19 June 2017

The common threat

Britain has suffered yet another terrorist attack.  A driver deliberately plowed his van into a group of Muslims leaving a mosque in London, injuring ten; there was also one death, although it's unclear whether it was actually caused by the van attack.  The driver, who has been arrested, was heard yelling "I want to kill Muslims".

As national leaders have pointed out, this event was not qualitatively different from the jihadist terrorist attacks which have happened in the UK and elsewhere.  The only difference was the choice of target, and in a truer sense that was not different either.  Like the Manchester attack and the earlier London vehicle/knife attack, this was an assault by a violent extremist against peaceful citizens.

It's often said that terrorism seeks to divide people.  An essential step in defeating that aim is to recognize who the two sides in this conflict actually are.  It's not Muslims against the secular community (I call it that rather than "Christian" since most people in the UK are non-religious).  It's the violent extremists of whatever stripe against the whole general public, secular or Muslim or Christian or whatever.

The UK is perhaps well-positioned to grasp this due to a comparable conflict which plagued it a few decades ago -- Northern Ireland.  Catholic and Protestant extremists each carried out terror attacks against people of the other religion, and in the case of the Catholic extremists, sometimes in England as well.  So long as Protestants in general thought of Catholics in general as the enemy and vice versa, the conflict was insoluble.  In fact, of course, the real enemy was both groups of extremists, who were waging a war against the general population of Northern Ireland.

(Note also the recent Dâish (ISIL) terror attack on Iran which, like France and the UK and the US, has been active in helping the Arab and Kurdish forces fighting Dâ'ish.  This attack is hard to square with the naïve view that Dâ'ish and Iran are both part of some homogenous terror-supporting Islamic bloc at war with the West.)

We in the US need to grasp this too.  There is a developing tendency here to compare lists of Islamist terror attacks with those carried out by right-wing extremists and bigots of various types, as if these were two separate and contrasting phenomena and we had to decide which of the two is worse so as to decide which one to fight the hardest.  That's the wrong way to look at it.  The jihadists and the gay-bashers, KKK, abortion-clinic bombers, and people like Dylann Roof and the Portland MAX knifeman, are far more alike than different.  As violent extremists, they are all waging war against peaceful people and against the core Western values of pluralism, freedom, and the rule of law.  They are all the enemies of the rest of us.

11 Comments:

Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

You know ... I remember the tensions in the City of London back in the 80's when the IRA had their fling (we got evacuated from a large retailer as well as the Tube/ subway because of bomb threats) ... I mean, I was wondering being an American ... why all this going on way down in southeastern England over this religious conflict over in Ireland? There was also alot of muslims in London back then ... but not the tensions with muslims like today. I just dont think that any of these that are extreme types care about the innocents that get killed ... I think they just look at it as war, revenge, etc ... whoever gets in the way ... no problem ... they are out to make their stand and statement ... and I feel that many, dont have much going for them in life, and frankly dont care about dying either ... add in the brainwash religious factor ... they think it's a worthy cause and they are on God's side, and they will get treats in some paradise when they die, etc. I see your point here ... it is only the innocent public that suffers the most on these battles/ attacks. Can you imagine what our society would look like if we never had these goddamn religions?

19 June, 2017 08:45  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

I'm glad you're making that point, Infidel. I think we need to be reminded occasionally that terrorism is all of a single nature and has a common goal -- literally to terrorize innocent people and get us all fighting each other. In the case of the Finsbury Park retribution attack, it seems to have worked.

19 June, 2017 12:41  
Anonymous Sam240 said...

"why all this going on way down in southeastern England over this religious conflict over in Ireland?" - Ranch Chimp

Essentially, it wasn't a religious conflict. It was a conflict between Republicans (Northern Ireland should be part of a united Irish states) and Unionists (Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom). For historical reasons, most Republicans were Catholics, and most Unionists were Protestant.

Since Republicans saw the United Kingdom as illegally occupying Northern Ireland, they would see its capitol, London, as a logical target.

Infidel 753: "Catholic and Protestant extremists each carried out terror attacks against people of the other religion,"

and, depending on political positions, by people of the same religious division. Ronnie Bunting, a prominent Republican terrorist of the 1970s, was also a Protestant; he was killed by Protestant Unionist terrorists. On the other hand, Jimmy McKenna, a Catholic, was a leader in one of the Ulster Volunteer Force's hit squads, and would kill other Catholics.

19 June, 2017 14:03  
Anonymous nonnie9999 said...

This isn't about religion. It's about power. It's about a bunch of assholes using religion to convince some disgruntled people that they are being wronged, and the only relief comes in killing those on the other side. The assholes don't put their lives on the line, the disgruntled are the ones who become cannon fodder. Meanwhile, the assholes get more power and more money, and life gets no better for the disgruntled.

19 June, 2017 21:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ranch: The religious mentality is naturally primed to not care about the deaths of innocent people. If they have the "correct" religion they'll go to Heaven, right? Some of the worst atrocities in history have resulted from that way of thinking.

