Imperialism and extremism - Is the west partly to blame?

25 May 2013

The recent events in Woolwich have been deeply troubling to watch – something as sadistic and merciless as a beheading occurring in the capital of our nation is deplorable, the fact it happened to a young father with his whole life ahead of him makes it wholly more tragic. However, much like the Philpott incident what has followed has been equally as harrowing- that being the amount of hate being whipped up against a section of society, something that is wholly unjustified and simply moronic. But, with Islamic Extremism I can’t help but feel that it is the bastard child of Western foreign policy, and thus countries like the United States and indeed the UK are partly to blame – let me explain why.


George Carlin once stated regarding the United States, “we average a major war every 20 years in this country, so we’re good at it!” and on foreign policy –“that’s our new job in the world, bombing brown people!” As crude as George Carlin puts his argument, it’s impactful and incredibly accurate. It strikes me as odd that we are whipped up into frenzy when a white individual dies at the hands of extremism, yet hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslim civilians have been murdered by Western imperialism, and many die daily, often in large numbers and we don’t even bat an eyelid. George Carlin is right – the job of the West seems to be bombing countries into submission, mainly ones with non-white populations and usually ones with a large Muslim population. As much as I abhor extremism, we are pushing people towards it. 

But why do countries like the United States feel the need to adopt this aggressive foreign policy? Are we doing it out of a sense of justice and to combat Islamists head-on? I don’t think so, to quote another comedian, Bill Hicks “I’m so sick of arming the world and then sending troops into countries to destroy the arms – we’re like the bullies of the world”. The West has propped up fundamentalist governments from the 1950s onwards, then proceed to go into the countries we armed because they are suddenly dangerous and abusing human rights – and how do we liberate these countries from the problem we created? Why, by killing civilians of course! And then these civilians are suddenly forcibly pushed towards extremism, and as much as I deplore it, I can’t see us taking the moral high ground on this issue. In Iraq, the civilian death toll stands at between 112,745 to 123,375. Are we crying out about the injustice of this? I certainly don’t see it – we are too busy attacking Islam and consequently giving the English Defence League fuel for their actions – actions of which have seen violence against mainstream Muslims who condemn extremism as much as myself. 

Indeed, I feel like I should relate this incident to the war in Vietnam. The United States felt a need to go into the country to stop communism – so how did they do it? They poured troops into the country, used the likes of gas and napalm to flush out the Vietcong and consequently leave behind a high civilian death count. What did the civilians do? Well, they were pushed towards supporting the Vietcong – who used terrorist-like tactics and were as oppressive as any Muslim extremist, yet the United States weren’t any better. Replace Vietnam with Iraq or Afghanistan and Vietcong with Muslim extremism and it’s roughly a very similar situation. 

All that is happening now in the wake of the dreadful Woolwich killing is pure, unjustified hate. I see phrases such as “Anders Breivik was right!” being bandied about Twitter or talks of retaliation against the Muslim community. Yet the worst thing is, we are more focused with attacking Islam than addressing this hate, and in some cases justifying the hate in question. The person who killed in Woolwich is about as representative of Islam as the Ku Klux Klan or Anders Breivik is of Christianity, or the USSR of Atheism or Baruch Goldstein is of Judaism. A poll conducted in 2008 found that 80% of Muslims had respect for Judaism and nearly 80% viewed Islam and being British as compatible, yet we ignore these. Certainly, the statistics show that Islam is a heavily conservative religion, yet much like any religion its grip on its population in the Western World is diminishing, with more than 70% of Muslims in the same poll stating that they are more liberal than their parents.

Some people who read this article may state that I am an apologist for extremism and terrorism, or at the very worst a defender of Islam, so in this conclusion I would like to address any such accusations. I disagree with any form of extremism, no matter what it is, passionately, yet I can understand that the West, especially the United States, were significantly responsible in allowing it to grow and develop. I am also not a defender of Islam, or any religion – as a secularist I view the world would be a much better place without religion and am from the Christopher Hitchens school of thought that “religion poisons everything”. Yet I don’t agree with hate – I abhor the likes of anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia as for me, it isn’t about combating a religion, it’s about hatred. It isn’t using science and reason, it’s using violence and stupidity, and the fact the English Defence League are suddenly being viewed as having the moral high ground by many people who I would take as being rational terrifies me. In my view, mainstream Muslims are being treated like Jews were in the 1930s – a scapegoat for the world’s problems. And if we choose to ignore this hate and not tackle it, I fear it will lead to widespread violence and possibly even death. 

By Rory Claydon

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