Melanie Phillips Touches on the Problem in the UK and Abroad

Denial is still a river in Londonistan

On one thing the British liberal class is certain – the hacking to death of a soldier in a Woolwich street yesterday had absolutely nothing to do with religion.  The murderers screamed ‘Allahu akhbar’ as they tried to decapitate the soldier (a barbaric hallmark of Islamic terror), announced proudly that ‘We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you’ and quoted the Koran as religious justification.

But the atrocity, we have been repeatedly told, had nothing to do with religion. Ever since 9/11, the UK and US political and media establishment, along with much if not most of the British security service and increasingly the US security establishment, has repeated this mantra. Killing in the name of Islam is a warped hijacking of the religion, a perversion of the religion, the very antithesis of the religion. But based on the precepts of the religion itself? Good heavens, no.

For more than two decades, the British political and security establishment has gone to extreme lengths to deny the true religious nature of the Islamic jihad, or holy war, against the free world and ‘backsliding’ Muslims (who are the jihad’s most numerous victims). There are several reasons for this state of denial, of which in my view the key is that to the official mind a holy war is such a fearsome prospect – it’s uncontrollable, can last for decades, is driven by wholly irrational motives immune to negotiation and is characterised by unmitigated savagery — they cannot admit that this is what it actually is.

So instead they come up with absurd statements like the one made to me some years ago by a very senior security official, who said this couldn’t be an Islamic religious war because to say it was would demonise all Muslims.

This was clearly a risible non sequitur. The fact that many Muslims not only do not support the jihad but are being themselves persecuted by it does not make it any less of a holy war against their perceived backsliding or heresy.

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To defeat Islamic terror, we must first acknowledge what it is

Ever since the spectre of Islamic terrorism in the West first manifested itself, Britain has had its head stuck firmly in the sand.

After both 9/11 and the 7/7 London transport bombings, the Labour government promised to take measures to defend the country against further such attacks.

It defined the problem, however, merely as terrorism, failing to understand that the real issue was the extremist ideas which led to such violence.

Accordingly, it poured money into Muslim community groups, many of which turned out to be dangerously extreme.

When David Cameron came to power, his Government raised hopes of a more realistic approach when it pledged to counter extremist ideas rather than just violence.

This approach, too, has failed. The Government still has no coherent strategy for countering Islamist radicalisation.

Following last week’s barbaric slaughter of Drummer Rigby on the streets of Woolwich by two Islamic fanatics, the Prime Minister has announced that he will head a new Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation Task Force.

And the Home Secretary has said she will look at widening the banning of radical groups preaching hate.

But at the heart of these promises remains a crucial gap. That is the need to define just what kind of extremism we are up against.

The Government has been extraordinarily reluctant to do this — because it refuses to face the blindingly obvious fact that this extremism is religious in nature.

It arises from an interpretation of Islam which takes the words of the Koran literally as a command to kill unbelievers in a jihad, or holy war, in order to impose strict Islamic tenets on the rest of the world.

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Of course, there are fanatics in all religions. Within both Judaism and Christianity, there are deep divisions between ultras, liberals and those in between.

In medieval times, moreover, Christianity used its interpretation of the Bible also to kill ‘unbelievers’, because early Christians believed they had a divine duty to make the world conform to their religion at all costs. 

That stopped when the Reformation ushered the Church into modernity, and today no Christian wants to use violence to convert others to their faith.

The problem with the extremist teachings of Islam is that the religion has never had a similar ‘reformation’.

Certainly, there are enlightened Muslims in Britain who would dearly love their religion to be reformed. But they have the rug pulled from under their feet by the Government’s flat denial of the religious nature of this terrible problem.

Some people instead ascribe the actions of the Woolwich killers to factors such as thuggish gang membership, drug abuse or family breakdown. 

But it is precisely such lost souls who are vulnerable to Islamist fanatics and who provide them with father figures, a sense of belonging and a cause which gives apparent meaning to their lives.

Many people find it incomprehensible that such fanatics remain free to peddle their poison. 

Partly, this is because the Security Service likes to gather intelligence through their actions. But it is also because of a failure to understand what amounts to a continuum of extremism.

There are too many British Muslims who, while abhorring violence at home, nevertheless support the killing abroad of British or American forces or Israelis, regard unbelievers as less than fully human, and homosexuals or apostates as deserving the death penalty.

Such bigotry creates the poisonous sea in which dehumanisation and religious violence swim.

To the failure to understand all this must be added the widespread terror of being thought ‘Islamophobic’ or ‘racist’.

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