Islamophobia isn't the problem
by Robert Fulford

(The National Post, 16 July 2005)

After the London bombings, the BBC as usual tried hard to avoid using the word "Muslim." British police insisted that everyone avoid mentioning Islam when discussing those crimes, and the government planned to extend the law protecting minorities. Britain seems determined to carry tolerance to the point of idiocy.

Nothing that emerged in these last nine days has been more telling than the claim, by several articulate Muslims, that Britain has been far too kind to radical Islam. For instance, Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, who runs the 24-hour news channel in Dubai, recalled this week that for 10 years he and other Arab writers have warned Britain against its bizarre habit of making known terrorists feel at home. He pointed out that the British not only admit such criminals, they also provide them with accommodation, financial help and free legal advice. Britain's "blind generosity" means that advocates of "fundamentalist fascism" can set up mosques and schools, reaching communities with no previous record of extremism. As Al-Rashed said, "The results were illustrated last Thursday." The British government made possible the religious cult that seduced and entrapped the young men of July 7.

Thoughtless, genial tolerance has been built so firmly into the British system that the most vicious radicals don't hesitate, even now, to express their bigotry. On the day after the bombings Hani al-Siba'i, the Egyptian who runs the Al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies in London, shocked even an interviewer from al-Jazeera TV. Hani al-Siba'i said that if al-Qaeda was behind the bombings, it was a great victory; disturbing the G8 meeting "rubbed the noses of the world's eight most powerful countries in the mud."

The al-Jazeera interviewer asked: "Is targeting wretched civilians considered brave or manly?" Al-Siba'i answered that the term "civilians" doesn't exist in Islamic religious law: "People are either of Dar Al-Harb or not." Dar Al-Harb variously means the house of war, territory not under Muslim rule, the home of the unbelievers. Therefore, beyond compassion or mercy.

The British have grown so masochistic in the last 20 years that they listen willingly to people who sympathize with murderers. On Wednesday the Guardian carried an article in which Dilpazier Aslam, a Muslim self-described as a "Yorkshire lad, born and bred," said that while bombing was the wrong way to express political anger, the young killers nevertheless represent an understandable position. Many British Muslims, he wrote, will compare the London atrocities to the defeat of Falluja by coalition forces. "It is not the done thing to make such comparisons, but Muslims on the street do." Especially the young, whom he depicted as tougher and less tolerant than their parents and grandparents. "We're much sassier with our opinions, not caring if the boat rocks or not ... anger is seething on the streets."

It was as if Aslam and the Guardian were inviting Britain to take a sterner and more vigilant approach to young Muslim radicals. But that seems unlikely. British leaders fear Islamophobia more than they fear bombs.

Islamophobia means a dislike of Muslims that produces harmful behaviour. It's become a favourite term of Islamic propagandists because it helps create a culture of victimhood in their community. It turns Muslims against the non-Muslim world and helps suppress debate; questioning the word of an imam can be equated with assisting the Islamophobic world.

But does Islamophobia exist? Last winter Kenan Malik, a London writer, interviewed dozens of ordinary Muslims for his Channel 4 documentary, Are Muslims Hated? They all believed that police harassment was common, though none of them had been stopped and searched. They thought physical attacks were also common, but few had been attacked or knew anyone who had. He ended up with the conviction that Islamophobia is a device for scaremongering.

Even so, it has paralyzed the British Establishment. Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, said that what the bombers believe in "is not an ideology or even a perverted faith." How could he speak such nonsense? Does he think it a coincidence that they were all Muslims? Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick of the Metropolitan Police said, "Islam and terrorism don't go together." What mendacious imam told him that? Paddick will apparently do or say anything to appease the Muslims of London.

The British are intoxicated by their self-image of fair-minded tolerance and their fear of Muslim unrest. Their need to feel righteous and avoid social turmoil has overwhelmed common sense and political will. Canadians, who suffer from related delusions, should not ignore the implications of London's July 7 tragedy.

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