A Real Clash Of Civilisations

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From top: Saturday’s The Herald; Dr Julien Mercille

The demonisation of Muslims often leads to the thesis that we are now facing a ‘clash of civilisations’ between the west and Islam. But the only thing that matters is who the West consider its allies and enemies

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

The Paris attacks have led many in the media to demonise Muslims and allege that we are facing a “clash of civilisations” between the West and Islam. Those assertions are dangerous and factually incorrect.

There are many examples, but I think I found the best one of all this weekend in the Herald. Its front page reads: “WELFARE ISLAMIC STATE: Wanted Terror Chief is Living Off Benefits in Dublin; Islamic State Terror Leader in Ireland is Living on Welfare” (see picture). The article tells the story of an alleged ISIS leader who lives on welfare in Dublin.

In addition to being an attack on Muslims, it’s also a not-so-subtle swipe at welfare recipients. The reader is supposed to equate “welfare” and “ISIS” and to think they’re both evil. Readers could thus become more favourable to cutting welfare lest hard-working Irish people subsidise Islamists.

There is also an element of instilling fear among the population—people are more likely to give the government a blank cheque when they believe the nation is under threat. The terrorist described by the Herald is allegedly a “major terror suspect” and is “under constant surveillance by gardai”.

He is “of Middle Eastern origin” and “spends a lot of time in his apartment, leaving very occasionally”. He has “a long association with extremist Muslim terror groups including Al Qaeda”.

The Herald thus joins a long list of commentators who have used the Paris attacks to cast a negative light on Muslims.

Donald Trump said, “I want surveillance of certain mosques” and that he would send Syrian refugees back to Syria if he was elected President. He also called for a database of all Muslims in the United States to be set up, in order to track their movements. Another presidential candidate, Ben Carson, equated Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs”.

Such statements have real effects. A recent study found that hate crimes against Muslims spike after jihadi attacks (the study looked at Britain). For example, anti-Muslim attacks quadrupled in the UK after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

The study’s author said the media was in part responsible for this, as “Findings also suggest that where the media stress the Muslim background of attackers, and devote significant coverage to it, the violent response is likely to be greater”.

The demonisation of Muslims often leads to the thesis that we are now facing a “clash of civilisation”, an idea popularised by the American conservative political scientist Samuel Huntington. The Sunday Independent loves that idea and many of its writers have repeated it in the last few days.

For example, Jody Corcoran writes that we are witnessing “conflict along the fault line between the Western and Islamic civilisations” and that “Islam has bloody borders”. There has been a lot of “warfare between Arabs and the West”, for example, on 9-11 and in the recent Paris attacks.

But this, of course, is nonsense because it is factually incorrect. There is no antagonism between “the West” and “Islam”.

For decades, the West has strongly supported Saudi Arabia, which is a cultural center of Islam and the most fundamentalist state in the world; the West is also strongly allied with the Gulf monarchies such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

So religion is not important, what matters is “who does the West consider its allies and enemies”. Allies’ sins will be glossed over while those of enemies will find their way to front pages.

Western governments are now claiming to be offended by ISIS due to its barbaric practices. But there are no such feelings regarding Saudi Arabia (or regarding the US invasion of Iraq, to name one US intervention among many others).

For instance, talking about ISIS, former justice minister Alan Shatter said to the Herald that there was “no moral principle which says you can be neutral when it comes to a group of individuals who believe in beheading people, who glory in death, who enslave women, who inflict terrible tortures on individuals and who basically are responsible for dreadful, appalling atrocities both within Iraq and Syria and quite happy to export their fanaticism to other parts of the world”.

Concerned about beheadings? Women? Exporting fanaticism? Then focus on Saudi Arabia as much as ISIS.

Saudi Arabia reserves the death penalty by beheading for about 80 to 90 people per year ], for crimes including “nonlethal offenses, such as drug-related ones”, reports Amnesty International.

