The empire that sprang from nowhere under the banner of Islam

When the British formed the basis of their empire in the 1600s by acquiring territories in India and North America, they already had many centuries’ experience of foreign involvement. One of the most remarkable aspects of the force that reshaped Eurasia 1,000 years earlier is that there was no prelude: the Arab conquests, and the Islamic empire that they created, came out of nowhere. By the time of the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 most of the tribes of the Arabian peninsula had united under the banner of Islam, some out of faith, others from expediency. But few people outside Arabia knew who Muslims were or worried about

Britain’s prisons are a breeding ground for Islamist terror

Was Reading terrorist Khairi Saadallah radicalised behind bars? What we do know is that locking Saadallah in HMP Bullingdon to develop a ‘close’ relationship with radical cleric Omar Brooks was an extraordinary lapse in operational security. Only 16 days after leaving the prison, the violent, troubled and combat experienced Saadallah launched his murderous attack in Reading. At the very least, it is clear that prison served little purpose in stopping him. Once again, this raises the question of whether Britain’s jails are a breeding ground for radicalisation. When one of this country’s most notorious apologists for terrorism Anjem Choudary was locked up five years ago, there was much speculation as to

France’s dilemma: what to do with jihadists who say sorry | 6 February 2019

Patrick Jardin lost his daughter when Islamist terrorists attacked the Bataclan in November 2015. Nathalie was one of 130 people killed that evening in Paris and her father still pays her mobile phone charges so that he can hear her voice on her answer message. For Jardin, time has healed nothing. He spearheaded a successful campaign to prevent the controversial rapper Medine from appearing at the Bataclan last year. And in the interviews he gives, such as this one to Liberation, he directs his anger in many directions. Some of it against himself, for failing to “protect” his daughter, some against the killers, but most is channelled into a visceral loathing for

The word ‘extremist’ has lost all meaning

A few years ago, in these pages, Matthew Parris defined Ukip as a party of extremists. Perhaps one of his llamas had just spat at him and he was feeling a little piqued. Or perhaps he actually meant it, I don’t know. Matthew decided Ukip was a party of extremists because its supporters, in some ectoplasmic sense, demonstrated a ‘spirit’ of extremism. It was less the individual policies of the party that were extreme, it was the avidity with which they were pursued by party members: ‘The spirit of Ukippery is paranoid. It distorts and simplifies the world, perceiving a range of different ills and difficulties as all proceeding from

A clash of loyalties

If someone was to lob the name Antigone about, many of us would smile and nod while trying to remember if this is the one about the guy who shagged his mum or the parent who offed their kids. (Bit of both.) For those whose Sophocles is hazy, let me summarise. After a civil war in Thebes that sees two brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, dead, the new king Creon rules that Eteocles is to be buried with honour, while Polyneices will be left outside the city gates to rot. Their sisters, Ismene and Antigone, have different views. Ismene — concerned that their social position is a bit shaky, given a

Why Anjem Choudary should not be in prison

It was impossible not to feel rather sorry for the radical Muslim ‘cleric’ Anjem Choudary and his imbecilic henchman Mohammed Rahman as they were each sentenced to five and a half years in prison by a British court. ‘Allahu Akbar!’ his supporters chanted as the sentence was delivered, an invigorating, all-purpose phrase used during decapitations, bombings or just as one is walking down the street. I have taken to using it as well recently, most especially at a critical juncture when I am pleasuring my wife. I think she appreciates it, although I would not be so ungentlemanly as to wake her up and ascertain for sure. Mr Choudary and

France began breeding jihadis in 1989

E .D. Hirsch Jr., the American educationalist and author of Cultural Literacy, has a new book out that may throw some light on why France has such a problem integrating its Muslim population. Called Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children From Failed Educational Theories, it’s a comprehensive attack on the progressive approach that has done so much harm to schools in the West. Hirsch identifies three ideas in particular: that education should be ‘developmentally appropriate’, with the emphasis on learning through discovery; that it should be ‘child-centred’, taking account of different ‘learning styles’; and that the overarching aim of education should be the cultivation of ‘critical thinking’ skills. I’ve spent

