Monday, February 06, 2006

Why extremists treat us with contempt

From the Daily Telavivigraph (hat tip: Laurie)

British subjects march through the streets of the capital calling for their fellow citizens to be "beheaded", "massacred" and "annihilated". A two-year-old girl born in this country is dressed up in an "I Heart Al-Qaida" cap. Demonstrators call for "a real holocaust", with the horrible insinuation of holocaust-deniers everywhere: that the genocide never took place, but that it should have done.

There was a time when all this might have been dismissed as empty rhetoric. But the past five years have swept away any such innocence.

British boys have left Tipton and Wanstead and Beeston to fight and kill their fellow citizens - whether in Iraq, Gaza, Afghanistan or London. When these Islamist protesters dress up as suicide bombers and revel in the "magnific! ent" attacks of 9/11, they are not engaging in a harmless daydream: they are encouraging murder. And, to be fair, the police did eventually arrest two people for breaching the peace - not Islamist protesters, you understand, but two counter-demonstrators who were apparently provoking trouble by carrying images of Mohammed.

Now you might argue that the Met was right to lay off: that we live in a free country, however loudly the demonstrators decry that freedom, and that we should tolerate even the most noxious and deluded of opinions. The trouble is that we don't. We live in a country where you can be arrested for reciting the names of dead soldiers at the Cenotaph, heckling at a Labour Party conference or making slighting remarks about Osama bin La! den. We live in a country where a pensioner can be charged with "racially aggravated criminal damage" for scrawling "free speech for England" on a condemned wall.

Asked why it had not arrested any of the demonstrators, the Met refused to answer - or, to be precise, it said "the decision to arrest at a public order event must be viewed in the context of the overall policing plan and the environment the officers are operating in".

Might there be a connection between this cowardice and the contempt some Muslims feel for us? Is it not at least possible that the self-loathing they encounter, from the moment they go to school, turns some boys from Tipton and Wanstead and Beeston against their country?

After all, the question of whether it is possible to be a good British Muslim is not a new one. Hundreds of millions of Muslims lived peacefully under the British Crown, in India, Sudan, Malaya and elsewhere. They saw no conflict between their faith and their civic loyalty, fighting for Britain even when we went to war against the Ottoman Caliph. The difference is that, in those days, we had confidence in ourselves, and conveyed this confidence to others.

Compare that attitude with the apologies we heard yesterday from the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, the former Met chief Lord Stevens and others, all of whom seemed to ! be more upset about the depiction of the Prophet in Jyllands-Posten than about the fact that a tiny minority in this country seems bent on the murder of the rest of us. This newspaper has a deep regard for Islam, that purest and most abstract of the monotheistic faiths, to whose tenets we recently dedicated a series of colour supplements.

We share the admiration of Rousseau, Carlyle and Gibbon for the Prophet, which is why, on grounds of courtesy, we have chosen not to cause gratuitous offence to his followers by reproducing the cartoons at the centre of this row. But that is a different thing from saying that such images ought not to be published. All respectable Muslims should be horrified at the antics of the ignorant loudmouths who paraded through Knightsbridge at the weekend. At best, they have disgraced their religion. At worst, they have incited terrorism and, in so doing, condemned themselves to an infinitely worse fate than they need fear from our courts.

"The actions of each man are bound about his neck," says the Koran (17:13). "On the Day of Resurrection, he shall be confronted with a scroll spread wide open."

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