It is intellectually dishonest to say Islamist terrorism has nothing to do with Islam

I’ve nearly got to the stage where I don’t want to watch or read anything to do with current affairs ever again. I’m tempted to send televisions, radios, newspapers, magazines, even the whole internet, google and all, the way of Jeremiah’s scroll. Burn the lot of them, for all I care.

Sunday Morning Live, the BBC current affairs programme, is the source of my present discontent. This isn’t a blind prejudice. I don’t have a problem with news and current affairs as a concept. These sorts of programmes can be interesting, educational and sometimes entertaining.

I don’t even support the idea of book burning normally; it’s the response of idiots and barbarians. That was something the Nazis did, if you remember. I’m close, that’s all I’m saying. Not to joining the Nazis. I’m not close to that at all. I mean I’m close to giving up newsy programmes.

When it comes to current affairs, as dished up by the media, the problem is less conceptual and more practical. For some reason I turned the TV on this morning, at a time that might have been better spent in church, and there I found Sunday Morning Live; they were discussing the issue of the day (it’s the issue of our lifetime, actually, but this thought might seem too sensational for some). The issue is, of course, Cliff. No, not really. It’s Islamism – that’s the issue.

No doubt we need to discuss the matter. British citizens are, after all, displaying an unhealthy appetite for beheading infidels (that’s the average Brit, if you were wondering). Some of them also seem oddly keen to travel to crazy parts of the world, such as the thrilling new caliphate presently establishing itself in the countries formerly known as Syria and Iraq. And other British citizens, those who might lack the adventurous spirit of their more ‘militant’ friends but who nevertheless travel in the same direction, are becoming increasingly content to display their contempt for the British way of life. This last point is less news-worthy than the others, for sure, but it is perhaps more important for the survival of British liberal democracy.

I’m obviously not insisting that these people should go to our more seedy resorts to get drunk, fall over their cheep stilettos in the street, spraining their ankles something rotten in the process, and expose their thongs in a manner undignified enough to attract a certain type of photojournalist. I’m not suggesting they develop a gambling habit, either, or that they take illegal drugs just to show how assimilated they are.

But I am suggesting that they make up their minds if they want to live in liberal democratic Britain. If they do, then that’s fine. It would be nice if they just showed a little respect for the country in which they choose to live, which is, incidentally, a country infinitely better than the ones they seem to laud so much. If they do not, then that’s fine too. But go away!

And you don’t, by the way, demonstrate love for country, or even a person, by spending a lifetime trying to change everything about them. That’s not how it works, yet that is what Islamists want to do, even the ones mislabelled as moderates.

The frustration with Sunday Morning Live, however, was a bit more specific. It was the programme’s choice of guest. Free speech is obviously important, and it is not always easy for the BBC to demonstrate a level of ‘balance’ and ‘inclusivity’ in their choice of guests that will satisfy everyone. But the guy they had on the video link was unbelievable.

This guy, Abu Rumaysah, who was referred to as an Islamic activist, sat there justifying the murders going on in the Middle East (opaquely, of course, so as to fool people who want to be fooled). He called for Muslims to travel to the ‘caliphate’ and by implication (opaquely, again) partake in the fighting, the kidnapping and the murder.

This is not an issue of free speech. It is an issue of criminality. Any guilt is, of course, subject to proper criminal proceedings, and he, like anyone else, is innocent until proven guilty. But he is surely worth investigating, isn’t he? Or is he just an idiot we should ignore? But if that’s the case, then why is the BBC giving him airtime?

Part of the problem is British decency. We do not want to make ‘martyrs’ of these people; we do not want to curtail our freedoms to deal with these people; and we do not want to denigrate everything about Islam by clumsily criticising this particular strand of Islam.

It is therefore understandable that Lord Winston, one of the sofa-guests, should wish to say that this is not an Islamic problem. He argued, very thoughtfully, that this is a problem of terrorism and the recruitment of disaffected youth, drawing on examples from Cambodia, China, Kashmir and more. While the second part of this argument is true, the first part is not, and anyone who has not been captured by our fake-liberal zeitgeist knows this. What Lord Winston seems reluctant to admit is that these youths have been captured by a very specific ideology, for very specific purposes – and that is the nature of almost all terrorism: purpose.

Youth will always be with us. Poisonous ideologies will not. Ideologies can be understood, reasoned with and defeated by argument and cultural change. Youth will forever be an enduring part of humanity, unless Lord Winston is aware of some scientific discovery not yet in the public domain. To ignore the relevance of the ideology behind the action, whether it is anarchism, communism or now Islamism, is to doom us to failure in tackling them.

