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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Theodore Dalrymple

Theodore Dalrymple is an atheist who is greatly disturbed by 'the new atheists' (Dennett, Dawkins, Harris, & Hitchens). An interesting though long-winded writer - I had enjoyed his Our Culture, What's Left Of It - he is now engaged in an ongoing war of words with Sam Harris, which makes for fun reading.

For the last few years Dalrymple has often written on Islam and Muslims in the City Journal (a quarterly). So, it was bound to happen that the subject of Terrorism would crop up at some point:
"It’s not just Islam, but the tension between Islam and Western modernity, that makes them tick.

While I was on a visit to Toronto recently, police arrested 17 men, the oldest of them 43 but most much younger, on charges of plotting a terrorist attack. They wished, apparently, to blow up the parliament in Ottawa and publicly behead the prime minister. Cops caught them in the process of buying three times as much material for explosives as Timothy McVeigh used in the Oklahoma City bombing. Reporting the arrests, the New York Times called the men “South Asians” — though one of them was an Egyptian, two were Somali, and most had been born in Canada — thus concealing by an inaccurate euphemism the most salient characteristic of the alleged plotters: that they were all Muslims. The Canadian police, emasculated and even stupefied by the exigencies of political correctness (the modern bellwether of virtue), said that the 17 came from such diverse backgrounds that they were unable to discern anything in common among them.

Canadians, on the whole, reacted to news of the plot with a mixture of outrage and disbelief. A few responded more vigorously, smashing the windows of a Toronto mosque, which the press swiftly denounced as un-Canadian. But many wondered, why us? when Canada had been among the most tolerant and accommodating countries to its immigrants in the world, and where celebration of diversity for its own sake had been made almost an official fetish. Could it be that no liberal policy goes unpunished?

It rapidly became clear that no single sociological factor of the kind usually invoked to explain outrageous behavior — poverty, say, or racial discrimination — could explain the adherence of all 17 to the plot (assuming that the charges against them are true). The Somalis involved were born in Somalia in the midst of the chronic civil war there and came to Canada as refugees, where they soon fell into unideological delinquency before catching the Islamist bug; they were not economic success stories. Other alleged plotters, however, emerged from the well-integrated middle classes, such as the son of a successful doctor of Indian origin who had emigrated to Canada from Trinidad. The pictures of the houses in which some of the plotters lived and grew up must have made more than a few newspaper readers envious. Whatever explained the resort of the 17 to the scimitar and the bomb, raw poverty or the hopelessness of insuperable discrimination was not it."
The above are the opening paragraphs in Dalrymple's rather long review of Terrorist - a novel by John Updike. Of course, as an alternative to the review and, possibly in the same amount of time, you could read Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist and feel equally bored. However, should any of you decide to read the Updike book, I'd also suggest - preferably instead of it - Doris Lessing's chiling novel The Good Terrorist. Sadly, it is hard to find these days - but try bookshops that sell old books and you may be rewarded.

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Anonymous the olive ream said...

I am well aware of the Toronto 17 case...a fact that was discovered later and rarely mentioned about the arrests was that it was staged managed from the start. The canadian coppers were the ones who actually provided the explosives to the lot and then proceeded to make the arrests.

A feather in the cap of Canada for fighting the war on terror...bollocks!

27 November, 2007 13:16

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

I believe that a good number of those involved in the 9/11 incident also came from wealthy backgrounds.

Could it be that there was an 'ideological vacuum' in the lives of these young men, which was, in a way, filled by all that their indoctrinators told them?

BTW, I believe undercover operations by the police often involve supplying drugs to those who deal in these and then catching them 'red-handed'. Not the perfect analogy perhaps, but it is the best one that I can think of, at the moment.

27 November, 2007 15:22

Anonymous the olive ream said...

I am aware that the police often supplies drugs to catch suspect drug suppliers BUT in the canadian case, (and as in many other cases of the war on terror) SUSPECTS are CREATED by supplying them with explosives, and then claiming that these are suspected terrorists.

There's a much bigger game at play here than just the clear aim of catching the nasty 'evil-doers'. Think about it.... Who has the most to lose if they aren't plenty of terrorists to catch?... What happens to the profit-making war on terror?

What I am saying is, that when they are'nt enough ligitimate terrorists to catch, they just make some up in order to keep this sordid war on terror going.

Thousands of world citizenry unlawfully arrested, detained and renditioned under the pretext of war on terror. How much safer does anyone feel?

28 November, 2007 12:26

Blogger Vic said...

War on Drugs, War on Terror: how about a war on empty-headedness?

Not so long ago, a popular American term for elected politicians manouvering public funds to one's own constituency was called 'boondoggling' (I don't know why, but I suppose Wikipedia may have a clue) - wasting time and money, but winning votes - Ah! what steadfastness of purpose!

[OK OK - I looked it up, and what serendipity - the term refers to a lanyard knot, boy scouts and sailors use them!]

Nowadays, there's no need to boondoggle, the entire pork barrel (another popular term, although it may appear a little indelicate to some) and the pallet it came on are simply wafted away under the laughable all-purpose labels 'national security', 'public good' and other such vapid words (vapid in usage, not meaning).

Mr (or is it Dr?) Dalrymple specialises in adopting a 'good ol' fellow' kind of homespun language in his columns (much easier to read than lengthy waffles on books). I have noticed that he tends to over-simplify a lot of the time. And of course, that does sort of allow one's little prejudices to slip out now and then, doesn't it?

29 November, 2007 20:54


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