A view of London that may surprise many people.
Terror & Denial
by Melanie Phillips
Encounter. 213 pp. $25.95
Reviewed by Daniel Johnson
A highly successful columnist and broadcaster, and at one time the news editor of the left-wing Guardian, Phillips reveals a very different Britain from the heroic nation that defied Hitler. In fact, she compares the mood today with that of the 1930’s, the era of appeasement. As she shows, senior officials and their cultural cheerleaders still refuse to accept that they are confronted by a murderous, expansionist Islamic ideology, or that their own capital city has been transformed (in a term coined by the Western intelligence community during the 1990’s) into “Londonistan.” For Phillips, Britain is a nation in denial—about Islam, about terrorism, about Israel, and above all about itself.
Londonistan is, first and foremost, about the identity crisis provoked by the terrorist attack on London’s transportation system in July 2005. As the British people learned to their horror, the suicide bombers were not foreigners radicalized by suffering or oppression but true-born Englishmen, with good families and good prospects. They differed from most of their contemporaries in only one respect: they were young Muslims who, as Phillips puts it, had “repudiated not just British values but the elementary codes of humanity.” The leader of the bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan, left behind a surreal video in which, speaking in a Yorkshire accent, he blamed his act of mass murder on British “atrocities” against “my people,” meaning the Muslim ummah. He owed allegiance not to Britain but to Islam.
The British Muslim community numbers more than 2 million, which is less than 3 percent of the country’s total population, but it is growing rapidly through natural increase, immigration, and conversion. How many others might there be like Mohammed Sidique Khan, biding their time before turning on their fellow citizens? Officials estimate that some 16,000 British Muslims actively engage in or support terrorism (not counting unknown numbers of foreigners resident in the country). Of these, some 3,000 have been trained at al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
No less terrifying is the fact that even the supposedly mainstream elements in the British Muslim community have become more radical in their political theology. As Phillips shows in a pitiless unmasking, many of the “moderate Muslims” to whom the British authorities regularly pay obeisance are themselves hard-line Islamists, differing only by degree from more notorious recruiting sergeants for jihad.
Of particular interest to Phillips is Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain. Sacranie was knighted at the same time as Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, evidently for reasons of multicultural balance—though there is no intellectual or moral comparison between Sacks, one of Britain’s most respected religious leaders, and Sacranie, who rose to prominence by supporting Ayatollah Khomenei’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Though he is the government’s chief Muslim interlocutor, Sacranie has an avowedly anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic agenda: he justifies Hamas suicide bombings, boycotts Holocaust commemorations, and harasses pro-Israel politicians. When his equivocal attitude to terrorism was exposed by a BBC documentary last year, Sacranie accused his critics of being part of a Zionist conspiracy.
"Some consider Phillips an alarmist. My own view is that she has, if anything, understated the peril that the “Londonistan” phenomenon poses to the U.S. and to Europe, both of which owe a profound debt to the British culture that is now in such disarray. When I worked for the London Daily Telegraph, Iqbal Sacranie and Inayat Bunglawala—the latter, another of Phillips’s subjects, is the media spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain—came to see us several times. They strongly objected to our use of the phrase “Islamic terrorism,” and demanded that Osama bin Laden be described not as an “Islamic” or even an “Islamist” terrorist but as an “international” one. To mention Islam in connection with terrorism, these lobbyists insisted, was “Islamophobic.” Their demands were rejected despite hints that Muslim readers might boycott the Telegraph; but the state has been more responsive. Editors must now tread carefully because the law now punishes Islamophobia as a “hate crime.”
Phillips has written a superb indictment of this frame of mind—an indictment, moreover, that no mainstream British publisher would touch—but will any of her recommendations be heeded? As she admits, “there is very little chance” of it. In fact, the problems she identifies are likely to grow. When the world turns its eyes to London for the 2012 Olympic Games, what it will see right next to the Olympic Stadium is one of the largest mosques in the world, with a capacity of 70,000 worshippers. The funds for this massive project have come from Tablighi Jamaat, an avowedly Islamist global organization that the FBI says is used by al-Qaeda to recruit terrorists."(A good read at link)
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