Douglas Murray

Trevor Phillips is finally discovering the pitfalls of the term ‘Islamophobia’

Trevor Phillips is finally discovering the pitfalls of the term 'Islamophobia'
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The former head of the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission has once again said the ‘unsayable’.  In a piece for the Sunday Times (ahead of a Channel 4 documentary to go out on Wednesday) Trevor Phillips unveils an in-depth new poll carried out by ICM (which can be viewed here).

The findings include the facts that:

  • 23 percent of British Muslims polled support the idea of there being areas of the UK where sharia law is introduced instead of British law.
  • 39 percent believe wives should always obey their husbands.
  • 31 percent believe it is acceptable for British Muslims to keep more than one wife.
  • 52 percent think homosexuality should be illegal in the UK.
  • The usual people are trying to find ways to quibble with the authority or depth of this poll.  Their effort only proves once again that however bad the facts, some people remain so sectarian that they will continue to blame everything except the problem for the problem (‘How dare that bigoted polling company discover our dirty laundry?’)

    But in some ways the Phillips piece is most important for what he himself admits.  Among other things Phillips confesses that Britain has for years been telling itself a lie in relation to its Muslim populations – not least in pretending that they will blend in just like everyone else.  Phillips writes:

    ‘Britain desperately wants to think of its Muslims as versions of the Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, or the cheeky-chappie athlete Mo Farah. But thanks to the most detailed and comprehensive survey of British Muslim opinion yet conducted, we now know that just isn’t how it is.

    He even recognises that the authority for these views may in fact come from Muslim scriptures and traditions.  After a discussion of British Muslim attitudes towards women he says:

    ‘We didn’t get to discuss whether the injunction at sura 4:34 of the Koran to chastise your wife falls under this rubric. I have no doubt that many husbands will claim that it does. The bland Koranic platitude, in my view, hides a clear invitation to legitimise domestic violence.

    For all of which – and more – Trevor Phillips deserves considerable praise.  Once again he has proved able to break taboos which too many liberals in the UK are keen to continue enforcing in the face of all available evidence.

    But a problem remains which Trevor Phillips himself continues to be a part of.  While admitting to the fact that he and others woefully misunderstood the nature of Muslim attitudes in the UK, and while admitting that many British liberals continue to be too frightened to face up to the facts, he says near the outset of his piece:

    ‘When I was chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, I played a principal role in the creation of UK laws against religious discrimination — and it was a report that I commissioned exactly 20 years ago that first introduced the term Islamophobia to Britain.'

    Later on he says:

    ‘Twenty years ago, when, as chair of the Runnymede Trust, I published the report titled Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, we thought that the real risk of the arrival of new communities was discrimination against Muslims.’

    And then:

    ‘Non-Muslims who live and work in areas with a large Muslim presence have been uneasily aware of the emerging differences for a long time, but many are too worried about being tagged as Islamophobes to raise the debate.

    Well isn’t that the problem right there? I am as happy as anyone to see the liberal dams cracking when it comes to the big issues of our time.  But it is harder to celebrate those causing those cracks when they are the very people who put up those dams in the first place.

    It was the mainstreaming of the fraudulent concept of ‘Islamophobia’ and the whole grievance-industry set up by Trevor Phillips, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and their ilk that made Britain so incapable of answering this problem any earlier.  Even now Trevor Phillips remains principally helpful in waking up to things just a few years too late.  So although his proscriptions for how to deal with this problem may be helpful, even this late in the day, they miss perhaps the biggest remaining ‘unsayable’.

    So having mapped the fact that Muslims are uniquely unwilling to integrate into Britain, Phillips writes:

    ‘There are now nearly 3m Muslims living in Britain. Half of them were born abroad, and their numbers are being steadily reinforced by immigration from Africa, the Middle East, eastern Europe and the Far East, as well as the traditional flow from the Indian subcontinent. The best projections suggest that, by the middle of the century, the number of Muslims in Britain and elsewhere in Europe will at least double, given the youthfulness of the communities.

    Now if you accept the reality that Phillips now does accept – and that mainstream opinion across Europe is coming to accept – would one particular answer not stand out as eminently sensible at this juncture?  Such as turning that flow into the merest trickle?  If a community is currently causing a lot of challenges and looks like posing them for many generations to come, why on earth would you not slow that ‘steady reinforcement’?  Other than out of fear that you might be branded an ‘Islamophobe’?

    I know from experience what an honourable and decent man Trevor Phillips is.  So here is a prediction.  In ten years time he will agree with people like me that the numbers matter, and that it is purest insanity to continue encouraging through migration the growth of a population which raises so many problems of integration once it is here.  Of course for another ten years those of us who do say that will be pelted with the same insults Phillips and some of his colleagues set in motion all those years ago.  And when he does say it there will be as much rejoicing as there is today for these latest statements.  The only snag is that ten years from now, when Trevor finds it comfortable to say this, it will be even later in the day to turn these trends around.

    Written byDouglas Murray

    Douglas Murray is Associate Editor of The Spectator. His most recent book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity is out now.

    Topics in this articlePoliticsislamislamophobia