13 August, 2010

The Pakistan floods

I think the crisis in Pakistan should make us look to history for our response.

The last of the great religions to start up, Islam was confined to a few small villages in what is now Saudi Arabia until the first quarter of the 7th century. By the middle of the 7th century it had spread north through Syria and outwards to Iran and Iraq in the East and through Egypt to Tunisia and Libya in the West. By the middle of the eighth century it had spread like wildfire to north-west India in the East and right across north Africa and up into Spain, not much more than a hundred years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed.

The way this happened was not just the fruit of a highly trained army, in the way of Alexander the Great a thousand years before. It was due to the appeal of the new religion to the poor and distressed. Islam promoted iconoclasm while the mediaeval Christian churches were hoarding gold, and it practised charity. A man had, by law, to give a percentage of his income to the poor. With the handouts came the proselytizing.

If we are not quick in Pakistan the millions of distressed will believe their only hope is the local Muslim organisation. In Gaza, Hamas distributes largesse to the poor and positions weaponry on top of the schools so it is targeted by the Israelis. These people are long-term players and we cannot let the same thing happen in Pakistan, which has still, in large part, a pro-Western, fairly secular administration.

The Americans have got the right idea, diverting helicopters and manpower from Afghanistan: this crisis is more important. We should step up our aid to these unhappy folk, and that aid should be clearly stamped with the UN or Western Government flags, and handed out by westerners.

Otherwise we are going to lose this.

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