Last week in a speech, British Prime Minister TonyBlair said it would be a catastrophe towithdraw from the fight against extremism in theworld and argued that Britain's militaryinterventions around the world should continue.This of course raises the questions: what isextremism, who are the extremists and is there amilitary solution to the perceived problem?
One can be extreme in many ways, but an extremistaccording to the Oxford Dictionary is a personwho holds extreme or fanatical political orreligious views. Politics and religion, of course,are often difficult to separate, and are interwovenwith economics and other components of the socialstructure.
For practical purposes here, anextremist, then, would be someone who holds viewsthat are radically different from, and whoseimplementation can affect, a status quo.
When Tony Blair, George Bush, Stephen Harper and otherstalk about extremism they mean anyone who poses athreat to the international corporate order and itsunhindered pursuit of profits which is the statusquo that they represent. Today their designatedextremists happen to be Muslim radicals, not merelybecause they are extremists, but because they haveconsiderable influence in places that happen to beeither sitting on or adjacent to major sources ofoil.
The radical Muslims are also extremists when viewedthrough the lens of our modern, progressive,secular western society that has produced suchsocially defining documents as the Bill of Rights,the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights.
Althoughthe progressive documents recognize God, suchrecognition is lip service in that they alsorecognize freedom of religion, which by defaultincludes freedom from religion, and place the majoremphasis on the rule of law with the finalarbitrator of that law being the civil courts, notthe representatives of any imaginary deity.
Extremists in this context hold that the rule of animaginary deity supersedes the rule of real peopleas expressed in their government, and that therules of the deity should be the rules of thegovernment.
Furthermore, many of these rules suchas those restricting women, defining dress,regulating expression and discriminating againstpeople for their religious beliefs or non-beliefsfly directly in the face of what has becomeaccepted as rights that every person is entitledto. Muslim radicals, of course, are not alone inthis. Extremism is a much wider issue than TonyBlair and company would have us believe.
Recently down in the Seattle area a local schoolboard restricted the showing of Al Gore's film onglobal warming, An Inconvenient Truth becausean extremist nutcase who supports the teaching ofcreationism, among other things, objected to thefilm on Biblical grounds. The school board, whose membersmay not be extremists but are certainlyintellectually challenged, ruled that the teacherscould not show the movie unless a credible,legitimate, opposing view will be presented.
Thatis like saying that one cannot teach that theearth is round unless a credible view that theearth is not round is also presented. Score onefor extremism.
The threat to our society from extremism is fargreater from the homegrown variety of extremiststhan from any Muslim radical. Many of the folkswho bring us the theory of creationism, who believethat the world is only a few thousand years old,and other supernatural fantasies, also believe thatsociety should be ruled not by its own laws, but byBiblical Law with an authoritarian church insteadof the civil courts as the final arbitrator.
There is little that separates the Muslim radicalsfrom the Christian ones. Pat Robertson and MullahOmar are two sides of the same coin. Osama BinLaden and the Bushes and Blairs of the world, allwho manipulate extremism for one purpose oranother, have more in common with each other thanwith most of the rest of us. And, these at homeare far more a threat to our progressive and humanesociety than any of them in the far corners of theearth.
What causes people to become extremists is acomplex issue, but the answers to the problem donot have a military solution. The Bushes andBlairs should know this, but for them, combatingMuslim extremism is merely an excuse for expandingthe power of the international corporate order.