We Are Falling Under the Imam’s Spell

By Mark Steyn

Let me see if I understand the BBC Rules of Engagement correctly: if you’re Robert Kilroy-Silk and you make some robust statements about the Arab penchant for suicide bombing, amputations, repression of women and a generally celebratory attitude to September 11 ” “ none of which is factually in dispute ” “ the BBC will yank you off the air and the Commission for Racial Equality will file a complaint to the police which could result in your serving seven years in gaol. Message: this behaviour is unacceptable in multicultural Britain.

But, if you’re Tom Paulin and you incite murder, in a part of the world where folks need little incitement to murder, as part of a non-factual emotive rant about how “Brooklyn-born” Jewish settlers on the West Bank “should be shot dead” because “they are Nazis” and “I feel nothing but hatred for them”, the BBC will keep you on the air, kibitzing (as the Zionists would say) with the cr ƒ ¨me de la cr ƒ ¨me of London’s cultural arbiters each week. Message: this behaviour is completely acceptable.

So, while the BBC is “investigating” Kilroy, its only statement on Mr Paulin was an oblique but curiously worded allusion to the non-controversy on the Corporation website: “His polemical, knockabout style has ruffled feathers in the US, where the Jewish question is notoriously sensitive.” “The Jewish question”? “Notoriously sensitive”? Is this really how they talk at the BBC?

Mr Paulin’s style is only metaphorically knockabout. But, a few days after his remarks were published in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, some doughty Palestinian “activists” rose to his challenge and knocked about some settlers more literally, murdering among others five-year-old Danielle Shefi. In a touch of symbolism the critic in Mr Paulin might have found a wee bit obvious, they left her Mickey Mouse sheets soaked in blood.

Evidently Kilroy’s “polemical, knockabout style” is far more problematic. For what it’s worth, I accept the BBC’s right to axe his show. I haven’t seen it in a decade and I thought they should have axed it then. I myself got fired by the BBC a while back and, although I had a couple of rough years sleeping in a rotting boxcar at the back of the freight yards, I crawled my way back to semi-insolvency. There’s no doubt in my mind that, when the CRE, the BBC, the Metropolitan Police and the Muslim Council of Britain are through making an example of him, he’ll still be able to find gainful employment, if not in TV then certainly in casual construction work or seasonal fruit-picking.

But it’s not really about Kilroy or Paulin or Jews, or the Saudis beheading men for (alleged) homosexuality, or the inability of the “moderate” Jordanian parliament to ban honour killing, or the fact that (as Jonathan Kay of Canada’s National Post memorably put it) if Robert Mugabe walked into an Arab League summit he’d be the most democratically legitimate leader in the room. It’s not about any of that: it’s about the future of your “multicultural” society.

One reason why the Arab world is in the state it’s in is because one cannot raise certain subjects without it impacting severely on one’s wellbeing. And if you can’t discuss issues, they don’t exist. According to Ibrahim Nawar of Arab Press Freedom Watch, in the last two years seven Saudi editors have been fired for criticising government policies. To fire a British talk-show host for criticising Saudi policies is surely over-reaching even for the notoriously super-sensitive Muslim lobby.

But apparently not. “What Robert could do,” suggested the CRE’s Trevor Phillips helpfully, “is issue a proper apology, not for the fact that people were offended, but for saying this stuff in the first place. Secondly he could learn something about Muslims and Arabs ” “ they gave us maths and medicine ” “ and thirdly he could use some of his vast earnings to support a Muslim charity. Then I would say he has been properly contrite.”

Extravagant public contrition. Re-education camp. “Voluntary” surrender of assets. It’s not unknown for officials at government agencies to lean on troublemaking citizens in this way, but not usually in functioning democracies.

When Catholic groups complain about things like Terrence McNally’s Broadway play Corpus Christi (in which a gay Jesus enjoys anal sex with Judas), the arts crowd says a healthy society has to have “artists” with the “courage” to “explore” “transgressive” “ideas”, etc. But, when Cincinnati Muslims complained about the local theatre’s new play about a Palestinian suicide bomber, the production was immediately cancelled: the courageous transgressive arts guys folded like a Bedouin tent. The play was almost laughably pro-Palestinian, but that wasn’t the point: the Muslim community leaders didn’t care whether the play was pro- or anti-Islam: for them, Islam was beyond discussion. End of subject. And so it was.

Fifteen years ago, when the fatwa against Salman Rushdie was declared and both his defenders and detractors managed to miss what the business was really about, the Times’s Clifford Longley nailed it very well. Surveying the threats from British Muslim groups, he wrote that certain Muslim beliefs “are not compatible with a plural society: Islam does not know how to exist as a minority culture. For it is not just a set of private individual principles and beliefs. Islam is a social creed above all, a radically different way of organising society as a whole.”

Since then, societal organisation-wise, things seem to be going Islam’s way swimmingly – literally in the case of the French municipal pool which bowed to Muslim requests to institute single-sex bathing, but also in more important ways. Thus, I see the French interior minister flew to Egypt to seek the blessing for his new religious legislation of the big-time imam at the al-Azhar theological institute. Rather odd, don’t you think? After all, Egypt isn’t in the French interior. But, if Egypt doesn’t fall within the interior minister’s jurisdiction, France apparently falls within the imam’s.

And so, when free speech, artistic expression, feminism and other totems of western pluralism clash directly with the Islamic lobby, Islam more often than not wins ” “ and all the noisy types who run around crying “Censorship!” if a Texas radio station refuses to play the Bush-bashing Dixie Chicks suddenly fall silent. I don’t know about you, but this “multicultural Britain” business is beginning to feel like an interim phase.

To e-mail the BBC in complaint by visiting: http://www.bbc.co.uk/feedback/bbci_comment.shtml

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