Friday, May 25, 2007

The Wheel of Karma

The IHT reports that Thailand is considering making Buddhism the state religion in a move fraught with implication for the largely Muslim southern provinces. The pressure on the Thai government is coming, at least in part, from the grassroots:

In a step that could sharpen divisions in its increasingly violent, largely Muslim southern provinces, Thailand appears ready for the first time to make Buddhism the state religion in a new constitution.

Under pressure from masses of orange-robed monks who have rallied in the streets and distracted by other political challenges, the country's military-backed government is going along with a notion that has made little headway in the past. ...

More than 90 percent of Thais are Buddhist, and Thailand is already, in effect, a Buddhist state, its rituals, monarchy and national identity closely tied to the religion. It also has a reputation for tolerance and inclusiveness, qualities that have become strained under the pressure of political crisis.

The constitutional provision would be largely symbolic, without legal weight or substantive effect on religious practices in Thailand. But analysts said it would be dangerously divisive at a moment when Buddhists and Muslims are confronting each other in the south more directly and violently than ever.


Not so long ago religion was a litmus test for national loyalty in Europe. Ironically, the drive to establish Buddhism as Thailand's religion is also driven by a desire to assert a national identity.

As temples have been bombed, monks beheaded and Buddhist teachers and residents murdered in the south, Buddhism and nationalism have become intertwined. Some Buddhist leaders warn that the religion itself is under attack from what they see as an alien religion.

"Buddhism is increasingly coming under threat," said Thongchai Kuasakul, head of the Buddhists' Network of Thailand, who led the biggest march last month, referring to the violence in the south.

Sanitsuda Ekachai, a columnist for the English-language newspaper Bangkok Post, wrote recently, "This national religion campaign is taking place amid widespread paranoia within the clergy against Islam."

She said leaflets had been distributed calling Islam a threat to Thai Buddhism. Kraisak Choonhavan, a former senator and expert on the south, said the greatest threat, though, comes from a politicized Buddhist hierarchy that could lead to greater confrontation and violence. "My feeling is that this is similar to Sri Lanka," he said. "They succeeded in Sri Lanka in making Buddhism the national religion and look at where Sri Lanka is - it's a total civil war."

It is amazing how little the present world resembles that imagined by those who argued that multilaterism and multiculturalism would rule the 21st century. That the world would eventually resemble a larger version of that harbinger of the future, the European Union. Just twenty years ago it seemed that boundaries and nationalities would disappear. But after September 11 the Department of Homeland Security's first priority was to toughen airport controls. Some may have hoped at first, that these measures were only temporary. Unfortunately the initial restrictions were only the first of many subsequent developments. Concern over immigration became on the key drivers of the recent French elections. One of the hottest domestic political issues in the United States today concerns the construction of barrier fence on the land borders. If Edward Grey were alive today, he might have a different version of his sad prediction on the eve of the Great War. 'The doors are closing all over the world. We shall not see them opened again in our lifetime.' Efforts to establish a state religion in Thailand, whatever its legal force, are one more reminder that we may not be at the End of History so much as the prelude to a Clash of Civilizations. The problem is whether we can still avoid the danger without acknowledging its imminence. The sooner we waken, the sooner we can salvage some chance of heading off a smash.

13 Comments:

Blogger Meme chose said...

It's just amazing how closely the unfolding story of 9/11 and Islamic terrorism worldwide parallels the story of Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and the English Civil War of 1642-1651.

This move to establish the Buddhist religion on Thailand, and the evident possibility of a civil war are just the latest similarities. Here are several more (see #12 below for the possible long term implications):

(1) Far from being poorly educated, Fawkes received an advanced education for the time

(Wikipedia: "Fawkes, originally raised as a Protestant, was a pupil of the Free School of St Peter in York" ).

Several of the 9/11 attackers, especially the leaders (the pilots) had been college students in Germany.

(2) Fawkes was influenced as a teenager while undergoing instruction by a religious teacher who was concealed his true beliefs.

(Wikipedia: "During Fawkes' time at St Peter's he was under the tutelage of John Pulleyn , kinsman to the Pulleyns of Scotton and a suspected Catholic who, according to some sources, may have had an early effect on the impressionable Fawkes.")

This is a standard pattern for Islamic terrorism. Many radical Islamic teachers claim not to be radicals in public but offer quite different and more aggressive teachings to their students in private.

