An Island Apart

Muslims protest Geert Wilders' appearance before Parliament, October 2009.

Something’s gotta give. No, seriously. Finally backlash seems to be mounting against the British government’s tolerance for extremist organizations (provided, of course, that they are Muslim). The trend is especially present in universities, however, where the constant mantra of “free speech” has somehow blocked out all voices, such as the BNP and others, with the sole exception of any Islamic or Muslim society.

The Christmas Pants Bomber has prompted a new bout of soul-searching as the west attempts to decipher the source of radicalization. Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka perhaps made the loudest and boldest claim, laying blame on Britain (“a cesspit“) – and not Nigeria – for the pants bomber’s radicalization.

Even Foreign Policy has picked up on the trend, analyzed in the aptly-named article “Londonistan.” It’s shocking to read; not necessarily because of its content but that they would dare put the kibosh on some sacred cows:

Just in case the Brits hadn’t figured [it] out, the usual anonymous U.S. State Department official was happy to do it for them. Last month, an official told the Daily Telegraph that their country “has the greatest concentration of active al Qaeda supporters [in the West],” posing a threat to Britain and “the rest of the world.” The same article cited a fresh and ominous finding from the director of MI5. He estimated his service was aware of some 2,000 “radicalized Muslims” who might be involved in terrorist plots. That figure, of course, doesn’t include the population of plotters who have escaped MI5 scrutiny, like [pants bomber] Abdulmutallab.

Hitchens calls it the cultural cringe of the West. It is just the most recent manifestation of the strange problem liberal, open societies have – some restrictions on free speech, whether necessary or otherwise, lead to a single exception – in balancing freedom and safety. But the West, and Britain specifically, has not so much overreacted as underreacted. The KGB would have called it demoralization (as referenced earlier on this site). And by any metric, the demoralization of Britain is well under way.

For decades…Britain tolerated plotting by domestic Islamic radicals as long as they targeted other countries, often ones in the Middle East. “We gave them freedom to preach violence and extremism — [as long as] they were preaching it abroad and not in the U.K. They used that freedom to take over community organizations, mosques, TV stations,” he says. “They’ve been building capacity for their viewpoint.” He describes the radicals’ techniques as strikingly reminiscent of those of 20th-century communists and fascists. The Islamists have also mimicked the Irish Republican movement by using ostensibly non-violent political groups to covertly radical ends.

The student community has of course always been especially radical. And it’s no wonder that the various campus Islamic Societies make for fertile recruiting ground. “Well, we’re a secular society,” people say, “so we certainly can’t ban a religious group.” Perhaps if worship was all the Islamic Societies practiced. But in fact they take on the characteristics of political organizations rather than anything else.

One of the self-imposed problems faced by the west in recent years is its inability to define itself. Supposedly built on a foundation of tolerance, integration, and eventual assimilation into a host country, more than ever the pluralist society finds itself compartmentalized. A useful contrast can be drawn with France and its large Muslim population, but from which few radical Muslims emerge. France has a more expressly assimilationist attitude towards citizenship. Essentially, if you speak French and adopt French values, then in their eyes, you’re French. If you can’t deal with that, no citizenship for you.

Between that and the recently proposed crackdown on burqas and hijabs, coupled with the Swiss referendum to ban minarets, some observers claim to see an anti-immigrant backlash. But in reality, it’s much more about preserving and proclaiming their own values. A French parliamentary report declared that “the wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic.”

And indeed it may be. I will rail against the burqa another time in more depth, but quite simply subjugation is subjugation, voluntary or not, and to publicly display such concepts goes against every tenet of the free society.

Britain needs to ask itself what it means to be British. What Britain stands for. And to what lengths it’s willing to go to preserve and protect its ideals.

One thought on “An Island Apart

  1. Pingback: Day in the world of IR, 7.2.2010 « Road to Academia

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