Douglas Murray was not 'ambushed' by me on the Today programme. Nor was he called out. Nor was he misquoted.
He was asked about something he once said and wrote in a lengthy Today programme discussion – around eight minutes and not the four he suggests – about Barack Obama’s warning about the idea that young people should be “woke” – quick to seize on allegedly offensive remarks.
Douglas had already had two opportunities to spell out his thinking in response to questions which could scarcely be described as aggressive:
“Are you surprised to find yourself cheering along with Barack Obama?”
“You in your new book talk about people clinging to what you call a new religion of social justice and identity politics – what do you mean?”
I did then ask him about comments he once made on TV and then repeated in an article saying that “less Islam” and not more was the right response to terrorist attacks. I thought it would be a good illustration of the debate that he was keen to have about what should and should not be regarded as sayable these days.
The phrase “less Islam” is a quote. They are his words not those of a headline writer or a sub or, indeed, me. They were, of course, a short summary of a longer argument (see below) that I didn’t outline but Douglas had plenty of time to do so if he wanted. Instead he claimed on air – and in The Spectator – that he had been misrepresented and that this was not a serious discussion.
I would be sorry if he felt unable or unwilling to appear on Today to discuss his views but I can’t guarantee not to ask him about them if he does. There is something of an irony in his conclusion that he thinks the right way to deal with these controversies is to silence himself.
The quote was from an article in the Sun in June 2017 after the Manchester and London terror attacks, which was a response to what Douglas described as “various Muslim groups” going “bananas” at “my simple two-word suggestion that we could all do with “less Islam”:
“We have essentially adopted the argument of the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups, for whom the answer to 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”