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Thursday, January 19, 2006

bin Laden's Latest

According to Frank Gardner of the BBC, bin Laden’s chief complaint is “Western countries invading Muslim countries and imposing their beliefs and culture.”

Assuming Gardner's analysis is correct, bin Laden has a point, doesn’t he? Western countries DO have a long history of invading Muslim countries, right? Well, let’s deconstruct bin Laden’s argument and see if his complaint has any merit.

First, a history lesson. The war between Western countries and the Muslim world did not start on September 11, 2001. In fact, it goes back almost 1500 years. From the beginning, the expanding Muslim world was a threat to the West. Many “Muslims lands” were once primarily Christian. Others were primarily Hindu, Buddhist or other religions. The Crusades were as least partially motivated by the spread of Islam in the world, encroachment on the Holy Roman and Byzantine Empires, and perceived mistreatment of Christians in Muslim lands. Muslims conquered parts of Spain, Constantinople, southern Italy and were at the gates of Vienna in 1683. More recently, the Ottoman Empire fought against the allies in World War I. And this doesn’t even touch upon the last 30 years of terrorist attacks against Western targets and the military response to them.

So my first rebuttal to bin Laden would be that any invasion of Muslim lands by the West has been in large part defensive in nature.

Second, let’s deal with the charge of cultural imperialism. Again, bin Laden has a point. We DO try to impose Western beliefs and culture on Muslim lands. Which particular beliefs? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Political, religious and economic freedom. Equality of the sexes, basic human rights, free speech, participatory democracy, rule of law, property rights, individual freedom. We believe, to bin Laden’s horror, that these rights are inalienable and that every human deserves access to them.

So my second rebuttal is that we DO try to impose our beliefs on the rest of world; beliefs that we believe are in the best interests of every man, woman and child no matter where they live. To oppose these beliefs is not simply a matter of resisting cultural imperialism, but instead reveals a complete lack of regard (perhaps even antagonism) for basic human rights and responsibilities.

But this is also a matter of self-preservation for the West. If we do not spread our beliefs and culture, then we risk losing them (see point number 1 above). Mark Steyn made the point recently that demography is not on the side of the West vis a vis the Muslim world. It is a fact that cultures die out and there is no guarantee that Western culture will survive. In order to preserve our own culture and beliefs, it is imperative that we protect, defend and promote them.

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