Fraser Nelson

Where are the moderates?

Where are the moderates?
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“£10 note is at the centre of a crossroads. To the north, there’s Santa Claus. To the west, the Tooth Fairy. To the east, a radical Muslim. To the south, a moderate Muslim. Who reaches the cash first? The radical Muslim, of course – the others don’t exist.”

So runs one of the many gags in Mark Steyn’s America Alone. As ever, it makes a deadly serious point: very few moderate Muslims are identifiable and this makes it far easier for Bin Laden to convey his key argument: that there is a clash of civilisations, Islam v The Rest. Two news pieces yesterday threw this into focus: Dean Godson’s piece in The Times about the problem of funding moderates and The Sun’s splash about Omar Bakri denouncing boxer Amir Khan as an “ignorant deviant” because he flies the Union Flag.

How bin Laden would have hated to see The Sun piece in particular. This is kyptonite to his agenda: a British Muslim hero fighting a jihadi. This is also the way British officials believe is the most effective way to fight terrorism: drawing a dividing line not between Muslims and non-Muslims but between extremists and those who denounce them. This is how the war on terror will be won. As Godson says, some £45m of government funds have been poured into funding moderate Islamic groups. Yet some of the money filters through to dodgy organisations. How do you choose a “good” Muslim from a “bad” one?

The problem is that the good Muslims are backward in coming forward. As Steyn says:-

“How many Western Muslims have formed ‘Not in Our Name’ groups and marched to protest against the bombings of their fellow citizens? How many stand up and say they didn’t come to America or Europe to raise their children as Saudis? Hello? Anyone out there?”

In my cover piece for the current Spectator, I looked at the headache this causes ministers. One official explained it thus: about 80% of Muslims reject terrorism, 20% say "yes, but" and 1% are up for it. Sure, MI5 can intercept and bang up that 1%. But fighting terror means interrupt this food chain. To have the 80% confront the rest.

The Muslims I know want nothing to do with Islamic groups, or the men with the beards and heavy accents who pose as “community leaders”. The problem is that they are too well integrated – and run a million miles away from the ghetto politics they are now being asked to subscribe to. Some say they don’t want to accept it as an Islamic problem, asking if Catholicism took the blame for the IRA.

Here, they are wrong. As Melanie Phillips says in her brilliant book Londonistan, it’s very much an Islamic problem. Part ideological, in that such behaviour is not explicitly denounced in the Koran (mind you, the veil isn’t mentioned in the Koran and the Muslim separatists still spread this Arab fashion in Europe). Part is structural. There is no “pope” in Islam to root out apostates like Bakri and bin Laden; its unhierarchical structure makes it perfect for jihadis to claim to represent the whole movement. And if they meet no real opposition from other Muslims, so much the better.

I’ve always thought of the Londonistan phenomenon as a bomb with three components. One is the jihadi menace. The next is an ideologically unassertive Britain, keen to beat itself up by removing references to Christmas lest it offends Muslims, etc. And finally is the lack of mainstream Muslim groups to say “not in my name”.

The moderate Muslims should think of it this way. If the Richard Reid shoe bomb, the fertiliser bomb and Haymarket and Glasgow Airport bombs had been successful then there would be hundreds dead. Britain would very much feel like a country at war. Being a Muslim in Britain would be a much less secure experience – both for Muslims and their children (most UK Muslims are aged under 25).

So if Sir Gulam Noon wants to help Britain, rather than donate to Labour he can start putting out the fire in his own backyard. He’ll probably spend money more wisely than the councils Dean Godson talks about.

This, for me, is a battle for British identity – and it will be too late to fight it when the next bomb succeeds. Through its empire, Britain is the original multi-ethnic state – and, ergo, the most tolerant its country in Europe. To keep it that way, we need a big group of angry people standing at the southern end of Mark Steyn’s crossroads ready to meet the jihadis. But the question is: how on earth do we get them there? Any ideas, CoffeeHousers?

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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