"Britain stands at the precipice." Such is the view of British journalist Melanie Phillips in her recently published book, Londonistan, in which she argues that Britain and Europe are facing a civilizational test -- and they are in danger of failing.
Phillips expanded upon these themes last Wednesday, as a speaker in the Robert Guzzardi Lecture series, a public lecture sponsored by the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum. Phillips explained that the city of London has become the European hub for the promotion, recruitment, and financing of Islamist extremism and terrorism, making it what Phillips has dubbed “Londonistan.”
In her book, Phillips pieces together the story of how Londonistan developed. Britain, she points out, is experiencing a collapse of self-confidence and national identity. The result is a paralyzing multiculturalism as well as a powerful instinct for appeasing extremists.
In her remarks last week, Phillips suggested that the current climate threatens to “undermine the alliance with America and imperil the defense of the free world.” She quoted the former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky’s praise about her book: “Londonistan is a last minute warning for Britain and for much of the free world.” Phillips also noted Sharansky’s observation that, “In dictatorships you need courage to fight evil; in the free world you need courage to see evil.”
The fact that Britons have been blind to the evil in their midst figures prominently in Londonistan. Phillips shows how Islamic clerics indoctrinate young British Muslims with hate and incite them toward violence. For instance, young British Muslims are told that Islam is under attack by the West, that Americans are butchering Muslims in Iraq, that Jews are doing the same in Palestine, and that the Israeli Mossad and the American CIA perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.
Why has the British public allowed this radicalization to continue? Phillips believes that the answer has to do with the pervasive culture of political correctness, which makes the British reluctant to challenge the authority of Islamist clerics, however extreme. Islamists, in turn, have deftly exploited the British public’s weakness in defending its culture and institutions. As a result, all criticism of Islam is today automatically viewed as “Islamophobia.”
A recent controversy in Britain lends support to Phillips's thesis. When Foreign Minister Jack Straw criticized a Muslim teacher for wearing the veil in class -- she taught English and her students could not hear her because of the veil -- he touched off a debate about Islam and assimilation. But it rapidly became a shallow exchange because British feminists, fearing accusations of “Islamophobia,” were silent on the subject; the general public was equally intimidated.
Phillips examines this worrisome phenomenon. Most Britons, she believes, simply fail to understand the severity of their situation. In the face of the July 7, 2005 terrorist attack on the London rail system by British Muslim suicide bombers, which killed 57 people and wounded hundreds, Britons placed the blame largely on themselves. “It was because of our involvement in Iraq,” was one such rationalization. This sentiment, according to Phillips, is an outgrowth of the “cultural dominance of the British Left.”
What Britons do not grasp, Phillips argues, is that they are in a war with an enemy that seeks to destroy them and impose an Islamic way of life governed by Sharia law -- the latest polls indicate that 40 to 60 percent of British Muslims want Sharia law to govern Britain -- thereby destroying their democratic institutions and nullifying their individual freedoms. “We do not understand in Britain that we are fighting a religious war. Instead, we’re appeasing it,” Phillips said.
The Islamic war on the West did not begin on 9/11, according to Phillips. It started in 1979, with the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution in Iran. Khomeini declared his intention to subjugate the West, and his call has been echoed by subsequent Islamic leaders, such as Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Saudis, fearful of Shiite dominance in the region and concerned with Khomeini’s impact on Muslims worldwide and the possible destabilization of their kingdom, ignited a race with Shiite Iran that fueled jihadist Islam. The Saudis spent billions spreading their intolerant and anti-Western brand of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. They funded the anti-Western and anti-Semitic madrassas in Europe and the Indian sub-continent, thereby radicalizing British mosques and Imams, and paving the way for the creation of home-grown British suicide bombers.
At the same time as Muslim radicalism was taking shape, a massive wave of immigration from Islamic lands hit Western Europe. Unlike previous immigrants from Asia, Eastern Europe, or the Caribbean, “Muslim immigrants did not seek to integrate - they sought instead to colonize the host countries.” Britain lost control over its borders, and belief in itself as a proud nation. “Britain,” Phillips said, “has become supra-national, believing in the U.N. and the E.U.” While viewing national particularism as exclusive and discriminatory, Britons celebrate the minority Muslim culture. It is a form of self-hatred that has spread throughout the West.
There has also been a dramatic demographic change. Muslims are now the largest minority faith community in Britain, comprising 3 percent of the population, approximately 2 million strong. In London the Muslim population is about 9 percent, more than 700,000 people. Phillips maintains that most Muslims in Britain are moderates. However, according to the latest British intelligence reports, there are nearly 1,600 potential suicide bombers who are primed and ready to act.
Phillips identifies several specific culprits behind Britain’s current cultural ills. Phillips charges that the British government has not “combated the ideas that are driving Islamic terror,” and that the British authorities have an unduly lenient definition of “moderate,” a distinction afforded to “someone who does not promote violence against Britons.” Thus, the British government regarded Sheikh Yusuf Karadawi, who promoted suicide bombings in Israel as a duty of all Muslims, as a “moderate.”
Another problem is the lack of dissenting voices. Phillips points out that, in contrast to the United States, there is no talk-radio, and no think tanks in Britain to challenge the prevailing views. As a result, America and Israel are demonized, while Islamic extremists escape scrutiny.
Despite the gravity of the situation, Phillips said that she refuses to succumb to fatalism. Asked to comment on Mark Steyn’s new book America Alone, which argues that Europe, disappearing demographically and committing cultural suicide, is all but lost, Phillips replied: “I disagree. I will not give up without a fight to bring Britain to its senses.”
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