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Ian Hunter

Britain's blindness to radical Islam Add to ...

Melanie Phillips is one brave journalist. A political affairs columnist at London's Daily Mail, in 1996 she was awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism. Her recent book, Londonistan, has put her life in jeopardy.

In Londonistan, Ms. Phillips documents what she calls Britain's "spiral into decadence," in the course of which Islamic fanatics have undermined, indeed largely destroyed, British virtues of freedom and tolerance developed over centuries.

The topic of her research exploded -- literally -- on July 7, 2005, when suicide bombers detonated bombs in three London underground stations. Shortly after, a fourth bomb blew up a double-decker bus in a leafy street in Bloomsbury. In all 52 people were dead; 700 injured. All the suicide bombers turned out to be British citizens. All were Muslims.

How is this possible? How had it come about?

Let's start with the numbers. There are now about two million Muslims living in England. How many are ripe for terrorism? Based on her own research and on interviews with security officials, Ms. Phillips estimates about 16,000 British Muslims are actively engaged in, or indirectly supportive of, terrorism, including several hundred willing to die as suicide bombers.

"None of the usual explanations for suicide bombers is remotely applicable here. These British terrorists and their sympathizers were not radicalized by their experience in refugee camps in faraway lands, or by living under despotic regimes, or by coming from countries whose national project was hatred of the West. They were born and brought up in one of the freest, most prosperous and humane countries in the world. . . . What had caused them to go into the Tube with their backpacks and blow themselves and their fellow Britons to bits was an ideology that had taken hold like a cancer."

In contrast to the "British bulldog" spirit that enabled Britain to stand alone against the menace of German fascism, Ms. Phillips considers Tony Blair's Britain ". . . in a widespread state of denial." While some people understand the threat posed by radical Islam, the policy of multiculturalism, combined with political correctness -- the process by which anyone who voices doubts about multiculturalism is labelled a "racist" -- serves to keep most people quiet.

Ms. Phillips is not afraid to name names: Among the people she mentions as keeping Britain in a state of denial concerning radical Islam is the deputy assistant commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, Brian Paddick, who said on the day of the attack, "As far as I'm concerned Islam and terrorists are two words that do not go together."

Likewise the Church of England: "Far from defending the nation at the heart of whose identity and values its own doctrines lie, the Church of England -- Britain's established Church -- has internalized the hatred of the West that defines the shared universe of radical Islamism and the revolutionary left."

Then there are politicians, like the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who publicly embraced the Islamist cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who had said it was the duty of Muslims to turn themselves into human bombs in Israel and Iraq.

Through the 1980s and '90s, London became an international gathering point for Islamic radicals. British immigration was ". . . a system which asked no questions, required no identity papers and instead showered newcomers with a galaxy of welfare benefits, free education and free health care regardless of their behaviour, beliefs or circumstances." One British imam named Abu Baseer, a public defender of al-Qaeda, said: "One of the goals of immigration is the revival of the duty of jihad and enforcement of the power over the infidels."

No matter. Senior British officials believed they had a tacit understanding with al-Qaeda: You will be allowed to set up, recruit, and organize here; in exchange, please don't bomb us. Of course, such handshakes with the devil never last, and that one blew up on July 7, 2005.

Professor emeritus, University of Western Ontario law faculty

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