Douglas Murray

Islamic extremism doesn’t need a rebrand

Islamic extremism doesn't need a rebrand
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I have been wondering why nobody so far in this election seems to have made any mention of what most people recognise to be the biggest security problem facing this country.

But then I discovered that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, last week appeared at the Al Falah Islamic Education Centre in West London. He used the opportunity to express, er, ‘concern about the level of Islamophobia in the capital’ and to insist that 'an alternative word needs to be found to describe extremists who claim to act in the name of Islam'. According to the Evening Standard:

‘Mr Johnson, whose great-grandfather was a Muslim, added that a "problem in the language" needed to be resolved, with the issue discussed with the Muslim Council of Britain.

‘The Conservative parliamentary candidate was question [sic] by members of the mosque's congregation during a campaign visit.

‘Chauffeur Hemat Khan, 29, of West Acton, told Mr Johnson about the problems encountered by Muslims.

‘The Mayor insisted the police could deal with Islamophobia and intimidation, adding: "It's very difficult to distinguish Islam and Isis, Daesh, whatever - we have a problem in the language.

"When anybody says Islamism, Muslim fundamentalist or terrorist or something like that, the wider public hear the word Muslim - you see what I'm saying?

"So you need to find an alternative word.

"I had a really good session with the Muslim Council of Britain to find an alternative word. It's not easy."

A really good session with the MCB eh? Good to know.

Anyhow, despite this fulsome answer, the questioner, Mr Khan, speaking to the Evening Standard afterwards, expressed himself unsatisfied, saying:

"What I really wanted him to say was we will take extreme measures, especially in the media, as it's the reaction of my neighbours that's very important to me, the reaction of my English friends, white English friends who were born in this country - it's the reaction of those people.

"I really want him to say we will put, not a complete ban, but something as such to say every time something happens can you not mention the word Islam or Islamism.”

Yes that would make things easier, wouldn’t it?

As it happens I like and admire Boris – not least because he is by my reckoning about the only politician in Britain who, when you mention his name to anybody, makes people smile. More than that, he makes people feel better about things, and this is not a common ability among our current batch of politicians.

But of course Boris has higher ambitions. He recently wrote and promoted a new book he found the time to write on Winston Churchill. Boris would absolutely hate to have this work used as a means to compare author and subject. But let me mention one thing to Boris. Churchill did not spend either the pre-war years, or the war years themselves, worrying about how to rename Nazi fascism. Nor did he ever try to placate people who wanted to rename German fascism as anything other than what it was. He never wasted his time trying to call Nazism ‘anti-German activity’, or ‘minority pursuits which sadly sully the reputation of the German people’. He knew, apart from anything else, that things have to be called by their real name in order to deal with them.

Islamic extremism is a real thing, and it comes from Islam. Churchill would have admitted that. What a shame his most prominent recent biographer will not.