Douglas Murray

Britain’s flawed definition of extremism is storing up trouble

Britain's flawed definition of extremism is storing up trouble
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Is Allah gay? The eventuality – as Jeeves might say – would seem to be a remote one. If such a being as Allah did exist and was gay then no harm could come from stating the fact. If such a being as Allah exists and is not gay then Allah would presumably be big enough to shrug off such insinuations. And if – and I only mention the possibility – such a being as Allah does not exist at all, then it really is neither here nor there whether he, she, they, ze or zir is alleged to be gay, bi, trans or anything else.

Certainly none of this should be cause for being banned from the country. Yet that is what happened last week when a Canadian journalist-activist called Lauren Southern got turned away at the UK border and refused permission to enter the country. Among the justifications given for notice of her refusal of entry was her earlier ‘distribution of racist materials’ which were said to represent ‘a threat to the fundamental interests of society and to the public policy of the United Kingdom.’ The ‘racist materials’ in question would appear to be leaflets which Southern and some friends of hers distributed in Luton a month earlier. In response to a piece in Vice magazine piece headlined ‘Was Jesus Gay?’, it appears that Southern and others decided to carry out a controlled experiment into whether or not it was quite as easy to state that Allah was gay.

It would seem that it is at least possible to say – as Southern and her friends did. They are still alive. But one can also see why the authorities might not relish people saying so. Nevertheless the allegation that saying that ‘Allah is gay’ is ‘a threat to fundamental British values’ is seriously stretching things.

However we would appear to live in seriously stretched times. Around the same time that Southern was denied entry to the UK an Austrian man called Martin Sellner (from a group called ‘Generation Identity’) and his girlfriend Brittany Pettibone were stopped from entering the country, kept in detention for two days and then deported. Their presence too was also said not to be conducive to the public good, and like Southern they say that they were questioned on their beliefs and contacts. 

Of course all three of these people are very marginal figures in this country, so it is easy to simply say ‘Well maybe they’re wrong ‘uns’ and accept they have been turned away. Perhaps we may even believe the insinuations of various ‘anti-hate’ groups who now like to present themselves as the only people standing between the British public and a Fourth Reich.

Or perhaps some wise people in positions of power should reconsider all this and reflect on how wise a course of action this country is now embarked upon.

Last Friday, Ahmed Hassan was convicted at the Old Bailey of placing a bomb on a packed rush-hour train last September. The device left at Parsons Green, London, failed to detonate. But various interesting details emerged at his trial. One was confirmation that Hassan should never have been in the UK in the first place. He had travelled to Calais illegally and there spent time in the illegal ‘Jungle’ camp – that place whose occupants Lily Allen and Juliet Stevenson forever tell us we must take in if we are not to be deemed bigots. In fact, Hassan perfectly fitted the Allen-Stevenson invitee list. Not least because, being under 18 at the time, he would have been the perfect candidate for their spare bedrooms.

In any case, Hassan was instructed at Calais – perhaps by the open-border NGOs which operate there – how to nix the British immigration system. And so he arrived in the UK illegally in the back of a lorry. And when the British state did eventually catch up with him this is what happened. Over to the Times:

‘As part of his questioning by the Home Office in Croydon in January 2016, Hassan was asked: “Have you previously or are you part of a terrorist group, for example Isis?”

According to notes taken by a worker at the hostel, who attended the interview, Hassan replied: “Yes, I was recruited by Isis for three months. They trained us on how to kill and it was all religious based.”

Asked how he got away, Hassan said: “Iraqi soldiers came into the Isis territory and told everyone to go and some of the children stayed, some died and some went back to their families.”

When he was asked if Isis sent him to Europe to work for them, Hassan said: “No.”

Instead of getting Hassan out of the country ASAP, the UK continued to do everything it could for him, including finding him a school place and placing him with a foster family to whom they forgot to mention the Isis stuff.

Fortunately only the detonating device on Hassan’s bomb went off. It failed to trigger the full device. As a result some 30 people had their hair singed, or were wounded in the panic and many more terrified – including the many school children on that train on their way to morning classes. It is only thanks to a slight flaw in Hassan’s bomb-making skills that are we not now mourning (or singing ‘Don’t look back in anger’ over) another 30 or so dead British children.

Can anyone else see the problem here? The British state currently has to find a reason to explain why saying ‘Allah is gay’ is a fundamental assault on British values, but admitting to being a trained member of Isis is not. It has to explain why approaching the borders legally can lead to expulsion but breaking into the country illegally cannot.

Of course what this is is the enforcement of what one might call ‘Rowley-ism’, after the Metropolitan Police’s former assistant commissioner Mark Rowley. It was he who last month embedded the idea that the UK faces an equally balanced challenge: Islamist extremism on the one side, far-right extremism on the other. In order to sustain this equation it appears that for the time-being one must draw a moral equivalence between Muslims who blow things up and non-Muslims who do not, but have mean views. And an equivalence between Muslims who call for murder and non-Muslims who do not. Officials (retired and serving) at the borders, in the police force or in Parliament, who think that this will prove a formula for societal security and harmony can have no idea of the trouble they are storing up for some later date.