Islam and Britain
Mr. Cameron says we will never buckle under the threat of terror. But in forty years time, Cameron may be a minority. What then?
“The terrorists will never win, because they can never beat the values that we hold dear.”
That was David Cameron in response to the butchering on a London street of a British soldier by two jihadists. But Mr Cameron’s worried response had more bravado to it than political realism.
The harsh fact is that today in Britain, savagery once found only outside the West has been brought right to our door steps.
Two Muslim men wielding meat cleavers cut to pieces an innocent man on a London street, and they claim to have acted, as did the 7/7 London bombers, “for our people”, meaning the Muslim people.
Of course it’s true that Islamist terrorists do not speak for all Muslims. But their claim to act for “our people” lends some credence to what the Canadian journalist Mark Steyn called the “core belief” identity of the Muslim community.
Muslims, Steyn argues, may fight among themselves. But when it comes to the fault line between Muslims and non-Muslims, then that core identity of being a Muslim is all important.
Many Muslims reasonably dispute this. But the fact that one of the Woolwich killers was a British-born convert to Islam lends support to the core identity thesis. This man was a British Christian, but conversion to Islam made him a member of the ummah, the supra national community of believers.
What happened on that London street must have shocked Mr Cameron and the whole political class much more than did other acts of terrorism.
Although only one person was killed, the manner of his killing showed London to be a Third World place of horror. A man standing with a meat clever covered in the blood of the innocent was not a symbol of the happy British multicultural society so assiduously manufactured for the Olympic Games and broadcast to the world. For many British people, the butchery of Woolwich raises questions about what immigration has done to their country.
For years, politicians have been desperate to justify heavy immigration to an outraged British public. The rise of UKIP has smashed the political mainstream consensus on the subject and both Conservative and Labour are now trying to out-do each other in “getting tough on immigration.”
But after years of ignoring public opinion on immigration, after train bombings and now this butchery on the street, the political class is seriously worried about possible social unrest.
The English Defence League and the BNP can exploit public disgust at the savagery of Woolwich. They can point to what they say is the criminal failure of the mainstream political culture in allowing Islamist terrorism to take root in British society.
And it’s not just the extreme right. Melanie Phillips, in her book Londonistan, argues convincingly that for years the British political establishment ignored the threat of Islamist terror and allowed Britain to become a “hub for Islamist terror throughout Europe.” The savagery in Woolwich has alarmed the British public, and now the politicians and security forces fear an anti-Muslim backlash.
The main job of the state is to maintain public order and respect for the law. Both the media and political responses to what happened in Woolwich have been overwhelmingly defensive about Islam. Islamist terrorism, they insist, is not caused by Islam. That’s the official position defended by politicians and by the responsible media.
The BBC in its reporting of Woolwich went out of its way to portray Muslims as peaceable, reasonable people. That of course is the right and sensible thing to do, particularly when tensions are running high. After all, threats from various right wing quarters to take to the streets in demonstration against Islamism can end up as attacks against innocent Muslims. The media needs to act responsibly.
But the media also has a duty to the facts and the politicians have questions to answer. Christopher Caldwell, the Financial Times journalist asks: “If Islam has nothing to do with terrorism, then why do all European governments feel the need to reach out to Muslim groups in the aftermath of any terrorist attack?”
Good question, but not one that Mr Cameron wants to debate in public.
The nature of the relationship between Islam and violence is one of the most controversial subjects discussed in political science today. What is obvious is that there is a wide gap between the mainstream political portrayal of Islam and the academic work done on the subject.
Samuel Huntington, in his highly acclaimed work The Clash of Civilizations, has no doubts on the issue. In a chapter Islam’s Bloody Borders, after giving a long list of wars and trouble spots throughout the world, Huntington concludes: “Wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbours.”
Huntington concludes: “No single statement in my article attracted more critical comment than ‘Islam has bloody borders.’ I made that judgment on the basis of a casual survey of intercivilizational conflicts. Quantitative evidence from every disinterested source conclusively demonstrates its validity.”
If Huntington is right, what is the future for Britain? This is a vital question and needs to be discussed.
The historian and economist Niall Ferguson, in his book Civilization, says: “if the Muslim population of the UK were to continue growing at an annual rate of 6∙7 per cent (as it did between 2004 and 2008), its share of the total UK population would rise from just under 4 per cent in 2008 to 8 per cent in 2020, to 15 per cent in 2030 and to 28 per cent in 2040, finally passing 50 per cent in 2050.”
These are astonishing statistics and should be a matter of national debate. Ferguson finds the percentages disturbing. If there isn’t full assimilation of values, he says, and he means assimilation into our Western values, then the consequences could be “profoundly destabilizing.”
Mr. Cameron says we will never buckle under the threat of terror. But in forty years time, Cameron may be a minority. What then? As it is, we already have Sharia councils in Britain, an almost parallel legal system. That is not assimilation.
Present government policy is to “reach out” to the moderates. But there was a telling discussion on a recent BBC Newsnight programme. Kirsty Wark, the BBC presenter asked the radical Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary why he didn’t leave Britain if he hated us so much. Choudary’s reply was that he was born in Britain and that if she, Kirsty Wark, didn’t support his beliefs then perhaps she should consider leaving Britain.
In fifty years’ time, many more British people might well hear the same question.
Vincent Cooper is a freelance writer with a particular interest in philosophy, mathematics, and economics
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