It was a careful choice of words, Bernard Lewis being nothing if not careful. In 2004, the West audibly gasped when its preeminent scholar of Islam famously told the German newspaper Die Welt,“Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century,” if not sooner.
Listen carefully. He did not say that Muslims will be the majority population in what is still recognizably Europe. No, Professor Lewis said “Europe will be Islamic.”
As we go to press, five innocent people are dead after Khalid Masood, a terrorist acting on unambiguous scriptural commands to war against non-Muslims, rammed his rental Hyundai SUV into dozens of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, many of them tourists taking in the iconic views of Parliament. About 50 people suffered injuries, some of them grave, so the death toll may yet rise.
Masood, a burly 52-year-old weightlifter with a long criminal record that included vicious stabbings, then crashed the car through the gate at Westminster Palace, home of the West’s most venerable democratic legislature. He alighted brandishing two long knives, which he used to kill Keith Palmer, a police officer who, pursuant to British policy, was unarmed despite being assigned to provide security at one of the world’s foremost terror targets. Masood was finally shot dead by a protection officer attached to England’s defense minister.
I’m going to stick with the patently obvious.
Masood was born as Adrian Russell Ajao on Christmas Day, 1964, in Kent county, just outside London. His 17-year-old single mother remarried two years later, and he was known as Adrian Elms (his stepfather’s surname) until converting to Islam when he was about 40. Prior to that point, while fathering three children with his wife, he had several arrests, some for violent attacks. During at least one of the resulting stints in prison, like many inmates, he began indoctrination into Islam.
Between 2004 and 2005 came the critical transition: the formal conversion, marriage to a Muslim woman, and relocation to Saudi Arabia (you know, be our “ally” against terrorism). For five years, Masood was immersed in the kingdom’s Wahhabism — fundamentalist Islam rooted in scriptural literalism. He became an English language-teacher working for the Saudi government.
When we speak of Islam, as opposed to Muslims, we are not speaking about a mere religious belief system. We are talking about a competing civilization.
Masood returned to England from Jeddah about seven years ago. By the time of Wednesday’s attack on Westminster Bridge, he had seamlessly gravitated to Birmingham, a city increasingly enveloped by sharia enclaves that, to varying degrees, have become “no-go zones” for non-Muslims and agents of the state, including police.
There is diversity in Islam, including millions of Muslims who adhere only to its spiritual elements or see themselves as more culturally than doctrinally Islamic. But when we speak of Islam, as opposed to Muslims, we are not speaking about a mere religious belief system. We are talking about a competing civilization — that is very much how Islam self-identifies. It has its own history, principles, values, mores, and legal system.
Islam, thus understood, is not non-Western. It is anti-Western.
Like the conversion of Masood, the conversion of Birmingham has been a function of this defining Islamic attribute. Individual Muslims may assimilate, but Islam doesn’t do assimilation. Islam does not melt into your melting pot. Islam, as Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna proclaimed, is content with nothing less than political, cultural, and civilizational dominance.
As Soeren Kern relates in a comprehensive Gatestone Institute report on Islam in Britain, the metamorphosis of Birmingham, along with several other U.K. population centers, signifies this resistance. When the Islamic presence in a Western community reaches a critical mass, Islam’s hostility to Western mores and demands for sharia governance result in non-Muslim flight. Marriages between Muslims resident in the Western community and Muslims overseas tend to result in childbirth rates and household growth that dwarfs that of the indigenous population. Arranged, intra-familial, and polygamous marriages, endorsed by Islamic mores, drastically alter the fabric of communities in short order. Birmingham, in particular, has been ground zero of “Operation Trojan Horse,” a sharia-supremacist scheme to Islamize the public schools.
Kern repeats an account of life in “inner-city Birmingham” by the wife of a British clergyman, first published by Standpoint in 2011. She explained how the neighborhood in which she’d lived for four years had become a “police no-go zone,” in which the large number of newly arrived Somali immigrants now approached that of Pakistanis already resident. Then she recalled her husband’s encounter with an immigrant who had just arrived from Belgium — on an EU passport, like an increasing number of Muslims these days. The migrant was surprised when the clergyman asked why he had chosen to move into their neighborhood. Finally, he replied, “Everybody knows. Birmingham—best place in Europe to be pure Muslim.”
The memory moved the clergyman’s wife to a salient insight:
Well, there must be many places in Europe where Muslims are entirely free to practice their faith, but I suspect there are few places in which they can have so little contact with the civic and legal structure of a Western state if they choose.
To a London reader, born and bred with multiculturalism, I know that my stories may come across as outlandish and exaggerated. . . . When I recently told a friend how a large Taliban flag fluttered gaily on a house near St Andrew’s football stadium for some months, her cry of “Can’t you tell the police?” made me reflect how far many of our inner cities have been abandoned by our key workers: our doctors and nurses drive in from afar, the police, as mentioned before, have shut down their stations and never venture in unless in extremis — they and ambulance crews have been known to be attacked — even the local imam lives in a leafier area.
It is in that milieu that Khalid Masood made his decision, rented an SUV, and drove to Westminster Bridge.
Naturally, the Islamic State terror network (ISIS) took credit for the atrocity, as it has been wont to do since issuing its plea that Muslims conduct attacks “in place” — i.e., against the Western societies where they live. Western leaders have been content to accept these claims, at least as inspirational, if not operational. It is easier to indulge the fiction that ISIS catalyzes jihadism then to ask what catalyzed ISIS.
But the remorseless fact is that before ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Khomeini revolution and Hezbollah and the Blind Sheikh and the Brotherhood and Khalid Masood, there was the single thing that unites them all. There was Islam.
Western political and opinion elites remain willfully blind to this. They cannot help but project onto Islamic beliefs and practices their own progressive pieties — which take seriously neither religion nor the notion that there is any civilization but their own.
In their minds, and therefore ingrained in the media’s coverage, is the notion that a Muslim community is just like any other community. Same with the mosque — it is just a “house of worship,” no different from a church, a safe harbor from worldly concerns and hostilities. Islam, however, does not separate mosque from state; the mosque is every bit as much a center for sharia indoctrination, assimilation resistance, and anti-Western politics as it is a prayer venue. That is why al-Banna regarded the mosque and the Islamic community center commonly attached to it as the “axis” of the “movement” in every community where Islam takes hold.
The movement does not want cohabitation. It wants conquest. It starts with assimilation-resistant enclaves that nurture sharia supremacism today and thereby breed the jihadists of tomorrow. This week, it took the campaign to Westminster Bridge.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is as senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.