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HomeNewsMark Ellse: We have to address the problem of militant Islam

Mark Ellse: We have to address the problem of militant Islam


Behind the failures of Europe’s security policy, both domestic and overseas, lies a single cause. It is that current policies are based on a misunderstanding of the human condition. The vast majority of our politicians, whatever their party, do not understand human nature. The assumption is that we are all intrinsically good. The theory goes that if we treat people well they will behave well. This belief is widespread. Parents are encouraged to think that perfect parenthood will result in children who never misbehave. Ministers believe that education is the solution to society’s problems and regard the failures of children in school as the fault of the teachers. Industrial relations problems are blamed on poor managers. Crime and disorder are the result of society’s failure.

The theory is simple. The ensuing diagnosis and treatment is equally obvious. When children misbehave, inadequate parenting must be addressed by parenting classes, intervention or taking the child away from the parents. If children perform poorly in schools, teaching methods must be improved. Inequality, low wages, inadequate housing and benefits, the penal system, all must be improved to cure our social ills.

There is, of course, a truth in this position. But it is not the whole truth. In reality, if we step back and observe our own species, we see that there is something intrinsically flawed in the human condition. If one lives in a wonderful environment, if the authorities that one lives under are perfect, if one enjoys the greatest material wealth, even if one has the closest family, there is something within us all that is still too ready to go in the wrong direction. For some reason, the human heart is terribly corrupt and extremely difficult to understand.

And so we see that, at the same time as addressing what one might call the liberal agenda of social justice, we also need to tackle the problems of the very real wickedness that exists in human nature. Effective management of our society is rather like driving a car. If one wants to drive down the centre of the road, one needs to pull the wheel sometimes one way and sometimes the other. At the moment, on the world stage, and with domestic security, we are steering much too far to the left.

We must refute notions of the likes of prominent French philosopher Alain Badiou, who says that terrorist attacks are symptomatic carnages of our time where there is no limit to global capitalism. Of course there is much wrong with capitalism as there is in any human system but there is much right as well, for example in the way that it is lifting so many out of poverty.

We must drop the starry-eyed idealism that believes that there is a quick democratic fix to the problems of countries like Iraq, Libya and Syria which will suddenly transform the Middle East. Such idealism, by failing to take account of the weakness of the human heart, only makes things worse.

As far as domestic security is concerned, we must have no truck with those who would talk about the nature of the symbiotic relationship between Islamophobia and radicalisation, giving free rein to the view that the former causes the latter. The jury on that matter is no longer out. Last October Tony Blair said the reality is that in parts of the Muslim community a discourse has grown up which is profoundly hostile to peaceful co-existence. David Cameron said the same thing at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet: It is not good enough to say simply that Islam is a religion of peace and then to deny any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists.

The problem of terrorism we have in Europe is caused by militant Islam. Of course our action needs to be righteous but it also needs to be effective. As always, the sooner we react, the more moderately we can do so. The longer we leave it, the harder it will be.

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Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse is a physicist and author. He is a former headmaster, independent school inspector and A level chief examiner.

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