‘Religion of peace’ is not a harmless platitude | 28 December 2015

We’re closing 2015 by republishing our ten most-read articles of the year. Here’s No10: Douglas Murray’s piece about Islam and violence, first written in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks but read most (and shared most widely) after the Bataclan atrocity.  The West’s movement towards the truth is remarkably slow. We drag ourselves towards it painfully, inch by inch, after each bloody Islamist assault. In France, Britain, Germany, America and nearly every other country in the world it remains government policy to say that any and all attacks carried out in the name of Mohammed have ‘nothing to do with Islam’. It was said by George W. Bush after 9/11, Tony

The Economist’s assisted dying film is as crazy as a jihadi video

Because, it says, of its ‘liberal values and respect for human dignity’, the Economist has put out a film about Emily, a 24-year-old Belgian woman, who wants assisted dying. She is physically healthy, and comes, the film assures us, from a happy family. She has suffered from severe depression since childhood, however. By her own account, her self-made video (two years ago), in which she says ‘I don’t want to live a lie’ and ‘It keeps feeling empty whatever I do’, made her feel empowered. It inspired her to seek death at the hands of doctors. Belgium is one of two countries in the world which permits assisted dying for

France’s civil war…

In the wake of the massacre in Paris, President François Hollande said that France was ‘at war’ — and that it must be fought both inside his country and outside in the Middle East. As the French air force began dropping bombs on Raqqa in Syria, another operation was under way in towns and cities across France: 168 raids in two days. A battle on two fronts has begun. Chartres cathedral is one of the great monuments of western civilisation, but Chartres was also home to one of the Bataclan theatre suicide bombers. A man from the same area died last summer in Syria, fighting for Isis. In Lyon, theraids

Giving the Nobel peace prize to Tunisia’s ‘quartet’ perpetuates a dangerous lie

Tunisia is preposterously touted as the one success story of the nightmarish revolutions, counter-revolutions, civil wars, jihadist invasions and Islamist terrorist atrocities in the name of an Arab Spring we are still told represents a thirst for Western-style freedom and plurality. The decision to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the country’s National Dialogue Quartet, for apparently helping the country’s transition to democracy, dangerously perpetuates this myth. The Nobel Committee says that the National Dialogue Quartet was… …instrumental in enabling Tunisia, in the space of a few years, to establish a constitutional system of government guaranteeing fundamental rights for the entire population, irrespective of gender, political conviction or religious belief.

Who knows where the violence in the West Bank might lead – but it could well take Abbas with it

In recent days the situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank has been unravelling. For some years now, fighting between Israelis and Palestinians has tended to come in the form of intermittent clashes in and around Gaza. Rocket warfare, Israeli airstrikes and subterranean tunnel attacks have become a familiar part of the latest chapter of this now century long confrontation. In the last couple of weeks, however, the focus of tensions has shifted from Hamas controlled Gaza to the West Bank, where the major Palestinian population centres are under the security control of the somewhat more moderate Fatah. The violence that we are seeing now is taking the form of

The Foreign Office’s anti-Isis video may be inept but at least it’s a start

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is taking the fight against Isis online. @UKAgainstISIL, a new Twitter account operated by the FCO, is providing ‘updates on the UK Government’s ongoing work to defeat ISIL’. Since 2014, Isis have been a feature of online life. Their supporters and affiliates use the internet to communicate with each other, radicalise their sympathisers, host content and spread fear. Digital terrorism is a new phenomenon, and one that is proving difficult to counter. Twitter has been a staple of Isis propaganda exercises since the start and @UKAgainstISIL is the latest attempt at resisting this, but it isn’t without its problems. The most striking contrast is the quality of the content.

