The Common Cause of China and Islam
In The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (1923) the philosopher of law Carl Schmitt famously asked:
Does the British Empire rest on universal suffrage and equal voting rights for all of its inhabitants? It could not survive for a week on this foundation; with their terrible majority the coloureds would dominate the whites … The same applies to France and the other powers.
The British Empire may not have rested on universal suffrage when Schmitt was writing, but, curiously enough, it does today. Now that the empire no longer exists, every one of the billions of foreigners whose ancestors inhabited this long-defunct entity has been granted voting rights in the former motherland. Taking advantage of this post-imperial droit de seigneur, and of Britain’s 1948 decision to bestow settlement rights on all the colonial peoples, millions of them have moved there, where, “with their terrible majority” in London and other big cities, they do indeed often “dominate the whites”.
This essay appears in the latest Quadrant.
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As Schmitt also noted: “The same applies to France and the other [formerly imperial] powers.” Not that France’s willingness to let its former subjects enjoy the same right to residence and political power as its own population has elicited any more gratitude than Britain’s. When he was opening a “Conference on Emigration” in Algiers on January 12, 1973, for instance, Houari Boumédienne, the dictator of Algeria, declared that any Algerian settling in France “ought to be proud of his Arab Islamic authenticity” which, the tyrant boasted, “protected him from any desire to become integrated into the receiving society”. This insight has proved both shrewd and prophetic.
It would appear that the French and British governments did not anticipate quite how un-European the inhabitants of their European colonies would be. They forgot that, as Schmitt pointed out, “In the domain of the political, people do not face each other as abstractions, but as politically interested and politically determined persons … politically allied or opponents.” To the rulers of France, Britain and the rest, unfamiliar, perhaps, with societies thousands of miles from their own, those who were actually “opponents” were indeed “abstractions” on whom a loyal and benign personality could be idealistically imposed. After all, as the historian Hippolyte Taine observed: “Nothing presents less of an obstacle than the perfecting of the imaginary.” It was too easy to imagine that, once in Britain, for example, Africans and Asians would regard themselves as being as naturally British as, say, the Australians and New Zealanders who were the flesh of the United Kingdom’s flesh.
It has not worked out like that. In fact, in the view of some of the locals, the descent of millions of privileged outsiders has reduced the quality of life in Europe quite dramatically. National unity has been broken by the concession of rights to those who self-identify as aliens. Among these are declared racial avengers who seek supremacy while demanding an equality they already enjoy, and they act as if they were the prosecuting counsel in a trial of their benefactors’ culture and history. And yet the way in which they exploit the locals’ post-Christian guilt about imperialism suggests that they themselves believe their hosts to be good rather than bad, fools and suckers rather than racists and tyrants. Who but fools and suckers would have admitted such people?
Unsurprisingly, given the adversarial stance of some of these settlers—who seldom seem grateful for admission to societies both richer and kinder than their own—violent crime and terrorism have soared in every country they have landed in. Prosperity has been compromised by the greater public spending that the gatecrashers (usually non-contributors) require, not least because the natives now have to be protected from their violence. Hard-won rights like freedom of thought and expression that are vastly important to Westerners, having been gained over years of struggle, have been sacrificed on the altar of appeasing migrants whom they do not want and did not invite: an obvious and illogical injustice.
Few of these afflictions seem to descend on the non-Western societies that ruled or still rule an empire. Nor does anyone—least of all any Western liberal—think that non-Western imperial states should house or compensate their own former subjects in the same way. Who believes, though, that such an appeal for reparations would bear fruit? Those who seek to earn tribute and credit by casting out demons like “racism” and “colonialism” know that only the good can be demonised, never the evil. So why would the Western and non-Western guilt hustlers ever try to cultivate such a market? After all, it is well known, as Carl Schmitt pointed out in 1923, that each of these non-Western offenders—even if they are democracies like Turkey and Japan—“knows how to refuse or keep at bay something foreign and unequal that threatens its homogeneity”.
