Out of Bali: Cybercaliphate Rising

March 1, 2003 Topic: Society Regions: Asia Tags: MuslimYugoslavia

Out of Bali: Cybercaliphate Rising

Mini Teaser: The rise of religious fundamentalism in Southeast Asia contradicts longstanding appraisals of Southeast Asian Islam and Western theories of modernization.

by Author(s): David Martin Jones

On sub-tropical Sunday mornings in August, in the square outside the Fatahillah Museum in north Jakarta, cultural tableaux testifying to Indonesia's diversity take place. In one of them, a troupe of Balinese school girls performs the elegant Legong dance that interprets, in its distinctive way, aspects of the island's ancient Hindu traditions. In its 2002 Jakarta version, however, instead of the sinuous traditional dress, the girls cover their heads with white headscarves. White gloves and white socks obscure their elegant hand and foot movements, while what appears to be a green satin sack hides the rest of their prepubescent anatomy.

Such puritanical disdain for traditional practice reflects the growing Islamization of Indonesian cultural life. It marks a significant breach with the recent and historical past, when both pre- and post-colonial Javanese rulers took pride in a syncretism that amalgamated religious and cultural differences into an original Indonesian blend. Across Jakarta today, however, middle-class women anxiously debate-while sipping latte in air-conditioned cafes in the downtown shopping malls-whether it is Islamically correct to wear the stylish "millennium" headscarf, elegantly tied at the nape of the neck, as a fitting accompaniment to lipstick and Ray-Bans. This fashionable equivocation receives little sympathy from sisters in Islam like Anne Rufaidah, the owner of an Islamic women's clothing chain. She insists that only the austere Middle Eastern headscarf, which descends shapelessly to the waist, meets the Quranic injunction to modesty and propriety. The Balinese dancers in Fatahillah Square wisely opt for the righteous look.

A more disturbing illustration of this increasingly intolerant mindset may be found to the south of the museum in the ethnically Chinese suburb of Glodok. Its pockmarked and windowless shopping centers bear silent witness to the chaos that marked the demise of Suharto's New Order in 1998, when over 1,000 ethnic Chinese perished during riots orchestrated by shadowy "dark forces." Even in 2002 members of this despised non-Islamic minority dare not display Chinese characters over their shophouses. Despite the recent return of public celebrations of the Chinese New Year, pragmatism here requires the deliberate obfuscation of identity. Just to the south of Glodok, as it happens, is the site of the Monumen Nasional, once the quintessential symbol of Indonesia's now rapidly decaying secular ambitions. Mounted on a concrete pedestal, a phallus-shaped flame invokes the traditional authority of Javanese rulers; but today the litter-strewn square of arid brown earth, sporting the occasional tuft of grass, testifies eloquently both to the Ozymandian pretensions and the subsequent decay of the New Order.

It is not only in popular culture that we see evidence of the closing of the collective Indonesian mind. In August 2002, the annual session of the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusya Waratan Rakyat, or MPR) met to discuss proposed amendments to the 1945 constitution, a document with a somewhat checkered history since the troubled republic gained independence from the Dutch in 1949. One amendment sought not to democratize or liberalize Indonesian life after the Suharto dictatorship, but instead to restore the vision of the country's more Islamically-inclined founding fathers. The Jakarta Charter of 1945 declared the centrality of sharia to the future of the inchoate republic, but the modernizing nationalist regimes of Sukarno (1950-66) and Suharto (1966-98) had no use for such views. In 2002, however, Islamization was back on the political agenda. Although eventually rejected by the MPR, the sharia amendment received support from Vice President Hamzah Haz, Assembly Speaker Amien Rais and two small Islamic parties in the Assembly.

It was also endorsed on the streets by increasingly assertive Islamist groups like the Front Pembela Islamaya (fpi-Islamic Defenders Front), Hizb ut-Tahrir (Islamic Liberation Party) and the Majlis Mujaheddin Indonesia (MMI-Assembly of Indonesian Mujaheddin), and it is clear that these groups have popular support that goes well beyond their formal memberships. A December 2001 survey conducted by the State Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN) found that 61 percent of the population responded positively to the statement that "Islamic government, that is government based on the Quran and the Sunna and led by experts in Islam . . . is the best for this country." A higher percentage of the population also preferred military rule to the uncertainties of parliamentary rule (45 to 42 percent).

