Islamism in Britain Part 1: Is there a problem?

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The former Home Secretary Suella Braverman is in trouble. She recently wrote that Britain was "sleepwalking into a ghettoised society where free expression and British values are diluted. Where Sharia law, the Islamist mob and anti-Semites take over communities...Islamists are bullying Britain into submission." Cue outrage.

A few days later Conservative MP Lee Anderson told GB News that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had given "our capital city away to his mates", before adding, "I don't actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they've got control of Khan, and they've got control of London." The uproar and cries of racism and Islamophobia have been so loud that Anderson has been suspended by the Conservative Party and the hunt is on for Braverman.

Once again, the noise on both sides is overwhelming, but is it possible to have a more balanced, Christian perspective?

Firstly, let's begin with some basics.

To critique Islam or Islamism is not racism

Islam is not a race. As most Muslims will tell you, there are Muslims from all different races. I have asked numerous commentators and politicians if they would regard Christophobia as racist and not one of them would. So why does one religion get this privileged status? When politicians such as Sadiq Khan, Anna Soubry and David Lammy claim that being critical of Islam is racist, they are playing a very dangerous game.

Islam and Islamism are not the same

All Muslims are not Islamists, although all Islamists are Muslim. What, then, is Islamism? Wikipedia defines it as "a political ideology which seeks to enforce Islamic precepts and norms as generally applicable rules for people's conduct; and whose adherents seek a state based on Islamic values and laws (sharia) and rejecting Western guiding principles, such as freedom of opinion, freedom of the press, artistic freedom and freedom of religion".

I have known Muslims in the UK who came to this country precisely because they wanted to escape Islamist regimes, although most would be too scared to say that such is the reach of Islamism in the UK.

This distinction is vital. In a pluralist society we welcome Muslims to the country and support their right to freedom of worship. That is why I wrote this article on Christian Today in defence of Muslims being permitted to build a mosque in Stornoway.

But there is an enormous caveat to that. Muslims who come to this country must realise that this is a country built on Christian principles which include the very freedoms they may exploit, and which do not exist for most Christians in Islamic countries. If we do not wish to live under Sharia law, or have an apartheid society where Muslims have separate laws from the rest of us, then we should be free to say so – without being silenced by the cry of 'Islamophobia".

Lee Anderson was foolish in his remarks not because he warned about Islamism, but rather because he accused Sadiq Khan and London of being controlled by Islamists. That is a serious charge which without evidence is both harmful and stupid – playing right into the hands of the real Islamists.

But was Braverman correct in her analysis that Islamism is a clear and present danger in the UK? I believe she was.

Firstly, it's important to note that this whole situation arose out of an astonishing week in Parliament. The SNP, seeking to put forward a motion in Parliament calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, put forward one that was so extreme that many Labour MPs could not have supported it. The trouble was that those same Labour MPs were coming under such pressure from Islamists and left-wing supporters (Hamas and the Socialist Workers make strange bedfellows!) – a pressure which included physical threats to themselves, their families and their staff - that the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, changed parliamentary procedures, in order to allow a Labour amendment instead. Cue uproar. If you want to read more on this, Konstantin Kisin summarises the situation well.

But the key point is that such was the Islamist threat to MPs that our parliamentary procedures had to be changed. As the journalist Stephen Daisley tweeted: "The Islamist threat to MPs is so severe the Speaker had to upend parliamentary procedure to appease it, but also the Islamist threat is being overblown by the right, but also MPs need more protection. From Islamists. Whose threat is overblown. Gotcha."

Was Sir Lindsay right to be concerned? Absolutely. Private security firms are being deployed to protect MPs after the Hamas attack on Israel – and they are not being deployed to protect them from Jewish extremists!

The Islamist movement has already killed one MP, launched a deadly car and knife attack on Westminster, forced the Jewish MP Mike Freer to resign and killed 94 people in Britain in the past couple of decades. The Far Right are cited (rightly) as a threat, but there is not an equivalence. The Far Right have killed three people. Ironically the Far-Right flourish when mainstream society refuses to take the threat of Islamism seriously.

It's incredible how the threat of being accused of racism or Islamophobia silences people. Take for example this article on the BBC from Laura Kuenssberg. It has no difficulty in mentioning the Far Right, Brexit etc, but not a word about Islamism. Why? Could it be fear of being accused of blasphemy?

