This lecture was delivered yesterday in Sydney by Melanie Phillips who is a British journo.
Quadrant dinner, Sydney, Australia, 1 March 2007
Londonistan was a term of abuse coined by the French for a Britain that had allowed itself to become the European hub of al Qaeda. To me it’s also a state of mind, when people not only seek to appease but come to believe and absorb the ideas and assumptions of the enemy that intends to destroy them.
It’s a state of mind that applies not just to Britain but throughout the west, where people refuse to face up to the reality of the jihad because they can’t bring themselves to accept what must follow. It’s so much easier to take refuge in alternative explanations, particularly ones that blame themselves for their own victimisation. And just as they embrace their enemies, so they turn against their allies.
I wrote Londonistan as a warning, as I believed Britain was deeply in denial over the threat of radical Islamism. Worse than that, I believed that it was mistaking its friends and allies for enemies, and its enemies for – if not exactly friends, then people who had to be protected from its actual allies. And the reason for that, I thought, was a lethal confusion, not just in Britain but throughout the west, in which people who claimed to be progressive and liberal were actually promoting the very opposite. As we could see in Britain when so-called progressives, committed to causes like gay rights and anti-racism, marched shoulder to shoulder alongside Islamists who believed in death to gays and the subjugation of Jews and Christians.
Despite a change in the public mood since my book was published last summer, I think that Britain is still in that state of denial — and worse still, galloping cultural surrender.
In Britain, the mainstream view is that Israel is the cause of the world’s problems. People believe Israel is the cause of Islamic hatred of the west, global terror and world instability and that the Jews are putting them directly at risk. They believe Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is the cause of Islamist rage; that America was only attacked on 9/11 because it supported Israel; and that the only reason Britain is now at risk from Islamist terror is because it supported America in the Iraq war.
This rampant hatred of America and Israel has come to dominate and distort political debate. It was hysteria over Israel’s conduct of the Lebanon war last summer that forced Tony Blair out of office earlier than he had intended to go. Indeed, sometimes it seems that Britain has turned into a latter-day Salem, with Israel, America and their defenders the latter-day witches to be thrown to the flames.
Everything that happens is seen through the prism of this perceived conspiracy by Americans and Jews recklessly to put the world at risk in pursuit of their own interests. So Iran’s threat to commit genocide against Israel, and its race to obtain the nuclear weapons to put this often repeated threat into practice, is dismissed as mere ‘rhetoric’ and the biggest threat is seen instead that America might attack it.
In the Times, the ultra-respectable columnist Anatole Kaletsky has blamed ‘trigger-happy’ Israeli ‘hotheads’, who were ‘hell-bent’ on stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons, for plunging the world into an imminent apocalypse, and warned that the next British Prime Minister ‘may have to recognise Saudi Arabia and Israel as the root causes of much of the trouble in the Middle East.’
There is a persistent refusal to accept that we are in the throes of a holy war waged upon the western world for more than 25 years without our even recognising it because it doesn’t fit our definition of war. It is a world war being fought in many disparate theatres with many proximate causes, but all with one single coherent aim: to defeat western civilisation, establish Islam as the dominant power in the world and restore the medieval Islamic caliphate.
We can see the outcome: in the daily violence in the French suburbs, sanitised by the French government but described by French police as a permanent intifada; in the similar violence in Belgium; in the murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands and the terrorisation of Dutch politicians who speak out; or in the global riots, kidnappings and murders after the re-publication of the Danish Mohammed cartoons.
Yet little of this is reported, and when it is, it is generally presented as the fault of those being terrorised. Thus the French riots are blamed on French prejudice towards immigrants; the cartoon riots on media insensitivity towards Muslim feelings; and moves by the ultra-liberal Dutch or the Danes to ban the burqua or restrict immigration as racism or xenophobia.