Easily the largest state in size and population among the diverse nations of Southeast Asia, Indonesia is important in its own right. Destabilized and Islamized, it would threaten both the ASEAN grouping and its immediate neighbor to the south, Australia. But the Indonesian case seems only an advanced version of a growing general propensity in Southeast Asia toward ethno-religious fundamentalism. Thus in Malaysia the long established dominion of the modernizing Barisan Nasional government faces the prospect of both internal factionalism and external challenge. For more than twenty years, an autocratic prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has driven the apathetic Malays toward ambitious developmental goals. But as he contemplates stepping down from his various offices, a countervailing Malay Islamism in the shape of the Partai Agama se-Malaysia (pas) is both expanding its political appeal and exacerbating long dormant Chinese-Malay tensions in the multi-ethnic state. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the unresolved struggle for Moro (Muslim) independence in southern Mindanao, which dates from the 1970s, has been globalized in the course of the 1990s as the radical Abu Sayyaf group established links with Al-Qaeda.

Indeed, the identification in December 2001 of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a Southeast Asian Al-Qaeda franchise that was preparing to attack U.S. and Israeli embassies and British and Australian High Commissions in Singapore, demonstrated a hitherto unsuspected degree of cooperation among radical Islamists in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia. Also unappreciated until then were their extensive links to and identification with both the ideology and tactics of Al-Qaeda. Operating through networks of patronage and intermarriage, groups like JI, Laskar Jihad, the fpi and Kumpulan Mujaheddin Malaysia (KMM) seek to unite the Muslim world as a superpower governed by a caliphate like those of the 7th century. Several Islamist groups in Indonesia, linked together through Sheikh Abu Bakar Bashir's mmi, share this commitment to building an Islamic realm. They all maintain that the United States is the real global terrorist because of its links with Zionism, its support for un-Islamic regimes in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, and its promotion of the anti-Islamic politics of democratic secularism. These groups may not be able to take over Indonesia or other Southeast Asian states, but they may soon be in a position to disorganize, intimidate, terrorize and paralyze them.

Southeast Asia and Western Social Science

What does all this mean? On the conventional policy level, it means that a region which until recently served as a global parable of successful development has transformed itself, in less than a decade, into an arc of instability with global ramifications. But, after the October 2002 Bali bombing, this is to state the obvious. What does it mean in more general terms about the adequacy of our understanding of contemporary Islam, on the one hand, and what we think we know about modernization, democratization and development on the other? While such concerns lend themselves to theoretical considerations, they are also the bases upon which rest several equally unconventional and ambitious policies designed to "drain the swamp" of support for terrorism. The sophistication of our understanding, or lack thereof, hence has practical import, too.

As Indonesia's post-New Order democratization proceeds to direct presidential elections in 2004, and as Malaysia looks uncertainly toward a post-Mahathir future, the growing influence of an ascetic, militant Islam is both ironic and troubling. It is ironic because Southeast Asian Islam has been widely touted over many years, both at home and abroad, as friendly to capitalism, benignly syncretic and immune to Middle Eastern-style religious fundamentalism. Yet what is happening in Indonesia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia seems to cast doubt on these assumptions. That the greatest catastrophe in the region, so far, occurred in Bali, the most tolerant and least Islamized province of Indonesia, only accentuates the point.

Militant Islam's rise in Southeast Asia is troubling because Indonesia's experience casts doubt on the mainstream analysis of Western modernization, democratization and "development" theory. Prior to the 1997-98 financial meltdown, Indonesia was approaching levels of rapid development evident elsewhere in Asia, and one could imagine Indonesia's economic success leading to political liberalization in the post-Suharto period. Taiwan and South Korea, countries where a forward-looking military had acted as a Praetorian guard for economic modernization and eventual democratization, afforded a plausible model for such expectations. Indonesia, in other words, seemed bound to surf the Third Wave, its ride delayed only by the special circumstances of Suharto's long tenure. Here the relevant analogy was the Philippines: with Suharto gone, it was supposed, Indonesia would find its way to a more or less stable democracy, just as the Philippines did after Ferdinand Marcos' long rule ended.

