The Corner

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What’s the matter with Waziristan?


Samuel Huntington’s key point in his most famous book is that the conventional western elite view of man as homo economicus is reductive – that cultural identity is a more profound indicator that western-style economic liberty cannot easily trump. 

This should have been obvious: If a man is a Muslim bus driver, which is more central to his identity – that he is a Muslim or that he drives a bus? Yet much of the trouble in the world comes from the assumption that economic interests will always outpunch cultural ones: The British imported a large Indian population to serve as a merchant and clerical class in Fiji. It made perfect economic sense. A century later Fiji was a coup-racked ruin split open on cultural fault lines.

In The Clash Of Civilizations, Huntington gave us the phrase “Islam’s bloody borders” to describe the striking number of conflicts along “the boundary looping across Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from non-Muslims”. The “border” – in the sense of a line of demarcation – is increasingly hard to discern. In parts of western Europe, it’s more like the overlapping area codes you now get in certain US cities. Forty years ago, the mills of northern England needed workers so Britain imported them from Pakistan. The mills closed, but the workers stayed, and now Yorkshire has adopted Mirpuri customs of arranged cousin marriage: in Bradford, 75 per cent of Pakistani Britons are married to their first cousins. As to the seductive assimilatory charms of time, 30 years ago the percentage was half that. A victory for culture over economics.

These are difficult questions from which the progressive multicultural mind recoils in instinctive revulsion. Samuel Huntington, a lifelong liberal, never did: as Kaplan’s headline in The Atlantic put it, he looked the world in the eye.