The Widening Gulf Between the Civilized World and Islam

Below, Paul discusses the evolving position of Islam in the world. We present this essay reprinted by permission of Paul and from The Bayview Review. See the links at the end for direct access to the rest of Paul’s work.

Immediate Impact of the Islamist Slaughters in Paris, January, 2015.

As has been the case with all of the recent Islamo-terrorist attacks upon our lives and our institutions, the monsters who perpetrated those murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, and their comrade who carried out the assassinations of civilians inside the Hyper Casher store in Paris have achieved the very opposite of their declared purpose. They have raised awareness worldwide of the unappeasable character of Islamic terrorism in all its forms while drastically lowering the prestige of Islam. They have provoked an unanticipated display of solidarity of the political community of France with the Jewish community, possibly – just possibly, averting the mass exodus of the Jewish population of France to Israel or America. They have concentrated the previously wayward attentions of the police and security units that are tasked with preventing their illegal activities everywhere in the world. They have stirred up huge popular demonstrations against further concessions to Muslim demands for accommodation of their morality and their culture.

Within hours of these murders, the world was entranced to see, in real time, in Paris and throughout France, what historians tell us was an open-air display of national unity greater in number and more widespread than the Liberation Day celebrations of August, 1944 — over two million French citizens, joining arm-in-arm with several hundred visitors, including more than 40 official representatives of major nations, declaring to the world their solidarity in the cause of freedom of speech under the slogan, “ Je suis Charlie.” In this parade of distinguished visiting statesmen were the heads of government of some of the most repressive regimes in the world—places where neither speech nor press nor religion are free – indeed, some where only the religion of Islam is allowed to exist.  Demonstrations in the same spirit and of comparably grand dimension took place all over what we used to call the Free World and beyond. A few days later, Charlie Hebdo, whose normal print-run had been 60,000, published some seven million copies of its latest issue.

The Other Narrative.

On the other side of the street: China’s state-run Xinhua  saw the attack on Charlie Hebdo  as “payback’ for the West’s colonialism,” and the Charlie Hebdo editors’ irresponsible behaviour as vindication of state-directed restriction of freedom of speech. Throughout the Muslim world there were riots and rallies attacking French legations; anyone daring to utter the slogan or share the thought Je Suis Charlie was shut down with threats of death. In all parts of Asia and Africa where Muslims are a majority or a large minority, stepping up to express solidarity with Europeans on the matter of Charlie Hebo is to invite death at the hands of local Muslim mobs. (“In South Asia, say ‘Je suis Charlie’ at your own risk,” Nikkei Asian ( January 14, 2015.)

First Prize for Hypocrite of the Season must go to Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan who joined the front line of the parade of mourners of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack, but then rushed home to declare before local audiences that “The duplicity of the west is obvious…. as Muslims we have never sided with terror or massacres. Racism, hate speech, Islamophobia are behind these massacres (MEMRI Special  dispatch 5933,    

These Massacres in Paris, taken together with many recent incidents of Islamic assault upon military men, police, journalists, and elected political leaders, in the U.K., in several parts of Europe, and most recently in Canada, have had the effect of widening and deepening the gulf between Islam and the rest of the world. Clearly, there is no common denominator between the respective philosophies that governs the minds and the lives of people in these two increasingly incompatible and irreconcilable worlds.  In our world’s response to the Paris massacres we find a vibrant affirmation of the worth of every human life — celebration of right to be wrong, of the right to speak and think freely. In the other, unqualified, unapologetic, righteous determination of mobs to shut up words and close down thought — backed up with shameless glorification of death. One of these worlds is the one in which the ethos of Islam is in control or at least powerful enough to shut down criticism of itself. The other is the world in which Islam is still seeking to take control.

A Tentative Conclusion: Islam’s Reputation Is In Free-fall.

Islam’s prestige in the extra-Islamic world is declining by the day. A mere four years ago our media were celebrating an “Arab Spring” Today, no one can doubt that Arab societies are incapable of stable government, let along democratic and liberal government. A mere three years ago, people of goodwill seemed determined to give Islam a chance to prove its worth as a civilizing force. Today, it has become nearly impossible to make such a case.

Over the last decade everywhere in the world modest gains are reported by UN bodies under all of the relevant headings believed relevant to the good life – literacy, quality of  education, distribution of wealth, standards of health care, basic human freedoms (such as freedom of speech and religion.) Only the Arab Middle East is an exception to this generalization. On the continent of Africa, which people tend to think of first when the word “poverty” or the word “illiteracy” occurs, modest improvement has taken place everywhere – except in Muslim areas. It is only cowardly political correctness that stands in the way of noting these facts and stating them out loud.

