Combustible Mixture

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Dr. Theodore Dalrymple is “a prison psychiatrist who has had much experience with treating Muslim patients in Britain.” As such, he has some insights into the mind of suicide bombers of the kind that attacked London last month. His conclusion, as outlined here, seems to agree with what I’ve concluded. Islam is not the problem, but Islam, and its unique qualities and history, are the matrix in which the problem thrives:

I agree that poverty and humiliation are not sufficient explanations of the phenomenon. These are things which are almost part of universal human experience.

I think the problem is a combustible mixture of elements.

The first is the belief that Muslims are in possession of the final revealed truth, and that they have a testament and a tradition of sayings of the Prophet that in essence answer all human questions, and by the light of which all such questions ought not only to be answered but are answerable. While no doubt there are Christians who feel more or less the same about their favoured scriptures, they now have to live in a world of competing ideas. Muslims have created societies in which it is possible, perhaps, to dispute what the Koran and hadith mean, but not their underlying authority to answer all questions. It is still not safe in a Muslim country to say ‘There is no God and Mohammed was therefore not his prophet, but a man suffering from a delusion.’

While in possession of transcendental religious and philosophical truth, however, it has not escaped notice that the Muslim world has fallen behind the rest of the world. Japan, China, India are fast catching up or overtaking the West: they have been able to meet the Western challenge. No Muslim country has managed more than a kind of parasitic prosperity, dependent on oil – the industry which no Muslim did anything to discover or develop. Even their wealth, then, is a reminder of the dependence. The whole of the Arab world, minus the oil, is economically less significant to the rest of the world than one Finnish telephone company.

The fact that Islamic civilisation was once exquisite, and in advance of most others, is in this context a disadvantage. It means that Muslims tend to think in terms of recovery of glory, rather than anything new. In Muslim bookshops, you can find books about the scholars and scientists who led the world 600 years ago or more – who are a perfectly legitimate subject of enquiry of course – but after that there is a hiatus. If there had been no Muslims for the last 300 or 400 years, the world would have lost no technical or scientific advance.

So there is both a sense of superiority and a gnawing sense of inferiority. Repeated attempts to ‘catch up’ within an Islamic context have failed. Moreover, there is an element of personal self-hatred as well. For all the hatred of the West, it is absolutely essential to the satisfaction of the tastes of the modern Muslims. They are all partly Westernised. Even Osama dresses half-Muslim, half-Western. His reliance of Western inventions is total. As for the attractions of the flesh-pots of the west, they need not be stressed.

Then, of course, there is the day to day humiliation of individuals, who do not see a purely pragmatic way out of their impasse. I think this completes the mindset.

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