Nick Cohen

Lucky Sweden?

Lucky Sweden?
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A repulsive feature of contemporary left-wing thinking is its insistence that clerical fascists should dictate our foreign policy. After the 7/7 attacks on London, Robert Fisk lambasted Tony Blair for saying that radical Islamists were trying to destroy “what we hold dear”.

He took Osama bin Laden as a source of moral and political guidance, and wrote:

'To go on pretending that Britain's enemies want to destroy "what we hold dear" encourages racism; what we are confronting here is a specific, direct, centralized attack on London as a result of a "war on terror" that Blair has locked us into. Just before the U.S. presidential elections, bin Laden asked: "Why do we not attack Sweden?" Lucky Sweden. No Osama bin Laden there. And no Tony Blair.'

It is worth picking apart the assumptions behind that paragraph. The most laughable and condescending is that the proponents of psychotic and ultra-reactionary religious violence do not mean what they say. They may condemn “what we hold dear,” democracy, the emancipation of women and homosexuals, the rule of law, secularism and freedom of speech and of the press, but we should forget about that. They may say that they want to subjugate women and murder Jews, homosexuals and apostates, but we should not take them at their word.

Rather we should see radical Islamism in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere not as an autonomous movement with a totalitarian ideology of its own but as a rational response to our provocations. Western foreign policy is the “root cause” of our enemies’ rage, not our Western liberalism. The security measures western governments take to protect populations from radical Islam are equally culpable because they “encourage racism” by targeting Muslims.

If like “lucky Sweden," we followed a neutralist foreign policy, then we would not be targets, and thus have no need to institute “racist” policing policies. We would be safe.

The bungled bomb attacks in Stockholm ought to have blown that notion apart. The Swedish police are still investigating Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly's motives, and it is too early to explain them in full. Emails he sent to the Swedish security service however, called for the "mujahideen" to rise up in Sweden and Europe and "die like our brothers and sisters". Swedish democracy, which had given the Iraqi refugee sanctuary and which has bent over backwards to oppose racism and promote multi-culturalism, was worthless in his eyes. Its citizens deserved to be slaughtered.

That strikes me as a good enough explanation for the violence. Anti-liberal forces hate liberalism, what else is there to say? But don’t expect pseudo-leftists to face the ideology of their opponents squarely. Al-Abdaly condemned Sweden for sending a few hundred troops to Afghanistan, and as I type I am waiting for the first insinuating pundit to come on the radio and imply that Swedes deserved to suffer for refusing to obey bin Laden’s instructions to stay out of  the “Muslim lands” he presumptuously claims to own.

Al-Abdaly also mentioned unflattering caricatures of Mohammed by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks. I am sure we will hear a lot more about them in the coming days. No Swedish gallery dared show them. Violent men threatened Vilks, and he had he had to go into hiding. In the end, Swedish newspapers ran the pictures to show they at least were prepared to uphold the battered old cause of freedom of speech in Scandinavia.

Will the same people who in one breath praise Wikileaks – also based in Stockholm, incidentally – condemn artistic freedom in the next? Will they say Islamists should control cultural life and domestic policy as well as foreign policy?

My experience of the pseudo-left tells me that they will. It takes more than one car bomb to shift leftish orthodoxy. If a terrorist were to blow them up, I suspect that their dying words would be “I don’t blame you, I blame the government”.

Written byNick Cohen

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of What's Left and You Can't Read This Book.

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