Obviously, no-one can be in any doubt about the threat to Britain from Islamic terrorism by radicalised British Muslims — and not just because of the suicide bomb attacks on the London tube and a bus on July 7 2005. Britain is now the principal target of al Qaeda — and at the same time its principal recruiting ground. The Director of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, has said the security service is monitoring no fewer than 200 terror groupings or networks, 1600 identified individual terrorists and 30 known terrorist plots and said terrorists were seeking to use nuclear and dirty bombs on Britain. In recent months, we have seen the smashing of an apparent plot by British members of al Qaeda to blow up as many as 12 transatlantic airliners; and a more recent plot still to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier.
The question obviously is why British Muslims want to murder unlimited numbers of their fellow British citizens. Why those who have been born and bred in Britain are the most radical, and are being radicalised in ever greater numbers. And it is in trying to answer those questions that Britain is still deeply in denial.
Many take refuge in excuses. It’s rage over Iraq. It’s Islamophobia. It’s poverty or discrimination. It’s segregation. But none of these stands up to scrutiny for a second.
Segregation can’t be the issue. The 7/7 suicide bombers, who blew up the London tube and a bus in 1995, went to ordinary schools and to university, where so many British Muslims are radicalised. It was those 7/7 suicide bombings themselves which produced a great spike in terrorist recruitment. Because what Britain and so many others in the west fail to grasp is that the greatest single driver of terrorism is – terrorism, or to be more precise, the demoralised reaction to it.
For decades, Arab and Muslim terror has been principally fuelled not by poverty or oppression or dispossession, but by the fact that it works. Recently Dhiren Barot was jailed in Britain for plotting synchronised atrocities including the use of poison and radioactive bombs. Dhiren Barot was not brought up in poverty, or as a segregated Muslim. He was a middle-class Hindu convert to Islam. He started plotting his atrocities before 9/11, let alone Iraq. And he said something very significant. He said the reason terrorism was – in his view — an Islamic religious duty was that ‘terror works’. That’s because Britain, Europe, Israel and until 9/11, America, have all responded to unending Arab and Muslim terror by seeking to understand, accommodate or appease the demands behind it. The greater the terror, the greater the self-flagellation of its victims.
Terror increases in direct proportion to the extent it achieves its objectives – to confuse and demoralise as well as terrorise. The biggest single impetus to Islamist terrorism is the refusal of the west to acknowledge that this is a religious war, to recognise the breathtaking scale of the project and the mind-bending dissimulation with which it is being promoted – and instead to sanitise Islamists as victims, flagellate itself for being the cause of its own destruction, and demonise those who try to present the truth. That’s why terror works.
People have short memories. They think this all started with 9/11. But the jihad against us started back in 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini established his theocracy in Iran and declared his intention to wage war upon the west and subjugate it to Islam. At the time, we weren’t listening. But this ignited political Islamism around the world, gave rise to the rival Wahhabi version in Saudi Arabia, ushered in a procession of terror attacks against western interests throughout the 80s and 90s, and exported Islamic theocratic rule as a global project.
At the same time, Britain and Europe experienced a mass influx of Muslims as the borders opened and the poor south migrated en masse to the north. The problem was that, unlike other immigrant groups, successive generations of Muslims have failed to integrate and instead try to colonise their host countries – a programme of subversion for Europe that has been explicitly laid out by the Wahabbi Muslim Brotherhood for the past 30 years.
In 1978, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference sponsored a seminar in London which said Muslim communities in western countries must establish autonomous institutions with help from Muslim states, and lobby the host country to grant Muslims recognition as a separate religious community as a step towards eventual political domination:
In Britain in 1980, a book called the Islamic Movement in the west by Khuram Murad advocated an ‘organised struggle to change the existing society into an Islamic society…and make Islam…supreme and dominant especially in the socio-political spheres…’ A document seized in Switzerland in 2001, known as The Project, outlined a 12 point strategy to ‘establish an Islamic government on earth’. And the Muslim Brotherhood has now set up an intricate network of bodies across Europe to put all this into action.
People are rightly concerned not to tar all Muslims with the brush of Islamist conquest. Which is why I go out of my way in my book to say many Muslims in Britain and around the world are deeply opposed to the jihad; indeed Muslims are its most numerous victims. That’s why I use the term Islamism, to distinguish those who believe in Islamic conquest from those who merely draw upon Islam for spiritual sustenance. But at same time, it is false to deny that Islamism is the dominant force in the Muslim and Arab world, false to deny that it is radicalising millions of Muslims in the west, and false to deny the huge inroads it has made into western society through this pincer movement of terrorism and cultural pressure.
