William Dalrymple floats a new, improved version of Blowback Theory here. Not only is western foreign policy directly responsible for Islamist terrorism - 'As long as the west interferes in the Muslim world, bombs will go off' says Dalrymple with astonishing crudity - but it must also bear the blame for the rise of political Islam throughout the Middle East. Apparently the successes of religious parties in Egypt, Pakistan and Gaza are all the west's fault. In classic 'root cause' style, there's no sense that Islamists might have motives and purposes of their own, or indeed any agency beyond simply 'reacting' to western initiatives (an assumption that some might describe as implicitly racist).
Dalrymple writes about 'legitimate Muslim anger' behind the rise of Islamism. I know the Nazi analogy is overworked, but this is like using 'legitimate' German anger over the Versailles Treaty to excuse Nazism. It may (partly) explain it, but it doesn't justify it. The Nazi analogy is also useful in countering Dalrymple's plea that the west should learn to live and work with elected Islamists, simply because they have a democratic mandate. Should Britain have tolerated Nazism because Hitler had won a general election? At least one critical commenter on Dalrymple's piece has made the comparison with Chamberlain: I think they have a point.
I've written elsewhere about the chimera of 'moderate' Islamism. Dalrymple doesn't explain his reasons for defining the Islamists of Hamas or the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood as more 'moderate' than (say) those of al-Qaida. Perhaps they're a tad less anti-semitic, or marginally less likely to execute adulterers or homosexuals, or less inclined to lock up followers of other faiths? I think we should be told.
As in his previous Guardian piece, Dalrymple uses the lazy tactic of labelling all western hostility to political Islam as 'neoconservative': as if there could be no liberal or leftist critique of this intolerant and patriarchal ideology. He mentions that Arab populations have turned in their 'anger' to religious rather than 'liberal secular' parties, but he doesn't appear to lament the fact. Nowhere in his article is there the slightest criticism of Islamism (all his venom is reserved for the west - again, in classic 'blowback' style). This, coming from a supposed western liberal, is a betrayal not only of progressive, secular forces in the Arab and majority-Muslim world, but also of those - women, gays, religious minorities, political opponents - who will suffer under the repressive heel of political Islam.