The Saudis are also well-known to export their intolerant fundamentalist version of Islam, Wahhabism, which has inspired many groups in the Middle East, like ISIS. Saudi Arabia has just sentenced to death a poet for “renouncing Islam”.

But nothing is done about Saudi Arabia. In short, there is no clash of civilisations, only power interests.

Finally, here are two resources to follow ISIS-related news:

1) Patrick Cockburn is a journalist who writes for the London Independent, and he’s actually Irish. He is described by many as the best Western journalist on Iraq. His articles can be found here.

2) Robert Fisk also writes for the London Independent and is acknowledged by many as one of the best journalists on the Middle East; he is based in Beirut. His articles can be found here.

Julien Mercille is the author of Cruel Harvest: US Intervention in the Afghan Drug Trade. Follow Julien on Twitter: @JulienMercille

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78 thoughts on “A Real Clash Of Civilisations

  1. Prop Joe

    Couldn’t get past paragraph 1. It’s just fundamentally incorrect. It’s his interpretation and I dare say the rest of the article extrapolates this point further.
    Not worth my time any more so than the Herald is.

  2. shitferbrains

    Cockburn has warned against US/UK intervention in Syria while at the same time welcoming Russian intervention. Fancy that.

    1. jungleman

      Russian intervention has been far more sensible and consistent than that of the west, who appear not to have a clue what they are doing, and really are just part of the problem rather than the solution.

      1. Just sayin'

        You have no idea what you’re talking about. Russia are causing many move civilian casualties that the US or France, as they don’t particularly care, not having a free media back home to criticise their actions.
        I yearn for the day when someone develops an automated bullsh*t screener for dangerously absurd comments like yours.

      2. Dόn Pídgéόní

        Far too simplistic. The West is limited to an extent by public disapproval for any type of military intervention that could end up like Iraq or Afghanistan – any planned action needs to be either as hands-off as possible (drones, air strikes) or planned to the hilt with defined goals and an end-date.

        Also, not sure that Russia’s plan to support Assad is sensible, particularly when they are bombing other groups largely indiscriminately under the banner of being anything vaguely anti-Assad aka the enemy.

  3. jungleman

    Hits the nail on the head with this one. Although, the part about demonisation of welfare scrounges doesn’t really bother me.

    1. Anne

      Let’s hash this out, are all people on welfare scroungers by default?
      Let’s get to the root of this illogical thinking..

  4. chicken

    Yes not really convinced here. Although I was reminded when reading about what Donald Trump said “I want surveillance of certain mosques” and that he would send Syrian refugees back to Syria if he was elected President. He also called for a database of all Muslims in the United States to be set up, in order to track their movements” – There was another German guy, some years ago who didnt like a certain religion, who started with similar practices of a database of all those who practiced a certain religion. This did not fair well for quite a few innocent people. Donald Trump needs to be removed from the presidential race

    1. ReproBertie

      Hitler was Austrian you knee-jerk hyperbolising fool.

      The Republican party and/or the American people will get their opportunity to have Trump removed from the presidential race shoudl they desire to do so.

  5. 15 cents

    its the herald. listening to what the herald has to say, is like sitting in a room with a rabid, wild dog barking and growling, and taking notes to try understand what it’s saying. its pointless.

  6. classter

    Merceille makes a couple of fair arguments but it is hard to see what his overall argument is.

    Yes, the West has made somewhat of a Faustian pact with the Saudi regime. What choice did we have? Through an accidental quirk of geology, we depend on them for our fuel supply.

    The Saudi state is in many ways the result of a bargain between the Royal family & the clerics. Without the house of Saud, it is quite possible that a much more belligerent & expansionist regime would control Saudi’s oil.

    1. J

      *Role play* * Role play*
      Julien as Pollyanna, all pigtails and striped stockings .
      David as Aunt Polly, all pursed lips and wagging fingers.
      Scripts welcome via@ Broadsheet.ie

  7. Smith

    Julien overuses the word ‘thus’

    Some helpful synonyms: consequently,
    As a result, therefore, accordingly, hence.

