and human rights might appear a back-handed compliment - but that is not how it is seen from the fundamentalist Islamist perspective. Iranian hard-line clerics described the recent award of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize to a lawyer campaigning for women's rights as a European-instigated subversion of Islamic values. But there was worse to come. At the UN's Islamic Conference no single representative - even from pro-Western states - dared put his head above the parapet to disavow Mahathir Mohamed's melange of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Mein Kampf and Der Stürmer.

Nor was the entire West as outraged by this conjuring up of the mindset that led to Auschwitz. President Chirac showed deplorable hesitation before condemning it. He was assisted in his obfuscation tactics by Greece, a state so viscerally hostile to Israel that even the Malaysian premier's attribution of democracy to the Jews - though the honour rightfully belongs to Athens - has not made any difference. On the other hand, the US, UK and Italy have been instant in their condemnation of Mahathir's outburst, which must put Jewish critics of the Bush-Blair-Berlusconi axis into an increasingly untenable position. How long can they keep calling down 'a plague on both your houses' when one party to the conflict - irrespective of whether it is headed by Saddam, bin Laden or Mahathir Mohamed - asserts that the defence of Islam requires war on the Jews?

On the broader front, the abovementioned self-appointed defenders of Islam are aiming to turn the hitherto relatively limited 'war on terror' into a global War of Civilisations. In this war, Christianity, the professed faith of the West, will be misrepresented by hard-line Islamists as both still imbued with the lethal spirit of the Crusades and as manipulated by the Jews.

How confused the situation could be is demonstrated by the following. In southern Iraq the inhabitants, no doubt influenced by their clergy, have in some instances taken to referring to Coalition soldiers as Jews. Since Poland has contributed a contingent to the occupying force, it may well happen that conscripts from Jedwabne whose grandfathers massacred their Jewish neighbours in 1941 are now dubbed 'Jews' by Shia Iraqis.

But to return to the wider picture. The leaders of the Coalition face a daunting task. The campaign on which they have embarked and which they conceive as a war on terror stands in danger of being elevated into a religious war. Their task in Iraq is to harmonise the demands of democracy with those of religion. If, to look at a worst-case scenario, the Shia majority votes to turn their country into a replica of Iran, can the will of the majority be allowed to prevail?

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