Je Suis Charlie? Even Charlie Hebdo has now surrendered to Islamic extremism

Bad news from the continent.  In an interview with the German weekly Stern, Laurent ‘Riss’ Sourisseau, the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo, announced that he would no longer draw cartoons of any historical figure called Mohammed. This follows his former colleague Renald ‘Luz’ Luzier saying a couple of months back that he would no longer draw Mohammed either. ‘Luz’ announced that he was leaving the magazine shortly afterwards. I don’t judge either of them for this decision. ‘Luz’ happened to be running late for work on the morning that the Kouachi brothers forced their way into the Charlie Hebdo offices and started shooting his colleagues.  ‘Riss’ was in the office and

Western idealism is making the jihad problem much worse

I’ve just been reading Jonathan Sacks’ excellent new book, Not in God’s Name, which sets out to explain why people kill for religion. Although he explores the theology of the Old Testament, Rabbi Sacks also looks at evolution and evolutionary psychology to explain the unending human tendency to have in-groups and out-groups. This will be familiar to people who have read The Righteous Mind or Big Gods, which the former chief rabbi cites. What’s especially interesting is that he argues that the prevailing ideology of the west – a sort of liberalism that aims at abolishing identity and replacing it with individualism – is actually part of the problem. This

Telling young men that ISIS is ‘dangerous’ will only encourage them to go

‘The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had’ When we were both sixteen, my then-best friend Dave carved the above lyric on his school desk. It was from the song ‘Mad World’ by the band Tears for Fears and we both thought it ineffably cool. It’s a line that elegantly evokes the self-pity and nihilism that afflicts so many teenaged boys. Every decade has songs that hit a nerve because they are similarly doom-laden and grandiose. But the important point is that many adolescent boys fantasize about death, killing and suicide – melodramatic, shocking gestures that might free them from their sense of powerlessness as they

Why wasn’t the head of Hamas properly cross-examined during his BBC interview?

When journalists have the much sought after opportunity to interview the heads of states and organisations with appalling human rights records the very least we expect is to see such people given a thorough cross-examining. What we don’t expect is for heads of terrorist organisations to be provided with a platform from which to give the equivalent of a party political broadcast and to get away with it virtually unchallenged.  And yet that is precisely what we got when the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen recently interviewed Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas. Hamas leader Meshaal warns of Israeli ‘extremism’ after elections, reads the baffling headline that accompanies Bowen’s

Monitoring social media is easier said than done

The three British girls who packed their bags and took a flight to Turkey have apparently crossed the border into Syria. Their intention seems to be to join the Islamic State and it looks like they may have succeeded. It emerged over the weekend that there had been contact between one of the girls and Aqsa Mahmood, a Scottish woman who travelled to Syria herself. Initially communicating through Twitter, it appears Mahmood played a role in their journey to Turkey and now into the heart of the conflict in Syria. Criticism turned on the security services: according to Aamer Anwar, the lawyer for the family of Aqsa Mahmood, they are not even doing the

Mary Wakefield

How do bright schoolgirls fall for jihadis? The same way they fall for Justin Bieber

How could they? How could girls brought up in the wealthy West abandon their families and their own bright futures to join Isis, a gang of vicious thugs? It’s not just our girls, either, they’re sneaking off to Syria from across Europe and America too, teenagers, bright ones typically, set on becoming sex slaves in a war zone. London’s latest runaways — Shamima, Amira, Kadiza — were pupils at Bethnal Green Academy and the headmaster there, a Mr Keary, echoed most people’s reaction when he shook his head and said: ‘I don’t understand it. It doesn’t make sense.’ But Mr Keary’s wrong, most people are wrong. It does make sense.

Want to stop nice British girls going to Syria? Then show them the X-rated ‘Joy of Jihad’

I’m with Rod on the wannabe jihadi brides going to Syria.  The whole official approach demonstrated by the BBC et al is just the same as the government-sponsored videos that crop up on YouTube urging people not to join Isis: a sort of ‘please don’t go, we’re better together’ pleading. But if we really do want to stop young people going out, why not put a bit more grit into it?  A bit more stick as well as carrot?  Why waste this massive amount of airtime just to say that these poor girls didn’t know what they were doing, are nice girls really etc. Why not use it to actually