A ban on minarets may seem racist to the BBC, says Rod Liddle, but in fact we should applaud any small battle won in the people’s war against the growing ‘Islamification’ of Europe
Here’s a very short and simple pre-Christmas quiz to get you into the swing of Christmas quizzes, as they will soon be taking up almost every page of your morning newspapers. A few years ago, Angus Roxburgh — one of the BBC’s chief Europe correspondents, based in Brussels — wrote a book about the rise of right-wing or libertarian parties on the Continent. He was referring to the success of the late and decidedly liberal Pim Fortuyn in Holland, the strength of the Flemish nationalists Vlaams Blok in Flanders, the Front National in France and so on. Now, all you have to do is answer the following simple question, bearing in mind the requirement for Angus, as an important public service broadcaster, to be neutral and objective in all matters. The question is this: did Angus title his book a) A Cool, Detached and Objective Assessment of the Rise of Right-Wing and Libertarian Parties in Europe, or b) Preachers of Hate?
Aww, you got it straightaway, didn’t you? As a supplementary question I might ask if you think the BBC was at all worried about this and thought it a transgression of its public service remit, but I reckon you’d find that question a doddle too. Move forward seven years or so and we have the BBC’s reaction to the referendum in which 57 per cent of Swiss people voted to ban the building of any more minarets in their country. This was, according to someone called Roger Hardy, the corporation’s ‘Islamic Affairs Analyst’ an example of European ‘Islamophobia’ and sent a signal to Switzerland’s Muslims that they simply were not wanted in the country. Swiss People Racist and Wrong, his neutral and objective article could have been entitled. Rog recently contributed towards a blog in which he denied that the almost complete and utter lack of democracy in Islamic states was anything to do with them being, uh, Islamic states. Just coincidence, then.
If anything, the Swiss vote was a riposte not to Switzerland’s Muslim population (which is a ‘small’ 320,000, according to Rog), but a riposte to Rog himself, or the many berks like him. In the last ten years the people of Europe have begun to revolt against what, at one extreme, they see as the ‘Islamification’ of their countries, or else they hold the more moderate position of being disquieted by the high number of Muslim immigrants they have been forced to receive, most of whom are antithetical to the indigenous way of life and have cultural values that do not accord with the resident majority. That they are told to shut up and stop being racist and Islamophobic by the EU, their own leftish politicians and the likes of Rog and Angus, only tends to inflame the rebellion.
The revolts have differed in their temperament, tenor and choice of target. The earliest and most ferocious occurred in Holland, where the talented and popular filmmaker Theo van Gogh, a descendant of the painter, was shot dead by a Muslim nutter who then attempted to decapitate his victim and affixed a note, containing one of those vainglorious adolescent rants with which you will be familiar from pre-suicide videos, to his chest with a knife. The population, already unhappy, decided it had had quite enough and started voting for Pim Fortuyn en masse and, indeed, for the likes of Geert Wilders. It came as a surprise to commentators over here — and presumably Rog and Angus — that Europe’s most liberal country could be the most antithetical to Islam. A fabulous misapprehension: Holland was the most antithetical to Islam because it was the most liberal. Its people looked at the corpse of van Gogh and saw what Islam could be like. ‘Education by death’ is how one liberal Dutch commentator wryly described it to me.
The protests in Denmark coalesced around those now famous cartoons of Mohammed — the furore over which was reported over here, although only two publications in Britain dared to test the Islamists’ medieval limits of freedom of speech with published cartoons of their own (Gair Rhydd, a student paper from Cardiff, and The Spectator. Private Eye? Nah, not a chance.) In France they moved to ban the burka, a concession to public disquiet and antagonism. In Belgium they began to worry about Eurabia, a crescent of towns and cities from Metz and Lille in the south through Zeebrugge and Antwerp to Rotterdam and Aarhus in the north where the Muslim populations had already reached 30 per cent or above. The irritation and sometimes fury spread: Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and now Switzerland. Across Europe, opposition to Muslim immigration runs at a steady 60 to 65 per cent; the people of the Continent didn’t want the immigration in the first place, are not happy with the way in which the incomers have failed to integrate and do not want any more, regardless of what Rog, Angus and their political leaders might choose to think or how often they, the general public, might be written off as Islamophobic. In his recent study of Islamic immigration into Europe (Reflections on the Revolution in Europe), Christopher Caldwell wrote: ‘If Europe is getting more immigrants than its voters want, then it is a good indication that its democracy is malfunctioning.’ Precisely.
Banning minarets is, on the face of it, a fabulously inept and crude means of expressing disquiet about a growing alien minority within one’s country, rather like the Malaysian fundamentalist Islamists PAS banning McDonald’s and KFC from the state of Kelantan because they do not much care for America. It does not really get to the heart of the problem, any more than does the suggested banning of the burka in France, or Jack Straw moaning about Muslim women attending his surgery while covered from head to toe in hessian sacking. In all of these cases it is of course symbolic, a crie de cœur — and in the case of the Swiss, the only course of action which was allowed to them under the law. Nobody should be remotely surprised at the result of the poll. The Turkish government has whined about it, as you might expect (but then try building a Christian church anywhere east of Istanbul and see how far you get).
Caldwell’s book ended with a warning that Islamic cultural values might one day come to dominate in Europe, because of the lack of vigour and commitment from our own politicians. Maybe — but at least the public know what is happening and are not too cowed to complain about it.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated December 5, 2009