|ACCORDING TO REMARKS attributed in the past few days to security sources, no fewer than 1,200 Islamist terrorists are biding their time within British suburbs. Yet does Britain even now fully understand the nature of the threat it is facing, let alone have the will to deal with it?
The recent report by the Commons Intelligence Committee on last July’s London bombings barely scratched the surface of the failure by the security establishment. It failed to note, for example, Britain’s dirty little secret: that from the 1990s, Islamist radicals had been given free rein in Britain in a “gentlemen’s agreement” that if they were left alone, they would not turn on the country that was so generously nurturing them. The result was “Londonistan”, as Britain became the hub of al-Qaeda in Europe.
This intelligence debacle, however, was only the tip of the iceberg. Among Britain’s governing class — its intelligentsia, its media, its politicians, its judiciary, its Church and even its police — a broader and deeper cultural pathology persists to this day. Londonistan is more than the physical presence of Islamist extremists. It is also a state of mind. To a dismaying extent, the British have signed up to the false narrative of those who are laying siege to their society.
The problem lies in a refusal to acknowledge that Islamist extremism is rooted in religion. Instead, ministers and security officials prefer to think of it as a protest movement against grievances such as Iraq or Palestine, or “Islamophobia”. They simply ignore the statements and signs that show unequivocally that the aim is to Islamicise the West.
In large measure, this is the outcome of a profound loss of cultural nerve. The doctrines of multiculturalism and minority rights, themselves the outcome of a systematic onslaught by the British elite against the country’s own identity and values, have paralysed the establishment, which accordingly shies away from criticising any minority for fear of being labelled as bigoted.
As a result, it ignored the radicalisation of many British Muslims by extremist Islamic institutions. Worse still, “grievance culture” has meant that instead of fighting the paranoia and lies driving the Islamists’ hatred of the West, British society is afflicted by the very same pathology.
Minority rights doctrine has produced a moral inversion, in which those doing wrong are excused if they belong to a “victim” group, while those at the receiving end of their behaviour are blamed simply because they belong to the “oppressive” majority.
Britain effectively allowed itself to be taken hostage by militant gays, feminists or “anti-racists” who used weapons such as public vilification, moral blackmail and threats to people’s livelihoods to force the majority to give in to their demands. So when radical Islamists refused to accept minority status and insisted instead that their values must trump those of the majority, Britain had no answer.
This was disastrous because Islamist violence is fuelled by precisely this false sense of victimisation. The mendacious message preached by Islamist leaders, that Britain and America are engaged in a war on Islam rather than a defence of their societies, is a potent incitement to terror by whipping up a hysteria that Muslims are under attack.
So any attempt by the West to defend itself against terror becomes a recruiting sergeant for that terror. The more atrocities committed against the West, the more the West tries to defend itself; and the more it does so, the more hysteria among Muslims rises that they are under attack, and the more they are thus incited to hatred and to terrorism.
The circle is completed by British fellow-travellers who promulgate the same morally inverted thinking, and thus help further to incite both Muslim extremism and Western defeatism. After the London bombings, this gave rise to the widely expressed view that the major problem was not Islamic terrorism but Islamophobia.
It is impossible to overstate the importance — not just to Britain but to the global struggle against Islamist extremism — of properly understanding and publicly challenging this moral, intellectual and philosophical inversion, which translates aggressor into victim and vice versa. For it has destabilised debate by allowing Muslims to argue that British and American foreign policy is unfair and aggressive towards the Muslim world.
So profound is the fear of being branded a bigot among British liberals that the obvious examples of illogicality, untruths and paranoia in such discourse have never been challenged.
The British Establishment also ignores this because it is in a state of denial. With few exceptions politicians, Whitehall officials, senior police and intelligence officers and academic experts have failed to grasp that the problem to be confronted is not just the assembly of bombs and poison factories but what is going on inside people’s heads that drives them to such acts.
Transfixed instead by the artificial division it has erected between those who actively espouse violence and those who do not, the British Establishment rejects the idea that the hatred of Jews, Israel, America and the West that suffuses the utterances of the Muslim Brotherhood forms an ideological conveyor belt to terrorism.
The result of this institutionalised denial has been that the Government has settled upon a disastrously misguided strategy. Believing that Islamist terrorism is merely about grievances, it thinks it can appease Islamist rage by pandering to extremism and inviting Muslim Brotherhood radicals into the heart of the British Establishment as advisers.
In Britain, hundreds of thousands of Muslims lead law-abiding lives and merely want to prosper and raise their families in peace. But truly moderate Muslims are finding that, through such appeasement, the host community is cutting the ground from under their feet and delivering them into the hands of the extremists. This is a deliberate policy of riding the Islamist tiger. But those who ride a tiger may get eaten.
Extracted from Londonistan by Melanie Phillips, published next week by Gibson Square