Unlike the Western imperial powers, which were divided from their colonies by vast oceans, the non-Western variety has always been physically close to its possessions. Like the Irish and British who originally settled Australia, they have therefore managed to acquire through proximity an a priori familiarity with the “otherness” of their colonial or former colonial subjects. Thanks to this they have empirical proof that political equality can never be conceded to those who are intrinsically politically different, precisely because they may well prove hostile. It is often said that “you destroy an enemy by turning him into a friend”.
Non-Western cultures recognise that this is never possible with what Schmitt termed a “political” or “civilisational” enemy. You destroy such an enemy (what Schmitt called a “hostis”, differentiating it from the personal enemy, or “inimicus”) by turning it into yourself, by forcing it to assimilate. (This was the policy that European Australia initially adopted towards the Aborigines.) Islam, China, Japan, Russia, Burma, Ethiopia and the other non-Western empires believe that there can be no political equality where political similarity does not already exist, that equality and congruity are synonyms.
As long as “culture” is not a form of politics and can be confined to the citizen’s heart and hearth, a society can be culturally and racially and even (like the UK) nationally diverse, but it cannot be “politically” diverse or it cannot be a society. It cannot survive and so simply must not accommodate what Carl Schmitt called “enemies”. This has led China and Islam, in particular, to the view that it is possible that “the other” will never be seduced or “reformed” by their values and culture. Whenever they are in a position to do so, they have therefore made haste to eliminate it—or at least its language and religion—so that their own civilisation can spring from its grave. (Albeit a grave nourished, like Osiris’s, by the corpse of the previous owner.) When they are not in a position to exert force majeure, meanwhile, Islam and China calculate that “the other’s” otherness is unchangeable and devote themselves instead to simply looting it, as China is now doing in its new “tribute state”, the Taliban emirate, whose rare earths and copper the ruling fanatics say they will allow it to pillage. At the other extreme, it was because of the Americans’ belief that the Afghans were an extension of themselves that the Americans and their allies, instead of despoiling the country, wasted trillions in a doomed attempt to turn it into Denmark.
We can now see that the Chinese are wiser in exploiting Afghanistan than America was in smothering it in futile bribes. Were the local Muslims ever grateful for this infidel largesse? And if it were in their power, would the Afghans treat the Chinese any better than the Chinese are currently treating them? We know from the long history of Muslim–infidel relations that the Taliban would, “had they but courage equal to desire”, treat their new masters atrociously. Unlike the Americans, the Chinese know this. Non-Western imperialists have always understood what so many Western anti-imperialists today still fail to grasp—that perhaps only those who are like us will be content to live with us in equality and peace. Those who remain different from us may never be satisfied with mere equality. Any group or individual which is different from us may one day seek supremacy over us, even if they have been subdued by us.
Indeed, those we have once subdued will be all the more eager to subject us to their own domination. How many times has history not given us proof of this truth? We see it today in the behaviour of the aborigines (or those who claim to be aborigines) in Australia and North America. We see it in the campaigns for “justice” (actually supremacy) of those whose forebears were slaves or second-class citizens in the United States. Above all, we see this axiom’s force in the behaviour today of the once-colonised Africans, North Africans, Middle Easterners and Asians who were first liberated by their former European masters, and then—even though they were now citizens of independent foreign states—illogically granted citizenship by the same leaders in the former metropolis as well; a citizenship they had seldom enjoyed when their homelands were part of a European empire. Would a non-Western empire ever have devised such a mad policy?
The likes of Britain and France made themselves the colonies of their colonies at just that moment when these, instead, were gaining their freedom. China, by way of contrast, has managed to subdue, not only its smaller neighbours, but even the powerful foreign invaders to which it was frequently subjected. More populous and civilised than most of the societies it has conquered, and even those like the Mongols and the Manchus who have managed to conquer it, China has seldom found it hard to “persuade” the peoples in either category to become the flesh of its own flesh. As each has tended to adopt the Han way of life and language, China has politically eradicated both its invaders and most of its victims by a process of often consensual assimilation. The native peoples of the south of China, for instance, and of Taiwan, are not racially or linguistically Chinese, but they certainly regard themselves as Chinese politically—whatever reservations they may have about communism. The absorption of those of its imperial prey like the Tibetans and the Uyghurs who have politically rejected China, meanwhile, has been facilitated by the swamping of their territory with an enormous number of Han settlers. As Karl Marx observed: “merely quantitative differences, beyond a certain point, become qualitative differences”, and those who reject China’s “quality” have soon found they have to contend with its even more decisive “quantity” as well.
