The conviction this week of a Muslim radical for inciting racial hatred once again highlights the growing threat posed by the pernicious fringe of Islamism. We have only ourselves to blame, says Ruth Dudley Edwards
'UK you will pay, Islam is on its way," is the chilling slogan favoured by Muslim radical Abdul Saleem, who was convicted this week of stirring up racial hatred at a rally in London last year. Addressing the crowd in Belgravia Square, near the Spanish and German embassies, Saleem was filmed saying: "There will come a time when we will stand inside these embassies. There will come a time when we will remove that flag. There will come a time when we will raise the flag of Islam whether you like it or not, Islam is superior and cannot be surpassed."
His defence should have pointed out that he was merely stating the obvious. He and his kind believe that through intimidation, conversion and out-breeding, the United Kingdom and the world over can be brought under Sharia law.
I take Islam a religion which, at its best, greatly improves the lives of its adherents and Islamism its pernicious fringe very seriously. The Qur'an is beside my bed, along with Bruce Lawrence's The Qur'an: A Biography; I've just finished Karen Armstrong's hagiographical Muhammad and its antithesis, Robert Spencer's The Truth About Muhammad; I try vainly to persuade visitors to watch my DVD of Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West; Michael Gove should pay me commission for having persuaded so many people to buy his Celsius 7/7; I've just ordered Nick Cohen's What's Left?: How Liberals Lost Their Way to join the pile of Islam-related books on my to-read pile, which I have little time to address because, in addition to working for a living, I spend at least two or three hours a day reading about Islamic matters or talking to similarly obsessed friends and colleagues at speeches and seminars.
There is much in my personal and working life that, early on, put me in the camp of those who believe Islamism is a totalitarian threat that could destroy our civilisation within a few decades with the help of the West-loathing Left, the wimpish Right, the political and diplomatic wishful thinkers, the massed ranks of risk-averse politically correct bien-pensants and the cowards who want to avoid confrontation at all costs not to speak of the innumerable peaceable British Muslims who allow bullies and bigots to represent them in the media and who buy into the comfort blanket of victimhood.
I grew up in the Republic of Ireland under an authoritarian religion that bossed about submissive governments; as a British public servant, I saw the damage done by pusillanimous jobsworths; as an historian of the 1930s, I learnt how the wishful thinking of the deluded intelligentsia helped Hitler and Stalin; researching a book on the Foreign Office I came to understand the limitations of a diplomacy that believes the best of everyone; and fascination with the wilder shores of Irish republicanism that I encountered at my mad granny's knee led me subsequently as a journalist and campaigner to spend many years in intellectual combat with militant Irish republicanism, struggling, with some success, to understand the terrorist mind.
And then there is academia, which I know well: my new crime novel centres on the degradation of the humanities by politically correct moral relativists who collude with those who seek to destroy a dangerously apologetic civilisation. As for the media, for which I write, they have become so terrified of offending Muslims and making Islamists cross that they refused to do their job as reporters of news and publish the series of cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed that appeared in a Danish newspaper and which led to Danish citizens being threatened and their country's goods boycotted.
Not only did British newspaper proprietors and editors think freedom of speech not worth fighting for, but Jack Straw, then our Foreign Secretary, condemned as "disrespectful" those European newspapers honourable enough to print the cartoons.
The Ireland from which I fled in 1965 taught me how a powerful religion can get its way by bullying and frightening politicians and influencing a susceptible electorate. Still, it would be unfair to compare the Irish version of Rome Rule with what Islamists wish to impose on us: even our most reactionary bishops were educated; the Enlightenment had not passed them by. Islamists would burn our books, indoctrinate our children into thinking like seventh-century nomads and outlaw joy. "An Islamic regime must be serious in every field," explained Ayatollah Khomeini. "There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humour in Islam. There is no fun in Islam." Roman Catholics might believe in an after-life but they do not yearn to get there: IRA terrorists even the hunger-strikers hoped to live. The Islamist brainwashing of the vulnerable combined with what Bernard Lewis, author of The Crisis of Islam, describes as "the minutely described delights of paradise" has given us the suicide bombers.
As early as 1988, when the Thatcher government showed itself too nervous to arrest Muslims screaming publicly for the murder of Salman Rushdie, MPs such as Roy Hattersley who called for the suppression of the paperback of The Satanic Verses showed us all that Muslim votes mattered more than principle. The Labour MP Ann Cryer, who has spoken out valiantly for years about such issues as forced marriages and honour killings, has been almost a lone voice in Parliament in warning of the dark side of the Muslim community and has been consistently threatened and abused by their self-appointed spokesmen.
As a British civil servant in the 1970s, I learnt how easily a policy can become so institutionalised that it is irreversible, how quickly empires are built and how hard it is to destroy them. Once, politicians decided that diversity and multiculturalism were to be embraced, the Sir Humphreys of central and local government turned the policy into a process and gave us our present nightmare of fractured cities and competing minorities. Official policy fuels extremism.
In the Policy Exchange/Populus poll published last week, 76 per cent of British Muslims thought it wrong for a council to ban an advertisement for a Christmas carol service, yet the council preferred to cater to the prejudices of the lunatic fringe.
It took mass murder in London on 7/7 to open up ever so gingerly the debate that politicians and bureaucrats had stifled. Even now, there is little frankness. Who in authority is saying, for instance, that Christian faith schools pose no problem but Islamic schools do? The Policy Exchange/Populus poll showed that 51 per cent of British Muslims believe a Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim, 43 per cent that she cannot marry without the consent of her guardian and 46 per cent say that a Muslim male may have four wives but a Muslim female only one husband. Do we really want children being taught that at school? And why is no one saying that it is child abuse to put a girl behind a veil?
