A Voice of Their Own
The Guardian describes the tide of young Muslim men coming to see an unnamed "prophet" in East London. It recalls if nothing else scenes from Christianity's apostolic age. It features a man discoursing in an exotic language simultaneously translated into many tongues for eager listeners. The gathering is thronged by a crowd from all walks of life, eager to start a pilgrimage about which little is known -- except that salvation lies at the end of it. Men who would never have acknowledged each other socially gather and share a makeshift meal together. This is radical Islam in the heart of the West.
Thousands of young Muslim men are attending meetings in east London every week run by a fundamentalist Islamic movement [Tablighi Jamaat] believed by western intelligence agencies to be used as a fertile recruiting ground by extremists. ... The organisation - influenced by a branch of Saudi Arabian Islam known as Wahhabism - has already been linked to two of the July 7 suicide bombers ... The jailed shoe bomber Richard Reid is also known to have attended Tablighi meetings. ...
one person spoke admiringly about the "main man" ... "We can't call him a prophet," he said. "No one can be a prophet. But when you meet him you'll realize. He's helped a lot of people in Walthamstow to follow the right path, the path of the prophet. He'll talk to you openly this evening and everything will make sense." ...
The largest room was reserved for the main speaker, an elder from Preston who spoke in Urdu. His sermon was relayed through a microphone to five other rooms in which interpreters provided simultaneous translation into English, Arabic, Sinhala, Turkish and Somali.
The English-speaking room heaved as a sea of faces, white, black and Asian, spilled into the hallway. Most were teenagers and men in their 20s and 30s dressed in Islamic dress, caps and beards. Some came in suits and ties, others in jeans and hoodies. There were old men too, who weaved slowly through to the front of the room, and a few young boys.
After an hour the preacher concluded with a call for followers to join the effort and commit to a trip away. "We must leave our houses, our businesses, our families, for a short period of time, and follow the path of Allah and practise the ways of the prophet, going from mosque to mosque," said the interpreter. "Then [the behaviour] will become second nature to us. We shall go to India and Pakistan for four months to follow these ways."
What Tablighi followers call "the effort" - travelling around the country for three days or 10 days, depending on their level of commitment - is key to the organization. Once they have completed the first stage, they may undertake a 40-day trip, which is likely to entail travel around Europe. ...
A former body builder showed pictures on his mobile of the "pumped-up gym fanatic" he used to be. After spells in prison, he said, he went on a life-changing four-month trip to Pakistan. "I went to places you wouldn't believe," he said. "There are people in Pakistan and India who know less about the prophet than people in east London."
Across town in posher part of London, Jenni Murray, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour is finalizing plans to kill herself when she gets seriously sick.
She is sealing a pact with two friends that they will assist each other to die if any of them is diagnosed with a debilitating and incurable illness. Methods they might use include injections or smothering with a pillow. This is despite a law outlawing assisted suicide, which Murray says is sustained by a religious minority. ...
Publicity material for the show says that Murray "does not want to look after her sick and aging mother, and plans to end her own life when she becomes a burden to those around her". The network said: "Jenni is angry that, having fought so hard to become liberated and independent, women are now being trapped into caring for dependent parents."
The contrast between the expectant, almost ecstatic Muslim gathering and sour bleakness of a middle-aged BBC presenter arranging her own suicide is striking. Where one sees the glimmer of life even in hardship and death, the other delivers a final judgment on the meaning of postmodern life: a pillow over the face in a musty room after the last glass of wine. Who thought that radical Islam stood no chance against postmodern glitter did not know Islam. Churchill knew it and said "were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science -- the science against which it had vainly struggled -- the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome." TE Lawrence understood Islam even better. He knew the Arabs as masters of myth.
Their largest manufacture was of creeds: almost they were monopolists of revealed religions. Three of these efforts had endured among them: two of the three had also borne export (in modified forms) to non-Semitic peoples. Christianity, translated into the diverse spirits of Greek and Latin and Teutonic tongues, had conquered Europe and America. Islam in various transformations was subjecting Africa and parts of Asia. These were Semitic successes. Their failures they kept to themselves. The fringes of their deserts were strewn with broken faiths.
Lawrence, had he lived another half century, would have seen Europe not only relegate its one Semitic faith to the museum and the other to the -- well -- and install its own shoddy and broken Marxist manufacture in the official pantheon where its gangrenous influence would suffuse everything. And against Islam, a dynamic creed which could make inroads even against Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, the West's broken postmodern idols were not even in the same weight class. Ben Stein, writing in the New York Times sensed that against the immaterial tide weapons alone would not avail.
Can it possibly be that Hezbollah is better motivated, better led, better dug in and better armed than the Israeli army, which is supposed to be the best army, pound for pound, in the world? ... If Israel cannot get it together to fight a serious war against a group, Hezbollah, that the State Department identifies as a terrorist organization, who will? ... Now, who’s fighting for us in the fight of our lives? Brave, idealistic Southerners. Hispanics from New Mexico. Rural men and women from upstate New York. Small-town boys and girls from the Midwest. Do the children of the powers on Wall Street resign to go off and fight? Fight for the system that made them rich? Fight for the way of life that made them princes? Surely, you jest. ...
What stands between us and the iceberg are the miraculously brave men and women of the armed forces. They’re heroes and saints as far as I’m concerned. But can they do it without the rest of us? Can they do it while we’re all working on our tans and trying to have our taxes lowered again? How can we leave them out there all alone to die for us when we treat the war to save civilization as something we can just wish away?
Ben Stein's key insight, one which he unfortunately does not pursue, is that while liberalism is willing to leave anyone "out there all alone to die" at the sign of the first inconvenience, there are components of the West -- and the non-Muslim world -- willing to stand in front of the iceberg. And the willingness to resist tyranny grows proportionately to the cultural distance from liberalism. Yet liberalism has and continues to set the West's agenda in the fight against Islamic fascism. Given that the key activity in Osama Bin Laden's campaign so far has been about creating and manipulating identities; I hope to address two issues in the coming posts. First, can the resistant parts of the West create a consciousness explicitly opposed Islamic fascism? And if so, can this identity of resistance wrest the Western agenda from liberalism?
Outside the Tablighi Jamaat's mosque there are ordinary men for whom a glass of wine and suffocation are not the goal of life. They are pilgrims too, but they gather in the cultural shadows, heeding neither Mohammed nor the high priests of liberal culture. They have no banner, though they will find one.
And how beguile you? Death has no repose
Warmer and deeper than the Orient sand
Which hides the beauty and bright faith of those
Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.
But who are ye in rags and rotten shoes,
You dirty-bearded, blocking up the way?
We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: it may be
Beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow,
Across that angry or that glimmering sea,
White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lives a prophet who can understand
Why men were born: but surely we are brave,
Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.