• Abridged extract from Our Times: The Age Of Elizabeth II by A.N. Wilson, published by Hutchinson on September 18 at £25. © A. N. Wilson 2008. To order a copy at £22.50 (p&p free), please call 0845 155 0720
The Great Surrender: How Britain has given in to the religious fanatics intent on destroying our way of life
In his major new book, the historian A N Wilson examines how Britain has changed almost beyond recognition during the reign of the present Queen. Mass immigration and political correctness have turned Britain into a haven for Islamic fanatics. In this fourth extract, he says society is paying a terrible price for tolerating such extremists...
The growth of Islamism was first noted by the West with a mixture of indifference and incredulity. Had not the Islamic world always thrown up occasional figures such as the Mad Mahdi in Sudan, whose followers murdered General Gordon of Khartoum in 1885?
Then they always faded away and the Muslim world resumed its peaceful, sleepy existence.
That was the romantic idea. But ever since the West linked itself to dependence upon oil, and ever since large numbers of poor Muslims from the former Pakistan and elsewhere migrated here, it had not been a very realistic one. How unrealistic became clear on September 11, 2001, when Islamist suicide-murderers crashed hijacked planes into the Twin Towers.
The world was suddenly conscious of a fanatical terrorist Islamist organisation, Al Qaeda, and Osama Bin Laden, its evil genius. This Saudi Arabian playboy had recast himself in the model of a prophet, and his long face - Jesus painted by El Greco - was soon to become one of the most famous of the age.
The violence of Islamic fundamentalists had been visible as far back as the early Seventies when Auberon Waugh wrote an article in The Times that jestingly referred to the baggy trousers worn by Turkish men in the days of the Caliphate and how British soldiers used to call them 'Allah catchers'.
In Rawalpindi an angry mob, many of whom, it is safe to guess, were not readers of The Times, stormed the British Council building and burned the library to the ground.
Then there was the fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989, calls for the head (literally) of a Danish cartoonist who dared to depict the Prophet Mohammed in a drawing and, more recently, the threat of 40 lashes for a 54-year-old teacher from Liverpool after one of her pupils in the Sudan innocently named the class teddy bear 'Mohammed'.
Western liberals have tended to respond in one of two ways. One is to suppose that there was some genuine grievance being suffered by the Islamists. Remove this and the mobs would fade away.
This school of thought usually had no difficulty in identifying the underlying 'causes' as U.S. foreign policy and the existence of the state of Israel.
Other liberals take the view that it is pointless to apply the principles of 17th-century philosopher John Locke and sweet reason to people who stir up mobs and murder on such manifestly trumped-up charges.
They point instead to the deplorable ideas being peddled by the Islamists - hatred of homosexuals, subjugation of women, violent anti-Judaism.
And they ask by what right the Islamists attempt to impose their perverted values upon the West while milking Western democracies for benefits of all kinds.
It is one thing to suppose the West represents the Great Satan, another to choose to reside within the Great Satan's jurisdiction, deriving free schooling and higher education, free or subsidised housing and employment while denouncing the countries that supply these benefits.
What is striking is that much of the loudest and most violent Islamism comes not from those who live under sharia law and watch their shoplifting neighbours' hands being cut off and blasphemous schoolmarms being given the lash, but rather those who deliberately opted to live in the fag-end of Christian democracies.
Britain has become the epicentre for much of the actual plotting of terrorism and violence by these people, with the result that travellers stand in long lines in airports as such hitherto harmless items of luggage as toothpaste are x-rayed or confiscated.
This in itself is a victory for the terror merchants. During World War II, citizens of this country continued to wait at bus stops, get on trains and crawl over the rubble produced by the aerial bombers of the Luftwaffe, with the admirable belief that one way of defeating the enemy was to maintain business as usual.
Not any more. International air travel is now so widespread that no country can opt for not being intimidated by the bullies. The gung-ho bravery of the British during the Blitz is not allowed in the 21st century.
If airports in London refused to search passengers, no other airport in the world would receive planes from Britain. The Islamist blackmailers have won that particular round of the game, getting the satisfaction of seeing thousands of travellers trudging through security gates at a snail's pace.
Because of political correctness, it is not allowable to wave through the majority of Caucasians, who clearly have no links with Islamic terrorism. Old ladies from Miami, well-scrubbed schoolgirls from Dusseldorf, Norwegian architects and retired civil servants from Hemel Hempstead are all treated as if their nail-scissors and indigestion mixture are prime weapons in Al Qaeda's arsenal.
Standing in those queues and asking themselves the old World War II question 'Is your journey really necessary?', travellers might find it hard to sympathise with the cause of Islamic fundamentalism. They might also wonder why the Islamists are behaving in this odious manner, and what they hope to gain by it.
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