Arab Spring, Muslim Winter

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Mark Tapson: Thank you, Andrew McCarthy.

This is the most streamlined time-conscious panel of speakers in the history of speech.  I have little to do up here.

Okay.  On to — last, and certainly not least — Douglas Murray.

Douglas Murray: Thank you.  I hope I don’t screw up the timing now.

But it was touch-and-go whether I was going to get here.  I came in from Chicago at 4:00 a.m. this morning.  And I’ve been touring the States for the week.  And on one occasion, just the other day, I got into Houston, I think, and I got to the baggage bit.  And the lady at the airport said — trying to help, said — where have you come from, sir?  And I said, I don’t know.

(Laughter)

She looked at me with that sort of — ah, we’ve got one of them.  Anyhow, it’s always a great pleasure to be back.  It’s always a particular pleasure to be back at the Restoration Weekend.  It’s like coming home.

And I just wanted to pick up on one thing in particular, which was your question at the outset, of what we should do, and what we should not do.  Daniel Pipes, I think, said exactly what we should do.  So at the risk of being the pessimist among pessimists in the room, could I just give a case study of what you should not do?  And apologies from the outset at being slightly parochial in this, but let me give you the lesson in what not to do if you were, say, Britain.

(Laughter)

Plucking an example at random.

In November 1991, a man called Rachid Ghannouchi arrived in the UK.  And he arrived in the UK requesting political asylum.  He got it.  He was granted political asylum in 1993.  From that time, Rachid Ghannouchi and his extensive family have used the UK to bolster not just their political cause but their political movement.  The Ennahda Party that has just swept to majority in Tunisia was ostensibly run for many years from London.

Mr. Ghannouchi, of course, who said things like Zionism is both alien and illegitimate in origin, it’s a hegemonist and nationalist project rooted and nourished on the traditional European impulse towards expansion and domination — so he’s obviously thrown a bit of Chomsky into his Islamism there, you can tell, but someone’s got to read it.

(Laughter)

And he also, of course, from exile has practiced [that very] ideology against any progressive Muslims who aren’t quite up to scratch on his worldview.  And, as I say, after the toppling of the ruler in Tunisia, he went back and, with his colleagues, successfully gained an election triumph.

So bad news for you if you’re a progressive Muslim reformer in Tunisia.  You didn’t get any help from the British government, but the Islamists did.  Thanks very much.

If only this were a one-off.  But it isn’t.  In 1994, a man called Kamal Helbawy arrived in the UK and immediately became a British citizen.  Kamal Helbawy, among other things, said after the recent unlamented death of Osama bin Laden — was lamented by Helbawy, who said — I ask Allah to have mercy upon Osama bin Laden, to treat him generously, to enlighten his grave, and to make him join the prophets, the martyrs and the good people.  He has claimed that 9/11 was an inside job, and far more.

The point is that Kamal Helbawy is a very prominent Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader who successfully worked for many years out of London as his base, and very useful for him it was.  It was from London that he said that even two-year-old Israeli children are suitable targets for murder.  Because they will grow up to be Israeli men and women, and we can’t have that.

Just after the toppling of Mubarak, I found myself in a BBC studio with Mr. Helbawy, who was presenting once again — as he has for many years to certain constituencies — the Muslim Brotherhood as being an enormously progressive party.  I asked if he thought it was at all violent.  And he said — no, no, no, I have been a member for many decades and have never — I would not be a member of a movement if it were not based on charity and so on.

A lot of people bought this sort of thing.  But again, if you were an Egyptian reformist who wanted separation of mosque and state, you haven’t had any help at all from the British government or the British asylum system for years.  But if you’re an Islamist, you had.  And sure enough, after Mubarak fell, and shortly after our conversation on the BBC, Mr. Helbawy went back to Cairo.  And from there, his first trip was to go to Tehran to speak to Khomeini, the supreme leader, and the other revolutionaries about how you take over a state for Islam in the post-revolutionary period.

One other quick example to enlighten your day — a man called Mohammed Sawalha, who came to Britain in the early ’90s claiming political asylum — he was the Hamas commander in the West Bank, and has been for the last 20 years living on the dole in London, working as [essentially] an emissary, envoy — call it what you want — of Hamas; and has been able to fund-raise.  The second flotilla had a fundraiser in London just this summer, run by Mr. Sawalha and his friends.

The reason I cite these awful examples is not just to say what we shouldn’t do, very obviously shouldn’t do; but to highlight the fact that our failures as societies ourselves have consequences.  Because those people who have for years argued that something is badly wrong in Western asylum policy argue that something is badly wrong in Western immigration policy.  They are being vindicated at the moment.  Because indeed, for decades we have supported and given sanctity to exactly the wrong people.  And that is now being felt across the Middle East.

You know, the Left loves to say that everything is our fault.  Here’s something that is their fault.  And it should be stuck to them.  And they should be reminded of it time and time again.

Now, just very quickly, to finish, I would say one other thing, which is the importance in this whole period of thinking strategically.  And it seems to be a skill which across Western democracies our leaders are lacking at the moment.  They have the ability, it seems, to react — to react to specific events, but not to see things strategically in a global way that even a generation ago political leaders of all types seemed to have.

So for instance, if you only had the energy, if you only had the money, if you only had the commitment to make one very small-scale intervention in the whole of this set of events, it would be strategically foolish to single out Libya to use that intervention on.  It would be strategically sensible to single out Syria, to try to stop Syria’s meddling in Lebanon, and to try to make sure that the regional destabilizer in the Middle East, Iran, is left friendless and alone in the region, to clarify for everybody in the world that Iran is the problem.  Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have that kind of leadership at the moment.