We always hear about 'extremists' but unlike others, Islamic ones are rarely named. Singer Morrissey summed it up with a biting remark after the Manchester Arena bombing (where 22 people, including children, were murdered by Islamist Salman Abedi): "Manchester mayor Andy Burnham says the attack is the work of an 'extremist'. An extreme what? An extreme rabbit?'"

The doctrine of equivalence is such a dangerous one. The organisation Hope Not Hate made a great fuss this week about having access to the private tweets of Paul Marshall, one of the owners of GB News. They seemed greatly excited about a few tweets (not written by Marshall) which he passed on, warning about the dangers of Islamism. This was proof of being 'Far Right' and 'racist'.

Hope Not Hate is a hopeless and hate-filled organisation that once issued a report claiming that writers such as Douglas Murray, Rod Liddle and Melanie Phillips were far-right extremists. Meanwhile they give a free pass to the hatred regularly being expressed in some (thankfully not most) mosques in the UK and on our streets.

What concerns me the most is not these bigger issues but how they are played out in our society. I could give you many examples that I have experienced but here are just a few - and for obvious reasons I won't name names. I think of the gay activist in Scotland who told me he was leaving the country because of the hatred. When I asked if it was homophobia, he said, "Oh no, I am a Jew, and for the first time in Scotland we now have serious antisemitism." The fact that this has come with the arrival of more Muslims is not a coincidence.

Or another gay couple in a Yorkshire town who had bought their own house and were living together. As the neighbourhood became more and more Muslim, they got 'offers' encouraging them to sell their house. When they refused, they faced a campaign of harassment – excrement through the door etc. They complained to the local council and an official came round, who was himself a Muslim, and in effect told them they should sell, because the area was now Muslim and they were offensive to Muslims.

Or the female Asian Islamic teenager who came to see me because she had become a Christian and had a white boyfriend. She was facing considerable harassment from her family and the local council and police had told her to go to her local Asian community group for help. She couldn't because some of her extended family were officials in that particular organisation. She ended up having to go into a protection programme of sorts where the police removed her to another area of the UK, anonymously for her own safety.

What astounded me about that incident several years ago was that there already existed a special unit in the police for protecting Muslims who converted. I thought then, as I do today: why are we not prosecuting those who threaten, abuse and harm in the name of their religion, rather than just removing the victims out of harm's way? Why not deal with those who would cause the harm? Is this because the authorities have already lost control?

In Sydney after the Hamas attacks last October, the New South Wales government decided to project the Israeli flag onto the Sydney Opera House. A demonstration was arranged by Islamists, and unbelievably Jews were ordered to stay away from the city centre. Anyone who waved an Israeli flag was in danger of being arrested while witnesses reported hearing chants of 'F*** the Jews, where are the Jews, gas the Jews". The waving of Palestinian flags was permitted, but fly an Israeli flag and you would be arrested – for your own protection! That is a situation that could and is being repeated in many UK cities and towns.

The situation is clear. Islamism is a real danger in Britain and it is the number one danger in terms of social cohesion, terrorism, and religious and political freedom.

And where is the Church in all this? Pathetically silent – except to join in the general warnings about Islamophobia. Has the Church of England or the Church of Scotland, or any denomination, warned about the dangers of Islamism? A taxi driver in a northern English town told me that in his area which was now largely Muslim, two churches had been burnt down and nothing could be done about it. Maybe he was lying or wrong, but the fact is that many who live in areas where Islamism is a problem share those fears, while those who live in areas where it doesn't exist, decry from the safety of their gated communities anyone who complains about it as racist and Islamophobic.

If the Church does not speak up for freedom and democracy in this once Christian country, who will? The politicians? The media? Or the far right? When people become desperate, as they see their neighbourhoods and their country going down this direction, it is little wonder that they turn to real extremes.

We should speak out now - while we still can. Because once the strange alliance of Islamists and progressives get their way, a new hate crime bill will be passed and any criticism of Islam or any Muslim will be considered Islamophobic and racist.

Is there a solution to all this? Yes – and in part two we will see what it is.

David Robertson is the minister of Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church in Newcastle, New South Wales. He blogs at The Wee Flea.