As I say, there certainly are moderate Muslims. But this immediately poses the question: what is a moderate? In Britain, it appears that only those Muslims who don’t endorse the murder of fellow Britons are not moderate. Those who merely endorse the murder of Israelis or coalition forces in Iraq are deemed to be ‘moderate’ — because that is merely exercising ‘resistance’.
This is clearly absurd. But worse still, there is an alarming number of Muslims in Britain may abhor violence but whose views are not moderate by any reasonable definition. Opinion polls suggest that between 40 and 60% of British Muslims would like to live under sharia law in Britain; almost a quarter say the 7/7 bombings can be justified because of the war on terror; nearly half think 9/11 was a conspiracy between the US and Israel; 46% think the Jewish community is ‘in league with the Freemasons to control the media and police’; 37% think the Jewish community in Britain is a legitimate target ‘as part of the ongoing struggle for justice in the Middle East’.
In further surveys, seven per cent of Muslims polled — equivalent to 112,000 British Muslims —thought suicide bombing in the UK was justified in some circumstances, rising to 16 per cent — or 256,000 —if a military target was involved. These are horrifying statistics. Clearly, the problem we have is not just ‘a few unrepresentative extremists’. It is much broader and deeper.
That’s why the head of the so-called ‘moderate’ Muslim Council of Britain, the main Muslim representative body, has said his aim is to encourage Britain to adopt sharia law and more Islamic ways. That’s why, after the transatlantic airline plot was uncovered, 38 British Muslim organisations along with various Muslim MPs and members of the House of Lords threatened that unless Britain changed its foreign policy, it would have more terror attacks. That’s why, the day after the soldier kidnap plot was uncovered, other so-called ‘moderate’ Muslim representatives demanded of the government that sharia law on marriage be adopted into English law and that assorted Muslim holidays should become British national holidays. That’s why the Muslim Council of Britain called last week for all schools to ban ‘un-Islamic activities’ like dance classes, teach contact sports in single-gender groups, to allow Muslim children to wear all-encompassing garments while swimming, and to limit certain school activities during Ramadan including science lessons dealing with sex, parents’ evenings, exams and immunisation programmes.
I see this situation not as ‘a few unrepresentative extremists’ but as a continuum of extremism which acts as a conveyor belt to terror. Even those who don’t support violence may endorse the kind of ideas which are the drivers of terror — ideas such as the belief that the west is a conspiracy to destroy Islam, that the Jews are the puppet-masters of the west, that Britain should be governed by sharia law, or other views hostile to British and western society.
Britain still doesn’t get this at all. Instead, the British government strategy to combat Muslim extremism defines its underlying causes as foreign policy, discrimination and poverty. Its post-colonial mindset means it thinks all terrorism must be caused by discrete geopolitical grievances – Iraq, Israel/Palestine. The way to end Islamist terror, it thinks, is to end these disputes. But this is precisely the wrong way round. The way to end these disputes is first to end Islamist terror.
Why is Britain getting all this so grievously wrong? Briefly, it’s because for decades its intelligentsia and political class have hollowed out British identity and values, creating a vacuum which is being exploited by radical Islamism. Britain has not only lost belief in itself as a nation, but European liberals have turned against the very idea of the nation itself. Rooted in the particulars of history, religion, law, language and tradition, the nation is seen as the cause of all the ills of the world, from prejudice to war. That’s why supra-national institutions such as the UN, EU, International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court and the international and human rights law which they have invented, are held to be more legitimate than the structures of individual democracies.
So Britain’s own culture has had to give way to multiculturalism. And this is the core of the muddle that is paralysing us. Because many people think multiculturalism is all about showing respect and tolerance to other cultures and faiths. Well, we should all support respect and tolerance. But that’s not what multiculturalism is at all. The doctrine of multiculturalism holds that all minority values must have equal status to those of the majority. Any attempt to uphold majority values over minorities is a form of prejudice. That turns minorities into a cultural battering ram to destroy the very idea of majority culture at all.
