replace Islam as the West's new enemy?
China is being presented as the new existential enemy,
just as Islam was 20 years ago
By Peter Oborne
A defaced picture
mocking Chinese President Xi Jinping and the coronavirus
disease in Hong Kong on 26 April (Reuters)
April 28, 2020
It’s just over a quarter of
a century since the American political scientist Samuel
Huntington wrote his famous essay on
the Clash of Civilisations. It
set the tone for a series of wars.
writing after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end
of the Cold War between Soviet Russia and the West.
Rather than an era of peace, Huntingdon forecast a new
struggle between what he viewed as irreconcilable
enemies: Islam and the West.
asserted that identity, rather than ideology, lay at the
heart of contemporary politics. "What are you?", he
asked, "and as we know, from Bosnia to the Caucasus to
the Sudan, the wrong answer to that question can mean a
bullet in the head."
has bloody borders."
politicians like former US President George W Bush and
former British Prime Minister Tony Blair followed
Huntington’s lead. For the last quarter century, many
Muslim countries have been the target of the US and its
Muslims have often been
portrayed in Western
media as lawless, radical ideologues and an existential
threat to the world. This has given rise to virulent
Islamophobia in the West with
the rise of far right
political parties in Europe.
argue today that much of this noxious hostility may soon
abate in the aftermath of the
This is partly because (especially in Britain)
the sacrifices made by
Muslims are so obvious and have been so great that this
may lead to a belated change in public attitudes. The
first three medical staff to die
from the outbreak were all Muslim.
But there is a
second factor at work: the coronavirus pandemic is
reshaping global geopolitics. The West likes, perhaps
needs, an enemy and the latest target is China.
China is being
presented as the new existential enemy, just as Islam
was 20 years ago. And by the very same people. The same
newspaper columnists, the same think tanks, the same
political parties and the same intelligence agencies.
Huntington’s famous essay that led the charge against
Muslims - or what they often call radical Islam - now
they have turned their attention to the Far East.
President Donald Trump, the world’s
Muslim-basher-in-chief, has now started to attack China,
rather as Bush, his Republican predecessor, attacked
Iraq in 2003 and the "axis of evil" 20 years ago. During
his campaign in 2016 he accused China of
"raping" the US
since the outbreak of Covid-19, Trump's attacks have
gained speed and traction. He has
accused China of
covering up the virus and lying about its death toll.
this month, he even stopped US funds to the World Health
Organization, calling it too
British newspapers, which have cut down entire forests
to vent their spleen against Muslims, have pivoted to
the Chinese menace.
The Sun –
which banged the drum to invade Iraq in 2003 -
ran a story on a report
alleging the virus was developed deliberately by China
to “prove it's greater than the US at battling deadly
diseases". Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, MI6,
helped to build the
case for Blair’s calamitous attack on Iraq in the
notorious dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Now it has
China in its sights.
Today Programme, former
MI6 chief Sir John Sawers greatly surprised me by
showing sympathy for Trump’s removal of funding from the
WHO. He said: "There’s deep anger in America over what
they see as having been inflicted on us all by China,
and China is evading a good deal of responsibility for
the origin of the virus, for failing to deal with it
speeches by former spy chiefs are always seen as
representing the current view inside the office.
Britain’s acting prime minister, Dominic Raab, said
that after coronavirus there is "no doubt" it will not
be "business as usual" with China. Senior newspaper
columnists Melanie Phillips, a long-time critic of
so-called radical Islam, recently used her column in The
warn that the West can
no longer "turn a blind eye" to China.
course, there are good reasons to criticise China. There
evidence to suggest
that China has not been transparent over the early
stages of the outbreak or
its number of cases. On
the other hand, plenty of other countries (including
Britain) are guilty of cover-ups and deception too.
This is what
makes the change of atmosphere around China so
remarkable. Even the neoconservative think tanks,
that have fulminated against manifestations of Islam for
so long, have found a new opponent.
Jackson Society (HJS) has been one of most consistent
critics of what it likes to describe as radical Islam or
Islamism. Now it’s led the way with a series of recent
reports and media appearances attacking China. Indeed
their attacks on China in recent months have increased
latest was a poll conducted by HJS. It formed the basis
a Times article last
week which found that “more than 80 percent of Britons
want Boris Johnson to push for an international inquiry
into China’s handling of the initial coronavirus
HJS associate Dr John
Hemmings wrote in
The Telegraph in
support of Trump withdrawing WHO funding and warned of
China’s growing "malign" influence. Matthew Henderson,
director of Asia Studies Centre at HJS, launched a new
series of videos with The Sun called "Hot Takes".
first episode asks "Is
the coronavirus outbreak China's Chernobyl?"
also an HJS report that provided the basis for
a Mail on Sunday article
suggesting Britain should
pursue Beijing in the international courts for £351bn
($437bn) compensation over the outbreak. The Gatestone
Institute has made the comparison between China and
radical Islam most directly.
ludicrously described the outbreak of coronavirus as
"another 9/11 moment for the West".
My old friend
Con Coughlin is the
Telegraph’s defence and foreign affairs editor and
distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute.
He supported the Iraq war passionately. Now he has
called on the WHO's "pro-China" chief to resign.
MEE reached out
to Henry Jackson Society for a comment but did not
receive a response.
The new faultline
Some might say
that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West
has been in need of a replacement enemy.
Bear in mind
that Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations warning that
"the faultlines between civilisations will be the battle
lines of the future" didn’t only concern Islamic
civilisation. Huntington warned of a second "challenger"
civilisation besides Islam.
according to Huntington, was the most powerful long-term
threat to the West.
will change overnight. I sense that Iran will remain in
the sights of the White House, such is the strength of
the personal bond between Trump and Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But we may now
be reaching the end to the long period when the main "faultline" was
Islam. It may well be that the West has now found itself
a new enemy. If so, Muslims can breathe a little more
won best commentary/blogging in 2017 and was named
freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Online Media
Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He
also was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year
2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the
Daily Telegraph in 2015. His books include The Triumph
of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and
Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran. -
Do you agree or disagree?
Post your comment here