We could ignore this aspect of the murder if we so wished. Many people at the scene did their best not to grasp the meaning of the butchery in front of their eyes. And the murderers themselves sought to impose their own “narrative” on what everyone saw. Even the brave woman who comforted the dying man was, in effect, integrated by the murderers into their view of things by being accepted by them as a sort of neutral Red Cross.
In these circumstances the politicians have to make clear that the British people will make no concession whatsoever to the murderers and those who are ideologically sympathetic to them.
* * *
The problem since the IRA bombings of the 1970s is that it has become ever harder to make these declarations convincing. Prime Minister David Cameron received praise for his strong words following the atrocity. They were indeed well crafted and soberly delivered. It is hardly Cameron’s fault that such statements of determination have been issued so frequently after terrorist outrages that they have lost half of their force.
And when these declarations are followed by secret negotiations with (or concessions to) the terrorist groups responsible, as they repeatedly have been, they lose what remains of their force and become an incentive to despair and cultural self-contempt rather than a source of reassurance. That is another reason why ordinary British people feel a sense of fatalism when they hear brave words from an Authority that seems aware of its own hollowness.
Will it be different this time? And by this time I mean not the Woolwich murder alone but the overall jihadist assault on British democracy. Optimists argue that since this war is aimed at changing Britain from a constitutional liberal democracy into some kind of sharia-compliant multicultural theocracy, it cannot possibly succeed. A democratic government could not possibly surrender to such demands.
But if surrender happens — and we can be sure it would “happen” quite impersonally — it won’t be in the way of previous surrenders to terrorism. There would be no conferences in Lancaster House, no late-night discussions in Downing Street, no clocks kept artificially at five minutes to midnight to meet a deadline, and so on. Apart from anything else, we won’t be negotiating with terrorists this time.
How can I be sure of that? Well, the terrorists insist that they won’t negotiate with us. They want a straight surrender. And they do sound convincing.
So how might surrender happen? Well, if it happens, it will happen gradually, so that no single concession seems vital. Greater official tolerance for sharia courts on “family” or “community” questions; a welfare state that increasingly accommodates polygamy; a growing refusal of magistrates to license pubs in mainly Muslim suburbs; the spread of Islamist “no-go” areas, where the police don’t go, gays get beaten up, and women dressed “immodestly” have acid thrown at them; late in the day, a new licensing system for non-Muslims to enjoy their vices in designated areas under restrictive rules.
At which point the Brits would be living in a different country.
* * *
Is this inevitable? Of course not; it is not even likely. As Keynes said — and I am quoting him approvingly — “The unexpected always happens; the inevitable never.” But Mark Steyn shows how such a future is already beginning to unroll. And the fact that it is happening here suggests that it can happen here.
Other possibilities, however, also lurk in the current situation. For instance, the marches of the English Defence League might prove to be early signs of a strong populist reaction to Islamist agitprop, eventually leading to violent religious conflict in major cities.
That is the outcome predicted by the late Tony Blankley in a powerfully argued book, The West’s Last Chance. It is likely, in my view, only if governments fail — from a misplaced fear of seeming “racist” or “Islamophobic” — to enforce the law on all sides equally.