A liberal, tolerant society — which is what Britain once was — welcomes and respects minorities. But the deal ever since the Enlightenment invented tolerance has been that, while the state makes no demands upon minorities practising their faith and culture in the private sphere, minorities make no demands that the state adopt their own practices. Minorities do their own thing, but where their values conflict with the bedrock values of majority culture – freedom of speech, monogamy, women’s rights – they must give way. Many Muslims do not accept this. And multiculturalism gives them the muscle to insist that their practices must become mainstream. That’s why in Britain we now have areas under the informal parallel jurisdiction of sharia law – and growing pressure for it to become incorporated into mainstream British society. But precepts such as polygamy, the subordination of women or the death penalty for apostates or gays are totally inimical to western society.
Multiculturalism has produced furthermore two particularly lethal effects. First, it has left all immigrants abandoned, and none more lethally so than young Muslims. For if there is no longer an overarching culture, there is nothing into which minorities can integrate. Many young Muslims, stranded between the backward Asian village culture of their parents and the drug, alcohol and sex-saturated decadence that passes for western civilisation, are filled with disgust and self-disgust – and are thus vulnerable to the predatory jihadis recruiting in youth clubs, in prisons and on campus, who promise them self-respect and a purpose to life based on holy war.
Second, and worse still, multiculturalism has reversed the notions of truth and lies, victim and victimiser. Since minorities can do no wrong, they cannot be held responsible for acts such as suicide bombings which must instead be the fault of their victims. This key confusion, which has caused intellectual and moral paralysis in the west, plays directly into the pathological Muslim victim culture which makes dialogue impossible. Because so many Muslims genuinely believe they are under attack by the west, which is a giant conspiracy to destroy Islam. So they perceive their own aggression as legitimate self-defence, and the west’s defence as aggression.
This fundamental untruth has created a dialogue of the demented. But instead of treating it as the mad discourse that it is and refusing to play along with it, Britain regards it as an extension of its own multicultural, minority rights doctrine which routinely reverses victim and aggressor. So the untruths driving the terror are merely deepened – particularly since the left, which controls British culture, demonises America and Israel. So the central Islamist perception of the Big and Little Satan, America and Israel, is echoed in mainstream British discourse where anti-Americanism is rampant and Israel is well on the way to being delegitimised altogether. This acts as an echo chamber for Muslim prejudice, reinforcing it and fuelling the sense of paranoia and victimisation. And it has also released the virus of Judeophobia.
Since Londonistan was published last summer, there has been a shift in British thinking. Things are now being said which only six months previously would have been considered unsayable. Public opinion has been steadily hardening as a result of a continuing series of events, including the discovery of the transatlantic airliner plot last August and an al Qaeda training camp in an idyllic village in the heart of rural England. People were also appalled when the Home Secretary John Reid visited east London to urge Muslim parents to look out for the ‘tell-tale signs’ that their children were being turned into potential suicide bombers, only to be greeted by a tirade from an Islamist extremist, Abu Izzadeen, who screamed: ‘How dare you come to a Muslim area when over 1,000 Muslims have been arrested?’ This assumption, that there are now ‘Muslim areas’ of Britain where non-Muslims are not welcome, has been allowed to take root, and there have been instances where non-Muslim women walking through such areas have been stoned.
In the face of all this, public opinion is hardening. Last October, the government deliberately provoked a debate about whether it was right for women to wear the full face niqab veil in public offices. That was before we discovered that a prime male suspect for the murder of a police officer had walked unchallenged through Heathrow airport and escaped to Somalia because he was wearing such a veil. And there was uproar when British Airways refused to allow a clerk to wear a small cross on chain round her neck even though it allowed Muslims and Sikhs to wear hijabs, turbans and bangles.
The government is making tougher noises, but progress is still very fitful. It is still appeasing Islamist radicalism. So MB radicals have been brought into government — as advisers on Islamist extremism. We now have sharia compliant mortgages, with a policy to make London the centre of global Islamic banking — even though global Islamic banking is controlled by Saudi Wahabbis, who use the money to radicalise British Muslims and Islamise Britain. And a blind eye is turned to polygamy and to the forced marriage of 14 year old girls.