Can you imagine what our society would look like if we never had these goddamn religions?

I intend to live to find out.

Hackwhacker: I'm not sure it has worked, actually. The authorities seem to recognize that this is a terrorist attack just the same as the jihadist ones.

Sam: I would argue that people being Catholic or Protestant was the most likely determiner of whether people were loyal to the UK or wanted to join the Irish Republic -- at least among the masses of people -- and without that, the extremists would have had nothing to whip up. In all conflicts, there are a few people who join the side other than their "natural" one. Depending on the nature of the conflict, such people are called "traitors", "Uncle Toms", or whatever.

Nonnie: Sorry, I'm not buying it. For over a millennium religion has been the greatest cause of horror and misery and cruelty, and because we have this weird taboo that religion shouldn't be criticized, every time some religious atrocity happens everyone looks for some "real" underlying cause rooted in economics or race or whatever, ignoring the obvious facts starting them in the face. It's time to end the whitewash and call out religion for what it is.

20 June, 2017 09:42  
Anonymous nonnie9999 said...

Infidel,
Back in the 90s, I won a cruise from a radio show. As it turned out, that particular cruise ship was booked for a Nu Skin convention (the pyramid scheme outfit that gave Jason Chaffetz his start). I had never heard of that particular corporation at the time, but a tablemate at dinner filled me in on the first night. If I had not known it was a cosmetic/vitamin company, I would have sworn that there was some kind of floating religious revival going on. I spoke to a few of the people from Nu Skin, curious as to what they did and what they sold. When I was told that they sold personal products, I asked it if was like Avon or Amway. The venom that met that question was astounding. You would have thought that Avon or Amway had been started by the devil himself (well, in Amway's case, that turned out to be true). The venom directed at any company other than Nu Skin actually scared me. I didn't go near any of the Nu Skin acolytes for the rest of the cruise.

My point is, if people did not fight wars and kill people in the name of religion, they would do it in the name of something else. How many times do we see violence during or after a game, because fans of one team hate fans of another team? People are pack animals. We want to belong to something and be among "our own." There are people who take advantage of that.

I don't believe in the least bit that religion shouldn't be criticized. I think every church should be taxed, especially those that use their pulpits to endorse a party or a candidate. I think there are a lot of so-called religious leaders who are using their positions to incite violence, and there are a lot of brainwashed followers who will blindly follow. I also believe that, as I said in my first comment, that religion is the tool, not the reason. If people are content, they usually don't look to religion or anything else to acknowledge, endorse and stoke their unhappiness to the point where they will put their lives on the line in order to enrich (with power or money or just ego) their dear leaders.

In the case of religion, it can be argued that it can act like a balm, and in some cases, maybe it stopped violence from occurring. Just maybe it gave someone on the edge enough peace that they put a gun down instead of picking one up. That would be a hard statistic to ascertain.

I'm not religious, and I have no patience with anyone trying to impose their beliefs on me or anyone else. However, I have no problem with people who feel they need some kind of codified belief system or just a need to belong to something, yet still are able to think for themselves.

What I have a real problem with are politicians who bring religion into every fucking issue and who pander to the religious among us. I gag when I hear about a prayer breakfast that politicians seem required to attend. I have a problem with descriptions that begin with "s/he was a good Christian...," implying that that person was better than anyone who is not a believer. I also have a problem with some non-believers (and I am in no way implying that you or anyone else here fits this description) who dismiss any believe as stupid or naive.

20 June, 2017 20:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

If not for religion, there would have been no cause for the Crusades or all the other religious wars between the Islamic and Christian worlds for centuries (in fact, there would have been no "Islamic and Christian worlds" to divide the Mediterranean basin which had been a single region in Greco-Roman times). There would have been no cause for the bloody Catholic-Protestant conflicts like the Thirty Years War, or for the Shiite-vs-Sunni violence in Iraq and Syria. There would have been no cause for the witch-burnings or the persecution of heretics and Jews and gays under Christianity and Islam for so many centuries. It was religion that led to the burning of so much of the scientific and literary heritage left from Classical times. It was religion that led the Aztecs to sacrifice tens of thousands of people at a time in gory rituals. It was religion that led the Spanish to destroy the whole literature of the Maya. These conflicts and atrocities were caused by religion. They weren't things that people would have done anyway for some other reason if religion didn't exist.

Religion has also opposed progress in science and almost every other field for centuries. It fought the Renaissance every step of the way. It has fought against the modern emancipation of women and gays, advances in biotechnology, and on and on.

Yes, religion is sometimes cynically used as a tool by people bent on evil -- it is a singularly effective tool for evil purposes. But that dwindles to insignificance beside religion's role, in and of itself, as a cause of evils that would not otherwise have existed.

Religion is the most evil and destructive and disgusting phenomenon in all of human history. Period.

