Melanie Phillips

5 July 2006

State of denial

Published in: Daily Mail

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The day after tomorrow, Britain commemorates a sombre anniversary that is also ringing the loudest of alarm bells. On year on from last July’s London bombings by two groups of British Muslim boys, the mortal threat to Britain from Islamist terror appears to have increased many times over.

We learn from the head of the Metropolitan Police’s Anti-Terrorism Branch, Peter Clarke, that no fewer than 70 further such terrorist plots are currently under investigation. That is a simply astounding number. This is not terrorism as conventionally understood, but a war.

Meanwhile an opinion poll reveals that, while the vast majority of British Muslims do not support terror, a horrifying number do so; while even more harbour the kind of extremist views which create the sea in which terrorism swims.

Many thousands of British Muslims are patriotic, law-abiding citizens. Indeed, last weekend saw the death in action of a British Muslim soldier, Jabron Hashmi, who was killed fighting for his country against the Taleban in Afghanistan.

Yet according to the Populus poll, 13 per cent of Britain’s 1.6 million Muslims believe the 7/7 bombers should be regarded as martyrs; between seven and 16 per cent per cent think suicide attacks on British targets can be justified; and two per cent would be proud if a family member joined al Qaeda, with a further 16 per cent who would be indifferent.

That represents hundreds of thousands of British Muslims who either justify or support the murder of their fellow citizens. These numbers are utterly appalling.

Moreover, they are consistent with many other similar findings. Only last week, a Pew opinion poll across Europe revealed that, while Britain was more sympathetic to its Muslim minority than was any other country, British Muslims hated their own country, the west and the Jews more than Muslims anywhere else.

Yet the air is currently thick with recriminations that Britain has failed to do more to win Muslim hearts and minds. Is this true? I’m afraid this misses the point.

The disturbing fact is that, even after 7/7, both the political and security establishment and large parts of the Muslim community are in a lethal state of denial. They are refusing to acknowledge the true causes of the terrorist threat and taking refuge instead in various alibis.

The essence of the problem is that it is not enough — necessary as it is — to detect and thwart terrorist plots. Just as crucial is to address the hatred and lies that are driving this murderous violence.

In particular, what needs to be combated with the utmost vigour is the Muslim culture of grievance, the paranoid belief that the west is engaged in a conspiracy to aggressively attack and destroy the Islamic world.

This delusion has meant that many Muslims misrepresent Islamist aggression as self-defence, and the west’s attempt to defend itself as aggression. This double-think means that Britain is itself blamed for the attacks mounted upon it.

But as the Met’s Peter Clarke has observed, the actual causes are far deeper and more intractable. They lie in a deadly intersection between Islamist radicalism and the alienation of many British Muslims.

Many of their young are stranded in a cultural desert. On one side is the traditional culture of their families. On the other is a society bombarding them with drugs, alcohol, pornography and sexually available young women, and a governing class which constantly rubbishes Britain’s bedrock values.

Thus rootless and confused, many young Muslims are all too vulnerable to Islamist radicals seductively promising them an identity which can give them self-respect and a sense of purpose. Tragically, it is an identity based on hatred and violence.

Saudi Arabia has pumped hundreds of ,millions of dollars into promoting this agenda of holy war against the west throughout the world. This money funds extremism in many British Muslim institutions, and has helped produce a climate of such irrationality that many British Muslims actually believe that 9/11 was an American or Zionist plot.

But instead of fighting these warped ideas, many in the British establishment are appeasing them. The Labour MPs Sadiq Khan and John Denham, who also chairs the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, have blamed the government for failing to act on the recommendations of the committees of Muslims set up to advise it on combating Muslim extremism.

But these committees blamed this extremism almost entirely on Islamophobia, poverty and foreign policy. Yesterday, no less a person than the Prime Minister said they were wrong. Specifically he urged instead an attack upon distorted Islamist ideology. The problem is that at every turn his government seeks to appease the extremist agenda.

What is little realised is that the committees on extremism were actually packed with Islamist extremists — and even worse, other radicals have been recruited as advisers into Whitehall.

Meanwhile, the establishment — which, in the name of multiculturalism, has a long record of appeasing minorities — is terrified to identify the cause of this terrorism as religious fanaticism, because it fears this might tar all Muslims with the same brush.

But this doesn’t follow at all. Indeed, the Populus poll revealed that more than half of all British Muslims want the government to do much more to root out the extremism being practised in the name of their religion.

It is beyond belief, for example, that what is hailed as the biggest mosque in Europe is planned to be built on the east London site of the Olympic village — and it is being funded by the Tablighi Jamaat, said by the FBI and French intelligence to be the biggest recruiters for al Qaeda in Europe.

It is beyond belief that nothing is being done to stop the recruitment and incitement to violence taking place not just in mosques and madrassahs but on campus, in youth clubs and in prisons.

It was concern over the depth of Britain’s denial that caused me to write my book ‘Londonistan’ — which was almost not published in Britain because publishers thought it was not ‘politically correct’ — precisely to sound the alarm over a widespread state of denial which, if unchecked, will have deadly consequences.

Instead of appeasing extremism, the government should be seeking out, promoting and protecting the growing number of truly moderate Muslims — many of them young professionals — who are wholly opposed to their radicalised institutions and desperate to rid their community of the extremism that so disfigures it.

The Government should send Muslims the message that they are welcome and respected members of the community who are free to practise their faith — but that the abuse of that faith to incite violence or hatred will not be tolerated.

That means finding out what is being taught and preached in mosques and madrassahs, on campus and in prisons, and where this is inciting violence or hatred ensuring that those responsible will be prosecuted or thrown out of the country.

And at the same time, it must also end the cultural cringe of multiculturalism and reassert British national identity rooted in the particulars of this island’s history, laws religion and culture.

The July bombings were a wake-up call that has not yet been heeded. Only if Britain wakes up from its trance will it avoid even worse tragedies to come.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography


  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

Contact Melanie

Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT

Contact Melanie