R. K. RAGHAVAN
Demolishes the theory that licence to religions has worked well for the U.K.
LONDONISTAN - How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within: Melanie Phillips; GibsonSquare Publishers, 47, Lonsdale Square, London N1 1EW. £. 14.99.The July 2005 explosions in the London Underground came as a rude shock to many who believed that Britain was well integrated into a healthy multicultural society where religious differences hardly mattered. Intelligence uncovered since then has decisively established that there is a small, yet, determined group of Muslim youth in the country which perceives intolerable injustice and discrimination in the existing social order which had to be dismantled somehow, preferably by using the plank of religion. This unpleasant development has triggered an uninhibited debate in the country on whether a liberal policy of religious freedom needs a re-look. In a significant shift articulated by the Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly of the Labour Government, the country has a brand new Commission on Integration and Cohesion, which would go into this somewhat contentious issue. Coincidentally, George Alagiah, born in Sri Lanka, raised in Ghana, who came to England 40 years ago, and is now BBC's most well known face, in his A Home from Home (just released), has come out with some brilliant analysis which could shake the foundations of multiculturalism in the U.K. His ethnic background gives him enviable credibility, and the debate around his thesis should pick up momentum in the days to come.
Licence to religions
As if in anticipation of Kelly and Alagiah, Melanie Phillips, a controversial writer with acid in her pen, demolishes the theory that licence to religions has worked well for the U.K. She is positive that a weak-kneed policy that had all along pandered to the idiosyncrasies of Muslim preachers was the root cause for last year's attack on London transport. This permissiveness, especially towards Islamist propaganda, was compounded by an even weaker immigration policy that had led to the import of dangerous ideas, especially from Pakistan. Incidentally, Phillips went to the extent of saying recently that preaching Christianity in the U.K. had nearly become a crime! I can hardly resist the temptation of quoting Phillips verbatim, only to give a glimpse of the kind of torrid prose she writes: "Britain is currently locked into such a spiral of decadence, self-loathing and sentimentality that it is setting itself up for cultural immolation... This is likely to lead to the increasing marginalisation of British Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities caught in a pincer movement between radical Islamists on the one hand and, on the other, a craven establishment that is pandering to Islamist extremism. So much for the multicultural nirvana."
Beginning of the rout
Won't you agree that Phillips is entertaining if not wholly enlightening? She identifies the arrival of radical individualism from America after the Second World War as the beginning of the rout. She goes on to accuse the Establishment of succumbing to a "victim culture" which reviles every aspect of the British society as anti-Islamic. In her view, the Church of England had connived at this "retreat from the Judeo-Christian heritage." Even more dangerous was the facilitation of arrival into the land of explosive clerics including Omar Bakri Mohammed (who has since been banned from re-entry into the U.K. and spotted last in Lebanon) and turning a blind eye to the flowering of centres such as the Finsbury Park mosque which disseminated fiery propaganda that Islam was in danger. Here Phillips detects crass politics by the Blair Government. She charges that the Labour Party had solid support from among immigrants, and it was shy of doing anything that would even remotely hurt its electoral prospects in some sensitive pockets. She goes on to cite the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir Ali, of Pakistani origin, saying that some Labour MPs looked to support from Pakistani leaders for influencing voting in U.K. elections. Does this not sound familiar to many of us in India?Phillips attributes the Blair Government's complacence to a lack of appreciation that the situation was becoming dangerous and divisive to a community that had all along boasted itself to be a model for religious and cultural diversity. The intelligence agencies had a definite share of the blame. While they were aware of the incendiary speeches made by some Muslim leaders, one view within the Establishment was that it was good to provide an opportunity for religious fanatics and freaks to let off some steam, rather than target them for legal action! In her evaluation of recent trends this was a blunder for which the country was now paying dearly.
She advocates a departure from the current policy of appeasement and a repeal of the Human Rights Act that would permit the government to throw out the Muslim radicals who had sought refuge from their countries of birth. Also required were special courts which could accept evidence from intelligence agencies and proceed quickly against those who had been suspected of terrorist acts. A bold assertion of the primacy of British values and the abandonment of a doctrine of multiculturalism that had caused havoc in the land are some others in the list of prescriptions handed out by the physician that Phillips assumes she is.To an average reader, this book may appear to be a superficial analysis of the recent events in the U.K. This is because Phillips uses incendiary language that one does not normally associate with depth and scholarship. Nevertheless it reflects a point of view that is difficult to spurn in these troubled times. It is enough for one more incident of the kind that one saw last year to lend credibility to Phillips and her ilk. People like Alagiah may seem to write with greater responsibility. But then if you analyse them deeply, you will find they share some ground with Phillips, whose main fault is one of sounding blunt and abrasive with no time for the niceties of language and diplomacy. This is why I would strongly recommend her to be read, and taken seriously, at least for the facts, which she places before you on a subject that is becoming more and more relevant to India.