Two final things, very quickly — one, in the long term, the desire of Muslims across the Middle East and North Africa to have a say in their own future is, I think, the best chance we have of seeing these societies normalizing in any way.  In the long term, it would be exactly what one would wish.  But in the short term, the fact is that it could go any way.  And in the short term, it is enormously disturbing and unsettling what is happening.  You know, we have in the West — it seems to me, at the moment — neither the understanding, the commitment, or the determination to have the involvement that we will have to have if we would want these societies to go the right way.

In the meantime, everyone says, you know, which year is it?  Is it 1979, 1989, 1889?  I was speaking recently to a friend who was born in Vienna in 1920, and he — a very interesting comment.  He said — I think this is going to be more like 1914.  And there’s one thing in particular form that that I’d highlight — is that after these events, the region will very likely be unrecognizable. Empires that existed will have fallen, strong countries will have become weak, weak countries could become strong.  It is absolutely all open.  But for that to be the case, and for us in the West to be so lacking in our response — and to have been, as I said, supporting the very, very worst people and exporting them back — is something that we should be responsible for, and something we should now be making amends for in a very, very practical way.

Thank you.

(Applause)

Mark Tapson: Thank you, Douglas Murray, and all our panelists.

Okay.  Shall we have some questions?  We have a couple of people with microphones.  Questions — let’s start with this woman right back here.  And then next, how about — that gentleman right there, on the end, in the back.  We’ll go with him next.

Unidentified Audience Member: My question is why.  Why?  Why did UK admit these terrorists?  Why?  Why are we inviting the very people who have sworn to bring us down?  Why?  And it’s, I think, perhaps naïve to think that it’s not by design.  There is a will somewhere to allow the undermining of the foundations of Western civilization.

Thank you.

Mark Tapson: Did you mean for that to be directed at a particular speaker?

Unidentified Audience Member: Anybody.

Douglas Murray: I have to say, I’ve always asked this question myself.  I can’t completely answer it.  I don’t think it’s a job for a political analyst; I think it’s a job for a psychiatrist.

(Laughter)

(Applause)

It makes no sense.  You have to be suicidal.  You have to want to die.  You want to have to not defend or continue the society that you have.  It makes no sense.  None at all.  All I can say is that — and a number of people, Bruce Bawer most notably, and others have written about this at length in recent years, and have exposed what’s happening.

But it is a psychopathic failing on behalf of governments and peoples who, I think, perhaps — just very briefly — perhaps they fell for this idea that so many people in Europe did — that effectively the future was a [cantian], peaceful, perfect state, and that everyone wanted to be a part of it, and that it would mean that we lived in clover for the rest of time.  And they forgot that there are people out there who, when they say they want to kill you, mean it.

(Applause)

Mark Tapson: Daniel Pipes, I think you wanted to respond?

Daniel Pipes: Douglas Murray and I shared a platform like this in London four years ago, arguing our side against the mayor of London at that time, Ken Livingstone.  And a number of you in the audience were there.  I’d like to add to what Douglas has said.

I think there is a reason — that the Left is fundamentally critical of what Western civilization is.  And the more left you go, the more left, the more critical.  The Islamists are critical of Western civilization.  Now, they’re critical from a different vantage point and for different reasons and different goals.  But they are the troops for the Left these days.

Mark Tapson: And Andy, I think you wanted to respond, too?

Andrew McCarthy: I would just echo what Daniel just said.  The subtitle of my book was called “How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.”  And I’m not so sure it’s a psychosis.  I think that they actually have allies within Western civilization who are situated geographically within Western civilization — not culturally and not mentally — who have as much interest in bringing it down as they do.  And it doesn’t mean that they agree about everything.  I think that, you know, history shows that when it gets down to just Islamists and leftists, they fight each other brutally.  But as long as they have a common obstacle — and here, they have the common obstacle of our freedom culture — they will collaborate, and they will work together to destroy it.  Because they have more in common than they do against each other.

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  • BLJ

    I keep hoping the "Arab Spring" is a new brand of soap. This could be the start of something big in that part of the world.

  • StephenD

    Excellent Meeting. I wish I could have been there. I also would like the same sort of publication of the panel MR. Gaffney is participating in on Sunday. This is right in line with what needs to be in the minds of our policy makers. At least, we can have the current candidates for office made aware. Good work can be accomplished with more of the same. Thank you for this FPM.

  • Steve Chavez

    HOW ABOUT A RUSSIAN SPRING? Their election process is a fraud and so their citizens need to rise up against Putin and his system!

    WHERE'S THE CIA? Oops, I forgot Obama, who loved the old Soviet Union and their KGB operations here in the U.S., surely ordered Panetta, a KGB dupe himself, and now Betray Us, a man who he and Hillary spit on, to dismantle all CIA operations in the country he loves more than his own!

  • steven l

    The victory of the MB and Salafists in Egypt represents a major foreign policy catastrophe for Obama.

  • Carbondioxide

    Yes, Restoration Weekend sounds like heaven.
    The incomprehensible leftist-Islam alliance?
    Islam has infiltrated our government and institutions including the media under cover of Western freedoms and PC multiculturalism.
    What is to be done about the application of the First Amendment?
    ObamaYoMama makes a powerful case for the infection of PC multiculturalism in his comments in Bosch Fawsteins recent article.
    My opinion is the US Left sees Islam as the ultimate in Big Government with its reach into the details of all aspects of life including the hereafter and in its committment to its ideology regardless of the historical facts of its failure. People need to put their faith in Christ, not in any government, person, environmental cause or any pagan ideology masquerading as religion.