(3) Fawkes fought in a foreign war on behalf of his adopted religion, gaining training and experience there in the use of explosives.

(Wikipedia: "In 1593... he enlisted in the army of Archduke Albert of Austria in the Netherlands , fighting against the Protestant United Provinces in the Eighty Years' War for the armies of Catholic Spain. He served for many years as a soldier , gaining considerable expertise with explosives, which is the most likely reason that conspirators Winter and Catesby recruited him.")

Many Al Qaeda fighters did the same thing fighting the Soviet Russians in Afghanistan.

(4) The conspirators plotted a spectacular attack one of the largest and most prominent buildings in the country, aiming to kill all of the people in it

(Wikipedia: "The plot... was an attempt by a group of English conspirators to kill King James I of England, his family, and most of the aristocracy in one swoop by blowing up the House of Lords building in the Houses of Parliament during its State Opening .")

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were the most prominent buildings in New York, symbolizing for Al Qaeda the power of the US state.

(5) Incitement, funding and support were probably provided by people in a country where Fawkes' religion had control of the government.

(Wikipedia: "Fawkes may have been introduced to Catesby by Hugh Owen, a man who was in the pay of the Spanish Netherlands.")

Funding for Al Qaeda came primarily from Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, both at the time controlled by Islamic regimes.

(6) The plotters' plans advanced when they realized that instead of obtaining their own means of access to their target they could easily rent space on freely available facilities which were almost totally undefended.

(Wikipedia: "They were much relieved to find a cellar for rent, as they had first tried to dig a mine under the building. This would have been difficult, because they had to store the dirt and debris and carry it away in barrels.")

The 9/11 terrorists realized that they could turn airliners into guided missiles at nominal expense by just buying a few domestic plane tickets.

(7) While it was evident that quite a few members of their own religion would be killed if they were successful, the leaders of the plot did not care.

(Wikipedia: "A few of the conspirators were concerned, however, about fellow Catholics who would have been present at parliament during the opening.")

Many Muslims also died in the World Trade Center attacks.

(8) The real instigator of the plot stayed in the shadows, and was identified only after the fact. He fled, and was hunted down many miles from the scene :

(Wikipedia: "Robert Catesby (1573 – November 18, 1605), born in Lapworth, Warwickshire, or possibly in Northamptonshire, to a strongly Roman Catholic family, was the leader of a group of Roman Catholic conspirators (the most notable of whom was Guy Fawkes) who endeavoured to blow up the Houses of Parliament in England in 1605... Following the discovery of the plot, Catesby and the other conspirators fled to the Midlands. He died three days after the discovery of the plot at Holbeach House in Staffordshire during a shoot-out with officers sent to arrest him. ")

Likewise for Osama Bin Laden (except that he managed to escape).

(9) The real instigator had been involved in earlier terrorist and assassination plots.

(Wikipedia: " Before the Gunpowder Plot, Catesby was involved with the Earl of Essex in the failed attempt to remove Elizabeth I from power in 1601. He was not executed because of his small role, but heavily fined costing him his manor house in Chastleton.")

Bin Laden and Al Qaeda had been attacking American targets for more than ten years.

(10) The state had earlier opportunities to kill the instigator, or imprison him for life, but had not taken him seriously enough as a threat to act on them, or judged itself to have insufficient justification.

(See (10) above).

The US during the Clinton administration had opportunities to extradite or kill Bin Laden on which it apparently failed to follow through.

(11) The arrest of some of the conspirators led the State to grant special permission to use torture to obtain information in the effort to identify and track down others. Even then the permission given was subject to limitations.

(Wikipedia: "Fawkes was arrested in the cellar in the early morning of 5 November. He was tortured over the next few days, after special permission to do so had been granted by the King. James directed that the torture should be gentle at first, and get more protracted in its severity.")

The US has behaved broadly similarly (some torture allowed by the state, but limits also laid down).

(12) The longer term impact of the plot was to inflict multiple major defeats on the followers of the plotters' religion, including many who never supported or approved of the plot. Fear of Catholic conspiracies aroused by the Gunpowder Plot played a major role in the English Civil War 35 years later, with terrible results for the entire Catholic community in England, whose civil liberties ended up being restricted literally for centuries afterwards. It is still unclear today for instance whether one can legally be Prime Minister in the UK and a Catholic at the same time.

