Less than a year ago, on July 7, 2005, four bombs went off in the London underground, killing 56 people. Ah yes, some might respond, Was it really so recently? It seems so long ago, just another of those nasty incidents that don’t bear thinking about. The arrest of 17 Canadian Muslim jihadists¯”South Asian” in the language of the New York Times ¯has perked up attentiveness again. The larger problem is addressed in a book that Joseph Bottum mentioned here the other day.
Melanie Phillips writes in Londonistan , a chilling book published by Encounter:
On the day that four Islamist suicide bombers blew themselves and more than fifty London commuters to bits, the Met’s [Metropolitan Police] deputy assistant commissioner, Brian Paddick, stood before the television cameras and made the noteworthy comment: “As far as I’m concerned Islam and terrorists are two words that do not go together.”
He amplified this by saying that, while the bombers may have been Muslim, the crime was not Islamic because Islam forbids the taking of innocent life. That may well be so; but across the world hundreds of thousands of innocent lives have been ended by terrorists who are doing so under the banner of Islam, find justification in Islam for their deeds, and are told by Islamic religious authorities that such actions are a religious duty. At a stroke, therefore, this senior British policeman had denied not only the nature of the atrocity on British soil but the whole basis of the war against the West.
As I say, Londonistan is a discomforting read. Americans tend to view Britain as a staunch ally in the war against terror, and in Middle East military actions, that has been the case. But, as Phillips documents in detail, Britain at home is awash with multiculturalist ideology that prevents effective action against terrorist networks, especially in London. Even the French, widely viewed as feckless, are disgusted with British noncooperation in trying to track and contain those who are determined to wreak destruction and carnage.
Phillips notes that religion plays an increasing role in Britain. Not, of course, Christianity, the established religion of the British state, but Islam. The official figure is that there are 1.6 million Muslims in a total population of 60 million, but it is widely assumed that there are many more. More people go to the mosque each week than attend an Anglican church. “Over the past two decades,” she writes, “London has become the most important center for Islamic thought outside the Middle East.” Research institutes, lobbying groups, and worldwide publishing and broadcast organizations are based in London. Hundreds of bookshops sell Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion .
London is home to the largest collection of Islamist activists since the terrorist production line was established in Afghanistan. Indeed, one could say that it was in Britain that al-Qaeda was actually formed as a movement. It was in Britain that disparate radical and subversive agendas, which until then had largely been focused on individual countries, were forged into the global Islamist movement that was al-Qaeda. Many of Osama bin Laden’s fatwas were first published in London. In the late 1980s and 1990s a series of important conferences took place in Britain bringing together radical Islamists from all over the world. â¦ These conferences were where the global Islamist project came together.
Phillips’s anger¯and Londonistan is at points an angry book¯is directed at Brits who have supinely abandoned their national identity, including the place of Christianity in that identity. She notes that Prince Charles has floated the idea that when he becomes king, he will no longer be Defender of the Faith but “defender of faith.” Charles, who has conspicuously never visited Israel in his many world travels, is a great champion of Islam as a religion of peace. Islam, he has said on many occasions, is a possible remedy for the spiritual poverty of the West.
In a speech at Oxford, where he is the patron of the Centre for Islamic Studies, he said, “My own understanding is that extremes, like the cutting off of hands, are rarely practiced. The guiding principle and spirit of Islamic law, taken straight from the Koran, should be those of equity and compassion.” He went on to suggest that Islam has more respect for the rights of women than does Europe, noting that “Islamic countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Syria gave women the vote as early as Europe did its women¯and much earlier than in Switzerland!”
The dottiness of Prince Charles and many others cited by Melanie Phillips is, one must believe, not representative of the entirety of Britain’s governing class. In reading Londonistan , one is struck by how very different our situation is in America. Not only is the Muslim community here proportionately much smaller but it seems to be, at least for the most part, set upon becoming American. To be sure, we do not know what mischief some radical jihadists may be up to here, but it is not unreasonable to believe that police and security forces are keeping a watchful eye on them. The striking difference is that the kind of hyper-orthodox multiculturalism that seems to dominate culture and politics in Britain is largely confined to the ideological reservations that are our universities. Some reviewers have said Londonistan is a touch alarmist. That’s a comforting thought to hold on to, until the next bombings.
In addition to which :
Father Neuhaus will be discussing his new book, Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth , at a book signing on Thursday, June 8, at 7:30 at Barnes & Noble, 720-30 Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He says he would be delighted to see you there. For information, call 610-520-0355.
Jews, being focused on doing well and doing good in this world, are not interested in eternal life. That is a stereotype debunked by Rabbi Byron Sherwin in the June/July issue of First Things . What may be true of many Jews is definitely not true of Judaism, he argues in “Jews and the World to Come.” Rabbi Sherwin underscores truths that are essential to an honest and productive Jewish-Christian dialogue, which is an abiding concern of First Things . Isn’t it time you subscribed ?