Finger-jabbing? Us?

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Britain’s phoney war on terror - Times Online

Via Islamophobia Watch.

Michael Burleigh on the alleged weakness of the European response to “terror” compared with the tough talk coming from American officials, who have calculated the damage a theoretical nuclear van bomb would do if one hit Washington, DC. Meanwhile, our European politicians are busy buttering up the likes of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Is nobody sick to death of hearing this nonsense about how western governments cannot stop falling over themselves to get on our better side? In France, Muslim schoolgirls are harassed as a matter of government policy; in Germany, Muslims seeking citizenship have been asked questions calculated to screen them out, and cannot wear Muslim dress if they work in state schools; in Italy, with the election of a coalition government including crypto-fascists and xenophobic northern separatists, there have been mob attacks on Muslim businesses as well as on other immigrant groups.

This paragraph is particularly offensive:

Many of the 1.6m Muslims living in Britain, for example, still do not seem fully to appreciate the outrage that a finger-jabbing minority causes at home and abroad with each escalating demand for Islamist enclaves. Like a perennial student, new Labour favours debate and dialogue. But in dealing with the Muslim Council of Britain, the government has unwittingly accepted as “community” interlocutors men who have blamed Islamist terrorism primarily on British foreign policy, while failing to condemn suicide bombing outside the UK.

I have never heard of any demands for “Islamist enclaves” in the UK, not from the MCB nor from any other major Islamic community group, much less any series of “escalating” demands. There are places where Muslims are the majority, but these are mostly small and impoverished districts, mostly of northern cities. In most places, Muslims live alongside others, both whites and other ethnic minorities. This is simply a slur on the entire British Muslim population. The phrase “finger-jabbing minority” implies a series of demands for accommodation by the Muslims, when in fact the volume of these demands are exaggerated by the popular press, as they exaggerate a number of issues related to alleged suppressions of British culture.

Furthermore, the attitude towards terrorism and foreign policy is probably representative of what Muslims think, and not without some truth to it. It is a fact that there were no terrorist attacks in the UK until after Britain involved itself in the US’s wars after 9/11, which it did not need to do; it is also a fact that Britain has a substantial Muslim minority with family links to several areas of the Muslim world, and that a large section of it lives in ghettoised and impoverished provincial towns next to a poor white population from which they are alienated, and that Britain is more accessible to the Muslim world than the USA is, which is separated from any Muslim country by 1,000 miles of water. Anyone could have told the government that getting involved in those wars was not in the UK’s interests as far as terrorism was concerned; doing so does not mean condoning terrorism.

As for failing to condemn suicide bombings everywhere, the MCB are not obliged to condemn any act not committed by people with connections to it, and since the terrorists involved neither take orders from nor particularly respect the MCB, it is innocent of whatever they do. This applies to Palestine as well as anywhere else excluded by the words “of Britain” in their name.

Hardly anything is being done to stem the flow of Wahhabist money and its intolerant ideology not only into mosques but also to university “Islamic studies” programmes. Others are also complicit in this process. Did banks think about the cultural implications of sharia-compliant finance, noticeably absent in Egypt?

The fact that some university Islamic studies departments are funded by Saudi or other Gulf money is not news, but the question remains as to whether the influence extends to actually promoting extremism, or Wahhabism as such, or simply to suppressing the teaching of aspects of Islam, or Islamic culture, of which the Wahhabis disapprove, as has been specifically complained of in the past. As for promoting extremism, the Islamic societies, many of them notorious for sectarian domination, are of greater concern than the Islamic studies departments. Shari’a compliant finance is a popular complaint of people who perceive a trend towards separate institutions (they have, in the past, cited the so-called Muslim Parliament as well, a tell-tale sign of a lying bigot as the Muslim Parliament were an undemocratic Iranian front, not a representative body), but all it does is allow Muslims to buy houses for themselves and their families without resorting to usurious finance. Absent in Egypt it may be, but it is not absent in other Muslim countries, notably Malaysia.

Burleigh cites a “combination of aid from the West and rehabilitation schemes” as the reason for jihadism in south-east Asia going into decline. However, that may be as much to do with circumstances in south-east Asia, such as a public and political response to an attack by an extremism minority on a major centre of their tourist industry and the falling-off of the conflict in the Moluccas, as with government-run rehabilitation schemes. Indonesia is not an Arab dictatorship; it is a democracy, and one of the freer countries in the region (as demonstrated by the fact that they allowed the Hizb-ut-Tahreer conference, albeit without allowing in some of the speaker, which most Muslim countries would not allow), and doubtless most Muslim Indonesians, let alone others, have no interest in seeing those people take over their country. In any case, such rehabilitation relies on religious education, and religious education has to be both available, and sufficiently free from political interference so as not to be compromised, to work.

He also takes a stab at human rights lawyers and at judges who agree with them. The fact that we have such lawyers represents an important part of what makes this country what it is, what makes it worth defending. It is not Islamists who want to change the face of this country and have the means to do so; it is anti-liberal westerners who care nothing for the rights of those they disagree with. It has to do with due process being followed, and if the rule book is torn up for these people, it is torn up for everyone. Due process does not exist in many of these countries; they work on “emergency” conditions which mean people can be locked up on a whim, and torture is commonplace. The agreements to which he alludes mean nothing; he would not advocate taking such an assurance from any other dictator, so why does he advocate it for Arab dictators?

Burleigh has a history of hostility to Muslims. Asked to contribute to a discussion on Muslim schools in the Evening Standard in 2006, Burleigh replied that Muslim schools produce ghettoes and should be closed, comparing them with the role of schools in perpetuating the divisions in Northern Ireland, as Denis MacEoin has done also (in fact, the situation in Northern Ireland came about because of the plantation of Scottish settlers in Ulster; segregation in schools was a result of that, and separation of communities’ living areas has worsened as the Troubles die down). Burleigh agreed with an earlier contribution from the infamous Patrick Sookhdeo, who claimed that “Christian denominational schools as well as Jewish schools continue to play an important role in community cohesion”, a statement with which many readers would no doubt strongly disagree, in some parts of the country at least. What neither of them seemed to see was that there are in fact very few state-funded Muslim schools; a school funded by the state would have good reason not to bite the hand that feeds it, while a school funded by a foreign government, principally for the benefit of citizens of that country, would see much less reason not to denigrate the citizens of their host country.

The likes of this bigoted nonsense are unfortunately typical of the content of the “conservative” press in the UK. It is particularly galling to be constantly told we are somehow a privileged minority in Europe when discrimination against Muslims and undisguised press hostility are, in fact, widespread; the subtext is clearly that we need to be kicked down a peg or two. It is particularly disturbing that neither the authors nor the editors feel the need to get facts right before publication; another example of the “truthspace” phenomenon I discussed in response to Melanie Phillips’s Israeli anniversary piece in the Spectator three weeks ago. Anyone who wonders why I read the Guardian, as someone did on this blog a few days back, need only to look at articles like Burleigh’s to know why.

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