Last Sunday, I appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Politics to discuss the aftermath of the Manchester attack. I said what I thought, and various Muslim groups promptly went bananas.
This was not caused by my suggestion that this country should finally crack-down on British officials who spend their retirements working as shills for the House of Saud. Nor by my ridiculing of that modern European tradition whereby someone blows us up and we respond by singing John Lennon songs (and now Oasis too). Rather they objected to my simple two-word suggestion that we could all do with ‘less Islam’.
In a short film preceding the studio discussion, I mentioned that countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have very little Islam and very little Islamic terror. By contrast, France has a great amount of Islam and a great amount of Islamic terror. To most people it would seem obvious – to co-opt the immortal words of Donatella Versace – that ‘more means more’. Because although many communities are capable of producing extremists, only Islamic communities produce Islamic extremists. Of course some people don’t want to accept this fact. Not least because informed choices might result. For instance, it might help us weigh up the ongoing cultural benefits of large-scale Islamic immigration versus the down-side of dozens of obliterated lives every now and then.
If I were a Muslim I would like to think that I would be seriously ashamed about all this, and spend my time – like Sara Khan and a few other noble souls – trying to deal with my community’s problems rather than covering them over. Sadly – for reasons about which I dare not speculate – many of the most vocal Muslim groups in Britain have other priorities. Since last Sunday, various Muslim groups and individuals have made complaints against me, including promises to report me to the police. My old friend Mehdi Hasan used Twitter to attack the ‘taxpayer-funded impartial BBC for airing that’ and claimed that my two words were advocating 'ethnic cleansing'. Of course Mehdi works for the non-independent, Qatari government-owned Al-Jazeera. A broadcaster that thinks it perfectly acceptable to promote his programmes with the use of Nazi-style anti-Semitic images like this.
But so it is that various Muslims and Muslim groups who have spent recent years urging British Muslims not to cooperate with the UK authorities on counter-terrorism are now keenly urging Muslims to complain about me to any and all authorities. A telling set of priorities, I would say.
In any case, what I really wanted to open up in that short segment was an oddity of our now 16-year old response to Islamic terror. For over that time we have essentially adopted the argument of the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups for whom the answer to absolutely everything is ‘Islam’. You have a problem? The answer is Islam. Something good has happened to you? The answer is Islam. You have a problem with Islam? The answer is Islam.
For a decade and a half the West has adopted this reasoning. If a group of men fly planes into the Twin Towers all the leaders of the free world rush to the local Islamic centre to extol the wonders of Islam. When a group of British Muslims blow up the London transport system the city’s police chiefs wave away the smoke and immediately extol the peacefulness of Islam. And when a suicide bomber in Manchester blows up 22 young people as they leave a concert, the one thing nobody must say is that there is any connection whatsoever with Islam. The problem cannot be Islam. Yet the answer apparently always is.
Personally I dislike this indecent over-compensation and would like rather less of it. I dislike the fact that before the victims’ bodies have been identified in the morgue the local police are at the local mosque for a group hug and photo. I dislike the politicians who, only hours after another Islamist atrocity, talk about how great it is that the violence has 'brought us together’, so distracting attention from the bodies that have been blown apart. Of course it is a sickness of a sort – one which I have recently written about at some length. And all the symptoms are ongoing.
Consider the reaction last week on Question Time when an audience member, who happened to have the triple disadvantages of being white, male and not being young, waved an anti-Western leaflet he said had been handed out at an open day at the Didsbury mosque where Salman Abedi worshipped. This significant revelation mainly attracted awkward shuffling. By contrast, a young woman in a headscarf in the audience immediately dismissed the man’s leaflet as probably not from the mosque and in any case ‘taken out of context’. Along with the programme’s chair, David Dimbleby, she implied it was possible the man had made the leaflet up himself, leaving the poor man spluttering, waving his leaflet and clearly wondering why he wouldn’t be believed. Well he can join the rest of the non-Muslim nation (and the few actual reformers) in that club.
For the foreseeable future there remains little place for such people in the nation’s narrative. If the bomber is the problem, then his mosque has to be the answer. It’s the same everywhere: Don’t look back in anger, just forward in blind, bovine hope.
For instance, still nobody wants to ask what responsibility should be apportioned to Salford University where the Manchester bomber was recently a student. There seems very little interest in the fact that the Vice Chancellor when Abedi entered the university (Martin Hall) was vocally opposed to the UK government’s only counter-extremism strategy, which encourages people to report signs of radicalisation among students (see, for instance, here) Nor does anyone seem very interested in the fact that the current President of the Student Union – Zamzam Ibrahim – has a very interesting set of views. And not just that she has spent her time ‘representing’ Salford's students by campaigning against the government’s only counter-extremism strategy. Ms Ibrahim has spent recent days deleting and making private various of her online profiles. Though not fast enough. Among the questions this enlightened young woman was asked on her now-deleted ask.fm profile was ‘Can there be friendship between a man and a woman’. Her short answer: ‘NO. More interesting is her answer to the question ‘What’s the one book you think everyone should be required to read?’ Her answer:
‘The Quraan [sic], We would have an Islamic takeover!’
All of which points to many specific questions and one overriding one: Why don’t we want to know? Why must the man waving the leaflet be the liar, and the mosque be innocent and the activities of officials like Martin Hall and Zamzam Ibrahim be of no interest? Has our society got zero interest in working out what might produce people like Abedi? The fact is – once again – that we may ask the question but we don’t want to hear the answer. Because if what all these things suggest is true then we could be in serious trouble. Perhaps we are.