This is not a well thought-out article. Usually I have a theme that comes to mind and I work on it for a day or so, unless as was the case with the Scottish referendum I wanted to get something out quickly. My problem this last weekend–I usually mentally work on a new article over the weekends–has been that there are too many subjects I’d like to address. Here in the UK the party political conference season is drawing to a close. The insignificant party–sorry, the Lib Dems–are just finishing their conference but you know what? They might not be so insignificant after all. The interviewers, TV and Radio, are doing their respective pit-bull impressions when they corner Lib-Dem leader Clegg but IF they let him get a word in some of what he says makes some sense. He talks about how the Lib-Dems have prevented the government from lurching too far to the right. He is correct. Some of the Lib-Dem policies might be uncosted and ill thought-out pie in the sky but they do occupy the middle ground–a place that historically most British Governments have occupied. Of course Labour and Conservative politicians talk about winning the next election outright but the reality might well be another coalition. Most sensible politicians in the two main parties are being careful not to say anything that would be a ‘coalition-killer’ in the event of a hung parliament after the election next year. The media wannabe pit-bulls want to see/hear a tearful Clegg bemoaning the lack of support in the polls for the Lib-Dems. They have short memories. Those same polls were predicting a close vote in the Scottish referendum and in the event, it wasn’t.
I promised a comparison with the coming English Revolution and the past French Revolution. It’s coming, I promise–the comparison not the revolution, that is. In the meantime I wanted to write about the war against ISIS, IS or ISIL–use your favourite acronym–but it’s a complex subject. There is a lot going on behind the scenes which contradicts what the politicians are saying publicly. Nothing new there really but nobody wants to speak about what’s really going on and why the various Arab nations will eventually join in the fight. Right now, Islam is going through a period of internal instability, similar in some ways to the schism between the Catholic church and Protestantism when it developed. I’m not referring to the on-going underground war between Sunni and Shia, I’m talking about Islam coming to terms with a modern, more secular world and how a Muslim can lead an Islamic life and be a part of a modern, secular society. It is all a matter of interpretation and the forces of conservatism are appalled at what they see. It is important for people in the West to understand that a conservative Muslim is not an Islamist. Islamists have their own agenda. They yearn for a caliphate that never existed, at least not in the way that they imagine it did. Conservative Muslims want things to stay as they are and want no new interpretation of their faith. I suspect that most Muslims are of the opinion, as they ponder how to lead an Islamic life in a secular state, that compromises have to be made. How far do you compromise is something that they are struggling with, as indeed to all people of whatever faith.
There has been much talk of radicalisation of Muslim youths. Well maybe, but has anybody considered that ‘it’–running away from your parents and fighting for something which may or may not be a just cause, or running off and marrying somebody who is a hero in your eyes–is all a bit of an adventure and has not a lot to do with religious conviction? Perhaps some have considered this but mainly what we see or hear are knee-jerk reactions. Most of these kids will become disenchanted and try and make their way back home. Granted some–how many I wonder–will have been involved in committing atrocities and they must face some form of legal sanction if their involvement can be proved but most will have been on the fringes and will return horrified and suitably chastened. They must be welcomed back and the best way of reintegrating them into society is by imans explaining that IS/ISIL or ISIS has nothing to do with Islam.
The Arab states are terrified. Why? Because there are comparisons to be made with the spread of ISIL and the way Islam originally spread. Both erupted out of the desert and conquered by means of the sword. Islam evolved quite rapidly into something a little gentler but it would be a mistake for the West to think that ISIL will. The Arabs probably realise that it won’t and that it represents a threat to the existence of all Arab states as they now exist. They will fight for their political survival but they have created problems for themselves. Individuals, wealthy individuals, channel money to ISIL and there may well be some support for ISIL amongst the populations. Not so much because of religious views per se, but because of disaffection with Arab governments. Western politicians are saying that this is a generational struggle, taking years to sort out. They must not tarry over this. ISIL must be militarily confronted and defeated quickly and that means boots on the ground. We cannot afford another half-finished job. ISIL is not a terrorist group, they are a political entity with a standing, heavily armed army. They have succeeded thus far in carving out a state for themselves and they must be confronted as a state.
Finally, writing. I had settled on a new book the plot of which was an alternative history of the Second World War. I had amassed a lot of research material and sifted through some of it. Now, in the midst of impending job interviews and boning up on the Highway Code–more on that another time–I find that a new plot has thrust itself to the forefront and is insisting that it be written. What would happen if experimental medical treatment were available for use on Human Beings? Up until the Ebola outbreak there had to be years of testing before new drugs were tried out on Humans. The situation in Africa has perhaps changed that for ever. Suppose a new treatment worked but had unexpected side-effects? Suppose a new treatment worked but had disastrous side effects? In our society we are relatively content with the idea of destroying animals who are suffering but we are struggling with the morality of helping a Human with an incurable disease putting themselves out of their own misery. It is a bit of a slippery slope. What if a new treatment worked and the unexpected side-effects could be seen as beneficial but earth-shattering in their implications for Human existence?