The War on Terror has unleashed a global assault on militant Islam, which Al Qaeda did not expect and for which it was unprepared. The power and strength of the US response shocked and scattered them. The long term consequences for Muslims in the US, Europe and elsewhere in the form of restrictions on civil liberties and the extent to which they are trusted in official positions, especially if murderous terror attacks continue, are currently unknown.

5/25/2007 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

"The War on Terror has unleashed a global assault on militant Islam, which Al Qaeda did not expect and for which it was unprepared. The power and strength of the US response shocked and scattered them. The long term consequences for Muslims in the US, Europe and elsewhere in the form of restrictions on civil liberties and the extent to which they are trusted in official positions, especially if murderous terror attacks continue, are currently unknown."

I've long argued, principally in the Three Conjectures that the more we evade the core issues the more those will issues will become the core. Unless societies begin to recognize extremism for what it is and and crack down on it the "War on Terror" will become something far more diffuse and deadly: a war of civilizations.

Blackfive posts remarks from David Kilcullen on sectarian violence in Iraq which are very telling. The boldface is mine.

I. Al Qaeda Iraq (AQI) and other terrorists/insurgent groups establish strongholds, largely through intimidation, especially in Sunni areas.

II. They use those bases to carry out murderous attacks on Shi'ites.

III. Shi'ite militias retaliate against Sunni civilians, since they are unable to target the terrorist groups directly.

IV. The sectarian attacks polarize the Sunnis from the Shi'ites, making reconciliation and governing harder while offering the terrorists increased cover.


Because political correctness does not allow us to target any group which disguises itself with Islamic nomenclature, something which is most pronounced in Europe, where in London evil men are allowed to masquerade as "imams" and "preachers" and consort with celebrities and singers, the average man in the street, who unlike the politicians, feels a real threat, begins to respond with a generalized suspicion of Muslims.

Thus the kebab seller, the housewife with a headscarf or just the Muslim man with no terrorist intentions becomes an object of fear, resentment and sometimes, hatred. We move a little further away in the train. Watch their movements in spite ourselves. Guard our conversation in their presence. They become the Other. This is of course, the intention of Osama Bin Laden. But we help it along, because by refusing to go after the bad eggs, or allowing them to don the coloration of the innocent, we blur the line between the Muslim and the terrorist. Finally the two identities become one in the public mind and we're for it. When that happens, Muslims can only find protection under the aegis of their own "militias". The regular police and army become the "enemy". All the middle ground evaporates and the horrible smash begins. And although that smash can only culminate in catastrophe, even the annihilation of Islam, everyone, for their own short-term political game, dons the blindfolds, pours on the coal, builds up the steam and the train wreck tootles merrily along.

We'll need political and cultural courage to save the innocent. We need leadership to fill the middle ground between moronic appeasers on one side of the divide and the demagogues who will soon appear on the other.

5/25/2007 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"The War on Terror has unleashed a global assault on militant Islam, which Al Qaeda did not expect and for which it was unprepared."

It's still a pretty leashed attack on the jihadis, if you ask me. Also, ObL knew there would be a violent and sustained reaction to 9/11; remember his last calls to his Mother wherein he advised her he would be hiding for a long time.

5/25/2007 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Harkonnendog said...

"But analysts said it would be dangerously divisive at a moment when Buddhists and Muslims are confronting each other in the south more directly and violently than ever."

If that's what analysts are saying the analysts are full of crap. Muslims have been murdering Buddhists in the south, very directly, for a while. This is a response to that, not to "confrontations." Why choose such value neutral phrasing?

It seems like an attempt to make both sides morally equivalent. If a larger civil war does break out that will be the fault of the Muslims, who were so violent that the Buddhists decided war, perhaps resulting in genocide, was preferable to allowing the murders to go on.

5/25/2007 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

The parallels with England in the early 17th century go on and on...

It's interesting to ask, for example, exactly why so many of the aristocratic English elite were drawn towards supporting Catholicism, when it could clearly get you stripped of all your property, killed, or even worse (executions in those days being routinely accompanied by grisly torture)? What was its so irresistibly chic attraction?

Possibly the very fact that this choice of religion separated one from the common horde. The attraction of subscribing to such an inherently hierarchical faith (providing as it did a framework and a justification for the superiority of the aristocracy) appears to have been strong enough to overcome the chilling risks.