The situation that Islamic imperialism has faced could not be more different from that which has confronted China. The Arabs, and later the Turks, were, at least initially, always small minorities in the societies they invaded and subdued, whose peoples were not only more numerous than their new rulers, but culturally, economically and scientifically more advanced as well. Unlike China, Islam therefore had no “carrot” with which to render political absorption attractive, and so the “stick” was the driver of Islamisation from the start. Though a backward minority, the Muslim invaders of the medieval conquest era—like the Muslim minorities in the West today—had a relative monopoly over the use of violence. They used this to force their subjects to choose between the payment of a new tax, the jizya—whose extent could be endlessly and arbitrarily raised—or enrolment in the race and religion of the conquerors. This could be arranged via the mawāli system, whereby converts were adopted into an existing Arab tribe.
As they were a mere handful of barbarians that could survive only by parasitising their more numerous and sophisticated hosts, extortion was the only form of forced conversion that the Arab and other Muslim invaders could use, but it was, at length, effective. After centuries of fiscal and other oppression, the large Christian, Zoroastrian and other infidel majorities throughout Islamic Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia were transformed (except in India and parts of Europe) into Muslim majorities. Indeed, in some places, the indigenous infidels were wiped out altogether. The Buddhists of Afghanistan and the Latin-speaking Christians of North Africa and southern Spain had each comprised for centuries the vast majority of the local population before their territories were conquered by the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries. By the end of the twelfth century, very few non-Muslims survived in any of these lands, even though we have been told by Barack Obama (as well as almost every other Western leader and academic) that “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance: we see it in the history of Andalusia [Muslim Spain].”
Islamic extortion and humiliation, moreover, always backed by violence, greatly deformed even those who managed to survive it. Whereas those who were subdued by China at least ended up better off and more civilised, those conquered or converted by Islam have largely been reduced to the poverty and backwardness that distinguish their oppressors.
However, it is vital to recall that, as far as China, Islam—and the European assimilationists of Australia—were concerned, the aim of such coercion was not to make the conquered party feel its inferiority but to force it to become Chinese, Arab (that is, Muslim) or European. The Chinese, the Muslims and the original European Australians did not seek supremacy for, but similarity to, themselves. They wanted to raise those they had defeated to the level of the master, not to reduce them to the level of the slave. As far as official policy went, at least, China, Islam and colonial Australia only persecuted those of the defeated who, “looking a gift horse in the mouth”, rejected the empowerment that came with “chosen people” status.
Nevertheless, the number of such ingrates was always, at first, significant because enrolment in the Chinese, Islamic or European community came at the expense of the “other’s” otherness. The “convert” had to repudiate himself, abandon his essence, submit to his own elimination. To defend one’s right to a separate self, a separate perspective, a separate interpretation, is naturally to potentially dissent from that of one’s neighbour in a way that might lead one into conflict with him. To be fully human is to be fully hostile. And, as a result, if “the other” would not agree to his own politico-cultural eradication, both China and Islam, at least, were prepared to go well beyond the reduction of “the other’s” rights and “the other’s” wealth. If “the other’s” resistance were prolonged or pronounced enough, his physical elimination could ensue as well. Acts of genocide against recalcitrant conquered peoples have not been infrequent in either China or the Islamic world. Examples of these two exterminators trying to wipe each other out are less common, but liquidation is effectively the policy that China has been trying in recent decades to impose on the recalcitrant Uyghurs and other Muslims on the territory it conquered from them in the eighteenth century.