But instead, rapid development and Indonesia's post-Suharto democratic opening dissolved into a deep economic recession adumbrated by a vertiginous descent into religious fundamentalism. The Indonesian case, therefore, shook the heretofore unshakeable shibboleth of modernization theory and liberal orthodoxy: that democratization in the non-Western world would engender social and intellectual pluralism (even with its corresponding discontents), not a socially centrifugal identity politics. But rather than give up that article of Western liberal faith, some observers turned to a narrowly economic explanation to account for Indonesia's special circumstances. There is, after all, a clear correlation between the proliferation and popularity of radical Islamic groups and the simultaneous faltering of the economy, which was exacerbated by the failure of Indonesia's new democratic politics to address decisively the corruption and cronyism that undermined the New Order. We are likely witnessing, then, an example of James C. Davis' famous "J-curve", where popular disillusion and a propensity for rebellion correlate not with absolute standards of living, but with the incendiary gap between rising expectations and a sudden decline of performance.

But correlation is not cause, and a predominantly economic explanation for Indonesia's current woes appears worryingly incomplete. It can account for riot and discontent, but not for Indonesia's distinctly Islamist idiom of expression and social profile. Rather, Indonesia's tumultuous economic and political experience of recent years seems the fuse rather than the ammonium nitrate itself. Indonesia's turn toward political Islam has more to do with the consequences of the slow-motion collision between modernity and its Islamic social character. The fact that standard-issue Western modernization theory has been wrong about other Islamic societies, as well, suggests that this is a far more plausible line of analysis.

Serious observers of Islamic societies rightly stress the many cultural differences among them. Yet too great an insistence upon distinctions risks missing commonalties of equal importance. The IAIN survey shows that it is mostly among middle-class males under forty that previously proscribed Islamist groups find recruits to their uncompromising ideology of sharia discipline. In mid-2002, the Surabaya and Jogjakarta regional heads of Laskar Jihad, an Islamist group dedicated to advancing the Quran by the Kalashnikov if necessary, are a Western-trained engineer and a medical doctor, respectively. In other words, although radical Islam remains a minority avocation in Indonesia, its appeal to an educated middle class shares an elective affinity with the composition of the Al-Qaeda network-whether in its Saudi, Egyptian, German or British manifestations.

The popular recourse to Islamic fundamentalism in Southeast Asia also repeats a pattern found elsewhere in Asia and the Middle East. Whenever centralizing, secular authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world have experienced rapid growth and attendant social change, they are invariably confronted by a fundamentalist challenge. That challenge is everywhere accompanied by a significant middle-class retreat into a closed world of sectarian identity. Progressive secularism fails to thrive in the modernization processes of late-developing Muslim-majority states. In some cases, as in Iran, fundamentalism achieves power. In others, it achieves a capacity to blunt the power and programs of the secular state, and to retard the liberalization of civil society. Even apparent long-term successes are not immune from such challenges, as the recent political sociology of Turkey suggests.

A New Sociology of Islam

If standard Western theories of modernization are powerless to explain such broad phenomena, where else might we look for help? It is tempting to join the queue of those who would cast Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" thesis against Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" argument, but it is a temptation well worth resisting. Fukuyama, much vulgarized by his epigoni, pointedly identified the Muslim world as the likeliest source of long-term resistance to his vision. As for Huntington's "clash", it focuses on Islam's relations with the non-Islamic world, not on the sociology of Islam itself. It is a little hard to see why so many turn for guidance to two approaches, neither of which centers on the puzzle at hand. Besides, grand theorizing is vulnerable, almost inevitably, to a form of reductionism that suffers-as Peter Geyl observed in the first proponents of civilizational history, Otto Spengler and Arnold Toynbee-from "fallacious arguments and spurious demonstrations." It is therefore somewhat crude and misleading to ask if the Southeast Asian case merely indicates a temporary subsidence on the path to polyarchy at the End of History, or rather foreshadows an inexorable clash of civilizations in a global order permanently dichotomized (to get more vulgar still) between Benjamin Barber's McWorld and Jihad, or Thomas Friedman's Lexus and Olive Tree.

