Some of these letters had swastikas, others pictures of Enoch Powell, accompanying words of such odium that it felt as if acid was burning my hands and eyes. Yes, I was distressed, but more than that, filled with fury.
I have written extensively about the Rochdale and Oxford gangs and their sick values, but it’s clearly never enough. And how dare these letter-writers link me to the Woolwich savagery? What’s it got to do with me or the millions of other blameless British Muslims? We hate Islamicist brutes more than any outsiders ever could. They ruin our futures and hopes. And at moments of high tension, the most liberal and democratic of us fantasise about transporting them all to a remote, cold island, their own dismal caliphate where they could preach to each other and die.
Muslim “leaders”, imams and those in the public eye feel under pressure to line up and denounce such perpetrators. They do as expected partly to protect Muslims from unwarranted suspicion and revenge attacks. The response, though understandable, is misguided. This time even Richard Littlejohn, the implacable foe of migrants and minorities, admires the “mainstream Muslims” who have condemned the killers. and if Littlejohn commends these pronouncements, we must worry.
It is baleful and bigoted to assume that all of us are guilty of complicity unless we stand up and attack the perpertrators. I don’t recall the Irish in mainland Britain being forced into collective denunciations following IRA bomb attacks. Muslims do not expect white Britons to appear on Newsnight and distance themselves from drone massacres of the innocent. So don’t ask of us what is not ever asked of others.
Furthermore, let’s stop going on about what our holy texts say or don’t say. We must focus not on what Islam says but on what too many Muslims do. Around the world one finds disaffected Muslims who are consumed with bloodlust, who have lost the capacity for dialogue and compromise, who seem to have given up on the best of human virtues – compassion, tolerance, freedom, diversity – and who are disconnected from enlightened, earlier Muslim civilizations. Grievances have mutated into generalised brutishness.
Countless European Muslims know and oppose destructive western policies. But we understand the political contract and work within democratic conventions. The awful truth is that I could never work or write the way I do here in any Muslim country, not even after the Arab Spring. They would silence me in days, possibly for ever.
Unfree and controlled for decades, these nations have yet to truly understand freedom and democratic thought processes. Maybe it takes a long time for this to happen. Resistance by those who do value these is quickly snuffed out. Power is tied to absolute domination and violence; obedience is the norm and a dependency on strong political and religious leadership is passed on from generation to generation. Even when dictatorships are overthrown or Muslims move to proper working democracies, this propensity to rely on strong men remains.
Devious manipulators such as Omar Bakri Muhammad, the founder of the al-Muhajiroun pack, his successor Anjem Choudary ( a smart, British educated lawyer) and Saudi-backed mullahs know how easily they can ensnare young Muslims. Even the highly educated blindly submit and join the extremist creeds. Read Radical by Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of Quilliam, the think-tank which studies radicalisation. He was a crazed, violent Islamicist who, during Mubarak’s time, ended up in an Egyptian prison where inmates were routinely tortured. He was supported by Amnesty and met prisoners who were democrats and liberals. Those experiences enabled Nawaz to free himself from the British jihadis who had got to him.
The political is also personal. The majority of fanatical followers are messed up in their heads and seem incapable of having fulfilling relationships with women, except that is, their mothers, who usually spoil them. Their wives and sisters are bullied and ruthlessly dominated, while white females are considered sluts to be exploited. Sexually they take, never share. These dysfunctional males must upset those millions of Muslim men – men like Labour MP Sadiq Khan or James Caan, the Dragon’s Den entrepreneur – who are respectful of females, have open minds and a commitment to law and order. I see a connection between the violators and possessors of females and religious militants hell-bent on wrecking our society. Their masculinity is noxious, confused, untamed, dangerously suggestible.
Faced with terrorism, successive governments have focused on the Quran, mosques, sometimes universities and local community henchmen. Hazel Blears when at the Home Office introduced the disastrous Prevent agenda, in effect a policy coercing Muslims to spy on each other. Very Stalinist. Didn’t work. Now Cameron wants to control the availability of Islamicist material on the web. I agree with him but can’t see how that can be done. Yet another task force will achieve little. The Tory push for more state intrusion into private life will be counterproductive and unacceptable in a free country.
Hitherto ignored is the psychological, interior world of convicted terrorists. Their states of mind should surely be explored by dispassionate experts. I once proposed to Blears just such a pilot research project and she was majestically dismissive. New Labour preferred to send in approved imams to “cure” the prisoners, which sometimes works, but is rudimentary and based on a limited idea of human behaviour. We need to know about their upbringing in depth.
These men’s self-esteem, experience of racism, and attitudes to sexuality may provide answers. Unless we know them, we can’t change them. If we don’t change them, no military, intelligence or police intervention will stop the bloody chaos. Send in the psychologists, for all our sakes.