Looking back over the outgoing Jewish year, it is plain that the outstanding global events shared a common theme – they all involved radical Islam. These events were (a) the publication of and (belated – the fuss started two months later) uproar over the Mohammed cartoons in Denmark; (b) the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah; (c) the protests following the Pope's reference to Mohammed and his legacy in a lecture last week.The whole column's here.
Of these, the last seems to me by far the most important, both in itself and because it confirms and extends the implications arising from the others. This conclusion is being borne out by the fallout from 'the Pope incident', as expresssed in every kind of communications medium – but most especially in the rapidly-growing 'blogosphere'. Whereas the response of the West, primarily its secular majority but also its religious minority, to the cartoons was dominated by confusion, embarrassment and ultimately surrender; and whereas the response of the West to the second Lebanon war was, overwhelmingly, to blame Israel and the Jews for causing trouble; this time is very different... The intensity of the response across the Moslem world tells its own story and reinforces the message from the earlier round of rage, inspired by the Mohammed cartoon.
Ironically, the secular world – from neo-liberals to Marxists to post-modernists – has been more shaken by the Moslem fury that followed 'the Pope incident', than it was by the backlash to the Mohammed cartoons. They and other neutral parties – such as Jews, Protestants and even Hindus – to this clash between Roman Catholicism and Islam seem to grasp implicitly that this is not funny, nor is their traditional dislike of the Catholic Church an excuse for some schadenfreude. On the contrary: people finally realised that there is a global war going on after all, and that, despite all protestations to the contrary, it is about religion.
Until this week, enormous efforts have been expended in 'the West' – a very loose term that in this context includes Japan, Russia and probably even China – to deny that the world has a problem with the extremist versions of Islam, which now dominate the Moslem world and agenda. This epiphanic moment is only partially due to 'the Pope incident' and is probably more the cumulative outcome of all the 'incidents' over the last year and indeed decade.
What has all this to do with the global economy? A great deal, actually. 'The Pope incident' may prove to be the turning-point for Europe, when it finally realises that it has a choice between seeking to preserve the culture it developed over the last 1000-1500 years – which is, at root, a Christian culture – and between rolling over and dying under a Moslem demographic and cultural onslaught. If so, everything now taken for granted by economists – such as the primacy of mainstream socio-economic issues in the political life of 'the West', and especially of European Union countries – goes out of the window. When you are fighting for your national, cultural -- let alone spiritual -- existence, inflation targets and debt: GDP ratios become less, dare one say, sacrosanct.
As for the Israeli economy, the idea that we are in peril has reasserted itself powerfully these last two months and is beginning to impact economic and social policy making. But if 'the Pope incident' proves to be the precursor to an anti-Moslem backlash in Europe, the continent's Jews will surely revert to their historic role of being caught in the middle. Expect, therefore, to hear a lot more French in your neighborhood soon.
Monday, September 25, 2006
25-Sep-06: On Radical Islam and the Global Economy
Writing his weekly column on economic issues in the Jerusalem Post, the business journalist Pinchas Landau makes some original and worthwhile observations (in an accompanying note he calls them mildly apocalyptic) about Islam and the central role its plays in some relation to certain issues that you find surprising:
Updated at 8:42 PM