On June 5, 2021, a news item appeared in Britain’s Daily Telegraph about a “Uyghur Tribunal” convened in London by some of the kingdom’s leading judges. Its founders announced that they were calling global witnesses “to assess claims that Beijing is committing genocide in the Xinjiang region”. The report continued:
The Chinese government has characterised its mass internment of [up to two million] Muslims in the Xinjiang region, where most of the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minority groups live, as a push to bring destitute people into the “modern, civilized” world. However, the tribunal is set to hear a range of first-person accounts from alleged victims of forced sterilisation and rape, torture, arbitrary detention and arrest, mass surveillance and intimidation, and forced separation of children from their parents. On the first day of the hearing yesterday, the tribunal heard that there are 232 concentration camps, 257 prisons, and 5567 missing people in Xinjiang, according to the Uyghur Transitional Justice Database.
Beijing has also famously thrown its weight behind the decision of its client or “tribute” state Myanmar (formerly Burma) to eradicate by massacre and expulsion its Rohingya Muslim minority. (This aim was largely achieved between 2015 and 2017.) What is interesting is how the Muslim world generally and the so-called “Arab Street” have reacted to such prodigious atrocities, which arguably eclipse anything they endlessly excoriate the West—and especially Israel—for. To say that the reaction has been relatively muted would be a polite way of putting it.
On October 29, 2020, for example, in the wake of the stabbing and beheading that day of worshippers in a Nice church by an asylum seeker from Tunisia—just days after the beheading in the Paris suburbs of a teacher, Samuel Paty, by a Muslim refugee from Chechnya—the global television network France 24 reported the reaction of Dr Mahathir Mohamad to France’s long via dolorosa at the hands of its Muslim migrants. Mahathir, the father of modern Malaysia, is often hailed as one of Islam’s most moderate elder statesmen. Alluding to President Macron’s recent observation that “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today,” and his promise to use French law to try to staunch “radical Islamism” and “defend the republic and its values”, Mahathir’s response was anything but empathetic. According to France 24:
Mahathir … said that French President Emmanuel Macron was “not showing that he is civilized”, adding he was “very primitive”. “The French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings … Irrespective of the religion professed, angry people kill,” said the outspoken 95-year-old, who has in the past drawn controversy for remarks attacking Jews and the LGBT community. “The French in the course of their history has [sic] killed millions of people. Many were Muslims. Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.”
Recep Erdogan, the autocrat of Anatolia, is another famous “moderate” who is less upset by the slaughter unleashed in Europe by his co-religionists than he is by Macron’s tepid response to it. Deutsche Welle, Germany’s BBC, announced on October 24, 2020:
Paris has recalled its envoy to Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized France for cracking down on radical Islam following teacher Samuel Paty’s beheading … Macron had pledged to fight “Islamist separatism” that threatened to take hold of some Muslim communities around France and Erdogan accused him of “a clear provocation” that showed the French leader’s “impertinence”.
Note that, despite frequent pleas that they intervene, Erdogan and Mahathir have refused point blank to condemn China’s policies towards Islam and Muslims, which are rather more robust than anything proposed by the French government.
Then there is the response of “the Organization of Islamic Co-operation” (OIC), which represents all the world’s majority-Muslim nations and several that have a significant Muslim component. It claims to be “the collective voice of the Muslim world”. On March 2, 2019, the foreign ministers of the group’s fifty-seven members adopted a resolution at the OIC’s forty-sixth annual conference in Abu Dhabi on “safeguarding the rights of Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC member states”. The resolution, while noting the “Islamophobia” of Western states destabilised by Muslim migrants to whom they have given everything, “commended” Beijing for “providing care for its Muslim citizens”, and “looked forward” to “further co-operation between the OIC and the People’s Republic of China”.
A few months later, on July 11, 2019, twenty-two infidel democracies, most of them Western, denounced China’s crimes against Muslims in a letter to the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Council. The following day the UN ambassadors of sixteen of the world’s leading Muslim powers—among them Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Pakistan, the UAE and Nigeria—struck back by presenting their own note to the High Commissioner. Incredibly, it reproved the democracies and staunchly defended China’s treatment of their Uyghur brothers.
“We commend China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights,” their letter of July 12 wittily begins, before conceding that “China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalisation measures in Xinjiang” (what we might call forced sterilisation, rape, torture and arbitrary detention), as a result of which “people there enjoy a stronger sense of happiness, fulfilment and security”.
