Tuesday, December 21, 2004

New Flashpoints, Old Struggles

Are Thailand and Malaysia going the way of India and Pakistan? Is the Thai-Malaysian border the newest Islamist flashpoint? Thailand has a growing Islamist movement in the south, near the Malaysian border. After numerous bombing and riots the Thai airforce dropped origami cranes with messages of peace on Muslim villages earlier this month.

Now the Thai deputy Interior Minister says the Thais have photos that "Thai Muslim militants are being trained in jungle camps in northern Malaysia."

Time for a quiz. Muslim terrorists have attacked and alienated counties representing how many different religions? Let's count. (percentages from the CIA World Factbook) Spain - Madrid train attacked 03/11/04: 94% Roman Catholic. India - parliment attacked in December 2001, among others: 81% Hindu. Israel (I won't list the wars and attacks): 80% Jewish. Thailand: 95% Buddhist. The United States of America - 9/11: 52% Protestant, 24% Roman Catholic. Russia - Moscow theater siege, December 2002; Belsan school attack earlier this year, among others: 50-70% Russian Orthodox. So the answer, infidels, is either 4 (Christianity of all types, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism) or 6 (counting Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox individually). Thanks for playing. Time for the Bonus Round, where the scores can really change.

Could this be just a coincidence? Why aren't the Buddhist and the Hinus bombing each other? There are hundreds of millions of each. They are mostly poor, very poor, and live in densely populated areas awash in weapons? Protestants and Catholics may occasionally kill each other in Ireland but that is a local dispute. When was the last time you heard of Protestant/Catholic violence outside of Ireland or the UK? Muslims travel from around the world to blow up Jews in Israel (from the UK even) but I have yet to read about an Orthodox 'militant' traveling to kill Jews (and it's not like the Orthodox have a history of philo-Semitism.)

Indeed, where are the Orthodox, Hindu and Buddhist terrorists? I thought poverty and lack of opportunity were the 'root causes' of terrorism? Many more than a billion people would indentify themselves as belonging to one of these religions, more than all the Muslims in the world, yet I cannot find any evidence of a global movement of Orthodox, Buddhist or Hindu terrorists. Maybe I'm missing it. Sure, Hindus riot and attack local Muslims in India. But riots are endemic to human society. The question is, do Hindus organize themselves and seek out foreign Muslims to kill? Do they assassinate right-wing Muslim leaders in New York City as when an Egyptian shot Jewish extremist Meir Kahane in 1990? Do second-generation Hindus stab and shoot Muslims walking through the streets of European cities? Do Buddhist preach that non-Buddhists are the sons of monkeys and pigs? That only Buddhist clerics should rule the government? That they have the right to kill anyone who insults the Buddha? No, of course not. Look, you and I know the answer. Everyone paying attention knows the answer to these silly questions. But don't look to the New York Times, or Nightline or Newsweek for answers. They are too busy downgrading the Christian 'component' of Christmas (umm, like, 100%) and insulting the 'fanatics' in the red states who are so ignorant that they dare to sing Christmas carols in public.

The answer, if you are still with me, is that Islam is a martial religion, founded by a military leader. The so-called remarkable spread of Islam in the 7th century was based on military conquest, on basically the Arab imperialism in Egypt and southwestern Asia. Unlike Christ who died a pacifist criminal or Buddha who essentially resigned from worldly concerns, Muhammed was the political/military head of a theocracy. He lead troops into battle. Unlike Christ or Buddha he personally killed people and ordered others to kill people. Like any religion, Islam has sacrilized the actions of its founder, including the military actions (in al-Qaeda's case, especially the miliary actions.) Islam has not been 'hijacked'. We are facing a global movement that has revitalized the Muslim martial tradition, but that tradition was present at Islam's beginning and has been active more or less ever since. That is why moderate Muslims have such a difficult time denouncing violence in theory. They may disavow any particular attack but categorically denouncing violence against non-combatants is not easy because other Muslims can site numerous passages advocating and praising violence against unbelievers.

War is part (a small part perhaps) of Islam. This is not a short-term thing. We will have to manage confrontations with this worldwide movement for a long time. Don't let it get you down. An intermittent conflict with Islam has been part of Western life for a thousand years. Our ancestors dealt with it. We can too.


Blogger MaoBi said...

Malaysia used to have a communist insurgency problem. At that time the Thai gov. helped to try sealing a VERY porous border. Note that crossing the border without your passport costs only a RM 20 (USD5) bribe.

So it was pretty much foregone that many communists slipped in and out. Yet at least they tried.

Gratitude is supposed to be a traditional Asian value and what the Malaysian government is doing now is inexcusable.

2:03 AM  

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