The first practical and governmental assertion of universal Islamic jurisdiction in modern times was the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini for the execution of Salman Rushdie for blaspheming against the Koran. The fatwa became part, not only of religious teaching, but also of Iranian state policy; there is no distinction between the two domains in Islam.
Despite Western protests - and a temporary suspension of diplomatic relations - the fatwa is still in force, both as a religious document and an expression of Iranian state policy. Iran has got away with this and has found the West, including Britain, prepared to turn a blind eye to Tehran's implicit assertion of universal Islamic jurisdiction.
Last month that jurisdiction was being implemented on quite a large scale, both in London and in Buenos Aires, through lethal attacks on Jewish targets. Tehran did not officially claim credit for these atrocities. But it is generally believed that these great crimes were planned and carried out on the orders of Ayatollah Khamenei, who is both minister for the interior in the Iranian government and spiritual leader of Muslims.
The theocracy in Tehran will have noted with satisfaction that the West continues to be as passive under the latest manifestations of universal Islamic jurisdiction as it was in the case of the fatwa. Nobody believes Tehran's disclaimers, but the West's lack of proportionate reaction constitutes a practical acceptance of the disclaimers.
Islamic jurisdiction is beginning to be accepted as a fact of life in the West. Judgment and punishment for blasphemy against Islam have been an explicitly asserted sphere of worldwide Islamic jurisdiction, implemented from Tehran, since the Rushdie fatwa. Jews, living anywhere, are now under implicit sentence of death for their support of Israel, that monstrous intrusion of infidel power into the House of Islam.
In this Islamic perspective, Salman Rushdie and the Jews (collectively) are guilty of one and the same crime: blasphemy against Islam, for which the penalty is always death, to be carried out anywhere in the world. No infidel jurisdiction anywhere has any legitimacy whatever, so none has authority to obstruct the lawful vengeance of Islam.
Against that spiritual background, it is difficult for an infidel government - such as that of the UK - to maintain 'normal relations' with Tehran. Yet the infidels do their best. It has been politically correct in the West, since the Second World War, to try to show 'understanding' of Islam, and professional understanders abound, especially in Western diplomatic services.
The great stimulus for this proliferation of infidel understanding of Islam has been the emergence of Middle Eastern oil as a major factor in world affairs. Proper Muslims - and there are none more proper than the theocrats of Tehran - understand and properly despise the motives of their infidel understanders. But they know that this is an asset for them in the extension of Islamic jurisdiction into the House of War: the lands temporarily under the control of infidel governments.
The theocrats of Tehran understand their 'understanders' and exploit them. For Tehran, they are 'useful fools', as Western admirers of the late Soviet Union were for the late Lenin.
Yet the Western 'understanders' of Islam are only fools in so far as they represent the collective folly of the West, in neglecting long-term interests - such as maintaining the integrity of their own jurisdiction - in pursuit of short-term profits.
Compare the current state of Western relations with Tehran and with Belgrade. Tehran is still a member of the international community, in fairly good standing. Belgrade is being treated as a pariah. Yet it is Tehran, not Belgrade, that is claiming a general jurisdiction over Western lands and attacking targets there.
Serbia has no universal claims. Serbia has been the principal gainer in the civil war in former Yugoslavia. That civil war became, in theory, an international war, in virtue of what almost everyone now realises to have been a most ill-judged decision by the European Community (as it then was) in 1992. The Community, at German instance, recognised the independence of Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia, within what had been their former provincial boundaries. As a result of this decision the civil war in former Yugoslavia was artificially promoted into an international conflict and Serbia is now an international aggressor, which must be punished by the international community. In reality, Serbia represents no danger to anybody outside the boundaries of former Yugoslavia.
Tehran, on the other hand, represents a clear and present general danger. It is at present the richest and most active patron of terrorism in the West. Theologically, Islam has been at war with the infidel world since its beginnings. Tehran's originality has been to activate that war, in a modern way, through terrorism. Noting the weakness of the West's response to the fatwa against Rushdie, Tehran has been encouraged to think that it can actually wage a covert and deniable jihad in the West, while maintaining 'normal' diplomatic and commercial relations with the West.
Unless pressure is speedily exerted in Tehran, to an extent similar to that now being wasted on Belgrade, we are about to witness the greatest expansion of terrorism our century has yet seen. Money from Ayatollah Khamenei will be available to any terrorist organisation that looks capable of destabilising the accursed infidel regimes, in accordance with the will of Allah. We should take Islam at its own word, before it is too late.
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