This is intellectual dishonesty. It is understandable why we should wish to avoid unpalatable truths, but it is ultimately self-defeating. It is also, sadly, a malady of modern liberalism, which seems to have disappeared into a deep, dark cave and lost its orientation.

At one time during the programme a little strap line appeared on the screen. It asked ‘What should be done about British Islamic extremists?’ Here’s an idea: arrest them and prosecute them when they break the law; don’t invite them on the BBC. A simple idea, but one most reasonable people in Britain would think appropriate.

Apart from this there were some interesting points of discussion, it’s just that the programme might have benefited from someone who knew the law. We talk about British values quite a lot, but there is only one that is of relevance and that we can all probably agree with – that is to obey the law. We are a law-based society. Let’s recognise that, understand the relevant law and use it.


And it does’t help when the Prime Minister tells the House of Commons, as he did on Monday 1 September 2014, that the goings on in Syria and Iraq, the putative caliphate, the jihad, the attempt to create a state called the Islamic State and the desire to live under the laws of Islam have nothing to do with Islam.

Specifically he said: ‘And we should be clear that this has nothing to do with Islam.’

It’s clear what he is trying to say, or at least I hope it is: that Islam is not all about the extremism. Well, of course it isn’t. That much is obvious and I’m sure we do not need telling, at least not in this strange arrangement of words.

‘Nothing to do with Islam.’

Only it has. That’s the problem. Refusing to admit this obvious point is making it impossible for non-Muslims and Muslims alike, especially the vast majority of Muslims who want nothing to do with the barbarism of the Islamic State, to deal with the problem.

To solve a problem, first you need to understand the problem. And as far as the little problem of Islamism goes, I’m not sure we get it yet.

If Parliament is so important, why wasn’t that speech made in it?

David Cameron gives a good speech, I think most will agree. He spoke to his party conference without notes and established his leadership credentials, and he spoke again last time to quell the whispering campaign that might (although I think it unlikely) have brought his leadership to an end. Very few, if any, question his position now.

But yesterday’s speech on Britain’s place in Europe revealed something other than his ability to talk the talk. I’m not going into the meat of it here, but something struck me before he uttered even a word.

The location. The speech was apparently taking place in Bloomberg’s London office. No doubt this is a good venue, great even, and as a regional hub of an international news agency perhaps it makes a lot of sense given the international implications of his proposals. But it isn’t Parliament. You remember, that Gothic World Heritage Site beside the Thames from where we are notionally governed.

Then he got going and said something that seemed strange:

“It is national parliaments, which are, and will remain, the true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU.”

Really? Then why not deliver this most important of speeches to one of those parliaments – ours as it happens – in recognition of that legitimacy and to emphasise its democratic importance above that of the EU? The whole point of this passage was to propose ‘a bigger and more significant role for national parliaments.’

One can’t help thinking that parliament is not, in the minds of most politicians, the institution that matters most. Rather it is the Newsnight studio, the Today Programme sound-booth or something similar that is most important to a politician with a point to make.

Again:

“It is to the British Parliament that I must account on the EU budget negotiations, or on the safeguarding of our place in the single market.”

But not, apparently, when announcing the most important policy declaration on the UK’s place in that very same club. On the face of it, this is immeasurably important, because what the PM is proposing is a referendum that could well see us out of it. And if not out of it then under membership rules radically different to the ones we live under today – assuming the apparatus is amenable.

“Those are the Parliaments which instil proper respect – even fear – into national leaders. We need to recognise that in the way the EU does business.”

A great opportunity, then, to demonstrate the point by making the speech in Westminster. Or perhaps I’m being picky? Why not announce policy to the media instead of Parliament? It’s such common practice now, it would seem odd and strangely antiquated to make important announcements like this one in good old Westminster.

Still, had it not been for the Algerian hostage crisis, the speech might have been made in Amsterdam. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with making speeches outside Parliament, or even outside the country, but when the main antagonism is about national parliaments – and therefore democracy, accountability and legitimacy – being hollowed out by the EU bureaucracy, then one begins to wonder just what politicians really think about Parliament.

Do national leaders really fear democracy? Is that why they ignore its parliamentary houses? Or is it simply boring, or just inconvenient? I don’t really know, but whatever the EU project is about, it’s not about democracy. And that’s the primary problem. Parliament is where the demos gathers in the form of elected representatives and, if we ignore that demos or undermine it or marginalise it, then we should not be surprised if, in the end, the public comes to resent those people and external institutions that seem to stand against them.

Perhaps it really doesn’t mean a thing, but why was that speech, with its potentially seismic policy pronouncement, not made in Westminster to our democratically elected representatives?