The police are still struggling with the paralysis of political correctness. They have now realised they are up against an enemy with a sophisticated strategy of dissimulation and entrapment, ever since a sting in which a fruitless raid resulted in a non-fatal shooting with the Islamists milking the incident for all they were worth. But they now consult a panel of Muslim leaders before mounting counter-terrorist raids or making arrests. In January, the outcome of this kind of ultra-sensitivity was highlighted when an extremist suspect being held at home under a control order escaped and fled into a mosque While the police, whose policy is never to raid the mosques, stood fruitlessly arguing outside, the suspect escaped out of the back door.
While there are encouraging signs of a greater realism among the public about Islamism in Britain, the hysteria about Israel and America at the heart of Britain’s state of denial continues to escalate. Last summer’s Lebanon war, which was depicted by the media as an act of unwarranted aggression by Israel, led to demonstration on the streets of London where non-Muslims paraded with placards saying: ‘We’re all Hezbollah now’. It was this hysteria which drove Tony Blair out of office earlier than he had intended to go.
The demonisation of Israel amounts to a scapegoating of the Jews on a scale of irrationality and venom not seen since the defeat of Hitler. Much of Britain refuses to acknowledge the threat to Israel from Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran. Instead, people see Israel as threat to the security of the world, and now openly say it would have been better if Israel had never been created. Given that President Ahmadinejad intends to turn that wish into a reality, this opinion turns those western voices into effective accessories to a potential second holocaust.
This virulent irrationality has brought together left and right. The left – anti-America and pro-Third World – puts the blame for Islamist terror on America, Israel and the war in Iraq. The right – isolationists who think the world is full of dangerous foreigners who would leave us alone if only we don’t upset them – blames America, Israel and the war in Iraq. And unfortunately our politicians, rather than exercise responsible leadership, are instead playing to this vicious gallery, with both the Conservative opposition blaming Israel for ‘disproportionate’ behaviour in Lebanon and blaming America for British anti-Americanism; and with Gordon Brown, Tony Blair’s most likely successor, indicating — in a deniable manner – that he would distance Britain from American foreign policy.
This feverish climate of irrationality and prejudice is in turn causing the west to falter in its defence of the free world. In Britain, America and in Israel, we see a collapse of nerve along with a vacuum in political leadership. We read today that an exhausted America is to open talks with Iran. What’s to talk about? The biggest danger to the west is the climate of defeatism, appeasement and cultural collapse now on display for the Islamists to see, and which leads them to redouble their war against the west in the increasing certainty that we are theirs for the taking.
What should be done? Simply, this. We all have to grasp that terrorism is not the biggest threat we face. The biggest threat is the ideology that drives it. It’s not enough to fight terror, vital though that is. The principal battleground is the world of ideas. The Islamists understand this. They understand that if they can hijack the human mind to the cause of hatred and lies, they have an army; and if they can further hijack the minds of their victims, they will win. They understand that psychological warfare – the fomenting of paranoia, resentment, hysteria and demoralisation — is their most effective weapon.
But we haven’t even understood that this is where the real battleground is. The liberal west, which worships at the shrine of reason and makes such a fetish of the power of intellect, will not acknowledge that ideas can kill – and we flinch from what we would have to do to address this. As a result Britain, Europe, America and Israel have all left the battleground of ideas totally undefended, allowing the unhindered advance of falsehood and hatred. Worse still, our intelligentsia and media often act as an Islamists’ fifth column.
It is only if we act against the ideology that is spreading such falsehood and hatred, and stop its advance under the umbrella of minority rights, that we have any chance of defending the free world. That means – while showing respect to Muslims who derive only spiritual sustenance from their faith – resisting the Islamism which uses religion to attack western values, life and liberty, reasserting western values and resisting any attempt to subvert them. It also means facing down in public the lies spread about the west. Only if we stop deluding ourselves and take such action necessary for our survival will we stop sleepwalking to defeat.