    You’re welcome

  8. classter

    Just admit it – an ISIS terrorist organiser living on welfare in Ireland is galling.

    You don’t have to be a support of US misadventures in the Middle East, nor biogted about those of different ethnic or religious groups, nor resentful of the social welfare safety net to think this.

    1. jon

      You’re automatically assuming the story is true.

      Given that it’s written by Garda Paul Williams, in an INM paper, I’d be inclined to take it with a huge pinch of salt at the very least.

      1. Sam

        +1
        If they had anything on the guy, they’d lift him or extradite him.
        If they were really investigating him trying to dig up dirt, then they wouldn’t go public.
        If the idea is to justify political action and garda spending, then keeping it vague and not lifting the guy will get mileage in the press and what passes for public discourse in this country.

        You need to upgrade your spin detector.

        Anyone considered a genuine extremist threat in this country would be lifted, followed, harrassed and disrupted for fear they’d turn up at Shannon and slip past the security which didn’t detect an old woman with a zimmer frame, nor that noted athletic ninja and camouflage expert Mick Wallace.

        1. classter

          I am assuming it is true, although, of course, it is possible that it is not. Merceille has not put forward any suggestion that it is not true. Nobody here doubts that Gerry Adams was actively involved in the IRA. We accept the say-so of journalists who themselves cite British & Irish security services intelligence.

          I would also be surprised if there were nobody on welfare in Ireland involved in Islamic terrorism & I hope they are ‘lifted, followed, harrassed and disrupted’.

          I’m ok with this – I accept that no welfare system will help only the decent or ‘deserving’ – but pretending otherwise because we’re uncomfortable with the possible implications is not smart.

          1. Sam

            I won’t assume it’s true. Anonymous sources claiming unlikely things tend not to get the benefit of the doubt from me.

            Merceille has not put forward any suggestion that it is not true.

            He comments on media, why would he be an authority on security?

            Nobody here doubts that Gerry Adams was actively involved in the IRA.
            You mean the guy who was shot and imprisoned, rather than referred to anonymously and not disrupted?

            We accept the say-so of journalists who themselves cite British & Irish security services intelligence.

            Given their track record? They spend more time on perception management than intel it seems. Where were those Iraqi WMDs again?

            The social welfare doesn’t go after people for their political views, but the cops are certainly capable of low level disruption, passing “info” to social welfare and employers or prospective employers in order to get someone called into the office or the CV off the short list.

            ISIS get support from the Saudis, how come there’s no media focus on asking the Saudi Ambassador about his country’s support for ISIS? They could try doorstepping ambassador Al-Drees on Fitzwilliam Square rather than just asking Dr. Selim at the Clonskeagh mosque all the time. Anyone who thinks the Clonskeagh mosque (assuming they chose to) could raise more support for ISIS than the Saudi Regime hasn’t done much thinking.

  9. bisted

    ‘…quite happy to export their fanaticism to other parts of the world’…Shatter seems to have forgotten that before IS were ever heard of his zionist buddies were travelling the world assassinating people…sometimes using Irish passports.

  10. Sido

    He doesn’t offer any solutions to the problem of Islamic terrorism – does he? Just the usual sort of drivel you would expect from him.

    1. bisted

      …Julien is just doing what he does best…highlight how the media report. Refreshingly, he doesn’t offer solutions, just perspective.

