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"There are no Muslim terrorists. There are terrorists," Father Paul Hawkins of St Pancras parish church told his congregation on Sunday. "The people who carried out these attacks are victims of a false religion, be it false Christianity or false Islam."
Oh, dear. "Britain can take it" (as they said in the Blitz): that's never been in doubt. The question is whether Britain can still dish it out. When events such as last Thursday's occur, two things happen, usually within hours if not minutes: first, spokespersons for Islamic lobby groups issue warnings about an imminent backlash against Muslims.
In fairness to British organisations, I believe they were beaten to the punch by the head of the Canadian Islamic Congress whose instant response to the London bombings was to issue a statement calling for prayers that "Canadian Muslims will not pay a price for being found guilty by association".
In most circumstances it would be regarded as appallingly bad taste to deflect attention from an actual "hate crime" by scaremongering about a non-existent one. But it seems the real tragedy of every act of "intolerance" by Islamist bigots is that it might hypothetically provoke even more intolerance from us irredeemable white imperialist racists. My colleague Peter Simple must surely marvel at how the identity-group grievance industry has effortlessly diversified into pre-emptively complaining about acts of prejudice that have not yet occurred.
Among those of us who aren't Muslim, meanwhile, there's a stampede to be first to the microphone to say that "of course" we all know that "the vast majority of Muslims" are not terrorists but law-abiding peace-loving people who share our revulsion at these appalling events, etc.
Mr Blair won that contest on Thursday, followed closely by Brian Paddick and full supporting cast. If "of course" Mr Blair and Mr Paddick and the rest do indeed know that "the vast majority of Muslims" do not favour terrorism, is that because they've run the numbers and have a ballpark figure on the very very very slim minority of Muslims who do? And, if so, what is it? 0.02 per cent? Or two per cent? Or 20 per cent?
And, if they haven't run the numbers, why do they claim to speak with authority on this matter? If it were just a question of rhetorical sensitivity, I'd be happy to go along with Mr Paddick's multiculti pap and insist that "Islam and terrorism don't go together" - events in Beslan, Bali, Israel, Nigeria, Kashmir, etc, notwithstanding. But the danger in separating "Islam" from "terrorism" is that it leads the control-freaks of the nanny state into thinking that "terrorism" is something that can be dealt with by border security, ID cards, retinal scans, metal detectors. It can't.
Terrorism ends when the broader culture refuses to tolerate it. There would be few if any suicide bombers in the Middle East if "martyrdom" were not glorified by imams and politicians, if pictures of local "martyrs" were not proudly displayed in West Bank grocery stores, if Muslim banks did not offer special "martyrdom" accounts to the relicts thereof, if schools did not run essay competitions on "Why I want to grow up to be a martyr".
At this point, many readers will be indignantly protesting that this is all the fault of Israeli "occupation", but how does that explain suicide bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where there's not a Zionist oppressor for hundreds of miles? Islam has become the world's pre-eminent incubator of terrorism at its most depraved. Indeed, so far London has experienced only the lighter items on the bill of fare - random bombing of public transport rather than decapitation, child sacrifice and schoolhouse massacres.
Most of us instinctively understand that when a senior Metropolitan Police figure says bullishly that "Islam and terrorism don't go together", he's talking drivel.
Many of us excuse it on the grounds that, well, golly, it must be a bit embarrassing to be a Muslim on days like last Thursday and it doesn't do any harm to cheer 'em up a bit with some harmless feel-good blather. But is this so?
Why are we surprised that "Muslim moderates" rarely speak out against the evil committed by their co-religionists when the likes of Mr Paddick keep assuring us there's no problem? It requires great courage to be a dissenting Muslim in communities dominated by heavy-handed imams and lobby groups that function effectively as thought-police.
Yet all you hear from Mr Paddick is: "Move along, folks, there's nothing to see here." This is the same approach, incidentally, that the authorities took in their long refusal to investigate seriously the 120 or so "honour killings" among British Muslims.
Just as the police did poor Muslim girls no favours by their excessive cultural sensitivity, so they're now doing the broader Muslim community no favours. The Blair-Paddick strategy only provides a slathering of mindless multiculti fudge topping over the many layers of constraint that prevent Islam beginning an honest conversation with itself.
Unlike Malaya or the Mau-Mau or the IRA, this is a global counter-terrorism operation across widely differing terrain, geographical and psychological. We need to be able to kill, constrain, coerce or coax as appropriate.
Kill terrorists when the opportunity presents itself, as 1,200 "insurgents" were said to have been killed in one recent engagement on the Syria/Iraq border the other day. Constrain the ideology behind Thursday's bombing by outlawing Saudi funding of British mosques and other institutions. Coerce our more laggardly allies like General Musharraf into shutting down his section of the Saudi-Pakistani-Londonistan Wahhabist pipeline.
But the coaxing is what counts - wooing moderate Muslims into reclaiming their religion. We can take steps to prevent Islamic terrorists killing us, most of the time. But Islamic terrorists will only stop trying to kill us when their culture reviles them rather than celebrates them.
There are signs in the last week's Muslim newspapers, in London and abroad, that some eminent voices are beginning to speak out. At such a moment, Britain should be on the side of free speech and open debate. Instead, the state is attempting to steamroller through a grotesque law at the behest of already unduly influential Islamic lobby groups. One of its principal effects will be to inhibit Muslim reformers. Shame on us for championing Islamic thought-police over Western liberty.
Mark Steyn is a Canadian journalist, columnist and film and theatre critic. He is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. This article appeared in the Opinion Telegraph July 12, 2005. It is archived at www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2005/ 07/12/do1202.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2005/07/12/ixopinion.html Copyright Mark Steyn.
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