Inconvenient hard questions need to be asked about Islam in the West

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It might just be time for the West to admit that maybe – just maybe – there’s a problem with Islam.

Now, already I can feel the thunderous denunciations that are coming my way from those who identify as ‘liberal’, so in the interests of saving time, I shall launch a pre-emptive strike, and list (and debunk) them here.

The first is usually something along the lines of ‘But all religions are bad,’ with a smirk, a scoff, and a mock-exasperated shake of the head. Now, to a point I’m inclined to agree; Catholicism and its hatred of condoms haven’t done much to help Africa’s struggle with HIV/AIDS, and I don’t see how anyone sane can look at America’s Bible Belt and think those people have got the right ideas about the world.

Yet, as lunatic as many American Evangelical Christians are, they haven’t set bombs off and gunned people down in restaurants, or at pop concerts, or on public transport. They haven’t brutally murdered journalists or teachers for expressing their right to free speech. Oh, their protests outside abortion clinics are perfectly vile, as are their homophobic views, but I can’t put their religious madness in the same bracket as extremist Muslims. Anyone who can should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

The second often relates to Western military actions in the Middle East, most commonly a comment on how airstrikes have killed innocent people, therefore Muslims have the right to be angry, which apparently somehow then also gives them the right to be murderously violent. This second argument is an attempt to give Islamic extremism the credibility of having a political motive, something akin to what the IRA were trying to achieve. Naturally, I despise the IRA, but at least they had a goal in mind; although I’m often told that what Islamic extremists want is the removal of all Western military forces from the Middle East, should this actually happen I highly doubt violent Islamism would suddenly disappear from the face of Europe. After all, many terrorist incidents have been related to issues over free speech, and unless even further concessions are made to Islamism, I can’t see this particular point of contention disappearing.

The third is a variation on the theme of ‘But that’s not real Islam – Islam is a religion of peace. The people who do these things misinterpret the Quran’. This seems doubtful: if this were the case, one might also question how so many people have managed to misinterpret it over the course of a thousand years. Buddhism – a far older religion – is indeed a religion of peace, and none of its adherents seem to manage to misunderstand it to the point that they feel the need to go on murderous rampages; why, whenever they set anything on fire, it’s usually themselves. In addition, a quick read of the Quran’s Surah chapters can leave one in no doubt that non-believers should be ‘killed, subjugated or besieged’. ISIS, Al-Qaeda and their friends actually seem to be interpreting their holy text just fine.

Of course, no self-identified liberal will concede any of these points – nor will they accept that it isn’t just terrorism which is causing these Western woes.

A Republican Guard holds a portrait of Samuel Paty in the courtyard of the Sorbonne University during a national memorial event in Paris, France, 21 October 2020. A French history teacher, Paty was beheaded in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris, by an 18-year-old Moscow-born, Chechen refugee, who was later shot dead by police. EPA-EFE//FRANCOIS MARI

It is baffling to me that modern liberals can champion causes such as feminism and LGBT rights (as they should) while simultaneously defending Islam with a passion that can be decidedly alarming. It is a glaring inconsistency that those on the Western Left can despise conservatives, yet put a group which is more right-wing than any Tory or Republican could ever be on a pedestal.

Nor do they seem to understand that as much as they hate and fear the rise of populist groups across Europe, they themselves are partly responsible for their surge in support: if other parties in preceding years had had either the wits or the honesty to admit that perhaps introducing yet more people from the Middle East may not be such a brilliant idea, the likes of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders would never have got a look-in.

I am not solely referring to terrorism here – the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults of 2015/2016 in Germany were, according to police reports, ‘coordinated and planned’, and universally carried out by men ‘where sexual assaults by groups of men are common’. This was followed by reported increases of rape in Sweden, which had – as a gesture of socialist goodwill – taken in many migrants from the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

The Left, then, needs to think about the motives of its right-wing rivals – this has historically been the first step in defeating political opponents. It might also put more thought into its foreign policy: very little criticism is directed towards Turkey, Iran or Saudi Arabia, but they will condescend to slam China for its treatment of its Uyghur Muslim population (incidentally, the fact that they are willing to go after China but not Saudi Arabia suggests that this is not about economics or trade, and rather more about a reluctance to offend Islam).

Whenever outrage erupts over China’s horrifying internment and forced re-education of the Uighurs, it is over the fact that concentration camps have managed to spring up again in the 21st century – only unlike Hitler, China looks set to get away with it. Yet few people will question China’s motive for pursuing this disgusting course of action; perhaps Beijing, having seen how Islam, along with its defenders and its detractors, has split Europe and caused catastrophic political divisiveness, justifies its evil actions as a preventative measure.

In much of this, I may be preaching to the converted, if you’ll pardon the phrasing. The question remains over what should be done about it all.

I have two suggestions. The first would be something proposed by Majid Nawaz, who calls for significant reform in Islam; his argument centres on the Catholics having got over its extremism, and now it is time for Muslims to do the same, as he would know better than most since Nawaz was himself a former Islamic extremist.

The second is far harder – left-wing groups must find their political backbone. Last year, protests by Muslim parents broke out in Birmingham after they discovered that a homosexual teacher had been telling their children that members of the LGBT community were perfectly ordinary human beings and should be accorded every respect and kindness due to anyone else. These protests then spread to other cities.

Investigators gather evidence inside a cordon near Hurst Street following a major stabbing incident in the center of Birmingham, UK, September 6, 2020. A Muslim convert fatally stabbed a man from behind after ‘hearing voices from a Muslim Leader’ while in Birmingham. EPA-EFE//NEIL HALL

The British Left were curiously quiet about this incident; it is not, of course, hard to see why. They have traditionally backed both factions, and choosing one side over the other would – rightly – lead to allegations over hypocrisy; you cannot insist that LGBT rights are a priority whilst supporting a religion which, when in political power, puts members of the LGBT community to death.

It is time for a very hard look at Islam’s future in Europe – and an honest appraisal over if it can indeed qualify as a religion or a political and social movement, and if it is, ultimately, compatible with the Western notions of free expression, secular democracy, and transparent justice.

The German Red Cross was forced to set up emergency treatment tents after mass sexual assaults occurred on New Year’s Eve in 2015/16 in several German cities. The sites were set up tents for possible victims of sexual assault and harassment. EPA-EFE//HAYOUNG JEON

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