Historic injustice as propaganda in the struggle with Islamism

The use of history as propaganda vehicle is as old as memory, though in recent decades it has taken on some novel forms with the growth of “Progressive” schools of thought and global modernization. One of the most glaring example of the defects of these trends in the last few days, at least in the cultural sphere, has been the abject capitulation of many intellectuals in the Occident to imposed, self or “enforced,” censorship from Islamist fanatics, and the mutation of this connivance into outright aid.

One of the statements in the summary linked above, quoted from The Guardian, stood out to me – ‘The writers go on to say that to the certain segments of French society – “a population that is shaped by the legacy of France’s various colonial enterprises, and that contains a large percentage of devout Muslims” – Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the prophet “must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering”. [sic]’

This comes on the heels of a speech by President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast this past February 5th in which some of his comments which were, given recent events and the history of relations between the West and the Muslim World, at best insensitive.

I realize introspection and honest self-criticism are necessary for a mature, modern and healthy society and the West has much to regret. Nonetheless the false notion that the Western World is uniquely evil and the main, if not the only, den of racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, misogyny, imperial-colonial aggression, exploitation  and any other form of general wickedness discredits this civilization and justifies aggression against it, in virtually any form, needs to be dispelled.

The idea of historic injustice, and the closely-linked discussions of “privilege”  and “empowerment” and their opposites, as a validation and pretext for attacking others has been ongoing from at least the Macedonian conquest of the Persian Empire. As much as it may feel soothing for Islamic militants and their apologists to flog “Colonialism” and the Crusades as a retort to their atrocities, this isn’t a wise course of action for them.

Though it isn’t popular to dwell on early medieval history in many discussions of these issues, Muslim attacks on Western Europe, not to mention the Eastern Roman Empire- Christian Near East, Persia, Central Asia, India and many other lands and peoples, do predate the proclamation of the First Crusade in 1095 by centuries.

The Arab invasions of Hispania, Gaul, Sicily and the centuries of seaborne piracy and coastal and river-borne raiding that included a raid on the suburbs of Rome in 846 that resulted in the sack of Old St. Peter’s Basilica. The West has considerably more justification in using historic wrongs in agitprop than the current climate would indicate.

About the Author
Jonathan Turner is a writer and historian who lives and works in New York City. A former Fellow at the U.S. Department of State where he worked in Public Affairs, he is currently working on developing a think tank devoted to historical research, defense issues and foreign policy analysis called the Severn Institute.
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