People sometimes accuse me of being an immovable pessimist about our continent’s future. And I normally reply with the simple truth that when the facts are pessimistic, I am pessimistic. Allow me to highlight three recent causes for pessimism.
In my recent blog on the now routine, nay mundane, acts of terrorism occurring in Europe, I made one omission. In my defence it’s easy to do, not only because of the number of attacks, but because everyone moves on so fast. Even a few years ago, we used to linger for a little while over European citizens when they were slaughtered. Now we don’t even bother to learn much about them. The attack occurs, the good news story is searched for, and it’s all just yesterday’s news.
Anyhow, the attack I forgot to mention was the one in Turku, Finland, the other week, when a man, who witnesses claimed was shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (which translates as ‘Nothing to see here’), started attacking women in the street with a knife. The attacker managed to kill two women and severely injure eight others.
Before we go any further it is worth asking if anyone remembers the vitriol expressed in recent years towards anyone expressing any worry about the fact that we didn’t seem to know where the migrants who entered Europe in recent years were from? Or who they were? And does anyone remember that incredible fury unleashed against anyone (like the British MP for Monmouth, David Davies) who publicly wondered whether we were absolutely sure that everyone who claimed to be a child migrant was, in fact, a child?
Anyway, back to the terrorist. It turns out that the attacker in Turku came from the largest contingent of recent migrants, in that he was the sort of migrant who had absolutely no right whatsoever to be in Europe. (According to Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the European Commission, at least 60 per cent of those arriving in Europe in 2015 were economic migrants with no right to asylum.) When he arrived in Finland last year, the perpetrator of the Turku attack lied about his identity.
It turns out that Abderrahman Bouanane was in Europe because he was fleeing the famously bloody and brutal civil war going on in, er, Morocco. He lied to the authorities about his name. And he claimed to be a child refugee; in fact, he is 22. So, a non-child from a non war-zone lied to the authorities in the country he was in, and nobody took the slightest notice until he went full ‘Allahu Akbar’. At which point nobody cared very much more.
There are those who intermittently point out to me that the people with the knives, and machetes, and swords, and vans and suicide vests aren’t the people our societies should be most worried about. I have some sympathy for this view. The people who drive a truck into the crowds, or slit the throats of passing pedestrians, or blow up girls as they leave a pop concert still attract some attention and always risk making their cause somewhat unpopular. But perhaps it is those who hate our society without ever being spurred into violence who are — in the long run — the greater threat?
This brings me to Channel 4. Last week, its flagship news programme ran a piece on the relationship between the UK government and Britain’s ‘Muslim community’. It was presented by one Assed Baig. Now even for a news programme hosted by Jon Snow, a man who allegedly screamed abuse about the Tories at Glastonbury when he should, as a journalist, be politically impartial, Baig ought to have been seen as a step too far. He has a history of issuing slurs at Muslims whom he believes to be too integrated into British society, so it isn’t exactly surprising that he would present a news report so extreme and embarrassing in its content that Channel 4 has voluntarily removed all reference to it from its website and Twitter feed.
The programme [see below] presented a group of young British Muslim girls who just aren’t going to take it any more. As far as I could tell they all had – to varying degrees – a passionate hatred of Britain. The worst of these odious characters was a modest woman who introduced herself in a boxing ring by saying: ‘My name is Nadia Chan and I have a Masters in law. I describe myself as an anti-colonialist Islamist.’
Incidentally, being an ‘anti-colonialist Islamist’ is one heck of an inherent contradiction. It means you’re against Western colonialism when it isn’t happening (Europe’s empires having rather retracted over the past two centuries) while advocating for the most colonialist project in history.
You can almost hear the noise of the Channel 4 conundrum once their guest’s inflammatory views – which she had apparently posted on Twitter, making reference to 'honkies' and Israeli 'parasites' - came out. But it was what she and the other contributors said on air, unchallenged, that was even more unbelievable. It seems that for Channel 4 News types, people such as Chan present a huge temptation. They’re a minority. They’re angry. And in the view of a certain type of liberal we should just roll over and take whatever weird ahistorical punishment-beating they want to mete out on our guilty behinds. Perhaps Channel 4 has been a little embarrassed by its over-reach. But I don’t expect it to last.
Which brings me to my third point for pessimism. Just under a year ago, an imam from Lewisham — Shakeel Begg — was designated an extremist by a British court. I wrote about it here at the time. It was the first occasion that I can think of — prompted by a disastrous libel action brought by Begg against the BBC — in which a judge laid down criteria in law for what constitutes ‘extremism’. It should have been the end of Begg’s career. But this week – in the wake of the fostering scandal in Tower Hamlets – it has come out that, among his other recent activities, Begg recently gave a speech at a workshop in Lewisham designed to encourage Muslims to take children into foster care. This story – like the Tower Hamlets one – seems to have amazed some people. But why should it? What did people think would happen in Tower Hamlets once it reached the demographic situation it’s now in? Tower Hamlets is the end-point of diversity, where you have a different mono-culture asserting itself in the way it knows how.