In the pragmatist, streetwise climate of advanced postmodern capitalism, with its scepticism of big pictures and grand narratives, its hard-nosed disenchantment with the metaphysical, 'life' is one among a whole series of discredited totalities. We are invited to think small rather than big – ironically, at just the point when some of those out to destroy Western civilization are doing exactly the opposite. In the conflict between Western capitalism and radical Islam, a paucity of belief squares up to an excess of it. The West finds itself faced with a full-blooded metaphysical onslaught at just the historical point that it has, so to speak, philosophically disarmed. As far as belief goes, postmodernism prefers to travel light: it has beliefs, to be sure, but it does not have faith.
Antisemitism is unique among religious hatreds. It is a racist conspiracy theory fashioned for the needs of messianic and brutal rulers, as dictators from the Tsars to the Islamists via the Nazis have shown. Many other alleged religious 'hatreds' are not hatreds in the true sense. If I criticise Islamic, Orthodox Jewish or Catholic attitudes towards women, for instance, and I'm accused of being a bigot, I shrug and say it is not bigoted to oppose bigotry.
London is one of the world's centres of Arab journalism and political activism. The failure of left and right, the establishment and its opposition, to mount principled arguments against clerical reaction has had global ramifications. Ideas minted in Britain – the notion that it is bigoted to oppose bigotry; 'Islamophobic' to oppose clerics whose first desire is to oppress Muslims – swirl out through the press and the net to lands where they can do real harm.
It can certainly be misleading to take the attributes of a movement, or the anxieties and contradictions of a moment, and to personalize or 'objectify' them in the figure of one individual. Yet ordinary discourse would be unfeasible without the use of portmanteau terms—like 'Stalinism,' say—just as the most scrupulous insistence on historical forces will often have to concede to the sheer personality of a Napoleon or a Hitler. I thought then, and I think now, that Osama bin Laden was a near-flawless personification of the mentality of a real force: the force of Islamic jihad. And I also thought, and think now, that this force absolutely deserves to be called evil, and that the recent decapitation of its most notorious demagogue and organizer is to be welcomed without reserve. Osama bin Laden's writings and actions constitute a direct negation of human liberty, and vent an undisguised hatred and contempt for life itself.
I am not one of those who believes—as Obama is said to believe—that a solution to the Palestinian statehood question would bring an end to Muslim resentment against the United States. (Incidentally, if he really does believe this, his lethargy and impotence in the face of Netanyahu's consistent double-dealing is even more culpable.) The Islamist fanatics have their own agenda, and, as in the case of Hamas and its Iranian backers, they have already demonstrated that nothing but the destruction of Israel and the removal of American influence from the region will possibly satisfy them. No, it is more the case that justice—and a homeland for the Palestinians—is a good and necessary cause in its own right. It is also a special legal and moral responsibility of the United States, which has several times declared a dual-statehood outcome to be its objective.