We see this again today in our own elites' tendency to overlook, excuse and find justifications for Islamist crimes. The attraction for their egos of assuming the role of society's moral super-arbiter and excuser in this way is just too great. Elite, affluent liberals are drawn to it as moths to a flame. All their material wants being more or less satisfied, the unrestrained demands of their egos literally consume their judgment and any sense of decency. The alternative, having ordinary opinions about morality indistinguishable from those of the 'common man', and therefore worth no more and no less, is just too horrible for them to bear.

It is instructive to note that in the end the consequences which fell on the heads of the Catholic community in England during the Civil War were not caused directly by the Gunpowder Plot conspiracy itself. The conspiracy's direct consequences fell on the conspirators and a small circle closely connected to them.

What did for the Catholics decades later, when the Civil War was unleashed, was their chronic failure to deplore the actions of their conspiracy-minded members, either rejecting them or turning them in to the authorities. It was this behavior over the succeeding decades, accompanied by repeated perceived attempts to undermine the country's traditional political and religious institutions, which convinced a majority of Englishmen that all possibility of Catholic access to influence anywhere in the state had to be eradicated by whatever means necessary, including large scale violence.

Muslims in Western countries should probably consider carefully whether the failure of many of them to condemn terrorist acts is inevitably storing up over the years this sort of a backlash, and liberals should consider whether their apparently endless excuses contribute to its eventual scale.

5/25/2007 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The parallels with England in the early 17th century go on and on...

Except this time, it's global, the gauntlet has been thrown down before the Buddhist monk in Thailand, through to the Hindu in Calcutta and right on out the atheist Chrisopher Hitchens. So the crisis has a pervasiveness about it that invites a closer inspection. The problem with using the metaphor of a "clash of civilizations" is it implies that any two civilizations can arbitrarily clash. Not so: radical Islam will flare up alongside anything you put it by. In reality, what we are witnessing is a something far more subtle. The leadership of very powerful forces unleashed by globalization, the collapse of Western and Communist empires, the corruption of Arab states by oil and the implosion of the West's value system is being sought by radical Islam. The 21st century, far from being the end of history, has ushered in awesome trends which national and international institutions cannot effectively deal with. But a viral ideology like radical Islam has succeeded in at least stirring it up, and if they have no program of governance, what of it? The sooner the world ends, the sooner Paradise beckons. What we have witnessed in the last few years is a comparative demonstration between the UN/EU way of doing things and the al-Qaeda method.

It's no coincidence then that the most powerful of countervailing forces to the decentralized insurgency are decentralized themselves. What is al-Qaeda's nightmare? The poncy American inquisitor or the militia and the mob? It's the mob. Al-Qaeda knows this in its bones and is out to win the contest. Zaraqawi will some day be recognized by historians as the man who fired the starting gun in the race to the bottom. Aller gegen aller may the last sumbitch standing win. I sometimes think the reason the al-Qaeda torture manual was illustrated with cartoon drawings is because many of their fighters can't read.

What we may be witnessing in Thailand is the emergence of yet other viral form of opposition to radical Islam besides the beauties that you find in the Arab world. Just as soon as we stop watching the Serbs, who knows what will happen. Western Civ is going to have its hands full keeping folks of the backs of Islamic radicals. Think of it: if the Buddhists can get riled up then all the bets are off about who and who might not take things into their own hands. Therefore it is imperative to take effective political leadership in order to keep things from spinning out of control and keeping the mobs from taking over. With the mobs come the demagogues and God knows what comes after that.

5/25/2007 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

"With the mobs come the demagogues and God knows what comes after that."

What came after that in the case of the English was a decade of personal rule by the 'Lord Protector' (Oliver Cromwell), followed by the restoration of the monarchy.

I don't myself fear that Western civilization will be overthrown by Islam, which is likely to emerge from the wider conflict as a tattered and impotent remnant of its former self. As in the case of the English Civil War, we have far more to fear from the damage we do to each other on the way to a resolution.

Our descendants are likely to lament the amount of chaos and damage we allowed a backward and ultimately insignificant culture to lead us into. Just like we view Nazism, they will wonder why we didn't deal with it quickly and at a far lower cost for peoples all around the world, while we had the chance. Once again there will be no good answer to this question, other than that too many of us preferred to avert our eyes from the need to tackle the task until it was too late.

