Family Guy fans might recognise the little girl in white in the centre, presumably with her mother, the focus of a rather moving sequence (no, – really, they do happen in Family Guy).
In a recent reply to one of my blogs on the threat of radical Islam, the site’s radical Islam’s greatest proponent (or should that more accurately be the West’s greatest detractor?) asked me what solutions did I have for this crisis. ‘Well, what would YOU do, genius?’ I am surprised that anyone familiar with my stance on this issue should feel it necessary to ask me that question. Perhaps he missed all those blogs I wrote containing constructive suggestions, or perhaps he didn’t understand them.
Firstly I would say that we should defend our values without hesitation or apology. In doing so, we would give encouragement to those liberals living in the Islamic world (Iran springs immediately to mind) and who regard with dismay each time we sacrifice our principles to self-doubt and cultural masochism. Radicals would begin to think twice if we began resisting their demands rather than constantly caving in to them. Appeasing fundamentalists only reinforces their vile certainties. Specious arguments about ‘mutual respect,’ ‘dialogue,’ or ‘engagement,’ will bring no reform or enlightenment in the Muslim world. By standing firm we present, clearly and emphatically, an alternative set of values that may perhaps give pause for reflection amongst the not-quite-so extremists who privately question their leaders’ actions.
Besides making an unambiguous commitment to the values we are defending, we must stand up to our enemies, militarily if necessary. Something we have signally failed to do too often when one sees how Bill Clinton or the hapless Jimmy Carter looked the other way when disasters struck. Even Reagan was guilty of this when American interests were threatened and people killed in Iran, Lebanon and the Gulf of Aden.
If so far I have been speaking mainly about the United States it is because the United States carries the the main burden of the hopes of the West in this ongoing clash of civilisations. We can only give all the support we are capable of giving, and though we are proud (though how justifiable is that pride?) of the support we have given to two Gulf wars and in Afghanistan, it is obvious that when push comes to shove we count for little outside the Security Council.
We need to recapture the moral clarity of that time in 1948 when Britain took a leading role in the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We must defend these rights without compromise, without fear of hurting the feelings of any Islamic country. We should attempt to change their way of thinking, establish centres* for teaching human rights in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, in fact in ALL Muslim states.* We must demand that Saudi Arabian textbooks be re-written* so as not to teach hatred of non-Muslim peoples. We need to push for a restructuring of the United Nations Human Rights Council so it is no longer controlled by Islamic states. We should be ready to complain and prosecute mullahs and imams when they issue fatwas that violate human rights or preach hatred from the mosques.
The rights of women in Islamic lands have been shamefully neglected by Western feminists (a mere handful of noble exceptions, only one I can think of off-hand, Phyllis Chesler). In Britain and the West we must say no to segregation of Muslim girls in school activities, no to arranged marriages against the wishes of the girl, we must say no to polygamy, and no to sharia tout court. We must insist on equality before the law.
Islamic countries have systematically repressed histories of their pre-Islamic past. The West should fund museum exhibits* both here and in the Islamic world to celebrate the ancient civilisations of Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and North Africa. We need to support the non-Islamic and non-Arab peoples who live under Islamic rule – Berbers, Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Christians.
We should shed our diffidence about promoting and exporting the best of our own culture. There is no need to apologise for the many Western inventions and initiatives that have made the world a better place: computers, penicillin. the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières, advances in agriculture, democracy itself.
We should exhibit the best of Western art* in Islamic countries, host concerts of classical music.* Sponsor debates* on politics, art and philosophy on Islamic soil, book fairs* and readings,* revealing to Muslims different and perhaps richer ways of living and to this end we need translations into the vernaculars of the Islamic world, and funds for these projects.
THAT is what I suggest should be done.