21 June, 2017 11:17  
Anonymous PsiCop said...

Re: "If not for religion, there would have been no cause for the Crusades or all the other religious wars between the Islamic and Christian worlds for centuries (in fact, there would have been no "Islamic and Christian worlds" to divide the Mediterranean basin which had been a single region in Greco-Roman times)."

This is something which is too often glossed over. It's absolutely true that the Crusades had a religious impulse. Otherwise, it makes no sense at all for western Europeans to march the entire length of a continent, and then some, to reach what their religion told them was "the Holy Land," and take control of it in the name of their Jesus. As someone who studied the Middle Ages, I understand the princes of the First Crusade, who got the ball rolling, were warriors, looking for places to loot and battles to fight. There's no doubt about that. But, there were numerous opportunities for that, much closer to home.

In fact, many of them had already fought wars closer to home. Raymond de Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse, had made a long career of fighting the Moors in Spain. Had he wished to keep fighting the Saracens, he could easily have continued those campaigns, without the expense and trouble of going thousands of miles to the Holy Land. The Normans, e.g. Bohemond of Taranto, had likewise been fighting in the Mediterranean and the Balkans ... mostly, against the Byzantines (i.e. their fellow Christians). They likewise still had land to take in those regions, had they been merely looking for war-prey.

There's also the contention that the Crusades were defensive campaigns ... protecting Christians in the Near East from the Muslim menace. Sure, the Byzantines were under assault, and losing ground. Which is why their Emperor sent the Pope a request for assistance. But while the First Crusaders initially went through the motions of meeting him and appearing to support him, when push came to shove (i.e. after the Battle of Dorylaeum), the Crusaders took off and went their own way. They did not stay behind, with the Byzantines, to bolster their defenses or initiate a methodical campaign to retake Byzantine territory in Anatolia. Yet, had they intended to defend eastern Christendom, that's precisely what they would have done.

Also, the western Europeans who ventured out on the Crusades, were in no way endangered by Muslims. Their venturing all the way to the Holy Land did nothing to protect western Europe from attack by Muslims. They did provide a little help to the Byzantines, but as noted, the Crusaders' assistance to them was minimal, and the Eastern Empire soon found itself fighting Muslim armies once more. Oh, and let's not forget that, once they took over the Holy Land, they certainly didn't treat the eastern Christians they came across very well, either. The eastern Christians they didn't kill often were exiled, and the Eastern Church's hierarchs were removed from office. So did the Crusaders "protect" Christendom? Hell no.

Their mission, then, makes no sense as a rational military enterprise. Not a bit. It doesn't even make sense as a pretense for looking for new territory to conquer ... because there was plenty of that to be had, right in Europe, had they remained there.

23 June, 2017 19:54  
Anonymous NickM said...

I kinda experienced one of the last IRA terrorist attacks. That was 1995. It was a friday night. I was at QMW College, University of London at a galactic dynamics lecture and I heard a bizarre sound. It sounded like someone had dropped a tray of cutlery. That was exactly what it sounded like but then the lecture room was next to the tea room. I think two people were killed (they were doing late night stock taking - for some insane reason QMW Astrofizz did late night lectures on a friday which is why I was there). The odd thing. The really odd thing is when they got Sinn Fein and the DUP to talk they actually got on! And I mean really well. I mean played golf and stuff together. Makes ya think.

28 June, 2017 04:32  
Blogger Tommykey said...

One could argue that the Crusades actually made Europe more vulnerable to Muslim invasion. The 4th Crusade in particular, which ended up sacking Constantinople in 1204, broke the Byzantine Empire into a number of separate statelets. While one of them, the so-called Empire of Nicaea, ended up recovering Constantinople in 1261, its recovery of European territory came at the expense of stripping its core holdings in Asia Minor of troops. This created an opportunity for the Ottomans to take over Byzantine territory in Asia Minor and subsequently cross over into Europe.

If Christian Europe really wanted to deal a mortal blow to Muslim power, the ideal strategy would have been to (1) help the Byzantines destroy the Seljuk Sultanate in central Asia Minor and thereby recover all of Asia Minor, and (2) invade Tunisia in North Africa. The latter in particular would have been much easier to reinforce, being just a short sail from Sicily. Occupying Tunisia would also have had the benefit of cutting Muslim North Africa half. Granted, taking Tunisia would not have been as emotionally inspiring to Christian Europeans as recovering Jerusalem, but it would have served a much more practical purpose of rolling back Muslim power in the Mediterranean. Longer term, Tunisia could have served as a launch pad to either push westward into Morocco or east into Egypt.

Of course, such a strategy was probably beyond the grasp of anyone in Christian Europe at the time. The Eighth Crusade in 1270 took a stab at Tunisia, but the army was struck down by disease.

01 July, 2017 10:51  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Nick: when they got Sinn Fein and the DUP to talk they actually got on!

That supports my point. Extremists are more alike than different, regardless of which religious label they wear.

PsiCop & Tommykey: All good points, thanks. Of course I'd far rather we had entirely avoided this Abrahamic abomination which split our world into two rival halves.

01 July, 2017 19:59  

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