While Michael Portillo legitimately criticises certain British Muslims (9 July) he, like many influential opinion-formers, suffers from an all too prevalent collective and convenient amnesia that inhibits their factual comprehension of contemporary militancy within Islam. Without condoning the indiscriminate bloodshed of al-Qa’ida and its murderous zealots, it is imperative that all politicians and commentators need to grasp the actual causes and real reasons why violent extremism has taken root in parts of the Islamic world.
To imply, like Portillo as well as Blair do, that 11th September occurred without any prior warning or in a (virtual) vacuum is to betray either shocking historical ignorance and / or political deceit. For extremists in the Middle East today, the West in general and America in particular, is mainly responsible for enduring Muslim impotency and humiliation. Leaving aside their pent up rage arising from the calculated carving up of Islamic lands into vying petty nation-states by ruthless European colonial powers, the post World War II era has witnessed the imposition of hegemonic American neo-imperialism at the expense of authentic Muslim self-determination and politico-economic sovereignty.
Given this incendiary historical mix, the principal triggers for current Muslim reactive enmity preceded the 2001 al-Qa’ida attacks. These can be traced (but not limited) to at least five festering Western-induced grievances: the outrageously one-sided US–European backing for an ever expansionist Israel; the disproportionately savage 1990s Western-engineered sanctions against a ruined and defeated Iraq; the brazenly unwanted presence of American military bases upon the sacred soil of the Arabian peninsula; the belatedly insipid NATO intervention in the Balkans (which did not prevent the ethnic cleansing and mass slaughter of Bosnian and Kosovan Muslims); and the blatant Western propping-up of undemocratic puppet regimes, including those of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Combined, all these factors can explain pre-2001 Muslim hostility but do not justify the random carnage inflicted by al-Qa’ida in the West. However, for Portillo (like Blair), to claim that the US is an entirely innocent party to what they and other blinkered neo-con warmongers on both sides of the Atlantic consider to be unprovoked ‘Islamic’ belligerency on 11th September is simply disingenuous and preposterous. Portillo for one, has to jettison all his remaining vestiges of Thatcherism before his selective musings on Islam can be accepted with unquestioned veracity.
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This MECO letter was sent to the editor of The Times newspaper on 26th June 2006