If one nevertheless wishes to engage in a thought experiment in which the sociology of Islam in Southeast Asia and elsewhere is constructed in terms of strengths between Whiggish optimism and Spenglarian pessimism, one does not need Fukuyama or Huntington to proceed. Such thinking has an old (and curiously neglected) pedigree. Take the former, for example. Analyzing the decline and fall of the Roman Empire from the security of a politically liberal and rapidly developing-if hardly very democratic-London in 1776, Edward Gibbon concluded that modern Europe possessed a prophylactic that Rome had lacked. Rome, as every schoolgirl once knew, fell to a combination of barbarians without and a loss of belief within. Thus, the glory that was Rome "insensibly declined with their laws and manners." By contrast, Gibbon considered that the threat posed by barbarism to modernizing 18th-century Europe had "contracted to a narrow span." This was for two reasons.

First, in the spirit of liberal 20th-century modernization theory avant la lettre, Gibbon contended that Europe was "secure from any future irruption of barbarians; since before they can conquer, they must cease to be barbarous." Gibbon, and the British Enlightenment generally, believed that they had identified a serendipitous developmental paradox: Civilization's schooling of the passions generated a scientific and technological advantage that could only be learned by adopting the soft civilized ways of the modern city. The Highland clan and the Bedouin tribe alike had to abandon simple traditional values, brush their hair, trim their beards and go to school lest they be permanently entrapped in a cake of backward custom. Modernization, in other words, required civilization; gaining power meant undergoing a process that would eviscerate the motive to use that power in ways inimical to mainstream institutions and values. In earlier form, this is essentially the same notion of process that stands at the center of Fukuyama's thesis (though Fukuyama never mentions Gibbon). Gibbon argued, second, that both Europe and the new world of America enjoyed an unassailable technological edge unknown to Rome: "mathematics, chemistry, mechanics, architecture have been applied to the service of war." Modern cannon and fortification, Gibbon contended, "now form an impregnable barrier against the Tartar horse."

That barrier stood firm for a long time, but Gibbon's analysis has broken down in our own time. We have no impermeable barrier against the contemporary Islamist equivalent of the Tartar horse. By a little analyzed or understood process, the Islamist warriors of our day have managed to circumvent the "civilizing" process to which Gibbon (and, subsequently, Fukuyama) pointed: they use Western technology against us, being adept with our tools, but without having imbibed the values of the society that produced them.

How could such a thing happen? Ernest Gellner, a pioneer of what one can fairly call a clash theory of Western versus Islamic civilizations, proposed an answer years before Huntington began asking the question.

As anthropologist and sociologist, Gellner was acutely aware of the main economistic tenets and tendencies of Western thinking about modernization. But he was also acutely sensitive to the fact that these tenets could not explain the modern Muslim world. In his view, coming at the subject from cultural anthropology, Western civil society differed from traditional societies in that it required what he called modularity: a distinctive capacity to combine in effective associations with others, but without any one of these associations subsuming or defining the rest. Traditional society was stable, but also immobile, because external strictures fixed people's definitions of their own identity, and then, for lack of any alternative point of reference, those definitions were internalized. Western man, however, could adopt a variety of roles in society (religious, ethnic, political, occupational), and these could define his identity instead of ascriptive characteristics assigned at birth.

While observing that a vast chasm separated modern flexibility from traditional immobility-rather along the lines of Karl Popper's "open" and "closed" societies-Gellner recognized, contra Gibbon and most American political scientists, that modernization-what he called "the deadly angel who spells death to economic inefficiency"-was "not always at the service of liberty." Gellner observed that Islam's encounter with modernity had led it to grow both stronger and purer in the last century. Islamic societies seemed to be secularization-resistant; they side-stepped the development of modularity even as they assimilated many modern modes of behavior. This defied the essence of Western modernization theory, and Gellner's struggle to understand why led him to develop a sociology of Islamic neo-orthodoxy, which describes precisely what we see developing today in Southeast Asia.

Gellner observed the macro-social realities of the 20th-century Muslim world, and saw a massive movement from the illiterate folk Islam of the countryside to the "high" literate Islam of the city. Urbanization and increased literacy led from a mimetic form of learning to an analogic process available only to those who could reason through symbols-i.e., those who could read. Gellner saw that neo-orthodox Muslims associated greater piety with upward mobility. This involved a process in which the authority defining Islamic piety passed from the clan elder to the literate cleric at the school or the urban mosque, and in which standards of conduct were learned from the printed page rather than through oral instruction. In their own cultural framework, this was advancement-indeed, it was modernization-and it applied with special power to the role and status of women. If, in the post-modern, post-colonial world, identification with scripturalist high culture becomes the hallmark of Islamic urban sophistication, then it follows that the bourgeois Muslim woman in Jakarta-or in London, Karachi or Sydney, for that matter-wears the veil or the headscarf not because her mother did so, but precisely because she did not. The way "up" for women is within a newly mobile traditionalism, not outside it.

