Northern Ireland’s Protestant paramilitaries hardly existed in the early days of the Troubles in the 1960s; they emerged because the Prods felt that London preferred Catholic interests to their own and that they must rely on themselves for protection against the IRA.
If such a sentiment ever takes hold in the current context, it might spread quickly from its present narrow social base. It is already being encouraged by the barely covert assumption of much liberal journalism that the worst aspect of a terrorist attack by Islamists is the possible backlash against it or the danger that it might confirm the warnings of the English Defence League.
Well, it might. But whose fault would that be? The EDL is as yet nothing but a handful of obstreperous cranks and young lads who feel abnormally patriotic after a few beers. It is already declining and dividing in all directions, as is the usual fashion of such groups. It might become more substantial only if the stolid self-controlled people in the “white working-class” crowds Whittle saw become convinced that the government is inert and helpless in the face of creeping Islamism — and probably not even then.
But saying that the EDL is “alien” in Woolwich — as one Guardian writer did — is an odd way of describing some of the people who were born and grew up there and who have since shifted elsewhere. It is also a roundabout way of doing some EDL recruiting.
* * *
There is, mercifully, a third possible future. This is that Britain will continue as an essentially liberal democratic polity, in which the “white community,” non-Muslim minorities, and the large majority of British Muslims live more or less comfortably together under a set of political rules that require assent to the principles of that polity.
If this is to be achieved and both the dystopian futures averted, it can best be done by coolly but firmly challenging Islamist claims now — by making clear that Britain will remain a liberal constitutional state for the foreseeable future and that British Islam will have to accommodate itself to such liberal practices as free speech, religious freedom for all, including Muslims and post-Muslims, and legal equality under a single rule of law.
The clearest way of making this point, as Australian politicians seem to have grasped, is to say that Britain will never be governed by sharia law. Most British Muslims, who have grown up in a free country and (perhaps without fully realizing it) have become liberals themselves in important respects, would understand why this assurance was necessary. But many of them won’t understand if the choice is never presented to them clearly and confidently.
As yet, however, such clarity seems beyond most British politicians.
* * *
We should not forget the murderers. After all, they did not start out as killers; nor as Islamist fanatics. One was a young, lively, generally popular Christian of Nigerian background. As with the London Underground bombers, his old friends and family are amazed at his transition to Islamist terrorism.
Yet the explanation is relatively simple. Both young men were acculturated in a nation, spooked alternately by multiculturalism and by a defeatist Europeanism, that offered them a great deal materially but very little in the way of national identity or cultural self-confidence. At best, in the atmosphere fostered by metropolitan liberalism, they assimilated to a nullity; at worst, they were not told to aspire to being British, or to be proud of being so, but warned against being seduced by a heartless racist System.
They were offered neither pride nor a challenge. Islamism came along and offered both. And under the influence of this pernicious nonsense, they murdered a decent young man not unlike themselves.
I thought at the time of their arrest that it would not take them long to realize their mistake — and the deep wickedness of that mistake. Unless the authorities allow them to receive counseling from the very forces that misled them — and nothing would surprise me about the self-destructiveness of the modern British political establishment — then their foolishly wicked beliefs would cease to get the constant reinforcement that is usually necessary to such delusions.