Nothing has changed in 25 years to ease my concerns about Islam


Charles Moore in The Telegraph

Nearly 25 years ago, I wrote an article for which many people, including some I respected, criticised me. In it, I argued that difference of religion often made immigration more difficult, and that this was particularly so in the case of Islam. The piece was written not long after the first Gulf war. I mentioned our Muslim next-door neighbours (we then lived in London). I wrote that they seemed nice people, but that when, during the war, I could hear them praying through the wall, I felt uneasy.

My critics were correct that this was in bad taste. One should not write about one’s neighbours in that way (even though I was, in personal terms, polite about them). They were innocent of any wrong, so I should not have dragged them in to illustrate a journalistic point. 

Perhaps because I felt chastened, I tried, in the ensuing years, to learn more about Islam. . . As editor of this paper, I commissioned, at the end of the 20th century, a special supplement about Islam, friendly in tone, designed to help readers learn more about it. I still think it was a worthwhile thing to do.

But in my dealings with British Muslim leaders and representatives for this work, and in other contacts at this time, I became uneasy. There were several unattractive things I noticed. One was the exclusion of women from any role in governance, thought or worship. Another was an absolutism about the Israel-Palestine issue which involved, in many cases, an unmistakable hostility to Jews. A third was an assumption that something that was considered bad – blasphemy, immodesty, homosexuality, mixed bathing – should be banned. The idea that one could disapprove of something, and yet believe that it should be permitted, seemed barely to exist.

Finally, there was an unsettling attitude about politics, law and power. It seemed to me that most Muslim leaders saw their role not in integrating Muslims in Britain, but in asserting difference and increasing their muscle. Many favoured sharia law trumping British law.

Then came September 11 2001. In the name of Allah, more than 2,000 people were murdered in New York and Washington. With weird speed, the issue was turned upside down. Public figures were invited (I refused) to sign a “pledge to British Muslims” promising to be good to them. Serious attempts were made, temporarily successful in many cases, to forbid the media from even referring to “Islamic terrorism”.

Then came, in 2005, “7/7”, which destroyed the myth that no British-born Muslims would harm their fellow-countrymen. Since then, we have had, among many other things, the savage killing of Drummer Lee Rigby. Today, we have the recruitment of some young British Muslims to an entity which calls itself Islamic State.

That name itself is the fiercest, most raw expression of the problem which was already bothering me. We would not, in modern times, want to live in a country called “Christian State”, and few Christians would suggest it. Most Muslims, luckily, do not admire the bloodthirsty regime trying to plant its flag in the most troubled corners of the Middle East, but significant numbers do see a faith-run, faith-defined state as the ultimate goal in this life. They therefore do not believe in secular law, freedom, pluralism or, except in limited form, the rights of unbelievers.

So the sad fact is that nothing in the past quarter-century has undermined the basic argument – as opposed to my tasteless expression of it – which I put forward then. Indeed, the opposite. 

 it would also be wrong to deny that, in current conditions, a large Muslim community in a non-Muslim country produces more political disturbance, more communal tension, more intolerance of other faiths (and of non-faiths) and more terrorism. Few non-Muslims want to live near a mosque, see women veiling their faces or have Muslim practices introduced into state schools. Few non-Muslims want lots more Muslim immigrants. 

But there are policy ways of addressing the problem – better “civics” in schools, more vigilance about what Islamic charities do, stronger loyalty tests for those arriving, much more study of what is said in mosques and who pays for them, policies which recognise that a Muslim state-funded school or a student Islamic society is, in reality, a much more dangerous proposition than a Christian or Jewish one.

An assimilated Muslim is not a contradiction in terms, but neither is he or she the norm in Britain today. With the Muslim world in ferment and on the move, the risks grow daily. 

One Response

  1. In the early 1980s, during the Lebanese Civil War, I had lunch with a Lebanese Christian neurologist. When the subject of the internecine bloodletting came up, he told me something I’ll never forget. He explained to me that he knew Muslims from every walk of life — professionals, businessmen, blue collar tradesmen, etc. — who were rational and reasonable people on most matters, but whose critical thinking skills “revert to 12-year-olds” when it came to matters IslamicE. EXHIBIT ONE: Dr. Nidal Malik Hassan, Army psychiatrist aka the Fort Hood killer.

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