By Ed West
March 28th, 2012
Something I wrote last week about Islam caused a bit of a stir, with one conservative blogger wondering if I had been threatened with beheading. The great Mark Steyn even wrote: “I’m sad to see the usually perceptive Ed West of the London Telegraph planting his flag on this wobbling blancmange.” Considering I am Mark Steyn’s biggest fan in the whole wide world, complete with a wall covered with pictures of him and a tattoo of his face on my chest, that’s left me with some mixed feelings.
And yet I still believe that Islam has become something of a scapegoat for the problems associated with mass immigration, and here’s why.
Conservatism is all about protecting the community from radical change; that is why conservatives tend to oppose large-scale immigration, which alters the social fabric in a huge way.
Yet from the 1960s to the 1990s, both in Britain and the US, conservatives lost this argument, despite overwhelming public support. They lost because they lost the intellectual justification for group solidarity or “parochial altruism” against post-war radical universalism, to the extent that normal human feelings were redefined as forms of mental illness. Defeat. Until Islam came along, allowing conservatives to make arguments using language that liberals would permit.
Mass immigration brings enormous social costs, most of which are borne by the working classes, who in England have been shafted by an experiment in which they had no say and which was instigated by people far richer and more privileged than them. People are, understandably, uneasy about it.
But although many of the more intelligent people behind some “anti-jihad” groups are genuinely horrified by certain Islamic attitudes to women, homosexuality or Jews, to suggest that most people go on English Defence League marches for these reasons strikes me as absurd. Most people oppose large-scale immigration from countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia not because of Islam but because the newcomers are alien to them and their arrival disrupt their neighbourhood and life. These are understandable human feelings, but people are unable to articulate them without committing a thought crime.
So instead the problems of mass immigration are blamed on Islam, including the problems associated with immigrants themselves.
Take Mohammed Merah, the Toulouse killer; before becoming an Islamist he had a long, long record of juvenile crime, with 15 convictions behind him. He discovered religion while in prison, just like many British Islamists, such as shoe bomber Richard Reid; many others became radicalised through gang involvement and crime, such as Germaine Lindsay. These were not ordinary young men corrupted by the Prophet Mohammed.
Islamism is political; it attracts angry, extreme, violent young men from the immigrant underclass who find others willing to justify their thirst for violence, by using holy texts. Merah’s justification – “you killed my brothers, I kill you” – is not words of faith but naked tribalism.
Conservatism’s obsession with Islam is partly a reaction to multiculturalism, which holds that all religions are basically the same. This is untrue, as anyone with even a middling understanding of history can appreciate: the current moral order that emerged from the West, the world of the Enlightenment, the UN and human rights, stems from Christianity. No other religion could have produced it – not Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, because none have Christianity’s concept of the individual. Christianity is essentially a union of Hellenic and Hebrew civilisations, the greatest marriage that ever took place.
Islam, in contrast, lacks not just Western concepts of the individual but also Christianity's historic separation of the state and religion. There is also no doubt that Islam has a very ambiguous attitude to violence in its name.
The religion desperately needs reform, but it is not incapable of it, and huge numbers of Muslims happily set aside the more unpalatable passages of their holy texts, just as Jews and Christians do. For middle-class British Muslims the popular idea that they practice some sort of political-religious death cult must strike them as bizarre, so removed from the actual practice of their religion.
The problem is not Islam, but the movement of peoples across the world, and the conflict this produces. One estimate suggests that although Islamic terrorists around the world typically fit no profile, in terms of age and education, 80 per cent are immigrants or the sons of immigrants. The problem with mass immigration is not Islam, but mass immigration, which creates the ghettos from where sectarianism thrives.
The huge movements of recent years have made Islam and Christianity an anchor of identity to people in Europe. The EDL are essentially a Christianist group, but the sentiments behind sectarianism and nationalism are the same. One cannot blame sectarianism on religion any more than one can blame nationalism on language – it just is. (It’s not as if the Shankill butchers were forever discussing Calvin and Luther on their nights out.)
Besides which, many of the “Islamic” customs which people object to have little or nothing to do with Islam. Forced marriages are a south Asian custom, one that radical Islamists oppose for being too Hindu. Honour killings have been a custom in many Christian cultures (the first in recent European history was carried out by a Palestinian Christian), but Christians no longer practice this barbarity for the same reason that British Hindus don’t – because they are urban, sophisticated, wealthy and educated. Many Pakistanis from rural Mirpur are not. But it's rather impolite to criticise a national culture; easier just to say “Islam”.
Of course religions plays a part – Middle Eastern and south Asian Christians assimilate far easier, but you can’t blame Islam for all dysfunctional cultural characteristics. Many West Africans have brought over religious and cultural practices that are as awful as anything from Pakistan, but because they’re Christians this attracts less attention here.
Islamophobia is a very dubious term because it is used to describe both legitimate criticism of a religion, and anti-Muslim hostility. But that’s not to say that sectarianism does not exist; the irony is that it has become acceptable partly because conservatives have been unable to articulate decent and legitimate opposition to mass immigration in the first place.
As Christopher Caldwell once put it: “Islam is a magnificent religion that has also been, at times over the centuries, a glorious and generous culture. But, all can’t to the contrary; it is in no sense Europe’s religion and in no sense Europe’s culture.”
The problem has been in trying to make it Europe’s. But if anyone thinks mass immigration would have been fine had it not been for a man living in seventh-century Arabia, they're as much of a utopian as any liberal.
Source: The Telegraph