5/26/2007 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

"Finally the two identities become one in the public mind and we're for it."

Getting to this point, this dynamic, where restraint dissolves and the great mass of non-Muslims turns against ALL Muslims happens BECAUSE THE MAJORITY of Muslims, themselves peaceful and non-violent, ALLOW the extremists to proceed AS IF the extremists represent the whole.

This eliminates all but a VERY FEW Muslims (those who actually publicly raise their voices against the extreme thug few) from claiming "innocence". They all bear responsibility for allowing the hateful few to destroy bridges and bonds and middle-ground and trust.

5/26/2007 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

"Except this time, it's global..."

Of course. The Glory of God brings the divine outpouring promised by Jesus, to ALL humankind, even the Muslims who have so clearly rejected His healing message!

Clergy worldwide fear and obfuscate Baha'u'llah, without actively naming Him, because only by being 'lukewarm' can they prolong their tenuous hold on the hearts and minds of their congregations, Muslim or other...

5/26/2007 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

I have been in Thailand. Great country, and as Buddhism is intrinsic to the national identity and culture, I see the idea of saying the official religion is Buddhist as aumenting the national cohesiveness and domestic tranquility.
Thailand inherited some lower lands by conquest in the various Sultanate Wars that mostly began against Thai settlers.

The question of "divisiveness" had hardly given any Muslim nation pause in declaring Islam the State Religion. Not Malaysiam not Brunei, not Indonesia, or 3 dozen other Muslim lands further West.

To say the Thais "shouldn't" introduces a double standard. Why should they embrace the multiculti sickness of the West and join in eradicating their religion and culture to appease demanding, aggressive minorities.

If the Muslim insurrection in the Thai South continues and the Thais keep seeing Muslims plotting terror out of small Muslim neighborhoods in Bangkok, then maybe the ones that "can't stand to live in a non-Muslim nation - will join their fellow ethnic Malays in Malaysia or Indonesia instead.

5/27/2007 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger Helping others said...

good work keep it up...

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5/27/2007 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

meme chose: Our descendants are likely to lament the amount of chaos and damage we allowed a backward and ultimately insignificant culture to lead us into. Just like we view Nazism, they will wonder why we didn't deal with it quickly and at a far lower cost for peoples all around the world, while we had the chance. Once again there will be no good answer to this question, other than that too many of us preferred to avert our eyes from the need to tackle the task until it was too late.

Our experience in Iraq may provide our descendants with another answer to this, albeit an equally unsatisfying one.

Among other things, OIF was touted precisely as a way to "deal with [a threat] quickly and at a far lower cost for peoples all around the world, while we had the chance." Which, on the face of it, it did - Saddam's regime fell in a matter of weeks. However, of course, the aftermath of that war opened up a king-sized can of worms unrelated to Saddam, which, by the time they finish wriggling their way out of the can, may (or may not) yet lead our descendants to conclude that trying to pre-empt a gathering threat is a crapshoot at best.

It's true that passivity in the face of a gathering threat all but guarantees that the threat will eventually materialize. However, until the threat does materialize, passivity requires no risk in blood, treasure or moral standing. Proactivity requires all of these risks, even though it cannot guarantee that the threat will be removed without creating equally threatening blowback. If it fails, we've wasted untold amounts of blood and treasure for nothing, and that's precisely what 21st-century Western civilization cannot countenance.

5/28/2007 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger PD111 said...

meme chose

Just after 7/7, Dr Rev Alan Clifford, a pastor at the United Reformed Church, wrote this article

Gun powder, Treason and now Islam

http://www.nrchurch.co.nr/

I wrote to him, if he envisaged a Cromwell in the offing.

----------------------------

There has always been a tendency among the elite in England to take up with an ideology that will grant their "eliteness" a legitamacy, preferably devine. G K Chesterton wrote a humorous tale to this effect - "The Flying Inn", a tale when England is on the verge of Islamification by the doings of such a liberal elite.

Can be downloaded here

http://www.lib-books.com/author/chesterton_gilbert/chesterton_gilbert_the_flying_inn/

Chesterton took a far fetched idea, the Islamification of Britain to express his opinion of the elite- he would be astonished that such a far fetched and fictional idea is near to happening.

5/28/2007 05:23:00 PM  

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