All of the Arab regimes in place today came in promising democracy, but so far none has delivered it. [See, “The UNDP [United Nations Development Project] Arab Knowledge report 2009 – review and analysis, MEMRI (Middle East Research Institute) January 19, 2010; “List of countries by Failed State Index,, October 4, 2011.] The best energies of Arab people are going to the promotion of radical Islam and not to the search for anything that in our part of the world is regarded as contributing to betterment of human life.

They Hate Each Other More Than They Hate Us.

President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron and many other political leaders in our part of the world routinely remark that most of the victims of Muslim terror are other Muslims – inviting us to deduct something from our indictment against Muslims on account of the fact that they hate each other just as much as they hate us. This is weird thinking.

During the week following the Charlie Hebdo massacres in France, while the world was focused on France, there were dozens of other terrorists attacks where Muslims were killing other Muslims in job-lots too large to be kept track of An incomplete list includes: Yemen, where a car bomb at the entry of a police academy killed; Iraq, where a bomb in a market killed eight (a slow week for Iraq); in Lebanon where suicide bombers killed nine and injured 37 in a crowded market; Pakistan, where seven were killed as they gathered to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday in a mosque; in Nigerian where  a ten-year-old suicide bomber  killed 19.

A generation ago (let’s say in the 1960s and 1970s) we were not much aware of the Islamic world. The thinking on which our governments based their policies towards the Arab world and the Muslim world in general was based on the assumption that the Middle East was becoming secular and liberal—by degrees. Little proof was offered; it was always just “inevitable” or “in the air” or “a part of the times” – something quickly discernible in dialogue with local governments and local elites, provided you knew what to look for. The key to this story is the secularization thesis – one of the vital truths learned by everybody who ever took Sociology 101. But over the past two decades, Islam’s authority has grown mightily throughout the Middle East. We had been deceiving ourselves about the prospects for moderating Islam.

All this time, however, because Islam has failed to provide the basis for stable government (let alone liberal and democratic government) in the lands of its origin, general economic failure has led to political instability – and that has led to massive emigration to the West.

Islam’s Appeal to the Darkest Spirits. 

Among our intellectuals, the prestige of Islam used to be linked to Islam’s’ imagined record for building civilizations in the past and (it was argued) its continuing to support for civilian life today through strengthening family values and respect for lawful life, etc. But nowadays it is linked by intellectuals and youth to its refreshing ability to destroy. The inclination of disaffected young people to turn away from Western ways, to take up conspiracy theories and join the company of destroyers everywhere is  originally nourished by fantasy movies and disaster movies and computer games and conspiracy theories. Young people trawl the internet, seeking entry into life’s darkest mysteries, and here they discover the sadistic and demonic accomplishments of the heroes of ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, et al. to which their graphic-comic mentality responds at once.

These young people are being drawn, as metal filings to a magnet, to join the anti-humanitarian sprits who reign in the World of Islam.  Their minds are absolutely closed against any distinctions about right and wrong that trace to the Ten Commandments – which can no longer be referred to in the courts nor taught in the schools.

We must not speak of what these young people represent as “sub-civilized” or “barbaric” — for the sufficient reason that these spirits are born in the toxic and de-humanized corners of our over-civilized world.

We cannot avoid the painful truth that the success of radical Islam has been prepared – not caused, but prepared — by the collapse of our own ethical and moral universe – illustrated by the devaluation of the family, the debasement of popular culture by violence and sexual deviance, growing contempt for law and order and the celebration of anarchy and nihilism in movies and videogames.

These days, our local newspapers carry stories about local youths like John Maguire of Kemptville, Ontario, for example, who “was just like every other kid …playing in a punk rock band and aspiring to play in the NHL some day,” etc. But then he showed up in Syria, from where he sent out a Twitter page explaining his decision to leave Canada, “a country Muslims should hate for the sake of Allah” denouncing the faith in which he was raised, denouncing as “evil” Canada, home and family, and announcing determination to achieve “the rewards of martyrdom” When that reward is won somewhere in Syria or Iraq or Yemen ultimately get confirmed, families and friends here are wordless.

It seems that all of the Islamist terrorists either killed or captured in Canada and in France over the last few weeks had already served lengthy prison terms for violent robbery, assaults and so on, as warm-ups to their arrests for contributions to terrorism at home and abroad. Typically preceding the criminal careers of these young people is to be found a pattern of failure of families – absent fathers, divorce, domestic abuse and abuse in foster homes.

There is something about Islam that appeals to young people who want to set right everything bad that has affected them. Islam comes to them like something from outer space – utterly unconnected to the world in which they were raised — the answer to everything that is hopeless about life.

Since Huntington’s famous thesis about Clash of Civilizations was sprung on the world in the 1990s its title has been outdated. There is a global “clash” today —but it is between global civilization and the combined forces of its enemy – sub-civilization and post-civilization.


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