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Posted by Seta at 21:59
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
Rant Number 600 16 September 2014
‘Off with his head!’ shouts the angry Queen in Alice in Wonderland. A rather ineffectual ruler. Unlike the Islamic State brigade: by cutting off a few heads they have the ludicrous Western rulers dancing to their own tune. Both President Obumble and ‘Dull Dave’ Cameron thunder revenge on the Caliphate, i.e. fire from the sky OK but no boots on the ground. Makes sense: their warriors will keep their heads.
Are these ferocious Jihadis the new Jacobines? The radical, ruthless revolutionary faction of the French revolution? By beheading over 1.300 enemies they deliberately created a reign of terror – indeed, they were the first modern terrorists. ‘To the Kings who threaten us we shall throw the head of a King!’ Georges Danton proclaimed and so they chopped off King Louis XVI’s head. That made them forever the heroes of the revolutionary Left. The harbingers of liberty, democracy, equality, human rights…all that topical gaff.
Howls of progressive protest! The Jacobines looked forward: they combated the despotism of Kings. And they were out-and-out anti-religion, rationalists, secularists and egalitarians. What have they got in common with theocratic extremists who revere a sacred text and seek to restore an anachronistic, long-lost state?
Actually, the Jacobines also looked back for inspiration. Their models were ancient Roman republican figures and regicides like Brutus and Cassius, as depicted by Tacitus and Plutarch. Ideologically, the chief Jacobine paragon was philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In his Essay on the Origin of Inequality he postulates a fantastic, aboriginal state of nature in which there was no private property and all men were equal. Society was later corrupted by civilisation, hence present-day inequalities. Thus Rousseau’s nutty ideas nourished and fuelled sanguinary revolutionary fervour.
The Islamic state falls a bit short of that of the female equality Rousseau and the Jacobines professed. Their eager Caliphettes are told to mind the house, cook and raise children. Pity.
In Rousseau the state of nature was a literary device but Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx’s co-writer of the Communist Manifesto, really believed in a legendary state of early, universal human communism. He and Marx were fervent admirers of the Jacobines. In the old Soviet Union Marx and Engels writings were handled not unlike Muslims treat the Qur’an: an infallible Holy Writ.
As to religion. The Jacobines abhorred, hunted and killed priests. And they persecuted Catholics but Robespierre felt God’s necessity so he instituted the cult of the Supreme Being. An abstract, doctrinaire affair combining belief in a kind of Deity, the immortality of the soul and moral conduct. Not quite the same as the Caliphate boys’ creed. Still, in apparently rejecting the authority of the four major Sunni schools of Sharia the Jihadis perhaps merge revisionism with tradition – there were no such schools during the Prophet’s lifetime in Medina.
Despotism. I am sure for the Islamic State dictatorial rulers like Egyptian strong man Sissi are like the devil. Same way Jacobines regarded Kings. Formal equality of all believers is a key tenet of Islam and the Khalifa is not meant to be a tyrant. The historical reality of course is usually something very different…
Nonetheless the Jacobines for their time were high-tech. The guillotine efficiently replaced the gory mess of axe executions. Jihadis have gone back to an even more primitive way, the knife. It heightens the horror of what you see on YouTube. Utterly hideous. My heart and prayers go out to the poor victims. Something else ought to be said, however. How many videos are uploaded showing the results of, say, Israeli missiles in Gaza? Hundreds of children were killed there. Too horrid imagery to elaborate but…forgive the poor priest, there must have been plenty of pathetic human bits scattered about. That was not a pretty sight either. Do you see that on YouTube? And do you hear shocked protestations by self-righteous Western statesmen?
Unfair to focus on the Israelis alone. Let us consider America’s drones then. Flying, killer robots. Part of a global war machine. Drone warfare has thrived under Obumble. It is safe for the attackers but not for others. The many victims of ‘collateral damage’. A few bloody scenes there. Maybe even a flying head or two? Should that be shown online? And what difference would that make to the way you would feel about the Jihadis?
Of course, an essential moral distinction is between the direct, deliberate killing of the innocent and that of the guilty. David Haines, the last British beheaded person, was no weapon-bearing fighter but an aid worker. The manner of his execution was disgusting but equally odious is the fact he was innocent. And so were the slain children of Gaza and the ‘collateral damage’ victims. Historian AJP Taylor said that Britain’s foreign policy has always had a moral content. Well, no one occupies the moral high ground here.
An anti-Islamic State conference has just met in Paris. Various measures undertaken but predictably no Western boots on the ground. Hollande is no Jacobine but a slimy, self-serving twerp – France will only bomb from a safe distance. The day of reckoning for the Caliphate bunch has not quite come yet.
Unless…the French Jacobines at last were overthrown because people tired of terror and mayhem. The man who vanquished them for good however was Napoleon. The genius and giant who reined in the Revolution, destroyed the extremists, conquered Europe and founded a new world – a vast modern empire with himself at its head. Might Allah send to the Arabs one of their own, a saviour, a Napoleon-like figure? What the Middle East needs is a visionary man of action, a new Saladin. One who will break the malignant Western hegemony, brush murderous fanatics away and erect a shiny new polity, a humane and tolerant ethical State.
Call it a Caliphate, if you like. I don’t mind.
Revd Frank Julian Gelli
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Posted by Seta at 11:14