There was nothing explicitly political about the processes of neo-orthodoxy, but Gellner anticipated its political implications. As long as clan groups and tribal affinities remained more or less stable, the processes of neo-orthodoxy would be buffered by tradition and the constraints on behavior that it imposed. But if the literal community was disrupted sufficiently, or if the energies of modernization ejected individuals and families from it, new possibilities emerged-and here we come to the sociological underpinning of Islamic "fundamentalism", or Islamism.

Islamism is identified most closely with the strain of Islamic thinking called salafism. While neo-orthodoxy evinced a tendency toward scripturalism and puritanical theology, fundamentalist formalism represented a modern political impulse that re-constructed Islam not in a traditional but in a faux traditionalist way-turning it into a nizam, a total ideological system. Gellner saw that the Islamist social vision, while founded on a pre-industrial scripturalism, thrives best under social conditions formed by modernity: the specialization and compartmentalization of work associated with industrialization and the transformation of communications. Each jihadi group in Southeast Asia has its own website and is comfortable with mobile phones (provided they do not have a musical dial tone). What these groups envisage, then, is not the establishment of just any global caliphate, but a cybercaliphate.

The contemporary Islamist seeks to purify Islam from the accretions of "backward" tradition and turn it into a rule-based social order that stands beyond temporal power and existing political authority. He seeks, in a sense, a globalization of Islam's pre-modern scriptural injunctions that can leap over the bureaucratically-centralizing post-colonial arrangements into the transnational network of the cybercaliphate. Again, this is hard to achieve in a coherent community, where tradition and family associations stultify the impulses of change. It is much easier when that coherence breaks down, when individuals live outside such real communities and where abstract communities take their place. One would therefore expect more extreme examples of neo-orthodoxy among those deracinated from community and tradition, and more plentiful recruits to fundamentalism among those living literally outside of community and tradition. And this is exactly what one, in fact, finds.

Thus, across Southeast Asia and the Middle East, it is typically urban male university graduates who find in the strict formalism of fundamentalist teaching the simplicity and certitude to cushion their education in science and technology, which is necessarily an education in contingency and doubt. Outlining the belief that science can only be civilized through faith, Sayyid Qutb, the 20th-century prophet of Islamism, maintained that only the genuine practice of a pure Islam could heal the unnatural breach between religion and scientific materialism. This "ideological ideal" of Islam alone could "rescue humanity from . . . the barbarism of technocratic culture", from the vice of an authoritarian nationalism imposed by a Nasser, a Suharto or an Atat ürk, "and from the stifling trap of communism."

Such a system, thought Qutb, required a unified umma, or community of the faithful, in the novel sense of a transterritorial ideocracy. Politically, this means that the boundaries of the umma reflect the extent of the doctrine's acceptance. Where it is a majority, it rules; where it is not, it struggles. As Gellner pointed out, this Islamist self-reformation addresses directly the predicament of Third World backwardness. It offers scripturalism, asceticism, rule orientation and aversion to backward local particularisms, all of which, he wrote, "may have elective affinities with the virtues required to surmount the arduousness and strains of the long march to disciplined, modern industrial society." Islamism promotes a rule-governed, illiberal arrangement in which society is organized "by networks, quasi tribes, alliances forged on the basis of kin, services exchanged . . . common institutional experience, but still, in general, based on trust, well founded or not, rather than on formal relations in a defined bureaucratic manner."

In its most extreme form, as in Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, the new "community" is forged on mafia activities and terror franchises rather than on traditional pastoral-based clan affinity. This is how Al-Qaeda currently operates in Bali, Hamburg and London.

Islamism thus bulges with paradox. It exemplifies a network-based social order without a real society. It is atomized without individualism. It can operate effectively in a bewildering diversity of settings without intellectual and political pluralism. Against the civilizational prophylactics identified by Gibbon, Islamism has no need of the doubtful joys of modularity, and has developed an asymmetric capacity to turn the West's technological and cybernetic edge against it. It has devastated a modern cosmopolitan city like New York and a backpacker's holiday playground like Kuta Beach in Bali with conspicuous ease. And we cannot even assuredly find it, because "it" is not anything we have ever tried or needed to find before.

