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The Post of Melbourne - June 1 2039
CLIMATE CHANGE & ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM MAKE A GOOD FIT
With its emphasis on cleanliness, purity and acts of ablution, Islam has always been a tough nut to crack for conservationists. Even in such a desperately dry area as the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula the concept of water recycling causes a shudder. But things are changing. The ecologists made some progress by clarifying and elaborating agricultural processes so explicitly that Moslem consumers finally understood how their food, particularly imports of wheat and lamb, was produced.
In such a tight food market riddled with supply and inflation issues it has been difficult for Moslems to get wheat that hasn’t been grown in fields nurtured by sewage, a common procedure in North America. Despite supplier promises, food guarantees are notoriously fickle, and anyway hadn’t they been eating such wheat for decades anyway? Yes, they had.
Rather than find ecology had entered the mainstream, the Greens are now perplexed that challenges of climate change have become the doctrine of fundamentalism. Recycled water, rationing at religious feasts are now cited as indignities Moslems have to endure due to Western extravagance and Arab corruption. The fundamentalists are proving very adept at grasping and exploiting the eco message.
In many ways of course the fundamentalists are right, and that’s what’s causing so many sleepless nights in Western capitals. The fundamentalist argument goes like this: You used all our oil. You had the big cars. You had all the gadgets. The Arab elite got all the dollars to squander on Western trinkets. We, the Arab masses, got nothing.
Fundamentalists can exploit the unprecedented paradox of the Arab predicament. Arabs are long used to basking in the historical importance of their scientists and artists and although most of them have not read the Western classics they like to remember the literature of the ancients only survived because it was translated into Arabic. They love the history books saying how the Arab cities flourished when Europeans lived in squalor. They love the ancient civilization of Egypt and the Fertile Crescent (although fundamentalists loathe the idolatry) but no civilization has ever wallowed in directionless self-pity as it experienced the greatest economic boom the world has ever seen- the Arabs are unique in being powerless with plenty.
Other than terrorists not a single Arab has ever become a feature of global public consciousness. Despite decades of oil revenues there is not a single Arab company of any global significance. Certainly Arab airlines have made a commercial splash buying a huge number of jets but they largely rely on international labour to man and fly the fleet. And, tellingly, despite their massive orders they have been unable to sway plane makers to start any kind of assembly in the region.
Anyone who had ever found themselves in a bazaar or a carpet shop will quickly learn the Arabs are naturally entrepreneurial and of course their cities were famous for the caravanserai, business class lodgings of their day.
The Arabs are certainly as capable as Westerners but their training is lacking. And this adds to the fundamentalist argument. The rulers would rather have an unemployable mass going abroad creating havoc rather than have a skilled, informed domestic population demanding the power structures of yore be dismantled.
But now rather than be pacified by petrodollars the Arab street is listening to the non-violent conservation message of the Islamic militants. They see an endless stream of news stories about climatic havoc in Europe and America and they have to endure more ferocious dust storms, dense winter fogs and flash flooding in summer.
The rulers are nervous. They know the politicians in their consumer markets who pledge to eliminate all but emergency car travel could be elected. The Arabs who curtail dissent at home and guarantee oil to the West would be abandoned. The Islamists, of course, know this too.
The demanding climate of the Arabian Peninsula is being made even more challenging and that is leading to new ‘eco ideas’ which make the West, and especially Israel, shudder. As mass migrations are discussed in Western capitals so they are too in fundamentalist circles. The fundamentalist solution is to move as many Arabs as possible to the coast, not the shores of the Arabian Gulf, but the Mediterranean coasts of Syria and Lebanon, then the Egyptian shore and then Gaza. Huge sums are promised to the receiving governments. An Arab crescent would envelop Israel with substantial numbers. The Israelis could hardly stop such an agreement without launching a regional conflict. And as some conservative western commentators have said, the Jihadists would have their new Caliphate. And one more political development is to be filed under unexpected consequences of global warming.