The Sunday Times, Uncategorized

February 4th, 2007

We’re far too nice to Muslim extremists

It is hard not to feel a desperate anger at last week’s news. Nine British Muslims have been arrested on suspicion of plotting to behead a British Muslim soldier, as a traitor to Islam, and to show a videotape of the act on the net to terrify us.

In the same week Policy Exchange, the think tank, has published a poll-based study that shows young British-born Muslims are far more alienated from mainstream society than their parents. Of British Muslims aged 16-24, 37% would prefer to live under sharia in Britain, 37% would like to send their children to Islamic state schools and — most incredibly — 36% think Muslims converting to another religion should be punished by death. Young British Muslims who say they “admire organisations like Al-Qaeda, which are prepared to fight the West” amount to 13%. For British Muslims aged over 55, the figures are much lower, at 17%, 19%, 19% and 3% respectively.

The usual immigrant experience of gradual integration has failed for more than a third of Muslims. All the exhaustive and intrusive efforts of the race relations industry have been counter-productive.

The Policy Exchange report argues that this alienation is largely due to more than 20 years of official multiculturalism. This benighted orthodoxy has emphasised differences and divisions and promoted a sense of grievance that is sometimes almost paranoid. This amounts to full-blown victimhood, whipped up not just by Muslim spokesmen but also by nonMuslim journalists and commentators and human rights activists in the victim industry, who complain, in defiance of the evidence, of growing Islamophobic attacks and persistent police harassment; they make comparisons with Nazi Germany. The mayor of London, no less, called at a recent conference for an end to the “media’s orgy of Islamophobia”.

These inflammatory accusations persist. For example, the supposedly moderate Dr Mohammad Naseem, a champion of interfaith dialogue, an honorary doctor of Birmingham University and chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, said last Thursday that he believed the government was “pursuing a policy of maintaining a perception of a [terrorist] threat to justify the draconian antiterror laws they have been passing”. It had, he said, embarked on “a campaign to strike terror into the hearts of the Muslim people”, and he compared Blair’s Britain with Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union. He is encouraging people to disbelieve the police’s assurances last week that they are “not targeting faith communities but suspected criminals”. This is paranoia gone mainstream.

If this is what comes from a man supposed to be the voice of Islamic moderation, what can one feel but rage? However, unaccustomed though I am to looking on the bright side, I suppose I should try. There are some encouraging signs. This alleged plot to behead a British soldier was uncovered with the help of a brave Muslim soldier who allowed himself to be used as bait to draw out the suspected kidnappers. That was courage and patriotism well beyond the call of duty. We ought to be grateful, too, to the Muslim informants who give police and secret services invaluable information; a source told me last week that there is no lack of volunteers despite the intimidation.

The findings of the Policy Exchange report are not all negative. Despite the sense of victimhood that some Muslims feel and others try to excite, 84% said that on the whole they felt they had been treated fairly in this society, regardless of their beliefs. Even more strikingly, more Muslims (37%) than people in the general population (29%) feel that “one of the benefits of modern society is to criticise other people’s religious or political views, even when it causes offence”.

All the same, there remains a terrifying minority of disaffected young Muslims. What, if anything, can be done that isn’t already being done?

My counterterrorist wish list goes as follows. Silence all imams who break the law in their preaching with incitements to violence (the government’s record has been abysmal). Monitor all mosques; refuse visas to foreign imams who speak poor or no English (the government lost its nerve over this, as over so much). Control and monitor imams visiting prisons (the Prison Service is so shambolic that it is impossible to know whether all its 130 or so visiting imams have been security vetted). Segregate Islamist prisoners in jail (this is done in the best prisons but is out of control in the rest). Isolate radical Islamist prisoners (this is against the Human Rights Act). Stop them having internet access (not all prisons do).

More widely, recognise that the problem now lies with “self-radicalisation” in suburban front rooms. Stop the creation of religious schools (Blair sold the pass on this). Monitor madrasah schools. Restrain the practice of importing brides and bridegrooms in arranged marriages from the Third World (this is well known to inhibit integration, but the government abolished the “primary purpose” rules preventing such marriages, presumably for electoral advantage); this could be done by following the Danish example of strict entry requirements and a minimum age of 24, which enables young people to choose more freely. Spend much more money monitoring young dual-passport Britons’ trips to Pakistan and deport them for attending training camps (these routes are watched but it is expensive and the Pakistani government is unable to help).

Teach schoolchildren the facts about conditions in Muslim countries (as opposed to right-on grievances about the “black hole of Calcutta”). Teach them what happens in jails in Muslim states, compared with what has happened in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. Teach schoolchildren and young adults what sharia involves; stop listening to the so-called representative bodies of British Muslims, not least the Muslim Council of Britain. Require the government to reveal the names and CVs of its advisers on Islamic affairs. Censor the violent Islamist recruitment sites on the internet, including the insidious hip-hop and rap sites. America and even China manage it for different reasons.

But all this is too little, too late. How can one not feel a furious, frustrated rage at the betrayal of our civilisation and our safety?