Sunday, August 20, 2006

Britain's cultural cowardice

Britain's loss of nerve is one of the main reasons it has become a global centre of Islamic extremism. For decades, successive British governments have regarded multiculturalism as an article of faith. The idea that Britain should become a joyous melting pot of different cultures and religions living side by side in mutual toleration and respect is a noble vision. But it's not working out that way. Instead, the benefits of immigration are being lost through a failure to control numbers and a reluctance to pursue policies that might promote integration. As a result, Britain has a huge Muslim population, much of which is increasingly alienated from mainstream society. "Londonistan" is no longer just a safe haven for foreign extremists. Today, it nurtures home-grown terrorists, many born in Britain, educated at British schools and attending British universities.

The July 7 bombers were British. So was Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted for his role in the 9/11 attacks, was a student in London. Some of those arrested last week converted to Islam in the past year. That suggests the problem is escalating.... why do young Muslims embrace terrorism rather than democratic politics? How can people born and educated in Britain feel so alienated from its culture and values? The snag is that many never fully engage with British culture and values. Muslims make up the majority in many towns and in most big cities there are large Muslim enclaves. Even if the multiculturalists were to change their minds on the need for integration, it would be too late. Muslim leaders are demanding more separation from mainstream society, not less.

They want bank holidays for Muslim festivals and sharia law courts to rule on family matters. They may well get it. They are helped by the remarkable ambivalence of the liberal Left towards British culture and values: to Christianity, British history, free markets and free trade. Above all, the Left is deeply suspicious of the institutions in which those values are embedded, starting with the family and extending via churches, schools, businesses, clubs, right through to parliament and the monarchy. To the Left, Britain's social institutions are bastions of privilege that must be remodelled or destroyed to make way for multiculturalism. The resulting cultural war has left British society brutalised and infantilised, and wide open to attack. Why should British Muslims respect a culture that has no respect for itself?

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