Might it not be fair to ask what is going on when the world’s Muslims—even rather captious ones like the Taliban—strain at the gnat of Western or “Zionist” behaviour and swallow the camel of China’s extermination in plain sight of entire Muslim peoples? Is it not yet another proof of the seldom acknowledged fact that critics and criticism are not necessarily found where reason and justice dictate they should congregate, but migrate instead to where they will be most warmly received and amply rewarded? They tend to avoid targets which not only reject criticism, but brutally punish it, even though these are, by definition, the very actors and places whose denunciation is most necessary. The more moral a society is, the more it will be denounced, especially by its own narrative, and the more odious it will by default appear relative to the real wrongdoers, who lack a recording conscience that would advertise their misdemeanours to the world.
This is precisely the trap that democracies in Israel, Australasia, Europe and North America confront today: they can be cast as absolutely evil both by a section of their own people and by their non-Western critics only because they are, in relative terms, uniquely moral. This is not to claim that the non-Western societies that are the most egregious global offenders are never castigated. The problem is that the criticism directed at the non-Western world is not equal to the evil it did in the past and continues to do, whereas the obloquy heaped on the past and present conduct of the Western powers is excessive. This results in reflective, conscience-ridden societies being seen as bad (because they are good) and aggressive perpetrators like China and Islam escaping appropriate censure precisely because they are amoral and un-self-critical. It sometimes appears that only that which criticises itself can be criticised.
It would also appear that Islam and the West’s other enemies (the very selective racial extortionists, for example, or pseudo-natives like the Fauxborigines) target this self-reproach. They appeal to the West’s over-active conscience to gain victories over it that they would be unlikely to win in any other way, victories that endanger Western society. Indeed, perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from Islam’s capitulation to China is that the West’s worst foes are strong only with its deliberately adopted weakness, which is to say, its self-reproach. Our suicidal tendency to abase ourselves before any accuser not only ensures that cynical villains triumph, it is often actually the catalyst for their worst behaviour.
The rich and empty Gulf states refuse to take in fellow Muslims fleeing from the Middle East and Afghanistan partly because they realise that Christian powers thousands of miles away will give them homes instead. This is despite the fact that the leaders of the West know that the religiously driven ingratitude, indeed hostility, of these exiles has often proved ruinous to their benefactors, as the recent murder of the British MP David Amess proves. In the same way, the Islamic world refuses to criticise the murder of thousands of Muslims by a terrifying state like China because it knows that the West—which has no skin in the game—will risk a great deal to try to save them. The whole world is complacently delighted that the West will always prioritise “the other’s” interests over its own. But imagine if the West were to see this “other” clearly, as the Chinese and the Muslims seem to do. Would we still be prepared to perform our enemies’ most unpleasant duties? Would we still be willing to submit to death by a thousand cuts at the hands of parasites who are themselves guilty of the racism and colonisation they demand that we compensate them for? As St James writes: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” In fact, the West could ensure the same supine Muslim behaviour as China if, like China, it punished hostility and rewarded compliance instead of doing the opposite. Would Mahathir Mohamad have dared to use a major speech to say of the Chinese—as, on June 19, 2003, he said of Australians, Americans and British people—that they had contributed nothing to the world but “war, sodomy and genocide”? (Three areas in which, some might say, Islam has—for once—shown a certain genius itself.) Of course not.
The problem is that the modern West regards cynical predators like Mahathir as already being part of its own family. It thinks they are endowed with the same values and the same attitude—and of course the same rights—as its own offspring. This is demonstrably a huge error which has led to easy wins for the West’s opponents. We must start treating everyone who is not an authentic child of our civilisation, or a convert to it, as a potential foe, as every other society does. And Western powers like Australia should adjust their laws and constitutions and foreign and refugee policies to exclude potential foes from “family” rights. As Carl Schmitt once said, unlike the Christian individual, no Christian civilisation (or post-Christian civilisation) is obliged to “turn the other cheek”.
Harry Cummins wrote “Immigration and the Unkindness of Strangers” in the January-February 2021 issue