When I left the public service, researching and writing the biography of the publisher Victor Gollancz, creator of the Left Book Club, and then a subsequent history of The Economist, made me realise how many clever people are fools. The Left were push-overs for communist propaganda, but they could at least recognise fascism as evil: the establishment found the whole notion of evil distasteful. I read enough Times and Economist leaders written by Oxbridge double-firsts welcoming the encouraging signs of statesmanship emanating from Herr Hitler to disillusion me forever about the wisdom of the commentariat: the default mindset is still to resist the notion that evil exists and that when bad people say bad things, they may just mean them.
As the 1930s establishment wrote off Churchill as a madman because, obviously, Hitler didn't mean what he said in Mein Kampf, so today we are still assured that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is exaggerating when he says he wants to exterminate all Jews. But does anyone really believe that Abu Hamza was kidding when he said: "We ask Allah to make us shaheed (martyrs); our immediate duty now is to correct our own homeland?"
Or that this view is his alone?
We know it is not. The recent Channel 4 Dispatches investigation into the radicalism of British mosques showed thousands of British Muslims listening, apparently contentedly, as they were exhorted by Islamist preachers to throw homosexuals off mountains and sign up their children to kill kuffars (non-Muslims).
It got no publicity in the media, being drowned out by self-abasing gibberish about the alleged racism of Jade Goody, now under investigation by the policy for misuse of the word "poppadom".
Researching for a book on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I met innumerable highly intelligent, dedicated and decent diplomats, most of whom seemed to think it rather vulgar to pursue British interests aggressively: their objective was reflected in my chapter title on their political work "Tidying up the world". They also continue to demonstrate a touching belief that if only you are nice to people they will be nice to you.
Hope continues to triumph over experience: the FCO as described by Martin Bright in the Policy Exchange pamphlet When Progressives Treat with Reactionaries: the British State's Flirtation with Radical Islamism now woos the Muslim Brotherhood. Like Gerry Adams, the Muslim Brotherhood polish the rhetoric of peace, trim their beards and want to overthrow the state. (Though Islam theoretically venerates truth, there is the get-out concept of taqiyah, which allows you to hide your faith and lie for Allah.)
Founded in Egypt in 1928 to restore the Caliphate, the Muslim Brotherhood is a skilful international operator which, in Britain, runs innumerable sharp-suited entryists who claim to be moderate spokesmen for British Muslims and who, for years, have been feted uncritically by the political establishment. The FCO has been under the illusion that it could do business with the appalling Ysuf al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood's spiritual leader, and has spent British taxpayers' money on flying him to a conference on European Islam.
Ken Livingstone has welcomed him as a brother, despite Qaradawi's approval for suicide bombers and his belief that gays should be executed and women subject to men. At a Livingstone-sponsored conference recently (A World Civilisation or a Clash of Civilisations), the mayor assured us that Qaradawi is a moderate. But then Livingstone is the lodestar for the self-deluding, hypocritical Left whose communal self-loathing makes their country's enemies their friends.
I saw at first hand in the 1980s how Livingstone and his acolytes encouraged and, where possible, financed the malcontent IRA-supporting Irish who hated the country in which they lived while despising those of us who were working for integration and mutual understanding. These people march against the war in Iraq alongside people who would install the Taliban in Downing Street.
I don't find this difficult to understand. My paternal grandmother was Irish and my grandfather English, but she was so consumed with hatred for England that she fell in love successively with Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin and assured me that all the allegations about the Holocaust were British propaganda. She and Livingstone and Qaradawi would have made common cause. That personal history is why I have easily and, indeed, some time ago realised the awful truth that our country and our continent is in the direst peril.
Ordinary citizens (including hundreds of thousands of Muslims who hate what is being said in their names by their self-styled leaders) have been vaguely aware for years that multi-culturalism was destroying the country's cohesion, and realise better than politicians that yes, there is a war on terror; yes, it will last for decades; that what is at stake is the survival of Western civilisation and that we had better summon up our courage and take on our enemies.
Like the horrified Muslim parents loyal to Britain who find their sons have embraced violent jihad, the ordinary citizen is terrified by what has emerged about the 7/7 bombers and those who allegedly wanted to emulate them on 21/7; when they hear of arrests in Birmingham under the Terrorism Act of people suspected of wanting to kidnap and behead a soldier, the fear intensifies.
This is not the West against Islam. As the American counter-terrorism analyst Daniel Pipes put it at Livingstone's conference in a speech that showed up his host to be the time-warped, paranoid Lefty that he is, we are not dealing with a clash of civilisations: it is the civilised world against the barbarians. And the enemy is Islamism.
As they infiltrate universities, prisons, politics, the media and the public service, the army of self-confident Islamists watch us crumble when accused of Islamophobia and believe we no longer have the stomach for a fight. But there are a few signs of hope. At Livingstone's conference, the anti-Islamists won the debate; American-based Muslim dissidents such as Irshad Manji, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Wafa Sultan have such counterparts here as Munira Mirza and Zia Haider Rahman, who wrote in the Telegraph this week, who are challenging the hardliners; I see many clear-eyed young people, some of them Muslim, at the events who scrutinise Islamism; the Cabinet is no longer entirely in denial; and this week even David Cameron stopped being fuzzy and sharply criticised, and by name, a slew of Islamic groups dominated by hardliners who were hitherto regarded as moderate.
When politicians finally admit that the barbarians are within the gates, those of us who have known that for a long time can at last breathe somewhat easier. It may be close to midnight, but Abdul Saleem could yet be proved wrong.
Related Telegraph articles
1 February 2007: Cartoon protester guilty of race hate
Other related links: Policy Exchange
Muslim Brotherhood - Wikipedia