  11. Owen C

    I see much more (but still very little) of an attempt to demonise welfare recipients here than to demonise Muslims. Even then, the term “welfare” is only used in the banner headline and first line of the story, and then never used again. The word Muslim doesn’t actually appear on the front page at all, just the term “Islamic State” a few times. Further on it is only used (positively) in the context of the “Muslim Community” and (negatively) in the context of “extremist Muslims”. In fact, going into the full story beyond the front page, the story goes to great lengths to separate Muslims generally from the Islamic State. Merceille again sees things through his own (anti mainstream media) biases, not the reality of the actual article.

    http://www.herald.ie/news/is-terror-leader-in-ireland-is-living-on-welfare-34221156.html

  12. Mr. T.

    Right wing parties such as Fine Gael and the Conservatives in Britain are letting out little snide remarks linking left leaning politics with being soft on terrorism. It’s such a snide dishonest type of propaganda aimed at thick ignorant lazy people who let the newspapers tell them how to think. And these are the very people who suffer the most under right wing governments.

    That headline purposely uses Welfare and Islam in one go, triggering underlying prejudices and merging them into a new way to hate.

    1. classter

      Could you provide a link or evidence to Fine Gael’s, ‘little snide remarks linking left leaning politics with being soft on terrorism’.

      It may suit your argument to conflate the Tories & the ‘Blueshirts’ but that doesn’t make it true.

  13. Drivel Snivel

    The reader is supposed to equate “welfare” and “ISIS” and to think they’re both evil.
    Readers could thus become more favourable to cutting welfare lest hard-working Irish people subsidise Islamists.

    And today’s leap in logic award THUS goes to …..

  14. rotide

    The first couple of paragraphs are a pretty good example of why Mercille gets published here on broadsheet and not in an actual newspaper.

  15. Drivel Snivel

    @ Rotide. He DOES . Sunday Business Post and Irish Times entertain him. Failte to Ireland. When dreams come true. …

      1. Neilo

        It’s like I woke up in a parallel universe where Julien Mercille has a by line in the Paper Of Record

  16. Burst Balloon

    Again with the ‘they export Wahhabism,’ nugget so vague as to be meaningless and frequently used by writers too lazy to actually provide detail on the history and spread of Wahhabism

    1. classter

      I don’t really agree with Merceille typically but the suggestion that they export Wahhabism is fair imo/

      Wahabbism has experienced explosive growth since the 1970s, in line with the growth in Saudi oil revenues.
      Wahabbism is native to Saudi, it is a relatively strict form of Islam with an intolerant view of apostasy & has experienced explosive growth since the 1970s, in line with the growth in Saudi oil revenues.

      The Saudis are massive (predominant) funders of Islam globally (2-3 billion a year since 1975) – scholarships, mosque building, funding for madrasas, textbooks, academic positions…They have also funded political Islam groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

      It is widely (though not universally) accepted that their financial aid has helped Wahhabsim to overwhelm less strict forms of Islam in many places.

  17. AlisonT

    Why do so many people promote respect for Islam – it is a religion based on the teachings of a military commanded who killed thousands in the pursuit of power and used his visions to justify this. It is fundamentally violent and Muhammad should not be considered comparable to Christ or the Budda who both seem to have been lovers of Peace.

    i can respect people who follow Christ or Budda they are rightly or wrongly following a story of a good person but I cannot respect those who follow a military leader who slaughtered thousands.

          1. Twunt

            I love the way Islam Apologists denigrate people with ad hominem attacks. They think themselves morally and intellectually superior and no amount of Islamic barbarity will shake their faith in Islam.

          2. Don Pidgeoni

            You have enough moral superiority for us all. Sad about the intellect. Twunt by name etc

            @Fish – C-, poor effort. Must try harder.

  18. Junkface

    There’s a good documentary called ‘Inside the Quran’ which explains a lot of the current popular forms of Islam as well as extremist sways in the middle east. Everyone should watch it

  19. some old queen

    Ah here. If he’s a wanted terror chief then why is he living off benefits and why isn’t he arrested? Sometimes people take what they read (and themselves) way to seriously. Occasionally they write about it.

  20. Niallo

    I’ll tell you one thing, we are only at the beginning of this mess, the genie is out of the bottle
    And it wont end well.

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