The Cybercaliphate Within

If this sociology of political Islam is correct, then we immediately recognize that the war against terrorism cannot be conceived according to the heretofore standard geographical assumptions of international conflict. Traditional, even very pious, Middle Eastern Islam as such is not the problem. Terror-prone Islamism does arise in a remote sense from the least traditional, most fundamentalist Muslim state, Saudi Arabia; but Islamism's active nodes and cells are not located in Arab countries. As we have seen, many are evolving in Southeast Asia, but the most dangerous networks are located in the West. As we have suggested, dar al-Islam is no longer simply a geographic concept; the "virtual" world of the potential cybercaliphate knows no conventional boundaries. Thus to understand what is happening in Southeast Asia, we also have to look at what goes on, for example, in London.

The Islamist presence in the West presents profound difficulties for all adherents of liberal pluralism. The West addresses the Islamist threat with at least a semblance of realism when it emanates from "states of concern" like Syria and Afghanistan, or failing states like the Philippines and Indonesia. Yet it seems curiously trapped by its own rhetoric of tolerance and multiculturalism when it comes to addressing the fundamentalist challenge within. Hamburg Technological University served as a perfect location for Mohamed Atta to plan his towering day in history. Al-Qaeda cells remain active in Germany, Spain, Italy and France (and, thankfully, also actively well-hounded of late). But it is in Britain that perhaps the most acute cognitive dissonance may be observed.

While Prime Minister Tony Blair remains steadfast in his commitment to the war on terror abroad, the British Home Office permits self-styled sheikhs Abu Hamza and Omar Bhakri Mohamed to recruit for Al-Qaeda from their state-subsidized mosque in Finsbury Park, North London, within half a dozen tube stops of Westminster.These leading figures in the Saudi-funded Islamic Council of Britain promulgate the achievement-by jihad, if necessary-of a unified Islamic world that would include among its future member states the Islamic Republic of the United Kingdom. Omar Bhakri dismisses the more moderate voices of British Islam who dissent from this salafist utopia as "chocolate Muslims."

On August 25, 2002, Abu Hamza's Al-Muhajiroun ("the migrants") and its affiliates, like the London branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, rallied in Trafalgar Square. Clad in a variety of colorful kaftans and turbans, they resembled something left over from an aging American west coast band of the late Sixties counterculture. Instead of love and peace, however, they chanted "Osama, Osama, Osama." As in Jakarta, uncompromising certitude accompanied the flowing kaftans. Peddling their ideological wares from four green tents marked "Islam", "Capitalism", "Democracy" and "Globalization"-located just behind the backs of the statues of two heroes of empire, Sir Henry Havelock and Sir Charles Napier, whilst Admiral Nelson turned a blind eye firm atop his pedestal-the militant disciples of the sheikh, stylishly accoutred in black turbans and matching Ray-Bans, projected an image of radical Islamist chic. Indeed, the scene could have been set in Jakarta, except for one thing: the protestors did not openly avow the use of force. Instead, handouts like "A Call to Boycott America and Israel" excoriated the "hyenas and vultures which operate under the guise of the coalition against terrorism." The point was not obscure.

This heady mixture of posturing and utopianism appeals strongly to a younger generation of Asian-British youth, recruited to the ranks of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates in growing numbers. Why, and why London? First, because many Muslims in London are lured away from community and Islamic tradition by the attractions and opportunities of Western life. And second, because states like Egypt, Jordan, Singapore and Malaysia may exercise a far greater degree of control over radical Islamist activity than occurs in the West generally, and Europe in particular. They can control the press, limit Internet access and overcome their concerns, if they have any, about civil liberties violations with consummate ease. Not so in the United Kingdom, where liberal guilt about Britain's colonial sins increasingly trumps common sense these days. Indeed, after Al-Qaeda moved from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1998, a number of disgruntled operatives, alarmed at the medieval conditions in Kabul, proposed relocating to London. This led Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri to rule that "a brother may travel to London to collect funds, but may not stay there or seek asylum. It seems that Al-Qaeda's leading strategist assumed that the Home Office would unhesitatingly grant asylum if requested, and he was probably right.

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