Angela Merkel destroys the West
Angela Merkel is doing more damage to the future of the West than Donald Trump
By Charles Moore, 11 Dec 2015
One day, a historian will pinpoint exactly when we in the West started talking about Muslims. It came surprisingly late. Even in anti-immigration rhetoric, mention of religion used to be rare. The issue then was race. Enoch Powell’s famous “Rivers of Blood” speech of 1968 did not tackle religion. In the index of Simon Heffer’s definitive biography of Powell, the words “Islam” and “Muslim” do not appear.
Probably the first time in modern Britain that Muslims, so named, became the big headline was in 1989. The Ayatollah Khominei’s fatwa called for the death of Salman Rushdie because of his “blasphemous” novel The Satanic Verses. This made waves in the United States too, but my guess is that the question of Islam did not reach the front of the American mind until 11 September 2001.
Fewer than 15 years later, it is the hottest subject. This week, Donald Trump made it hotter still. He wants a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s elected representatives can work out what is going on”.
How have we reached this plight? Until we know the answer, we shall not begin to be able to decide how to get out of it.
Like most other commentators, I agree that Mr Trump’s remarks were nasty and dangerous – nasty because they libel millions of decent people, dangerous because they could drive such people to think: “If you hate and fear us, we must hate and fear you.”
But there is another reason why he has caused such a stir. Like all skilled populists, Mr Trump is touching (or rather trampling) on a real problem. If, after all, he had replaced the word “Muslims” with the words “Hindus” or “Christians” or “Jews”, everyone would immediately have concluded that he was, as well as nasty, mad. Politically, that would have been the end of him.
Alas, there are two true things lying behind his idiotic policy suggestion. The first is that the problem is about Muslims. The second is that our “elected representatives” do not know what to do about it.
The above-mentioned Ayatollah Khomeini also said “Islam is politics”. He meant that Islam tells you how to rule, and therefore any unIslamic way of ruling is illegitimate. His remark also implied that his religious status meant that the best person to rule – directly in his own stamping ground, Iran, and indirectly, through his teaching, everywhere – was one Ayatollah Ruollah Khomeini. Islam was his power grab.
Khomeini was a Shia, but a similar way of weaponising the faith was also developed in Sunni Islam. It stands behind organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood (linked here with the Muslim Association of Britain), Jamaat-e-Islami (strong among some members of the Muslim Council of Britain) and Hizb Ut-Tahrir.
It rests not only on an interpretation of the words of God allegedly spoken through the mouth of his Prophet, but on a tale of grievance. In this tale, bad people – colonial powers, Christians, Jews, America, “hypocrite” Muslim monarchs – destroyed the right rule of true Islam (the caliphate) and humiliated the faithful.
‚There is a tremendous reluctance to study the genealogy of the harmful ideas‘
This world-view is known as “Islamism”. Islam itself is related to Islamism as patriotism is related to nationalism, the former being based on love of something, the latter on hatred of something else. Islamism validates resentment. Its emotional appeal is like that of communism and fascism, but stronger, because it promises heaven to those who commit its violent acts on earth.
Such ideas have become powerful in the West, partly because of arithmetic: we now have a great many Muslims in our midst – far more here, proportionately, than in Mr Trump’s country, and more in France than here. The risk of violence rises with the total. Even if it is true that 99 per cent of Muslims would not hurt a fly, when you increase the numbers you inevitably get more of those who would. People are, therefore, right to worry more about mass immigration from, say, Syria, than from, say, Poland.
But, even with high numbers, the problem would be much less severe if our leaders and institutions had greater cultural confidence. If they upheld a robust belief in the Western way of life, reflected in what our schools taught, what the BBC broadcast, what rules of citizenship were insisted on, and what was considered injurious to our values, then the doctrines of Islamism would be better resisted.
‚Islamism is, by self-definition, a political attempt to undermine parliamentary democracy, yet is largely unstudied. If our own spies won’t do it, who can?‘
It is not as if our institutions refuse to have any public doctrine at all – look at the preaching against climate change, or racism. If Mr Trump starts shouting, or Tommy Robinson, formerly of the English Defence League, pops up, the authorities all know how to try to squash their “unacceptable” thoughts.
But if Muslim leaders say that the plight of their brethren in Britain today is like that of Jews in Germany in the Thirties, or that no Muslim should serve in the British armed services against a Muslim country, no one jumps on them. It is not only Jeremy Corbyn, dining last night with what would be better called the Stop the West Coalition, who devoutly believes the narrative of our “Islamophobia”: it is almost the official orthodoxy.
There is a tremendous reluctance to study the genealogy of the harmful ideas. None of the Islamist organisations named above is, so far as I know, actively engaged in promoting violence in this country, but all of them preach extremism which creates the mental space in which violence can breed.
For years, David Cameron has been pushing this point, but the bureaucratic response is agonisingly slow. The website of MI5 still emphasises that, since the Cold War, “we no longer undertake counter-subversion work”. Instead they concentrate on terrorism. Goodness knows, there is a need to head off actual plots, and MI5 should be congratulated for its success, but one reason we won the Cold War was because we understood what, ideologically, we were up against. The ideological content of Islamism is even more important than was that of latter-day Soviet Communism, and much more persuasive within a section of the British population.
The Security Service Act of 1989 allows MI5 to investigate attempts to “undermine parliamentary democracy” by “political” means as well as violent ones. Islamism is, by self-definition, a political attempt to undermine parliamentary democracy, yet is largely unstudied. If our own spies won’t do it, who can? Public bodies dealing with Muslim organisations are, therefore, fighting blind, having few means of telling the good guys from the bad.
Ultimately, the capacity of a civilisation to resist those who hate it depends on its self-belief. In Europe, this was expressed in what was called Christendom, enriched by the ideas of the Enlightenment. The founders of the European Union wanted it to give Christendom modern democratic form, but this is now nearly invisible. The leader of the union’s largest Christian Democrat party, Angela Merkel, has let more than a million mainly Muslim immigrants into her country this year alone. The East German pastor’s daughter is surely a much nicer person than Donald J Trump, but I wonder if she is not doing more actual harm to the future of the West.