Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

We Have Seen the Enemy, and it's us


 It is secularism itself which is part of the problem, not the solution, since secularism is precisely what created the Euro spiritual/moral vacuum into which Islam has rushed headlong. (Kathy Shaidle)


The above statement is a good summary of the problems now faced by the Western democracies. It is also a one that makes up the main theme of Mark Steyn’s America Alone: The End of the World as we Know it.


Steyn argues that the enemy we face in the Western democracies is not in the first place external, but one that resides in our own midst, namely, the spiritual and moral vacuum at the core of our civilization.  He describes this as a severe case of “civilizational exhaustion,” marked by a lack of confidence, self-loathing, and a spirit of appeasement, prevalent among the cultural elite in the West.

 A Road Without Signposts 

This view of the world has given rise to the idea that no culture is better than any other. They are merely different, not worse or better, In fact, even to speak of right and wrong is considered judgmental and exclusive, a violation of the first commandment of the multicultural ideology: Thou shalt not consider one culture superior over another, especially not thine own.

Steyn convincingly shows that radical Islamists are making substantial inroads into the Western democracies by cleverly exploiting the prevailing belief in multiculturalism. Their success is due to the fact that this ideology - to be sharply distinguished from the reality of ethnic, racial, and religious diversity - deprives their adherents of the will and ability to defend themselves against destructive outside forces.

Steyn cuts to the heart of the issue:  “Non-judgmental multiculturalism is an obvious fraud, and was subliminally accepted on that basis. After all, most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don't want to live in anything but an advanced Western society…. Multiculturalism was conceived by the Western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own: it is, thus, the real suicide bomb.”

This is why the West is its own worst enemy, for there is nothing appealing or inspiring about a culture that despises itself, especially one that, paradoxically, has elevated self-gratification as its highest good.

Steyn points out that you can’t identify with a nullity. He poses the choice facing teenagers in most European cities as follows, “you’ve a choice between two competing identities – a robust confident Islamic identity or a tentative post-nationalist cringingly apologetic European identity.  It would be a mistake to think that the former is attractive only to Arabs and North Africans,”  

Shades of Munich

Steyn provides many examples of cringingly apologetic Europeans. The most dramatic and ominous one happened in Spain in 2004.

On March 11, 2004, more than 200 Spaniards were killed and many more wounded in a series of train bombings in Madrid.  Before this happened, it what was widely expected that the incumbent national government of Jose Maria Aznar, which supported the war in Iraq, would be re-elected. However, the main opposition Socialist Workers party had campaigned on the pledge to withdraw the Spanish soldiers from Iraq. The timing of the bombing, three days before the election, was perfect for its perpetrators, for the Aznar government was soundly defeated. Shortly thereafter, the Spanish soldiers left Iraq.

The lesson was lost on no one: “You will pay in blood for standing with the Americans.” Steyn called this abject surrender to terrorists “an exercise in mass self-gelding.”

The fallout of the Danish cartoons in late 2005 provided more evidence of Western cowardice, invariably covered with pious declarations of respect for the sensitivities of Muslim believers. But there were no protests against the killings and death threats by Muslims. Only more threats, apologies and a statement from Kofi Anan that the cartoons had originated in a country that had recently “acquired a significant Muslim population, and is not yet sure how to adjust to it.” 

Here was the top international bureaucrat lecturing the free world to graciously accept the dictates of those who have no respect for the freedom of others. Nothing about the need for newcomers to respect the institutions and laws of the country they now live in. With that kind of leadership at the highest international level, is it any wonder that we now live in a deeply troubled and dangerously unstable world? 

One Muslim demonstrator in Toronto spelled out his message without any pretensions of niceness: “We won’t stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.”

Such a claim gets to the core of militant Islam and its relationship to the free world. No doubt it does not represent the views of all Muslims, perhaps only a minority. But this public statement, echoed by many others quoted in this book, drives home the grave difficulty of peacefully integrating the followers of this branch of Islam. The problem in the West is that it refuses honestly to face that reality.

Churches have not avoided the trap of appeasement and what Steyn calls the tendency toward “cringing” apologetics. This is taking place against a backdrop of the waning influence and huge membership losses of mainline churches in the West. At the same time Islam is making new converts here, some of whom have joined the ranks of terrorists, such as Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; Germaine Lindsay, one of the July 7 London Tube terrorists; and the Belgian, Muriel Deguaque, who was killed in a suicide attack on U.S. troops in Baghdad.

In 2005, a group of Anglican bishops published a document, which advocated that Western Christians should show “institutional repentance” for the Iraq war by having their leaders present a formal apology to a gathering of  mainly Muslim” leaders. Dr. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, stated during the Afghan campaign that the U.S. Air Force pilot and the suicide bomber are morally equivalent.

Hard Choices

In 2006, a number of writers, including Irshad Manji, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Salman Rushdie, published a manifesto against Islamism while advocating “secular values for all.”  Steyn disagrees, because he finds secular humanism an “insufficient rallying cry.”

He envisions three possible outcomes of the present struggle against radical Islam:

1.             Submit to Islam

2.             Destroy Islam

3.      Reform Islam

He thinks that one is possible and even more likely than most suspect; that two does not bear thinking about; and that option three is not for us because reforming Islam can be done only by Muslims. All the free world can do, he says, is “create conditions that increase the likelihood of Muslim reform.” Following is a much-abbreviated summary of his list of suggestions:

1.Support women’s rights in the Muslim world; 2. Roll back Wahhabism and similar radical “exports”; 3. Support economic and political liberty in the Muslim world; 4. De-legitimize Islamic states that persecute non-Muslims; 5. Eliminate the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other sources to mosques, madrasas, etc., in America and elsewhere; 6. Develop a strategy to counter Islamism on the ideological front; 7. Marginalize and euthanize the UN, NATO, etc., and devote the money wasted on them to results-oriented multilateralism; 8. Cease bankrolling unreformable oil dictatorships by developing alternative energy sources; 9. End the Iranian regime; 10. Strike militarily when the opportunity presents itself.


Some of these recommended actions are, or should be, non-controversial; some are now being done, though not very well. To do them more effectively, and particularly to undertake the last two recommendations is very unlikely, given the lack of agreement among the Western nations about the nature of the enemy and what to do about it. This is a controversial book because it contradicts the current politically correct orthodoxies. But that is exactly what is now needed to avoid the calamitous misjudgements of Munich 1938.


This is a controversial book because it contradicts the current politically correct orthodoxies. But that is exactly what is now needed to avoid the calamitous misjudgements of Munich 1938.


To be blunt about it: we are trying to live without God, and that’s why we are in deep trouble. Our problem is that we are adrift and no match for radical Islam that wants to impose a theocracy in which all are forced to bow to its God. Our problem is not that the Islamists who have declared war on the free West are strong, but that we are weak.  Steyn is right in this diagnosis:


Islamism is militarily weak but ideologically confident. The West is militarily strong but ideologically insecure. The suicide bomber is a symbol of weakness, of a culture so comprehensively failed that what ought to be its greatest resource – its people – is instead as disposable as a firecracker. But in our self-doubt the enemy’s weakness becomes his strength.

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